Dean Van Nguyen

Dean Van Nguyen

Music Journalist & Cultural Critic

As seen in The Irish Times, The Guardian, Pitchfork, NME, Passion of the Weiss, The Independent, Wax Poetics etc.

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The Irish Times

England was theirs: the high point of The Smiths

Steven Patrick Morrissey isn’t always easy to love. New biopic England Is Mine has hit cinemas at a time when the singer is testing the limits of his fans’ loyalty. Asserting his admiration for Nigel Farage; claiming politicians are too scared to blame Islam for terrorist attacks; and engaging in barbed, “bloody foreigners comin’ over ‘ere” rhetoric: the last decade has seen a series of statements that has seemed less the songbook of a pop immortal and more the dregs of right-wing internet comment sections.

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The Irish Times

Lights, camera, contortion: the trailblazing work of Tim Saccenti

Music iconography matters. Memories of our favourite records conjure up more than just the sweet sounds that wriggle down our ear canals. Video, photography and art are all permanently bound to the songs they accompany. When marrying the audio to the visual, it’s best to have a minister as inventive as photographer and director Timothy Saccenti. The new-age visionary is blazing a visceral style that draws influence from installation art, advanced science, deep-thinking philosophy and wild psychedelica.

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The Irish Times

Tyler the Catalyst

Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All could barely have scorched the Academy with any more heat if they’d doused the stage in kerosene and sparked up a match. It was August 2011 and the brattish young Los Angeles hip-hop collective were right at the cultural zeitgeist, unleashed on Dublin with no rules, directives or adult supervision.

U2 article
The Guardian

Where the streets have no statues: why do the Irish hate U2?

For three decades U2 have filled the world’s biggest stadiums as easily as guitarist The Edge fits his trademark black beanie hat. The group’s cultural reach is as wide as the 200-ton arachnid-shaped stage they once performed their mammoth shows on. As an Irish export, they’re in the same category as George Bernard Shaw and Guinness.

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The Irish Times

I have the Michael Jackson skin condition

It’s eight years since Michael Jackson moonwalked off this mortal coil, and are we any closer to nailing down his legacy? Pop’s eternal monarch left a cultural footprint as wide as Neverland Ranch. His songs will probably still set the club off 100 years from now; his videos are pop-culture moments inseparable from the eras in which they were forged. It’s a body of work forever under analysis.

S4u article

Ooooooohh, on the S4U Tip: Britain’s Slickest New RnB Act

When our generation’s history is written on papyrus scrolls and committed to hidden crypts accessible only to the most daring Lara Crofts of the distant future, one sheet of parchment will be etched with a list of ‘90s R&B jams and stuffed inside an old C90 cassette tape. It was a genre that created some of our doomed species’ most precious works. The cultural footprint was as wide as Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Rejjie article
The Irish Times

Is Rejjie Snow the rap game’s Conor McGregor?

How do you get a lock on Rejjie Snow? Since first emerging through a YouTube portal six years ago, the Irish rapper’s biography has been as blurry as a half-remembered dream. In an era when your favourite artist’s memoirs can be pieced together one Instagram post at a time, Snow has forged a mystique more typically associated with Scottish aquatic monsters or Marvel superheroes.

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The Irish Times

Chris Cornell: the Greek god of grunge who blazed his own path

The Chris Cornell I like to remember appears in the 1992 Seattle-set movie Singles. Just as Bridget Fonda’s aloof rocker boyfriend (played by Matt Dillon) cranks up the speakers he’s added to her modest car, the singer – who died on Wednesday night, aged 52 – materialises from a neighbouring apartment complex to hear the hard-as-hell grunge jam.

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The Irish Times

Ireland's interracial couples: it's a daily challenge

Richard Bashir Otukoya has some bad relationship stories. Most of us have, but his are different. They ripple with a hurt most of us don’t experience. His voice quivers and cracks as he describes a doomed romance with a woman in Letterkenny, Co Donegal.

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Puff Daddy's 'No Way Out' Turns 20

If there’s one image of Sean Combs fated to be fossilized in time forever, it’s a shot of him in the “Victory” video. Forget the flashy suits and formal dinner jackets—the Puff Daddy I like to remember wore pitch-black threads, sunglasses on a rainy night, and resisted the force of the most intense weather machine.

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State of the Nation: On Kendrick Lamar's thrilling 'DAMN.'

Who will survive in America? Not the poor, the minorities, the military officers, the honest politicians, journalists, thick teasers, skeezers or weirdos. Maybe not Kendrick Lamar, hip-hop’s beatnik poet-turned-frontman of his generation. On “FEEL.”, from his fantastic new album DAMN., Kendrick raps: “I feel like it ain’t no tomorrow, fuck the world/ The world is endin’, I’m done pretendin’.” Nuclear destruction is hanging over this planet and K Dot can’t escape the doom. How did it come to this?

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Soul Control: Aretha Franklin’s ‘I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You’ Turns 50

Is soul’s long-reigning monarch about to hang up her floor-length fur coat? For five decades the throne has been reserved for just one Queen: Aretha Franklin. A galaxy of pop stars have built their careers by drawing from her ravishing R&B and punchy messages of empowerment, but they all bow down when Lady Soul enters the room.

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Grooving Through 1980s Lagos and Livy Ekemezie’s “Friday Night”

Throughout the 1970s, Nigeria’s population healed from the trauma of a bloody civil war in local nightclubs and dancehalls. The gritty axe lines, dirty amps and fiery psychedelia of afro-rock pathfinders like The Funkees, Blo and Monomono sounded like both the end of the world and the crack and boom of a nation rising from the ashes. Still, there was one question these bands could never answer: how do you strut your stuff like Rick James?

Biggie article

The Meaning of Biggie: On Life After Death

Twenty years ago, hip-hop lost its crowned monarch. The death certificate read: Christopher G. Latore Wallace. Occupation: entertainer. Cause of death: gunshot wound to abdomen-chest. But such documents offer only the skin of a life. Underneath the stark legal papers lies a rich hip-hop Iliad. A Shakespearean tragedy straight out of Brooklyn, baby.

Prince article

How Much A Dollar Cost? On Prince's "Money Don't Matter 2 Night"

The title sounds like a club jam. “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night” -- a call to leave your cash at the door and empty your wallet on the bar. But Prince rarely sang about money superficially. A better use of his time was to examine what happens when society bends its knee to the almighty dollar. Co-written by singer Rosie Gaines and released as a single 25 years ago today, this is the clearest iteration of Prince’s capitalist condemnations. With punchy narratives reminiscent of his downbeat, to-the-point delivery on the socially-engaged classic “Sign o’ the Times,” the Kid lays out tales of currency’s corrosive potential with brutal realism.