Jam of the Week: Jidenna – Classic Man (ft. Roman GianArthur)

Jidenna - Classic Man, single, 959x539 croppedEarlier this month, the genre-bending queen of pop for the discerning music fan, Janelle Monáe, revealed plans to unleash her Wondaland Art Society, the fellow artists and songwriters she’s collaborated with on her first two studio albums (which are among the finest records of the current decade), upon the Earth. Through a partnership with Epic, Wondaland Records is fostering and releasing music from Monáe’s close-knit inner circle. A compilation is due in May featuring music from all five of Wondaland’s current roster, including Monáe herself, who will debut ‘Yoga’. Continue reading

New talent @ Radar: Naomi Scott, Fifi Rong, Geovarn and more

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Naomi Scott, Radar at Under the Bridge, London, Feb 26, 2015, by Aaron Lee (3264x1836)Seeing a showcase of fledgling music acts the day after the Brit Awards puts the art of music-making in sharp relief. Because while it’s tough for anyone to sell music nowadays, for unknown and unsigned artists it’s a constant struggle just to be heard.

If any of the six acts at the February edition of Radar at Under the Bridge in London, organised by Music Week and MusicConnex, were frustrated with the noise levels, they did well to hide it. The boldest made animated efforts to connect with the audience of A&Rs, music press and invited industry guests, encouraging sing-alongs, rave-fuelled hip shaking and, in the case of Fifi Rong, aerobics, even though the air of post-work reluctance was there.

The six artists – Bella Figura*, Jungle Doctors, Princess Slayer, Geovarn, Fifi Rong and Naomi Scott – each had something different to offer on an evening of instant attractions and acquired tastes. Continue reading

Brits Awards 2015: Madonna’s tumble the high point of a show that’s lost its mojo

Madonna falls, Brit Awards 2015, Feb 25, 2015 screenshot, ITV (620x349)“Oh, Madonna. Did you learn NOTHING from the heroes who fell before you?” asked a quizzical tweet, attached with an image of The Incredibles’s eccentric fashion designer Edna Mode. Those who watched the 2015 Brit Awards live on ITV last night saw it – and then saw it again moments later on Twitter. Madonna, in an austere black suit, a long cloak draped behind her, yanked from her feet midway through her assent to the main stage.

The Twitter crowd had been restless for entirety of the show, but, thanks to the ill-fated timing of a backup dancer, the bait had been thrown and video snippets of Madonna’s tumble – quickly coined ‘#capegate’ – started circulating. The 56-year-old entertainer recovered quickly, carrying on as if it had been little more than a graze. But it was too late. The music had already been forgotten. Continue reading

Why the games review scores debate will never be ‘solved’ in the age of shifting media habits

Metacritic.com, Games, Feb 22, 2015 screenshot (1000x563)Numbers are numbers. When it comes to cultural critique they tell you very little without context.

For those that don’t know, debates about video games review scores – their editorial honesty as well as their ability to influence readers and, by extension, games sales – has raged for as long as games magazines have existed.

This month, popular games news and review site, Eurogamer, announced that it is dropping review scores entirely. This caused ripples of celebration and consternation. It also prompted other specialist and trade media websites to respond with discussions, comment pieces about the nature of games critique today and cases for/against keeping review scores. Meanwhile, some scoff at the very idea of written reviews, arguing that Let’s Play videos, Twitch.tv and YouTube vloggers are the future.

The trouble is different meanings are inherently attached to review scores. This means they will always be a help to some and of negligible value to others. (It becomes even more complicated when you try to aggregate scores.) Continue reading

Jam of the Week: Blur – Go Out

Blur - British Summer Time, Hyde Park poster (1416x797)As if news of Gorillaz return in 2016 wasn’t enough already. Yesterday, Blur announced their first new album as four-piece in 16 years. Should the rumoured The Good, the Bad & the Queen follow-up somehow be in the mix, I’ll be doing back flips down the street. Blur’s new album, titled The Magic Whip, started from jam sessions in the “claustrophobic and hot” confides of a Hong Kong studio, following a cancelled show in Japan. Guitarist Graham Coxon and long-time Blur producer Stephen Street developed these sessions until, as drummer Dave Rowntree put it, “we all realised we’d done something quite special there”. Continue reading

Why do some finales leave us dissatisfied?

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Reading on Broadway, Oct 6, 2007, by Michele Markel Connors (3008x1692)Endings are tricky affairs, particularly for fiction and screenwriters.

They don’t always need to be comfortable or straightforward. In fact, they shouldn’t be. No matter what the medium, you expect the author to fulfil a sort of unwritten agreement that, at the end of it all, you will have gained something from taking the time to engage with their story. That could be as simple as learning something new (as the classic parables of old do) or it could be more personal (learning deep truths about the nature of life or society through the eyes of a character you identify with).

Endings and why some of them leave us dissatisfied have been on my mind recently, since finishing the finales to several video games and fiction series. Both mediums have presented me with examples of endings that livid up to my expectations and others that fell short. Continue reading

PlayStation: Memorable moments in video game marketing

PlayStation symbols ad, SCEA, Jun 7, 2005, by David WulffMarketing and advertising can trigger memories just as the brands and products they are promoting can.

And even though marketers are responsible for many of us buying piles of tat we don’t need, interest in television shows such as drama series Mad Men or a magazine documentary such as Channel 4’s Top 100 TV Adverts (2003) shows you don’t have to be a fresh-faced marketing wannabe to be interested in the advertising that populates our world or the creativity that’s gone into making them. Continue reading

Jam of the Week: The Skints – This Town (ft. Tippa Irie & Horseman)

Skints, The - FM (640x360)It’s a stirring rallying call to hear music representing your town or your neighbourhood especially. Unlike the US, however, we tend to be reserved when it comes to bigging up our roots, humble or not, here in the UK. It’s often dissenting voices – be it the rebellious words of The Clash’s Joe Strummer or Lewisham grime artist Stormzy – who are the first to shout about their home turf, why they love it and why others should respect it.

Yet this is nothing new to punk-ska group The Skints, whose roots lie amid the bustle of the multicultural marketplaces and marshlands of London’s east end. ‘This Town’, the lead single from their forthcoming third album, FM, is a stupendous celebration of London’s vibrancy and people, and of the suburban neighbourhoods at opposite ends of the Victoria line. Continue reading