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.

 

Tracks of the Month – June

Hi everyone,

I’m a little late with posting June’s ‘Tracks of the Month’, and that is simply because I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to upload it. So, I thought I’d kick off this year’s ‘Jammin’ In July’ with a look back at the previous month and some of the songs that have (and still continue to) dominate my stereo.

 

Talia Mar – The Voices Are Me

Posted in honour of ‘Mental Health Awareness Month’ back in May, ‘The Voices Are Me’ is an extremely poignant piano-led track, born out of singer-songwriter Talia Mar’s desire to speak out about mental health through her YouTube channel. However, as she says in the video, she couldn’t find the right words to say so she wrote the song instead and, in my opinion, couldn’t have said it better. As someone who suffers/has suffered from anxiety, I can really relate to this track on a personal level; I feel as though some of the phrases were written straight out of my head, making it really moving to listen to. Personally, I feel that it perfectly describes how anxiety can make you feel, and I encourage everyone to really listen to the lyrics and take it in. Mar’s vocals are impeccable as always, and the contrasting quiet/loud dynamic of the verses and the chorus are a perfect fit for the vibe of the song. It also shows off her range brilliantly, the flawless quality of both the higher and lower notes creating an undeniably beautiful effect.

This song touches me so much that I can’t help but tear up (cry like a baby!) every time I hear it, and I can only commend and profusely thank Talia Mar for releasing this online. I hope that it helps people, whether that be finding comfort in dealing with your own issues or helping a friend or relative understand what someone else in their life is going through. It’s a beautiful song.

 

Tom Cochran – Life is a highway

You can thank The Summer Set’s Brian Dales for this one. If you follow him on Instagram you’ll know that he posts a daily Instagram story of himself miming along to the chorus line of this classic rock song in various settings. After a week or so of waking up and seeing said Instagram stories first thing in the morning, it’s really hard not to have it stuck in your head all day! But, with its upbeat, feel-good, summery vibe I’m not complaining.

 

Anne-Marie ft. Ed Sheeran – Ciao adios

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, is there anything that Ed Sheeran can’t make sound infinitely better? It appears not, as he comes together with R’n’B/Pop singer-songwriter Anne-Marie for this acoustic version of her song, ‘Ciao Adios’. Filmed on tour, in the dressing room before a show, the stripped-back vibe allows both the vocals and lyrics to shine even more; highlighting the pitch-perfect harmonies and Anne-Marie’s ability to switch between her lower and higher register with ease. The little looks and laughs between the pair throughout the video present an endearing quality and works to draw listeners in – and the addition of the tongue-in-cheek ‘you mug’, never fails to make me smile. 🙂

 

Charlie Puth – Attention

The lead single from Charlie Puth’s upcoming second album ‘Voice Notes’, ‘Attention’ is an addictive R’n’B/Pop song that, I imagine, a lot of people can relate to. The elements of funk in the arrangement work to create something that you can really groove to, and the lyrics are dripping with sassy vibes. Puth’s vocals are stellar as always; contrasting his main, deeper vocal line with a higher chorus and falsetto accents throughout, giving the track more depth. Full of charisma, it’s a song that you can’t help but be charmed by – and let’s face it, I’m sure everyone’s got at least one ex-whatever that they’d like to sing this to.

 

Bruno Mars – 24k Magic

I know I’m super late to the party with this one but…better late than never right? I mean come on who can’t sing-along to that chorus? The lead single from Mars’s album of the same name, 24K Magic is drenched in a funk/disco vibe set to Mars’s smooth R’n’B vocals. It’s a feel good track that doesn’t take its self too seriously, and the infectious beat also makes it impossible to sit still while listening to it – I dare you to try. C’mon everyone…put your pinky rings up the moon! 🙂

 

As always, thank you for reading! I hope I inspired you to give these songs a listen. In case you didn’t know, I’ll be posting twice a week this month as part of my ‘Jammin’ In July’ series, so 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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One To Watch: Ruelle

Never heard of American singer-songwriter Ruelle? Well, if you watch TV, chances are she’s been right under your nose this whole time.

ruelle

Meet Ruelle, an electronic-pop artist based in Country music capital, Nashville Tennessee. If you’re sitting there thinking ‘I’ve never heard of her’, think again, because – if you watch a lot of film and TV – you’ve probably heard her music without even realising it.

Having released two band-led indie/pop albums under her real name Maggie Eckford, a change came when she began writing music for TV/Film. Noting a very different sound to her previous offerings, she chose to unleash this different musical direction under new moniker, Ruelle. This project sees her take on a darker, orchestral, electronic sound, comprising of swelling dark undertones and melodic, catchy choruses.

It’s this dramatic aesthetic that has seen her music featured on multiple popular television shows including: ‘Revenge’, ‘Sleepy Hollow’ and Netflix original series ‘Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments’. Her track ‘Take It All’ also featured in the season seven trailer for ‘The Walking Dead’.

At its core, Ruelle’s music is a very beat-driven, electronic sound drenched in a shadowy, haunting vibe. This, coupled with the epic, explosive choruses, works to create a sense of urgency and anticipation throughout. This edgy feel is then lifted by Ruelle’s distinctively light, yet strong, vocals – giving it an almost ethereal quality.

 Tracks such as ‘Invincible’, ‘Live Like Legends’, and – the epic-sounding theme to the Shadowhunters series – ‘This Is The Hunt’, are quietly menacing with boldly explosive choruses. Contrastingly, the dreamy, romantic sounds of ‘Storm’, ‘War of Hearts’ and, airy piano-led ballad, ‘I Get To Love You’, show more of a delicate side to Ruelle’s sound whilst still retaining that intensely dynamic feel.

Similarly, alongside the obvious cinematic quality, ‘Monsters’ also incorporates a bouncy electronic riff, keeping that almost eerie vibe whilst also creating something upbeat that you can really groove to. Whatever the sentiment, one thing that’s ever present is the trademark moodiness and addictive, charming melodies which ensure the songs leave an impression. It all adds up to something incredibly unique, and makes you want to hear more.

Having taken a break from performing over the last few years to concentrate on writing – after signing with record label ‘Razor and Tie’ – Eckford looks set to take the music world by storm as a performer with this brooding, cinematic sound. After bringing together all of her material written and recorded specifically for TV and film in the form of two EPs – 2015’s ‘Up In Flames’ and 2016’s ‘Madness’ – Ruelle is now currently working on her first full-length album. One thing’s for sure: she’s undoubtedly one to keep your eye on.

 

Final verdict:

Simply put, I really like Ruelle’s music. If you didn’t know, I also featured ‘Invincible’ in my February ‘Tracks I’m Loving’ – and it was really difficult deciding which song to include! I love the dramatic, epic-sounding vibe of her songs and the sense of urgency and anticipation they create; it’s not surprising that her work has been featured in multiple television shows and films, as it lends its self really well to cinematics. I’m definitely looking forward to the full album being released; I’m intrigued to explore her sound more, and to see if all the songs are as addictive as the ones I’ve already heard.

 

Favourite tracks:

Invincible
Storm
Monsters

(click to hear each track)

 

If you like what you hear and want to keep up to date with whatever Ruelle has coming up, be sure to follow her on:

Facebook   /   Twitter   / Instagram  /  YouTube

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Laurrhie Brouns – Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light (Introducing & EP Review)

Ex The Voice of Holland contestant Laurrhie Brouns shows that this is her time to rise.

©Ilse Wolf

Meet upcoming talent Laurrhie Brouns; if you watch the Holland edition of popular TV talent show ‘The Voice’, chances are that name may already be familiar. However, if like me you’re based in the UK – or any other country for that matter – and haven’t even heard Laurrhie’s name before…Well, that’s all about to change.

©Ilse Wolf

The Haitian/Dutch singer-songwriter released her EP, ‘Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light’, at the tail-end of 2016, having written it herself as well as acting as co-producer and executive producer of the project. Describing her sound as ‘Eurokpop’, Brouns says, “this is a completely new genre that I created myself.” Fusing together elements from all of her influences, including K-Pop, Pop, R&B, Soul and Hip-Hop, she has created something rather distinctive. Brouns also taught herself to read and write Korean in order to successfully incorporate the K into the K-pop aspect of her sound, which can be heard in snippets throughout the EP; something she describes as “forming a musical bridge between the East and West.”

 

 

As soon as you hit play, it’s apparent that ‘Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light’ has a futuristic, electronic vibe with K-pop accents, drenched in soul. Add in some beat-driven, addictive choruses and an overall uplifting quality, and you’ll get a feel for where this EP is going.

Opening number ‘Taboo’ kicks things off with a lively and fiercely bold feel; Brouns exudes confidence and is extremely unapologetic – and with vocals like these she has every right to be. Switching between her soulful lower register and her chills-inducing higher register effortlessly, it showcases her range brilliantly and sets the tone for the record.

This assertive attitude can also be heard in second track ‘Collective Upgrade’, during which listeners get their first taste of two languages coming together and how those short accents work within the arrangement. Laurrhie’s powerhouse pipes also come out in full force during the chorus – showing the dynamics of her vocals even more so.

‘Rise’ marries a sense of fiery determination with a soulful chorus and inspiring lyrics, while ‘True North’ slows things down a little and plays up the soul. EP closer ‘Astral Plane’ is the mellowest of the bunch, with things getting progressively softer as the record goes on. The piano-led arrangement, coupled with Laurrhie’s vocals, creates a dreamy sound that brings the EP to an end perfectly.

Overall, ‘Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light’ brings together elements of multiple different genres and blends the sounds together seamlessly – languages and all. The soulful, R&B vocals really compliment the instrumentals whilst having the power to stand out, everything coming together to create something unique with bags of positivity.

Brouns has said that through her original brand of soulful European K-Pop she hopes to “comfort, uplift and inspire”, adding “it is my intention that when you listen to my music it will lift you up…soothe you, bring you joy…move your heart and stir your soul in every way, and activate the evolution of you.”

©YoSoyVideo

As well as the EP, Brouns also has some high-profile performance experience under her belt, including multiple performances at the Amsterdam Arena – in front of 50,000 people, no less – and participating in a club tour across the Netherlands, which saw her share the stage with soulful R&B powerhouse Emeli Sande and Bob Marley’s band The Wailers. In 2012, she also went on to become a contestant on The Voice Of Holland; her powerful rendition of David Guetta’s dance track ‘Without You’ impressing the judges so much that she had her pick of the bunch. During her time in the competition, Brouns’ sensational performances saw her become a favourite among viewers and dubbed ‘the one to watch.’

Alongside this, she has also ventured into other creative avenues; swapping music for the big screen in – Dutch film-maker Lodewicjk Crijns’ 2012 project – ‘Alleen Maar Nette Mensen’ (‘Only Decent People’), in which she played the character of Shandra. Brouns was also accepted into the National Ballett Academy, where she danced in ‘Die Zauberflote’ (The Magic Flute.)

So, what’s next for Laurrhie Brouns? Recently billed by – UK Blog Awards 2017 nominee – Liquid Entertainment Online as their ‘Verge of Stardom’ artist, her talent has been compared to the likes of household names Adele, Beyoncé, and Alicia Keys, but with a unique twist. All of this begs the question: how is she not a mainstream artist, gaining regular radio-play and a well-deserved spot amongst the big names in the industry? I could see her sitting quite comfortably alongside the likes of Emeli Sande – an influence you can hear in her vocals. One thing’s for sure though, I can predict only great things for this amazingly talented lady.

 

Favourite tracks:

Taboo
Rise

 

If you’re curious to hear more of Laurrhie’s distinctive sound, you can keep up to date a number of different ways:

Facebook    Twitter    YouTube    Instagram

As well as through her official Website.

‘Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light’ is available now from online downloading and streaming services.

 

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, feel free to come and join me on:

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Book Club: Me Before You By Jojo Moyes

The heart-warming story of two people who overcome their own reservations, forming an unlikely friendship under tragic circumstances

Lou Clarke is comfortable. Comfortable with living at home with her parents in their little town, comfortable with her passionless relationship with fitness-obsessed boyfriend Patrick, comfortable with her stable job at local café The Buttered Bun, comfortable with her routine. But, that’s all about to change.

Lou’s world is turned upside down when she loses her job, forcing her out of her comfort zone and away from everything she knows. Conscious of the fact that she is relied on financially – and after multiple disheartening trips to the job centre – Lou reluctantly agrees to take on a six month role as carer to a quadriplegic man.

As far as he was concerned, Will Trainor had it all: a high-powered, high-paid city job, a hot girlfriend, and a bright future. He loved to travel and indulge in high-octane hobbies – a regular adrenaline junkie. However, an unfortunate accident leaves the handsome hot-shot wheelchair bound; left to rely on a host of other people for the most basic of daily needs.

Trapped inside his own body, and a shadow of his former self, Will becomes increasingly desperate – feeling as though he’s lost everything. But, little do either of them know that what they come to find in each other will change them both in different ways, for the better.

I absolutely fell in love with Jojo Moyes’s story of love and loss and, having earned the accolade of New York Times bestseller, I’m not the only one. First published in 2012, ‘Me Before You’ has also been adapted into a film, starring Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games, Love Rosie) and Emilia Clarke (Game Of Thrones.) It’s a heart-warming, romantic and heart-breaking story – you’ll definitely need a box of tissues handy! However, despite this, there are also some lighter moments of comedy nestled throughout, in the form of will’s dry, sarcastic sense of humour and witty one-liners.

Throughout the course of the story, you see both the main protagonists grow, albeit in different ways. Readers see Lou coming out of her shell and broadening her horizons, becoming increasingly confident in her character and ability. We also discover, through a series of flashbacks, that Lou has had her own trauma which she has been quietly contending with for years, after an ill-advised escapade with some drunken strangers. Following a public panic attack, Lou opens up to Will who helps her accept that she was not to blame for what she went through. As she flourishes, she outgrows the stagnant baggage of her old life – moving forward.

As a character, readers experience and get to know Will through the eyes of Louisa. However, throughout the story are able to piece together, and get a feel for, Will’s background and life before that fateful accident. When Will meets Louisa he has become desolate and tries to push her, as well as everyone he knows, away; desperately frustrated by his circumstances. Slowly though, he becomes enchanted by Lou’s quirky personality and softens towards her, opening both of them up to an unexpected friendship which sees him become brighter and somewhat happier.

Will is keen to educate Lou and slowly, eases her out of the little bubble she has created for herself, showing her that there is more to life than she knows. He has seen and experienced more than she has, and now that he is physically unable, wants her to make the most of her life because she can – urging her to “just live well, just live.”

Spending a lot of time in close proximity due to the nature of Will’s condition, the pair begin to fall for each-other. However, while Lou is keen to inspire Will to make the best of his situation because of that, Will has resigned himself to the fact that his condition will only become progressively worse. Already unhappy with his current quality of life, Will decides that this new-found love isn’t enough to override the way he feels about himself and his future – with heart-breaking results.

‘Me Before You’ tackles some very sensitive subjects in a very clever way, taking into account all the relevant and realistic viewpoints across multiple characters – from the understanding to the less accepting. The story is mainly told from Lou’s point of view, but does give glimpses into the thoughts of other characters in dedicated chapters, such as Will’s nurse Nathan, Lou’s sister Treena, and Will’s mother Camilia. Moyes’s writing style is full of personality and is captivating throughout, enabling readers to get completely sucked into the story and its events – resulting in an extremely moving read.

I understand that the story (the film in particular) has received some negative attention, with it being said that it depicts disabled people as being a burden, and promotes that people would rather be dead than disabled. Personally, I found the book to show the harsh reality of living with such a debilitating condition. As a disabled person, I am in no way saying I would rather be dead than disabled – I wouldn’t. However, I’ve had my disability since birth, I’ve never known any different. I can’t imagine how it must feel to go from being completely able-bodied and active, to not even being able to move in your sleep. To not be able to feed yourself, to not be able to go to the toilet unaided, to never be able to have sex again – these are all things that Will is conscious of.

I felt that it was less about promoting assisted suicide and inviting pity, but shedding light on why people may choose that path. Ultimately it comes down to how you feel about yourself and your quality of life, in light of the fact that you aren’t going to get any better. It’s done in a way that allows readers to see all the conflicting reactions and opinions of the surrounding characters, whilst being able to understand and feel empathy for both Will and Louisa – making it all the more heart-wrenching.

 

Have you ever read ‘Me Before You’? What did you think of the story and its themes? I recently picked up the sequel ‘After You’, so I’m keen to find out how Lou’s story progresses.

 

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, feel free to come and join me on:

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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?

 

I upload a new blog every week, if you’d like to keep up to date with my upcoming posts feel free to come join me on:

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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!

Tracks of the Month: January/February

Hello everyone,

It’s that time again… yes, it’s nearing the end of the month so as is tradition around here, I’m going to take you through the songs that have dominated my stereo/ITunes/headphones over these last few weeks. If you follow my blog regularly then you may’ve noticed that I didn’t do one of these last month, so this is going to be a culmination of my January and February favourites. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.

 

Crutch – Set It Off

Taken from Set It Off’s latest studio album ‘Upside Down’, ‘Crutch’ is a pop-driven track with a gracefully explosive rock chorus. The song opens with a motif that sounds like it came straight out of a video game, with Cody Carson’s smoothly distinctive vocals not far behind, adding a soulful, almost, r’n’b tinge.

This is a definite example of the band’s sound taking on more of a lighter, pop vibe than their previous releases, however, it still retains that signature Set It Off sound. Personally, I love it. If there’s one thing I’m not too crazy on it would be the staccato video-gamey introduction, but I can look past that because the rest of the song is catchy as hell.

I’ve also been listening to some other tracks from ‘Upside Down’ including Jazzy, pop trackDiamond Girl’– which brings back a flavour of the orchestral sound from debut release ‘Cinematics’, with brass accents throughout and explosive, rock songWant’, which has more of a brooding, darker feel.

To see my review of the band’s previous album ‘Duality’, click here.

 

Lianne Kaye – Last Thing

This is getting to be quite a tradition around here isn’t it? Singer-songwriter, and YouTuber, Lianne Kaye was featured in my last ‘Tracks of the Month’ as well – and she’s back for very good reason. Kaye kicked off the year with a re-upload of her original song ‘Last Thing’, stating at the beginning of the video that the audio quality wasn’t the best in the previous one.

This new version of ‘Last Thing’ sees the ballad become very raw, consisting of just Kaye’s vocals accompanied by an electric guitar. The song opens with a beautifully delicate melody that flows into the verses. The chorus then amps up the power, both vocally and in the instrumental, with a chord pattern that lends itself to a very slight country/pop vibe. It’s an enchanting song about the to-and-fro of a turbulent break-up, of lost love and moving on – which I think everyone can relate to.
Vocally it doesn’t disappoint either, Kaye’s rich, strong tone sounding effortless and bold throughout. If you’ve read my other reviews you’ll know that I’m a big fan of Kaye’s music and, personally, I can’t wait to hear some more originals from her.

To see my review of the Kaye’s previous original song ‘You’, click here. And, to see my review of her officially released single ‘Clear’, click here.

 

You Me At Six – Take On The World

Now, I know I posted a review of You Me At Six’s newest album ‘Night People’ at the beginning of the month, but I had to include this song here because I’m absolutely in love with it. ‘Take On The World’ is a poignant ballad about being there for someone through the worst of times, letting them know that together you can take on the world.

From the first time I heard this song – and every time since – it never fails to give me goosebumps. As someone who has struggled with anxiety in the past, the lyrics and the overall message of the song really resonates with me and I know that if I ever find myself in that situation again, this is a song that I’ll put on and just imagine someone singing it to me.

I’m actually going to see You Me At Six on their upcoming April tour and, if you follow me on Twitter, you may’ve seen me say that if they play this song live there’s a massive chance I’ll be in tears. It just really hits home for me and it’s a beautiful song overall.

To see my recent review of You Me At Six’s newest studio album ‘Night People’, click here.

 

La La Land – City Of Stars

If you’ve not heard of the recently released movie ‘La La Land’, to you I ask, where have you been? The musical romantic-comedy drama – starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone – was up for a record-breaking 14 nominations at this year’s Oscars, and it seems to be all anyone can talk about.

From my Twitter feed to Facebook, I kept seeing people sharing positive reviews of the film and its music – a couple of people I follow even posted covers of this very song. So, I decided to go and see what all the fuss was about – and I wasn’t disappointed.

Fair warning, if you’re not into musicals or anything overly lovey-dovey, then you’re probably not going to like this film. But, I really enjoyed it, and this song in particular has stuck with me since I watched it. ‘City Of Stars’ has that, kind of, classic vibe of old Hollywood movies but incorporates elements that work to bring it into the modern day. That charm, coupled with a catchy rhythm and heart-warming lyrics, will see you singing it for days afterwards – trust me.

 

Ruelle – Invincible

Ruelle is an electronic/pop artist from Nashville, that I discovered whilst binge-watching the Netflix original series ‘Shadowhunters’ – based on Cassandra Clare’s popular book series ‘The Mortal Instruments’. Ruelle lends quite a few of her songs to the show, including ‘Invincible’.

The electronic track is delicately menacing, with its ‘you want a war? You don’t know what you’re asking for’ bridge, and beat-driven instrumental – like waiting for a storm to hit. However, this is lifted by Ruelle’s light, ethereal vocals, and addictively charmingly melodies which ensure the songs leave an impression  making you want to hear more. With its dramatic vibe, dark undercurrents and epic-sounding chorus, it’s not surprising that her work has been featured in multiple television shows and films, as it lends its self really well to cinematics. Currently working on her first full-length album, Ruelle is undoubtedly one to watch.

Honestly, I had such a hard time choosing which song to feature in this post; I also love the dreamy, romantic sound of ‘Storm’, the eerie but upbeat, danceable ‘Monsters’, and the swelling, epic-sounding theme to the Shadowhunters series: ‘This Is The Hunt’. (Click on each title to listen to them.)

 

Pvris – Eyelids

I’ve been meaning to check out American three-piece Pvris – or, Paris to you and me – for a while now, but this is actually another song that I discovered thanks to the ‘Shadowhunters’ Netflix series. Taken from the band’s debut album ‘White Noise’, ‘Eyelids’ is a beautifully haunting track.

Combining their electronic, pop/rock sound with a crashing, beat-heavy chorus, it works to create something dark and eerie, with Lynn Gunn’s delicately airy vocals lifting everything – also giving it a pretty and romantic vibe.

 

Another two songs I’ve been listening to a lot since their release in January, are ‘Shape Of You’ and ‘Castle On The Hill’ by Ed Sheeran, marking the end of his musical hiatus, as well as his recent Live Lounge cover of Little Mix’s ‘Touch’. Click here to see my dual review of both ‘Shape Of You’ and ‘Castle On The Hill’.

 

What songs have you been loving recently? I’m always on the hunt for new things to listen to so please feel free to let me know in a comment, and 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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