[ALBUM REVIEW] ED SHEERAN – ÷

Music Reviews

Following a year long break from social media, Ed Sheeran is back with a bang. Releasing two singles on one day in February – Castle On The Hill and Shape Of You – it’s clear to see that his sound is better than ever. On March 3rd he released third studio album, ÷. Here’s what we thought.

Track opener Eraser bursts into life with a staccato-sounding acoustic guitar. The quick stroke strums are sharp, stinging, stabbing, and layered on top of the pounding drumbeat it sounds harsh. Harsh, but not messy. Layered, but seamless. It’s an assault of the senses in the best way. It’s the perfect introduction for the record.

Singles, Castle On The Hill and Shape Of You, are so overplayed you feel like you’ve known them for years; but you won’t get sick of them. Both tracks are upbeat, with defined rhythm, but Shape Of You takes a more exotic form. It wouldn’t be out of place if it were played on a marimba, and mixed with the plucky tones of guitar, the song takes on a three-dimensional form. Castle On The Hill, on the other hand, is just as punchy – but it’s softer, more like a pop song. The highlight of the song is Sheeran’s voice: he’s more confident than ever, and it’s laced with roughness like it’s never been before. His striking falsetto only serves to emphasise his talent.

 

 

Slower tracks like Perfect and How Would You Feel (Paean) fall flat in the middle of the album. Despite their chart popularity, Sheeran’s soft love songs don’t quite hit the mark like the upbeat album – they fall on the wrong side of cliché and sound just a bit like every other ballad out there. The only good things about these tracks are Sheeran’s vocals. They may be unimaginative songs, but at the very least, he sings it like he means it.

What Do I Know? sounds soft and innocent, kind of like an audio version of the blanket you loved when you were a kid. It’s unassuming, harmless, with the right amount of complexity. It’s neither dull nor eccentric – it just is. The guitar riff provides the perfect gentle backdrop, and the harmonies in the chorus are subtle but they make the song. The lyrics reflect this, too: “You know, the future’s in the hands of you and me/so let’s all get together, we can all be free/spread love and understanding, positivity” This song sounds like sitting in the park with your friends. It sounds like warm sunshine on your face, your sun-bleached hair in August, the scratchy blades of grass against your bare legs.

The standout tracks on ÷ are easily Galway Girl and Nancy Mulligan. Both songs are heavily influenced by traditional Irish music – and combing this with pop music shouldn’t work but it’s honestly brilliant. Galway Girl’s lyrics tell a story: about a boy meeting a girl in a bar (“I met her on Grafton street/right outside of the bar”), the pair having a drink (with so many references to whiskey) and just enjoying a night together. The narrative is great, the imagery is better, and Sheeran’s song writing skills shine.

 

 

Nancy Mulligan on the other hand, is a true story – it details Sheeran’s grandparents’ sixty-year long love story. This song has the heaviest Irish influence, and it makes the song all that more authentic. With seamless violins and punchy clapping, you can almost see the river dancers in front of your eyes. “I don’t think enough people use [Irish music] in pop music,” Sheeran said. “For some reason it’s considered twee and old, but it’s such exciting, youthful music, it should be at the forefront of pop culture.” And from listening to these two tracks, I’m inclined to agree.

But Nancy Mulligan isn’t the only song that Sheeran referenced his grandmother for. The delicate tones of Supermarket Flowers detail the loss of the singer’s beloved Nan who passed during the recording of ÷. The song’s nothing less than a tribute, and a fitting one at that. The track opens with the delicate plucking of a piano, and Sheeran lowers his voice to a gentle croon. It’s the lyrics that really hit home, though: phrases like “I’m in pieces, it’s tearing me up but I know/A heard that’s broke is a heart that’s been loved” show the honest side of losing a loved one. It’s a song about trying to find comfort in the hard times, and the emotion in Sheeran’s voice is clearly not faked.

Album closer, Save Myself, is possibly the best of Sheeran’s acoustic collection – it’s seamless, gentle and raw, with more use of a piano. The vocals are flawless, with the perfect inflections to match the music and a tone of angst that fits the lyrics perfectly. It’s the best way to end an album – it winds you down nicely, prepares you for the inevitable end and leaves you the exact opposite of disappointed.

Even though the album has ended, though, I bet it won’t be long until you’re pressing replay. It’s clear that Ed Sheeran has matured – but instead of becoming boring, he’s more experimental than ever. There’s no bad tracks on ÷ – some of the love songs are dull, sure, rehashed, maybe, but the upbeat songs more than make up for it. It’s easy to see where Sheeran excels – and hopefully, the next album will be entirely made up of lyrical imagery and Irish influences. After all, it is where his roots lie.

 

 

Words by Lucy Wenham

[FEATURE] MEDIA BRAWL – WHEN WILL IT END?

Features

We’ve all seen the stories, paparazzi becoming aggressive in order to get their stories and all in the name of money. Following celebrities endlessly and provoking them until they lash out. This is something that is a known tactic for the paparazzi to use because these stories will sell and everyone wants to hear news of a celebrity behaving badly. In recent events we’ve seen Louis Tomlinson, a former One Direction member being involved in a physical altercation with one photographer at an Los Angeles airport due to the photographer refusing to stop taking pictures of his girlfriend Eleanor Calder after he declined Tomlinsons request to stop and give them privacy. During this one on one drama,Calder was in another brawl with two unidentified females, Tomlinson then saw this and tried to separate the women and is heard to have shouted ‘What the hell is going on’.

ImageThe public have seemed to have come emotionally immune to these stories as they happen all the time. Seeing viral videos with the infamous ‘TMZ’ watermark in the corner is something that crops up on social media almost weekly, many viewers jumping to comment on who was in the wrong during these Celebrity – Paparazzi showdowns. Paparazzi have built themselves a reputation within the media as being aggressive and have done nothing to change this, instead they have embraced this label, showing everyone that they will go to great lengths in order to get their story.

Tomlinson is clearly not the only one to be involved in such altercations, there have been many celebrities before him who have been targeted. Back in 2013, Paparazzi were a little too eager to get photos of Justin Bieber leaving his London hotel. There was an altercation of words, with one paparazzo member shouting ‘Go the fuck back to America you moron’, and with this remark being heard, Bieber was filmed jumping from the car, being held back by his security, giving that particular man a piece of his mind. This isn’t his first altercation with paparazzi and undoubtedly not his last.

A well documented paparazzi incident was in fact Britneys Spears’ ‘Meltdown’ back in 2007. Paparazzi captured the footage and photographs of Spears shaving her head and then trashing a car. The paparazzi presence was making her more upset, causing her to them attack a paparazzo (who in a weird turn of events, is auctioning off the umbrella, and willing to give half the money to a charity of Britneys choice). News reports surrounding this incident did mention that the paparazzi knew that something wasn’t right, yet still continued to pursue the story. This is one of the most famous moments captured by the paparazzi and can still be considered ‘relevant’ 10 years later.

Is there a line between lashing out and self defense? Why is it different for a celebrity to defend themselves than a regular person? Stories can become minipulated by the press in order to sell more copies with no regard to personal feelings, and the effect of the press’ aggressive behaviour can take it’s toll on musicians, this is something that needs to change.

Words by Jasmine Greggory

[FEATURE] THE DANGERS OF BEING A CELEBRITY

Features

Everybody is a fan in some way. It doesn’t matter who the person is or what they do, we all have our preferred celebrities. But what happens when it inches over the line towards a dangerous obsession?

On the 25th of February, Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco had to move out of his house.

Any average fan of the American rock band knows that Urie loves that house – he’d previously built a home studio in his garage where the entirety of most recent album Death Of A Bachelor was written (and some of it was recorded there, too), and the cover of the album was shot on the roof of the house. It’s very much a large part of Urie’s inspiration, not to mention his image.

And shortly after he moved in, his address was widely circulated around the internet. A short Google search will bring you the information, and some fans have taken that as an invitation to camp outside the Urie house.

In a statement posted to Twitter, the frontman explained that while he appreciates receiving gifts and letters, visits from fans made him feel unsafe in his own home: “Everyone has a right to feel safe […] so I’m taking my family somewhere that might make that a possibility.”

Read the full statement below:

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Urie’s concerns are understandable. If you can’t be safe in your own home, when can you be? And it’s not his fault – unavoidably, one argument that has come to light is that it’s his own fault for being in a band. But what’s wrong with wanting to share your art? I’m not denying that music isn’t about the person behind it. Of course it is, when those people write the music and the lyrics from their experiences. But sometimes, appreciating a musician goes way too far and this is a prime example.

But sometimes, fans don’t realise they’re doing anything wrong. When, exactly, does a admiring a celebrity turn into something more sinister? It’s an idea that’s been tossed around for years, decades, since the very early days of Beatlemania.

Celebrity Worship Syndrome was first properly identified in 2003, with an accompanying scale to identify the severity of the issue:

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These are only the first twenty questions, but they’re pretty harmless. Most people have probably felt like this about a celebrity at some point in their lives, whether it is through admiration or adoration – it’s just that Celebrity Worship Syndrome explains that feeling to the extreme.

 

There are three individual dimensions of Celebrity Worship Syndrome:

 

  1. The entertainment-social dimension. This describes a person who is attracted to a celebrity on the factors of their perceived entertainment skills and to become a social topic among like-minded people.
  1. The intense-personal dimension. This describes a person who has intensive and compulsive feelings about a celebrity.
  1. The borderline-pathological dimension. This describes a person who displays uncontrollable feelings or fantasies about a celebrity.

It is believed that one in three Britons’ celebrity obsession amounts to Celebrity Worship Syndrome – with one in four’s obsession affecting their daily lives. And this figure has more than likely been on the rise. These figures were released fourteen years ago, and the invention of social media platforms has made it easier than ever to cyber stalk celebrities. The likes of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook has made your average musician’s thoughts accessible to everyone.

A 19-year-old has told the Sydney Morning Herald that it’s easy to find celebrities through their social media posts. “All you have to know is the celebrity and how they use their social media,” Karla Del Rosario said. “You can find hotels and such by looking at the details in the background.”

I, personally, would call this stalking. There is a difference between being a fan of a celebrity, keeping up to date with the latest gossip, going to see their shows, loving their art. There’s a difference between that and waiting for a celebrity at an airport or their home or their hotel.

But where do you draw the line? At what point does being interested in a musician or an actor turn into a mental illness? There’s another mental illness that covers these symptoms: erotomania. And both syndromes are almost constantly prevalent in cases of stalking, but what about the blurred lines? When does keeping up with celebrity news turn into obsessively following every minute of celebrity news?

It doesn’t seem there are any specific case studies on Celebrity Worship Syndrome, but maybe there should be. It’s claimed that there are links between the syndrome and poor mental health, as well as cosmetic surgery and compulsive spending. These all point towards the most common perpetrators being teenage girls – young and impressionable – and it would be, well, not great, but better if those worshipped were role models.

As it goes, the most noticeable and recent figure is Justin Bieber. He’s hardly someone to look up to, especially in the earlier years of his career. Anyone else remember him spitting on fans, pissing in buckets and crashing cars? Just because he made one good album doesn’t immediately erase everything he did. But it’s not just his actions – it’s the actions of his fans. There was a fan-made Twitter campaign: #cut4bieber. The whole trend was based around trying to stop the Canadian singer from doing drugs and was apparently started by well-known troll website 4Chan, but it’s inevitable that some young girls genuinely believed the hashtag and actually self-harmed.

How obsessed do you have to be to hurt yourself for the sake of a celebrity? That has to be beyond the boundaries of mental illness, surely. It’s not healthy – frankly, it’s a little terrifying, considering that these fans don’t even know the person they’re obsessed with. They could be anyone. Take Ian Watkins of Lostprophets, for example.

But can you help the sufferers of Celebrity Worship Syndrome? Is there any way to stop it? There must be a rational part of them that figures it’s not right, that celebrities are human too, that they need boundaries. Individuals like this need to be stopped because not only is it dangerous for the worshipped, it’s also dangerous for the individuals themselves.

The rise of technology and social media is only going to make it easier for people to get obsessed, so is there any ways of curbing it? Or will it just keep growing until it’s too late, until someone takes it too far?

Words by Lucy Wenham

FUTURE MAKES HIS MARK ON 2017 ALREADY WITH TWO ALBUMS

News

We are only three months into 2017 and there have already been some incredible artists making their marks – one of those being 33-year-old hip-hop artist FUTURE.

Future’s self-titled and fifth studio album dropped on February 17th with amazing reviews and charting highly on the Billboard 200. Exactly a week later, he then dropped a second album named ‘HNDRXX’ which includes collaborations with Rihanna and The Weeknd, also charted highly.

The release of two albums in one week is a rarity in itself, especially with little to no campaigning. Future took complete control and posted on social media, after a month long silence, that ‘Future’ was on it’s way and that the ‘Nobody Safe’ tour was also on its way with the likes of Migos, Kodak Black, Tory Lanez, Young Thug and ASAP Ferg. Then with the promotion of his sixth album ‘HNDRXX’, he went on to hastag the album along with it’s producer DJ Esco.

This week there have been rumours that Future was to release two more follow up albums, but this was later denied by manager Anthony Salah. It has now been confirmed during an interview with Karizza Sanchez at the Reebok ZOK! Runner event that there will be no third album and that Future is revelling in the success of his two albums.

Future and HNDRXX are available on music purchasing platforms.

Words by Jasmine Greggory

[ALBUM REVIEW] VANT – DUMB BLOOD

Music Reviews

Opening tracks from debut albums are usually where bands go big, from I Wanna Be Adored to Smells Like Teen Spirit, it’s an opportunity to really lay the gauntlet. Vant’s debut opens with The Answer and tackles the topic of the Afghanistan war with the grace of Vinnie Jones.

Now if I didn’t have to review this album for my uni mark, I’d have backed out at the point vocalist Matty Vant so poetically articulates the relationship between the US and UK by singing “You’re from England well, “Hello there my brother” Keep sucking my dick, while my friend fucks your mother”. Dumb Blood has a forty-minute cringe-inducing shot a jumping on the #woke bandwagon.

On Put Down Your Guns, Vant sings, “Middle-class fools, self centred rich. Brainwashed villains that poison the sick” it’s about as punk as that mate you have that adorns their uni walls with a Communist flag. Are We Free? bloats the entire album at a staggering seven minutes that never really builds to anything.

When Vant ditch the pseudo-punk flag it drawers some pretty decent results, highlight of the album ,Parking Lot, is a has-blinder of a bridge and sees them really showing their teeth with regards to guitar work. Do You Know Me? isn’t musically worlds apart from Parking Lot, but does just enough thanks to a nice solo to stand in it’s own right has a standout track.

On the whole, Dumb Blood excels musically and can at times be pretty engaging, however lyrically it’s like a car crash. Vant quite admirably seem more than happy to stand proud about what the believe in but it does feel like these sentiments could be left at the beer garden they belong in.

Words by Jack Winstanley

[FEATURE] MENTAL HEALTH IS NOT A MEME

Features

Mental illness is not exactly uncommon. According to the Mental Health Foundation, one in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime and mental illness makes up 28% of all diseases in the world – the biggest by far. Going by this, several people you know will have suffered with a mental illness. It could be your mother, your brother, your cousin or your best friend. It could even be you. So why are we so insensitive when it comes to celebrities and mental health?

Recently, Kanye West announced he had cancelled an upcoming tour for undisclosed reasons – undisclosed until it was reported he’d been rushed into hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. Since then, more details have emerged: a combination of sleep deprivation and a robbery involving his wife Kim Kardashian in Paris a month previous has left him ‘shaken and paranoid’.

It’s a serious matter, but some reactions to the entire situation are disgusting. First, we need to look at the Paris robbery: why do people think this is funny? The Kardashians are not the public’s favourite family, granted, but this doesn’t change the fact that Kim Kardashian is a mother, a daughter, a sister and a wife. Nobody deserves to be held at gunpoint. ‘But she flaunts her wealth!’ you cry. Yes, her life revolves around social media and marketing herself, but I’ve seen sixteen year olds from small towns flaunting their new Pandora ring or brag about their iPhone upgrade on Snapchat too many times to count. Pot, kettle, anyone?

A gunpoint robbery is a traumatic experience for anyone. It’s not about the jewellery that was stolen, or the amount of money received from insurance. A robbery takes material items, but it gives you something too: pure fear and a need to look over your shoulder constantly. Imagine if that happened to someone you loved, if it was your wife that was threatened. Would you laugh it off, say she deserved it? Or would you say that it’s okay, because she can afford it anyway? No, you’d be angry, you’d be terrified and you’d feel guilty and that’s probably how West is feeling right now.

So why should we act like his mental problems are a joke? A meme is currently doing the rounds on Facebook, comparing West to the late Lemmy:

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You’ve probably seen it. You probably read it, agreed and laughed it off, because this doesn’t tell you the true extent of West’s problems. And anyway, since when is it acceptable to one up each other using health issues? I personally don’t think these two situations are even comparable – mental health and physical health are two vastly different worlds with their own consequences, and everyone uses a different coping mechanism with their own issues so why do we feel the need to judge others?

But it’s not just Kanye West that has publicly faced mental health problems. At the start of the year, Justin Bieber controversially cancelled all booked meet and greets, with a statement on Instagram claiming that he feels “mentally and emotionally exhausted to the point of depression” after meeting fans. In this statement, he also addresses the exhaustion of having to meet people’s expectations. It’s all very valid, and fans seemed to agree with most comments showing nothing but support for the singer. But most negative comments seemed to come from those who aren’t even a fan – people claiming that he owes it to his followers, and once again comparing him to other celebrities.

Justin Bieber is well known, that much is obvious. He has a massive following, which is made up mostly of young girls who look up to him. He’s something of a role model, and to have to play that act on the days you’re feeling a bit off must be tiring to say the least. There’s also the reports that fans have previously pulled his hair, torn his clothes and purposely made him ill, so it’s clear that it’s not worth risking his safety, let alone his health.

And then there’s Zayn Malik, one time member of boyband One Direction. In September, he announced that he would be pulling out of a concert in Dubai due to “extreme anxiety around major live solo performances”. Once again, this is very valid but fans were left fuming. It’s a totally different process, playing a show by yourself vs. with a group, and more so because Malik is used to performing with four other men. In an interview with ES magazine, he said “I speak about [my anxiety] so that people don’t understand it doesn’t matter what level of success you have, where you’re from, what sex you are, what you do”.

It’s important that celebrities address these issues. Not only does it bring a better sense of understanding to mental illness, but it also removes the stigma surrounding it one person at a time. Mental health is not a joke, it’s not something to be mocked or laughed at. You wouldn’t make cancer the punch line, so why make it depression?

This is the way I see it: fans are not entitled to anything. They’re not entitled to a tour or a meet and greet because they bought an album. And when they say, ‘well, this artist shared their music with the world, they know what was going to happen’, I say you didn’t have to buy the album, you don’t have to listen to that music. The public does not dictate a celebrities’ life, and we seem to forget that those in the limelight are human too. They all have feelings and friends and family, and they deserve their rights to good health and wellbeing as much as the rest of us do.

Artists should not be stripped of their human rights because they shared their art. They didn’t have to, but they did, and because of that we get to enjoy it so we should all, at the very least, be thankful for that.

 

Words by Lucy Wenham

[TRACK REVIEW] ALL TIME LOW – DIRTY LAUNDRY

Music Reviews

After a brief hiatus, All Time Low have returned. Following a week-long media campaign where they teased fresh tunes on their social media, they’re bigger and better than ever: announcing that they’ve signed to the pop punk giant label Fueled By Ramen and releasing new track, Dirty Laundry.

Far from the sugary sweet style of their back catalogue, the Baltimore quartet’s new single opens with an ethereal synth beat. It sounds dark, like ribbons curling through your chest and mind until you can’t forget, squeezing tight. Frontman Alex Gaskarth’s voice layers the track perfectly with dulcet, astral tones. At some points, it sounds like his velvety crooning is melding with the song.

From a first listen, you’d think that Dirty Laundry is you’re average dull heartbreak song. But lyrics such as “I don’t care what you did/I only care what we do” and “Nobody’s perfect I confess/But she’s perfect enough”, it’s clear to see that this is a love song – and it’s a love song like no other. All Time Low are acknowledging that actually, nobody is perfect – and no relationship will ever be perfect – and that’s what makes this song stand out against the rest.

It looks like Fueled By Ramen suits the band perfectly.

Words by Lucy Wenham

[TRACK REVIEW] LORDE – GREEN LIGHT

Music Reviews

This teen comeback has been anticipated by everyone from her loyal fans to music critics across the globe. Lorde‘s debut album, Pure Heroine, set the bar high and opened the eyes of many to a teen’s raw honest description of what it’s like to be a teen in this day and age. Many believed that she wouldn’t be able to return with the sheer force that she did when her first album was released onto the world, but she may have just proved them all wrong with her triumphant return Green Light.

The lead single sees this Kiwi megastar venture into a new form of sound. Although her lyrical structure – which remains phenomenal for someone her age – stays the same on this song, this burst of happy energy through joyous piano loops creates a more uplifting burst of euphoric energy. This happy-sad heartbreak anthem was co-written with fun. guitarist and 1989 collaborator, Jack Antonoff. The pair have been working together daily for 10 months on her upcoming album.

This serves as the first glimpse we have into the world of Lorde’s upcoming album, Melodrama, due for release in June. Back in November she posted an update on what to expect from the album, saying “I wrote a record about it, all of it, so much more than what I’ve written down here, and I’m in new york getting it done. And tomorrow, I’m not a kid any more, and more and more I’m realizing that the weirdness of those Mylar balloons is going to be okay”.

Words by Connor Spilsbury-Brown