Tracks of the Month – September

Hi everyone,

I know that it’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted a blog; I’ve really fallen off track with my blogging schedule this year in comparison to last, but there have been a lot of changes and a lot of things going on in my life so, while I would’ve liked to have kept on course and posted more this year, it’s just unfortunately not been possible.

However, I always round up my top tracks at the end/beginning of every month so I’m back to do that again today. These are the songs that I was totally obsessed with throughout September and, if I’m being honest, still am now! 🙂

 

Demi Lovato – Sorry, Not Sorry

If you’re an OG follower of my blog, then you’ll know that I’m kind of in love with Demi Lovato, and her newest offering ‘Sorry Not Sorry’ is no exception. The lead single from her recently released new album, ‘Tell Me You Love Me’, it’s a light-hearted, sassy pop/R’n’B track. Described by Lovato herself as a song for the “haters”, it’s about taking an unapologetic look at yourself and indulging in a little self-praise – which I think rarely happens these days.

Lovato’s powerhouse vocals are stellar as always; exuding confidence and sexiness, whilst always toeing the line between being self-assured and full on bragging. It’s an empowerment anthem, perfect for a break-up of any kind and, having cracked the top 10 in multiple countries, including the UK, ‘Sorry Not Sorry’ has definitely sparked a fire among listeners – and rightfully so.

 

Jax Jones ft. Demi Lovato and Stefflon Don – Instruction

I can’t stress enough that this isn’t usually the type of song I go in for at all, so, again if you’re an OG follower of my blog and you’re staring at your screen open-mouthed, don’t worry – so am I. This reggaeton number from producer Jax Jones features vocals from both American singer-songwriter Demi Lovato, and emerging Brit rapper Stefflon Don.

Included on the deluxe edition of Lovato’s newest album ‘Tell Me You Love Me’, ‘Instruction’ opens with major samba vibes and a booming drum beat that carries throughout the song. Along with a sprinkling of synths, elements of hip-hop and a total boss attitude, it’s a whirlwind of colour, sexiness and Caribbean carnival vibes that definitely ensures its place as a summer/club banger.

 

Taylor Swift – Look What You Made Me Do

What can I say about the newest offering from pop music golden-girl Taylor Swift? The lead single from her hotly anticipated new album ‘Reputation’, is undeniably a shade anthem exploding with cutting sass. ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ is darker than anything we’ve ever heard from Swift, and see’s the songstress shedding her former public personas and giving into the perception of herself as a ‘snake’.

This can be seen in both the brooding cynicism of the lyrics, as well as the darkly creepy – yet fairly fairytale-esque – opening. It does sounds slightly like something you’d hear in a Disney movie, but I think that’s also part of its charm. I’m aware that it has divided opinions across the internet and it’s either a love it or hate it scenario, but personally? I’m really enjoying this song and I can really relate. If ‘LWYMMD’ is anything to go by, I can’t wait for an absolutely savage album.

 

Gavin DeGraw – I Don’t Wanna Be

I’m not all that sure that I haven’t reviewed this song before, as it’s been a favourite of mine for years. If you read my ‘Top #5 Best TV Show Theme-Tunes Ever’, then you’ll know that this was the inspiration behind it, and was a complete re-discovery of a forgotten love. If you were a noughties teenager then you may also remember Gavin DeGraw’s ‘I Don’t Want To Be’ as the theme-tune to American drama series ‘One Tree Hill’, and being that I laughed (and cried!) along with the show throughout my teen years and into my early 20’s, I am very familiar with this track.

However, the album version has more of a pop-rock feel, with its funky guitar-led opening and explosive, epic-sounding chorus. This, coupled with the inspiring coming-of-age lyrics, works to create something that is entirely addictive. Every time I hear the chorus I can’t help but get major nostalgic vibes, but it also makes me feel confident and unapologetic; you don’t need to constantly justify who you are or where you’re going in life, you do what’s best for you in that moment. It’s one of the songs I find comfort in, like re-visiting an old friend you haven’t seen in a while, but all the same feels like you never really left.

If you fancy checking out my ‘Top #5 Best TV Show Theme-Tunes Ever’, featuring this very song, click here.

 

Rak-Su – I’m Feeling You

I don’t usually include X Factor contestants/auditions in these posts, but for these boys I had to make an exception. After failing to impress the judges with their, rather flat, rendition of Justin Timberlake’s ‘Senorita’, head honcho Simon Cowell asked if he could hear another song from hopefuls, Rak-Su. They chose to perform original track ‘I’m Feeling You’, and everyone was definitely feeling it.

The pop/R’n’B number combined rap verses with a smooth, soulful – not to mention insanely addictive – chorus. The infectious beat instantly makes you want to dance, or at the very least have a little groove in your seat (just ask Nicole Scherzinger.) After their less than stellar start, it was like the boys came alive – as did everyone around them. One thing’s for sure, if ‘I’m Feeling You’ doesn’t get released as an official single, the X Factor bosses have missed a trick there.

 

Grace Davies – Roots

Another X Factor hopeful that I couldn’t not mention is, the insanely talented, Grace Davies. The 20 year old singer-songwriter, who has been singing on the pub scene since her mid-teens, stunned the judges with her intensely emotional original song, ‘Roots’. The piano-led ballad is a defiant message to all the nay-sayers who tried to knock her confidence over the years.

Davies’s vocals are instantly distinctive and extremely powerful throughout, with slight Amy Winehouse/Duffy elements wrapped within a sound that is entirely her own. This, along with a sprinkling of high notes, ensures the whole song is executed flawlessly. Its delicately simple arrangement really allows the vocals and lyrics to shine; it’s not dressed up in fancy production, and it doesn’t need to be, its raw honesty packs a punch without gimmicks. It’s undeniable that ‘Roots’ is a beautiful song, and I’m crossing everything that it will be released as a single, because it’s too good to be forgotten.

 

Also…

I’ve also been listening to a lot of Ed Sheeran’s newest album ‘Divide’ lately. I had planned to review the album when it dropped but I had to push it back due to illness, and then I felt like I kind of ‘missed the boat.’ However, I will be posting a full album review to coincide with when Sheeran embarks on his 2018 tour. But for now, I’ve been totally obsessed with poignant love-song ‘Perfect’, the upbeat ‘Galway Girl’, heart-break ballad ‘Happier’, and total shade track, ‘New Man’.

 

As always, thank you for reading! I hope I inspired you to give these songs a listen, if you haven’t already. If you like what I do here and want to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, feel free to come and join me on:

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Top #5 Best TV Show Theme-Tunes Ever

Hi everyone,

The subject of today’s blog post was actually inspired by beauty, fashion and lifestyle blogger and vlogger, ‘Meg Says’. If you’re not familiar with the YouTube community and you have no idea who Meg is, she’s a YouTuber with “a happy love for life.” She describes her channel as “a place where I can chat about anything I have to say about everything, from beauty to fashion and health to lifestyle.” Since starting her YouTube journey only two years ago, her channels, ‘Meg Says’ and ‘Meg Says Vlog’, have amassed 78 thousand and 7.9 thousand subscribers respectively – and you only have to watch a few of her videos to find out why. Her candid, yet quirky, content is both informative and – at times – amusing, and her honest and friendly personality welcomes viewers in; almost like you’re catching up with an old friend.

Anyway, I digress. I watched an old vlog of hers last week titled ‘A self-care day: Blogger mail & feeling really poorly’, during which she tells viewers that she has been watching American drama ‘One Tree Hill’, and shows a short clip of the theme-tune – her feet hilariously wiggling along to the song all the while. Now, I loved ‘One Tree Hill’ growing up; I laughed, I cried and I fully fell in love with the characters and their lives. So, when I saw the clip, while it instantly made me want to curl up and watch ‘OTH’, it also reminded me how much I loved the theme-song too. In a strange coincidence, a little while later that very same day, I was scrolling through my Facebook memories and found an old post from years ago sharing a link to the song and saying how ‘obsessed’ with it I was at the time – spooky!

I took to Twitter to express the sudden surge of nostalgia, and as I was writing ‘best theme-tune ever!’ it got me thinking about other iconic TV show theme-songs and questioning myself. I started thinking ‘what about this one?’ ‘What about that one?’ (Needless to say I amended my tweet!)

After so many iconic and instantly recognisable title songs popped into my head, I decided it’d be fun to do a #Top 5 list of the best TV show theme-tunes. All of my picks are quite old-school (they just don’t seem to make ‘em like they used to anymore!) and as soon as you hear them you can’t help but think of the show they’re attached to. You also can’t help but sing-along – I dare you to try not to!

I understand that different age groups will remember different things and so may have different opinions, these are just my picks of what really sticks in my head from when I was growing up as a nineties kid and noughties teen.

 

#1 One Tree Hill – ‘I Don’t Want To Be’ by Gavin Degraw

My first pick, and the inspiration for this blog post in general, is the opening theme to ‘One Tree Hill’. Written and performed by pop-rock singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw, the somewhat stripped back version of ‘I Don’t Want To Be’ featured in the programme’s opening titles for the entirety of its nine season run, making it DeGraw’s biggest hit to date. As a result of hearing it on the show, I then went and found the full album version, and I absolutely love that too. The funky guitar-led verses, the epic-sounding chorus, and its inspiring coming-of-age lyrics, combine to make something undeniably addictive. Every time I hear the chorus I can’t help but smile and get major nostalgic vibes, but it also makes me think ‘I’ve got this.’ 🙂 .

 

#2 Friends – ‘I’ll Be There For You’ by The Rembrandts

Need I say anything, really? I’m sure everyone in the western world has heard of ‘Friends’ and its trademark theme-song. You can’t help but clap along to those bits – you know what I mean – and if it’s ever played out of context of a ‘Friends’ episode, on the radio or something, you can’t help but think of the sitcom. Originally less than a minute long and penned for the programme, a looped version made its way onto radio and was so popular that the song had to be extended and re-recorded as a pop track. Its upbeat and catchy nature is very much like the comedy show its self: light-hearted, jovial and fun. It’s as much a part of the show’s identity as the characters.

 

#3 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – ‘Yo Home To Bel-Air’ by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince

Nowadays Will Smith is a well-known name in the film and music industry, but every 90’s kid must remember the show that spring-boarded his acting career, right? The loud outfits, the hilarious dance moves and the banter between street-wise Will and the other conservative characters? Of course I’m talking about The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. Being that this show first aired between 1990 and 1996 it saddens me to think that kids of the new generation might not know what The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is, or the shining gem that was its title music. The Hip-Hop song is upbeat with undeniably memorable lyrics and is overall, catchy as hell. My friend and I used to sing this to/at/with each other at random intervals when we lived together at uni, and it was hilarious. Even as recently as 2013, Will Smith appeared on The Graham Norton Show with his son Jaden (and some surprise guests) during which they performed the iconic song and some other hilarious moments from the programme. The fact that both the song and the show are over 20 years old, yet it still gets played on TV and in clubs with everybody rapping along, is testament to how much of a cult favourite The Fresh Prince really was.

 

#4 The OC – ‘California’ by Phantom Planet

Another noughties American teen drama with an instantly recognisable accompanying track.
Originally released in 2002 as part of Phantom Planet’s album ‘The Guest’, ‘California’ was then picked up to be the title song for ‘The O.C’ when it hit the air in 2003. Best known for this particular track thanks to the cult success of the programme, Phantom Planet then went on to crack the Top 10 in a number of countries – including the UK – with ‘California’. This song has major summer vibes for me, and is made for the stadium/festival environment. I can imagine the chorus inducing mass singalongs and filling every part of an arena.

 

#5 Kenan and Kel – ‘Aw, Here It Goes’ by Coolio

Let’s be honest, has there been a cooler theme-song to grace Nickelodeon since ‘Kenan and Kel’? It’s just not the same nowadays. I mean c’mon, it’s performed by none other than the voice of 90’s track ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, Coolio. Similar to The Fresh Prince of Bell Air, it has that Hip-Hop vibe that you can’t help but have a little groove to thanks to the infectious instrumental and rap vocals, and the lyrics even manage to incorporate Kel Kimble’s famous phrase ‘awwww, here it goes!’ Definitely one a 90’s kid would remember 🙂 .

 

As always, thank you for reading! What are your favourite TV show theme-tunes? Are there any that you think I should’ve included? I’d love to see what other people’s choices would be, so feel free to compile your own list and send me the link, or let me know in a comment!

I’d also like to shout-out to Meg for having great taste in TV and, inadvertently, inspiring this blog post! Thanks Meg 🙂 .

If you’d like to check out Meg’s YouTube channels and keep up to date with her, you can do so on:

YouTube (Main)  /  YouTube (Vlogs)  /  Meg Says Blog  /  Twitter  /  Instagram

 

Also, if you like what I do here and want to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, why not come and join me on:

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Tracks of the Month – July/August

Hi everyone, I hope you’re all well and that you made the most of the UK sunshine while it lasted. It even managed to stay dry and sunny on Bank Holiday Monday – that never happens! 😮

I know my blogging schedule has been a bit up the wall lately, and all I can say to that is that I’ve had a really busy and stressful summer. But, I’m back today to bring you my ‘Tracks of the Month’ for both July and August. Honestly, the phrase ‘Late-to-the-party’ seems to be a bit of a recurring theme throughout this month’s selections, but I thought I’d share them with you anyway 🙂 . Let’s go.

 

Niall Horan – This Town

The first solo single from ex One Direction-er Niall Horan, ‘Little Town’ is a stripped back acoustic ballad with a folk-pop vibe. This cutesy, yet sentimental love-song also comprises a very simple, soft arrangement; making it all the more poignant as it allows the romantic lyrics to be the main focus. This, coupled with the beautiful guitar-led melody, works to create something delicately impactful.

 

The Chainsmokers ft. Coldplay – Something Just like this

If you’re a fan of either of these bands, or you’ve just generally been keeping up to date with the current pop charts, you’ll know that this song was actually released way back in February. So, I hear you ask, why have I waited until now to feature it in a ‘Tracks I’m Loving’? Honestly, it was a bit of a slow burner for me; I’m not the biggest Coldplay fan so it never really struck me as something I must listen to. However, I kept hearing it in passing and eventually the chorus got stuck in my head and I decided I had to listen to it properly. Taken from the Chainsmokers debut album ‘Memories…Do Not Open’, ‘Something Just Like This’ is upbeat, totally infectious and an all-round absolute banger. As is their signature style, it’s a whirlwind of electro-pop brilliance, topped off with vocals from Coldplay frontman, Chris Martin. I’m glad I gave it a proper chance.

 

The Subways – Rock & Roll Queen

I only recently discovered this 2005 release after it featured on BBC Three’s dramatization of the death of Sophie Lancaster, ‘Murdered For Being Different’. However, seeing as it has also been included on multiple TV pieces – including noughties cult favourite ‘The OC’, as well as the trailer for 2008 Guy Ritchie Movie ‘RocknRolla’ – I can’t fathom how I’d never heard it before. ‘Rock & Roll Queen’ is a dark and gritty indie track drenched in old-school punk rock vibes, with Billy Lunn’s unique vocals giving it a distinctive edge. Boasting a great rhythm that you can’t help but groove to and an insanely addictive chorus, I can imagine it’s a massive crowd pleaser at gigs and festivals.

If you want to check out my review of ‘Murdered For Being Different’, click here.

 

Placebo – Running Up That Hill

A total re-discovery for me, after it was also featured on ‘Murdered For Being Different’, is Placebo’s eerily haunting cover of Kate Bush classic ‘Running Up That Hill’. Set to the sound of Brain Molko’s undeniably distinctive vocals, this version of the song has more of a brooding, atmospheric, almost filmic quality. I feel that it worked really well in ‘Murdered For Being Different’ due to where and how it was used; as I said in my original article about the programme: ‘The film closes with a selection of images of Maltby and Lancaster together, set to the tune of Placebo’s version of Kate Bush classic ‘Running Up That Hill’ – the lyrics making it even more poignant.’ It stayed with me long after the film had finished.

 

Linkin Park – Numb

This is another definite throwback to my teenage Emo days. Taken from Linkin Park’s 2003 full-length release ‘Meteora’, ‘Numb’ is arguably one of the rock band’s most popular, iconic songs. The instantly recognisable synth-led opening, closely followed by the crashing mix of drums and guitars, has a somewhat nostalgic feel: like re-visiting an old friend. Tragically, Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington took his own life in July, and I listened to this track a lot in the wake of his death; it’s without doubt my favourite song from the band. Bennington’s vocals are flawlessly smooth and powerfully gritty at times, and their angsty lyrics – bursting with emotion – hit even harder now. As I said in my previous blog post: ‘It’s music that gave so many people, so many ‘outsiders’, something to relate to in one way or another; voicing things that perhaps we as listeners, couldn’t. It brought the ‘outsiders’ in; helping people through their personal tribulations by sharing their own.’

If you’d like to see my previous tribute to Chester Bennington, click here.

 

As always, thank you for reading! I hope I inspired you to give these songs a listen, if you somehow haven’t heard them already. If you like what I do here and want to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, feel free to come and join me on:

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🙂

Tuesday Chats: Is Blogging A Hobby or Is Blogging My Job?

Hey everyone, and welcome to another of my Tuesday Chats.

In case you didn’t know ‘Tuesday Chats’ is a series I started earlier in the year because I noticed that, while my content is becoming more formal and professional, I don’t have many posts whereby I just chat to you and let more of my personality come through. Because of this, I wanted to incorporate a thread that’s a bit more informal where I can write chattier pieces about things that are on my mind, as opposed to articles and reviews which by nature have to be very structured.

Today I want to talk about something that I’ve touched on this a few times in previous uploads, but nevertheless get asked quite frequently by a lot of people, from musicians to people in my personal life. That is, whether blogging is just a hobby or if it’s my job.

If you’ve ever wondered if blogging is my job, my answer to you is, quite simply, no. I went to university and did a Music Journalism degree in the hope that I could make my living out of writing about music in some way, but no, blogging is not currently my job nor do I get paid for anything you see on here. However, I don’t think of blogging as ‘just’ anything. Even though I don’t earn money from my blog, it is something that I put a huge amount of time and effort into, simply because I enjoy it. It’s just me: my creative outlet.

My drive comes from my genuine love and passion for music, and wanting to share that music with, hopefully, someone who will take it to their heart and enjoy it just as much. I also hope to help my favourite bands and artists reach a wider audience so they can continue to make music – exposing people to something they may not have heard otherwise is just a bonus.

As such, I’m extremely grateful to anyone who takes the time to read something I’ve written – whether you follow me on social media or you just stumbled across my blog through search – because if there was no one reading during the, almost, seven years I’ve been doing this, I wouldn’t be able to. What would be the point?

Similarly, I can’t even explain how it feels when an artist I’ve written about ‘likes’, re-tweets or shares my work on social media, or reaches out to thank me or give me positive feedback on what I’ve written – it’s totally indescribable and I never feel entitled to it, or even expect it, so it’s always exciting when it happens. As I’ve said in previous blog posts, the reason I write about any artist is because, at the core of everything, I’m a fan of what they’re doing and there’s a certain amount of admiration and respect there. So, it means so much to me that an artist I admire likes my work enough to share it with their friends and fan-bases; to get any kind of positive feedback is an awesome thing for little ol’ me who sits in my bedroom and writes reviews about music that I’m passionate about, and want to share.

I’d love nothing more than to be a full-time blogger but, honestly, I’m just unsure about how to make that happen. People often mention, and I know of/follow, a lot of beauty bloggers/vloggers who do make their living online, however, music is a completely different industry. Beauty bloggers/vloggers can be paid by brands for ads and sponsored videos, whereas I can’t start charging artists for interviews and reviews because nobody would want to do it, nor would I want to. A lot of the artists I write about aren’t known in the mainstream yet, so I want to give them a helping hand, not take what little money they have from their pockets.

However, this is only the second year that I’ve been able to focus my time solely on my blogging. Previously, it had always come second to my degree or my job, and I can definitely see that reflected in the view-count. With that being said, I don’t plan on being unemployed forever; I hope to find a job where I can utilise my journalism skills, or at the very least find another career path that I enjoy and keep this as a hobby.

Some people may not necessarily like to hear it but, ideally, I’d love to make blogging my business, and that’s the truth. For some reason it seems to be frowned upon to admit that, like it’s a bit of a dirty word, but surely if you spend a lot of your time creating something why wouldn’t you want, potentially, the whole world to see it? It’s not to say that I want ‘fame and fortune’ at all, I’d just love to support myself with what I do online as I put so much into it.  Either way, I will continue to do what I love and I hope that my blog continues to go from strength to strength throughout this year and beyond.

 

Are you a blogger looking to monetise your platform? Or, did you turn your online presence into your career? How did you get started? Let’s start a discussion in the comments and maybe help each other out.

If you’re interested in reading my previous Tuesday Chat about whether or not I have the ‘right’ to talk about music, click here.

 

As always, thank you for reading! If you like what I do here and you want to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, be sure to come and join me on:

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The Music of Linkin Park: A Tribute To Chester Bennington

On July 20th 2017, the music world was shaken to the core as news broke that Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington had been found dead in his home.

Over the past few weeks I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to post some sort of tribute to Chester Bennington; I wondered if people would consider it distasteful. However, seeing as his voice, and the music of Linkin Park, were such a big part of the soundtrack to my growing up, I decided that I wanted to share something – a Linkin Park appreciation post, if you will.

For those of you that are somehow unaware, Chester Bennington, the voice of popular rock band Linkin Park, tragically took his own life last month, just hours after the band released their new music video for ‘Talking To Myself’. Bennington dealt with a lot in his 41 years, including multiple substance addictions, alcoholism, and experiencing sexual abuse at a young age. He died on what would have been, fellow musician, Chris Cornell’s 53rd birthday; a close friend of Bennington who also committed suicide by hanging only two months prior.

When news of Chester Bennington’s death broke I was shell-shocked. I saw Linkin Park trending on Twitter, then I started seeing posts ending in ‘RIP Chester’ and the like. My mouth dropped open and I went straight to Google where I found multiple reports confirming the singer’s death. Even though I didn’t know Chester Bennington, or even meet him, the news really hit me because the music of Linkin Park was a huge part of the soundtrack to my teenage years – they were one of the first bands that really solidified my love for rock music.

When I was around 14 and just starting to listen to rock, one of my friends lent me a Linkin Park album; little did I know that I would play it for weeks on end afterwards. The album was ‘Meteora’. The 2003 release features, now iconic, songs such as ‘Somewhere I Belong’ and ‘Numb’, as well as other favourites of mine including, ‘Faint’, ‘Breaking The Habit’ and ‘From The Inside’.

I really took the band’s music to my heart in my teens; something that I’m sure is true for many who grew up in that same era and identified with the music for whatever reason. I loved their composition of smooth vocals, rap, and raw screams, as well as the emotion that went into their angsty lyrics – lyrics that hit even harder now. It was music that gave so many people, so many ‘outsiders’, something to relate to in one way or another; voicing things that perhaps we as listeners, couldn’t. It brought the ‘outsiders’ in; helping people through their personal tribulations by sharing their own.

However, the haunting thing in light of Bennington’s suicide is where those songs came from. This sentiment is expressed perfectly in the band’s official statement following Bennington’s death: “It was the way you sang about those demons that made everyone fall in love with you in the first place. You fearlessly put them on display and, in doing so, brought us together and taught us to be more human.” Bennington’s wife, Talinda also released a heart-felt statement to Rolling Stone, in which she described her husband as a “bright, loving soul” and said that he is “now pain-free singing his songs in all our hearts.”

And, you only have to glance around to know that Bennington lives on in the heart of many; with tributes flooding in from fans and fellow musicians alike, both online and in the outside world. This love was also shown in that, in the wake of Bennington’s death, there were no less than 26 Linkin Park songs featured in the official UK rock top 40, with every slot in the top 15 filled by a track from the band.

Chester Bennington was many things: The voice of a generation, an icon, a true rock legend. But, away from the crowds, he was also, a son, a husband and a father. Whether you knew him personally, or as a fan of his music, or perhaps even a bit of both, one thing is absolutely certain: he is undoubtedly missed. But, for those of us who carry Linkin Park in our hearts, Chester Bennington will continue to live on through the music.

 

Sophie says: As said, Chester Bennington’s death sent a massive ripple through the music world, and to know that he took his own life is heart-breaking. If you, or anyone you know, is struggling please talk to someone – whether it be a parent, a friend, a teacher, a doctor, or some sort of professional, just know that there are people out there who can help. There will always be someone who will be there for you, and you don’t have to go through it alone.

RIP Chester.

Murdered For Being Different: The Death of Sophie Lancaster.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of the horrific attack that led to her death, BBC Three have released a harrowing one-off film portraying the events that ended in Sophie Lancaster’s brutal murder.

Nico Mirallegro as Robert Maltby, and Abigail Lawrie as Sophie Lancaster

I want to write something different today. Something that matters. Something that means something. I sat down to watch the BBC Three dramatization of Sophie Lancaster’s death, Murdered For Being Different, and I knew I wasn’t in for an easy watch by any means, but I don’t think I could have ever really prepared myself for how the hour-long film made me feel.

‘Murdered For Being Different’ tells the true story of the vicious, hate-motivated attack on 20-year-old Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend Robert Maltby, which stemmed from the way they were dressed; they were Goths. After striking up a conversation with a group of strangers at a local petrol station, the friendly young couple – who had met two years previously – went with them to Stubbylee Park in Bacup, Lancashire, where Maltby was singled out in the completely unprovoked attack.

Image from BBC Three’s ‘Murdered For Being Different’

After Maltby and Lancaster spoke with the group and shared their cigarettes among them, five (then) teenage boys launched themselves at Maltby, kicking, punching and stamping on him until he was unconscious. Lancaster, who knelt by his side and cradled his head in her arms – assumedly trying to protect him from any further blows – was then also kicked and stamped upon repeatedly. Their injuries were so severe that both Maltby and Lancaster were left in comas. Maltby awoke a week later with little memory of what took place but, tragically, Lancaster never regained consciousness.

Having followed the story of Sophie Lancaster since my mid-teens (which I will talk more about later), when I saw ‘Murdered For Being Different’ online I was instantly intrigued. However, as I watched the brutally powerful re-telling, the gut-wrenching fact that these events actually happened hit home all over again. Told from the point of view of survivor Robert Maltby – played by Nico Mirallegro (Hollyoaks, My Mad Fat Diary) – factual drama ‘Murdered For Being Different’, interestingly also looks behind the attack and into the lives of Robert Maltby and Sophie Lancaster – played by Abigail Lawrie (The Casual Vacancy) – as a couple.

As the drama starts, a black screen is illuminated with the words ‘this is a true story’ in capitals. Five words made all the more menacing when you know what is to come. The twinkling, fairytale-esque, instrumental of ‘Pure Imagination’ quickly follows: beautiful yet chilling. The audience is then shown snippets of the events to come, ending with the frantic 999 phone-call and sound of sirens.

The film then takes audiences back two years before the attack, depicting the beginning of Maltby and Lancaster’s relationship. From their first meeting at a gig – set to the sound of The Subways’ ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Queen’ – to their first kiss; made all the more tender thanks to the piano version of the Pixies’ track ‘Where Is My Mind’. In another heart-warming scene, viewers see keen artist Maltby painting wings on Lancaster’s back, telling her ‘you’re an angel, you need wings.’ We also see him return home in the early hours of the morning, having travelled to buy Lancaster the final Harry Potter book and walking home in the rain. As the story unfolds it becomes increasingly apparent that their relationship was extremely affectionate and gentle; they were really in love. It shows that at their core they were just people, normal people who wanted to express their individuality in how they dressed.

However, the film also highlighted a darker side of their lives, regularly receiving abuse for their Gothic look: being called names, chased and threatened. The pair chose to rise above it, with Lancaster saying that “hiding means the idiots win.” This attitude is shown excellently at the end of the film as – after saying goodbye to an unresponsive Lawrie – Mirallegro is seen lacing up his boots, re-applying eye-liner to his heavily bruised face, re-adorning himself in his Gothic accessories, and nodding at his reflection before leaving the hospital to walk through Bacup market; refusing to hide himself and who he is.

The story is told in an extremely effective way throughout, using a series of flashbacks and cutaway’s, so upcoming events are hinted at and half-seen before being played in full towards the end. This technique also works to build tension and create a stark, unflinching contrast between the gentle, almost dream-like beginning of their relationship, to the gritty, graphic reconstruction of the disturbing attack that changed Maltby’s life and took Lancaster’s – making it an incredibly hard watch.

At the end of the heart-breaking drama, the sentences received by those involved are flashed up on-screen next to the faces of the respective actors who played them; three of the five young men have since been released from prison, while the other two are currently serving life sentences. Also shown is a frightening statistic: an astonishing 70,000 hate crime incidents were reported only last year in the UK. The highest it’s ever been. The film closes with a selection of images of Maltby and Lancaster together, set to the tune of Placebo’s eerily haunting version of Kate Bush classic ‘Running Up That Hill’ – the lyrics making it even more poignant.

I remember when I first read about this in ‘Kerrang!’ magazine when it happened back in 2007. I was 16. I didn’t know Sophie Lancaster or Robert Maltby but it’s impossible not to be moved by this story. It immediately resonated with me back then because I was also seen as ‘different’. I wore black eye-shadow, listened to heavy rock music, had a Jack Skellington bag shaped like a coffin, and changed my hair colour every few weeks; from red to blue, to black to pink. Everyone thought I was a little bit weird, and I got some light-hearted jibes thrown my way – but I was lucky, there was no malice in it. I was never into anything dodgy or dangerous, I wasn’t a Satanist, I just liked the Goth aesthetic; wearing black and being a bit different. Most of the other girls I knew were all about having perfectly brushed hair, re-applying make-up in classes, chasing the ‘cool’ boys…that wasn’t me. I was always championing individuality, and even scrawled ‘don’t be afraid to be yourself’ across one of my old school bags – which was met with questionable looks and raised eyebrows.

When this story broke, I felt sick reading the reports; I couldn’t believe that something so senseless and brutal had happened. How could someone do that to someone else? To punch, kick and stamp on someone’s head until they’re unconscious – and for what? After Sophie passed away, her mother Sylvia – who received an OBE in 2014 – set up a charity in her daughter’s name. The Sophie Lancaster Foundation works to spread awareness of alternative subcultures in society and the distressing effects of hate-crime, all the while keeping her memory alive. The charity – which stands for ‘Stamp Out Prejudice Hate and Intolerance Everywhere’ – teaches at primary, secondary and university level, as well as offering training courses, and working with the police and justice system with the view to prevent further crimes of this nature.

‘Murdered For Being Different’ is a powerful telling of a harrowing story; the film’s contrasting dual focus, first of Maltby and Lancaster’s relationship and then the horrific attack, making it all the more hard-hitting. It’s upsetting at times, but executed extremely well by the writers, director and actors. The emotion, from poignancy to brutality and everything in between, really came across – almost as though it reached out and grabbed you. It’s something that will stay with you after the credits have long finished rolling.

 

Weirdo? Mosher? Freak?

Human being.

 

 

Links:

  • If you haven’t already, you can still catch ‘Murdered For Being Different’ on BBC Iplayer, click here to watch it.
  • Along with his involvement in ‘Murdered For Being Different’, Robert Maltby has also spoken out about the attack, his recovery and his views – for the first and only time in ten years – in an interview with The Guardian. The article also highlights that Maltby went on to finish his illustration degree and now wants to move forward with his life as an artist. Click here to take a look at his portfolio, and click here to read the article.
  • While researching for this piece, I found a series of interviews on BBC Three’s YouTube channel in relation to the film, which included Tracy Maltby, Sylvia Lancaster and Robert Maltby, which I found really interesting. I also came across an interview with Sally Lindsay – who plays Tracy Maltby – and Slyvia Lancaster on ‘Lorraine’, where they talk about the film, Sophie’s memory and the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.
  • The Foundation’s official website also offers merchandise, to further spread the message that prejudice, hate and intolerance is not okay, with the proceeds going on to support the cause and the work that they do. The staff can also be found selling merchandise at festivals around the UK, including ‘Bloodstock’ which has a stage named after Sophie herself.
  • There are many annual fund-raising events that take place in support of S.O.P.H.I.E. You can keep up to date with any upcoming functions via social media:

Facebook / Instagram.

 

Jammin’ In July: My Musical Alphabet

Greetings readers,

Today I’m taking inspiration from fellow music-blogger Daria, from The Music Wonderland, who created her own musical alphabet. I thought it was a great way to share your favourite artists, so I asked if I could upload my own version and she said yes. So, I’ve combed my ITunes, album collection, and previous blogs to bring you my favourite artists for each letter of the alphabet – complete with some throwbacks in there too.

(There are a few gaps towards the end though, sorry!)

 

A – Against The Current

One of my favourite bands at the moment, New Yorkers Against The Current also dropped one of my favourite albums of 2016 with their debut release, ‘In Our Bones’. They have a lot of different elements to their sound, from danceable pop-driven tracks to dark, brooding rock vibes, which all combine to make something undeniably addictive.

To see my review of ATC’s debut album ‘In Our Bones’, click here.

 

B – Bring Me The Horizon

BMTH have been around since my early teens but, admittedly, I have only really gotten into their music recently. Whilst I liked the rough and raw screamo sound of previous releases, I couldn’t listen to it for too long; I couldn’t understand the lyrics, I couldn’t sing along, it just didn’t hit me in the same way that bands like Bullet For My Valentine did at the time, with their darkly twisted debut album ‘The Poison’. However, with their newest release ‘That’s The Spirit’ came a new sound that I’m totally into. Gone are the undecipherable lyrics and discordant arrangements, to be replaced by a melodic stadium-rock vibe. Their trademark ferocity is still there, but has evolved into something different – a change for the better in my opinion.

To see my review of Bring Me The Horizon’s newest release ‘That’s The Spirit’, click here.

 

C – Cassadee Pope

If you were into the pop-punk scene in early 2007 when the female fronted era exploded, then you may recognise ex Hey Monday front woman Cassadee Pope. Having been a fan of the band since their formation in 2008, I was crushed when they decided to go on hiatus with only one album to their name – 2008’s ‘Hold On Tight’. Following their short-lived time as a band, I was beyond intrigued when I found that Pope went on to become a contestant on The Voice USA; following her journey through the competition, which ultimately saw her crowned the winner. She has since released her debut album ‘Frame By Frame’, which reached #1 in the US Country music chart.

To see my article on Cassadee Pope following her win on The Voice USA, click here.

 

D – Demi Lovato

Quite simply, I absolutely adore Demi Lovato. From her musical ability and captivating power-house vocals, to her confidence to speak candidly about her personal struggles, I think that she is someone to be admired.

For more about why I like Demi Lovato, and why she is #1 on my ‘Top 10 Interview Wish-List, click here.

 

E – Ed Sheeran

Simply put? Ed Sheeran is amazing. I truly believe that he is one of the biggest icons of my generation. He has gone from strength to strength within the industry over the years, not just with his own albums but working behind the scenes on hits for other artists, including Justin Bieber, Major Lazer and One Direction. Everything he has done, to this day, has been absolute fire; with one chart hit after another. And, since the release of his newest album ‘Divide’, 2017 has so far been another massive year for our favourite red-head – already having made history by occupying both the #1 and #2 spot in the charts with ‘comeback’ singles ‘Shape Of You’ and ‘Castle On The Hill’ respectively. He gets better and better with each album.

To see my review of ‘Shape Of You’ and ‘Castle On The Hill’, click here.

 

F – Francheschi (Elissa)

I’ve been a fan of Elissa Franceschi’s music since my late teens. Introduced to her after she did guest vocals on You Me At Six track ‘Always Attract’, I then went on to check out her solo music – and fell in love. The soulful songstress has a beautifully delicate, yet powerful, quality to her vocals and her music is always mesmerising; full of honesty and overflowing with poignancy. She is currently on a musical hiatus, as she has been for the last few years, but there have been some little signs online that could hint at a possible return to music soon – here’s hoping! It’s been far too long.

To see my review of Elissa Franceschi’s EP ‘Devoid of Rue’, click here.

 

G – Green Day

One of my first favourite bands back when I first discovered rock music, Green Day were a huge part of the soundtrack to my early teens. Admittedly, I don’t listen to them nowadays, but there will always be a special place in my heart for them.

 

H – Hobbie Stuart

Honey-voiced heart-throb Hobbie Stuart, is a pop singer-songwriter and vlogger. Having built an online following via YouTube over the last six years, Stuart uploads both cover videos and original material to his channel. His smooth, r’n’b-tinged vocals seem to be able to wrap themselves around any song; leaving their own stamp on existing tracks and giving life to his own songs. Having seen him play a short set in Brighton, where he also turned on the town’s Christmas lights, it’s fair to say that he’s just as good live as he is on record – a rare quality nowadays. As well as his hypnotising vocals, Stewart’s hilariously candid personality also comes across in his vlogs, making them even more entertaining. You just can’t help but love him, really.

To check out my initial ‘One to Watch’ on Hobbie Stuart, click here.

For my live review of Stuart’s short set at Brighton’s Christmas light’s switch on, click here.

 

I – Issues

I discovered this metalcore six-piece after recommendation from a friend of mine, and I’m so glad I gave them a listen. Their thrashing yet melodic sound draws on a multitude of different genres, from heavy rock to electronic, and even some R&B. There is a brutal heaviness running through every track, which is lifted by honey-voiced vocalist Tyler Carter’s melodic tone as it drizzles over the gravelly sounds of Michael Bohn’s aggressive screams. This provides a great contrast and incorporating elements of other genres also brings something different to the table, keeping things interesting.

To see my introductory ‘One To Watch’ on Issues, click here.

 

J – Justin Timberlake

Sorry, I’m not sorry. Justin Timberlake is up there with some of the best male vocalists in the pop scene. From the curly-haired kid in boyband Nsync to the suave pin-up that girls fantasize over, JT and his music continue to stand the test of time – his smooth brand of r’n’b drenched pop still winning hearts, and awards, worldwide.

 

K – Kelly Clarkson

Again, another artist whose vocals continue to always cause a stir in the pop charts, fifteen years after she became the first ever winner of American Idol. Kelly Clarkson has an amazing voice; strong, bold and powerful, both on and off record. The majority of her music centres on themes such as heart-break, self-empowerment and independence, much of which really speaks to me. Her second studio album ‘Breakaway’ was a big part of the soundtrack to my early teens, with its pop-rock sound and dark undertones.

 

L – Luke Pickett

Luke Pickett is an artist that, I don’t think, gets as much recognition as he should. I discovered Pickett’s music 10 years ago, thanks to my friend using his track ‘Empty Corridors’ as her profile song on Myspace – remember those days?! I fell in love with it and soon became addicted to other songs such as ‘Going Down With This Ship’, ‘Dream Love Cure’ and ‘Cruel Love’. I even came close to interviewing him for this blog at the very beginning, after emailing his management, but somehow it fell through. I still go back and listen to those old songs from time to time, and I’m always keeping an eye on his new stuff. With his level of talent, impeccable, addictive vocals and ability to craft a captivating, poignant song, I can’t understand how he’s not a mainstream artist!

 

M – My Chemical Romance

The mouth-piece for an entire musical movement, and responsible for starting a conversation about the misunderstanding of subcultures, My Chemical Romance became the voice of a generation of misfit teens and in the process became revered; seen almost like heroes. Their music spoke to so many people (including myself) and created a community. Over the years, and the many colours/styles of Gerard Way’s hair, they created so many iconic moments that will always be remembered. I’m so glad I got to see them live before they split; it still hurts my heart a little that they’re not together anymore.

 

N – Nirvana

Another band that I, admittedly, don’t listen to anymore, but who influenced my music tastes back in the day. When I started listening to rock music in my mid-teens, Nirvana were a band that I inevitably came across; I say inevitably because you can’t have not heard of them if you’re into rock, I mean everybody knows who Kurt Cobain is, right? I loved the overall vibe of their music, (I used to be into the heavier stuff!) Kurt’s gruff and gravelly vocals, and I’ve always been interested in their/his compelling story. It’s not at all surprising to me that their music continues to influence musicians and have an effect on people, to this day.

 

O – Out Of Sight

Having disbanded quite a few years ago, you might think it’s weird that I chose to include pop-punk band Out Of Sight. However, after seeing them supporting You Me At Six live back in 2009, they were a band that left a lasting impression and I loved their music. Luckily, when I did work experience for Kerrang! that same year, I was given a copy of their demo CD by Katie P after I told her how much I liked them. To this day, I’m still so thankful to her for that because, if she hadn’t, their music would be 100% lost to me – and I’m so glad that it isn’t. I still listen to it from time to time and it never fails to put a smile on my face.

 

P – Panic! At The Disco

Another band that were a big part of the 2007 explosion of ‘emo’/pop-punk artists in the rock scene, you couldn’t not like Panic! At The Disco. Their single ‘I Write Sins Not Tragedies’ is now a cult favourite among people of that era – there was a time when everyone was singing along to that chorus!. Over the years they’ve headlined the likes of Reading Festival and gained national airplay on Radio One, and continue to sell out arenas to this day.

 

Q – Queen

Not a band that I listen to regularly, but Queen is an absolute classic – there’s no doubt about it. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, ‘I Want To Break Free’… everyone knows at least one of their songs, and they’re great to dance to!

 

R – Room 94

I discovered Room 94 thanks to Twitter back in 2012, and they quickly went on to become one of my favourite bands at the time. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you may know that I tried for an entire year to get an interview with the boys and, after meeting them at multiple shows, luckily got that chance at the Brighton date of their 2013 ‘Three Brothers and One Kit’ summer tour. It’s still one of the most fun interviews I’ve ever done and they’re really lovely and funny guys – I’d interview them again in a heartbeat!

To see my interview with Room 94, click here.

 

S – Set It Off

This Floridian foursome have been one of my favourite bands for a few years, after discovering them when I was invited to interview them at a show. I’d never listened to them, or seen them live, but their stage presence and show changed that irrevocably. So taken was I that I went straight to their merch desk after their set and bought their debut – and at the time, only – album ‘Cinematics’, which I listened to in its entirety for months. I’ve kept up to date with their releases ever since, and seen their sound evolve from dark and twisted orchestral pop-rock, to something lighter and increasingly pop-based, all whilst retaining that certain Set It Off something.

To see my review of Set It Off’s second album ‘Duality’ click here.
I’ve also done short reviews of a handful of their songs from newest album ‘Upside Down’. To see those, click here (Uncontainable), here (Something New) and here (Crutch).

 

T – The Summer Set

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, then you’ll know that The Summer Set are one of my Top 5 favourite bands ever! I try to see them live every time they come to the UK and each time is always more fun than the last; they never fail to put on an amazing show, it’s like a party that nobody wants to end. I love their unique brand of inspirational, poignant, summery, feel good pop-rock, made even more distinctive by Brian Dales’ original vocal tone. I’ve bought every album they’ve ever released and their music just gets better and better over the years. Their newest release ‘Stories For Monday’ was one of my top albums of last year and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next!

I’ve actually been lucky enough to chat to John Gomez, Jess Bowen and Brian Dales on separate occasions and they’re all lovely (the latter I even managed to interview before a show at Kingston Peel, despite him being a little worse for wear!)

To see my review of the band’s newest album ‘Stories For Monday’, click here.
And, to see my review of the last time I saw them live, at Portsmouth’s Wedgewood Rooms, click here.

U – —–

 

V – Versaemerge

Another great band that, sadly, aren’t together in this format currently, Versaemerge were part of the second wave of the pop-punk/emo scene. When the likes of Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco were established they paved the way for similar bands to breakout, one of them being Versaemerge. After being signed by the front-running label of the era, Fuelled By Ramen, Versaemerge released their debut – and sadly only – album ‘Fixed At Zero’. Over the years they battled a lot of obstacles, including significant line-up changes, as well as the long wait between releases. By the time a second album looked to be forming it came with a change of sound, gone was the dark melodic rock, in favour of an electronic vibe; times and the scene had changed. Shortly after, remaining members, Sierra Kusterbeck and Blake Harnage decided to reinvent themselves as Versa, an entirely new entity. However, the status of the band is unclear as no new material has been released, and vocalist Sierra now fronts new musical project ‘Neaux’. One thing’s for sure, I hope they revive Versa at some point because I’d be so sad if they just faded away.

As a female, Sierra was one of my main inspirations of that time, and while I was at university I was actually lucky enough to interview Blake Harnage for an article I was working on about fan-funding. To see that article, click here.

 

W – Waltzz

A young aspiring rapper that reached out to me for a review back in 2015, Waltzz is now a name that you’ll definitely be familiar with if you follow my blog regularly. Full of passion and unrivalled drive, Waltzz – real name Liam Stewart – is an artist that I really admire. From his music (and his passion for it) to the overall message he tries to convey, he is definitely worth checking out. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting him and he’s a really great, down to earth guy too – which is always a plus!

To see my review of Waltzz’s most recent single ‘I’m Alright’, click here.

 

X – —-

 

Y – You Me At Six

You Me At Six have been one of my favourite bands since I was seventeen and, now in my mid-twenties, they still are. Over the years I’ve seen them grow with their music and, in turn, I have grown up with it. So many of their songs serve as a reminder of many different events and happenings, and I have nothing but fond memories of seeing them live – all 10+ times! They have yet to make an album that I dislike, and my only hope is that they continue making music for a long time yet!

To read my review of You Me At Six’s latest album ‘Night People’, click here.

 

Z – —-

 

And there you have it – if you got this far, to you I give the biggest of high-fives. I hope that I inspired you to give some of these artists a try, if you’ve not heard of them. What did you think of my choices? If you’ve got any recommendations for the letters I missed feel free to let me know in a comment.

As always, thank you for reading! I’m uploading twice a week throughout July so, If you like what I do here and you want to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, feel free to come and join me on:

Facebook & Twitter
🙂