A fabricated boyband serves two purposes. In the short term, it’s about selling as many “products” – from albums to dolls – as possible. The longer-term goal is to achieve the kind of fame where the general public can put names to the members’ faces, paving the way for post-group careers.
The Wanted, an Anglo-Irish quintet that helped revive the stagnant boy band sector in the early 2010s, hasn’t quite reached that point. Despite having two UK No. 1 singles with All Time Low and Glad you cameand their own dollsthey were overshadowed by the One Direction juggernaut and in 2014 announced a hiatus.
In singer Tom Parker’s judgment, their time at the top had been “like Beatlemania”, but that was an overstatement. When the hiatus proved permanent, each of the bands had to find their own solo path, without too much mass support.
If it had been to Parker, who died at the age of 33 from a brain tumour, they wouldn’t have disbanded, and he made it clear he was open to a reunion, but there was an upside to no longer be one of the five Laddish favourites. Life in the Wanted, which he joined after beating 1,000 other hopefuls in an audition in 2009, had been binding.
The low-key and witty of the troupe, Parker was proud of their relative uniqueness – “We’ve established a big mark as boy bands; we were the catalyst, we were the first boyband not to dance, we weren’t clean” – but chafed at being “a product…a machine…in pop, artist control is very limit “.
Once out of the Wanted, he spent a year in recording studios, learning the ins and outs of record making, and becoming a dance music producer specializing in EDM and house. During this year, he kept his hand by appearing as a featured singer on the track fireflies by former N-Dubz rapper Richard Rawson, but by the time he was ready to fully relaunch, he had missed the golden hour when being an ex-Wanted member might have sparked interest.
Parker released half a dozen tracks between 2015 and 2019, both under his own name and as one half of Lost + Found – an EDM production duo in which he was partnered with former X Factor contestant Ollie Marland – but never hit the charts again. It was kind of an injustice, because the L+F song of 2019 Phantom was a nice piece of club-pop.
Between track releases, Parker took the path always open to former reality TV boys and girls. He appeared in the 2015 edition of Celebrity MasterChef, impress the judges with his tarragon sauce but ends up in the hospital after putting his hand in a blender. In 2016 he finished third in winter sports competition The jump.
Much of 2017 was consumed playing Danny Zuko in a touring version of Grease: The Musical, for which he won rave reviews; during the 2018 panto season, Parker was Cinderella’s Prince Charming in Llandudno. For the past four years, he has also appeared with his wife, actor Kelsey Hardwick, in a vlog series called Meet the Parkers. Her starring role was to play the ironic foil role of the exuberant Hardwick as she documented their life before and after their 2018 wedding.
Tom was born in Bolton, the youngest son of Noreen (née Roche) and Nigel Parker. Fervent fan of Oasis and Stereophonics, he learned the guitar at 16, and auditioned for the television series The X Factor the same year. Being rejected so undermined his confidence that he gave up hope of being a musician and went back to school. Although he received three US A-levels, he took 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 had dropped out of college after a year to be ‘Mark Owen’ (and occasional ‘Howard Donald’) in a local Take That tribute act, and had therefore trained enough to earn a spot in the Wanted in the first round. of auditions.
Led by Jayne Collins, who had also reunited the hit girl group on Saturdays, the Wanted reached No. 1 with their debut song, All Time Low, and Parker thrived as the line-up’s likeable jokester. “We were happiest when we were on stage, [but] it was all that shit with politics, the record company and too many opinions that caused friction,” he said in 2018.
In 2020, while Hardwick was pregnant with their second child, Parker was diagnosed with stage four glioblastoma. Her memoir, Hope, will be published in July. He described it as “to find hope in any situation, and live your best life no matter what.”
He is survived by Kelsey, their daughter, Aurelia, and son, Bodhi, and his parents.