Category Archives: Music
I love my Grandma.
She is called Annie, is 92-years-old, and has lived in the same house (I think) for as long as I’ve been alive. Because of her, I had my very first holiday abroad, to the magical Disneyland Paris (or EuroDisney, as it was known back when I first went). I must have gone four or five consecutive years in a row, and I have fond memories from every time. That was over twelve years ago, but this year, thanks to her, I was once again off on a holiday abroad. Along with my dad, we journeyed on a coach down to Southampton and boarded the Oriana cruise-ship, setting sail to Norway.
I didn’t know much about the country before I arrived. One quarter of Aqua originates from Norway, and in The Aqua Diary VHS there is a small look at Lene’s hometown. Also, they (undeservedly) finished last in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, so we have something in common. We had roughly a two day sail until we arrived in Norway; so during this time, I got to be reacquainted with my Grandma, as we shared a room. The second night saw me attend my first formal dining event.
I ate so well during my time on the ship! And even developed a liking for fruit smoothies.
On Sunday morning, we woke up to our first sighting of land since leaving.
This was the lovely city of Stavanger.
The thought had entered my head to write a blog post previewing my tips for music in twenty-thirteen, but so far I only have two (three, if Luke Atlas manages to record and release some post-Brite Futures material). I didn’t want to look back at 2012, as in all honesty it’s had a lot of pitfalls.
At the start of the year I had two jobs; now I have zero. But I also have two new additions to the family, so I shall count my blessings and reflect on this year. Thanks to Adam, I was up and out of the house at midday today. I bought cupcakes, and pretzels, and independent coffee! And I was home before six. Thanks to PopJustice, I spent tonight in bed, researching the year in music.
The highs and lows, who was in, and who is out (for good). Here’s my contribution to the 2012 Readers’ Poll.
Best Single: Kelly Clarkson – Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You). From the first few seconds, you can tell this is going to be a song that carry on as an anthem. It carries a message that can be taken into the hearts of everybody who hears it, and mean something completely different to all of them. It’s powerful, and Kelly Clarkson sounds as perfect as she did ten years ago.
Worst Single: Amelia Lily – You Bring Me Joy. I only ever heard this when my parents had the radio on in the car, and it always used to annoy me. It seemed popular, but to my ears, it falls so flat. Songs are supposed to have individually structured verses, and a bridge and chorus, and even a middle eight. This just plods along and doesn’t deserve my attention.
Best Album: Ke$ha – Warrior. I know it’s only been a week, but this honestly is my favourite album released this year. It’s so fun and catchy. I love Ke$ha, she is an amazing songwriter, a dedicated performer, and I really do believe she can sing her little heart out for the world to enjoy. Long live the Dance Commander!
Worst Album: Madonna – MDNA. I picked this as my choice for worst album simply because it did not live up to the expectations. In fact, I’d say it stumbled and completely fell flat after Gimme All Your Luvin’ (which was a candidate for worst video).
Best Video: Gotye (feat. Kimbra) – Somebody That I Used To Know. I’ve only watched it once, but the dedication and simplistic nature of the video held my attention for what ran the risk of being a none-event. This has turned me onto Kimbra, whose album Vows, is high on my playlist.
Shoddiest Video: Nicola Roberts – Yo-yo. It looked like it was filmed in the corner of a shed. A complete letdown for what is one of the best singles of 2012. Thankfully, the song didn’t even need a video, it’s good enough.
Best Cover Version: Paloma Faith – Never Tear Us Apart. Anastacia released an entire album of covers this year, but I was swayed by Paloma Faith thanks to this graceful rendition of Never Tear Us Apart which just about exceeds the original. Excellence.
Best Comeback: No Doubt. I literally never thought I’d see the day. After what seems like a decade, No Doubt are rightfully back in their place as my favourite band of all-time. Their seventh album, Push And Shove, boasts a varied selection of sounds. From their early Ska days, to the more recent sounds of Rock Steady, and introducing something completely new. Go ahead and look, that’s what they want (literally).
Best New Act: Lana Del Rey. Once she properly got going in 2012, Lana Del Rey left my jaw wide with shock. I couldn’t believe I had let her fantastic album, Born To Die, pass me by. All of the singles, all of the videos, untouched until one week in July – thanks to Channel 5’s Big Brother, of all things. My favourite track is Diet Mountain Dew. Thankfully, when the re-release rolled around, I was quick to act. Whilst not as instantly melodic as Born To Die, Paradise does have some highlights. The easiest on the ears is Gods and Monsters.
Most Ridiculous Recording Artist: Flo Rida. It could just as easily have been Pitbull, but this guy takes the biscuit thanks to that ridiculous recording name. Flo Rida is from Florida. Oh, how clever.
Best Radio Station: Europa Plus St. Petersburg. This year saw the purchase of my first ever digital radio. And with my general opinion being that popular radio stations come nowhere near to my taste in music (see next category), I cast my search far and wide over Europe, hoping to hear some t.A.T.u. and Aqua. In Russia, I was always happy with the playlists from Europa Plus. Highlights include Loreen, and what is my pick for best collaboration of 2012, Junior Caldera featuring Natalia Kills and Far East Movement.
Best DJ: @DoItForFame. My twitter (soon to be real-life) friend, Adam, has the best taste in music. He started hosting an online radio show and each broadcast has kept me on the ball with new music, whilst also filling me with nostalgia for the golden years of pop music.
Best TV Show with Music as some sort of Central Focus: RuPaul’s Drag Race. There were THREE RuPaul shows broadcast this year – and I was hooked to every single episode thanks to online TV. I cannot honestly think of any other TV show that prominently features music and influences me. Not just RuPaul, but the contestants, and judges. At the end of every episode, there’s a performance like no other. Lip Sync For Your Life, and don’t fuck it up!
New Act Most Likely to Save Pop: Natalia Kills. That girl is a goddamn problem! She was supposed to save pop in 2011, and she sang and danced her little heart out until it bled, but you monsters did nothing! So now, with the aid of Jeff Bhasker, she’s coming back in 2013 aiming to blow you away. Watch out!
Established Act Most Likely to Save Pop: No Doubt. Well… okay, this one is just me being silly. No Doubt have never been chart friendly. But their joyous return will continue for years, so who knows what to expect once they’re done pushing and shoving.
Act we should send to Eurovision: Jedward. I was gonna say Diana Vickers, but I don’t know if a kooky-acting, breathy-sounding woman will come across as being too much of a complete rehash of Loreen. So, when all else fails, beat Ireland at their own game and lock-in the gravity-defying twins for their third appearance.
Group Most Likely to Split: Blur. I’m not the Maya, I don’t make prophecies, but the likelihood of them calling it a day is high. I also can’t see Keane carrying on, but somehow their album did chart at #1, so who knows.
That is how I start 99% of my conversations with other people on Grindr. For those of you who don’t know what Grindr is and are too lazy to find out, this is what Wikipedia says:
Grindr is a geosocial networking application available for download from the Apple App Store. The app makes use of the device geolocation, which allows users to access other gay men through a user interface that displays a grid of representative pictures of men, arranged from nearest to farthest away. Tapping on a picture will display a brief profile for that user, as well as the option to chat, send pictures, and share one’s location.
Why am I telling you this, you’re thinking? I haven’t said two words to you all year, and yet here I am describing to you the exploits of my gay social networking. It wasn’t always like this. For many years, the only social means I had with other gay men was through a message board on a website called Famousmales. All I wanted was a place to talk about TV, Film, and Music with other people the same as me, men who just so happened to be attracted to other men. Didn’t know their real names most of the time, didn’t know their ages – it didn’t matter, all we were talking about were what was on TV, in the cinema, or on the radio.
I only actually ever listen to the radio when I’m in a car. I used to stay at my Grandma’s house a lot, and she would always have the radio on in the morning. It would be our local Leeds station, Aire FM. When I was 13, I lived with my grandma for a month or two, and became so fond of that station. I left my grandma’s house and went back to my new bedroom with an ambition in my head to become a radio deejay! I would get out all my CDs, plug my microphone into my stereo, pop in a fresh blank cassette tape, and record myself live for 45 minutes (one side of that tape) hosting my own radio show. This wasn’t strictly new behaviour, I’d done it once or twice before as I’m sure one or two of you reading this might have done. But 13 was the age when I really took it seriously. I made my own chart, I had non-movers, new entries, high-climbers; I would go into Woolworths every Monday afternoon after school and buy as many as 3 new CD singles for £1.99!
When I was 14, I practically realised my ambition. I entered a competition hosted by Aire FM which involved recording three promos in their on-location studio inside a shopping centre. If I were more motivated, I could find the letter in the drawer underneath my bed which thanked me for entering this competition, and show it to you – but I won’t, but trust me it’s there.
I did not win this competition, and my ambition slowly faded away.
Yet, life has a funny way of turning out. Not funny like a joke, but amusing like I had just come out of intensive care after almost dying and was recovering from pneumonia so instead of taking a drama A-Level, I began sixth form and studied Film Studies and Media. It was through that that I got to host the school’s very own radio station. My voice, my playlist, my ambition was realised once again! Those other thousand students had no say in whether or not they wanted to listen to me, if they didn’t, they had to leave the building! I’ll admit, writing this down now, I think I may have been drunk with power.
Yes, that’s definitely the face of a boy who was drunk with power! Those two years on Star Radio not only helped develop my radio skills, but it really helped me socialise with my classmates. I have friends for life now. We may not see each other regularly, but that bond is still strong.
And now, life has decided to be amusing again, and I’ve been thrown back into the world of radio, and socialising with a whole new group people. But this time it isn’t A-Level students, it’s the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered community of Leeds and North England!
And that is why I started by telling you about Grindr. I’m now a co-host on a community radio show called GRadio. It’s one hour of music, news, and reviews, aimed towards the LGBT community of Leeds and North England. I’ve been more social in one month that I have in one year! I hope I can tell you more about it in the coming weeks. But I really just need to take this opportunity to firstly say a huge thank you to that person who said Hi to me on Grindr and kind of took a really big chance on me. I’m walking proof that life can deal you a crap hand sometimes, and you don’t know if you can make sense of it anymore, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end, it just means it’s the start of something different, so you might as well go along with the ride because you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain!
Happy New Year! My 2011 has certainly been eventful, but let’s focus on the positives – stuff other people did that made me smile. Starting with my Top 5 albums of 2011:
ADELE – 21
W00t, I’m mainstream for including this in my top five. I don’t understand anyone who fails to sit through most of the songs on 21 and not be reminded of a past love or hard time in there life. Or a time where they finally stood up and overcame their fears and stood strong on their own. I’ll admit it, I was never really aware of Adele, despite her successful debut album 19. Her music only came to my attention during the Series 2 finale of Skins in a scene where Cassie flees to New York! Hometown Glory was a rip-your-heart-out tearjerker that still stands up to most of the tracks on 21 as the pinnacle of her musical talent. (Spotify: Rolling In The Deep)
LADY GAGA – Born This Way
Try to escape the incessant drones and thumps of a GaGa song. Go on, just try – I dare you! It can’t be done, there is not one beat on Born This Way that won’t get your booty shaking at least once. But that’s not the album’s only high point. GaGa’s vocals and lyrics carry every song into a different genre. Seriously, there’s German Techno, Nebraska Blues, Mambo Italiano, and the Streets of New York to name a few. This album has been unstoppable, already spawning three editions (not counting Vinyl, and USB releases). We haven’t even heard about the impending Born This Wall Ball tour, which is sure to conquer the world and secure “Mother Monster’s” reign as Queen of Pop into 2012. (Spotify: Scheiße)
NATALIA KILLS – Perfectionist
Okay, sorry to sound like a broken record, I really do feel like I’ve been the number one mascot for Natalia Kills in 2011 – it’s just, after hearing Zombie, Activate My Heart, and Mirrors, I had such high hopes, but nothing I said could convinced you lot that she is the shit. To my defence, she didn’t help her case by choosing to publicise probably the two least Kills-ish songs from Perfectionist – despite the fact one of them has the word KILL in the title! But you know, I stand by my words, and really do feel that now, in 2012, the world is ready to lose their shit over Natalia Kills. But before we enjoy the delights of Perfectionist 2.0, here’s my review of the album which was published in the 94 magazine from St James’s Hospital.
|If you’re already familiar with this lady then good for you, if not, pay attention… I said shut up! Perfectionist is available now, but why should you take an interest? Perhaps cos she had a hand in writing every song, and that means a lot to me for someone who grew up in Leeds! Everything happened for her after she moved to LA; demos were recorded, and after making their way to celeb-gossip blog Perez Hilton meetings were set up, and in one day she was signed personally by will.i.am to his record label. Working closely with the same folk who produced some of GaGa’s biggest hits, she worked on the album for three solid years, and it shows. The sound is suicidal pop. Not as dark as Rihanna’s S&M but not as outspoken as GaGa’s Born This Way. The music is GaGa back when she was fun and still bluffin’ with her muffin. Bottom line: ignore the image and listen to the entire album. It plays as almost perfection – from the riches, to fallen tragedy, and ultimately death.|
(Spotify: Love Is A Suicide)
RUPAUL – Glamazon
Much like Adele (don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this), I knew very little about RuPaul before his OMGTotallyAwesomeTVShow RuPaul’s Drag Race premiered on E4 about two years ago. Even after falling in love with him, I didn’t really acknowledge the awesomeness of him… as a her… as a recording artist. I mean, I was well aware of the Martha Wash duet on It’s Raining Men (I own the CD) – but, I never knew how talented this drag queen really was… still is! The hardest working drag queen out there; still on the hunt for the next Drag Superstar (season four of Drag Race starts in two weeks), still recording (a Remix EP, SuperGlam DQ, featuring new songs and songs from Glamazon was also released this year), and still serving more fierceness than Judge Judy and Tyra Banks combined. Long live the queen… the DRAG QUEEN! (Spotify: Responsitrannity)
BRITE FUTURES – Dark Past
If there’s one other artist I spoke more highly of in 2011 than Natalia Kills, it’s these guys. Luke, Shaun, David, Claire, and Conor – collectively known as Brite Futures, have turned the last two months of my 2011 into pure sunshine… except, I’m allergic to sunshine, so… they gave me a pair of shades. I’m not kidding, they really did give me a pair of shades. And a T-Shirt. Dark Past is one of those rare albums that screams to be played from start to finish, with the volume turned all the way up. So, there’s nothing left to be said, I don’t know what you’re waiting for, do it… DO IT!
HONOURABLE MENTION: Megalomania, by Aqua – I very much wanted to include Aqua’s first album in over 10 years in my Top 5 of 2011, but the fact it wasn’t released outside of Denmark really sucks and means the only way I can tell you all to hear how great it is, is to illegally download it, which I would never tell you to do… ever.