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
🙂

Music is Love: One Love Manchester

Benefit concert ‘One Love Manchester’ proves that music brings people together in the wake of recent terror attacks in the UK.

Hey everyone,

I’ve been a little bit quiet lately, but if you follow me on my social media then you’ll know that I, like many others, tuned into BBC One’s coverage of the ‘One Love Manchester’ benefit concert on Sunday June 4th. Held at Old Trafford Cricket Ground, thousands of fans gathered at the charity event organised by pop singer Ariana Grande, to honour and raise funds for victims of the recent terror attack which took place after one of her shows in the city, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds more.

Being a music lover, I find solace and comfort in my favourite songs and will never be able to describe the feeling that can only come from truly connecting with a track, and being able to relate to someone else’s words on such a deep level. By extension, going to gigs is a way of celebrating and experiencing the joy and atmosphere that only a live show can bring. As I sat watching ‘One Love Manchester’ the poignancy of the whole event really hit me, even through my TV screen – and you’d only have to glance at Twitter to see that I wasn’t the only one.

I see concerts as a place of magic, of community, of belonging. There’s always the sense that, whatever you’re going through is left at the door and for those few hours, nothing else matters. Nothing but the music and the atmosphere that surrounds you. Coming together with total strangers but being united in the fact that you all believe in something, you all believe in this. ‘One Love Manchester’ really embodied that spirit, and showed that hate and fear will never overpower it.

Katy Perry’s words at One Love Manchester

There was a sense of strength and resilience at the core of the whole show; the artists playing tracks with powerful, inspirational vibes. From Robbie Williams’ moving renditions of ‘Strong’ and classic track ‘Angels’, to Katy Perry’s sassy performance of ‘Part of Me’, the message was clear: we will not be beaten. We will not be afraid.

Headliner Ariana Grande shared the stage with many of the other acts involved, including coming together with Miley Cyrus for a duet of Crowded House track ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’, as well as joining forces with Coldplay to wow the audience with a heartfelt cover of popular Oasis number, ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger.’

The 23 year old starlet also joined The Black Eyed Peas onstage for a performance of their 2003 number one single ‘Where Is The Love’. Upon its release the song topped the charts in 13 countries – including the UK where it occupied the number one spot for seven weeks – and is the epitome of the reason for the entire event. Lyrically, it addresses mindless acts of terrorism and asks, where is the love and compassion we should have for each other as human beings; making it as relevant now as it was back then.

Throughout every single act – including the likes of Little Mix, Niall Horan, Pharrell Williams, and Liam Gallagher – the 50,000 strong crowd sang, danced, and cried along to every single word. Many of the artists gave heartfelt speeches and were also overcome with emotion during their sets, none more so than Grande herself. As the night drew to a close, the young talent welcomed all the artists to the stage and thanked them for being involved, before launching into a heart-wrenching performance of her track ‘One Last Time’ – giving a goosebumps-inducing meaning to the song.

I have a huge amount of respect for Ariana Grande for organising the event and to all the artists who took part in some way, the entire concert overflowed with emotion and the love hung thick in the air – whether you were there or watching at home. Grande ended the night with a powerful version of ‘Over The Rainbow’, a beautiful moment that saw her become tearful. As she thanked and told the audience she loved them, it was evident that she herself is still deeply affected by what happened two weeks ago, but her spirit in organising the show and carrying on in spite of that is undisputedly endearing.

There is absolutely no denying the poignancy of the show as a whole, and of live music in general. To be so wrapped up in a song, to be able to scream the words at the top of your lungs because it means so much to you; and then to hear hundreds of other people doing the exact same thing, for the same reason is an amazingly moving feeling. The beautifully haunting sound of all the voices blending into one is truly something to be experienced and, in this particular incidence, knowing the reasons behind One Love Manchester: paying tribute to those who were lost or injured in the attack, you couldn’t not be moved by it.

Did you catch ‘One Love Manchester’ on BBC One last Sunday? What did you think of the show? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 🙂

Tuesday Chats: Do I Have The Right To Talk About Music?

Hello everyone, and welcome to a new segment I’ve created called ‘Tuesday Chats’.

‘Tuesday Chats’ is going to be an ongoing series with more of an informal vibe, as I’ve 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 regular thread where I just talk to you about things that are on my mind. This also breaks things up amongst the reviews and articles which, by nature, have to be very thought out and structured. So, what better way to kick off this series than with something music related (as not all of these posts will be) that has been on my mind for a while, and that is: do I have the right to talk about music?

A few months back, while I was travelling somewhere, I got talking to someone on the journey who turned out to be a musician. He asked me what I did, so I told him that I was between jobs but I run this blog and I’m a qualified music journalist. He then proceeded to ask: ‘so who are you then, to give your opinion?’ His statement, coupled with the tone of his voice, translated into: ‘who is going to care about your opinion, what gives you the right to talk about music?’ and for a minute, I didn’t really know what to say.

I was unsure about writing a blog post about this subject as I didn’t want it to come across as though I was ‘blowing my own trumpet’, but then recently, I saw a video on YouTube that re-inspired me.

Let me just take a second here to introduce you to tattoo YouTuber Treacle Tatts, or Lauren, if you prefer. Describing herself as “your verbally unfiltered friend”, Lauren makes videos, mainly, about tattoos. Nothing more than a tattoo enthusiast – with no official training or notable experience other than being tattooed – Lauren uses her channel to share her love of the art, in the form of sharing her opinions and experiences. At the tail-end of last year, Lauren uploaded a video entitled ‘Do I Have The Right To Talk About Tattoos?’ in which, she shared her reasons for making videos about tattoos and some of the backlash she has received because of it.

Around the 10 minute mark, Lauren asks: ‘Do I have the right to talk about tattoos and tell people what a tattoo should look like?’ to which she answers no and explains her reasoning. That, as well as the title of the video in general, really struck a chord with me as my immediate answer to the question was: yes, why wouldn’t you have the right to talk about it? Especially if it’s something you’re passionate about.

This brings me back to my original point: who am I, an unknown non-musician and self-confessed music obsessive, to critique and give my opinion on anyone’s music? Honestly, it played on my mind for a while, but after thinking about it, there are a few reasons why I have just as much right to talk about music as anyone else.

The first of which being, that I have a BA (hons) degree in Music Journalism. Now, I know how pretentious that may sound, like ‘I’ve been to uni and now I know all’. No, that’s not what I’m going for. All I mean to say is that I chose to go to uni and study Music Journalism for three years, learning how to write good reviews and articles, how to conduct interviews, and really honing my skills as a writer.

Also, you may know if you’ve followed me for a while, I actually set up this blog during my degree as a requirement for one of our assignments. So, outside of classes I was putting into practice what I was learning. I decided to use the platform to create a body of work that I could show to prospective employers when I graduated, so instead of just saying I’m motivated and able to act on my own initiative, they’d see it. Because I enjoyed it so much I would also seek out contribution opportunities, and enquire about artist interviews, in my spare time. As a result I had my first two pieces published in BBM Magazine, as well as had the opportunity to interview some of my favourite artists including, The Summer Set’s Brian Dales, Elissa Franceschi, and Set It Off’s Cody Carson.

It was important to me to have work experience as well as my degree because, fun fact, I was once told that a journalism degree is almost worthless. I went to a university fare during my A-Levels and asked one of the reps about Journalism degrees, to which he replied: “why are you doing a journalism degree if you want to be a journalist? most places want experience, a degree isn’t going to get you a job.” I was stunned. I agree that there’s nothing worse than an arrogant graduate fresh out of university thinking they’re now entitled to a job purely because of that fact, but I still chose to do a degree because I thought if I could have both a degree and experience, it may work in my favour.

In terms of being able to talk technically about music, obviously I learned some terminology over the course of my degree, but something you may not know about me is that I sing. It’s not something I publicise but I enjoy singing and had vocal lessons on and off for three years. Through this, I learned a lot about different techniques and how to use them in your performance to get the best out of your voice. Now when I listen to music, I’m able to identify if someone is straining to hit notes outside of their range, or simple things like not singing with your mouth open enough (which sounds silly, but can actually make a big difference to how you sound.)

Lastly, I feel that I’m ‘qualified’ to talk about music, simply because I have a genuine love and passion for music and the people who make it. I think that if you genuinely enjoy something, you will inevitably find yourself learning more about the subject naturally – therefore becoming even more informed. As I’ve said multiple times before, I’m not a full-time blogger and I don’t get paid for anything you see on here, but music is a huge part of my life and it’s what I’m passionate about. I enjoy talking to people about – and sharing – the music that I love in the hopes of reaching someone who will like it just as much and, at its core, that’s what this blog is about.

I never want to be seen as a know-it-all or unapproachable, I simply hope that my love for music is reflected in my writing and is an accurate representation of myself. Because of this I very seldom give bad reviews. I think there’s enough negativity that exists on the internet – in the form of trolling and things like that – and I don’t see the need to add to it. One of my favourite quotes is: “Be an advocate for what you love instead of bashing what you hate”, and that is exactly the approach I take to blogging. I don’t see the need to write a review that highlights everything I don’t like about a piece of music, I’d rather spend my time talking about the things I do like and being known for spreading love and positivity.

So, do I have the right to talk about music? Yes. Anyone with half a brain will understand that art is subjective, meaning whether or not you like something is based on personal opinion and how it affects you. No one else, you. That is all I try to convey in my blogs; you may not like the music that I like but then again, you might. So, Instead of just saying ‘hey, I like this’, I give an informed opinion telling you my reasons for liking, or disliking, something. My only hope is to reach like-minded music lovers and to encourage people to give things a chance – I’ve been surprised many a time by music that I didn’t think I’d necessarily like.

But honestly, I think that if you have a genuine, deep-rooted love and passion for a subject, and you make it your business to continuously learn and grow your knowledge of it, then you have just as much right to talk about it and offer an opinion as anyone else.

 

As always thank you for reading. What are your thoughts on the subject? Would you rather listen to someone who has all the qualifications in the world but no passion, or someone who is admittedly learning all the time and just loves what they’re talking about?

 

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*Just in case anyone picks up on this, I’d like to address that Lauren (Treacle Tatts) does have two videos on her channel about Tattoo Fixers that are far from favourable, and if you follow my blog you’ll know that as a viewer, I enjoy the show and I’ve actually been tattooed by one of the featured artists. However, I don’t see this difference of opinion as a problem; I’d hope people can accept that not everyone is going to feel the same about certain things – it’s what makes life interesting. I’m always curious to hear other people’s opinions (which is why I watched her videos on the show in the first place,) it doesn’t stop me enjoying her content and I’m a fan of her candid, down-to-earth personality – she comes across as a great person to hang out and talk tattoos with. A big thank you to her for being cool about me posting this and agreeing to be a reference within the discussion – Thank you Lauren!

Artists I’d Like to See Live In 2017

Greetings readers,

It’s nearly the end of January; we’re a month into 2017 already! I hope you’ve all had a great start to the year and that you’re keeping up your new year’s resolutions (if you made any!)

If you’ve been following my blog for a while then you may remember that I did a post like this in 2015 as part of my ‘Journaling In January’ series, where I listed the artists I’d like to see that year, followed by a separate list compiling the artists I’d like to see again. I thought it’d be nice to make it an annual thing to see how my choices evolve, if any become staple and crop up more than once, and who I do actually manage to see live over the next 12 months.

I felt it unnecessary to split the list into two parts this time but, some of these artists I have seen before, so I’ll include links to any previous live reviews where applicable. So, before I ramble on too much, here are the artists I’d like to see live in 2017 – not in any particular order because trying to pick would take me far too long.

 

The Summer Set

The Summer Set at the Electric Ballroom

The Summer Set at the Electric Ballroom

I included The Summer Set in last year’s ‘Band’s I’d Like to See’ post, and my reasons for featuring them haven’t changed much. I feel as though my previous explanation perfectly sums up why I want to continue to see them live when they visit the UK and why I encourage anyone who hasn’t seen them live to do the same. As I said in my previous review:

If you’ve read my blog before then this Arizona based quintet don’t really need any introduction, as you’ll know that I’ve seen them a fair few times already. And there is one very simple reason for that: They put on an awesome show. Every single time I’ve seen The Summer Set live it’s been an insanely fun pop/punk party that nobody wants to end. Their energy is infectious and their set electrifying; with plenty of opportunities to jump around like a loon, as well as poignant moments that you can’t help but get caught up in. One thing’s for sure, they put everything they have into that moment and it always makes for a killer performance.

I’ve previously seen The Summer Set live a number of times, whenever they do a UK tour I try to get tickets as their live show is always insane.

Click here to see my most recent live review of the band at Portsmouth’s Wedgewood Rooms, on the UK leg of their ‘Stories For Monday’ tour.
Click here to see my review of their newest album ‘Stories For Monday’.
Click here to see my live review of The Summer Set from back in 2014, with support from Paradise Fears & William Beckett.

 

Set It Off

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With Set It Off’s Cody Carson after their show at London’s Electric Ballroom

The last, and only, time I saw Set It Off was in 2013 when I got invited to interview them after their London show at Camden’s Electric Ballroom, supporting Aussie quintet Tonight Alive. Admittedly I hadn’t listened to their music before that night, so I was going in totally blind, and I wasn’t disappointed. After immediately buying their debut album ‘Cinematics’ from the merch table that night, Set It Off quickly became a firm favourite of mine.

Since then they’ve released follow-up record ‘Duality’, and their newest offering ‘Upside Down’ dropped in October this year. After following the progression of their albums over the years, it’s clear that their dark, orchestral pop-rock sound has evolved into something lighter and increasingly more pop-driven. Personally, I would like to see how that translates into their live set-up – as I know their performances to be quite chaotic and very befitting of a typical rock show – so it’d be interesting to see how this shift in genre correlates.

I’ve also included Set It Off in quite a few posts over the last year so, if you’re interested in those, please check them out if you’d like to:

Click here to see why I included the four-piece in my ‘Band’s I’d Like to See Again in 2015’.
Click here to see my review of the band’s sophomore album Duality.
Click here to see my Q&A with Set It Off’s Cody Carson at Camden’s Electric Ballroom.
Click here to see my review of the band’s debut album Cinematics.

 

Against The Current

I only got into Against The Current’s music in mid-2016, but I became a huge fan pretty quickly. I’d seen some of their cover videos on YouTube – often featuring other unsigned artists such as Alex Goot and Max – but I didn’t get around to listening to their original music until more recently. However, I’m so glad I did because I absolutely love it. I reviewed their debut studio album ‘In Our Bones’ as part of my ‘Jammin’ In July’ series, and as I said: ‘the band are quickly making a name for themselves and…look set to take the music world by storm’.

I’ve since seen a lot of live footage of the band (thanks to YouTube) and it looks as though they put on a great show full of energy and fun. Chrissy Costanza’s vocals also sound just as amazing live as they do on record, as evidenced by their unofficial video for ‘Young and Relentless’ – which sees them play their way through the busy streets of London – as well as the above video from A-Sides on YouTube. After missing them on their last visit to the UK in September 2016, I’m crossing my fingers that I can get tickets for their upcoming tour in March.

Click here to see my review of ATC’s debut album ‘In Our Bones’.
Click here to see my review of the band’s cover of Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘I Really Really Like You’ featuring pop solo artist, Max.

 

You Me At Six

You Me At Six have been one of my favourite bands since I was 17 and, now in my mid 20’s, the amount of times I’ve seen them live is well into double figures – and for good reason. With headline shows at The 02 and Wembley Arena under their belts, as well as a whole host of others, the Brit rockers have come long way since their beginning in 2005.

Now they find themselves at the forefront of British rock music, gaining recognition from the mainstream, receiving airplay from the likes of Radio One and reaching number one in the mid-week charts. They never disappoint with their live show, it’s always a whirlwind of energy and fun, and I have nothing but fond memories of seeing them. The last time I saw them was in 2012 and I think that seriously needs to be rectified.

Click here to see my live review of the YMAS at London’s Brixton Academy, on the ‘Sinners Never Sleep’ tour in 2012.
Click here to see my review of the band’s most recent album ‘Cavalier Youth’.

 

Ed Sheeran

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, I’m guessing you know who Ed Sheeran is. Named the biggest selling artist of 2014 – scooping numerous awards and playing multiple sell-out shows at Wembley Arena – Sheeran took some time away from the limelight in 2016, using the year to work on new material and to re-charge.

After catching his stunning live performances at The BBC Music Awards and The Brits, to name a few, and having watched his live DVD ‘Jumpers For Goalposts’, I’d love to experience his live show. He’s one of the few mainstream artists I’d pay good money to go and see.

Click here to see my dual review of Sheeran’s newest singles ‘Shape of You’ and ‘Castle On The Hill’.
Click here to see my album review of his previous offering ‘X’.
Click here to find out why I also included Sheeran in my ‘Artist’s I’d Like to See in 2015’.

 

Stevie P & Sketch

A video still from Stevie P & Sketch’s debut offering ‘Everything (Pt 2)’

Again, if you’re familiar with my little corner of the internet, then this rap/rock duo should need absolutely no introduction as I feel like I’ve been banging on about them over the course of this year. Stevie P and Sketch (the latter of whom you may also recognise from E4’s Tattoo Fixers) have dropped some great tracks this year including, beaut rap ballad ‘Street Lights’ and abruptly raw number ‘Nightmares’.

I have absolutely no idea if the guys are planning on – or even able to – fit any live performances into their busy schedules but I’d love to see it happen, mainly for the fact that they never cease to surprise me. Each time they unveil a new track they seem to add in new elements that leave you wondering what else they’re going to work into their sound, almost drip feeding it to us. As a result it definitely makes you want to hear more to see where they’re going to take it next.

As well as wanting to hear more of their stuff, I’d also like to see their on-stage personas for myself and how that correlates with the music (if you’ve seen any of their music videos you’ll know what I mean.) I just think it’d be interesting, in the best possible sense, and you’d get to hear some great music – bonus.

As I said before, I’ve featured the guys in a few previous blog posts so, if you’re interested in those, please see the list below and have a read if you’d like to.

Click here for my review of Sketch and Stevie P’s debut track ‘Everything Part 2’.
click here to see my review of their follow-up single ‘Street Lights’.
click here to find out why the duo are #3 on my ‘Top 10 Interviews Wish List’.
click here to read my original article on ‘Tattoo Fixers’.
click here for my follow-up article on spin-off show, ‘Tattoo Fixers On Holiday’.
And, if you’re interested, click here to check out my blog about getting tattooed by Sketch at his studio in November last year.

 

Talia Mar

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© Skins Elliott Photography

I became aware of singer-songwriter – and beauty/lifestyle vlogger – Talia Mar’s music when I saw her perform at a showcase event I went to back in November, known as ‘Musique LDN’. Because of the sheer volume of names on the bill each act only played 2-3 songs each, so it was a bit difficult to get a proper feel for the artists, however, I was immediately struck by Talia’s performance and really enjoyed her set on the day.

Since then I’ve checked out (and totally fell in love with) her debut release ‘Stolen’, which is entirely self-produced. I also did a review of the song in early December, and gave it an honourable mention in my ‘Tracks of the Month’. I’d love to see Talia Mar live because she has a great voice, to hear more of her material, and to just get more of a feel for who she is as an artist.

Click here to see my review of the ‘Musique’ event where I saw Talia Mar perform.
Click here to see my review of her debut offering, ‘Stolen’.

 

And that’s about it. Are there any bands/artists that you’d love to see this year? Who are your absolute staples that you know are sure to put on an amazing show every time? Feel free to let me know in a comment 🙂 .

 

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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Happy New Year 2016 (and Here’s to 2017!)

Happy New Year everyone! I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas, and that 2017 got off to a great start whatever it is you got up to – whether that was downing shots in the pub or cosied up in front of the TV. As has come to be tradition around here, I wanted my first blog of 2017 to look back on the previous year, talk you through the highlights and give some much-deserved thanks.

If you’ve been around here for the last couple of years then you’ll know that I totally re-designed the blog at the beginning of 2016. After starting this site back in 2010 it had become increasingly apparent that it was showing its age and in desperate need of a face-lift. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out – it’s undoubtedly a massive improvement!

Speaking of behind-the-scenes type things, we managed to hit over 5,500 views last year, with an average of 400-500 hits a month. Considering that it was on (just over) 3,500 in 2015 – with an average of approximately 2,000 over previous years – it totally blows my mind. To have grown by that many views – for someone who just sits in her bedroom and writes about things she’s passionate about – is an amazing feeling. Another thing that I’m always indescribably thankful for, is when an artist I’ve written about shares my work.

alex-marshall-blog-love

Click here to see some of the really lovely things people have said about my work.

As I’ve said in previous blog posts, I never expect – just because I’ve written about someone – that they’re going to share it with their followers in any way, so it’s always really flattering when it happens. Throughout 2016 my work was liked, read and shared by artists that I have great admiration and respect for, as well as people who have read and found something they like in it. That never goes unappreciated – after all, there wouldn’t be much point to me writing this blog if no one was reading it!

On that note, I’m beyond proud of all the posts that I uploaded last year. I remember when I interviewed Brian Dales (The Summer Set) back in 2012, he said “the more you practice your craft, the better you get at it”, and that is something that really resonated with me. When I set up this blog it was as a requirement for a university project, so priority-wise it always came second to something, whether that was my degree or a full-time job. However, over the last 2 years I’ve really focused a lot of my time and energy on writing and I think that shows, both in my skills as a journalist, and the amount of views this blog has gotten over the last 12 months.

However, whilst I feel like I’ve really honed my skills as a writer and I’m happy with my current style, that is by no means saying that everything I do is perfect – it isn’t – and that there isn’t always more to learn and improve on – there is.

My Top 5 most viewed posts this year

My Top 5 most viewed posts last year

I also saw some great artists live last year, including The Summer Set – on the UK leg of their ‘Stories For Monday tour’ – and Waltzz, the latter of whom approached me to possibly review some of his music at the beginning of the year. Following that, and also meeting up with him at a music showcase event in November, we’re now on each other’s Christmas card lists!

As well as that, I also reviewed Costa-Blanca based band Snowblind when they came over for a UK tour in the spring. Subsequently my review was then published in Spanish/English magazine ‘QR’. This was a huge achievement, and very flattering, for me as it’s not every day that I’m approached to have my work published. Seeing it in print was such a surreal feeling; I love how it came out.

Snowblind review in QR

Snowblind review in QR

There were also some amazing releases from some fantastic artists including, The Summer Set, Against The Current, rap/rock duo Stevie P and Sketch, and former member of The Cab Alex Marshall, who dropped his debut solo single during the summer. I won’t go into that in too much detail though because I have my ‘Top Songs of 2016’ coming in the next few weeks, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for that.

Going forward into 2017, I’d like to incorporate more of my interests into this platform that aren’t necessarily music based but more lifestyle. Over the course of last year I wrote about non-music related subjects and they seemed to be really well received. I opened up about my disability ahead of The Paralympics – something I’d never thought I’d do but I’m proud of all the same. And, I wrote a follow-up to my Tattoo Fixers article about the ‘On Holiday’ spin-off of the show. If you’ve started following my blog recently then you’ll also know that I actually got a piece done by Tattoo Fixers’ very own Sketch, at his South-east London studio Reppin Ink in November. Having wanted a piece done by him for a few years (not to mention being a big fan of his music) that was a major highlight of the year. It was a really fun experience, and he’s one of the nicest, most down-to-earth people you could ever hope to meet.

Click here to see the blog post all about my tattoo experience with Sketch

Click here to see the blog post all about my tattoo experience with Sketch

I’d also like to make these lifestyle posts a bit chattier; I’m thinking of posting one a week and calling it ‘Chatty Tuesday’ or something. I also hope to make my ‘Book Club’ reviews more regular again, and perhaps even do a ‘YouTuber of the Month’ segment; I have a lot of ideas. As I’m getting older I just want to widen the scope a bit, while also making sure that the blog remains very music-based. As such, I met and discovered some amazing talent last year, so I hope to get some interviews in the pipeline too.

With that being said, I also want to remember to live in the moment and spend time with family and friends. This means that I’m not going to try and review everything anymore, but instead focus on the music/things that I 100% love and have a strong desire to promote. So, if you’ve ever sent me something to review and I haven’t got back to you, I’m sorry but I am just one person, it’s a busy life and I can’t do everything – as I’m sure you can understand.

However, thank you for your support over the years and I hope that you’ll continue on this journey with me throughout 2017 – let’s make it a great one!

 

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 this year, be sure to come and join me on:

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Christmas Music: Is It Ever Too Early?

Season’s greetings readers,

Christmas is definitely upon us; twinkling fairy-lights adorn every tree, the mince pies are out in force, and there’s an excitable atmosphere in the air because it’s actually not that long of a wait until the big day itself. Some of my friends have even had their decorations up since before Bonfire Night, relentlessly counting down the days. As such, I thought I’d share something with you that comes to light every year. Something that inspires debate among myself, my family, and my friends – and that is Christmas music.

xmas-music-blog-post

I wasn’t aware of how much Christmas music – in particular when it’s acceptable to be played – divides people. It definitely seems to be a hot topic, at least with people I know, at this time of year. Personally, I have nothing against Christmas music; I enjoy the novelty of it and I think it’s a great way to get into the festive spirit. I’m willing to bet that even Scrooge had his favourite Christmas song that he played when no one was listening – there are just some absolute classics that you can’t not play. However, what I dislike about it, is how it starts to be played earlier and earlier each year.

When radio stations start to play Christmas songs before Halloween, or even before Bonfire Night, I just think ‘chill, it’s not even December yet’ – at least get those out of the way first. Similarly, someone posted a graphic on Twitter in August (yes, August!) saying that it was 18 Fridays until Christmas. Now, I’m all for being festive, but I immediately rolled my eyes and thought ‘really?!’ I can barely stand Xmas songs before Dec 1st, but starting the count-down in August is a bit ridiculous.

Personally, I think Christmas music should be unleashed from December 1st onwards – not before. My reason for this is that December is the month of Christmas, and I think anything before then runs the risk of quickly becoming overkill; by the time it gets to Christmas the novelty wears off and you’re bored of it before the season has even begun. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way and, when it happens, I think it’s such a shame because Christmas music is universal. Everyone knows the old classics and, if you’re anything like me, you can’t help but have a cheesy sing along with your family and friends.

Whatever your stand-point – whether it’s a case of the earlier the better, or if you roll your eyes and groan when you hear a Christmas song in November – it’s undeniable that some tracks you just can’t help but love, no matter how much you resist. I feel like everyone has their favourite festive song that just gets them in the mood for Christmas; whether that’s bringing back good memories of Christmases past or igniting the anticipation for the day ahead.

Personally, I just think Christmas – and everything that goes with it – should start in December. I’m not as rigid as to say that there should only be The 12 days of Christmas (six days before, six days after) but anything before the beginning of the month, and by the time Christmas Day rolls around you may have just had enough.

Each to their own, as they say, eh? Merry Christmas. 🙂

 

What do you think of Christmas music? Do you think it can become overkill by the time Christmas day actually comes, or are you totally Christmas crazy?

 

As always, thank you for reading. What’s your favourite Christmas song? Click here to see the review of mine. 🙂

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