Last Night of the Proms, review: a night of bisexual pride and diversity

Last Night of the Proms
Royal Albert Hall, London
★★★

Diversity was at the heart of this Last Night of the Proms programme. The concert opened with a new work, by Daniel Kidane, called Woke, and the first half was dominated by the music of black and female composers.

In the second half, mezzo Jamie Barton, a self-professed “queer girl with a nose ring”, wore a gown in the colours of the bisexual Pride flag and waved a rainbow flag for Rule Britannia! The Proms is clearly in the vanguard for inclusivity, although the fact that Kidane stood out as one of the only BAME members of the audience suggests there is still a long way to go.

Woke is a dynamic concert opener, energised by driving percussion rhythms. The large orchestra is skilfully deployed while always retaining a clarity of texture. The music eventually settles into lush, sonorous harmonies, but it meanders when the initial impetus is lost: that percussive opening proves its greatest strength. It was given a dynamic reading by the BBC Symphony under Sakari Oramo, the players demonstrating versatility and grace under pressure.

Laura Mvula’s “Sing to the Moon” was arranged here for unaccompanied chorus and performed by the BBC Singers. They, too, demonstrated remarkable versatility, though the soul number sat uneasily as a part-song.

American mezzo soprano Jamie Barton shows off her gown in the colours of the bisexual Pride flag at the Last Night of the Proms. Photo: Chris Christodoulou
American mezzo soprano Jamie Barton shows off her gown in the colours of the bisexual Pride flag at the Last Night of the Proms. Photo: Chris Christodoulou

Barton ended the first half with a whistle-stop tour of famous mezzo arias. She put more effort into stylisation than projection, and in the Carmen “Habanera” the eager orchestra sometimes masked her. “O don fatale” from Verdi’s Don Carlos worked best, Barton’s tone here taking on a darker hue.

Barton returned for “Over the Rainbow” and “I Got Rhythm”, the direct simplicity of the first song contrasting the sass and rhythmic bite of the second.

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“Fantasia on British Sea-Songs” was supplemented with songs from Scotland, Wales and Ireland, the most successful a surprisingly tasteful “Danny Boy” arranged by Bob Chilcott.

The crowd went wild for “Land of Hope and Glory” but stood in dignified silence for Britten’s exquisite choral setting of the national anthem. Then “Auld Lang Syne”, and the last train home. THEARTSDESK.COM

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Sam Smith changes gender pronouns to ‘they/them’, but what does it mean to be non-binary?

Singer Sam Smith has announced they are changing their pronouns to “they/them”, after coming out as non-binary earlier this year.

The artist made the statement on Instagram last night, adding that they felt “scared” but “super free”.

“After a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out,” Smith posted.

“I’m so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I’ve been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*** it!

The vocalist said they understand there “will be many mistakes and mis-gendering” as people get used to using the pronouns, but has asked people to “please try”.

Sam Smith has asked people to use the pronouns they/them (Image: Sam Smith/Instagram)
Sam Smith has asked people to use the pronouns they/them (Image: Sam Smith/Instagram)

“I hope you can see me like I see myself now,” they added.

While Smith said on Instagram that they are not currently at the stage to speak “eloquently” about what being non-binary means, they said they were keen to be “visible and open”.

What does Sam say about it?

Smith first revealed they identified with the terms “non-binary, gender queer” in March, speaking to Jameela Jamil on her Instagram show, I Weigh.

Explaining what the terms meant to them, Smith told Ms Jamil: “Non-binary, gender queer is that you do not identify in a gender.”

“You are just you. You are a mixture of all different things. You’re your own special creation. That’s how I take it. I’m not male or female, I think I float somewhere in between. It’s all on a spectrum.”

Smith previously revealed they identify as non-binary (Photo: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls - RC1C1BE53450/File Photo)
Smith previously revealed they identify as non-binary (Photo: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls – RC1C1BE53450/File Photo)

Expanding on how their views on gender related to their views on sexuality, they said: “I have always been very free in terms of thinking about sexuality and so I have just tried to change that into my thoughts on gender as well,” adding, “you fall in love with people, not genitals.”

In the Instagram post, the singer pointed people to the accounts of “activists and leaders of the non binary/trans community”.

What does it mean to be non-binary?

LGBT+ charity Stonewall, defines non-binary as: “an umbrella term for people whose gender identity doesn’t sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’.”

It adds: “Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.”

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It can include identifying as both male and female, being in between the two, being gender fluid, or being outside the male and female binary completely.

Stonewall explains that gender identity – a person’s own sense of gender – is not the same as gender expression, which is how they express themselves.

It is also not the same as being transgender, which refers to a person whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth, according to Stonewall.

While some trans people may see themselves as non-binary, only some non-binary people identify as trans.

The National Centre for Transgender Equality adds that some people’s gender identity can change over time.

The Centre’s advice suggests asking someone what they prefer you to use when addressing them – some non-binary people may use he, she or they, as well as other pronouns including ze and xe.

Some people may also choose the title Mx, instead of Mr or Ms.

More LGBTQ rights

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Music podcasts: Five of the best for your commute from Soul Music to Hip Hop Saved My Life

Soul Music

This BBC Radio 4 series examines “famous pieces of music and their emotional appeal” and it makes for a compelling listen. Highlights include the healing power of the late Amy Winehouse’s music and memories of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile”. bbc.co.uk/programmes/b008mj7p/episodes/player

Celebration Rock

Critic Steven Hyden delves into the world of rock – bagging big-name interviews with the likes of Robert Plant and Courtney Barnett, taking deep dives into albums, and chatting with writers. Storytelling shines on the multi-part series dedicated to Bruce Springsteen. 93x.com/celebration-rock

Album of the year nominee, Slowthai (top) and producer Kwes Darko attend the 2019 Hyundai Mercury Prize Launch in July (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
Album of the year nominee, Slowthai (top) and producer Kwes Darko attend the 2019 Hyundai Mercury Prize Launch in July (Photo: Jeff Spicer/Getty)

Song Exploder

In this popular US podcast, musicians deconstruct their songs and grant audiences a peek inside their creative process. Interviews are edited into first-person testimonies, creating a warm and inviting experience. Artists detail the inspiration behind lyrics and reasons why certain techniques were used. songexploder.net

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How the Mercury Prize became a political force with socially-engaged artists

NPR Tiny Desk

Adele, The xx and Sting are some of the British acts who have played acoustic gigs at the US radio station’s Washington DC office. Musicians typically play three-song sets and very often reinterpret and extend songs, including in a glorious episode featuring Roy Ayers. npr.org/podcasts/510306/tiny-desk-concerts-audio

Hip Hop Saved My Life With Romesh Ranganathan

Billed as a “comedy podcast about hip-hop”, the stand-up and presenter invites guests to indulge their passion for the culture, share gig memories and play their favourite tracks. Guests have included Mark Ronson and Mo Gilligan. romeshranganathan.co.uk/podcast

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How the Mercury Prize became a political force with socially-engaged artists

Feel-good moments will be severely rationed at this year’s Mercury Music Prize ceremony. Angry punks, supremely articulate rappers and pop-stars-with-a-conscience instead promise to dominate the annual gong-giving.

From the top of its carefully-mussed hair to the tip of its trendy boots, the latest shortlist for best British or Irish album of the past 12 months rates as one of the most politically and socially engaged, and outraged, in the Mercury’s 27-year history.

Patriarchy-toppling rockers Idles share the podium with “voice of forgotten Britain” rapper slowthai and take-no-prisoners rhymer Little Simz. Streatham grime champ Dave brings us frontline reports of police violence against the black community. Foals ponder the irreversibility of global warming. Happy clappy singalongs are entirely absent.

Each of these artists is, in their own way, a light in the dark. Their music provides crucial illumination as we seek to negotiate the age of proroguing PMs, tweeting tyrants and climate change.

Rapper Dave at the Mercury Prize 2019 launch (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
Rapper Dave at the Mercury Prize 2019 launch (Photo: Jeff Spicer/Getty)

They also serve as a reminder that “political” no longer means wearing a t-shirt or sloganeering on stage (sorry, Bono). Simply by going out into the world with their songs, the artists who will gather at the Eventim Apollo for the Mercury speak to the suspicion that the gears and levers of our society are fundamentally misaligned.

When, for instance, slowthai’s Tyron Frampton calls the Queen something rude at the end of the title track of his nominated album Nothing Great About Britain, there is an understanding that he does so not out of a wish to provoke. He drops the “C” word because the time for shilly-shallying is over. As we wake to find ourselves in the fever dream-on-loop that is Boris Britain, there is no room left for tiptoeing and clearing our throats.

A similar progressive zeal runs through Ireland’s Fontaines D.C. and their album Dogrel. The record doesn’t explicitly address fears of a post-Brexit return of the Troubles, or the wave of gentrification threatening to turn Dublin into a damp San Francisco. But their debut nonetheless rattles with dread. It taps into the anxieties of renters priced out of the property market and of border communities wondering if the paras are returning.

They and their fellow nominees stand in contrast to the sounds the Mercury has traditionally championed. The 2018 winners Wolf Alice were archetypal indie introverts. Their songs came off like a Sylvia Plath poetry circle struggling to be heard over a Pixies tribute act.

They were worthy victors. Yet, as with the majority of the shortlist, their music is strikingly apolitical. Other 2018 contenders included Arctic Monkeys’ Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino – a project that was essentially Alex Turner trying to fend off a midlife crisis by pretending to be David Bowie.

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This year’s hopefuls are, by contrast, throwing open the shutters and rushing to meet the world head-on. Even the preening pop stars on the list seem to understand something has changed – that, as artists, it is their duty to stand up and be counted. Matty Healy of The 1975 is coming out swinging. His band’s third album, A Brief History of Online Relationships, muses on the horrors wrought by social media and smartphone addiction.

The 12 nominated acts convene in west London this Thursday for the fateful announcement. Pop and rock pale in significance against the political and environmental challenges facing the present generation. The unexpected side effect is that the Mercury matters more than ever.

The Mercury Prize will be broadcast live on Thursday on BBC4 from 9pm

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Charlies Angels: Theme tune video for new film released starring Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus and Lana Del Rey

The music video for the theme tune to the new Charlie’s Angels movie has been released.

‘Don’t Call Me Angel’ sees Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus and Lana Del Rey teaming up to provide the soundtrack to this year’s new film – which technically isn’t a reboot or a remake of the franchise, but a continuation of the original TV series and the 2000s films.

The new clip was directed by Hannah Lux Davis, who has frequently collaborated with Grande in the past, directing the videos for her ‘7 Rings’ and ‘Thank U, Next’ hits.

In the four-minute clip, the trio of pop stars are cast as the members of a crime-fighting dream team, not unlike Charlie’s Angels themselves.

Tying the whole thing to the movie from which it is taken is a cameo from Elizabeth Banks, who not only stars in the new movie, but directs it too.

You can watch the new video below:

What is Charlie’s Angels about?

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Charlie’s Angels trailer: what the new teaser tells us, cast and release date for the Kirsten Stewart film

The film marks the second time behind the camera for Elizabeth Banks (she previously directed 2015’s Pitch Perfect 2), and sees a new cast of faces stepping into the shoes of characters last played by Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu in 2003.

In the new film, the Townsend Agency has expanded internationally, recruiting the smartest, most fearless and highly-trained women from all over the globe.

There are now multiple teams of Angels guided by multiple ‘Bosleys’ (we’ll see at least three in the new movie, and director Banks plays one of them), completing the toughest missions across the globe.

The mission at the centre of the new film involves a young systems engineer, who blows the whistle on a technology that could revolutionise the energy industry.

But if that same technology were to fall into the wrong hands, it could be weaponised, and would prove dangerous to the entire world.

The Angels are called into action to stop that from happening, putting their lives on the line to protect us all in an action-packed comedy.

Who stars in it?

(Photo: Sony Pictures Releasing)

The three Angels are played by Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott (Power Rangers) and British actress Ella Balinska.

They’re not actually the same Angels as depicted by Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu in the series’ two previous films, but instead all new characters.

Elsewhere on the cast, Elizabeth Banks steps out from behind the camera to play a Bosley, Djimon Hounsou (Shazam!) is another Bosley, and Sir Patrick Stewart is a third.

Then there’s Noah Centineo (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) as Langston, and Mexican actor Luis Gerardo Méndez playing The Saint.

Outlander’s Sam Claflin, Jonathan Tucker, Chris Pang and Nat Faxon have also been cast, though their roles remain undisclosed.

When can I watch it?

Charlie’s Angels will be released in UK cinemas on Friday 29 November 2019.

• Have your say on the latest TV and film with Screen Babble, our discussion group on Facebook

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Adele files for divorce from husband Simon Konecki after three years of marriage

Adele has filed for divorce from her husband Simon Konecki after the couple split up earlier this year following three years of marriage.

The move was revealed in court documents lodged by the singer at a court in Los Angeles on Thursday.

The couple – who began dating in 2011 – had a son, Angelo, the following year and went on to get married in a secret ceremony in 2016.

A representative confirmed their separation in April, saying they were “committed to raising their son together lovingly”.

Divorce settlement

It is not known if the pair signed a prenuptial agreement before they wed, but previous reports have suggested Adele could end up paying her husband around half of her total fortune.

According to the 2019 Sunday Times Rich List, she increased her total net worth by £10m to £150m since the previous year.

Meanwhile in 2016 it was reported her tax bill for the previous year had come in at around £4m, putting her on a par with multinational companies such as Facebook.

Adele performing at Wembley Stadium in June 2017. (Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for September Management)
Adele performing at Wembley Stadium in 2017 (Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for September Management)

The Tottenham-born singer released her debut album, 19, in 2008, which contained the songs Chasing Pavements and Hometown Glory and reached number one in the UK.

Her eagerly anticipated follow-up, 2011’s 21, brought even more success thanks to the singles Someone Like You, Rolling In The Deep and Rumour Has It.

The record topped the charts in 30 countries, including the US and UK, and cemented Adele’s status as one of the world’s best-loved artists.

Adele, 31, released her most recent album, 25, in 2015, which contained the single Hello. It proved to be another critical and commercial success.

Birthday honour

In June 2013, she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to music.

Earlier this year she was invited into the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences – the organisation behind the Oscars – as part of its work to increase its female membership.

Her soon-to-be ex-husband Mr Konecki is the founder of ethical bottled water company Life Water, having previously worked at Lehman Brothers.

He reportedly said in a 2012 interview with Management Today that he had been “doing well and earning a lot of money” as an investment banker but “got sick of that greedy and corrupted world”.

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Lily Allen says Warner Music record label failed to act after she reported sexual assault

Lily Allen has claimed her record label Warner Music failed to take action after she told them she was sexually assaulted by an industry figure.

The singer, 34, made the allegation in her memoir, in which she says the man assaulted her when she fell asleep in his hotel room.

Allen said the alleged incident occurred during a work trip to the Caribbean in 2016 and happened after she had attended a party with the industry figure.

Work trip

Talking to The Next Episode podcast, she said: “I had been at a party. He was in a position of responsibility. He’d got me out of this party and decided he wanted to take me back to my hotel.

“We got to my hotel. I couldn’t find my room keys. So he was like: ‘Well, why don’t you sleep in my bed while I go and get the keys?’ or whatever.

“So I passed out in his bed… The next thing I knew, I woke up and he was in my bed naked slapping my bum.”

Lily Allen
She was away at the time of the alleged assault (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Allen claimed the man was trying to have sex with her, and added: “I recoiled and I got up out of the bed and I screamed.”

She said of the alleged incident: “I’d never given any indication that I did want that.”

Allen said: “I’d made a decision that I didn’t want to go to the police, that I didn’t want to make a fuss and I wanted to keep it quiet. But I did want to protect myself.”

She told podcast host Miquita Oliver: “I do feel like my career has been fucked with as a result of talking about this stuff, for sure. I really do.”

‘Appalling’

Allen said she “went out for dinner with one of the label bosses” at Warner Music after the allegation was revealed in her book, who said “he had no idea” about the allegation until the publication of her memoir.

When asked by Oliver: “Did he say, ‘Now that we know, boy, are we going to do something about it?”‘ Allen replied: “No.”

The label said in a statement to the podcast: “These allegations from 2016 are appalling.

“We take accusations of sexual misconduct extremely seriously and investigate claims that are raised with us.”

Warner Music has been contacted for comment.

Additional reporting by PA

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The Who tour 2020: tickets, pre-sale details, dates and venues for next year’s UK shows

One of the greatest rock legacies in music history, The Who, are back with a new album and tour, and tickets will go on sale next week.

Having sold over 100 million records, the English rock band, formed in 1964, have unveiled their first album in 13 years and are touring it around UK arenas in spring 2020.

Here’s everything you need to know about the new album and how to get tickets for the tour.

When is the tour?

The Who are taking their new album on the road in spring 2020, with UK dates confirmed for March and April. The band will be accompanied by a full orchestra.

Here are all the tour dates:

Monday 16 March – Manchester Arena

Wednesday 18 March – Dublin 3 Arena

Saturday 21 March – Newcastle Utilita Arena

Monday 23 March – Glasgow SSE Hydro Arena

Wednesday 25 March – Leeds First Direct Arena

Monday 30 March – Cardiff Motorpoint Arena

Wednesday 1 April – Birmingham Resorts World Arena

Friday 3 April – Nottingham Motorpoint Arena

Friday 6  April – Liverpool M&S Bank Arena

Wednesday 8 April – London SSE Wembley Arena

How do I get tickets?

The Who’s Roger Daltrey. (Picture: The Who)

Tickets for The Who’s UK tour go on sale on Friday 20 September on Ticketmaster’s website.

The pre-sale goes live at 10am on Wednesday 18 September and to get access to this you must pre-order the new album, WHO, by 4pm on Tuesday 17 September.

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You’ll be sent a unique pre-sale code by 7pm on Tuesday 17 September, so you should keep an eye on your inbox and spam folders.

If you’re in The Who Fan Club, you’ll automatically get pre-sale access as part of your subscription.

But be warned – entry into the pre-sale doesn’t guarantee tickets.

 What songs are on the new album?

Guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend. (Picture: The Who)

The Who’s new album, WHO features singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend, joined by long-time Who drummer Zak Starkey and bassist Pino Palladino. 

It also includes contributions from Simon Townshend, Benmont Tench, Carla Azar, Joey Waronker and Gordon Giltrap.

Recorded in Los Angeles and London during the spring and summer this year, it contains 11 tracks including the band’s first new single, Ball and Chain.

It covers subjects including the Grenfell Tower fire, musical theft, spirituality, reincarnation, the power of memory and ‘an old rock star that has lost his marbles’. 

Singer Roger Daltrey rates it amongst their strongest, commenting: “I think we’ve made our best album since Quadrophenia in 1973, Pete hasn’t lost it, he’s still a fabulous songwriter, and he’s still got that cutting edge.” 

Read more: Roger Daltrey: ‘Cocaine is evil. I’ve never tried it, unlike contenders to be Prime Minister’

Pete Townshend said: “Roger and I are both old men now, by any measure, so I’ve tried to stay away from romance, but also from nostalgia if I can. I didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Memories are OK, and some of the songs refer to the explosive state of things today.”

The artwork for WHO was unveiled on 12 September in New York at the opening of the Pace contemporary art gallery where the band also performed a short acoustic set. 

It was created by pop artist, Sir Peter Blake who first met the band in 1964, and designed and contributed a painting to the sleeve of The Who’s album Face Dances in 1981.

Two songs on the record, ‘Ball And Chain’ and string-laden ‘Hero Ground Zero’ recently got their world premiere when the band played with a 40-piece orchestra to a packed Wembley Stadium. 

 

This is the full track-list from WHO:

All This Music Must Fade
Ball and Chain
I Don’t Wanna Get Wise
Detour
Beads On One String
Hero Ground Zero
Street Song
I’ll Be Back
Break The Newse
Rockin’ In Rage
She Rocked My World

When will the new album be out?

The new album will be released on 22 November, and is already available for pre-order on the band’s website

 

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Westlife at Wembley Stadium 2020: how to get tickets, pre-sale details and everything else about the show

Westlife will perform a “once-in-a-lifetime” concert at Wembley Stadium in 2020.

The Irish boyband revealed the news in a post on their social media accounts earlier this morning, billing the gig as their “biggest ever in the UK”.

The announcement comes off the back of the band’s hugely successful Twenty tour which saw them play sold out shows in 13 different countries.

The London concert takes place next Summer on Saturday, August 22, 2020 with no further dates currently planned for the Flying Without Wings performers.

Singer-songwriter James Morrison and girl group All Saints will serve as backup for the Irish foursome.

A new album featuring Ed Sheeran and James Bay

The Wembley announcement has created a great deal of buzz ahead of the release of the bands’s first studio album since 2010 effort Gravity.

Recorded in Los Angeles, London and Dublin the album features collaborations with Ed Sheeran, James Bay and Steve Mac. The band described Spectrum as everything that we love in music, heartfelt emotional songs and also great uptempos that are designed for our stadium performances.”

Singles Hello My Love, Better Man and Dynamite all feature on the 11-track album which is released in two months time on November 15, 2019.

Spectrum can be pre-purchased at westlife.com

How do I get tickets?

Tickets for the event go on sale next Friday (September 20) at 9am and will be available to purchase at livenation.co.uk

Pre-sale tickets will be available to Live Nation subscribers a day earlier (September 19) from 9am.

Potential set-list

The group played three sold-out shows at London’s O2 arena earlier this Summer, with a set-list featuring fan-favourites You Raise Me Up, Uptown Girl and What About Now.

Here’s the band’s set-list from their last performance in the capital:

Hello My Love
Swear It Again
What About Now
My Love
When You’re Looking Like That
Uptown Girl
Mandy
If I Let You Go
Home
Better Man
Another One Bites the Dust / Radio Gaga / I Want to Break Free / Somebody to Love / Don’t Stop Me Now / We Will Rock You / We Are the Champions (Queen cover)
I Have a Dream
Unbreakable
Fool Again
Queen of My Heart
What Makes a Man
You Raise Me Up

Encore:
Flying Without Wings
Play Video
World of Our Own

More on music

 

 

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The Lumineers: ‘Addiction is complex — there are so many shades of grey’

Toronto is in the grip of film festival fever, and while The Lumineers may be one of the most successful bands in the world – their 2012 breakthrough track “Ho Hey” has been streamed almost 500 million times on Spotify alone – that doesn’t make them immune to the excitement.

In the lobby of the Hotel InterContinental, frontman Wesley Schultz has spotted Wagner Moura on an escalator. “That’s the guy from Narcos, dude!” he nods to drummer Jeremiah Fraites. “We love your show!” shouts Fraites. Moura gives the pair a cautious thumbs-up.

The bandmates could almost pass for film stars themselves. The long-haired Schultz looks not unlike a young Kurt Russell, while Fraites, in his pork pie hat, is a dead ringer for Woody Harrelson.

In fact, they’re in town for the premiere of III – either a short film or a long music video, depending which way you look at it, which dramatises their third album, a concept record of the same name which is released today.

The Lumineers (Stelth Ulvang, Wesley Schultz, Byron Isaacs, Jeremiah Fraites and Lauren Jacobson) (Photo via Rebecca Homer)
The Lumineers (Stelth Ulvang, Wesley Schultz, Byron Isaacs, Jeremiah Fraites and Lauren Jacobson) 

III tells the story of three generations of the Sparks family: matriarch Gloria, her son Jimmy, and grandson Junior. It plays out a little like a musical version of Philip Larkin’s “This Be The Verse”: “They f**k you up, your mum and dad…” While the characters are fictional, their tale of alcoholism, drug addiction and a cross-generational struggle to overcome both is rooted in the band’s own life experiences growing up in Ramsey, New Jersey.

Schultz explains that Gloria is “a composite” of members of his extended family, while the band itself grew out of tragedy. When Fraites was just 14, his older brother, Josh, died of a heroin overdose. “I pray that it’s the worst thing that ever happens to me,” says Fraites.

Schultz was a childhood friend of Josh, and lost his own father to cancer around the same time. Playing music together was initially part of their shared grieving process. “When we first started writing songs, I remember writing a lot about Josh,” says Schultz.

‘I pray that losing my brother is the worst thing that ever happens to me’

As they have grown and matured as a band – the pair moved to Denver, Colorado, together before finding their eloquent folk-rock sound, and eventually an audience – they say they have become better able to elucidate the overwhelming emotions that first drew them to make music.

“We’ve been writing together for 14 years and this third album is in some ways, maybe a lot of ways, most reflective of how we started out,” says Fraites. “It feels more genuine.”

The band’s self-titled 2012 debut album – which featured “Ho Hey” – went platinum several times over around the world, while 2016 follow-up Cleopatra debuted at number one in the UK and spawned two more huge hits in “Ophelia” and “Sleep on the Floor”. They haven’t always enjoyed the easiest critical ride, however, and Schultz says that the ambitious idea to create a film around III was at least in part inspired by the desire to push their narrative storytelling to the fore.

The Lumineers perform in Inglewood, California (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for KROQ)
The Lumineers perform in Inglewood, California (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for KROQ)

“It can be frustrating,” he says. “They always tell you never to read reviews, but I probably had one too many one night and went on a site to read a review of Cleopatra. This guy described ‘Long Way From Home’ as ‘the worst problem this guy has is that his hospital gown doesn’t fit well’. That song is about my dad dying! I was just like: ‘that’s cold, man!’

“I felt like with these videos for III, part of the joy of it is that even though it’s dark or it’s sad or it’s a tough subject matter, at least you have more of a say visually so that people see it for what it really is.”

The film version of III was directed by Kevin Phillips, whom Schultz and Fraites first met when he was working as a director of photography on their music videos. He became the obvious choice to translate the album for the screen. “I remember chatting with him on ‘Ophelia’ and he had just filmed [2017 psychological thriller] Super Dark Times,” recalls Schultz.

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Ben Platt on his new album and ‘insane’ journey from Broadway to a starring role in Netflix’s The Politician

“The thing that surprised me most was Kevin’s instincts. With a song like ‘Jimmy Sparks’, I thought he would just tell the story in a literal way, but he made it more metaphorical. I was like: ‘He’s wearing boots but he’s walking barefoot in the song, what are you doing?’ It’s interesting when someone takes something and does it in a way you wouldn’t have done it yourself, yet you end up liking it more.”

The Lumineers (L-R: Byron Isaacs, Wesley Schultz, Jeremiah Fraites, Lauren Jacobson and Stelth Ulvang) (Photo via Rebecca Homer)
The Lumineers (L-R: Byron Isaacs, Wesley Schultz, Jeremiah Fraites, Lauren Jacobson and Stelth Ulvang)

In November, the band will tour the album around the UK, playing Glasgow, Manchester, Dublin and London – where they will play their biggest-ever British show at The O2. No matter the temptations of touring life, Schultz and Fraites – who have both become fathers since their last record – say they have learnt to keep their own excesses under control.

“It’s hard to pick up a habit or drop a habit on the road,” says Schultz. “It’s a very easy place to have vices, but I think being a singer keeps me out of trouble, because I pay for it with my voice. People don’t care if I had a good night last night, they want a good show today.”

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Fraites has been sober for four years. “It wasn’t because of anything like getting in a car accident,” he says. “Nothing crazy happened, but it just stopped working for me. I’d met other people who said: ‘When you stop using drugs or alcohol, you’re going to be so much more creative!’ I thought: ‘Man, what a crock! You guys are just lost and buying into this bullshit of having to do everything sober.’ Then it turned out to be totally true. This album, creatively with Wes, was just the best.”

Having seen his own brother become a statistic in America’s opioid crisis, Fraites sees III as his and Schultz’s way of humanising the issue once again. “We’re not trying to say, ‘Don’t drink or do any of this other stuff!’, but it is taking a hard look at it and opening the dialogue through storytelling,” he says.

“There are so many shades of grey between addiction, abusing a drug, moderation, what’s safe and what’s not. It’s really such a complex issue, and that’s what I love about this album. It’s not just about one thing.”

‘III’ is released today

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Daniel Johnston death: the music and art that made him a cult hero to the likes of Kurt Cobain

Cult singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston has died at the age of 58, his family have announced in a statement.

The artist “passed away of natural causes” at his home in Texas.

Johnston influenced countless alternative artists from the early 90s onward, most notably Kurt Cobain who described him as “the best songwriter on earth.”

His songs have been covered by acts like Beck, Pearl Jam, The Flaming Lips, Teenage Fanclub, and Mercury Rev.

Who was Daniel Johnston?

Johnston was born in California in 1961, but was raised in West Virginia.

It wouldn’t be until he moved to Texas that he would become known as a songwriter, making a name for himself in the city of Austin by handing out tapes of his home recordings between shifts at McDonald’s.

He gained wider exposure when MTV came to town, filming a piece on the Austin music scene for its series The Cutting Edge in 1985.

His performance on the show brought Johnston near instantaneous acclaim, and his recordings – once consigned to a life on cassette – were re-released on vinyl by Homestead records.

US artist Daniel Johnston performs on April 17, 2010 in Bourges, during the 34th edition of Le Printemps De Bourges rock pop festival
(Photo: ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

You could never call Johnston’s guitar playing – nor his signing – technical, but that was what drew fans in; a hard-to-replicate sincerity, delivering almost childlike songs as fragile as his delicate mental state.

Johnston famously battled a cavalcade of mental health issues throughout his career, spending extended periods in psychiatric institutions and being diagnosed with both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

What are his best songs?

Johnston’s sixth album Hi, How Are You? is arguably his most famous, its hand-drawn alien artwork made famous when Kurt Cobain wore a t-shirt bearing the cover to the 1992 MTV Awards.

Johnston claims he was in the midst of a nervous breakdown while recording it, and called it his “unfinished album.”

But the artwork is perhaps more known than the music contained within, a while it makes for an iconic t-shirt, it is Johnston’s 11th album 1990 (released in the same year) that is considered the ‘best’ by fans.

Originally intended to be a full studio album, Johnston’s ongoing battles with his mental health meant he was unable to complete an record’s worth of sessions, and so the album is compiled from studio recordings, home recordings and live performances.

It contains songs such as ‘Some Things Last a Long Time’ and ‘Devil Town’, the former covered extensively by acts like Built to Spill, Beach House and even Andrea Corr.

Other Johnston classics include tracks like ‘True Love Will Find You in the End’ (also from 1990), ‘Walking The Cow’ from Hi, How Are You?, and his dark take on ‘Casper The Friendly Ghost’ from 1983 album, Yip/Jump Music.

Where can I watch The Devil and Daniel Johnston?

US artist Daniel Johnston performs on April 17, 2010 in Bourges, during the 34th edition of Le Printemps De Bourges rock pop festival
(Photo: ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

2005 documentary film The Devil and Daniel Johnston serves as a fine documentation of Johnston’s life, and is regarded as one of the best music docs ever made.

The film chronicles the artist’s life from childhood to the present day, and focuses on his experiences with bipolar disorder and his struggles with what he described as a “demonic” self-obsession.

You can watch The Devil and Daniel Johnston through Sundance Now, the official streaming service of the Sundance Film Festival, where The Devil and Daniel Johnston won the Documentary Directing Award in 2005.

To access Sundance Now, you’ll first need to be a subscriber to Amazon Prime. After that, you can add a Sundance Now subscription to your package for an extra £5.99 a month.

https://inews.co.uk/culture/music/

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Wheelchair user ‘devastated’ that Fusion Festival viewing platform was overcrowded with drunk customers

A disabled woman was left “devastated” after she travelled to see her favourite band play a festival – only to find she couldn’t see the band perform from the viewing platform.

Wheelchair user Emma Muldoon, 33, paid £54.50 for a ticket to Fusion Festival in Liverpool after she discovered Kings of Leon would be playing.

Ms Muldoon, who lives in Falkirk, Scotland, with her partner Allan McEnroe, 34, booked to see the band play at Fusion Festival in Liverpool on Saturday 31 August.

Although the website stated the stage would have a disabled viewing platform in place, the festival-goer called it unfit for purpose.

‘It was hard… to shield me from people falling into me’

Ms Muldoon told i she is “furious and upset” over the festival’s haphazard approach to disabled customers.

The disability blogger told i: “We travelled all the way from Scotland to see our favourite band, Kings of Leon and left disappointed.

Emma Muldoon, 33, and her partner Allan McEnroe, 34
Emma Muldoon, 33, and her partner Allan McEnroe, 34 (Photo: Emma Muldoon)

“As soon as we arrived outside the site we pulled over and spoke to a steward on the main entrance, which was coned off. He didn’t seem to know what was going on and tried to direct us away somewhere else and only after we said to him that we thought it was straight ahead through the coned area that we needed to be, that he said, “oh yeah, that’s right” and moved the cones to let us through.

“We then drove along another road looking out for the disabled parking. We spoke to someone else who again directed us somewhere else. In the chaos of all the festival-goers, we slowly made our way through to an empty space within the park. No stewards or any signs insight to guide us where to go, which again is very unusual for such a large event.

“One of the stewards pointed to the main entrance which was makeshift lanes on the grass made up of metal barriers and the first lane had a sign saying disabled entrance. We felt this was pointless because disabled people were still being left to struggle amongst the crowds,” she added.

When she finally made her way through the festival, she spent 20 minutes trying to locate the platform, with only one staff member in full sight.

Ms Muldoon told i: “We tried to make our way towards where we thought the platform was, which was chaotic and distressing for me, trying to drive my wheelchair through a packed crowd of thousands of drunk people, avoiding arms and elbows in my face, cigarettes and drinks.

“We then got to a point where the crowd became so thick that it was hard for my partner to shield me from people falling into me as well as trying to move people out the way to let us through. We asked a steward who was passing to help us get to the viewing platform, but he had no idea where it was and went away to find out.

Kings of Leon perform in Las Vegas (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)
Kings of Leon perform in Las Vegas (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

“When he came back and told us where the platform was, he went to leave but we basically begged him to help us through the crowd and to find the platform. It was a nightmare.

“Being low down at waist height in a crowd that big was very scary and intimidating. This was dangerous not just for wheelchair users as people with limited mobility, sight impairments, autism and other disabilities would have found this extremely frightening and unsafe.”

‘They don’t care about the disabled people’

But the problems didn’t stop there for the pair.

When the pair finally made it onto the viewing platform, it was too crowded for anyone to see.

Ms Muldoon told i: “The steward said there should have only been around 27 people on the platform according to the access list, but we counted at least over 50 people which in itself is a health and safety issue not to mention no one being able to get on and off for the toilet or drinks.

“There were drunk people hanging over the sides and leaning against wheelchairs.

“We were told by a steward that the toilets were being abused all night by people who were not on the viewing platform and that they were filthy and blocked.

But when Ms Muldoon asked to see a supervisor, she was shunted from staff member to staff member who refused to take on board their complaint.

“We waited until every single person left (photos to prove) and they were adamant that no one was available to help us. They were totally not interested. Just wanted us gone!

“This was never thought about by Fusion festival and shows they didn’t care about the disabled people who would be attending.”

‘The staff just wanted us gone’

The blogger, who is an ambassador for Euan’s Guides, works on raising awareness for other wheelchair users and people with disabilities on well organised events.

Ms Muldoon said she would not recommend the event to her followers, and hasn’t received an apology from Fusion Festival.

She told i: We have messaged Fusion fesitval on Facebook, through their online form on their website, tagged them in Facebook and Twitter posts but they have blanked us, which we find highly unprofessional and very unpleasant.

“Sadly disabled people learn to live with and in some cases, accept these types of situations, but it shouldn’t be like this in 2019.”

i has contacted Fusion Festival for comment.

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McFly announce London O2 show and album – here’s how to get tickets, and when The Lost Songs comes out

Three years after announcing an indefinite hiatus via Twitter, McFly are officially back in business. 

The English pop rock band, which formed in 2003, confirmed via Instagram that they would be releasing their first new album in nine years. 

Titled ‘The Lost Songs’, the new record will be composed of songs written over the course of the last nine years. 

Alongside the album launch, they announced a standalone London show where they’ll be playing the new material live for the first time. 

Here’s everything you need to know.

Who are McFly and what songs are they known for?

McFly have seven UK number ones to their name thanks to tracks like Five Colours in Her Hair and Obviously. 

With 2004’s Room on the Third Floor, they snatched The Beatles’ record as the youngest band ever to have an album debut at the top of the charts. 

That album went on to go double platinum, and the band are estimated to have sold around 10 million records worldwide. 

McFly initially found fame as fellow pop-rock group Busted’s support act and, 10 years later, the two joined forces again to form McBusted. 

The supergroup toured together twice between 2013 and 2015. 

The following year, McFly went on another mammoth tour, staging three-night runs in which they played their entire discography in four of the UK’s premier rock cities (Glasgow, Birmingham, London and Manchester). 

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When did McFly split up?

In 2016, the band announced that they would be taking an indefinite hiatus to work on solo projects. 

With the different members already working on films, stage musicals, children’s books and other music projects, there was some doubt as to whether McFly would ever truly reform.

These doubts increased when the band confirmed that they had already scrapped two albums’ worth of new material. 

McFly, shiny and new, back in 2006. Picture: Shutterstock

When will The Lost Songs album be released?

This week it was confirmed that McFly’s abandoned songs had been resurrected and would finally be seeing the light of day very soon.  

A new track from The Lost Songs will be released each Sunday in the run-up to their London show. 

While there are few concrete details about the new songs at the moment, McFly’s Youtube channel will feature a series of episodes discussing them. The first video arrived last night. 

There is no confirmed date yet for when the album as a whole will arrive. 

When is the show?

The show will take place at the O2 Arena in London on Wednesday 20 November.

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The Lost Songs will be McFly’s first new release in nine years. Picture: Shutterstock

Where can I get tickets?

Tickets go on sale Friday 13 September and can be purchased here

O2 customers can take advantage of the Priority tickets scheme to buy tickets 48 hours before they go on general release. 

Ticket prices have not been announced yet.

Will there be more dates after that?

While nothing is official, band member Tom Fletcher recently described touring as “inevitable”, so many fans are remaining hopeful of a full tour to follow the London date. 

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Charli XCX, Charli, review: danceable and deeply personal

Charli XCX
Charli
★★★★

Charli XCX would make a cracking mixtape. I mean that not in the hip hop culture sense – although she’s knocked out a few of those over the years – but the mixtapes you used to make for your friends and crushes.

There’s every chance that the 27-year-old Charli has never made a physical mixtape, but no matter: Charli, with its mixture of styles and guest features from across the worlds of rap, pop and hip hop, is her gift to you.

Much as those physical mixtapes always revealed more than you intended, Charli is a deeply personal work on which fast cars, futuristic sounds, weird beats and high-profile guest slots can’t cover up raw emotion.

Take “Thoughts”, a sort-of stream-of-consciousness filtered through autotune, an air raid siren and the slow-moving cocoon that is LA traffic. Or “White Mercedes”, a sad-girl slow dance of surprisingly delicate vocal dexterity with its devastating closer: “all I know is I don’t deserve you”.

‘Intimacy spills onto the feature tracks , even when feelings are disguised as party anthems’

It’s an intimacy that spills onto the feature tracks too, even when the feelings are disguised as party anthems. Lizzo collaboration “Blame It On Your Love” is romantic, sensual and danceable, while “Gone” finds Charli duetting with Christine and the Queens over the pulsing industrial wasteland beat of a breaking heart.

There’s plenty of fun here too: time travelling with Troye Sivan to a “1999” neither can quite remember, and “Click”, all fast-moving wordplay and futuristic dazzle.

‘Charli’ is released on Asylum and Atlantic records on Friday 13 September

THEARTSDESK.COM

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Green Day tour 2020: tickets, pre-sale details, and full UK dates as Fall Out Boy and Weezer join Hella Mega Tour

Three of the biggest names in modern rock – despite two of them releasing their debut albums in the early 90s – are teaming up for a monster world tour.

Pop-punk pioneers Green Day, emo revival wunderkinds Fall Out Boy and sad boys turned rock gods Weezer are heading out on the ‘Hella Mega Tour’ in 2020.

As part of their global travels, the acclaimed bands will be stopping off in the UK and Ireland for a handful of dates.

They’ll take in gigs in London, Glasgow and Dublin, and the tour will also be calling into the home of Championship football side Huddersfield Town.

Surely this is the biggest slice of American rock the John Smith’s Stadium has ever seen?

The full list of UK and Ireland tour dates is as follows:

24 June – Glasgow, Bellahouston Park
26 June – London, London Stadium
27 June – Huddersfield, The John Smith’s Stadium
29 June – Dublin, RDS Arena

To coincide with the announcement of the tour, all three bands released brand new singles.

Green Day debuted ‘Father Of All…’, the lead track from their 13th studio album of the same name, which is set for release on 7 February 2020.

Fall Out Boy – who are releasing a best of collection titled ‘Greatest Hits: Believers Never Die – Volume Two’ in November – premiered their new single ‘Future Self (Hands Up)’, which features Wyclef Jean of all people.

Weezer – whose first two albums The Blue Album and Pinkerton remain some of the finest indie-rock records around – released ‘The End of the Game’, which will be included on their 14th studio album Van Weezer – due out in May 2020.

How do I get tickets?

Tickets for The Hella Mega Tour will go sale on 20 September from 10am.

Fans can get tickets earlier by signing up to their favourite band’s mailing list.

A pre-sale for Green Day begins on Monday 16 September through their webstore at 10am; those signed up to their mailing list will have access to tickets from 11am on the same day.

Those signed up to Fall Out Boy and Weezer’s mailing lists will gain access to tickets at 10am on 16 September.

For more information, head to hellamegatour.com

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Taylor Swift – City of Lover, L’Olympia, Paris: this tiny show was magical, intimate, and unique

Taylor Swift – City of Lover
L’Olympia, Paris
★★★★

There was a moment during Taylor Swift’s tiny show at the Olympia music hall in Paris when the artist, now nearly 30, legs snaked around the legs of a stool, hands tearing at her black guitar, threw her head back and she was, for a second, the curly haired 16-year-old country prodigy again.

It was the first time she had performed the song “Death By a Thousand Cuts”, from her terrific seventh album Lover, released two weeks ago, and it was gorgeous: all the simple anguish and heart-on-sleeve lyricism that made her a mirror and hero for teenage girls years ago.

She played it acoustic, the way she wrote most of the record.

(Image: Republic Records)

This concert, titled “City of Lover”, was unusual: tickets were not for sale, competition winners travelled from 37 countries to fill the venue, which fit fewer than 2000. And unusual, too, for its rarity. It’s one of the inevitable tragedies of fame that when a singer-songwriter transcends to “superstar”, world tours and stadiums and spectacles shove special little gigs like this to distant memory – to see Swift so close, in a historic room, all gilt and deep red velvet, was a privilege.

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Her last tour, Reputation, featured a 40 foot cobra. Here, all that joined her on stage were instruments, her small band and four dancers, and her only outfit was simple black silk shirt, black sparkly skirt, and towering black platform boots.

Taylor Swift performs in California (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)
Taylor Swift performs in California (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

At the start of the night – “Bonsoir Paris! Enchantée” – Swift told the crowd she hoped this would be a release party for Lover. They already knew every note, word, and breath. On “The Archer”, one of the album’s most self-reflective songs which she wrote “in a mood”, about “when you can’t trust a good feeling”, the exposing lyrics were crowded, affectingly, by deafening synth reverberation.

She introduced “You Need to Calm Down”, her playful LGBTQ rights song, saying “Love is equality”, (somebody behind me screamed, “yes! Finally!”). On record it is not a standout track but live it is converted into anthem (lyrics on screen behind her to ensure it), as she strutted with her dancers in loose formation – a refreshing change from popular tight, regimented troupes.

Swift has always been a confident and commanding performer, but she beamed a new, relaxed ease in a hall this size

The acoustic songs were the highlights, though: sitting under a purple spotlight, her voice ached in “Cornelia Street”, fearing the fragility of love; or triumphant “The Man”, her droll, astute takedown of the wearying double standards she has faced as a woman in music and celebrity.

Taylor Swift showed a clear softening of the 'screw-you persona'. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty
Taylor Swift on the Reputation tour. (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty)

Swift has always been a confident and commanding performer, but she beamed a new, relaxed ease in a hall of this size. Her songs, when she moved away from Lover, were marvellously well-chosen for the space. “Delicate” was the only selection from Reputation (a far cry from the butterflies, rainbows, oceanscapes and dreamy pastel clouds projected on screen behind her). It felt a surprise but with pounding bass and, it was absorbing and brought the house down into a nightclub trance.

Age and experience lend greater emotional weight to live performances of songs that always displayed a sophistication well beyond her years

The same for “Style”, from 1989, a surge of energy and hedonistic abandon that never comes from an arena. She seemed to enjoy and embrace her breakthrough fairy tale single “Love Story”, first performed in a venue even smaller than this, and “Blank Space” was all her familiar wicked smirks and shimmies and shaking her shaggy blonde bob.

She moved to the piano for “Red” and the phenomenal, devastated “All Too Well” – which grew rapturous as she was joined by her band and chasing strobe lights. It was a little like watching a pared-back, alternative career Swift who had never moved full “pop”. Both songs are from Red, an album released when she was 22 years old. Age and experience now lend even greater emotional weight to live performances of songwriting that always displayed a sophistication well beyond her years.

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The emotional intelligence and precision in her lyrics, and adept ability to move between instruments, are Swift’s greatest strengths. Still, her voice is lovely, particularly on the tender “Lover”. That song, she said – she chats away – was her current favourite, written in the middle of the night in the magical, mysterious rush that still made songwriting “my favourite thing to do”. This intimate night proved superstars still conjure unexpected magic and mystery of their own.

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Nicki Minaj retires: rapper’s fans devastated as she announces retirement to ‘have my family’

Nicki Minaj, one of the world’s most famous female rappers, has shocked her fans by announcing she is retiring from the music industry to focus on having a family.

In a message to her 20.6 million Twitter followers, the 36-year-old said: “I’ve decided to retire [and] have my family. I know you guys are happy now.

“To my fans, keep reppin me, do it til da death of me… Love you for LIFE.”

Minaj, whose hits include Super Bass and Starships, is believed to be in a relationship with Kenneth Petty with some speculating they may be married. It is not known if she is expecting a baby. The tweet has since been deleted.

‘Never left us so hurt’

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Fans of the 10-time Grammy Award-nominated musician did not take the news well, with one person writing online: “Can u please just address this retirement thing. You… never left us so hurt your entire career.

“We’re just hurting Nicki… it’s US it’s the barbz plz.”

Responding directly to the post, Minaj, whose online fans refer to themselves as Barbz, apologised for her “insensitive” announcement and promised she would give them more information about her plans.

“I’m still right here. Still madly in love with you guys and you know that. In hindsight, this should’ve been a Queen Radio discussion and it will be. I promise u guys will be happy. No guests, just us talking about everything. The tweet was abrupt and insensitive, I apologize babe.”

Queen Radio is the name of her show on Beats 1, a 24/7 music radio station owned by Apple.

Another fan said: “Like yea it might be a bit dramatic but a lot of barbz are really shaken by this. I just need her to talk to us about it or something.”

Minaj responded by saying: “I will babe. I promise. I love you so much.”

Trinidadian-US rapper Nicki Minaj poses backstage with her awards during the MTV Europe Music Awards at the Bizkaia Arena in the northern Spanish city of Bilbao on November 4, 2018.
Nicki Minaj with her awards during the MTV Europe Music Awards at the Bizkaia Arena in the northern Spanish city of Bilbao in 2018 (Photo: AFP/Getty)

Career history

Minaj, whose real name is Onika Tanya Maraj, was born on the Caribbean dual-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago but grew up in New York.

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She has been producing music since the early 2000s but rose to fame after signing with Young Money Entertainment, the record label founded by rapper Lil Wayne.

Her first studio album, Pink Friday, was released in 2010 and reached number one on the US Billboard 200.

She has won six American Music Awards, four Billboard Music Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards and five MTV Europe Music Awards.

Alongside her successful music career, Minaj has featured in films such as The Other Woman and Barbershop: The Next Cut. She lent her voice to animated film Ice Age: Continental Drift.

Minaj’s fourth album, Queen, was released in 2018. It was received positively by critics but failed to reach number one in the US Billboard 200.

She lashed out at fellow rapper Travis Scott after his album, Astroworld, pipped hers to the top spot.

“I put my blood sweat and tears in writing a dope album only for Travis Scott to have Kylie Jenner [his girlfriend] post a tour pass telling ppl to come see her & Stormi [their daughter],” Minaj wrote on Twitter. “I’m actually laughing. #Queen broke the record of being number 1 in 86 countries”.

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James Blunt: ‘I go on Twitter once a month, realise people are horrid, make a joke and get back in the garden’

James Blunt’s residence in Ibiza is more than a holiday-home bolthole. It’s a super-secret, super-swish hillside villa 30 minutes’ drive from Ibiza Town. The house that “You’re Beautiful” bought was purchased 13 years ago, right at the beginning of a music career that has resulted, so far, in 23 million album sales.

“When I started out, I always dreamt of a place in Ibiza and a chalet in Verbier,” the club-going, ski-loving host-with-the-most announces, as he leads me through the villa, wine in hand. “And now I have both.”

He says this more in shock than boastfulness, I think (not mentioned: the London pied-à-terre in Kensington and pub in Chelsea). But, yes, past the lush pool and terraced lawn, there is indeed a bar at the bottom of the garden, with a neon sign reading: “Blunty’s Nightclub. Where Everybody’s Beautiful.”

It’s the dog days of summer. Blunt is closing his Mediterranean home for the season with a boozy lunch for friends that he has, rather impressively but also somewhat discomfitingly, decided to combine with his first proper interview in two-and-a-half years. If I was shocked to find myself offered a Jacuzzi’s-worth of rosé, I suspect shoe designer Patrick Cox was equally surprised to see a journalist crashing his sundowners.

‘The record label panicked, because they thought my Twitter was vulgar. It took them quite a long time to realise it was quite healthy not just for me, but for the audience’

This, it transpires, is Blunt all over. He is the rock star as bon viveur, a millionaire musician who enjoys his money and his fame, and is thoroughly clubbable. No, not in that way – whatever the wishes of his many detractors, including the online Blunt saboteurs he tackles head-on in his notoriously funny, and often bitingly rude, Twitter feed. (To the baiting question, “Why does James Blunt sing like his willy is being stood on?”, he replied: “Damn thing’s always getting caught under my feet.”)

James Blunt performs live. Photo: Thomas Lohnes/Getty
James Blunt performs live (Photo: Thomas Lohnes/Getty)

He admits his record label only belatedly noticed the content and tone of his social media activity. “Then they panicked, because they thought it was vulgar. It took them quite a long time to realise it was quite healthy not just for me, but for the audience – for them to realise I wasn’t the guy the label had painted me to be, this quite earnest man.

“I have my moments,” he concedes, earnestly, “but I’m certainly not that way all the time.”

Still, for all the enjoyment he clearly gleans from tweaking the trolls, the man with 1.8 million Twitter followers bats away the suggestion that he is a dogged tracker of his haters. “It just takes quite a lot of time to look through Twitter to see who’s been rude about you so you can make a funny remark. I go on once a month, realise that people are horrid to each other, make a joke about it, get out and get back into the garden.”

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Today’s garden party is a last hurrah: tomorrow, Blunt flies back to the UK to start the heavy lifting on the promotion of his sixth album, Once Upon a Mind.

It is an album about the cycle of life – his father’s chronic illness; his guilt about leaving his wife to tour for months on end; the birth of his two young sons; the death of his old friend and patron Carrie Fisher – which may move his fans to tears. As it does Blunt, twice, over the course of our interview.

Once Upon a Mind James Blunt

The key track is the devastating “Monsters”, a skeletal piano ballad, written with his father in mind, that features the Trinity Boys Choir and on which Blunt’s already-high voice cracks with pain. “The label asked me to rein that in a bit,” he admits of the song, which was recorded in the chapel at Wellington Barracks near Buckingham Palace, a place he knew intimately from his time serving with cavalry regiment the Life Guards.

“We’ve had a big discussion about it,” he continues, “weeks of me saying, ‘I need that’. Because it’s not just me singing a song, it’s me feeling a song, and that break [in my voice] is everything.”

‘It’s not just me singing a song, it’s me feeling a song, and that break in my voice is everything’

If he was to dedicate the album to a single person, he says, it would be his father, who has stage-four chronic kidney disease and needs an O-positive kidney donor.

“Sadly, I’m not a match,” he says. “The unnerving thing nowadays is you can look on the NHS website and see the life expectancy. As family and children, we can see what date they reckon we’ve got to… Yeah…” He falters, his default politeness wrestling with his desire to be honest yet not say the unsayable. “And my father’s a very healthy man – doesn’t drink, smoke, do drugs. He’s fitter than both you and I, I’d guarantee. So it’s shocked the family.”

James Blunt and his wife Sofia Wellesley at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding in 2018. Photo: Chris Jackson/ AFP/ Getty
James Blunt and his wife Sofia Wellesley at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in 2018 (Photo: Chris Jackson/AFP/Getty)

Things, then, are “happening fast”. But equally, “they’re very inspiring to write about”, Blunt says, less callously than it looks in print. “You see a parent grow old, then you see that life replaced by other people,” he notes, referring to his two young sons – and here his other default setting, privacy, battles with the openness of the new album; he asks that I don’t reveal their names.

“So, for all the sadness, there is happiness at the other end of the scale. I find it very balanced, very grounding. But my father doesn’t know about the songs that are for him,” he says, eyes shining. “So I need to galvanise myself to speak to him – before you put this out.” Blunt manages to laugh. “These are songs full of love of life. There are no bad things, only good.”

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Blunt’s fifth album, The Afterlove (2017), was deemed a flop, but it did well enough worldwide to keep him on the road, at arena level, for 18 months. Audiences from Bangkok to Buenos Aires were seemingly unconcerned that the breathy singer-songwriter with the light emotive touch had slalomed off-piste to dabble with electronica and beats.

“Yeah, to all my friends’ dismay when they go on holiday,” he smiles. “I’ve just had an email from a mate in China: ‘For f**k sake, is there no escape from this?’ It is mindblowing that it has gone across the world in the way it has.”

Still, everything wasn’t entirely rosé with The Afterlove. He mentions another of those big discussions, “not quite a row but pretty close”, about a song called “OK”, written with Steve Mac (co-writer of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You”), who also produced it. “I really didn’t enjoy where it got to, but the label said: ‘This has to go on, this is the direction, this is your first single.’ I said, ‘absolutely not’.

“But after we put the album out – and it wasn’t on it – that song still became a big hit, still with me singing on it, everywhere but the UK. Because the UK has good taste in music,” he adds with a twinkle.

‘I’ve just had an email from a mate in China: ‘For f**k sake, is there no escape from you?’’

On his new album, the former military man was equally unyielding with himself. New single “Cold” is a mea culpa to his wife of five years, Sofia, the lawyer daughter of Lord and Lady Wellesley, in which he apologises for his prolonged absences. “I Told You” is a hymn to his infant sons, the younger of whom was almost a year old before the perennially touring Blunt spent serious time with him.

James Blunt: Photo: Gavin Bond Photography

All that close-to-home candour meant there was no room to write a song about Fisher, an early supporter with whom he always stayed when working in Los Angeles. He did, though, try to offer quiet tribute when he was in LA working on the album, driving to her former home and laying a hand on her gate, “like a shrine”.

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“I said, ‘God, I miss you so much’, and shed a tear,” he says. “And as I did that, three of the StarMap [celebrity tour] vans pulled up and I could hear the guide say: ‘And if you look on the left, there’s the late, great Carrie Fisher’s house – and as you can see, some fans are still deeply moved by her loss.’ And it’s me, blubbing on her door. She’d have laughed her head off at that, and said: ‘Your timing’s immaculate!’”

As, of course, it must be online, too. When someone tweeted, “Do you remember how shit James Blunt was?”, Mr Self-Deprecation was ready with an appropriate retort: “No need, I’ve got a new [record] coming out in September.”

‘Cold’ is out now. ‘Once Upon a Mind’ is released on 25 October

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CD review – Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes

Be For Real: The P.I.R. Recordings 1972-1975
SoulMusic SMCR5188BX
★★★★

A former doo-wop group that emerged from the City of Brotherly Love, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes were among the first big successes for Philadelphia International Records – the label formed by songwriters and producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

What helped then stand apart from other soul vocal groups of the Seventies were the soaring, intense and soulful vocals of one-time drummer Teddy Pendergrass.

From “I Miss You” and “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” in 1972 to the “Love I Lost” the following year and “Don’t Leave Me This Way” in 1975 the group achieved a standard of excellence that few others could match.

This lavish three-CD set includes all the group’s original albums for P.I.R. – including such classic tracks as “Satisfaction Guaranteed (Or Take Your Love Back)”, “Wake Up Everybody” and “Hope That We Can Be together Soon” which features guest female vocalist Sharon Paige.

Bonus tracks include their version of the Fred Neil/Nilsson song “Everybody’s Talkin’” and the Tom Moulton-mixed “Bad Blood”.

It’s a fitting tribute to one of the greatest of the Seventies soul groups.

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A clarinet designed to be played in space inspires children

Reaching for the stars?

You bet. The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) asked children aged six to 13 to redesign an item they couldn’t live with in space. The winner, 10-year-old Elin Day-Thompson from Worcestershire, modified a clarinet so it could be used by astronauts.

I bet this is music to astronauts’ ears. How does it work?

Elin designed the clarinet to have an air supply tank which would blow air through the instrument and an amplifier to ensure she could hear the instrument in space due to the change in air pressure and gravity.

Do you think this idea will take off?

It already has. The clarinet was developed into a 3D prototype and launched a distance of 35km to the edge of space from Ashbourne in Derbyshire before plummeting back to earth at speeds of 150mph. It landed safely by parachute near Scunthorpe.

Elin Day-Thompson sends her clarinet into space. (Photo: Richard Grange/UNP)
Elin Day-Thompson sends her clarinet into space (Photo: Richard Grange/UNP)

A clarinet in space? Whatever next?

It does sound a little unusual, but there’s a serious point behind this because the IET wants to inspire children and young people to get into engineering and by demonstrating the huge number of jobs available to those with science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills.

Out of this world. What do other budding astrophysicists want to take into space?

The IET asked children what things they would take with them in space. Most of them, 36 percent, said they would take their TV and a quarter, 24 percent, said they would take their pets.

But apart from wanting to blast their gerbils and hamsters into space, 46 percent of children also said the idea of visiting space one day was a key factor in their interest in science.

Elin must be over the moon about all this?

Yes, she got to watch her clarinet’s space launch. Illustrators of the Beano have also transformed her into a cartoon character appearing in an edition of the comic alongside Dennis the Menace and Gnasher.

“I love playing my clarinet and would want to take it with me in space – but realised I wouldn’t be able to play it while wearing a space helmet,” Elin said.

“I love everything about space and my dream job is to become an astrophysicist,” she added.

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Gregory Porter tour 2020: when tickets are out, dates and venues for next year’s UK shows

Jazz and soul singer Gregory Porter has announced a 13-date UK tour for 2020, including four nights at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

The Grammy Award-winning artist, who released his first album when he was nearly forty, has received critical acclaim for albums including Liquid Spirit and Take Me To The Alley.

Known for his soulful tones as well as his signature look, the American musician also released a live album last year: One Night Only: Live at the Royal Albert Hall, following a previous appearance at the famous London venue.

Here are all the tour dates and details on how you can catch the singer live next year.

When are the tour dates?

Here is a full list of performance dates for the 2020 UK tour:

9 May Manchester Arena

10 May Cardiff Motorpoint Arena

11 May Leeds First Direct Arena

13 May  Glasgow SEC Hydro

14 May  Newcastle Utilita Arena

16 May Birmingham Resorts World Arena

17 May  Hull Bonus Arena

19, 20, 22 and 23 May London Royal Albert Hall

25 May Bournemouth International Centre

26 May Brighton Centre

How and when can I get tickets?

Tickets go on sale from 9am on Friday 6 September.

Gregory Porter’s trademark hat has been a source of fascination for his fans (Getty Images)

They will be available to buy from www.ticketline.co.uk and by calling the 24 hour ticket hotline at 0844 888 9991.

You will also be able to buy tickets directly from venues.

How much will they cost?

Tickets for London gigs will cost between £45 – £75, with box seats at £90.

Ticket prices elsewhere will cost between £42.50 – £60.

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Ben Platt on his new album and ‘insane’ journey from Broadway to a starring role in Netflix’s The Politician

If you are into musical theatre, or watch Pitch Perfect repeatedly, then, like Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton, you will already be very familiar with Ben Platt. If not, no matter, because at the end of September, Platt is going to be right there on your TV, starring as the lead in The Politician, with Gwyneth Paltrow playing his mother, in the latest big hitter from Netflix.

It is TV mogul Ryan Murphy’s first show as part of his multi-million-dollar deal with the streaming company, and Murphy created the role specifically for Platt. No audition required.

It’s a busy time for Platt: on Monday, the 25-year-old headlined the ceremony that launched tennis’s US Open; in a few weeks, he will perform alongside Queen, Alicia Keys and Pharrell Williams at New York’s Global Citizen concert (co-hosted by a friend, Hugh Jackman); and his new single, “Rain”, came out last Friday.

Musically, it sounds as if Platt burst into a Carly Rae Jepsen and Bleachers house party – and frankly, I wish I’d been invited. I did luck into his sold-out debut UK gig in June, where seats in the stalls went for £70.

It’s a busy time for Platt: on Monday, the 25-year-old headlined the ceremony that launched tennis’s US Open
It’s a busy time for Ben Platt: on Monday, the 25-year-old headlined the ceremony that launched tennis’s US Open (Photo: Julian Broad)

When we meet a few days later, Platt’s anxiety about whether he would sell any tickets in the UK appears to have been unfounded. “I tend to ask over and over again, are people going to come?” admits Platt, as we awkwardly share a too-small sofa. “I’m never quite comfortable just assuming that it’s all going to go well, it’s not in my nature. Then it’s just all the more enjoyable when it does.”

Dear Evan Hansen was the Broadway musical that made LA-born Platt a star, winning him a Tony, a Grammy and an Emmy. The show’s songs are written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the duo behind The Greatest Showman, and a UK production (as yet uncast) opens in London’s Noël Coward Theatre in November. It’s an emotional high-school story about struggling to fit in, mental health and teen suicide, all heightened by social media.

Platt’s breakout song from that show was “Waving Through a Window” (24 million listens on YouTube, compared with 310,000 clicks for Katy Perry’s cover). Dear Evan Hansen is also the show that piqued the interest of Ryan Murphy and, in turn, Netflix. “He [Murphy] came to Evan Hansen and sort of built [The Politician] around me,” admits Platt, somewhat sheepishly.

Even if he does play an unstoppably ambitious teen politician, I suppose that’s still a compliment. “He came backstage and mentioned he’d love to do something together,” continues Platt. “I was like, ‘Sure, but you’re Ryan Murphy, you’ve got 10 things going on’, but he really followed through.”

Platt was “freaking out” during their exchange, but by that point in 2016, his idols had been regularly dropping by the Broadway theatre where he was performing. It was a lot to take in aged 22. “I mean, it was insane. It was the kind of thing that I tried really hard not to normalise, because we have Hillary Clinton and then Beyoncé and then Mandy Patinkin and then Melissa McCarthy. And then, you know, all of my theatre heroes like Harold Prince and Stephen Sondheim.”

Much of Platt’s life might seem surreal; his father is the film producer Marc Platt, responsible for Legally Blonde, La La Land and Mary Poppins Returns. He came out to his parents when he was 13, yet there was still a media flutter when it was deemed that he had come out publicly earlier this year, when his first pop video, for the track “Ease My Mind”, cast him in a gay romance.

“I never wanted the album, or any part of it, to be just a blanket statement about coming out or queerness,” says Platt. “It’s just a part of the story that I have, because that’s who I am.”

Discussing the sexuality of the characters of The Politician, Platt says “everybody in the show is sort of fluid”. He doesn’t think only gay actors should take gay roles: “It’s less in the particular casting of who is given which role, and more about whether the room is filled with different identities. If we start to say that only queer people can tell queer stories, it’s difficult, because we want to be able to tell other kinds of stories, too.”

Ben Platt is a delightfully chatty performer at the London gig, his first outside the US
Ben Platt is a delightfully chatty performer at the London gig, his first outside the US (Photo: Atlantic)

He cites Jonathan Groff as a role model in this regard. “He did a show that was incredibly queer-positive, called Looking, on HBO, and now is the lead in David Fincher’s Mindhunter, playing an everyman, straight man, and he’s just really shown that his talent supersedes everything and he can tell both kinds of stories. I’d love to fit in that space, too.”

Platt is a delightfully chatty performer at the London gig, his first outside the US; there are charming traces of musical theatre in his stage presence – a little Flashdance dip here, a Fosse-style hand flick there.

‘As an artist, there’s more room for humanity than in politics’

He draws the crowd in by detailing that teenage coming out (to loud applause), leaving the stage mid-set because he needs the loo (more applause) and dropping “fun facts” about himself. These include how he thinks cats are the devil’s children, partly because he is allergic; his love of all things Harry Potter (“Hufflepuffs unite!”); and how he once accidentally broke a glass cauldron in a shopping mall during an impromptu performance as Elphaba from Wicked. It seems that, while the swathes of teenage fans came for the angst of Dear Evan Hansen, they have stayed for the authenticity of Platt.

Ben Platt says he will be back performing in the UK at some point, which hopefully means more tales like the one when his parents used a McFlurry to bribe him to join in football practice
Ben Platt says he will be back performing in the UK at some point, which hopefully means more tales like the one when his parents used a McFlurry to bribe him to join in football practice (Photo: Julian Broad)

It is a quality any politician would kill to have. Might a career in politics hold any appeal? “I don’t think I’d be capable of quelling my own opinions and emotions and wellbeing for the greater good, or for self-serving reasons,” he says. “I mean, as an artist, there’s more room for humanity than in politics.”

It’s not something that he is cut out for, he concludes – but that’s not to say he doesn’t have political beliefs. It is worth looking up his March 2018 live performance with Lin-Manuel Miranda at the March For Our Lives rally in Washington DC. The pair performed “Found/Tonight”, their mash-up of a poignant song each from Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen, in support of the mass student-led demonstration for better gun control legislation in the US. It took place the month after 17 people were shot and killed at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

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He now has ambitions to write his own musical: “I’m looking for the right idea or the right thing to adapt or to write from scratch.” And he is only an Oscar away from EGOT status – winning an award from each of the four major US entertainment ceremonies (Emmy/Grammy/Oscar/Tony).

An Evan Hansen film is planned, with his father producing, and while Platt appears most likely to star, he is not officially attached to the movie. “Not officially, in the sense that there is no script yet,” he clarifies. “There’s no reality to it, it’s just in development, but hopefully, down the line, that’d be a wonderful thing and I’m just waiting to see what happens.” Platt turns 26 in a month; he can’t pretend to be in high school for ever. “Sooner rather than later would be good,” he agrees.

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He confirms that he will not be appearing in the long-gestating Wicked musical movie adaptation that his father is also producing (“I don’t think I’m a Fiyero”). He would be happy for the role to go to his brother, Jonah, who has already played it on Broadway – or, failing that, Harry Styles. So, Styles is his Fiyero, then? “Harry Styles is my anything, really,” comes the reply.

He says he will be back performing in the UK at some point, which hopefully means more tales like the one when his parents used a McFlurry to bribe him to join in football practice. “But when I got there, I would spend most of the time grabbing the chalk, delineating the lines and throwing it up in the air like it was fairy dust because I loved Peter Pan. There were some clues,” he deadpanned on stage in London. Frankly, what the world needs now is more Ben Platt.

Ben Platt’s single ‘Rain’ is out now. ‘The Politician’ is on Netflix from 27 September

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Definitely Maybe quiz: can you finish the lyrics of these songs from Oasis’s iconic album?

As Oasis‘ seminal debut album Definitely Maybe turns 25, we’re putting a challenge to music fans everywhere.

Can you finish the lyrics from this most iconic of records?

How well do you remember your Britpop? Put yourself to the test with our music quiz:

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Victorious Festival, Portsmouth, review: Lewis Capaldi and 90s nostalgia combine to make a major player

Victorious Festival
Southsea Common, Portsmouth
★★★★

Beyond Portsmouth, Victorious Festival has remained largely below the radar – but it has scored some impressive coups in recent years. Last year’s closer was The Prodigy. Taking place the same weekend as Reading/Leeds they’re mixing with the big boys, but still draw a substantial crowd, with a mix of old-school indie-pop favourites and current chart stars.

When Ocean Colour Scene opened their set on the main stage with dad-rock classic and TFI Friday theme song, “The Riverboat Song”, where else is there to go? For about 50,000 people the answer was to see Lewis Capaldi. Ostensibly on the second stage, he was booked before he even released the single “Someone You Loved”, let alone the planet-eating album, Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent, so demand for his brand of maudlin Scots balladry was high. The field was packed to absolute capacity – possibly the festival’s biggest-ever crowd and, judging from the couples in each others’ arms singing the whole set verbatim, his charm is not wearing off any time soon.

Lewis Capaldi played to Victorious Festival's largest ever crowd in Portsmouth. Photo: Becca Egerstrom
Lewis Capaldi played to Victorious Festival’s largest ever crowd in Portsmouth (Photo: Becca Egerstrom)

In stark contrast were The Hives, the very spirit of rock’n’roll. Frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist was pure bravado, a man untroubled by self-doubt. And to those who say they only have one song, like The Ramones, it’s a damn fine song.

Headlining the Castle Stage, Bloc Party played their debut album, Silent Alarm, in reverse. It avoided the common problem of “play the classic album” sets, building momentum towards the singles, “Banquet”, “Helicopter” and “Eating Glass”. Drummer Louise Bartle was the powerhouse behind charismatic frontman Kele Okereke.

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On Sunday, the Isle of Wight’s Plastic Mermaids brought their wonky indie-electronica to the mainland with added backing singers in tinsel gowns. Their single “I Still Like Kelis” is a joy.
Soon afterwards, Band of Skulls blew out any hungover cobwebs with their post-grunge bombast.

For indie fans of a certain age, The Futureheads, Idlewild and Ash scratched an itch. They all played out of their skins, a Kate Bush cover here and a hefty dollop of 1996 there with more songs you know than you realised.

New Order took a while to get going as Sunday night headliners at Victorious Festival
New Order took a while to get going as Sunday night headliners at Victorious Festival (Photo: Tom Langford)

Closing headliners New Order took some time to get going. An early brace of Joy Division covers, “She’s Lost Control” and “Transmission”, sparked some interest, but they were in danger of losing the crowd until they wheeled out the big guns. “True Faith”, “Blue Monday” and “Temptation” followed in quick succession, before an encore of more Joy Division: “Atmosphere” and, inevitably, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.

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In all, Victorious proved again that it deserves to be viewed as more than a parochial outlier, and should be seen as a major player on the national festival scene.

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Cesária Évora: here’s why a Google Doodle is marking the Cape Verde singer’s 78th birthday

Cape Verdean vocalist Cesária Évora is being honoured today by Google’s daily Doodle.

It would have been the singer’s 78th birthday.

But who was she, and why did the philanthropist and celebrated humanitarian become known as the ‘Barefoot Diva’?

From Cape Verde to France

“Nicknamed “Cise” by her friends, Évora was born on 27 August 1941 in Cape Verde.

Her father – a part-time musician – died when she was just seven-years old, and with her mother unable to raise Évora and her five siblings, she was placed into an orphanage.

Évora grew in a house famously used by Cape Verdean singers throughout the mid-20th century, and it was here that she received a musical education.

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Her first taste of performance came at the age of 16, when she was persuaded by a friend to sing in a sailors’ tavern.

She began regularly performing on Portuguese cruise ships during the 1960s, but her star wouldn’t rise fully until the 80s, when she was discovered by chance by producer José da Silva and invited to record in Paris.

In 1988, Évora released her first commercial album La Diva Aux Pieds Nus, which began to see her gain some international success.

Her records continued to grow in popularity, not just in the Cape Verdean community, but across the world; her 1992 fourth album Miss Perfumado sold over 300,000 copies worldwide.

Her fame would continue to grow with each new release, and Évora accrued many Grammy nominations and wins in the World Music categories.

How did she die?

Singer Cesaria Evora performs on stage during the Nat Geo Music Concert to celebrate Earth Day at Campidoglio Square on April 22, 2008 in Rome, Italy.
Evora performs on stage during the Nat Geo Music Concert to celebrate Earth Day in April 2008 (Photo: Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images)

Évora’s career stretched over 50 years before she performed her last concert on 8 May 2010 in Lisbon.

Two days later, she suffered a heart attack and was forced to undergo surgery. A few months later, her agent announced that she would be retiring from music due to ill health.

Évora died in Cape Verde on 17 December 2011, aged 70.

The cause of her death was respiratory failure and hypertension, but she was in good spirits until the end; a Spanish newspaper reported that just days before her death she was still receiving people in her home, known for always having its doors open.

Évora’s life continues to be celebrated, and in 2012, Cape Verde’s third busiest airport was named after her and a statue was erected at its terminal entrance.

In 2014, the Banco de Cabo Verde introduced a new series of banknotes that honour Cape Verdean figures in literature, music and politics; her face was featured on a new 2000 Escudos (£16.43) banknote.

In the same year, a new street in Paris was named after her to celebrate her French links, and Évora even has two species of animal named after her: a butterfly (Chilades evorae) and a sea slug (Aegires evorae).

The ‘Barefoot Diva’

Evora performs during the Nice Jazz Festival in July 2006
Evora performs during the Nice Jazz Festival in July 2006 (Photo: ALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

Évora was affectionately nicknamed the “Barefoot Diva” by fans, as she would regularly appear on stage without any footwear.

It was often assumed that her bare feet were a visual sign of her solidarity with the poor, but in a 2001 radio interview, she stated that she just wasn’t the biggest fan of shoes.

“People used to say that I did that in solidarity with the hungry people and all the poor people of the world, but that’s not true,” she said.

“In Cape Verde, lots of people are like me. They just don’t like to wear shoes.”

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VMAs 2019 winners: MTV awards results in full as ‘woke’ Taylor Swift triumphs with 3 awards

Taylor Swift triumphed at the MTV Video Music Awards on Monday night, picking up three awards for her new “woke” music offerings.

The singer – who had previously stayed quiet on politics and other issues – won the coveted Video Of The Year award for her song You Need To Calm Down, which called out homophobia and hate speech and championed LGBTQ+ rights.

Accepting the award from the Prudential Centre in Newark, she said that the fan-voted award showed that the public also wanted a return to tolerance and respect for everyone in society: “In this video several points were made, so you voting for this video means that you want a world where we’re all treated equally under the law.”

She added: “There still is a petition for the Equality Act, which basically says we all deserve equal rights under the law. And, I want to thank everyone who has signed that petition because it now has half a million signatures.”

Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X also big winners on the night

The other big winners on the night were 17-year-old Billie Eilish, who’s dark, twisted pop landed her the best new artist, artist of the year and best editing award for her single, Bad Guy, which has had more than 489 million views on YouTube.

Lizzo performs on stage (Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

Summer anthem Old Town Road by Lil Nas X also scored the rapper two awards, for song of the year and best direction, while Missy Elliot was awarded the Video Vanguard award for her lifetime achievements in music.

The awards were a riot of colours, costumes and giant stage inflatables – with the stand-out moment being Lizzo performing in front of a huge pair of buttocks, as she sang her hits Truth Hurts and Good As Hell.

Here’s the winners list, in full:

Video Vanguard

WINNER: Missy Elliott

Video of the Year

WINNER: Taylor Swift: “You Need to Calm Down”
21 Savage: “a lot” [ft. J. Cole]
Billie Eilish: “bad guy”
Ariana Grande: “thank u, next”
Jonas Brothers: “Sucker”
Lil Nas X: “Old Town Road (Remix)” [ft. Billy Ray Cyrus]

Artist of the Year

WINNER: Ariana Grande
Cardi B
Billie Eilish
Halsey
Jonas Brothers
Shawn Mendes

Song of the Year

WINNER: Lil Nas X: “Old Town Road (Remix)” [ft. Billy Ray Cyrus]
Drake: “In My Feelings”
Ariana Grande: “thank u, next”
Jonas Brothers: “Sucker”
Lady Gaga / Bradley Cooper: “Shallow”
Taylor Swift: “You Need to Calm Down”

Billy Ray Cyrus (R) and Lil Nas X onstage  (Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images for MTV)

Best New Artist

WINNER: Billie Eilish
Ava Max
H.E.R.
Lil Nas X
Lizzo
ROSALÍA

Best Collaboration

WINNER: Shawn Mendes / Camila Cabello: “Señorita”
Lil Nas X: “Old Town Road (Remix)” [ft. Billy Ray Cyrus]
Lady Gaga / Bradley Cooper: “Shallow”
Taylor Swift: “ME!” [ft. Brendon Urie]
Ed Sheeran / Justin Bieber: “I Don’t Care”
BTS: “Boy With Luv” [ft. Halsey]

Missy Elliot picks up her award (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images,)

Push Artist of the Year

WINNER: Billie Eilish
Bazzi
CNCO
H.E.R.
Lauv
Lizzo

Best Pop

WINNER: Jonas Brothers: “Sucker”
5 Seconds of Summer: “Easier”
Cardi B / Bruno Mars: “Please Me”
Billie Eilish: “bad guy”
Khalid: “Talk”
Ariana Grande: “thank u, next”
Taylor Swift: “You Need to Calm Down”

Best Hip-Hop

WINNER: Cardi B: “Money”
2 Chainz: “Rule the World”[ft. Ariana Grande]
21 Savage: “a lot” [ft. J. Cole]
DJ Khaled: “Higher” [ft. Nipsey Hussle and John Legend]
Lil Nas X: “Old Town Road (Remix)” [ft. Billy Ray Cyrus]
Travis Scott: “SICKO MODE” [ft. Drake]

Best R&B

WINNER: Normani: “Waves” [ft. 6LACK]
Anderson .Paak: “Make It Better” [ft. Smokey Robinson]
Childish Gambino: “Feels Like Summer”
H.E.R.: “Could’ve Been” [ft. Bryson Tiller]
Alicia Keys: “Raise a Man”
Ella Mai: “Trip”

Best K-Pop

WINNER: BTS: “Boy With Luv” [ft. Halsey]
BLACKPINK: “Kill This Love”
Monsta X: “Who Do You Love” [ft. French Montana]
TOMORROW X TOGETHER: “Cat & Dog”
NCT 127: “Regular”
EXO: “Tempo”

Best Latin

WINNER: ROSALÍA / J Balvin: “Con Altura” [ft. El Guincho]
Anuel AA / Karol G: “Secreto”
Bad Bunny: “MIA” [ft. Drake]
benny blanco / Tainy / Selena Gomez / J Balvin: “I Can’t Get Enough”
Daddy Yankee: “Con Calma” [ft. Snow]
Maluma: “Mala Mía”

Best Dance

WINNER: The Chainsmokers: “Call You Mine” [ft. Bebe Rexha]
Clean Bandit: “Solo” [ft. Demi Lovato]
DJ Snake: “Taki Taki” [ft. Selena Gomez, Ozuna and Cardi B]
David Guetta / Bebe Rexha / J Balvin: “Say My Name”
Marshmello / Bastille: “Happier”
Silk City / Dua Lipa: “Electricity”

Best Rock

WINNER: Panic! At the Disco: “High Hopes”
The 1975: “Love It If We Made It”
Fall Out Boy: “Bishops Knife Trick”
Imagine Dragons: “Natural”
Lenny Kravitz: “Low”
twenty one pilots: “My Blood”

Video for Good

WINNER: Taylor Swift: “You Need to Calm Down”
Halsey: “Nightmare”
The Killers: “Land of the Free”
Jamie N Commons / Skylar Grey: “Runaway Train” [ft. Gallant]
John Legend: “Preach”
Lil Dicky: “Earth”

Best Group

WINNER: BTS
5 Seconds of Summer
Backstreet Boys
BLACKPINK
CNCO
Jonas Brothers
PRETTYMUCH
Why Don’t We

Best Power Anthem

WINNER: Megan Thee Stallion: “Hot Girl Summer” [ft. Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign]
Ariana Grande: “7 rings”
DJ Khaled: “Wish Wish” [ft. Cardi B and 21 Savage]
Halsey: “Nightmare”
Lizzo: “Tempo” [ft. Missy Elliott]
Maren Morris: “Girl”
Miley Cyrus: “Mother’s Daughter”
Taylor Swift: “You Need To Calm Down”

Song of Summer

WINNER: Ariana Grande and Social House: “Boyfriend”
Billie Eilish: “Bad Guy”
DaBaby: “Suge”
Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber: “I Don’t Care”
Jonas Brothers: “Sucker”
Khalid: “Talk”
Lil Nas X: “Old Town Road (Remix)” [ft. Billy Ray Cyrus]
Lil Tecca: “Ransom”
Lizzo: “Truth Hurts”
Miley Cyrus: “Mother’s Daughter”
Post Malone: “Goodbyes” [ft. Young Thug]
Rosalía and J Balvin: “Con Altura” [ft. El Guincho]
Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello: “Señorita”
Taylor Swift: “You Need To Calm Down”
The Chainsmokers and Bebe Rexha: “Call You Mine”
Young Thug: “The London” [ft. J. Cole and Travis Scott]

Fashion Trailblazer

WINNER: Marc Jacobs

Best Direction

WINNER: Lil Nas X: “Old Town Road (Remix)” [ft. Billy Ray Cyrus] (dir. Calmatic)
Billie Eilish: “bad Guy” (dir. Dave Meyers)
FKA twigs: “Cellophane” (dir. Andrew Thomas Huang)
Ariana Grande: “thank u, next” (dir. Hannah Lux Davis)
LSD: “No New Friends” (dir. Dano Cerny)
Taylor Swift: “You Need to Calm Down” (dir. Drew Kirsch and Taylor Swift)

Taylor Swift performs onstage (Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images for MTV)

Best Visual Effects

WINNER: Taylor Swift: “ME!” [ft. Brendon Urie] (visual effects: Loris Paillier & Lucas Salton for BUF VFX)
Billie Eilish: “when the party’s over” (visual effects: Ryan Ross, Andres Jaramillo)
FKA twigs: “Cellophane” (visual effects: Matt Chandler, Fabio Zaveti for Analog)
Ariana Grande: “God is a woman” (visual effects: Fabrice Lagayette, Kristina Prilukova & Rebecca Rice for Mathematic)
DJ Khaled: “Just Us” [ft. SZA] (visual effects: Sergii Mashevskyi)
LSD: “No New Friends” (visual effects: Ethan Chancer)

Best Editing

WINNER: Billie Eilish: “bad guy” (editing: Billie Eilish)
Anderson .Paak: “Tints” [ft. Kendrick Lamar] (editing: Elias Talbot)
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)” (editing: Calmatic)
Ariana Grande: “7 rings” (editing: Hannah Lux Davis & Taylor Walsh)
Solange: “Almeda” (editing: Solange Knowles, Vinnie Hobbs, Jonathon Proctor)
Taylor Swift: “You Need to Calm Down” (editing: Jarrett Fijal)

Best Art Direction

WINNER: Ariana Grande: “7 rings” (art direction: John Richoux)
BTS: “Boy With Luv” [ft. Halsey] (art direction: JinSil Park, BoNa Kim (MU:E))
Lil Nas X: “Old Town Road (Remix)” [ft. Billy Ray Cyrus] (art direction: Itaru Dela Vegas)
Shawn Mendes / Camila Cabello: “Señorita” (art direction: Tatiana Van Sauter)
Taylor Swift: “You Need to Calm Down” (art direction: Brittany Porter)
Kanye West / Lil Pump: “I Love It” [ft. Adele Givens] (art direction: Tino Schaedler)

Best Choreography

WINNER: ROSALÍA / J Balvin: “Con Altura” [ft. El Guincho] (choreography: Charm La’Donna)
FKA twigs: “Cellophane” (choreography: Kelly Yvonne)
LSD: “No New Friends” (choreography: Ryan Heffington)
Shawn Mendes / Camila Cabello: “Señorita” (choreography: Calvit Hodge, Sara Biv)
Solange: “Almeda” (choreography: Maya Taylor, Solange Knowles)
BTS: “Boy With Luv” [ft. Halsey] (choreography: Rie Hata)

Best Cinematography

WINNER: Shawn Mendes / Camila Cabello: “Señorita” (cinematography: Scott Cunningham)
Anderson .Paak: “Tints” [ft. Kendrick Lamar] (cinematography: Elias Talbot)
Billie Eilish: “hostage” (cinematography: Pau Castejon)
Ariana Grande: “thank u, next” (cinematography: Christopher Probst)
Solange: “Almeda” (cinematography: Chayse Irvin, Ryan Marie Helfant, Justin Hamilton)
Taylor Swift: “ME!” [ft. Brendon Urie] (cinematography: Starr Whitesides)

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Ariana Grande ‘overwhelmed’ after returning to Manchester to perform at Pride

Ariana Grande has said she was “completely overwhelmed” after performing again in Manchester two years after a suicide bomber killed 22 people at one of her concerts.

The 26-year-old singer last sung in the city at the June 2017 One Love concern, which she organised to raise money for an emergency fund following the terror attack the previous month.

Grande told the crowd at Manchester Pride – which she was headlining – that she was “so nervous” to be back performing in the city.

“I had so much more to say but I’m really very overwhelmed. So thank you,” she told the audience on Sunday night.

‘I love Manchester so much’

The US pop star – whose hits include Dangerous Woman and Thank U, Next – said she could not wait to give the audience “all our love. You’re in my heart in every way,” she added. “See you soon.”

Read More:

How Ariana Grande became pop’s biggest powerhouse

In an emotional address to her fans at the Mayfield depot, Grande told fans: “I love Manchester so much, thank you so much for having me back.

“I’m so happy to be here with you – it means the world – so thank you for having me.

“I’m sorry, I’m so nervous, I had so much more to say but I’m like very overwhelmed so thank you. Happy, happy, happy Pride – it’s so beautiful, I love you so much.”

Honorary citizen

Ariana Grande wrote an emotional letter about the Manchester bombing (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

Grande performed a 35-minute set at the venue, which is less than a mile away from Manchester Arena, where the 2017 bombing took place.

She was made an honorary citizen of Manchester after the attack and has since spoken about suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety in its aftermath.

Twenty-two people, including seven children, died when suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a device as concert-goers began leaving her show at Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017.

Additional reporting from Press Association.

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Reading and Leeds 2019 line-up: full festival schedule, headliners stage times and everything else

The line-up for Reading and Leeds 2019 festival is a typically star-studded affair.

The annual three day event, which takes place over the August bank holiday weekend, features acts including The 1975, Foo Fighters and Bastille.

Here’s all you need to know about Reading and Leeds festival 2019:

When is the Reading and Leeds festival?

The line up poster for this year’s event (Photo: PR)

The Reading and Leeds festival will take place from Friday 23 August to Sunday 25 August 2019.

The annual live music event will take place in Richfield Avenue in Reading and in Bramham Park in Leeds.

How can I get tickets?

Tickets are on sale now and can be bought on the festival’s websites via Ticketmaster.

However, you’d better be quick as the day tickets for Saturday and Sunday are already sold out. The Weekend ticket and Friday day ticket is still available to purchase.

The Foo Fighters will he heading to the Reading and Leeds festical (Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire)
The Foo Fighters will he heading to the Reading and Leeds festical (Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire)

Line up?

2019’s line-up, which was revealed on BBC Radio 1, doesn’t disappoint.

The main headline acts for both festivals are: The 1975, Post Malone, Twenty One Pilots and Foo Fighters. However, more artists have been announced to take to the stage – 50 to be exact.

Charli XCX, You Me At Six and Enter Shikari are just some of the names who have been added to the list of performers.

Here is a full run down of which bands are performing on each day.

Leeds 

Friday 23 August – Headline act: Foo Fighters (8.15pm)

Bastille, The Distillers, Not3s, Sundara Karma, Denis Sulta, The Amazons, Yungblud

Saturday 24 August – Headline act: The 1975 (9.20pm)

Juice Wrld, Pale Waves, CamelPhat, Hayley Kiyoko, Bowling For Soup

Sunday 25 August – Headline acts: Post Malone (9.30pm)

Twenty One Pilots, Blossoms, Billie Eilish, Stefflon Don, PVRIS, Crucast, G Flip

Reading 

Friday 23 August – Headline act: The 1975 (9.50pm)

Juice Wrld, Pale Waves, CamelPhat, Hayley Kiyoko, Bowling For Soup

Saturday 24 August – Headline acts: Post Malone (10.00pm)

Twenty One Pilots, Blossoms, Billie Eilish, Stefflon Don, PVRIS, Crucast, G Flip

Sunday 25 August – Headline act: Foo Fighters (8.15pm)

Bastille, The Distillers, Not3s, Sundara Karma, Denis Sulta, The Amazons, Yungblud

The other acts who will be entertaining the audience during the massive weekend of music includes: A Day To Remember, Against The Current, Aj Tracey, Alma, Anderson .paak & The Free Nationals, Andy C, Becky Hill, Bexey, Blaenavon, Bloxx, Cavetown, The Chats, Chvrches, Circa Waves, Comethazine, D-block Europe, Distruction Boyz, Fisher, Frank Carter And The Rattlesnakes, Fredo, Gunna,Headie One, Hockey Dad, Holy Goof, Honey Dijon, The Hunna, The Japanese House, Joji, Lil Baby, Lil Uzi Vert Loud Luxury, The Maine, Mura Masa, The Night Café,  Nothing,nowhere, No Rome, Nsg, Octavian, Peace, Royal Blood, Sasasas, Slowthai, The Story So Far, Ten Tonnes, Twin Atlantic, Twisted Wheel, The Wombats.

A further 70 names were announced on 7 March and include: Æ Mak, Aitch Anteros, Anti Up, Bad Child, Bakar Basement, Belako, Black Honey, Blade Brown, Blood Youth, Boston Manor, Brunswick Cemetery Sun, Clairo,
Counterfeit, Danileigh, Dappy, Dave, Deno, Driz, Dillon Francis, Dimensions, DJ Target, Dream State, Dreamers, Everyone You Know, The Faim, FIDLAR, Georgia, Ghostmane, Higher Power, Himalayas, Hobo Johnson & The Lovemakers, Hot Milk, Jaguar Skills, James Organ, Jeremy Zucker, Just Banco, K-Trap, Kenny Allstar, King Princess, Loski, Machine Gun Kelly, Maleek Berry, Masicka, Mayday Parade, Mella Dee, Milk Teeth, Mini Mansions, Moontower, MTRNICA, Muzzy, Night Riots, Ocean Alley, Of Mice & Men, PARIS, Patent Pending, Pip Blom, Press Club, Prospa, Pup, Puppy, Roddy Ricch, Saint Jhn Sea Girls, Smokesac, The Snuts, Sophie And The Giants, Sports Team, Stand Atlantic, SWMRS, Teddy, Tiffany Calver, Tion Wayne, Tommy Genesis, Truemendous Valeras, White Reaper and Zuzu.

Charli XCX has been confirmed to perform at Reading and Leeds festival in August (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
Charli XCX has been confirmed to perform at Reading and Leeds festival in August (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

Who headlined and performed last year?

Last year’s headliners were Fall Out Boy and Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar and Kings of Leon.

Dua Lipa, J Hus, Krept & Konan, Mike Shinoda and N*E*R*D also took to the stage to perform over the festival.

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Taylor Swift, Lover: Mature, polished pop from a star who has laid her arrows down

Taylor Swift
Lover
★★★★

“I’ve been the archer,” sings Taylor Swift on her seventh album, Lover. “I’ve been the prey.” It’s one dichotomy in a record that shimmers with them: angels and devils, heaven and hell, men and women, winners and losers, cat and mouse, enemies and friends, you and me. “The Archer” is the fifth track – historically always her most emotionally vulnerable – on a record in which she lays her arrows down and exposes her as a woman wrestling with how she wants the world to see her. 

We know the Swift we meet on Lover well: dreamy, romantic, given to fairytale and myth, now with the forced reflection of someone on the cusp of a milestone – she will turn 30 in December. After years of near-silence, Swift has carefully opened herself to the press and public in the months leading up to Lover’s release. The serpentine guise she adopted to fearsome effect on Reputation is gone: defanged, drained of venom and replaced by warmth, butterflies, pink, rainbows, and light.

But this, her first on Republic Records and her third with star producer Jack Antonoff, is not a saccharine love letter nor hormonal rush. It is a paean to love in all its forms: romantic, sexual, unbearable; lost, future, imagined; self-love, parental love, same-sex love. It meditates peacefully on acceptance, of others, of one’s past, and of what one can’t control.

Taylor Swift performs in California (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)
Taylor Swift performs in California (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

Swift’s relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn beats through Lover, in which her delicately crafted storytelling tells of a love that is staggeringly undramatic. Instead, she delights in the small mischief that has always been a hallmark of her love stories – here, both breathless and mature. “Cruel Summer” is a knockout, which was expected to reference her famous feud with Kanye West, given his album of the same name. In Lover’s forgiving – even forgotten – spirit, instead it is a tale of a forbidden lust, co-written with St Vincent, the only nods to West in the hollering autotune. Its chorus is irresistible and edgy, syrupy temptation drips from her lips as she hesitates on the word: “sum-mer”.

This restrained record avoids the free-wheeling emotion of her youth

“I Think He Knows” is familiar territory – a finger-snapping tale of a crush, all long drives, hands on a thigh, sparks, whispering in the dark, and sung as if bashful behind a paper fan but with elastic bounce. The prowling, melancholic “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince” takes well-trodden high school tropes and weaves them into a darker story creaking with American imagery that recalls Lana Del Rey; now, “the damsels are depressed”.

This is high-production polished pop, that could gloss over Swift’s rawest emotion if not for the careful musical details: “Cornelia Street” thrums with whispers and fragments of memory on every corner, every doorstep, an internal chaos only revealed by small inflections: a wail in her voice in the bridge; a caught breath. “Death By A Thousand Cuts”, simple heartbreak elevated by melodic whirring chimes and keyboards and calm uncertainty, “I ask the traffic lights if it’ll be alright, they said ‘I, don’t, know’”. Then there’s the superb “The Archer” (the most sophisticated song ever to reference Humpty Dumpty). With the eternal line “I never grow up, it’s getting so old”, Swift traps herself in a thumping, crescendoing loop, as if a mirror of her behaviour. The lyrics are self-aware and the melody frustrated, deliberately never quite reaching its climax: the cyclical dead end attempt to escaping one’s own nature.

Taylor Swift: LGBTQ ally, or cashing in on Pride month?

It’s not all poetry: “London Boy”, in which Idris Elba invites her onto his scooter and she hops around the capital – Camden, Brixton, Shoreditch – in the pub, watching rugby, is playful and daft. It is deliberately comic: her mockney accent crooning “darling I fancy you” and expressions like “babes” and “best mate”. It just about works – mainly because it is knowing, and absurdly catchy – though cynics may consider it in the vein of Ed Sheeran’s vacant “Galway Girl”. That is the one of few concessions to silliness and gimmicks in the 18 tracks (others being disappointing lead single “ME!” and its follow-up “You Need To Calm Down”).

Taylor Swift – ME! review: bubblegum new single with Brendon Urie has no bite

“The Man”, though, is rattling, resigned dancefloor pop that takes aim at the sexism she has endured throughout her career. In the canniest line she imagines how she’d have been treated in music if she was “what I was wearing, if I was rude, could all be separated from my good ideas and power moves”. In another, the wry, “Just like Leo in St Tropez”, she conjures up pictures of Leonardo Di Caprio with girls younger than Swift (and half his own age) on his arm, never treated with the judgment that clamours around any one of Swift’s dalliances.

Lust commands religious reverence as Swift breathily binds faith and sex

In the main, Swift sticks to electronic, eighties-infused synth-driven pop, but where she gambles, it pays off: “False God” might be the first saxophone we have heard in Swift’s music and its slow jazz inflections are haunting, isolating, with shades of Bon Iver. Lust commands religious reverence as Swift breathily binds faith and sex – “the altar is my hips”, with images of confession, forgiveness, and Communion. It is fluttery, ambitious, stumbling over words, and absorbing. 

Taylor Swift will be making her movie debut. Photo: Getty
Taylor Swift on the Reputation Tour (Photo: Getty)

Her one country song, meanwhile, is the collaboration that fans have dreamed of, a Dixie Chicks duet “Soon You’ll Get Better”. It is surprisingly sparse, and all the more electrifying for it, as Swift sings about coping by her mother Andrea’s side through treatment for cancer. The fiddles, banjo and dobro are divine, with blissful harmonies intercut with desperate sighs and chokes. Most astonishing about it is the way Swift reveals only the bearable glimpse of her own pain, now that the stakes are higher than any other she has known. Everywhere on this restrained album, that avoids the free-wheeling emotion of her youth, it is clear how much that pain has changed her.

The final moment of vulnerability comes at the end of closing track “Daylight”: in a voicemail, she almost rambles, “I want to be defined by the things I love, not the things I hate, not the things I’m afraid of, not the things that haunt me in the middle of the night.” On Lover, Swift proves she is, still, a fearless lover; an imaginative lyricist, one of the world’s most exciting popstars and a young woman with extraordinary power, still assessing how much of herself she is safe to reveal.

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Taylor Swift ‘Lover’ review round-up: what critics think of ‘free and unhurried’ new album

Today (23 August) sees the release of Lover, the seventh studio album by American singer-songwriter, Taylor Swift.

It’s her first full-length record since 2017’s Reputation, and features the singles ‘Me!’‘You Need to Calm Down’ and title-track, ‘Lover’.

The new record spans 18 tracks, more than any of her six previous studio albums, and Swift told Vogue the album is a “love letter to love, in all of its maddening, passionate, exciting, enchanting, horrific, tragic, wonderful glory.”

Of course, a new record from one of the biggest pop stars in the world is always going to be met with hype and expectation, but has Swift lived up to her previous works?

Here’s what the critics are saying:

‘Is she treading water?’- Alexis Petridis, The Guardian

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Taylor Swift ‘Lover’: release date, track list, and everything else about the new album

The Guardian’s head rock and pop critic labels Swift’s new record his album of the week (in lieu of any other major releases), but his three-star review suggests it wouldn’t quite be worthy of that crown in any other week.

“Lover offers plenty of evidence that Swift is just a better songwriter than any of her competitors in the upper echelons of pop,” he concedes, but adds that not even she “can muster enough knockout tunes to fill 18 tracks.”

The album takes a “something-for-everyone approach” he says, and feels like “consolidation, not progress”, designed to keep Swift as “one of the world’s biggest stars.”

“You can understand the pragmatic impulse to cover every base,” says Petridis, who admits that the record does dare to get political, it’s “infinitely smarter and subtler than anything her peers can manage when pushing the button marked ‘woke’.”

‘All about big moods, dreamy Eighties throwbacks and evolutionary freedom’ – Nick Catucci, Rolling Stone

Nick Catucci’s review for Rolling Stone is slightly more positive, deigning to gift the album an extra star above Petridis’ three.

He again notes the album’s all-bases-covered approach, saying that there’s “plenty” of “fodder for the Swifties, haters, and bloggers here.”

But, “whatever there is to be read into these songs, they are for one person and one person alone: Taylor Swift. Finally.

Lover is “evolutionary rather than revolutionary”, says Catucci, “but nevertheless it feels like an epiphany: free and unhurried, governed by no one concept or outlook.”

Taylor Swift performs onstage during the 2018 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on October 9, 2018 in Los Angeles, California
(Photo: Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images For dcp)

‘The sound of a singer excited to be earnest again’ – Alexandra Pollard, The Independent

Another four-star review from The Independent’s Alexandra Pollard, who calls Lover “a partial resurrection of the Swift of old: moony romance and earnest earworms abound.”

But despite that, the 18-track record does feel a little “baggy” at times, and Pollard says “there is a brilliant album among the 18 songs, if only it had been pruned a little.”

“The album’s lead single, ‘Me!’, is peppy and poppy in all the wrong ways,” she says, “a rictus grin of a song that rings hollow. Thank goodness that the rest of the album is nothing like that.”

“Swift has never been one to hold back, and it’s hard to resent her for it. This is the sound of a singer excited to be earnest again.”

‘Plays to the strengths of a witty songwriter in love’ – Neil McCormick, The Telegraph

“On ‘London Boy’,” begins Neil McCormick’s four-star review for The Telegraph,” Taylor Swift has conjured up a cheery paean to her British beau, actor Joe Alwyn.”

“Always the most personal of lyricists, over a swinging rock ’n’ roll beat, the US superstar sings the praises of beer mats, grey skies and cab rides through such London neighbourhoods as Shoreditch and Highgate.”

“‘You can find me in the pub, we are watching rugby with his school friends,’ she declares with the glee of a tourist indulging in local customs.”

“It’s a pleasing bit of pop fluff worthy of early Lily Allen, on an album well stocked with bright, light, snappy tunes,” and Lover “plays to the strengths of a witty songwriter in love, eager to tell anyone who will listen exactly how she feels.”

Taylor Swift performs at ANZ Stadium on November 02, 2018 in Sydney, Australia
(Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

‘Taylor Swift shakes off a reputation and returns to her old self’ – Rebecca Lewis, Metro

Again, it’s the shear breadth of tracks (all 18 of them) that gives Lover is biggest negative, according to Rebecca Lewis’ review for Metro.

“The tracklist is a solid mix of upbeat pop bangers, dreamy pop songs, heavy bass beats that make you want to clap along, and devastatingly sad ballads,” she says, “but there are some tracks that get lost among the crowded field.”

“You can’t help but wonder what power they would have had if there had been less production, but don’t worry, there’s still a taste of that cutting, bitter Taylor who publicly feuded with what seemed to be everyone between the summers of 2014 and 2017.”

Swift appears to be “keen to try new directions and new genres,” but “whether they stay in her arsenal remains to be seen.”

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