+ A Tribute to Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse on stage in Cardiff
Amy Winehouse singing live at Cardiff Student Union

I clearly remember the first time I listened to Amy Winehouse's album Frank. More than any other album in my life, the songs and the clarity of her lyrics had a massive impact on me. That's what her legacy should be - the ability to move millions with clever wordplay, biting lyricism and, of course, the way her expressive vocals make themselves home in your head and are almost impossible to shake away.

My friend text me about her death, which I received as I was making my way up the escalator of the tube, and I just wanted to break down and cry. Not just for the desperately awful waste of young life and talent, but for the world generally. I sincerely believe the world is worse off without her music and its effect on so many people. I know so many people who have found solace in her music during shit times, who felt her pain as if it was her own, and knowing that no more music of this calibre will ever get made again upset me hugely.

I even remember playing the music to my grandad, a life-long fan of jazz in all its forms, hoping to convince him that not ALL modern music is a waste of time. Thankfully, he agreed! What has really angered me about the reaction to her death is the sense that people cannot publicly comment on their grief without various people seeing fit to dictate that she does not deserve our sorrow because a terrorist attack happened on the same day, or because she was a "low-life drug addict", as one person on my Facebook feed commented.

How can we as people place deaths on a scale of what's more deserving of grief? It's completely nonsensical to me. Yes, she was a drug addict, and yes, her hedonistic behaviour was almost certainly the cause of her untimely death, but funnily enough I doubt she deliberately experimented with drugs with a view to becoming dependent on them... no-one does, isn't that the whole point of addiction, that it's an illness?!

Music is such a powerful form of expression, and Amy gave the world a gift with her beautiful music, as trite as it may sound. I for one will always be grateful that I got a chance to see raw talent in the flesh twice, and I pity those who cannot look beyond the headlines to appreciate it too.

Here are some of my favourite live performances of Amy:

+ Music on my mind #2


Devil's Spoke - Laura Marling

Laura Marling may not have had a string of Number One hits, but it's her understated success with critics and music lovers which suggests her hauntingly beautiful music will be around for decades to come. I have only listened to Devil's Spoke, the first release from I Speak Because I Can, a handful of times but it is permanently bouncing around in my mind - I love its energy and the video is stunning!

Rainbowarriors - CocoRosie

If you look hard you can find a
Rainbow trail it's deep inside ya
Fear not you're a rainbowarrior
Golden light on everything gleaming
Rainbow love awaits us
With hearts of love and tears

Quirky background sounds and feelgood lyrics to Rainbowarriors make this one of my faves!

I ♥ Pop

Lately, the first time I hear a pop song I lament its shittiness and wonder how on earth they manage to sell any copies at all. I had this thought with both Shakira's She Wolf and Cheryl Cole's Three Words after my first listen.

But something overtakes my sanity and all of a sudden I find myself pressing the repeat button, loving them in their three minutes' worth of cheese-tastic pop!


+ Music on my Mind

Music On My Mind is a new blog series I'll be doing for the site. Enjoy!

Empire of the Sun


The XX

First up is a band that I have been hopelessly addicted to since I got their album in August. The XX have that rare ability to create minimalistic music that packs a certain punch. I am captivated by the vocals of leads Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft, and the way they are perfectly juxtaposed with techno beats and seductive melodies. Here's a XX remix of Florence & the Machine's take on You've Got the Love.


I don't know why it's taken me so long to listen to more of Goldfrapp's stuff, especially after she took such a risk departing from the sound of the album that gave them such success, Supernature. I downloaded Seventh Tree and am absolutely in love with the easygoing sound of Road to Somewhere.

Daniel Merriweather

I first saw this guy, regettably, while watching Loose Women!, but I heard Red on the radio a few times and think he is the perfect hybrid between Will Young and Jack Penate!

Massive Attack

A truly unique is hard to come by, which is why I highly rate Massive Attack. There's nothing better than playing your whole iTunes playlist on random and discovering a track you've barely listened to - it's how I rediscovered Protection. It's an enchanting song borne out of a collaboration with Tracey Thorn of Everything but the Girl.

+ Music Piracy – The Debate

Digital file-sharing is not going to go away. It is a passion for music which sustains such habits, and yet it is also a passion for music which argues that it cannot go on. Falling sales revenues raises fears that fewer and fewer artists will be able to fund themselves and their music if their music is not paid for.

Lord Mandelson is doing his best to make sure that persistent ‘pirates’ will be punished for downloading copyrighted music, much to the delight of the music industry. On Friday 25th September the government met with the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), a pressure group representing the UK music industry, and agreed that the proposal of implementing technical measures to impede widespread file-sharing is the best plan of action. Mandelson argued that downloading “poses a genuine threat to our creative industries and to the livelihoods of talented, hard-working people striving to get a foothold in them”.

The FAC, whose board members include Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien, Travis frontman Fran Healy, Kate Nash and Annie Lennox, believes that all downloaded music should be paid for, but is open-minded enough to recognise that distribution of free music helps to create an online presence for new talent.

"The industry recognizes the value of this unpaid-for-promotion and regularly uses free downloads as a marketing tool... By demanding blanket suspension powers from the government, the industry is in danger of cutting-off a promotional tool that is of great use to fledgling artists who seek to create a buzz around themselves yet don't have the financial support of a major label." - FAC

Lily Allen wrote on her ill-fated blog in response to the FAC’s belief that free downloads can be a positive thing: “The FAC seems to be viewing the government's proposed legislation as an attack on freedom and liberty, but stealing's not really a human right, is it? ”

Lily Allen’s position as an ambassador for the crackdown of illegal file-sharing is now no more, after deleting her blog amidst ‘abuse’ from commentators. Countless comments on her It’s Not All Right blog drew attention to her hypocritical views, because, after all, her success wasn’t just down to contacts from her famous father, oh no... I actually first heard about Lily Allen’s music through blogs that distributed her demos and mixtapes for free, files that she actually put onto the internet herself!

Even more confusing is that as well as deleting her blog, she now also revealed that she has no plans to make another record. For someone who blamed the FAC for not caring about the music industry due to already having “sell-out arena tours and [...] the biggest Ferrari collections in the world”, her seemingly nonchalant attitude to making music reveals a lot more about her place in music at all.

Maybe her real reason for jumping on the piracy-crackdown bandwagon was to get a few more column inches and some attention, rather than out of sheer love for music itself. Commenting that digitally stealing music is having “a dangerous effect” on the British music industry, perhaps her promise to retire will help make room for people who are able to write attention-grabbing songs without having to call it “Fuck You” or slag off fellow celebrities whenever you have a record out.

The FAC has always stated that they disagree with the government’s plans to victimise individual music fans, Friday’s meeting shows that we are one step closer to making people accountable for illegally downloading music. The new three-strikes rule involves sending letters to those who are persistently breaking the law, culminating in a period of internet suspension. The FAC has at the moment "agreed to disagree" with this idea of suspending internet access to individuals, but overall is happy with the government's plans.

Software such as Spotify helps bridge the gap between making music easily accessible for listeners, at the same time as helping generate revenue for the musicians and record companies. But, I believe in freedom of choice, so you can either click here to download it or have a look at Hype Machine and sample some of Lily Allen's music for free if you should so wish. Or, of course, you can go into a SHOP and buy the CD... how quaint!

Fundamentally, regardless of what side you are on, there's no denying that the digital era will make it increasingly more difficult for the middle-men (i.e. record companies) to make a profit now that music fans and the musicians can create a relationship without their help.

For the last word, here is a segment from the FAC Myspace:

"The digital revolution is a fantastic opportunity for music. It has changed everything, liberating the relationship between artists and fans. As this revolution gathers pace, we, Featured Artists, must seize the initiative and put ourselves at the heart of our industry.

+ Lady GaGa - Pop puppet or innovative icon?

While the hype around Lady GaGa has much more to do with her insanely dangerous style choices than her music, she has been lauded as an icon of the YouTube generation. In spite of her classically-trained pianist skills, I suspect her success has a lot more to do with her quick-thinking and publicity-savvy management. Combining outlandish fashion statements, artsy performances and several internet rumours (some concerning her gender), 2009 has been the year of Lady GaGa.

I’m filling an enormous hole. There’s a wide-open space for a female with big balls to fill

Can you think of anyone in the pop industry other than Lady GaGa who would utter these words?! In the last decade there has been a sea of pop princesses with no opinions or attitude, and it can't be denied that Lady GaGa stands out from the rest in the industry at the moment.

But, is she truly deserving of her innovative reputation, or is she merely a puppet of her management that controls every minute detail of her image? While her music is entertaining and has achieved high download sales, it is not exactly groundbreaking. Nevertheless, she writes her own songs and in fact started her career in the music industry by penning lyrics for other artists.

Her online presence is indisputable and is absolutely the key to her worldwide success. One website even went as far as saying that "those involved in online PR could learn a lot" from Lady GaGa.

Many comments in the blogosphere acknowledge that her persona is merely a character for the public eye, "it's so much that I believe "the real GaGa" is the performance", but what I find hilarious is how some people actually believe she is insane and needs help! Do they not realise that for every crazy outfit she wears earns her exponential media buzz and column inches/pixels on a screen?! Other commentators argue that she is "trying too hard". It seems to me that many people have no idea that these eccentric fashion choices are merely to embellish her persona, and are not the kinds of clothing she would wear before she was famous.

The music industry is changing, and it's well known that artists are turning to their tours and performances to help maximise revenue. Henry Tick wrote about the phenomenon in Intelligent Life, where 'gigonomics' is ever important due to "falling sales, rampant piracy, and digital distribution".

Lady Gaga's show-stopping attire and stage performances having everything to do with her fast rise to fame, and overall it is irrelevant whether it is orchestrated by the lady herself or a team of industry bigwigs.

It is a fame based on her notoriously crazy persona; most of the articles written about her aren't focusing on her music but instead whip up fame through positioning her as a spectacle. No-one can deny that her outfits and behaviour instils curiosity and amazement in the readers of tabloids and gossip blogs, but for how long? To have a longstanding and successful career the Lady GaGa team will need to continue to shock and entertain its audience in relevant ways.

Here's an idea - let's see some pictures of Lady GaGa dressed in everyday clothing and I'm sure that will turn some heads!