Jamaican jubilation, tricky films, Aaliyah’s legacy + more

Hello all!

Ahh I’m back after a fantastic week in Croatia and then trying to recover from it all. I was covering Soundwave for my friends over at Live, will be linking to that as soon as it is out… *inserts amazing picture to fight off British humidity and rain*

It was great to come back to the UK in time for the Olympics although unfortunately I didn’t make it to any events in person. I did go down to the Holland Heineken House for MTV Sticky which was cool though, more to follow…

ANYHOW, now over to some very important Jamaican business!! Marlow’s Mellow Mood relaxation drink (sort of the opposite of an energy drink and gosh it’s so tasty, especially the green tea and honey variety, not an endorsement but a true testimonial!!) has come to the UK, and they kindly sponsored a fantastic regeneration event on 29th July at Bob Marley Way. Artists new (Devlin, Lady Leshurr, Maverick Sabre and up and coming sonsgtress Aruba Red) and old (Soul II Soul) performed, there were some scantily clad dancers with super cool feather headdresses and I got to eat curry goat for the first time in months! Win! It was a great day despite heavy rain.

Being Jamaican (or half haha) has never been cooler thanks to the recent Olympic triumphs of Bolt, Blake et al. and 50 years of independence. Next weekend there’s going to be another event at Brick Lane’s Vibe Bar called the “Relaxation Generation Mini-Festival” which looks awesome and tickets in advance are just a fiver; unfortunately I’ll be away in the British countryside otherwise I’d be right there…there are live DJs all day until 3am and they have all kinds of artists from Dynamite MC (jungle to hip hop) to Natty (roots and reggae artist with excellent dreads) to legendary MC Rodney P. Anyway, more info is here!

At the Marley Way event I met Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella who was in attendance along with brother Julian. She is a jack of all trades but, as is so rare she is also a master of them, too. She not only sings (duh!), but also manages the family charity (who knew that the Marley family owned a charity with the iconic name 1Love) and does heaps more including designing those very fetching kits which the aforementioned Jamaican athletes wore at the London games. She even wrote a children’s book… Here is my interview with her (the most difficult thing to transcribe ever thanks to”Jammin” being blared out behind us):

Hannah J Davies: You used to be in the [80s and 90s band] Melody Makers with your brothers and sisters…when will we be hearing more from you and them?

Cedella Marley: Hopefully next year we’ll do some type of reunion.

HJD: Do you miss the era when that was your main focus now that you’re doing a lot of other things

CM: No, not really, I mean I have three kids now so having time to spend with them is something I cherish…but its time for me to get back on the road!

HJD: Are they getting a bit older now?

CM: *Puts on a Jamaican accent* yeah mon! They can babysit each other…

HJD: Would you like it if they followed you, their famous grandfather and the rest of the family into the music business?

CM: I would love for my kids to be doctors and lawyers, but if they get into music that’s good…but I’ve always reminded them that no matter what, always have a back-up plan. The business has changed, it’s the not the same. You really don’t have to have talent to be a number one artist, so always have a back-up plan.

HJD: Who on the music scene now do you think is really talented, who isn’t just autotuned?

CM: That girl from over here [London], Adele…I like her

HJD: Do you think you could do a collaboration with her?

CM: Oh, definitely! I could do something really wicked with her.

HJD: Adele if you’re reading this… you also run the Tuff Gong record label as well, what’s an average day running that like?

CM: It has to do a lot with distribution, we’re not the kind of the company that signs artists simply because like I said the business has changed, you don’t need a record company anymore to become a great artist. You can put out your own record on iTunes and make a lot more money, so we’re really on the distribution end. It’s hectic but its good….

HJD: So its not kind of at the front, the a&r

CM: no, I gave that up…especially with our [reggae] music its just harder to develop young artists because a number 1 single and they get an ego. And I cant handle egos….and its like *makes disgusted noise*…it doesn’t deserve my time

HJD: Did you discover anybody in the past?

CM: I had this one really cool artist whose name was Ivan, and I think he went on to tour with The Wailers for a while, so we have some really cool talent out there.

*

I went home and, weirdly enough, my mum was playing a Bob Marley CD. He really is an icon and despite my lack of knowledge on his life (am yet to watch the Kevin Macdonald documentary released earlier this year), the event left me intrigued…and assured that his legacy is in the right hands*.

*for more on less fitting legacies, read on…

Books: constantly being stretched beyond their screen potential?

        The film industry: a fanfare of artistic vision and dirty tricks, hidden behind a Spielberg-shaped, Black Orchid-scented miasma. Also responsible for sexing up its bookish cousin, the novel.

From Holmes to Bond to Gatsby to Holmes again to erm, Potter, novels have provided cinema with exciting source material for decades, however it seems of late that the film industry has manipulated this bond to create a new technique for parting punters from their pounds. Forget sequels, prequels, remakes (that includes foreign ones), series reboots and re-releases. Forget trying to get blood out of the (philosopher’s) stone with more Harry Potter movies (there were seven books after all, eight seems just about reasonable…), there’s a new cinematic trend: splitting-books-into-so-many-films-you-lose-count (SBISMFYLC)

Twilight: Breaking Dawn (756 pages) is a perfect case in point. It seems logical on the face of it; part one of the film version due for release in November is 117 minutes long. Here are some unscientific calculations: assuming the second part is 117 minutes too, we now have 234 minutes to cover this near 800 page book…except that movie scripts are about 250 pages each. Double this and we now have 500 pages of script. 234 divided by 500 gives us approximately 0.5 minutes per page. Luckily this is the perfect amount of screentime needed for 500 pages of script…it just doesn’t explain why we needed two lots of 250 in the first place.
In the world of SBISMFYLC, however, slow-moving plots, K-Stew’s awkward eye rolling, sexual tension that extends off-screen and an oh-so-current soundtrack combine to make a second part feasible. 2010’s Eclipse had tunes from Cee-Lo and Vampire Weekend, so expect minutes to be whiled away with wolf pack v vampire battles to the sound of the upcoming Ashanti album.

Oh Kristen, you shouldn’t have cheated on Rob…your awkward moments are about to get SO much longer thanks to a cheap cinematic trick

The Hobbit is probably a more serious case of SBISMFYLC, however. Lord of The Rings was a trilogy because there was enough material to make three standalone films in that tome. The Hobbit, conversely, is less complex and hardly resembles a doorstop at just over 300 pages. How will it fare as three separate outings? Will there be an entire, string-laden montage devoted to Bilbo bringing cakes and ale and chicken up from his larder? The trailer looks stunning but the point remains…do we really need a Tolkien-themed case of SBISMFYLC? Ditto the final Hunger Games film, Mockingjay, which will be split into two films in 2014 and 2015. Imagine that…what would, for example Shawshank, have been if  Andy (Tim Robbins) had been tooled with a toothpick instead of a rock hammer for 60 minutes of literal tunnel vision? Will we ever return to the days of one instalment wonders, or have excessive book adaptations lost their dignity as they bolster Hollywood’s coffers?

A fan’s love won’t take care of Aaliyah’s legacy

A 14 year old can fall in love with the entrancing music of a the beautiful singer uplit by the bright bulbs of celebdom.

Like many artists before her, Aaliyah will release her next album from beyond the grave. The r’n’b singer, who died in 2001 left behind unreleased material, which will form a posthumous album. Drake, a man who never met Aaliyah when she was alive, has been named as the producer. It’s such a shame in my opinion that the Blackground record label (founded by Aaliyah’s uncle) have recruited Drake over her friends and collaborators Missy Elliott and Timbaland. These are the people along with her immediate family who have the insight to make the right decisions without focusing on the PR aspect of any future release.

Here’s the 411 on Drake’s strange ‘relationship’with Aaliyah: he sampled her music on many occasions including his new track ‘Enough Said’; he has a picture of her on an earpiece he wears for concerts and has tattoos dedicated to her – including a portrait of her – as well as mentioning her in as many interviews as possible.

He is evidently infatuated, and wrote this letter to the singer a few years back which I found on the NME website:

Dear Dana (using her middle name rather than addressing her as Aaliyah seems to imply closeness)

I’ve never lost a parent, a friend, or a lover but I will never forget this day for the rest of my life. I remember getting the news that you had passed and it connected with my heart like a clean shot from Muhammad Ali. I was crushed. Not only was I one of your biggest fans but I was truly in love with you. I loved the way you carried yourself, the way you dressed, the confidence with which you addressed passion and relationships in your music. I said to myself that even if we never met, I wanted a woman in my life just like you. I am pained that we will never get to connect now that music ended up being my career path. But you should know, we all listen to you everyday and we remain inspired and moved by all that you’ve given the world. I hope I make the right life choices so I can end up in heaven where I know you rest your head. I’ll continue to make music in your honor until the day we finally meet. Dinner’s on me!

Love you always and forever,

Drake

Personally, having read this saccharine address, I think Drake should leave her legacy to those who knew her. Using her music on [aforementioned new song] ‘Enough Said’ on which he slags off Chris Brown, swears and makes references to such profound topics as, erm, being rich and Mario Ballotelli seems disrespectful and shallow. Aaliyah didn’t live in 2012, she didn’t live to see the advent of autotune or even the fruition of online music. She wasn’t a Youtube pioneer or someone discovered on MySpace; she didn’t live to see the age of online beef disseminated via Twitter or kids listening to her music on iPods or even iPhones. The world she inhabited wasn’t wholesome, but the relationship between talent and exposure in the music industry has experienced a schism in the intervening time. Her voice and her talent were an oasis of calm, but if she was discovered today would Aaliyah’s music really be allowed to retain its identity or would she be simply writhing around a stage?
Luckily it seems that there is family opposition to this release – enter stage left the singer’s brother Rashad, who posted on her Facebook fanpage to report that ‎”there is no official album being released and supported by the Haughton family”.

There are also rumours on the Facebook page of a biopic (again, an unofficial project which Rashad is opposed to) – it seems that everyone thinks they know what’s best for the late singer.

Drake’s female collaborators normally lack class

Overall, the posthumous material doesn’t need the ego of this noughties fanboy to succeed…although maybe I’ve been too quick to berate him. After all, we all have idols. The difference is that maybe being a celebrity has made Drake feel as though he could intrude into someone’s history to feel connected to them; it’s forced, insalubrious, shallow. It’s the 15 year old mourning the girl off the stereo with friends at school who loved her too or, as would happen if Aaliyah had died in 2012, sending messages into the online ether. Notes about how “crushed” they feel, about how much they “loved” her, pledges and pleas which begin with that same repeated “I” which binds together these fans like a parallel family. The online Winehouse troupe or the grieving Jackson contingent numbering into the millions.

To incite the Xzibit meme, “yo dawg, I know how much you like emotion, so I put an emotion in your emotion so you can emotion whilst you emotion”. If you think this meme is inappropriate in this context, then perhaps I can persuade you to rethink “celeb grief”.

It’s an accessible way of remembering the brevity of life…it won’t ever be the same as a real message from a real friend, it will be loaded with different feelings and all of those simple misinterpretations and theories that fans can hold onto. Hence the popularity of conspiracy theories. As a fan of Elliott Smith I have come across so many bloggers and Tweeters claiming to have proof that he was murdered by his girlfriend Jennifer Chiba; it’s a fantasy propagated by the same people who probably jumped on the Courtney killed Kurt bandwagon, too. It’s comforting, it’s effortless civilian justice made up of gifs and what ifs and fingerpointing and shrines.

“Tim[berland] and I carry Aaliyah with us everyday, like so many of the people who love her. She will always live in our hearts. We have nothing but love and respect for her memory and for her loved ones left behind still grieving her loss. They are always in our prayers.” – that quote comes courtesy of Missy Elliott. Without her or Timberland a teenage Aubrey Graham quite possibly would never have come across Aaliyah Houghton and the album which they wrote and produced for her, “One In A Million”.

The final word goes to US author and journalist Michael Joseph-Gross, who once said that “fandom is less like being in love than like being in love with love.” Whatever Drake’s feelings and intentions, whether he is using Aaliyah as collateral, leverage, a spiritual guide or a marketing tactic…his strange plea of “always and forever” is deluded in the here and now.

HJ

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My top ten and bottom ten of thousand and errm ten

Hello reader, 

This week has marked the second birthday of my website – how time flies! Not so long ago, I was blogging about salad cream, Hello Kitty and how much I wanted to be Glinda from Wicked and drown in a sea of Barbie dolls (under an awful assumed name – the blog in existence is still on Google three years on) and now I am blessed with a blog which has been so much fun to write and hopefully to read as well. I digress – today you’re getting my TOP TEN as well as my BOTTOM TEN of the singles which 2010 served up. International readers: this list encompasses the best and worst of the year’s UK releases, but feel free to point me towards music in your loci via an email to hannah@hannahjdavies.com. 

Shall I start with the good news, or the bad? Oh, the bad, you say? Yeah, its probably better to end the year on a high, so I’ll kick off with the year’s 10 worst singles (again, I should stress, in MY opinion). 

I’m bad, I’m bad (really, really bad) 

10. All Time Low by The Wanted

Another manufactured and ethnically-diverse boyband to add to the scrapheap, The Wanted were about as wanted as herpes. In 2010, they hit the mainstream with their so-very-boring-and-predictable eponymous album and debut single “All Time Low”, which was so boring and predictable that the most interesting thing about it was a Coldplay sample (really saying something about the mundanity found therein). Five-part harmonies and a Powerpoint ref aside, the real question here is why The Wanted sound clinically dead during a song which is presumably supposed to be a soul-searching and string-laden piece of unforgettable pop (the type which N Sync were famed for delivering in the late 90s, for example). The question: how DO you get up from an all time LOW? Instead, the boys plumped for insightful lyrics (just kidding) and aforesaid Office lyric “I’m late for work, a vital presentation”, so much so that the song might as well have been called “All Time Low Supply of Meatball Marinara at Subway, Not Sure What To Do”. Not awful per se, but proof in an All Time Low for songwriting. The disappointing hype machine which was The Wanted’s debut single is in at number ten. Oh, and they weren’t even that fit. 

9. Teenage Dream by Katy Perry

I am a teenager. Nothing in this three minute, forty-eight second mess will ever appear in my dreams. I’m not the biggest Katy fan in the world, but this single combines three of my least favourite elements of noughties pop. One: breathless vocals which kind of sound like symptoms of some kind of respiratory condition. Two: a strongly repetitive nature. Three: boring lyrics to the power ten (see TheWantedGate above). Oh, and did I mention that Katy Perry sang it? Number nine in my worst songs of the year is this pile of faux-hormonal hogwash. 

8. Let’s Start Marching by The Agitator 

Proof that it really isn’t all of the money, glamour and Autotune which makes music tacky and worthless these days, The Agitator proves that you can make awful music from the comfort of your own home! Without the backing track, Let’s Start Marching could’ve passed for a folksy protest song and thus joined the en vogue folksy crowd of Mumford…, Little Comets, The Villagers et al. Instead, Derek Meins decided to throw together his shouty vocals with some beats which sound oddly like something from a “now you as well can play guitar”-type magazine circa 1997. Clumsy and turgid, which is a shame because the idea behind it is pretty current (what with The Man increasing uni fees against all of us poor students and taking away free books etc) and at least Meins has spoken to some teenagers lately, something which Teenage Dreamer Katy (see above) hasn’t done since the 90s.  Still, this tune ends up sounding like a hollow karaoke parody of what could have been the military-esque protest anthem we desperately needed this autumn/winter. For this reason, “Let’s Start Marching” troops galliantly into eighth place in my list of 2010’s worst songs. Stand at ease, Meins..

7. The Time (Dirty Bit) by Black Eyed Peas

For those of you who’ve just scrolled down the page a little, this is my list of the worst songs of the year. Let me repeat – worst songs of the year. “The Time (Dirty Bit)” initially sounded rather perplexing. What’s dirty about The Time, eh? What dirty secrets did The Time have to reveal to us? Was it a rude joke involving the word’s clock and cock? No – it turns out that The Time was the innocent party in all of this. The Time was in fact 80s smash hit and all-round brilliant party song “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” from Dirty Dancing, which was dismembered beyond all recognition by Fergie and the gang, leading to the seventh worst song of the year. Will.I.Am should go back to being a character in Dr Seuss or whatever he used to do. Sax-sacrilige (the removal of the best sax solo ever, period) cannot and shall not be tolerated. Yours sincerely, the Jennifer Grey fanclub.  

6. I Need You Tonight by Professor Green (ft. Ed Drewett)

Another dreadful piece of sampling at number six. I put Ed Drewett’s name in brackets because he is not the problem here. At least he sings the main refrain of the sampled song without changing any words (Fergie above – take note) a few times before his awful brand of creative license slips in and he’s rhyming “me” with errm “me”. No, the problem here is brazen-as-a-Californian-raisin Professor Green, who raps and talks his way around Drewett’s choruses with his tale of pursuing an obviously disinterested female and how he is definitely a “pimp” rather than an “eeeejet”. Remember Pro, there’s only one letter between talking and stalking… Anyways, as somebody who took part in the BlackBerry Live & Lost tour and then bragged about owning an iPhone, I don’t think P.G Tips was exactly against this obviously corporate idea of sampling a band he’d obviously never heard of…and who noone can fully appreciate now. Cheers ‘mate’. 

5. Billionaire by Travie McCoy (ft. Bruno Mars)

A second graduate of the school of “featuring another guy to take the fall too”, Travis “Travie” McCoy drags Bruno Mars into this mess, and the drug-possessing, hat-wearing Mars falls flat on his face. Remember when mum said “if x jumped off a cliff, would you?”, well it seems as though B.M didn’t grow up around such useful idioms. A surfer-ish tribute to financial aspiration just doesn’t translate when you’re loaded…and boasting of making money off this very song. Tacky and disingenuous or just a great piece of irony? Either way, it’s my fifth worst song of the year…so there.

4. Airplanes by BOB (ft. Hayley Williams)

Call me anal but the word is aeroplanes. Aeroplanes. NOT airplanes. Hayley Paramore is unremarkable, and BOB, bless he tries to make a serious monetary point (unlike Travie above), even namechecking his ex-employers Subway. Even though the whole thing smacks of  labelmates-therefore-easy-collabo-junk, turns out they’re on different labels. Which begs the question of why you would go out of your way to make such a pointless, beiger than beige track. Even though Hayley’s part sounds like something which Avril Lavinge rejected a few albums back and which Kelly Clarkson co-wrote, it turns out that they actually wrote it especially. I won’t even start on part two of this muddled, passe nonsense…

3. Acapella by Kelis

A contender for worst song of the decade. So bad it is actually serving life in prison AKA I am never letting it out of my speakers again. Stop being “lo-fi” and gimmicky and invite us for a Milkshake at your yard, Kel! Remember the old days! Your fake eyelashes and “Rihanna hair” are about as cutting edge as a tape deck and gold body paint is best left to street performers… This mundane and monotone offering is tragically dated… so much so that I think I might actually be travelling back in time listening to it…Welcome back to my list of the best songs of 1987, where was I?! Cheapest hypnotherapy session of my life. 

2. Barbara Streisand by Duck Sauce 

Suicide is more attractive than listening this song. So catchy but so, SO wrong in a multitude of ways, this odious “disco choon” is responsible for hours of bad whistling. A plea to DJs in 2011: Leave. Barbie. Alone! Not even for a “worst singles everrrr” playlist in 2018. 

1. Christmas Lights by Coldplay 

The worst song of the year came along really late in the day…but boy is it bad. Hideously bad. Rule one of Christmas songs: do not use every cliche in the book. Rule two: forget the theme song from the movie Notting Hill. Rule three: do not let Chris Martin sing. Who didn’t get the memo? Coldplay (or “Radiohead for those constantly three years behind everyone else”) ruined my Christmas with this serving of shit (no) surprise and shit brandy butter. Horrid. “Night”, “fight,”, “light” conclude my verdict on this single. It’s so juvenile that perhaps Apple and Moses Martin should get a songwriting credit and a TV show called “Are You Smarter Than A 33 Year Old Rock Musician”. The answer it seems, would always be YES. 

The ones which made the grade, if you’re interested

10. Find Your Love by Drake 

Hello Drake, is it me you’re looking for?

9. Do It Like A Dude by Jessie J 

Not an original sound, but a fresh premise from young Jessica Cornish. Weirdly empowering anthem which takes white-girls-singing-like-black-guys far, far away from certain X Factor contestants and puts it in a gutsy but danceable form. Ok, so she’s not Emmeline Pankhurst, but this is a song for the girls. 

8. Bittersweet by Sophie Ellis Bextor

SEB can do no wrong. Cut-glass accent and strong beats prevail into the 2010s. Oh, and the song premiered on Gaydar radio, ergo she can still be niche and not have to do a huge TV launch covered in corporate sauce and tassels. Demure and polished. 

7. Hollywood by Marina and The Diamonds 

2010 was Marina’s year, and my seventh favourite song came from MATDs debut The Family Jewels. Deep and dark versus light and breezy, this track tackles some cliched material but keeps it current thanks to Marina’s unique vocal style and although I did find myself wondering whether it was a parody of this song, I’m pretty sure its not. Now I too need to invest in much American paraphenalia…

6. I Need Air by Magnetic Man

Filling a dubstep-shaped gap which I wasn’t sure existed before they came along, this project created an unforgettable song in 2010 and the sixth best of the year in my opinion. Magnetic Man; your name sounds like a toilet cleaner from the pound shop, but luckily you didn’t give me chemical burns. Quite the opposite. Featuring vocals from Angela Hunte, who wrote Empire State Of Mind, this is a perfect pop package which delectable dub roots courtesy of MM’s trio of Benga, Skream and Artwork who have been on the scene since the 90s.

5. One Time by Justin Bieber

Don’t look at me like that! Not like I fancy him or anything… Justin Bieber, the pre-pubescent sweetheart of singing fame brought skater-esque side fringes into the hair world once again this year. He’s a brilliant performer/entertainer who has divided opinion…once again, I do NOT have a soft spot for the Bieber, he just happens to be the singer who made the fifth best song of the year. Encompassing tweenage romance of the butterflies-sort (Katy P above – take note!) and maths (remember, its me plus you, no multiplication or division innuendo is allowed til his third album at least!), this track is bound to give you Bieber Fever. Or to make you really, really mad. Choose your own ending, reader. 

4. Ballad of Big Nothing by Elliott Smith 

Sneaky re-release in at number four. Phenomenal work of songwriting, phenomenal vocal performance and a stunning track from a sadly departed talent called Elliott Smith. A posthumous NME cover star in 2010, Smith recorded tons of tracks before his tragic death in 2001. BOBN is taken from compilation “An Introduction to Elliott Smith” (also 2010) and is an unconvincing goodbye to love which is driven by a cyclical, slowburning melody. A haunting brand of romantic poetry. 

3. I Think I Like It by Fake Blood

Fake Blood – I think I like you. Take me on a tour of bars in Paris, get me drunk, buy me drag wigs and let me do the conga home. Not to be confused with our tracks of the same name, I Think I Like It by Fake Blood is a self-indulgent sample-fest which is both kitsch and current. Disco past and disco present collide in a way which is decidedly disco future. Is that even possible? Yes. I win. 

2. Wonderful Life by Hurts

Eighties enough to seem Eighties. Noughties in delivery. Nineties in cult-status. Stuck somewhere between the past thirty years and yet timeless, Hurts prove that a well-made dance track can straddle a few genres, remain ambiguous and still pack a synth punch to match more “sophisticated” offerings (i.e.: Muse, who have tried a similar tack with poor results of late). This song is purposely old-school meets new, and Hurts don’t exactly conceal their influences *cough cough* Simple Minds *cough*. The drama of this track, however, makes it an undeniably great one. 

1. DRUMMMMMMMMMROOOOOLLLLL. My favourite track of the year is…

Whip My Hair by Willow Smith. 

Ok, so I MAY have blogged about this track before but that is only because it is incredible. How can one so young be this talented?! How can one so young be hitting the haters with this amount of passion and nonchalance?! I Just. Don’t. Get. It. My favourite song of the year was Whip My Hair, here it is with its shiny new video, au revoir, ta ta, see you in 2011…

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