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CHARLI XCX – NUMBER 1 ANGEL (MIXTAPE REVIEW)

Since her mainstream breakthrough in 2013 Charli XCX has quickly become one of the most interesting British pop stars of the decade. The last 12 months have been a new era for XCX her infamous Vroom Vroom EP resulted in her stealing the title of PC Music’s poster girl from Hannah Diamond.

But unlike Diamond Charli XCX is no angel regardless of what this mixtape’s title might suggest. Despite the list of Producers working on this project including Life Sim, Danny L Harle, Easyfun, SOPHIE and A.G Cook, Number 1 Angel doesn’t sound like a typical PC Music project. In fact this record takes a lot more from the quirky style of Trap that artists like Lil Yachty have been splitting critics with. Charli’s voice is sugar coated in glossy autotune on tracks like Blame it On You and Drugs, which compliments her singing style as she sounds like she may have been listening to Young Thug and Lil Uzi Vert whilst recording this project. It’s no surprise that the most interesting instrumentals here are provided by SOPHIE, the track Roll With Me contains one of the most infectious dance beats he’s ever produced whilst Charli’s vocal cuts through the high pitch synths resulting in electro pop perfection. This song is held together by a powerful 808 bass and is sprinkled with SOPHIE’s trade mark squeaking and screeching noises which could prevent this song from having any chart success.

The closer Lipgloss is also a highlight with a vocal hook that only the most conservative music fans wouldn’t want to sing along to and Cupcake’s adds some hilarious verses with sexual innuendos about Whinie The Pooh and Flavor Flav. On the track Emotional Charli sounds at her most vulnerable delivering a Bjork esc chorus. The track ILY2 is a much needed 2000s throwback track with Charli bringing a vocal hook that could have come from Avril Levine at the peak of her popularity, but this kind of melody on top of a Danny L Harle Production is a genius move. Even though she shows her softer side Number 1 Angel is still dominated by Charli’s powerful and boastful lyrical themes and delivery the opening line of the record being “I’m a Dreamer step step out the Beemer”. Maybe on this record she is not as ferocious as she was on the Vroom Vroom EP, but her more down to earth persona here is a much welcome change for Charli. Moments like Babygirl and 3am wouldn’t sound out of place on a Carly Rae Jepsen record which is possibly the biggest compliment you could give in a pop review.

The truth is you’re probably not going to hear a better pop album this year it’s a perfect blend of fun and obscurity and it’s the best thing XCX has released thus far.

(Written by Aimee Armstrong)

 

[ALBUM REVIEW] ED SHEERAN – ÷

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?

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

[LIVE REVIEW] THOUGHT FORMS AT LEVEL 3

Slap bang in the middle of Melksham’s post-rock titans Thought Forms’ UK tour, a stop on the winding road at Swindon’s Level 3 proved to be and incredible and breath taking evening of power and sound.

The evening was opened by The Hound on The Mountain, a solo project in the process of becoming a full live band, featuring Jack Moore on drums, delivered an outlandish alternative rock sound with an abundance of style. The carefully constructed songs navigated through sounds reminiscent of Jack White and Talking Heads. It delivered a taste of something that was new, raw and undoubtedly different.

Now it was time for the main event, the moment that the 50 strong crowd had been waiting for. From the moment that the first chord was hit, Thought Forms were a powerhouse, delivering a wall of sound that gave the audience a euphoric and captivating feeling. They were locked in a tornado of sonic splendour, while the band danced around the stage as if they were possessed. They were a tight nit unit, doing their jobs perfectly.

At times you would lose yourself in a trance of sonic waves and occasionally forget where you where because everything was perfectly timed it felt like you were listening to the songs on record. Songs like Landing, Forget my name and the final song Burn Me Clean standing out as some of the most powerful moments of the evening, not to mention Ghost Mountain You and Me which was a hypnotizing display of the ability, passion and craftsmanship of Thought Forms. The band stand out as a group that pour their heart and souls in their work and everyone who sees them live will knows that a Thought Forms gig is more than a gig, it’s an experience.

Words by Rob Mckelvey

[LIVE REVIEW] INSECURE MEN AT THE WINDMILL

Before tonight not much could be guaranteed about Fat White Family founder Saul Adamczewski’s new project Insecure Men. They had previously performed one show somewhere in New York and the only real taste of the new venture could be found in Saul’s Karaoke for One a nine track album available on the Insecure Men Soundcloud made up of covers performed by Saul and his keyboard.

Needless to say, with the vast growth in Fat White Family’s popularity and the air of mystery around what this new endeavour would sound like, tickets for the show sold out almost immediately. This was to be something special, a first glimpse at something fresh and undoubtedly weird, with the promise of uncommon instruments within the band, including a vibraphone as well as a lap steel guitar.

The evening started with Sleaze a four piece with some serious balls, the frontman had a striking resemblance to a young Begbie from Trainspotting, maybe it was the moustache that gave me this impression, but something was definitely screaming young Robert Carlyle at me. The bassist looked like he could have been a member Marilyn Manson in the early days, dressed in ankle high boots with knee high black socks, leading up to a black skirt ad then a black shirt and tie, all topped off with a huge afro like hairstyle squashed under a trucker style cap with the words “MEATUP” printed into it.

The sounds of Sleaze were very bass driven, it seemed to be the meat of the songs, while the guitar and keyboard seemed to enjoy a lot of harmonies that added an extra layer to the bass and gave it an almost country like twang at times. It was well rehearsed and performed brilliantly, there was definitely a strong stage presence that connected with the crowd, which is always so inspiring to see from bands with a pretty small reputation.

The next band Horsey brought something much different to the table, to start off the entire band’s image said to me that these four got half way through a degree in geography and realised what a stupid fucking life choice it was, and so decided to start a band. A few of the members honestly looked like they could have been part of some university comedy show like Fresh Meat.

When they started their set I was almost instantly pushed away, they keyboard player and guitar player would share harmonies like the last band, but it seemed out of tune and out of practice, it almost felt a bit painful to watch. Eventually it seemed to warm up and the two delivered some really good harmonies which complimented the music really well, I’m unsure as to whether the earlier out of tune vocal harmonies were on purpose as they seemed to be trying really hard to give off this kind of rough edge.

The way that they would deliver some harmonies was like they had spent years of their youth in the church choir, this and the lyrical content combined with their image seemed to really reflect that they were tired of living with mummy and daddy in the 10 bedroom estate house somewhere in the country, they wanted to move to the city and play in a band but still kept a strand of their upbringing.

I say all of this like I hated the band and I thought they were a bunch of posers, but really the way their lyrics were structured, the way they would go from quiet parts with choir like vocals into madness and screams like a posh Heck in a split second. They were different and at times they impressed me and caught me off guard.

But now, on to the main event the reason so many had travelled to Brixton to cram themselves into a small pub, Insecure Men! I would like to point out at this part that while trying to cool off in the cold January air in the venue’s garden my friend and fellow writer Liam spotted Lias and a few other members of Fat White Family sat down entangled in conversation in the smoking area, it was at this point that Liam began to scream like a with excitement! This was also interesting because Lias had been present in many of Saul’s Instagram posts that were to do with Insecure Men rehersals or recordings, so now it felt like there was a strong possibility that he would be part of the large cast of musicians to feature within the band.

As we ventured back inside to take our place for the show, a man in a dark velvet suit, with a thick beard and a kind of trilby hat with a large peacock feather sticking out at one of the sides was setting up a lap steel guitar. He soon exited the stage to fetch more equipment and while doing this he bumped into me trying to get past, almost instantly I could hear people all around me talking about who this mysterious man could be.

The strongest rumour seemed to be that it was the son of John Lennon, Sean. I quickly flicked on to one of his social media profiles to find the poster for the show with the with the caption “I’d love to invite you to this show, but it’s sold out” it was true, and the son of John Lennon had brushed shoulders with me, I will probably never stop bragging out it, I know it sounds silly, but then the man is technically half of a quarter of the Beatles.

The true triumph of this evening was the logistical masterpiece of managing to fit eight people onto a stage that I had watched four people struggle to share all evening, in total there was a drummer, vibraphonist, a saxophone player, bassist, two keyboard players, Sean Lennon on lap steel guitar and Saul with guitar and vocals. They were squeezed on to the point where you could only actually see four of them for pretty much all of the set.

Once Insecure Men began they captivated the audience with the unbelievable wall of sound, so many instruments combining together to create mellow almost heartbroken noises. The lyrical content was at times hard to pick out due to Saul’s vocals occasionally being mumbled, however I am sure that this was part of the song to compliment his mellow vibe. However, the lyrics that I did hear clearly were provoking, funny and almost chilling.

I remember being moved when the words “I never got to kiss my lover, she’s buried in foreign sands” was repeatedly muttered through a song, I laughed when he announced the title of another song Whitney Houston and I, singing “Whitney Houston and I enjoy hot showers” seeming hinting towards some illicit substances that the pair may also have common interests in. There was also a song where he seemed to throw a lot of shade at Rod Stewart, I don’t recall the lyrics entirely but he definitely wasn’t singing Rod’s praises. Saul didn’t seem afraid to go all the way and say what he wanted to say with these songs.

The set was rather short, probably about 45 minutes or so, but for an act that haven’t released anything but a short album of covers I wasn’t expecting much more. Needless to say I was blown away by the craftsmanship and passion that had been thrown into this project, the collection of friends that Saul had managed to bring to the stage for the evening, and how it was all held together very well despite having minimal time to rehearse as a full group, there was one point where Saul seemed to get a bit angry towards the saxophone player for playing a few notes wrong during one song, before turning around to the audience and apologising saying how “shit” it was, although I still thought it didn’t sound too bad. He sometimes would wave his arms looking pissed off at sections of the band, like a violent orchestral conductor.

Overall it was a fantastic glance at an interesting new band, that dare to be and do things differently, to throw in as many instruments as possible to produce sounds that may be uncommon to many gig goers. Insecure Men stand out as one of this years most exciting new acts and I eagerly await an upcoming EP or album!

Words by Rob McKelvey

[FEATURE] FROM HYPE WILLIAMS TO BABYFATHER: THE FORM DEFYING ART OF DEAN BLUNT

It must have been frustrating following the career of Hype Williams. With memory of life prior to the internet feeling increasingly foggy, any fact which isn’t a quick Wiki search away begins to be treated with the utmost contempt. How dare you not divulge accurate information? What do you mean you’ve joined the nation of Islam? How the fuck did you both meet watching Oasis at Knebworth?

Details of the project’s inception are shrouded in mystery; supposedly an art relay project, each incarnation taking hold of the helm for five years. This particular manifestation was domineered by the elusive artists Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland, although neither of those names turned out to be genuine. To this day the backgrounds of both artists remain relatively unknown, with just fragments of dubious claims emerging – such as Dean Blunt actually being an ex-boxer.

The music itself became notorious for its post-modern bricolage; steeped in irony, with the line between fact and fiction, sample and composition, utterly blurred. Loosely associated with the post-hypnagogic underground, Hype Williams filtered the history of electronic music, movie dialogue, and long forgotten pop through a stubbornly lo-fi, crackled facade, adding dub dynamics and pitch shifted vocal trickery. The sound – like their persona – consistently evaded clarity, revelling in the distortion of perception. As Chal Raven noted whilst writing for Dummy back in 2012, “No amount of quasi-academic scrutiny can reveal the “answers” to Hype Williams. The music is its own armour.”

It’s a curious contradiction; the elusive nature of Hype Williams seemed to run against a vital internet mantra – ‘share everything’ – yet conversely, so much of the groups identity seemed utterly dependent upon digital culture. From crediting the artwork of their album Black Is Beautiful to Danny Dyer, to releasing an output of such gargantuan size that it would put Mark E Smith to shame. This hyper exposure to culture – as well as a hyper production of their own – makes them a quintessential embodiment of the digital avant-garde. With an over-saturation of music within our daily lives, what unavoidably emerges is a state of demystification. In the case of Hype Williams, the duo managed to re-achieve a sense of mystique through relentless dishonesty.

Prior to the release of their two most widely available albums – under the Hype Williams moniker – the duo had already forged one of the most potent articulations of their sound. 2010’s Untitled comes across as if it were formed from an impromptu jam session, the track Untitled 4 building steadily around a central trudging drum procession, with a seasick drone growing increasingly erratic. Meanwhile the albums opener, Untitled 1, miraculously achieves a kind of vitally modern, ambient pyschedelia; an ambience that stems from the manic bombardment of endless information.

They followed Untitled with two more full lengths as Hype Williams, though neither were truly able to achieve a similarly bizarre concoction. Both 2010s What Happens When People Stop Being Polite, and Star Gettin’ Real and 2011s One Nation felt largely lost within a foggy miasma, unable to take a truly worthwhile form. In 2012 However, the duo released the album Black is Beautiful, under the names Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland. Though Black is Beautiful shares much of the woozy demo-esque sound that defined both One Nation and What Happens When…, where the album differs is its altogether bolder feel. The project in no way harnesses or tames the ardent experimentalism, but manages to make it all the more impressionable. The misshapen, battered footwork of 12; the garbled flow of 9, which sits atop a kaleidoscopic Casio jam, sounding simultaneously cheap and cosmic; or the LCD laced digi-dub of 10, with Copeland seemingly attempting a ritualistic incantation, whilst wildly mutating synths screech and wheeze in the background. 

Black is Beautiful marked the dissolution of Hype Williams, and the emergence of Dean Blunt as solo auteur. On his mixtape The Narcissist – later re-released as The Narcissist II, with alterations on the tracks – Blunt’s baritone first truly emerges, largely becoming the musics foreground. The Narcissist II and his 2013 debut album, The Redeemer, offer dual perspectives on the same destructive relationship; one in the midst of the carnage (Narcissist) whilst the other delivers some form of reflection (Redeemer).
Both The Narcissist II and The Redeemer have been compared to a play or soap opera, with The Narcissist II being flat out cinematic – journo cliche, I know. It provides a voyeuristic scurrying through various dimly lit city flats, conjuring images of couples bellowing at each other, whilst lower floor neighbours screech in dismay at chaos unfolding above. The music of The Narcissist II is a sludging, beaten ‘n’ bruised R&B. A kind of knackered soul persists, the genre worn thin and drained of euphoria, a narcotic induced hysteria taking its place. Documenting the bitter demise of a relationship, The Narcissist II is relentlessly pessimistic. A dour, rain drenched account of modern romance, identifying the point at which extreme passion teeters over towards acts of jealous violence. Despite the turmoil and anguish seeping out of each faulty synth stab and shattered vocal, in the title track we find a song destined to achieve classic status. The devastating interplay between Copeland and Blunt; its melodicism submerged in an ocean of tape hiss; a symphony of sirens ebbing in and out of this deeply unflattering private affair.
The Redeemer may very way be Blunt’s greatest achievement to date – an album spoken of in hushed tones among certain circles. Throughout, Blunt deceptively adopts the role of dishevelled crooner. A semi-competent mimicry of the heartbroken troubadour, his voice overreaching and cracking at regular intervals, it being impossible to discern between yet another sly divergent tactic and feelings of genuine heartache. The Redeemer may toy with the confessional singer songwriter archetype, but its fragmented – wholly disjointed – narrative stubbornly evades any cliches associated with “the breakup album”, able to inject absurdist humour within deep spats of lethargic depression.
Despite The Redeemer’s title – obviously suggesting a shift in morals or desire for personal growth – surface level perception has never really been at the height of Dean’s goals. There are unavoidable questions that demand positing. Is this relationship genuine? If so, what about his account? Blunt is as much playing with the form (breakup/emotionally redemptive album) as he is attempting to find emotional catharsis through his art. The Redeemer – though equally open to melodrama – is a more solemn affair than The Narcissist II, the instrumentation stripped bare, Blunt’s voice withering to a hazy drool.
 
Sonically the instrumentation deceptively mimics the more confessional tone, with fake midi strings sitting across various samples, Joanna Robertson adding finger picked guitar work – all building up these seemingly more honest songwriting tropes. What is perhaps most endearing about the project is its scope and ambition relative to its actual technical ability and resources. The desire to say something grand or epic, despite not having the tools at hand – which an acclaimed/famous composer would have access to. This also comes across on the accompanying mixtape/album Stone Island, a release supposedly made entirely in a Russian hotel room. The most breathtaking example would be on track 6, which samples an iconic portion of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, adding almost absurd levels of drama to Blunt’s forlorn narrative.
Despite the acclaim Blunt had achieved by this point, he was dismayed to discover the reach of his art. “I made this stuff so black people would be impressed”, he confided to The Wire, “I didn’t know white people were gonna get in on it. But it’s mostly a bunch of sexless guys that buy my records.” The subject of race has always been a crucial aspect to Dean’s art, but on both 2014’s Black Metal and his work as Babyfather, it became its most prominent topic.
Black Metal was themed around the black appropriation of dead white tropes, with Blunt believing this to be a regressive act, as those who are truly radical should venture into something new and undefined. It may then seem odd to discover that the albums first half is comprised of nothing but white tropes – musically anyway. Chiming, sun-kissed indie; rustic folk explorations; Blunt continuing to develop the string laden balladeer persona; its only when we arrive at the mid section when we start to delve further into genres like dub or hip-hop – although even then they’re given titles like Punk or Country. In regards to his decision behind all this, well… as always with Dean, its difficult to decipher within interviews whether he’s providing helpful context or further blurring the picture. What the album does do is bring in to question a number of key issues young black artists face, issues to do with wider appropriation and pressures to assimilate rather than investigate your own culture. But unlike a thinkpiece or social realist art piece, the album isn’t simply providing a straightforward critique of real world issues, rather exploring these themes in an engulfing surreal environment.
The last two years have found Blunt drifting towards a far more overtly hip hop sound, coming into full fruition on 2016’s “BBF” Hosted By DJ Escrow. More pirate radio transmission than album; mixtape-like in it’s fluctuation in sound; grime beats sit side by side with brutalist noisescapes, whose layers of corrosive static leave a molten mess in their wake. The utterances of DJ Escrow give shards of narrative, a hopeful MC worn down the pressures of inner city life; meanwhile Blunt’s detached flow reveals a thinly veiled rage. The near instrumental Deep – with production aid from Arca – threatens an inevitable combustion; lysergic synths wail, replicating a woozy bent out of shape string section; an oppressive atmosphere, Escrow intersecting with desperate lines, doom laden utterances, a claustrophobic insistence that he’s “in too deep.” His most politically engaged, radical release, “BBF” was considered a novelty endeavour by some; understandable given his reputation as a prankster, but there’s a crucial lesson to be learnt with Blunt… he might sometimes be taking things seriously.
Words by Eden Tizard

[FEATURE] THE DANGERS OF BEING A CELEBRITY

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

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

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