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Chipmunk and the Price of Teen Fortune and Fame

I was saddened but not shocked to hear teen hearthrob Chipmunk was forced to cancel his future public appearances because of ‘exhaustion’.

Just weeks before Mr Munk’s 19th birthday, his spokesman announced the rapper is taking a much-needed break as ‘…a year of working incredibly hard has taken its toll.’

It turns out a number one single, chart-topping album and two MOBO Awards can lead a young grime star to post disturbing ‘I wana die!’ messages on Twitter.

Unfortunately, the news came as no surprise. Many of the celebrities I’ve interviewed struggled with fame after the novelty wore off.

Between 1997 and 1999, Shola Ama – another teen prodigy – sold over one million records, won a Brit Award and released two albums.

But she found the media spotlight difficult to cope with and eventually turned to alcohol and cocaine.

Shola told me years later: ‘It was tough at the time, even though I have always been confident about my ability as a singer.

‘Every time I went to a premiere or an awards show I’d have to drink because I didn’t feel confident and I didn’t feel as if I fitted in with anybody.’

I was reminded of Shola’s words at an awards ceremony in 2007. During a conversation with a pretty teen singer (now a member of a chart-topping pop group), I watched in dismay as she knocked back several glasses of wine like there was no tomorrow.

Even now, as I witness the rapid rise of JLS – who I met long before X Factor catapulted them to fame – I can’t help but fear for their future wellbeing.

David Sneddon, winner of Fame Academy 2002 and the UK’s first reality TV music star shocked fans when he turned his back on a pop career after only 10 months.

He said: ‘I’ve loved all the music side of it, it’s everything I hoped it would be – the recording, the studio, writing. But the other stuff…’

Sadly, the majority of young musicians are so eager for fame and recognition they don’t consider the consequences of being in the public eye until it’s too late.

Previously, raising an entertainer’s profile was a gradual process. But these days, the media industry is far more concerned with turning a profit than nurturing young talent.

Unfortunately, this is a problem more teen musicians will face in the future, because as US comedian Dave Chapelle once said: ‘When art and corporate interest meet, just prepare to have your heart broken.

‘The hardest thing to do is to be true to yourself, especially when everybody is watching.’

I wholeheartedly agree.


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Tags chipmunk, x factor, shola, jls, teen, david sneddon, dave chapelle, British music, fame
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