‘I just don’t really get the Beatles’: Roman Kemp’s honest playlist

The radio presenter was given an Eminem record by his mum when he was six and has a soft spot for country. But which 70s glam-era classic bores him?

The first single I bought
Daniel Bedingfield’s If You’re Not the One. I remember that it came out around Christmas. Me and my best friend at the time, Elliott, really liked that tune and we went to HMV on our own and bought it. I just listened to it over and over again, pretending I was in a music video.

My karaoke go-to
Tom Jones – It’s Not Unusual. I think Tom and I have a similar range and karaoke is built for 60s music, with the cheese and the dancing. You have to pick a song that everyone knows, and that’s a tune. And it’s two minutes, so you’re not up there too long.

The song I inexplicably know every lyric to
I’m Back by Eminem. My mum actually bought The Marshall Mathers LP for me when I was six or seven. At the time Eminem was being targeted by everyone – the media, the police – and he decided to come back with a record that was just as offensive, and just as personal to him. Of course it’s inappropriate for a child – but my mum always had this amazing outlook on music as a way of expressing emotions. She said: “Here’s a boy who’s got a lot wrong in his life, and isn’t as privileged as you are, and here he is turning his experience into lyrics.”

The last song I streamed
Stormzy’s Mel Made Me Do It. I love Mike, he’s the nicest guy and he deserves all the success he’s had. In a world where artists are definitely pressured to make songs for TikTok, up to two minutes long, to come out with an eight-minute single and an 11-minute video is quite a rebellion. The video and the song are flawless.

The best song to play at a party
Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. No, I haven’t seen the video of Boris Johnson dancing to it with Carrie at their wedding, but if there’s anyone who knows parties, it’s our UK government, so fair play. It’s the easiest crowdpleaser ever, in England specifically.

The song I’d want for my stadium entrance music
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s In Motion. I love soundtracks, so I could go for John Williams or Hans Zimmer here, but the score for The Social Network by the chap from Nine Inch Nails is brilliant. There is a tune called In Motion that would be the absolute bollocks to walk out to. I often work listening to that score, it’s brilliant.

The song I want played at my funeral
Elvis Presley’s If I Can Dream. There’s a real Elvis affinity in my family: he’s been played throughout my life, and I can remember hearing The Wonder of You at my nan’s funeral. This song is about: “Did I achieve everything I wanted to? Did I do everything I can? Can I still do it?”

The song I can’t help singing
B.O.T.A. (Baddest of Them All), the new song by Eliza Rose and Interplanetary Criminal. I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan but I always catch myself singing it. It reminds me of early 2000s pop, like Sweet Like Chocolate – you know, when it sounds like a little baby is singing it.

The song I can’t stand
This is going to be really controversial but Starman by David Bowie. [Sings] “There’s a staaar-MAN! … ” Oh, God, shut up! Does everybody actually like it, or do they just pretend to like it? Put it this way: I love everything that David Bowie stood for, I think it’s fantastic; I can see that he was a trailblazing artist. My dad is a big Bowie fan. However, it’s one of those where I listen to it and I’m like: “Is this it?” I’m yet to hear one David Bowie song that makes me go: “Yes, phenomenal.” Is it so many different styles, or is it just a bit boring? I’ll level with you on one: I like Let’s Dance, but that’s just a Nile Rodgers record.

The song I pretend to hate that I secretly like
John Lennon’s Imagine. The Beatles, I just don’t really get it. Yes, I know this is the Guardian but I want to be honest. However, that is a phenomenal song. I would put Hey Jude in the same category.

The song I tell people is my favourite
Slipknot’s Wait and Bleed. It was one of the first songs that I remember making me feel a certain way about metal. I had a huge metal time in my life, and I still love it, how it makes me feel. I will still say Wait and Bleed is my favourite song of all time, just because I’ve listened to it so many times, but now I listen to it and I’m a bit like: “I could switch this off, after a minute.” I think it means more to me than I actually enjoy it.

My actual favourite song
Back Down South by Kings of Leon. I can say that, hands down. I actually think Come Around Sundown is their best album. I have such a soft spot for country music and that song is so in the vibe of where Kings of Leon are really from. I love singing it, and how I feel when I sing it: it will always make me feel good. Kings of Leon are one of those bands that I’ll keep going back to, along with a couple of albums by Arctic Monkeys and Nirvana.

Roman Kemp’s book Are You Really OK? is out now, published by Mirror Books.


As told to Elle Hunt

The GuardianTramp

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