Paul Clarke suggests Ian McNabb owes Dua Lipa and Charlie XCX an apology after an insulting online post.Paul Clarke suggests Ian McNabb (former singer with 80’s band The Icicle Works) owes Dua Lipa and Charli XCX an apology after an insulting online post.

Oh dear, another eighties male indie star has decided to share his outdated and insulting opinions.

This time it is former Icicle Works frontman Ian McNabb in a post on the Mercury prize shortlist announcement saying two of the nominee’s Dua Lipa and Charli XCX “strike me as sexworkers more than musicians.

It’s hard to know where to start with that insult, but the first thing to note is that women in pop, and elsewhere, can wear whatever the hell they like. It is not the job of an increasingly irrelevant bloke to offer a view on their attire, and not one that is mind-blowingly outdated, as well as frankly just disgusting.

My best mate loves pop acts so I have seen both double Grammy winner Dua Lipa and Charli XCX recently, as well as Mabel, Zara Larsson, Anne-Marie, Sigrid and Shura. What unites that diverse group of talented women is they have great voices, write their own tunes and perform with a live band.  Just like all the other Mercury nominees, but because Dua and Charli are perceived as pop acts then it seems it is open season to denigrate them.

Oh, and they pack out big venues with people gleefully singing along to their songs. and not one person there gives a toss what they are wearing.

These women are role models for a new generation of music fans offering pithy pop songs that tackle a whole range of issues that strike a chord with their audiences.  It was incredibly touching to hear Anne-Marie talk about her own insecurities as a woman and a pop act that have informed her songs, and which certainly struck a chord with her fans.

We should be celebrating the fact that these acts are pulling younger fans away from their devices and out into live venues.

There’s also a huge amount of snobbery going on here as it is damn hard to write the big pop anthems that Dua, Charli, Sigrid et al create. Ask Benny or Bjorn how easy it was to write a pop classic like Dancing Queen, ring Dolly to discover how hard it was to write Jolene, quiz Taylor Swift on how simple it was to write Stay Beautiful or think about how tough it was to write any tune off Carole King’s Tapestry.

McNabb goes on to offer his opinion that he thinks that Dua or Charlie ‘in no way represent the best of what Britain has to offer.’

I’d totally disagree with that. Dua Lipa’s family left war torn Kosovo to make a new life in Britain, and as with so many children of migrants, she has developed a hugely successful career. Charli was nominated for How I’m Feeling Now, which is her response to the COVID crisis to help her fans make sense of lockdown. Their achievements personally and professionally make me proud that they are British acts

I hope after a period of reflection Ian McNabb will have the good grace to withdraw his outdated remarks and apologise to two women who as performers and songwriters fully deserve their nominations.

You can follow Charli XCX on Facebook and Twitter

You can follow Dua Lipa on Facebook and Twitter.

Opinion by Paul Clarke, you can see his author profile here

Previous articleThe Yum Yums: For Those About To Pop! – album review
Next articleDan Martin : much loved music journalist RIP


  1. Your mate must be a gay and you a snowflake who digs auto tune manufactured pop music sung by sex workers.

  2. This is just tip of Iceberg with IM. He is into conspiracies, David Icke. ALL his FB stuff is pretty awfull. He has serious issues. I was big Icicle Works fan it’s all pretty sad but I do think he should be held to account for the bad stuff he shares.

  3. Ian Stewart. As far as I know it isn’t a crime to be interested in conspiracies? David Icke is someone I admire, again not a crime. I’m not sure which issues I have that bother you but to be honest, I’m trying to think why I should care. Thank you for being a big icicle Works fan at some point. I look forward to the trial when I am held account for the bad stuff I share. I will sell tickets! I x

  4. I’m not a fan of much of what was mentioned but to be honest I don’t expect to be and I’m hardly their target market. I’m not saying I don’t like it, I just genuinely haven’t heard a lot of what was mentioned so it could be wonderful I just don’t really know. I have to say though it amazes me that people seem to care so much about music they say they don’t like. It’s like I can’t imagine anyone would actually solicit his opinion on this subject. ‘Oh the Nominees are in…’
    ‘I suppose the big question on everyone’s lips is, what does former frontman of the icicle works think about this years awards…’

  5. In my view the key point here is that neither Dua Lipa or Chari XCX are reality TV fabrications- by all accounts they control their own writing, production and images, and as such are terrible choices to be singled out for insults. I don’t choose to listen to their music myself, but I can appreciate it (esp. Charli’s). I’m less fond of their wardrobe choices but again, I’m not their target demographic so who cares? As an American indie musician once said to me, “Come on- Bob Dylan’s a total marketing whore!” And he meant that as a compliment!

  6. The Mercury Awards are becoming more and more corporate and not very different now days to the Brits. There are no small independent and obscure acts on this list compared to previous years. This was Mcnabb’s main rant and I agree. Comparing Duo and Charlie as sex workers was a glib and off the cuff remark he should have left out because it’s sexist & doesn’t give credit to two great artists. End of.

  7. Ian McNabb I didn’t say that sharing conspiracies is a crime. David Icke is an anti semite again generally not a crime, neither is misogyny in general but its not exactly good either. You have freedom of speech to do what you do and so do I. You don’t mention Dua Lipa ‘s music, quite a few times my ears have pricked up when listening to radio 2 and looked at the text thing and it’s been Dua Lipa her stuff it’ s not half bad personally no idea what she wears don’t see how that factors.

  8. Ian McNabb While admin are letting me comment and I appreciate that as I feel this is important stuff. Really all I ‘m saying is that the line in your tweet about the two lassies are more sex worker should be challenged (same as some of the stuff on your social). So how about it?You were good enough to reply earlier Explain your comment about Dua Lipa and Charlie X. The rest of your tweet I certainly get though I think Stormzy a bit cleverer than you think.

    • Ian…we will always let people comment in a debate even if we don’t agree with what they say. We don’t ban or bar people unless they get dangerous or really rude. That’s only happened twice. We don’t bar people from here or our facebook pages because they criticise or disagree with us. Personally I think Ian McNabb has a right to his opinion and the writers on my site have a right to challenge it.

  9. McNabb needs to rename himself McNobb. He hasn’t got a clue what pop music is about in 2020 and sounds like a silly old fart. Which he is.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here