Stool samples: a history of chairs in pop, from Westlife to Britney

To mark the return of the key change-loving Irish balladeers, here’s a celebration of music’s most comfortable accessory

The basic high stool

It is impossible to overestimate the power of the stool as a boyband essential. The humble accessory has allowed Boyzone, Backstreet Boys and One Direction to signal a key change by rising up from it. Hell, Westlife built their careers around it. Except that time in 2001 when they shocked fans by giving the Where Dreams Come True tour the unofficial moniker the No Stool Tour. Flying Without Wings? Easy. Touring without stools? Never.

The easy chair

Back in the 60s, when Daft Punk disco helmets and Miley Cyrus’s giant foam hand were just a futuristic dream, stage props were simple. Who placed the first stool? Joni Mitchell and the Everly Brothers were all known to embrace the medium, along with Val Doonican and the Carpenters. Simon and Garfunkel, however, took it to another level when they perched back-to-back on theirs during the hate years.

The perv stool

Prince’s chrome Kiss stool – upon which a nonchalant Wendy Melvoin strums away as the purple one gyrates around her – deserves a category of its own.

The stool stand-in

No stool, no problem. As Cher’s classic Straddle Cannon in her If I Could Turn Back Time video proves, sometimes pop stars have to improvise. See also: Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball.

The chairman

Confronted by the dual sass-threat of Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue, men are powerless. Especially when their combined force chair-dances them into chair-like submission in the Whatta Man video. “The Female Boss” Tulisa took the trend to new heights in her lesser-known Living Without You smize-fest, in which she bypassed the chair altogether and just plonked a man on all fours and used him like DFS’s finest.

The Color Me Badd seats

The band who looked like Queer Eye’s Fab Five before they found their style mojo employed both a spinning office chair and a saucy sofa upon which to seduce their foxtresses in the I Wanna Sex You Up video.

The chair-dance accessory

Britney Spears showed the world she was capable of replacing Justin Timberlake with a chair in her Stronger video, which also paid homage to Janet Jackson’s extreme shoulder-shrug seat from the Miss U Much breakdown.
And who could forget the iconic moment when Nicole Scherzinger led the Pussycat Dolls in a chair-zinger in their Buttons video?

The light S&M chair

It was all fun and games when Madonna let her dancers tie her to a chair in the Human Nature video, but Take That’s faux-terrified looks in the How Deep Is Your Love? clip tell another story. Being chair-bound helped Nick Jonas prove he was all grown up in Chains, a video in which he was also inexplicably kettled. (Why didn’t Tina Arena think of this? The chains, not the kettling. That wasn’t a thing in the 90s.)

The Drake stair chair

Drake’s Bruce Forysth-esque dancing grabbed the headlines in his Hotline Bling video, but he did stop for a nice sit down on the stairs. Ariana Grande later adopted the Kermit-style croon on the stairs for Raindrops, a move that would surely have horrified the Spice Girls in their staircase-stomping heyday.

The ‘Nah, mate, don’t even bother to get up’ perch

That great prophet of pop Jamiroquai once predicted “Future’s made of virtual insanity”, and how right he was. Duke Dumont ft Jax Jones’s I Got U may have been full of exotic locations, fish and bikinis, but it’s all brought to you from the humble chair, courtesy of a virtual reality helmet.

The ‘Butt you can’t do that to a chair!’ Minaj special

Nicki Minaj has revolutionised many pop tropes and she breathes new life into the chair-dance in her Anaconda video. In the bum-heavy clip, she combines the chair throb with a classic touch-the-toes-and-put-that-booty-in-the-air move.

The sofa podium

As standards of behaviour in pop slip, Dua Lipa can be found dancing upon a sofa for Electricity, her collaboration with Silk City. She cares not if she squashes a cushion, as long as the moves look good on Instagram Stories.


Hannah Verdier

The GuardianTramp

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