Monday, 30 December 2013

2013: A Year in GIFS (Part 1)

Oh 2013, you been so crazy. "It's gone by so fast" they say, but has it really? No. In a nutshell, the music industry hit new lows, the remakes and sequels came in abundance, 'Yeezus' & 'Yoncé were born and twerking (more appropriately, "twerking") killed us all. Anyway, here we are. Starting off with:

What even happened in January? Practically a lifetime ago, Justin Timberlake dropped this video, telling us that he's just about had enough of making mediocre movies for the time being and will go back to doing what he was born to do - making incredible music. It was only 10 days into the new year and the excitement for new music from our faves was at an all time high. 

This was me:


And this was Britney:

More on her later.

The nominations for the 85th Academy Awards were announced by Emma Stone and this years host Seth McFarlane, with Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Les Misérables leading the pack with a whopping 39 nominations between the four of them alone. Twitter-wide outrage swept the film community as Leonardo DiCaprio found himself without a nom for his portrayal as the evil slave owner, Calvin J. Candie in Django Unchained. Mysteriously left out of the race after what many described as one of his best performances, I feel like he deserved the recognition alone for smashing a glass, bleeding everywhere and carrying on with the scene. 

Never forget:

(This is actually from 2012 but it's perfect, no?)

It was still cold and disgusting outside, but on the 3rd, THE SUPERBOWL happened. AKA the one day a year where England pretends to be interested in American football and just sits waiting for the Half Time Show. Within the 2013 edition, we were graced with a 15 minute play-off from part-time mother, full-time flaw-free superstar Beyoncé  Giselle Knowles. Beyoncé , (who'd also just struck a $50 million deal with Pepsi) performed Baby Boy, Halo, Crazy In Love and Love on Top in addition to Independent Woman, Bootylicious and Single Ladies with her former comrades: 


From January to November many sat on the edge of their seats waiting for a new Beyoncé album to be released. Sure, one song leaked here, one song leaked there, and then another way over there, but Queen B subsequently spent almost the whole year doing this:

"Releasing a new single....PSYCH!!!!!"

"Releasing a new album...PSYCH!!!!!"

"Shooting a video for my new single....PSYYYYYCHHHHH!!!!!!!!" 

and so on. 

The 85th Academy Awards took place on the 24th, and saw Argo crowned Best Picture. Who knew that Daredevil and the star of Gigli could do it? I don't even think he did. Daniel Day Lewis was awarded Best Actor for is portrayal of President Lincoln, and Jennifer Lawrence won her first Oscar starring in Silver Linings Playbook opposite Bradley Cooper. She took a teeny tumble while going up for her gong:

Better luck next time. And there will be a next time. 

The weather started to get a little better over here, acting as a tiny precursor to blaring hot Summer that awaited us in July. It was glorious. Three of the most exciting and innovative films of 2013 were released this month; Stoker, Spring Breakers and The Place Beyond The Pines. Pines proved to us once again that Ryan Gosling could do no wrong while Stoker and Spring Breakers showed that films centring on young, fatal yet ultra-feminine women could actually be pretty good.

One album and one single released that month dominated the charts and airways like none other. Part 1 of JT's '20/20 Experience' hit/destroyed shelves, and moved almost 1.3 million copies in a week. In fact, it was the top selling album of the week worldwide, three weeks in row. Furthermore, Robin Thicke dropped 'Blurred Lines' which eventually became his most successful single worldwide to date. Aided by the controversial video which made Emily Ratajkowski tumblr-famous, the track climbed to #1 in 21 countries (it stayed at the top spot in the US for 12 weeks) but found itself swimming within oceans of criticism here, there, and over there. I probably should've used a gif actually featuring Robin Thicke up there but whatever. Featuring T.I and Pharrell Williams, 'Blurred Lines' became the first single featuring Williams to take over 2013 - which leads us to...

Daft Punk released 'Get Lucky', the first single of the duo's fourth album 'Random Access Memories'. Co-fronted once again by the NERD and Neptunes super-producer, the single so far has sold around 7.5 million copies, received two Grammy nominations and reached #1 in over 20 countries. Phew.

The TV series adaptation of Thomas Harris's  Hannibal founds its way to NBC & Sky1, with Mads Mikkelsen taking on the titular role of Dr. Hannibal Lecter.  Acting as a precursor to the various incarnations of the character, showrunner, Bryan Fuller (behind both Pushing Daises and Dead Like Me) created a "movieshow" hybrid powerful enough to join the ranks of The Walking Dead and Mad Men

Drink to that.

May saw the screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "great American novel" The Great Gatsby released across the world. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the party-loving millionaire, Jay Gatsby, the film was an over-the-top spectacle directed by Moulin Rouge's Baz Luhrmann. Plagued by two release date set backs in addition to its confusingly heightened reality, it failed to connect with audiences and critics the way many had hoped. 

But it wasn't all bad, as 'Gatsby' ended up grossing close to $350 million (about £212.2 million) worldwide. It's not an Oscar but I'm sure Leo will find a way to deal. 
The greatest post-Friends-friendly-based-sitcom Happy Endings was cancelled after failing to be shopped to other networks. This was 6 months ago and the wound is still open, bleeding like it was yesterday. I will never see Max, Brad, Jane, Alex, Dave and most importantly Penny on my television  laptop screen ever again and I have the ABC Network to thank for that. 


A part of me inside has been like this ever since:

While everyone else is pretty much this:

and THAT'S because they didn't even know the show existed neither do they even know what it is now. Urgh, everyone apart from me (and the five others I know who watched it) needs to get their acts together.

The underrated J. Cole dropped the incredible 'Born Sinner' with Kanye unveiling 'Yeezus', both on the 18th. 'Yeezus' saw Kanye take an uncomfortable stroll outside of his comfort zone and into the realms of the nightmarishly industrial.

I have three words for Yeezus. 

What. A. Mess. 

What the hell happened to Kanye this year? He seems to be more impatient, angry and juvenile than ever. Since his success in the mainstream from 2004, his career has been about one thing and one thing only. His mouth. From his great/embarrassing interview answers this year to his questionable music videos, it's clear he's lost his damn mind.

It's incredibly hard to take him seriously. 

As with Britney, more on this one later.

Anyway, six months down, six months to go. July to December will be coming in the next post. 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Beyoncé - BEYONCÉ

It was a morning like any other. Taking a brief look at Facebook while I was getting ready for work...BAM. The top post was a friend of mine screaming that the new Beyoncé album had been released earlier that same morning. After almost a year of teasing, leaked tracks, a tour and a Superbowl performance, it was finally here. All 14 tracks became available at once, accompanied with seventeen, SEVENTEEN music videos from the artist exclusively released on iTunes. 

Recorded in secret with the bulk of the studio sessions taking place in The Hamptons, the album was crafted alongside Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams and the soon to be known worldwide, Boots among others. With only a few key names in Bey's council aware of the movement, as well as a few iTunes execs, the release date for BEYONCÉ was only finalised a week before it's initial send off.

The album contains Beyoncé's brand of picture painting ballads ('Pretty Hurts', 'Heaven', 'XO' and 'Blue') while also containing more R&B and Hip-Hop sounds than her previous efforts. It's easy to hear the sounds of Kendrick Lamar in her vocal delivery on 'Haunted' as well as the downtrodden minimalism of Drake and Noah "40" Shebib.

What's new is the fact that she's taking a page out of the filthy books written by Madonna and Rihanna; leaving little to the imagination in both the lyrical, and the video content. 'Partition', 'Rocket' and 'Blow' are busting with innuendos ("Reach into the bottom of my fountain, I wanna play in your deep" from Rocket for example) which move her from the PG-ish middle row we're used to seeing her in, and onto a much higher magazine shelf out of reach for the younger ones. Whether she's seducing husband Jay-Z (obviously),  frolicking about alone in the sheets, or milling around the back streets of Paris with models Chanel Iman, Jourdan Dunn and Joan Smalls, she's letting it all hang out. 

The videos do often seem flawless. Captured effortlessly in Rio, Houston, Paris, New York, Sydney and Houston again, Beyoncé travels the world with Solange, Kelly, Jay, Michelle, Pharrell and baby Blue in tow. The star gives us flashbacks to her childhood hustle, in 'Grown Woman' and '***Flawless' which seem strangely juxtaposed to those more...salacious moments. The whole thing is almost a non-linear biopic from the Texas natives origin, to where she sees herself now.

The line "All these record labels' boring" from Ghost/Haunted feels like the spirit behind BEYONCÉ's whole concept. In fact, Beyoncé (the artist and the album) may change the way record labels market and distribute music from now on. Who knows. But what we definitely do know too well from the constant criticism of her and her peers, is that you can't catch a break as a female artist. You're either too sexy or not sexy enough, too plain or too extroverted. What Beyoncé's figured out is that you're gonna be objectified no matter what you do, and whether you like it or not. So you might as well go ahead and do it yourself. 


Key Tracks: ***Flawless, Drunk In Love, Rocket

Key Videos: Grown Woman, Yoncé 

Monday, 11 November 2013

Lady Gaga - ARTPOP

There are so many good names you can make out of Lady Gaga's album title, ARTPOP. CHARTPOP and CHARTTOP if you're a little monster for instance. Alternatively there's CHARTFLOP, ARTFLOP, FARTPOP, SHARTPOP and ARTPOOP if you're hoping to see Rocket Number 9 blast Gaga off to Venus for good. She must be aware of these incredible names, right?

ARTPOP which the star began recording straight after releasing 2011s Born This Way appears to be Gaga's most piercing body of work so far. While the last album sank comfortably under your skin, ARTPOP tries to sock you in the face time and time again. A number of previously performed or referenced tracks, such as 'Princess Die' and 'Ratchet', (which allegedly featured a verse from motor-mouth MC, Azealia Banks) didn't end up making the cut. Luckily it's to no avail, as the 15-strong set is busting with beats which make the album sound as busy as the album cover looks. A more fitting name probably would've been ArtEDM, as you can clearly hear it's wompy synth influences dominating almost every song.

Although the star commented that her favourite track on the album was ever changing, it currently stood at the trap-laced banger, 'Jewels n' Drugs'. It's easy to hear why, as it sounds nothing like the rest of the album. Assisted by rappers T.I, Too Short and Twista, Gaga tells her man that she's neither interested in his money or jewels - just his love and his drugs.

Love and drugs appear to be two cornerstones within ARTPOP, coming into play throughout the album, most prominently on its lone ballad, 'Dope'. While she may scream and sound as if she's on the edge of tears for the duration of the song ("I'll keep searching for an answer cause I need you more than dope") she manages to keep it together for the rest of the LP. The S&M dungeon sounding 'Sexxx Dreams' and the triple genre 'Manicure' have been favourites since they debuted at the iTunes Festival back in September. We also get reacquainted with Gaga's other other love, fashion on 'Donatella' and the appropriately titled, 'Fashion!'. Sadly, there's no need for both of these. Most songs about fashion and fashion culture in general end up sounding too similar, as there ain't too many (Fifth) avenues you can travel down lyrically. 

Closing the same way the current wave started, the lead single 'Applause' ironically doubles as a fitting curtain closer. It's almost as if we came full circle around that giant orb/thing in between her legs up there. If you're big on the sounds of DJ White Shadow, Zedd and even David Guetta, this is definitely for you. If you like none of the above OR Gaga herself, it's obvious you should steer clear. 

But for me, there's not a single Fartpop in sight. 

Key Tracks: G.U.Y, Sexxx Dreams, Jewels N' Drugs


Saturday, 2 November 2013

Thor: The Dark World (Film)

Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston,  Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgaard, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

At long last. Although it feels like a lifetime has passed since the God of Thunder's original outing, it's been a mere two years. Crazy that. I'm also pretty sure I'm one of about 17 people that feels that way, as 2011's Thor seems to be the most underrated adaptation taken on by the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far.

Although the first instalment managed to gross almost $450 million and achieve a 77% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, for some reason, the character still hasn't been able to resonate with viewers the way say, Iron Man, Hulk and maybe even Captain America have. But fear not Thor fans, as that's sure to change after one viewing of Thor: The Dark World.

The film picks up after the events of The Avengers, with Thor comfortably back home in Asgard, and Jane, Selvig and Darcy (Portman, Skarsgaard and Dennings respectively) taking residency in London. Doing their sciencey stuff or whatever. Our hero is brought back to our world after Jane is possessed by the Aether – an omniscient force sought after by the dark elf, Malekith (Ecclestone) who wants to inhabit the Aether for himself . Thor is forced to band with adopted brother and current outlaw Loki (Hiddelston) to free Jane, crush Malekith and keep Asgard in check. Easy.  

Kenneth Brannagh's out and Game of Thrones director, Alan Taylor's in. So in. Taylor's used his days on Thrones to his full advantage, as Asgard has never gleamed with such prestige. The battle scenes do bite from Lord of the Rings in part, but that’s to be expected. Mother Frigga (Rene Russo), Jane and the other earthlings are utilised much more than in the previous instalment, while screenwriters Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have paid special attention to how much Loki is adored in the real world, without overdoing it. 

Alas, The Dark World is not without it's problems, as a few pivotal plot points are almost blink-and-you'll-miss-it fast while The Warriors Three might as well have been left out completely. Oh, and it may be a bit too Star Wars-y for it's own good. Other than that, the film is a strong yet emotionally raw addition to the franchise, and features many more surprises and teasers of what the Marvel team have in store over the next couple of years.

Hopefully we'll get another sequel. 


Friday, 25 October 2013

Katy Perry - Prism

Brace yourself. Cause there's not gonna be another album this year more meticulously crafted for radio than Katy Perry's Prism

I don't want you to confuse that as a compliment or a dig, it's a simple fact. With Teenage Dream selling over 5,000,000 copies worldwide, Katy also became the first female artist ever to have 5 US #1 singles from the same album. It's obvious that little feat has been put into play within every aspect of Prism, beginning with (the horribly overrated) lead single 'Roar' - a cliché and vapid dud track that seems to be putting the pop world in a sugar coma.

Her strive for pop domination is apparent throughout the whole LP. 'Birthday' is laced with confectionery based innuendos ("make it like your birthday every day, I know you like it sweet, so you can have your cake, give you something good to celebrate") to which Katy Perry has never sounded more like Katy Perry. 'Legendary Lovers', 'Ghost' and 'Walking On Air' are certain to be cemented into your cranium on a first listen, whether you like it or not. 'Dark Horse' is a tad disappointing, as it's one beat drop away from being a decent song, but it's 'International Smile' that will needle pierce your eardrums, as Perry channels (or rip's off - your decision) the signature sounds of Daft Punk two thirds of the way through. 

Party Perry is met with equal force by Pensive Perry, as mid-tempo's and ballads play a part just as vital as Prism's upbeat dance tracks. 'Love Me', 'This Moment' and 'Double Rainbow' aren't the easiest to differentiate from one another, and 'Unconditionally' inspired by Katy's boo, John Mayer offers ...well, nothing.

All together it sounds and feels like a group of standalone singles from producer Dr. Luke's catalogue. The frequent collaborator with Perry as well as songwriter Bonnie McKee should explain why so many songs within Katy's discography sound so similar. Catchier than chlamydia, Prism is definitely one for fans of her previous album as well as those in love with Katy's sickeningly sweet candy shtick. 


Key Tracks: 'Legendary Lovers', 'Dark Horse' 'This Is How We Do'

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Miley Cyrus - Bangerz

I tried not to. I wasn't going to. But I found myself pulled in by the alluring statement that the fourth album by Miley Cyrus would be "nothing but Bangerz", hence the album title, 'Bangerz'. With such a strong statement, I'd already made up my mind that the album would feature incredible beats by Pharrell and Miley's new partner in crime Mike Will Made It (who worked on 7 out of the 13 tracks)… while lacking in pretty much everything else. Where my presumptions correct? Let’s see. 

We've seen this time and time again. The young female artist desperate to shed their former (Disney) skin, adopts a newer, "adult" or more "free" version of their past self. Rihanna was the good girl who went bad, Britney became a slave in a circus and of course, Madonna became just about anything and everything she could possibly lend her mind to. Now it's Miley's turn. Leaning more towards the R&B and Hip-Hop influenced side of pop, some of the most unexpected collaborations of the year take place on this album . Among Mike Will as the main producer, 'Bangerz' features guest verses from Big Sean, French Montana, Future, Nelly and Britney herself. Do they really believe she’s talented? Or are they just tryna take a ride on the twerkin' cash cow? No one knows for sure. But save for Big Sean, all other featured artists seem p-r-e-t-t-y disinterested on their own tracks. That should leave you with a clear answer.

When she’s not gassing about purp, Miley’s getting weirdly personal. 'Love Money Party' is cloaked with epic relationship turmoil's , gawking about how she's been through too many heartbreaks "for a human to take" while also being the "girl on the side". You'd never guess it would end up so due to the bumping freaky fairground sound of the track. 'Wrecking Ball' and album opener 'Adore You' are two of the strongest moments on the album, which as you may know, are both *TWIST* ballads. Not exactly what you may cite as a banger. 

The killer production is sadly few and far between. #Getitright is a dud while My Darlin' would be instantly forgettable if it wasn't for the line "I ain't pop no molly but you still got me sweatin'". The Country-Hop '4x4' is the 'Hoedown Throwdown' for nu-Miley, and 'FU' is a showtune tinged kiss-off that can't not be directed at former fiancée Liam Hemsworth. 

After multiple (yes, multiple) listens, it's safe to say this album, isn't exactly flowing with bangerz. The sorta title track 'SMS (Bangerz)' however is a Miami Bass sounding rager that'll probably be a single. Think Bring It On meets 'Baby Got Back' and there you have it. It's a shame that the rest of the album couldn't stick it the way this can. 


Key Tracks: Adore You, SMS (Bangerz), Wrecking Ball

Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience Part 2 of 2

Timberlake came back to finish what he started. Described as the more "experienced...older sister" to Part 1 released in March, the masses have been blessed with a total of 12 tracks from Timba & Timbo's second 2013 outing. 

Is it really a blessing though? Well, yes and no. Not so much of a sequel as it is another half of the same album, 'Part 2' once again features Timbaland as its main producer. His role is as prominent on both albums as Justin's is. You can hear some of the greatest production and melodies of the year on both parts for sure. The grand symphonic sounds are back ('You Got It On', 'Amnesia') as well as Timberlake riding the beat under Timbaland's bassy beatboxing ('TKO', 'True Blood' and once again...'Amnesia'). But what the two bring to this time around is the mainstream radio sound taking prevalence on ‘Drink You Away’ and ‘Not A Bad Thing’. This I don't love as much.

Justin proclaimed that the previous disc was music made for the summer, while the later is for the bleaker autumn/winter - which I don't really understand. There is nothing as icy or aloof as 'Blue Ocean Floor' from part one, and save for Justin dropping a few f-bombs it's in no way colder or more appropriate for the darker months. 
Justin’s voice is just as perfect as ever, and Timbaland once again crafts (or reserves) his best work for the former mouseketeer. But save for four of the albums tracks (‘Amnesia’, ‘Murder’, ‘True Blood’ and 'Cabaret'), the two fail to deliver a stellar conclusion to what kicked off at the beginning of the year. In all honesty it's best to just stick to those four, especially 'Cabaret'. With an amazing feature from Drake and cheeky lyrics such as "if sex is a contest then you're coming first" and "I got you saying Jesus so much it's like we're laying in a manger" it's instantly one of the best songs from either of Timberlake's 'Experience' pieces.


Key Tracks: True BloodCabaret, Murder, Amnesia

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Drake - Nothing Was The Same

What better way to write my first album review on this blog for the year (which is ridiculous as it's the end of September) than to cover one of the best albums of 2013?

Drake's third album, "Nothing Was The Same" was released on Monday, a week after its online leak. Yes, the man who put Melancholy & B on the map is back to tell us how sad he is. I couldn't be happier about it. But for the first time in his career, Drake chooses to lead us in with the upbeat and hypnotising track 'Tuscan Leather'. Sampling Whitney Houston's ‘I Have Nothing’, the opener is three interlude’s in one. Letting us know that he’s here to stay, (“I'm tired of hearing ‘bout who you checking for now, just give it time we’ll see who’s still around a decade from now”) the Canadian rapper has never seemed so pompous, believable and likeable at the same time.

Drake’s grandiosity is broken up by his sombre temperament  similar to his last two efforts "Thank Me Later" and "Take Care". 'Connect' and the previously leaked 'The Motion' reek of the rapper’s feelings we've all come to know, and 'From Time' is the 'Take Care' of NWTS, aided by a beautifully fitting Jhene Aiko. ‘Own It’ features a first for any rapper in existence  as Drake utters the words – “Next time we fuck, I don’t wanna fuck, I wanna make love”. You can tell he really means this one. 

What does separate him from his previous LP's is how angry he is in parts of NWTS. Okay, so he’s not at a Yeezus level of rage (yet) but his versus have never sounded as forceful or urgent as they have here . It’s hard to believe the same person spittin’ is the same person singing on ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’, a song so filled with golden throwback  goodness it seems almost too perfect to have been released this year.

'Nothing Was The Same' is without a doubt his most diverse album thus far, at least on a lyrical level. It's the perfect addition to his already strong discography. Drake should be proud of this one. 

Key Tracks: Tuscan Leather, Worst Behaviour, From Time

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

VMAs: The Good, The Bad and The Downright Disgusting

On Sunday night, I said to a good friend, "I haven't said this in 10 years, but I am really excited for the VMAs tonight". That's no exaggeration, as I feel like the MTV Video Music Awards haven't been good since about 2003 or '04. What once seemed to be an alternative awards ceremony celebrating the best in the business and those who couldn't get close to a Grammy later turned into a seemingly overreaching spectacle to win viewership ratings. 

This year saw the awards return back to form. Although it wouldn't be the VMAs without a lil' controversy, it was nice to see a strong selection of nominees while also witnessing some incredible live performances. 

Ten of the show's moments have been spread (unevenly) into three categories; The Good, The Bad and the troll-under-a-bridge ugly. I don't think it takes a genius to guess which moments were the ugliest.

5. Lady Gaga's opener - 'Applause'

Yes, Lady Gaga opened the show with 'Applause', the first single off her third album 'Artpop'. While I'm sure some of you found time to cheer her, others were more likely to moan and groan, as after only four years, a lot of people seem to be sick of her already. My expectations for this performance were at a comfortable average to reasonably high, only to be exceeded entirely. 

Why Gaga found it necessary to wear four different costumes and three different wigs is unbeknownst to me at this moment in time, but for now I'll just take it as it was. An incredibly entertaining show opener.

4. The Surprise presenters

Something I didn't see coming were the appearances of Jason Collins, TLC and Lil' Kim this year. Even though Kim herself is a native Brooklynite (where the event was held this year), I never would've guessed that she'd actually turn up, especially since she left me hanging at Lovebox this year. Taking turns to introduce performances by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Drake, and the nominees for Best Rap Video respectively, the three were a pleasant add to the mix among the stars of the new generation, including Iggy Azalea, Selena Gomez and Bruno Mars.

3. Danity Kane's reformation

While a collective 'WHO?!' sweeps this post/nation/the internet, lemme say one thing. Danity Kane are my jam. Those who know me know this. Shannon, Aundrea, Aubrey and Dawn stepped out together as a group for the first time five years, acting like no time had passed at all. The band made famous on MTV's Making The Band released two albums in '06 and '08 before being disbanded by the groups creator, the Ciroc splashing Diddy in '09. Becoming the only girl group in history to have their first two albums début atop the Billboard chart, the new foursome (the fifth member, 'D. Woods' decided not to return for whatever reason), announced that they're currently readying a new single, titled 'Rage' from their upcoming third album. Sure they've been gone longer than they were together, and most people don't know who they are, but I remain excited.

2. Kanye West's 'Blood on the Leaves'

The most shocking thing that Kanye West can do at the point is act like a normal human being. Which is pretty much what he did the entire time he was on stage performing 'Blood on the Leaves' this year. West made a rare appearance at this years awards to perform a track from his dark, twisted but not so beautiful LP, Yeezus on Sunday night. While performing in front of the backdrop to Steve McQueen's "Lynching Tree", West flailed and wailed to the track which samples Nina Simone's 'Strange Fruit'. So maybe it wasn't exactly normal, but pretty normal for him at least. 

1. Justin Timberlake & NSync's Medley 

How could this not be #1? The recipient of this year's Video Vanguard Award blessed us with a 15 minute medley of almost every song he's ever released.  About half way through Timberlake headed towards the stage to reunite with the best boyband of all time, NSync for 'Gone', 'Bye Bye Bye' and 'Girlfriend'.

The choreography and vocals were air fucking TIGHT. 

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

and most importantly, Exhibit C:

And let's not forget about this:

I need a slo-mo of that:

Everyone, their mother, and Lady Gaga lost their minds:

The Bad

3. Katy Perry's closer, 'Roar'

To be fair, this show had the fewest poor moments since I started watching the show in 1998, so it was quite hard to pick these. So I'm sorry Katy Perry but this one goes to you. Also performing the lead single from her third album, Perry opted for a 'Rocky' themed stage set under the Brooklyn Bridge. The performance wasn't necessarily 'bad' exactly, just a tad slow and dull for a show closer. It probably doesn't help that I also don't like the song at all.

2. Taylor Swift's potty mouth

It's hard to know who she was referring to exactly or whether it was just clever editing, but there's a member of One Direction she clearly can't stand the sound of. Bad in the best possible way.

1. That weird voice Joseph Gordon Levitt was speaking in.

JGL took the stage to present the award for Video of the Year, only to grace us with a really weird 19th Century circus ringleader persona. Although he recognised his own ridiculousness, he was met on stage by the awards recipient, Justin Timberlake also using the same voice...which made it slightly less cringe-inducing. Slightly.

The Ugly

2. Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke's 'We Can't Stop/Blurred Lines/Give It 2 Me'

As this feature is already a lot more image and gif heavy than expected, I'm gonna keep this one clean and short. What the hell was I even watching when Miley Cyrus performed 'We Can't Stop'? From the sad teddy bears, to the backoff slapping, to Cyrus's 'twerking', I don't even know where to begin. At least for the final song we had 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar attempt to save this desperate and unnecessary attempt for Cyrus to shed her child star skin. Call me an old codger but I was kinda disgusted. 

I'm gonna let this image speak for itself and be done with it...


1. Everyone's reaction to it

...Except I can't be cause the reactions are some of the best things to come out of this years ceremony. Of course, the Parents Television Council complained as it's pretty much what they do, but the Twittersphere exploded. In fact, this performance alone produced a gargantuan 306,000 tweets per minute, breaking a record previously held by Beyonce's Superbowl performance in February. Low and behold my favourite tweet o' them all:


So there you have it. With 10.6 million live viewers it was also the most watched VMA telecast in recent years. More importantly there was something for everyone this year.
Unless you're a Chris Brown fan.

Credit to, fuckenamyy, tammygu3, Mashable, @flashinlightsU and MTV, and anyone elses .gifs I used from Tumblr.

Monday, 12 August 2013

It's Been Ten Years Since...

50 Cent was 'In Da Club'
January 7th 2003

For what felt like weeks on end I heard at least one person every day at school say “GO SHAWTY, IT’S YA BIRTHDAY”, having no idea what the hell they were talking about. It wasn’t until February of that year that I actually witnessed the song for the first time. Still as incredible as it was then (I'm listening to it right now), the Dr. Dre produced track was nominated for two Grammy awards and was listed in Rolling Stone’s list of Greatest Songs of the Decade at numbers 13. Coming in at number one in 10 different countries (not bad for a seemingly unknown rapper), the track was also remixed and sung by Beyoncé, under the title ‘Sexy Lil’ Thug’. Beautiful.

Pops most talked about kiss occurred
28th August 2003

"The kiss seen around the world" touched down during the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City, New York. Madonna, dressed as (for some unknown reason) a groom locked lips with a recently single Britney and the Dirrty Xtina, both of which were wearing slutty wedding gowns. The moment was great for so many reasons. Britney and Christina were performing on stage together for what seemed like the first time, Missy Elliott hopped out two thirds of the way through, and who could forget Justin Timberlake's face while his former lover lezzed out in front of millions? The only reaction face that trumps that is Mary J. Blige's look of sheer disgust when Aguilera took the stage. 

The greatest show in the world ended…
20th May 2003

Oh Buffster. I love the shit out of this show and I don't care who knows it. Beneath the "guilty pleasure" or "something that’s shit but you watch cause there’s nothing else on" was actually a TV show which changed the female protagonist forever. After an ill-fated attempt at a movie in 1992, Joss Whedon revived his creation and took it to network television in 1997. Buffy The Vampire Slayer was a tongue in cheek tale of a 16 year old teenage girl turned vampire hunter – or slayer – who would "combat the forces of darkness" aided by her Watcher, Rupert Giles and gang of high school friends. Buffy tackled the oh-so dramatic lives of every teenager with fantastical twists. High school was hell, (the school was literally located above the mouth of hell) drug abuse, attempted suicide and how dudes can change after hitting that for the first time. Was it a coincidence that shows such as Alias, Relic Hunter, The Vampire Diaries and True Blood followed in the years to come? Probably not. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been named in Time Magazine, Empire, TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly’s best TV shows of all time. In fact, the 5th season episode 'The Body' is hailed by many critics as "one of the greatest TV episodes ever televised". I bet you didn't know THAT.

…and the second greatest show in the world began
8th August 2003

At long last, I finally had a teenage TV show to call my own while actually being a teenager. Once described as "less hairspray and less deodorant" by guest star Samaire Armstrong, The O.C first debuted in the summer of ’03 to both a killer audience and critical reception. From the youngest showrunner in American TV history, Josh Schwartz, (who was 25 when the show was made) the show about the wayward and brooding Ryan Atwood  being taken in by the family of his lawyer, saw an unexpected resurgence in the traditional rich kid teen soap drama. The show that brought The Killers, Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie to light for many for the first time was also the show that brought us one of the most beloved characters in teen drama history – Seth Cohen. Awkward bookish and sarcastic white kids everywhere now had someone to look up to. Throw this in with a poor little rich kid, a spoilt little rich kid and the greatest TV father of all time, you've got TV gold. The O.C was shortly followed by shows such as One Tree Hill, 90210 and Gossip Girl, which we all know, pale in comparison, right?

Him and His Girlfriend – Boo – Wifey – etc
10th October 2002

The single was technically first released in 2002, but it wasn't until the following year that the track made huge waves. The “03 Bonnie & Clyde – Hov & B” married on 04-04-2008 (Beyoncé has a fetish for the number ‘4’) and spawned the majestic and REAL royal baby, Blue Ivy Carter last year. Since then, Jay & Bey have collaborated on a number of tracks including "Upgrade U" "Venus vs. Mars" and of course, "Crazy in Love" (more on that one in a sec). '03 Bonnie & Clyde' also saw a sequel on Jay-Z’s "Magna Carta…Holy Grail" LP this year, appropriately titled “Part II: On the Run. Oh, and the original was also produced by Kanye West. Imagine that. 

Pixar brought us Finding Nemo
30th May 2003

Often called Pixar's best film ever made (I disagree, we all know it's Wall-E, with Monster's Inc. coming a close second) the colourful, innovative masterpiece 'Finding Nemo' hit cinemas in May ten years ago. Nemo grossed close to 1 billion dollars and holds a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes - which leads me to one question and one question only. Who is the sick fuck in that 1%? I remember seeing a BBC news report on TV that the sales of clownfish had also gone through the roof thanks to the film. I for one am glad they all found a home.
Pixar are also planning a sequel, and the creatively titled 'Finding Dory' is set to be released in 2015. I could only imagine what it could be about.

Pharrell Williams was everywhere
All year

Pharrell’s distinctive sound had him all over the place. Literally, he had a song everywhere. His weird yet rhythmic cutlery clanging sound dominated 2003 like none other. As well as the NERD album In Search Of… (featuring 'Lapdance' and 'Rock Star') Pharrell, along with collab teammate Chad Hugo found time to produce some of the years biggest singles. Among those released that year included Kelis's 'Milkshake', Snoop Dogg's 'Beautiful', Jay-Z's 'Change Clothes' and Timberlake's 'Senorita' and 'Rock Your Body'. He's still got it after over 20 (TWENTY) years as an artist, songwriter and producer.

Martin Bashir lived with Michael Jackson
3rd February 2003
I have to relate this back to school once again. During break time while everyone outside was talking about this ITV1 special, one boy in my class asked me if I "watched Con Air on Channel 5 last night" …what? No. Of course I didn't. Along with everyone else in my year/school/life apart from him I was watching Living with Michael Jackson. What a mess of a nightmare this turned out to be. The show obviously started out as an up close look at what it was like to be the most famous and talented living musician in the world, but soon took a turn for the unexpectedly worrying. It was here that Jackson first spoke about sleepovers taking place in his house with minors on a number of occasions. Weirdly enough it was Bashir who came under fire from Jackson enthusiasts across the world. Martin was accused of mishandling footage, and editing the feature to make Michael Jackson look...well, you know. 

Dixie Chicks were ashamed
10th March 2003

The country sibling trio who had been famous across the pond since the early nineties spoke these now immortalised words during a gig in London 2003:

"Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas"

The Texan natives found themselves subject to mass media scrutiny (mostly in the south of course), losing sponsorship deals, radio airplay and even receiving death threats in wake of the comment. After initially apologising for the offence they caused, lead singer Natalie Maines backtracked, stating that she was proud of the fact they spoke their minds amidst the decisions George Bush had made to go forth with attacking Iraq. The controversy eventually led to the documentary film "Shut up and Sing" being produced three years later, shedding light on the backlash Dixie Chicks had received in the years thereafter. The band released the album "Taking the Long Way" in 2007, with its lead single 'Not Ready to Make Nice' dealing with the scrutiny head on. The album sold 2 million copies in the US alone and won five Grammy's including the coveted Album of the Year and Song of the Year awards for “Nice”. Take that republicans.

Bey, Blu and Black had a 13 week number one chart run
All originally released on 18th May, 6th May and 16th June respectively.

I feel like 2003 was a crowning moment in which the UK developed the taste for actually buying good music. A trend that started to fade around 2009.

It was this year that Beyoncé’s Crazy in Love was brought to us. Collaborating once again with Jay-Z the track found itself at #1 for three weeks in the summer of ’03. It was impossible to run from the big-band style introduction, as well as the music video, which would be on any and every channel possible for what felt like 8 times an hour. CIL became a staple in Beyoncé’s discography, and saw herself become the solo star she’d always wanted to be.

However, 'Crazy in Love' saw itself sharing the airwaves with another male-female rap-sung collaboration, in the form of Blu Cantrell & Sean Paul’s incredible "Breathe". Sampled from Dr. Dre's "What’s The Difference", the track stayed at number one for 4 weeks, and has stood the test of time as one of the best R&B collaborations of the last ten years. Yes I'm serious; I love this song that much.

What many thought was the Black Eyed Peas first single was actually the first from their fourth album. It was just their first single after recruiting Fergie. The single 'Where is the Love' featuring Justin Timberlake stayed at #1 for five weeks in June and subsequently became the top selling single of the year. As I said, this was the year that great music was released but for me, let's discount this one. Yeah it has a nice message and all that, but I never really “got it”. I'm sure that makes me a horrible person, but whatever.