MTV Movie and TV awards: All Things Music

This Sunday and Monday, the MTV Movie and TV Awards will take place in Los Angeles, where our favourite films and series from the past 12 months will be judges among such esteemed categories such as ‘Best Movie’, ‘Best Show’ and even ‘Best Kiss’.

Spread across two nights to accommodate both scripted and unscripted productions, comedians Leslie Jones and Nikki Glaser will preside over dishing out the infamous popcorn box-shaped trophies. 

Totting up with the most nominations is big-budget superhero series WandaVision, Marvel Studios’ first small screen attempt, whilst Borat Subsequent Moviefilm makes for the most-nominated cinema release.

However, joining the mix will be a celebration of the music stars who have sought to give fans a little further insight into their careers and their lives, with the ‘Best Music Documentary’ category. The award will be presented on Monday night’s show dedicated to unscripted contenders.

It’s a competitive category of a whopping nine nominees, from films centred on young chart-toppers’ struggles with fame to fascinating docs about music legends. 

Perhaps the nominee that gripped the world the most upon its release in February is Framing Britney Spears. The television documentary called into the question the treatment of the pop princess in the early years of her music career and, notably, during her very public mental health struggles in 2007. Watched by millions in lockdown, the show’s broadcast led to countless calls across social media to help Spears escape her conservatorship and even resulted in former boyfriend Justin Timberlake issuing her a belated apology. 

Mental health is also a focus of Demi Lovato’s Dancing with the Devil. The singer and her close friends and family talk about her near-fatal overdose in 2018 and her subsequent return to music in the gripping four-part docuseries.

Miss Americana sees Taylor Swift share unprecedented access into her life over the course of several years, as she looks back at her career and learns to accept her place as one of the world’s most influential women. 

Exploding onto the mainstream scene in a big way means there was no shortage in demand for a BTS film. In Break the Silence: The Movie, we get to follow the Korean boyband’s seven members around the globe on their 42-stop Love Yourself tour. 

Another concert film is found in Ariana Grande’s Excuse Me, I Love You. The recording takes us on-stage as well as behind the scenes of the pop sensation’s 2019 Sweetener tour. 

Mirroring the stories shared in her 2020 memoir Happiness Becomes You, Tina Turner’s decades-long career is highlighted in the star-studded Tina. With contributions from Oprah Winfrey, Angela Basset and Roger Davies, to name a few, the legendary singer and actress shares the highs and lows of her epic life. 

Not many teenagers can say they have done enough to warrant a documentary being made on their life but Billie Eilish isn’t just any teenager. The World’s a Little Blurry delves into the creation of her debut album, and features real behind-the-scenes footage spanning her first going viral on Soundcloud with Ocean Eyes to winning five Grammys in one night – all intercut, of course, with the regular teen shenanigans of boyfriend drama, getting a driving license and, uh, recording a Bond theme. 

Archival footage and revealing interviews with lone surviving member Barry Gibb, The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart explores the history of the legendary disco giants. 

Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell, released in collaboration with his family ahead of what would have been his 50th birthday, shows us sides to late rapper Christopher Wallace (AKA TheNotorious B.I.G) rarely seen before. The intimate documentary uses footage of the artist filmed by his best friend Damion “D-Roc” Butler, capturing him as his loved ones knew him. 

Fame on Vine to topping charts worldwide isn’t the route many take into musical stardom but it’s the story told in Shawn Mendes’s doc In Wonder. The film takes a look at the Canadian singer’s youthful rise to fame, and all the fun, feats and challenges that come along with it. 

So, who will win big at the 2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards? Find out on MTV (Sky channel 126, Virgin channel 134) at 10pm on Monday and 8pm on Tuesday!

Words: Rona McCann

Billie Eilish announces new album ‘Happier Than Ever’ & breaks the internet

“Explore Eilish’s personal experience as a young woman in the public eye and the wider female experience, including misogyny, autonomy and empowerment

Billie Eilish, the 19-year-old American singer/songwriter and international sensation, has officially announced that her eagerly anticipated second album titled ‘Happier Than Ever’, will be released on the 30th of July. This project will be the follow up to the critically acclaimed and exceedingly commercially successful debut ‘When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ (2019) which went platinum or multi-platinum in 17 countries around the world and catapulted Eilish to astounding levels of global fame and recognition.

This 16-track second album will once again be a joint writing and production project with Eilish’s older brother FINNEAS, with the siblings spending the past year in lockdown creating new material together. Eilish has honed her writing skills and learned to produce. Eilish has stated ‘this is my favourite thing I’ve ever created…I’ve never felt so much love for a project that I do for this one’ and has also interestingly commented that ‘I don’t think I would’ve made the same album, or even the album at all, if it weren’t for COVID’.  

The singer’s team have been ingeniously using PR stunts and the media to promote this new musical era in Eilish’s career, projecting the album artwork onto famous landmarks, such as London’s Marble Arch.

Eilish has also “broken the internet” twice lately. Her British Vogue cover shot for the June 2021 issue, posted on her Instagram account, received 1 million likes in under 6 minutes, breaking the platforms record, which she set herself just the month before with a photo of her newly dyed blonde hair, signalling a new era with a clear departure from her previously edgy and dark image and is now the 3rd most liked photo on Instagram with 22.9 million likes currently. These may just sound like trivial social media stats that would only interest Instagram obsessed teenagers, but the importance of social media presence for an artist can’t be underestimated contemporarily. 

 At still only 19, Eilish and her team have constructed one of the most powerful and influential celebrity brands around currently, all this without the decades-spanning careers that the other most liked and most powerful social media stars have enjoyed, such as Beyoncé and the Kardashians. Eilish interestingly commented on the influence of celebrities recently, saying ‘nobody should be given the power we’re given’. It has been obvious throughout her short but undeniably successful career that she is somewhat uncomfortable in the limelight and with being idolised and sexualised. Yet Eilish has chosen to step into the spotlight in a way she knew would garner international attention all to promote an important message. 

Eilish has utilised this Vogue shoot and interview to reclaim her power and ‘challenge misogynistic narratives around women and the way they dress’ (British Vogue, 2021), stating that she was formerly anxious about showing her skin, being sexualised and branded with derogatory terms. She has now decided to switch this narrative, embrace her sexuality and flaws.

The shoot sees an obvious removal from her trademark look of bright and bold baggy clothes, green and black hair and bucket hats. The stunning photos display Eilish with her new platinum blonde hair, confidently posing in a series of nude toned custom corsets by top fashion houses such as Gucci, Burberry and Alexander McQueen, redefining the corset in a rejection of patriarchal beauty standards.

Billie Eilish can do whatever she likes with her own body, and we should all do what makes us feel good. She has risen above the backlash from the body positive movement for wearing corsets which alter the body shape and for the derogatory comments used on social media.

In an Instagram caption for one of the photos Eilish writes ‘I love these photos and I loved doing this shoot. Do whatever you want whenever you want’ (@billieeilish). She has reclaimed autonomy over her body and refuses to let the industry or society dictate her image or her actions, a commendable and brave statement from an artist absorbed in the celebrity lifestyle from such a young age and with such an instantly recognisable public image. She is actively rejecting being defined by one brand image and is demanding respect for deciding to change it up. Eilish meant to “break the internet” with an influential message of body positivity and self-governance and she has achieved just that.  

The publication of the British Vogue shoot coordinates nicely with Eilish’s new musical release, another single from the impending second album, following up from singles ‘Therefore I Am’ and ‘my future’. The haunting ballad titled ‘Your Power’ continues the narrative of misogyny and autonomy over the body, exploring Eilish’s personal experience of abuse. She predicted this would gain criticism when viewed alongside the displaying of her body in the shoot, to which she has rightly declared that showing skin is absolutely no excuse for abuse.  

If we are to view the new single and the photoshoot together, it’s possible ‘Happier Than Ever’ will further explore Eilish’s personal experience as a young woman in the public eye and the wider female experience, including misogyny, autonomy and empowerment. Eilish is the singer of a Bond theme, a British Vogue cover star and a 7-time Grammy winner in just 2 years, all at the tender age of 19. There is no doubt that the world is watching in great anticipation for this album.  

Words: Leila McGrorty

Jorja Smith teams up with Brent Faiyaz’s Sonder to release their latest track ‘Nobody But You’

American R&B trio Sonder stretch their heart across the pond to partner with the soul singing sensation Jorja Smith in their new collaborative single ‘Nobody But You’; an emotional, soulful track that mournfully harnesses the pain of unrequited love. Formed of singer-songwriter Brent Faiyaz and producers Atu and Dpat, Sonder is characterised by a minimal, innovative sound that has seen the trio quickly propel up the ladder of industry notoriety. Following the release of ‘Gravity’ earlier this year, featuring millennial treasure Tyler, The Creator, Sonder’s discography continues to blossom.

‘Nobody But You’ is the perfect antidote for all those suffering from heartbreak. The stripped back, acoustic melody compliments the melancholic rawness of Sonder and Smith’s cathartic vocals. Both Sonder and Smith’s lyricism in ‘Nobody But You’ is heartfelt, vulnerable and sincere. The multi-faceted vocalism allows listeners of ‘Nobody But You’ to experience the fragility of love and heartbreak from both the male and female perspective. With lines such as “Don’t think you cared about me” from Smith, paired with the admissions of “Swore that I’d catch you fall, I guess I couldn’t handle it” from Sonder, ‘Nobody But You’ is a lovers lament for the pain of failed relationships, breakups and betrayal.

The back-and-forth style of ‘Nobody But You’ creates a complexity and intensity of sound that beautifully resonates with those of us who are experiencing the heaviness of heartbreak. The soul-soothing effect of ‘Nobody But You’ delicately pulls on every heartstring, making this song a worthy resident in all breakup playlists.

Words: Hazel Thayre

Brit Awards 2021

Women rule this year’s BRIT award nominations, and it’s about time...

This year’s BRIT award nominations have been announced by Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw and winner of BRIT’s Rising Star for 2021, Griff. In a rather refreshing plot twist three female artists lead the way in the nominations, with Celeste, Arlo Parks and Dua Lipa taking three each. DJ Joel Corry and rap duo Young T and Bugsey also earn themselves three nominations. The BRIT awards have brought us many iconic moments in the past few years: Madonna being violently dragged down a flight of stairs by the neck of her cape, The 1975 smoking under the table, Este from HAIM becoming a viral meme as a “mystery drunk lady interrupts Liam Payne interview” to name just a few. Now we can look forward to what the 2021 ceremony has in store.

Just like in most industries, men have historically, and still are, the gatekeepers of the music industry, controlling the majority of record labels. There is also a disparate gender pay gap between male and female music artists, male acts make up the overwhelming majority of festival headliner slots and the Musician’s Union stated in 2020 that 81% of songs in the top 100 played on UK radio feature male artists. UK award shows have also been criticised for a lack of racial diversity and a few years ago the BRITs were accused of disregarding grime, the most up and coming genre in the UK at the time, focusing instead on predominantly white artists and genres. Last year’s BRIT awards were also condemned in the press for being male-dominated, with only four women nominated across twenty-five mixed gender slots available. It seems this year the BRITs are eager to disrupt this narrative and have announced the most diverse award show in its forty-four year history. Below we have a closer look at this year’s refreshingly inclusive list of nominees…

Mastercard Album of the Year

Arlo Parks- Collapsed in Sunbeams

Celeste- Not Your Muse

Dua Lipa- Future Nostalgia

J Hus- Big Conspiracy

Jessie Ware What’s Your Pleasure?

Female Solo Artist

Arlo Parks

Celeste

Dua Lipa

Jessie Ware

Lianne La Havas

Male Solo Artist

AJ Tracey

Headie One

J Hus

Joel Corry

Yungblud

British Group

Bicep

Biffy Clyro

Little Mix

The 1975

Young T & Bugsey

Breakthrough Artist

Arlo Parks

Bicep

Celeste

Joel Corry

Young T and Bugsey

British Single with Mastercard

220 Kid & GRACEY – Don’t Need Love

Aitch & AJ Tracey feat. Tay Keith – Rain

Dua Lipa – Physical

Harry Styles – Watermelon Sugar

Headie One feat. AJ Tracey and Stormzy – Ain’t It Different

Joel Corry feat. MNEK – Head & Heart

Nathan Dawe feat. KSI – Lighter

Regard & RAYE – Secrets

S1MBA feat. DTG – Rover

Young T & Bugsey feat. Headie One – Don’t Rush

International Female Artist

Ariana Grande

Billie Eilish

Cardi B

Miley Cyrus

Taylor Swift

International Male Solo Artist

Bruce Springsteen

Burna Boy

Childish Gambino

Tame Impala

The Weeknd

International Group

BTS

Fontaines D.C.

Foo Fighters

HAIM

Run The Jewels

BRIT’s Rising Star

Griff (winner)

Pa Salieu

Rina Sawayama

A Closer Look

Yes you read that right, albums by female artists really do make up four out of five nominations for Album of the Year; the most ever. In fact, in 2020 all five nominees were male. It’s also notable that four out of five of the nominees are also POC and this year’s nominees are overall, officially the most racially diverse ever.

Arlo Parks in perhaps the most notable BRIT nominee this year as she was a predominantly unknown artist this time last year, with successful singles such as ‘Hurt’ and ‘Caroline’ propelling her to fame during the Pandemic. She now has a critically acclaimed debut album and three BRIT nominations to her name. It’s been a pretty good year for this 20 year old and winning best album would surely be the cherry on top. Yet, Celeste’s debut album reached number one in the album charts, and let’s be honest the unstoppable Dua Lipa will take some beating in any category she appears in.

In terms of the British Group category, traditionally dominated by male rock bands, Nottingham hip-hop duo Young T & Bugsey especially stand out in this eclectic category which also includes the Irish electronic music duo Bicep. In fact, the inclusion of artists such as Bicep, Joel Corry and Nathan Dawe in this year’s nominations is notable as the BRIT’s have, in the past, been critiqued for their treatment of electronic music with DJ Jonas Blue slamming the awards for not including a separate category for the genre earlier this year, stating that DJ’s and producers stand little chance against mainstream pop artists. Jonas Blue may just be eating his words now as songs from UK DJ’s 220 KID, Joel Corry, Nathan Dawe and Regard are up for a chance of winning Best Single, indicating the dominance of dance music within the UK music scene right now. This year’s Male Solo Artist nominations also show the diverse range of genres the BRITs are now keen to include with Grime, Afroswing, Pop Punk and Electronic music all represented. Three out of five nominees are rappers, showcasing the power of rap in the UK currently.

This year’s nominations for once actually accurately represent the UK music scene, with widely popular and traditionally underground genres, such as grime and electronic music earning the respect they deserve, and female and racially diverse acts finally stealing the limelight. Now we just need festival organisers to catch up as many line-ups remain dominated by all male rock bands this summer, contrasting strongly with these BRIT nominees.

This year’s BRIT awards will take place at the later than usual date of May the 11th  and will be presented by Comedian Jack Whitehall. The ceremony is currently set to be a “test event” by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport with a live audience to evaluate the safety of gatherings. Dua Lipa is the favourite to be a big winner with her second album “Future Nostalgia” reaching platinum in the UK. But with such an eclectic mix of artists up for a chance of winning at the most prestigious UK music awards and a host of live performances to enjoy you won’t want to miss the show.

The latest on: UK Music Festivals, 2021

As the UK begins to come out of lockdown, the end is in sight and we can finally look forward to enjoying live music. But which festivals are on offer this summer and who’s playing?

Picture this: a plastic cup full of questionable liquid soars over your head, glinting in the sun and disappears into the sea of people in front of you. You stare in anticipation (at the back of someone’s head if you’re 5 foot), clutching your £9 beer as you wait for your favourite band to take the stage. This morning you rolled unceremoniously out of your roasting tent, took a trip to an unholy portaloo, before slumping into a broken camping chair and chugging a warm cider. Tonight you’ll be dancing to a DJ set as some lad in a bucket hat slides shirtless through a bath of mud. We’ve missed you, UK festivals.

On the 22nd of February, Boris Johnson laid down his roadmap of how the UK will begin to ease from the third current lockdown – cue a host of festivals organisers scrambling to arrange their events! Currently, June 21st remains the magic date for when all Corona Virus restrictions will be lifted and since this announcement, some festivals have sold out in record time. It’s no secret that we can’t wait to be throwing shapes in a muddy field. But which festivals can you choose from this summer and which big name acts can you expect to be screaming the lyrics back to? Below we outline 11 of this summer’s best festivals with confirmed go-aheads…

Parklife

Where? Heaton Park, Manchester

When? 11-12th September

The renowned Parklife festival is back, having sold out in record time before tickets even made it to general sale due to unprecedented demand. Some 2020 ticketholders may be disappointed to see that the line-up has altered from the one previously promoted for 2020. There’s no Tyler The Creator in sight (be right back crying). However, the line-up remains an incredible showcase of the very best talent from hip-hop and electronic music, including Skepta, Disclosure, slowthai, Dave (in a UK festival exclusive), Peggy Gou, Carl Cox, Eric Prydz and recent Grammy winner Kaytranada. But the headliner that got everyone talking is Megan Thee Stallion, an artist whose fame has found new heights during the pandemic. The thought of a field full of Mancs singing along to WAP is slightly surreal but epic.

Latitude

Where? Henham Park, Suffolk

When? 22-25th July

Event organisers have stated that the four day Suffolk festival will go ahead this summer at full capacity. Snow Patrol, First Aid Kit and Bastille  are already confirmed to appear and many more artists are yet to be announced. Founder, Melvin Benn, seems to be eager to reassure visitors that the festival can be enjoyed as safely as possible, stating that on-site testing will be available for any unvaccinated visitors.

Isle Of Wight

Where? Seaclose Park, Newport

When? 16-19th September

This world renowned festival, first held in 1968, is also set to return this summer at a pushed back date, and it’s no surprise that a host of impressive artists are fixed to perform at an event celebrated for its notable line-ups. This year the line-up is a showcase of male acts and bands. Good old Liam Gallagher headlines the Friday night mainstage, whilst Sam Fender, James, You Me At Six, Scouting for Girls, Kaiser Chiefs, Primal Scream and many more are officially playing. You can also catch Golden Oldies Tom Jones and Duran Duran on the island.

Kendal Calling

Where? Lowther Deer Park, The Lake District

When? 29th July-1st August

The festival iconic enough to bring Snoop Dogg to Cumbria in 2015, returns in 2021 with a line-up packed full of indie bands, including The Kooks, DMA’s, Pale Waves, Sundara Karma, The Sherlocks, The Magic Gang and Blossoms. By night the festival becomes a rave with DJ’s Joel Corry, Andy C, 808 State and Faithless, plus more, performing. This festival’s line-up gets more impressive by the year and is perhaps one of the most exciting and eclectic announced this year, allowing big names such as Stereophonics, The Streets and Dizzee Rascal, as well as the alternative music scene the opportunity to play. Let’s just hope the festival magically falls on the few days a year it doesn’t rain in The Lakes.

Reading and Leeds

Where? Little John’s Farm, Reading and Bramham Park, Wetherby

When? 27-29th August

If you haven’t spent your August bank holiday at Reading or Leeds fest have you even been a UK teenager? Evolving from a renowned rock and indie festival into a more mainstream pop and hip-hop event, this festival, now in its 5th decade, remains a post-GCSE rite of passage. This summer the line-up continues the annual trend of bringing in more and more big mainstream names. Stormzy, Catfish And The Bottlemen, Post Malone, Disclosure, Liam Gallagher and Queens Of The Stone Age headline. The array of artists is definitely impressive, including some not often seen in the UK, like Doja Cat, but I can’t help feeling the festival is becoming slightly predictable. Whilst other events seem to have made an effort to diversify their line-ups, including artists who don’t usually appear and a vast array of genres, I feel like I’ve seen the majority of this Reading and Leeds line-up before. Maybe in 2019, or 2018 or 2017? Plus, where are the women? But more on that below.

Slam Dunk

Where? Leeds Temple Newsam, Leeds and Hatfield Park, Hertfordshire

When? 4th September (Leeds) 5th September (Hertfordshire)

The UK’s biggest pop-punk, rock , metal and alternative festival , set up by independent record label Slam Dunk Music, is back for 2021 on a pushed back date. As per usual the best established and up-and-coming artists in their respective alternative genres fill the line-up. Don Broco, Mayday Parade, The Story So Far, Sum 41, While She Sleeps, plus many more bands will perform.

Neighbourhood Weekender

Where? Victoria Park, Warrington

When? 3rd-5th September

This Cheshire festival is recognised for its annual line-up of the best indie and alternative artists and this year is no exception. Gerry Cinnamon, James and Catfish And The Bottlemen headline and the rest of the acts are a “who’s who “ of the current UK indie scene. Circa Waves, Sam Fender, Pale Waves, The Magic Gang, Sundara Karma, Sea Girls, Alfie Templeman and Working Men’s Club, to name just a few. Although Ian Brown was set to headline in 2020, he will not return this year after publicly denouncing the suggestion that a vaccination passport may be needed to attend. Brown tweeted:

‘My Saturday night headline show at NHBD Weekender Festival will now not happen! I refuse to accept vaccination proof as condition of entry. Refunds are available!’ (@ianbrown)

Strawberries and Creem

Where? Childerley Orchard, Cambridge

When? 18-19th September

This contemporary festival is known for showcasing prevalent artists from the urban and dance music scenes. Artists from the genres of grime, hip-hop, garage, house and drum and bass will be on offer, including headliners PARTYNEXTDOOR, Sean Paul, Bugzy Malone and Koffee. DJ’s such as Dennis Sulta, Honey Dijon, Mall Grab, Hybrid Minds and Dimension are also set to appear. First Release tickets are sold out but you can still get your hands on the fast selling phase 2 tickets to attend this exciting up and coming event.

All Points East

Where? Victoria Park, London

When? 27th-30th August  

This London festival only began in 2018 and has rapidly risen to stand out from the crowd of a multitude of live music events the capital has to offer. The line-up for this summer is refreshingly different, with an assorted mix of artists from a variety of genres. London Grammer, Jorja Smith, Jamie XX, Kano, Loyle Carner, Foals, Bombay Bicycle Club, Slow Thai, Arlo Parks, Mahalia and Caribou are all performing. There is also a stage dedicated to prominent and up and coming names in electronic music, including Adelphi Music Factory, The Blessed Madonna, George Fitzgerald and O’Flynn. With one of the most eclectic and diverse line-ups on offer this summer, this festival has something for everyone.

TRNSMT

Where? Glasgow Green, Glasgow

When? 9-11th July 2020

Festival old-hands Courteeners headline this Scottish festival, along with Ian Brown, Sam Fender, Blossoms, The Chemical Brothers, Snow Patrol, Liam Gallagher, Primal Scream and Keane. It all just seems a bit familiar at this point. It is the smaller artists who I’m most excited by on this line-up, such as  Sea Girls, Vistas, Declan Mckenna, Joesef and artists from a wider array of genres, including KSI, Little Simz and Ms Banks. Although the female-only ‘Queen Tut’s’ stage was created in 2019, after The Musicians Union criticised the line-up for being dominated by male acts, this 2021 line-up is once again, predictably all male headliners.

Creamfields

Where?

When? 26-29th August

Perhaps one of the UK’s most famous festivals, Creamfields has come to be known as a world renowned electronic music event, bringing the most famous DJs on the planet to a field in Warrington. The line-up for 2021, as per usual, reads like an A-Z directory of the world’s best DJ’s. Alesso, Andy C, Armin Van Buuren, Bicep, Carl Cox, Camelphat, Chase and Status, David Guetta, Deadmau5, Franky Wah, Martin Garrix, Pete Tong and Tiësto just about scratches the surface of the astonishing list of over 100 performers. If you are a fan of electronic music a trip to Creamfields is a must.

The Takeaway

Although many events have chosen to stay virtual this summer, including the legendary Glastonbury, which has just announced livestream performances from Coldplay, Michael Kiwanuka and Haim and many more, there is definitely no shortage of exciting festivals to attend. Yet, I can’t ignore the blatant lack of female acts, especially on the major stages and headlining slots within these line-ups. Although many festivals, including Reading and Leeds have previously been criticised for their lack of gender inequality and racial diversity it seems nothing has really changed. Blaming a lack of women within music is definitely not a valid excuse when there are currently so many female artists worthy of headlining festivals.

It remains unclear precisely how festivals will go ahead this summer and what safety measures will be in place. Will we need to have a vaccine or negative test before being allowed to enter festival sites? Will social distancing and mask wearing be enforced? Will these events even be allowed to go ahead? Only time will tell….

Words: Leila McGrorty

63rd Annual Grammy Awards

This year’s Grammy Awards show took place under new and unfamiliar circumstances. In response to the global pandemic, the Grammys were held in a socially distanced manner at the Los Angeles Convention Centre, with a combination of live performances and pre-recorded segments. There was immense support for the live performances which took place from artists such as Harry Styles, Taylor Swift, Black Pumas, Cardi B, Billie Eilish, Post Malone, Doja Cat, Maren Morris, John Mayer and many more.

The strong line-up of performances certainly compensated for the unprecedented times, where live shows and concerts have simply been put on hold indefinitely. 

The Grammys have faced major backlash from loyal fans of high-profile artists, and also the artists themselves, on accounts of corruption and criticisms of lack of diversity in those who were awarded with the prestigious Grammy trophy. This year, Zayn was one of the most prolific artists, who had taken to his social media in order to express his dissatisfaction with the unjust, ‘lack of inclusion and transparency of the nomination process’, after he was snubbed in this year’s list of nominees. Whilst there remained those who outright condemned the award show, there also remained those who had the opposite reaction, as the truth is; the Grammys never fail to surprise. This year saw The Stroke win their first ever Grammy, despite this being their first nomination, following years of being overlooked by the awards show. The band’s 2020 album ‘The New Abnormal’ won the ‘Best Rock Album’ category, against fierce competition from competing artists, such as The Fontains D.C and Grace Potter. 

Taylor Swift had unsurprisingly been one of the main talking points, of those who had watched the Grammys unfold live. Swift’s album ‘Folklore’ had won ‘Album of the Year’ at this year’s awards show. This marks a significant moment of her journey through the music industry, following her nomination for ‘Best Country Album’ for ‘Speak Now’ which did not receive a win, and her 2015 win for ‘Album of the Year’ with her pop album ‘1989’. What people had taken away from this, was that Taylor could excel in the genre of pop music, in a way that she couldn’t so much when she created folk/country style music. This year’s Grammy win for Folklore proved differently. Despite how shocking it was to Taylor’s fans that she would release an album that differed so drastically in genre shift, from her previous pop album ‘Lover’, it outlined the fundamental fact that her abilities are not limited to any of genre of music, and she continues to grow as an artist; a fact supported by her numerous Grammy wins. This year makes Taylor Swift the first female artist ever, to win album of the year three times.

Beyoncé also made history at this year’s Grammys, after receiving an award for ‘Best R&B performance’, which marked her 28th Grammy win, ultimately making her the most-awarded female artist. Female artists had strongly dominated in many categories; Megan Thee Stallion became the first female artist to win the award for ‘Best Rap Song’ and ‘Best new artist’, and Billie Eilish won ‘Record of the Year’. 

The 2021 Grammys overall had the audience reflect on what can only be described as an eventful and unpredictable year. Protest songs such as H.E.R’s I Can’t Breathe, had us reflecting on a year of solitude, whilst the live performances had us reflecting on the impact that music has had on us all as a collective, over this unprecedented period of time. You can catch up on the full ceremony below…

Words: Amy Wong

#ILoveLive campaign relaunched in aid of the live music unsung heroes

The #ILoveLive campaign has been relaunched by Stagehand, a live production welfare and benevolence fund, in the hope of raising funds for those working in the music industry.

The campaign was first introduced last year and raised over £500,000 for UK stage crew. Those who donated were entered into a prize draw to win rare music memorabilia from the likes of Liam Gallagher, Radiohead, and The Cure’s Robert Smith; as well as tickets to Glastonbury and Reading festival being up for grabs.

#ILoveLive 2.0 sees the likes of the Spice Girls, Noel Gallagher and Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham auctioning off special items to raise funds.

The donations will help stage crews nationwide, many of whom are self-employed and so are without income during the absence of live shows. Stagehand argues that without crews and technicians live music could not go ahead and so they should not be forgotten in such troubling times.

Government schemes and grants have been provided, including the Job Retention Scheme and Cultural Recovery Funding. However, last October it was predicted that 170,000 jobs from the live music sector could be lost by the end of 2020 according to the NME, and many freelance workers may not be awarded sufficient funding as they are ineligible. The money raised could potentially be lifesaving for many and could prevent long-lasting damage to the live music sector.

Each entry for the draw costs £5 and individuals can enter multiple times. The draw closes Wednesday 17 March 2021 and winners will be contacted by Wednesday 24 March via email.

Entry to the draws can be found here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/i-love-live

Biggie ‘I Got A Story To Tell’ Documentary:

Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell pays homage to one of the greatest MCs of all time, The Notorious B.I.G. In the words of those who love him most, the documentary immerses us into the world of Christopher Wallace and how he became “The King of New York”. Compiled with interviews of Biggie’s closest friends and family, vintage camcorder footage of New York during the Hip-hop “golden era” and exclusive clips of Biggie during his prime, the documentary offers a fresh retrospective on Biggie’s admirable journey from rags to riches.

The highly anticipated documentary was released March 1st and has been at the top of the trending list on Netflix since. Biggie’s mother, Voletta Wallace, and P Diddy, close friend and mentor to the late MC, partnered together as executive producers for this documentary. Both Voletta and P Diddy, alongside Biggie’s childhood friends and associate musicians, appear as interviewees in the documentary as they lovingly reflect on his life and long lasting influence. As a documentary produced and spearheaded by Biggie’s nearest and dearest, Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell intimately celebrates the man behind the hip-hop classics ‘Big Poppa’, ‘Juicy’, ‘Hypnotize’ and ‘Party and Bullsh*t’.

The first part of Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell explores the musical influences that helped shape The Notorious’ sonic sound. Born into the vibrant and magnetic culture of New York City, Biggie was exposed to a plethora of sounds during his upbringing. Donald Harrison, renowned jazz musician and fellow New Yorker, features in the documentary and describes how his friendship with “little Christopher Wallace” was built on his fascination with the saxophone. Harrison dotingly describes their friendship as “a perfect match” of two passionate musicians, sharing that he became an advisor to Wallace and helped infuse his flow with a bepop jazz rhythm. Harrison explains how he gave Wallace two pieces of advice; advice that would later become an essential part of the Notorious B.I.G’s intricately curated sound. Harrison encouraged Wallace to enunciate his words and to “put accents like a drummer, a jazz drummer”. The second piece of Harrison’s advice was to “tell stories where you could visualize the scenes”; a method of emotive storytelling that can be seen in a number of Biggie’s hits. As well as this, the documentary explores the wider field of Biggie’s musical influences, such as reggae and country, to further describe the dynamic, multi-genre fluidity of the MCs authentic sound.

Despite how the first part of the documentary seems to tip a metaphorical hat to New York and the bustling music scene that thrived within it, the rest of Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell changes into a critical social commentary on the unforgiving environment that birthed the Notorious B.I.G. Born into the concrete of Brooklyn, the epicentre of the late 80’s/early 90’s “crack era” of New York, Christopher Wallace was victimised by a culture of violence, murder and drug-related crime. As a young black man living in a low-income area with his single mum, Wallace emblemises the injustices inflicted on minority groups by the capitalist American society. The documentary delicately and empathetically explains how the politics of surviving within the harsh environment of the Brooklyn streets caused Wallace to follow the path of crimeg. At just 16, Biggie was already hustling the streets of Brooklyn and selling crack as a way to make ends meet. But Biggie had an undeniable talent that caught the attention of those around him, and this talent would soon become his golden ticket out of the deprived streets of Brooklyn and into the glory of hiphop royalty. Looking back on his younger day, dripped in a glistening chain and velour Coogi sweatshirt, Biggie would comment “from selling drugs on the corner, to this? I like it. I like it all”.

Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell further unmasks the cruel reality of the gun-wielding American society by  how it revisits the famously turbulent relationship between The Notorious B.I.G and hip-hop rival, Tupac Shakur. Described by P Diddy as “the theatrics of hip-hop”, the East Coast-West coast rivalry of the two titans in the early/mid 90’s became a focal point within popular culture. The documentary sheds light on the friendship that existed between Biggie and Tupac before their enthralling rivalry and how their “beef” became cemented into the very fabric of the hip-hop genre. However, things took a tragic turn when Tupac was murdered in 1996, causing damaging rumours to emerge around Biggie being the mastermind behind the attack. The documentary takes a strong stand against these allegations, supported by an interview of Wallace’s wife, Faith Evans, as she reveals that the only time she saw her husband cry was when he spoke about Tupac.

The final chapter of the documentary emotionally reflects on March 9th, 1997: the day the great Notorious B.I.G was murdered in a drive-by shooting. Powerfully compiled with aerial footage of Biggie’s funeral and camcorder footage that captures the outpouring of love from the mourning Brooklyn community, Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell is bookended by the faces of those he touched by not only his music, but by his remarkable story.

Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell is a melancholic salute to, in the words of those closest to him, the man who “gave birth to hip-hop”. As a leading pioneer of his genre, Biggie warped the conventions and represented a raw, authentic form of hip-hop that differentiated itself from the “pretty” hip-hop popular at the time. His experimental flow, impeccable rhymes and honest lyrics make Biggie a quintessential icon for not only his community, but his generation. The documentary closes with the iconic image of The Notorious wearing his well-deserved crown, leaving us with a sweet taste of the legacy he leaves behind. If you don’t know, now you know.

Words: Hazel Thayre

Adele has been named as the UK’s best-selling female album artist of the 21st century

Adele has been named as the UK’s best-selling female album artist of the 21st century by the Official Charts for National Album Day 2021, beating the likes of Pink (ranking second), followed by Madonna, Rihanna, Dido, and Amy Winehouse in sixth.

The London-born superstar holds the title for the fastest-selling album of all time, for her album 25. Her second album, ‘21‘, also holds the title for the UK’s number one album by a female artist since 2000, after shifting 6 million copies in the UK alone. 

Adele’s three studio albums have been named after the ages she was when she wrote them – 19, 21 and 25 – and Adele recently confirmed she is working on new material coming this September….

The news was released on International Women’s Day – so a big shout out to all the amazing, talented, hard working women out there around the 🌎💛 

Saint Raymond drops new track ‘Soft Landing’ – new album ‘We Forgot We Were Dreaming’ follows on April 16th

Saint Raymond continues to build anticipation for the April 16th release of his long awaited second album ‘We Forgot We Were Dreaming’ by sharing the new single ‘Soft Landing’ along with an official video. His emotionally charged recent tracks have shown a confident evolution since his Top 10 debut ‘Young Blood’, earning over 4 million streams plus recent airplay courtesy of Radio 1. Listen HERE.

The song’s opening lyrics summarise the often tumultuous journey that Saint Raymond’s life has taken, “I know it’s been a while and everything’s changed,” he sings, “I lost my vision but I’m coming-of-age now.” While the lyrics speak of searching for something more, musically Saint Raymond has never sounded so accomplished. The spacious production – luminous synths, ambient vocal harmonies, increasingly dramatic beats – plays to his strengths, his voice so elegantly expressing the pain of struggling for direction.

Saint Raymond wrote ‘Soft Landing’ with another musician from his hometown of Nottingham: Rob Milton of D.I.D., previously known as Dog Is Dead. Saint Raymond, real name Callum Burrows, commented, “We wrote ‘Soft Landing’ at a time when I was feeling a bit lost with everything. I think the story tells that journey of feeling lost, but having something and someone who makes everything feel normal.”

The official video for ‘Soft Landing’ sees Saint Raymond hitting the open road on the back of a pickup truck, which provides an apt metaphor for the song’s sense of yearning for something more. The tight focus on his performance suggests that he’s lost alone in his thoughts. But when he jumps off the truck, those preconceptions are turned on their head with a final reveal. The video was directed by Bjorn Franklin & Johnny Marchetta. The duo were nominated for Best Pop Video: Newcomer at the 2020 UK Music Video Awards for their inventive, war-themed visual for Nick Wilson’s ‘Enough To Know You’.

As ‘Soft Landing’ suggests, the creation of ‘We Forgot We Were Dreaming’ was a voyage of self-discovery for Saint Raymond. Constantly experimenting with new ideas, the songs emerged from a two years’ worth of songwriting before being recorded in Bath with producer Joe Page. Sonically it sways between energising alt-pop anthems and more introspective moods, with changing relationships and struggles with mental health issues being its dominant themes.

The ‘We Forgot We Were Dreaming’ album is available to pre-order and pre-save here. All recent Saint Raymond singles, including ‘Soft Landing’, are provided as instant downloads for fans who pre-order the album. It will be released on CD, orange LP, black LP and cassette formats, as well as for download and streaming. A variety of bundles and new merch items are also on offer.

You can watch the official music video for Saint Raymonds ‘Soft Landing’ below…