Sharon Jones died on November 18th, 2016 and the world became a few shades less funky. Jones had the kind of voice that could instantly warm your blood an extra degree; she had a four-foot-eleven-and-a-quarter-inch frame that metamorphosed into pure thunder and lightning when she stepped on the stage. She seemed to have the power to call on everyone from Apollo, Greek god of music, truth and prophecy, to Al Green, himself a soul deity.
At the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, Eminem commanded an army of bleach-blonde soldiers. Beginning his performance of The Real Slim Shady outside New York’s Radio City Music Hall, Em and his squad of lookalikes entered the arena and made a beeline for the stage like white blood cells rushing to a wound. It was a clever performance, ribbing on the wacky single’s central theme: that when it came to the Detroit rapper, accept no imitators. But it also worked a microcosm for the wider pop climate. At the turn of the century, Marshall Mathers was absolutely everywhere.
How do you quantify racial bias in recruitment? No job advert reads: “only whites need apply” and you won’t get turned away at the door of an interview for having the wrong skin tone. But prejudice doesn’t have to be so overt to be present. It’s a concealed barricade that many people of colour in Ireland would recognise. That creeping sense that their applications are being overlooked for reasons beyond the outdated typeface.
Miley, what’s good? Not hip-hop any more? Cyrus’s latest rebirth attempts to strip away the pop star’s sardonically provocative, supposedly sinful, “will somebody please think of the children” image, and cast her as a reformed, fresh-faced, all-American starlet. Instead, this stylistic shift just serves as Exhibit A in her trial for cultural crimes against black America.
November 12th, 2016. On the first episode of Saturday Night Live following the election of Donald Trump, Q-Tip tries to soothe the shell-shocked New York crowd.
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.