A manufactured boy band has two purposes. In the short term, it is to sell as much “product” as possible – from albums to dolls. The longer-term goal is to build the kind of fame where the general public can put names in the members’ faces, paving the way for post-band careers.
The Wanted, a British-Irish quintet that helped revive the stagnant boy band industry in the early 2010s, hadn’t quite reached that point. Despite having two UK No 1 singles with All Time Low and Glad You Came, and their own puppets, they were overshadowed by the One Direction juggernaut and announced a hiatus in 2014.
According to singer Tom Parker, their time at the top was “like Beatlemania”, but that was an overestimate. When the hiatus turned out to be permanent, each of the band had to find their own solo path, without much mass support.
If it had been up to Parker, who died of a brain tumor aged 33, they wouldn’t have disbanded, and he made it clear that he was open to a reunion, but there was a bright side to no longer being one of the five boys to be. palpitations. Life in the Wanted, who he joined after beating 1,000 other hopefuls in an audition in 2009, was haunting.
The quiet, witty of the group, Parker was proud of their relative individuality: “We built a great brand as boy bands go; we were the catalyst, we were the first boy band not to dance, we weren’t clean” – but we had struggle to be “a product… a machine… in the doll, artist control is very limited”.
Once off the Wanted, he spent a year in recording studios, learning the ropes of making records, and emerging as a dance music producer specializing in EDM and house. That year, he kept his hand up by performing as the vocalist on former N-Dubz rapper Richard Rawson’s song Fireflies, but by the time he was ready to fully relaunch, he had missed the golden hour. when he allegedly piqued an ex-member of the Wanted.
Parker released half a dozen songs between 2015 and 2019, both under his own name and as half of Lost + Found — an EDM production duo in which he collaborated with former X Factor contestant Ollie Marland — but never made it to the charts again. That was a bit unfair, because the L+F song Ghosted from 2019 was a nice piece of club pop.
In between releases, Parker took the route always open to former boy and girl banders – reality TV. He appeared on the 2015 issue of Celebrity MasterChef, impressed the judges with his tarragon sauce, but ended up in the hospital after sticking his hand in a blender. In 2016 he came third in the winter sports competition The Jump.
Much of 2017 was taken up playing Danny Zuko in a touring version of Grease: The Musical, for which he won some warm reviews; during the 2018 panto season, Parker was Prince Charming at Cinderella in Llandudno. In the past four years, he has also appeared with his wife, the actor Kelsey Hardwick, in a vlog series called Meet the Parkers. His main role was the wry foil for the lavish Hardwick as she documented their lives before and after their wedding in 2018.
Tom was born in Bolton, the youngest son of Noreen (nee Roche) and Nigel Parker. An avid fan of Oasis and Stereophonics, he learned guitar at 16 and auditioned for the TV series The X Factor that same year. Being rejected was so debilitating that he gave up hope of becoming a musician and returned to school. Despite receiving three A-level Us, he attended a geography course at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Parker later claimed that when he joined the Wanted, “pop music wasn’t even on my radar,” but in reality, it had been for several years. He’d dropped out of college after a year to play “Mark Owen” (and the occasional “Howard Donald”) in a local Take That tribute act, so had practiced enough to earn a place in the Wanted. to win in the first audition round.
Led by Jayne Collins, who had also assembled the successful girl group on Saturday, the Wanted hit No. 1 with their debut song, All Time Low, and Parker blossomed into the lineup’s lovable prankster. “We were happiest when we were on stage, [but] it was all this shit with politics, the record label and too many opinions that created friction,” he said in 2018.
In 2020, while Hardwick was pregnant with their second child, Parker was diagnosed with stage four glioblastoma. His memoir, Hope, will be published in July. He described it as “finding hope in any situation, and living your best life anyway”.
He is survived by Kelsey, their daughter, Aurelia, and son, Bodhi, and his parents.