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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Can a Glastonbury away from Worthy Farm truly be Glastonbury? We may find out in 2019 after founder Michael Eavis this week revealed his team is planning an all-new event. Ostentatiously called the Variety Bazaar, the name sounds like a party Truman Capote might have thrown in the 1960s: all black bowties, red tablecloths and scrambled eggs at midnight. Check your raingear at the door.
Donald Trump must feel like the kid who gets picked last at every schoolyard kickabout. The incoming US president’s team will have wanted his inauguration weekend to boast the kind of pageantry befitting a former reality TV star and occasional pro wrestling performer. Instead, Trump is The Simpsons’ Ralph Wiggum, tearing up at the sight of an empty box of Valentines Day cards.
The expression “white privilege” has been around for years but “white skin privilege” has recently been repopularised in the US, where numerous African-American deaths at the hands of police have ignited the Black Lives Matter movement. Broadly speaking, it means the interlocking societal benefits that Caucasians in the West enjoy – benefits that non-white people in the same social, political, or economic circumstances can only look at from the outside, like kids pressed up against a sweet shop window.
You probably know James Murphy as the geek who made your hips sway. He’s the sardonic music nerd who shattered 30 years of seven-inch dance singles and pieced the genre back together. As the creative centre of LCD Soundsystem, Murphy channelled the spirit of everyone from New Order and Kraftwerk to the Velvet Underground, cutting a catalogue of floor-filling wig-outs with a 95 per cent first-serve percentage.
At the Grammy Awards in February, Kendrick Lamar walked out on stage in chains. He performed The Blacker the Berry – a blistering rap song that condemns systematic racism – with hands bound and his band locked inside jail cells. The iconography was a right hook aimed at America’s solar plexus. Lamar’s musical forefathers would have been proud.
Among planet pop’s current group of best-selling music artists – a list that includes superstars Rihanna, Adele, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift – Lil Wayne is surely the most unusual. The 5’ 6”, tattoo-covered rapper, with his lengthy dreadlocks and mouth full of irremovable diamonds, isn’t the glossy, marketable pin-up pop star his contemporaries are. But there is an argument that no single person has been more influential in the pop music lexicon over the past five years than Wayne.
Last month marked the fifth anniversary of Canadian rap crooner Drake’s breakthrough mixtape So Far Gone, a woozy down-tempo piece that found its author musing on the trappings of fame despite not really being all that famous. But Aubrey Graham was destined for large-scale success, and So Far Gone was the right record at the right time.
Nothing firebombs a great rock’n’roll band like achievement. In the pop music industry there’s something poisonous about success. Between the strain of celebrity, pressure of expectations and damaging effect of drug experimentation, friendships evaporate and egos almost always triumph. In the best cases, alliances hold firm for long enough for their potential to be fully mined, transformed for example into the 200-odd compositions that bear the names “Lennon-McCartney”. Then there are those who crumble almost instantly, like The Stone Roses, who on the back of their debut album proclaimed themselves to be the most important band in the world, before pushing the big, red self-destruct button.