Lust For Life Album Review (Lana Del Rey)

You would only have to know me for ten minutes to discover how much I love Lana Del Rey and her music. Despite the criticisms she has received for things she has said and the glorification of drugs, violence and death, I personally feel there is more to her than that; positives that outweigh the negatives. I feel she is a talented artist – musically, lyrically and visually – and she has a spirit as beautiful as her voice. However, I don’t allow this worship of her to halt my own opinions of her music – ones that may differ from the mainstream critics that have already dissected her record – which leads me to this badly-introduced post on her newest album (forgive me, I’m rusty).

When she released Lust For Life this year I felt blessed with her new offering of music – and opinionated. Listening to her album on near-repeat throughout the end of summer and entirety of autumn has given me the chance to pull apart each track and decide precisely how I feel for them. Some I became hooked on immediately – I sang along, I cried and I recognised the familiar ‘Lana Del Rey’ vibe she consistently has in her previous albums. Others I felt unsettled with, as I couldn’t connect to them nor did they have the traditional ‘Lana’ vibe. Not to say that they’re bad songs, nor to say that they are objectively the lesser songs on the album, but in my own personal opinion some were not as favourable as others.

Beginning with the opening track, Love – her first release for the album – I was pleasantly and wonderfully surprised. Whilst it had some new additions to it (directing the song towards her beloved fans, referring to us as ‘kids’, the pleasant vibe which is rarely seen in a Lana Del Rey song) it still had the familiarity of her vaguely retro music and the lyrics including her favourite “vintage music”. It’s a beautiful song, easy to get into and gives you a warm vibe. Paired with the futuristic video of shooting stars, floating cars and a beaming Lana, it is a purely joyful and reflective song, paying homage to the fans that, like her, are just young and in love. It’s the essence of the majority of her music – to be in love, to fall out of love. Love is a central theme for most of her songs and lyrics. This track takes a positive approach towards it, introducing the album with a lust for life.

This continues into the second single and second track of the album – Lust For Life – her first duet out of the five. It is still Lana with a hint of something new – the familiarity of the doo-wop music and the Americana references to Hollywood go beautifully with her ecstatic joy for life rather than the consideration that we’re all really born for death. Once again Lana croons with The Weeknd (previously in Prisoner, Stargirl Interlude and at the end of Party Monster in The Weeknd’s albums Beauty Behind The Madness and Starboy) and it’s impossible to deny that their voices are made for each other. Both sweet and swooning, silken to listen to, they’re a musical match made in heaven, and it makes the line “my boyfriend’s back and he’s cooler than ever” that much more adorable. Lyrically, the song is about the joys of being with that special someone, seeing the wondrous hope in the world and enjoying being alive, just stripping down and taking off your clothes to only enjoy one another’s company – or perhaps “taking off” the serious wall around our true emotions and selves after the worrying events of 2017, an idea that’s more believable due to the politically-aware theme of the album. Comparing Lana’s almost spoken, low verses with a hint of smiling in her tone to her swooping, sing-a-long choruses, it’s another track to make you feel good inside and want to twirl around on the H of the Hollywood sign with the person in your life.

Both of these tracks – happy, and featuring Happy Del Rey – are soon followed by the return of traditional Lana: a cinematic, sweeping opening, a quote from the vintage film (Carnival Of Souls) and devastated confessions of how it hurts to love someone but you can’t help yourself: 13 Beaches. Once again, Lana has given us a song to cry over, to lie back and envision the gorgeous imagery she invokes throughout the song – sunlit beaches, dripping peaches and ballroom dancing (as randomly as it sounds). Though it is a song dedicated to the impossibility of being alone when you’re famous, and the complicated relationship with fame (loving it and hating it), it can still be taken as a sweet song for a lost lover, and it’s these interpretations that make her music on the whole so much more enjoyable for each person individually. It’s pure Lana Del Rey, just as brilliant and upsetting as The Blackest Day, Pretty When You Cry or Blue Jeans – though feels slightly disconnected to a real love interest due to the roots of who it’s really for: fame.

The fourth track, and one of the shortest, is decidedly my favourite. It’s a song that fills me with so much joy as it does sadness that I can’t resist it at all. It’s a song I frequently listen to and sing along to as there are so many elements that make it so fabulous. Firstly, once again the Lana-isms return: stunning imagery of cherries, wine, rosemary and thyme, and the difficulty in loving a dangerous man who is no good for you. Secondly, the music itself – I think it’s a fun and sexy song, especially when you see Lana perform it live – and it makes it that much more enjoyable to sing and dance to with friends. Thirdly, its connection to the previous song: In 13 Beaches, she delicately references to eating “dripping peaches”, a stunning image. However, in Cherry, she informs us that her peaches are “ruined”. It’s a beautiful link, and she has often reused and linked lyrics in many songs before. In this album, peaches, black beaches and summer bummers are recycled in the first few tracks, linking these opening songs together – and connecting them further is the vibe. Moving onto the fourth thing I adore about Cherry is the swearing. Between verses and choruses, and at the end of the song, she exclaims a muffled “Fuck!”, and peppers the latter half of the song with “Bitch”. It’s spiteful and sexy, a comeback that both deals with the emotions and ruin as well as calling out the one who made her snap. The insults honestly make it more fun, especially when you can shout them out loud when no one is around and imagine you’re a sneering Lana looking down upon the man who destroyed the things she loved.

White Mustang, the second short track, takes a slightly different turn. Rather than being directly insulting towards the ne’er-do-well, she instead laments over him. He was a big man with a big car, clearly a dangerous man like the one who made her feel as if she was “smiling when the firing squad was against [her]” – the “revving”/”lightening” brings to mind danger and potential damage. It’s a gentler song, with a soft piano throughout and slower choruses. This song is definitely a close favourite for me, keeping in line (once again) with recognisable Lana Del Rey imagery (cars/horses) and the dedication to a man she loved who she couldn’t keep up the pace with. The switch from white Mustang the car to white mustang the horse is swift and cute, and my favourite part of the entire song is the whistling at the end. It brings along the slightly Western vibe, of a typical American cowboy which contrasts perfectly with the modernised addition of racing car sound effects. I just basically enjoy all these little things – subtle sounds and shifts that only layer it and add to the imagery.

“Summer”/”bummer” was a rhyming couplet in White Mustang and it only foreshadowed her next track (surprise, surprise, Summer Bummer). Her second duet and first of two with Asap Rocky (and Playboi Carti) begins with an entirely different piano vibe – a dark, quick paced throb of built-up energy which Lana flawlessly introduces. It feels big and explodes into a brilliant track starring Rocky in the second verse and in the backing vocals, but Lana has her own way of rapping: delicately listing “white lines and black beaches and blood red sangrias” to give it the summery vibe. This hip-hop track feels guided away from the usual Lana Del Rey but it’s fresh and cool as a summer salad cucumber, her lazy vocals woven with her wavering warble towards the end of the track. It’s not my favourite and I often prefer to skip Rocky’s part (sorry) but it’s still a great track.

Locky return with Groupie Love, my most likely close second on the album. I have to take a moment to mention how much I adore this song: the first time I listened to it, and most of the times following, I cried. I find the sweet lyrics, the gentle, bubbling music and the adorable, adoring tone so overwhelming. In some ways it’s a parallel to White Mustang: both songs repeat their title over in the chorus, though whilst White Mustang sounds unhappy and longing, Groupie Love sounds radiant. It’s a song that chokes me every time and returns to the theme of the follower of a brilliant man but this time rather than losing him or yearning for him, he returns his love to her. Rocky is sparkling on this track, his rap more low-key than his previous song, and their voices together remind me of the National Anthem video – the kisses they blew and the way they held each other as Jackie and John F Kennedy. The sweetest moment? The way they both sing “You and I, til the day we die.” Lana and Rocky have sung together before (obviously on Summer Bummer but also on Ridin’, an unreleased track) and they compliment one another wonderfully. Where The Weeknd and Lana share a similar voice that can drip like honey, Lana’s lighter vocals oppose Rocky’s harder, deeper tone, but it’s just as beautiful, especially in a track so cute.

This to me is the where the best part of the album ends – seven strong tracks, definitively Lana Del Rey, each of them some of my favourite songs. When In My Feelings begins, I feel like the record takes a slight nosedive. In My Feelings is a song that I always feel is out of place. It doesn’t feel quite like something Lana would sing to me, and whilst I understand she may experiment with styles and it’s a song many fans favour, I can’t connect with it. Does it have her smokey, filtered vocals? Of course, and they’re as pretty as ever. Does it have the incredible imagery? Definitely: cigarette smoke, guns and coffee to name a few. However, it feels sort of empty, not quite with the rest of the album. It’s a strong song aimed at a certain someone, warning them that she may be a beautiful rose but she’s anything but delicate, unafraid to get her thorns out, and I can’t say I don’t enjoy the “tough bitch” she is expressing. But for me it just falls flat and doesn’t quite feel right, especially when the bridge becomes a messy demonstration of her high notes that make it difficult to hear the lyrics. It’s not a bad song but it’s not the best.

Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind. I’ve been debating about this track for a while in all fairness. It has its positives but also its unmissable negatives, and usually I just skip the track rather than debate with myself whether or not I enjoy it as much as most of her other work or not. The message is excellent, where she sings of festivals and wondering about the future generations, and I like how Lana is taking the opportunity to use her music as a message to her impressionable fans – and get them thinking too. However, it doesn’t feel quite polished and finished, the trap beats too heavy and the chorus a bit messy when it layers with several vocals. It feels like a hurried track, not yet ready for release out of production. I will say though, it did have heightened meaning to me following the Manchester terror attack this year, and after the tragic event occurred I found myself listening to Coachella at a whole new angle. I just can’t consistently get into it as a song itself, nor can I relate to it.

God Bless America – And All The Beautiful Women In It is yet another song that just doesn’t feel right to me. I’m not saying it’s bad – it’s quite beautiful – but it doesn’t have the same vibe that made me fall in love with Lana’s music a few years ago. Of course, she changes over time, and experiments, but to me I can’t quite feel like I’m listening to a Lana Del Rey album. This is the point where you take the first few tracks and realise it doesn’t sound anything in the same line as them; the music itself is different, a gentle guitar strum that brings to mind ABBA each time I hear it and a patriotic march throughout the choruses. Lyrically, it is pleasing to hear something directed towards the women (specifically in America, as titled) during these uncertain times where misogyny still remains, and it’s a morale booster and prayer to all the women who need to feel their own strength as a woman in a softly sung prayer of a song. However, it doesn’t quite reach it to me – it skims the edges of feminist anthem purely because the chorus feels quite vague and distant, just a simple plea that women feel as Lady Liberty does, not entirely getting into the details and grips of modern politics or issues. All the same, coming from Lana, who once expressed that she wasn’t interested in feminism, it’s a demonstration of her change in attitudes and her awareness of problems, and reflects how much she has grown – and will hopefully inspire fans to do the same.

The following track – GBA’s sister track if you will – is similar in that it tries to hold onto hope and positivity in a world where nuclear destruction is a high risk. When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing addresses this in several steps: firstly, the verses are directed to both women and men respectively, using pretty imagery for the girls and requesting that they keep hold of their corsets and horses as they travel. A possible reference to some of the beautiful Latin women Lana has referenced to before being expelled from the country? Likewise, she speaks to boys in the second verse, demanding in a quiet voice that they don’t try to be funny (and makes many lyrical changes towards Trump regarding Twitter and fake news during her current LA To The Moon tour). These listed requirements, showing allusions to today’s America, are followed by the pre-choruses, a slight change in tack to Lana’s usual singing style. She requires people to “shake it up” and “cut a rug”, to dance away the troubles and the rules she has just laid out. The use of profanity – twice in these pre-choruses – shows personal feeling and her loose singing style adds to the illusion in the song that she is not really thinking about her words but just saying what comes to mind: just dance away those fears and keep positive. The sing-a-long style of these sections of the song makes it sound more fun than the worried verses, and it quickly slips into questioning: is it the end of America? A question on everyone’s lips since Trump came to power. Hurriedly, she soothes that it’s only the beginning, and her voice soars as she reminds the listeners that in previous wars – the two world wars and the Cold War, most likely – we kept morale up with dancing. And that’s what Lana is bringing us – music with rhythm for us to dance away the fears and keep our joy. This song is one of the most politically driven and the most relevant to issues today, and I’m pleased Lana included this despite it not musically being one of my favourites. It shows, once again, the way Lana has moved away from self-indulgent songs of drugs and doomed romances and has taken on a broader view of herself and the world she lives in. It not only includes her own awareness but may also inspire other people – listeners younger than her – to become more aware of politics and the issues in today’s society, despite the song being mostly about “throw(ing) your hands up and get(ting) loose”

Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems is a laid back song mostly made, it seems, purely for the duet of Lana and Stevie Nicks rather than including an actual purpose much like the previous two, though it’s not without meaning. Lana’s soft coo of a filtered voice pairs nicely with Stevie’s, and they mix well together, though don’t quite strike me as being a perfect match. However, their musical chemistry is stunning and bringing together the “witchy sisters” resulted in a soothing, swaying track ideal for slow-dancing or singing along with the beautiful people in your life. Though the meaning is lost on me – I can’t pair the verses or the choruses to each other, as each part of the song seems to be directed at different things – it’s enjoyable and has some sweet vocals following the combination of two recognisable voices.

The final duet for Tomorrow Never Came is with Sean Ono Lennon, son of the late John, and the entire song brings an undeniable Beatles vibe, from the guitar to the stuttering vocals in each verse to Sean’s voice which sounds almost identically to his father’s. A simple track where the two converse and make references to the seventies – jukeboxes, “shaking and grooving” and actual Lennon and Yoko – it is mostly guitar-driven and has an old-fashioned feel to it, which goes to show how much Lana adores the retro world. Their voices match perfectly, much more strongly than Stevie Nicks’ did, and this song truly invokes some emotion into it when you hit the despairing choruses. However, a nice twist to the song is the shift in wordplay which leaves us with a nicely wrapped up happy ending: the first two choruses mention meeting up the following day, but “tomorrow never came”, meaning it never happened thus the love never continued. However, the final chorus concludes with “you said you’d love me like no tomorrow, guess tomorrow never came”, ending on a happy note where the love finally triumphed. The clever wordplay and the calm vibe of the track – much like Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems – makes the journey to the end of the album much quieter and almost peaceful – until we get to Heroin.

I mentioned how the second half of the album was not the strongest (from my opinion), yet the last three tracks really do pick up and boost it for me, ending the album on a high note, though they stray from the typical Lana Del Rey vibe of the first seven tracks. The fresh feel of these three final songs – and the heavy weight and awareness that comes with it – are admittedly some of Lana’s best work, and her most aware much like GBA and WTWWAWWKD.

Heroin is one of the heaviest songs on the album, a weighty masterpiece that is both long and filled with emotion. Lana sings once again of drugs, the blunt title summarising the song entirely. However, it’s a gorgeous track, powerful to listen to, and every time I hear it I feel something inside me that pulls me down, but the wonder of this song pulls me up. Pretty lyrics tainted with speak of murderer Charles Manson and “blood on my walls and shit” and suicide references quickly following fill this almost six minute song dedicated to the damage heroin can truly do. The verses are quiet and almost growled yet the choruses are as dreamy as the distorted music and muffled thuds; you feel high yourself especially when you get to the final chorus after the messy, shouted bridge that sounds just as disoriented as drug-users may feel. The last chorus is slightly different from the rest, girlish and higher voiced, sounding almost as if she’s smiling as she sings of “dreaming about marzipan” then promises to get on a plane and change. I enjoy the churning pace and progression of this song, how it goes from the steady problems to the disorganisation of the bridge and finishes with recovery. Equally clever is how she promises to change all through the outro and slips straight into yet another of her most aware songs to date: the simple classic, Change.

Change is merely Lana and a piano, stripped back without the basic song layout to allow Lana to express her thoughts and feelings on a changing world. She shifts her voice and tone throughout each part of the song, from a muted, anxious tone to a storming, heavier song pushing her emotions forward, and finally becoming higher and sweeter, almost happier. Listening to this song can sometimes be difficult as she mentions the dangerous changes of our world today: the possibility of nuclear warfare as she notes that change may be coming on “the wings of a bomb”. It’s thought-provoking, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggled with the song, as without the upbeat music much like WTWWAWWKD to distract us you are forced to focus on the real issues presented. Again, it shows Lana’s growth and puts her in the spotlight as a celebrity who is trying to convey a message to her fans – recognise the changes and “be here for it”. This message willing strength and hope lifts up the unpleasant vibe of the rest of the song, the dark messages that horrible things may come, and hopefully may be a song that unifies the people it reaches out to.

The final song (Get Free) is the true beacon of hope for this mixed bag of an album – Lana’s “modern manifesto” and her personal song with much hidden meaning that only she herself understands. Despite the secrecy inside it, it’s still a song that is pure and ends the album on a high note. It’s a song of moving “out of the black” and “into the blue”, by moving on, accepting things when they don’t quite work out, and doing everything you can in the memory of those who never reached what they achieved – for example, the blanked out Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston, both taken too soon and never able to reach their full potential. Both of these women are well-loved and also important to Lana (which may explain why their names were removed from the song – it may have been too personal). I do love this song a lot, specifically the chanting of “out of the black/into the blue” and the lyrical reference to one of her best – and personal – songs, Ride. My only criticism really is that the verses feel as if they go on too long, which may not be an issue to some but to me, who does not connect to the song as much as others might do, it feels a bit tedious waiting for the choruses which are my favourite parts.

I’m pleased Lana has ended on a high note, as for some of her previous albums she has often finished the record with a darker tone, yet Get Free is a charming wonder. It, along with the rest of the album, is a marker for the change within Lana, no longer singing only about being ‘the other woman’ or focusing merely on the men in her life, but instead shows how she is taking responsibility of her fans and is putting out her opinion and plea that we all take notice of today’s problems. I like this overall difference in character, and the variety of songs and themes – from sweet to despairing to conscious – her longest album yet shows a mixture that makes this album not samey, whilst also straying from the typical styles of her other records which all contained a similar sound in each respectively along with a continuing theme. Yet, though Lust For Life does indeed include differences, it does certainly contain a theme through much of the songs: change, both in person and in style. I truly hope that whilst she does continue returning to some of the older themes, which were what made me fall in love with her music in the first place, this new Lana Del Rey is here to stay, and doesn’t drift from the problems which we all struggle with as a world.

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A Stifle Of Creativity

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 For anyone who has followed my corner of WordPress (which is highly doubtful, considering I am fairly uninteresting with a lack of talent), it may be noticeable that I haven’t written for months on here. That is down to every writer’s favourite writer’s block, the stifle of creativity that causes any inventive thinking to be shadowed by blankness or anything other than the desired content to write about.

I am a person who writes regularly in my own time – writing fiction every day. However, due to recent events, I have been unable to find the time nor the imagination to spare to write anything, aside from the odd chapter here and there of poor quality.

This saddens me, as writing and creative thinking is one of my passions. I want to pursue media, to write music videos, and – my life-long childhood dream – publish a book of my own, preferably a novel. The days when I’m not writing make me feel disappointed and wasted, as if the imaginative part of myself – one of my greatest qualities – is crumbling and drowning the longer it takes me to get it done.

I have just taken the decision to quit the apprenticeship I started a month ago. I’m not right for it for several reasons, though one of the main ones is that it is for a career that doesn’t use any creativity. It is instead repeated tasks for long hours, which makes me too tired to think when I do have a spare opportunity to write for myself. I tried my hardest with the apprenticeship, I really did. Though I wasn’t enjoying myself, I was desperate to prove I wasn’t going to give up and could finish what I started. It slowly became more impossible until now, when I have realised the importance of being creative to myself. I want to indulge in what I love: writing. I want to also keep doing it frequently and improve myself, and make myself better at something I already feel is a strong area of mine.

Though I’m sure no one is reading this, and it isn’t interesting, but I feel it’s important for me to make a start somewhere for myself. I don’t want to lose myself. I want to get myself back again.

Daily Prompt: Calm

via Daily Prompt: Calm

Calm

 Anyone with anxiety will know the struggle of trying to become calm: it’s almost an untouchable dream to be calm at the height of feeling anxious.

For me, I spent three long months at the beginning of 2016 trapped in an anxiety bubble, where the state of being calm seemed to be a million miles away out of reach of me, and almost impossible to achieve. Every action was tainted with fear and every thought was a catalyst to add to my distressed state – the complete opposite to how I feel now.

Though I still have my moments of crushing worry and an unsettled stomach, I find it easy to be calm, without even thinking about it or trying to force myself to be comfortable in my mind. Looking back on that period is impossible to believe and almost terrifying to consider that that was the way I lived for three whole months, though at the time it felt almost like three years, with each day dragging out like an endless ocean of jagged, choppy waves that never settle.

Florida Kilos [Lana Del Rey]

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 It would take you less than a week to catch on to the fact that I deeply adore Lana Del Rey and her music if you were to know me in real life, so of course there would come a moment where I write about her songs. I have already attempted three posts on other muscians I love (Tom Odell and James Bay), so it would only make sense (to myself) to write about my favourite artist.

Florida Kilos is a fairly random place for me to start when beginning to write about LDR, as it isn’t a single that has been on the charts – instead it is a bonus track on her album Ultraviolence, and one that I didn’t find until over a year after its appearance. However, there are hundreds of Lana songs that are unreleased, many of them difficult to track down, so discovering many of Del Rey’s songs is like stumbling upon a fiver you didn’t know you had in your back pocket.

Florida Kilos fits quite snugly on Ultraviolence – an album of dark and pictureqsue lyrics and clean instrumentals. It begins with a simplistic, lonesome guitar that brings a plucky American vibe, later joined by a quietly beating drum paired with a sharp kick that makes the track a snappy, summery tune. The music itself, as a whole, is swaying, the kind that helps one invision the high and free people of Miami dancing along in joy for their drugs.

One of the things that help create this summery feel is Lana Del Rey’s voice – sweet and babyish as she sings of her “daddy” and uses innocent, pretty terms to describe her drugs – “turnin’ diamonds into snow”. It’s this paired with the youthful “yayo” following each chorus, almost a sing-a-long, sway-a-long tune, that adds to the carefree vibe of the song – possibly a reflection of today’s drug culture where it becomes the norm within social groups to take drugs for recreational purposes, all part of the fun.

Del Rey’s voice has often been used in this ‘youthful’ way to demonstrate her Lolita-based character – a young woman who is in love with an older, more powerful man (or ‘daddy’) who can control her with just as much ease as she can seduce him with her innocent charms. Other songs that have included this theme have been Off To The RacesLolita and Diet Mountain Dew – though many of her songs include this storyline, echoing the novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (her lyrics occasionally reference.

This is fascinating to me, the way she portrays a character in her songs, using her music to tell a story. Though this ‘character’ seems to appear in Florida Kilos, there are certainly people who relate to the thoughts, feelings and actions described in the song – the taking of drugs, the idea that Miami is the place to be if you want to live fast and free, the thrill of doing something illegal (lyrics include: “Prison isn’t nothing to me”).

As someone who does not take drugs and has a negative opinion of them, I don’t feel the connection between myself and the song, but I do enjoy her lyrics – in all her songs. Del Rey has a way with words, using visually pleasing words that create stunning imagery mentally when listening, and it is easy to see she is a woman who is keen to share beauty: she used to make her own music videos using cinematic clips, and her newer music videos are admirable.

However, back on the topic of the Florida Kilos lyrics, many stand out to me as being simply beautiful, for example: “Guns in the summertime, drink a Cherry Cola lime” or “White lines, pretty baby, tattoos”. For a theme I don’t agree with (drugs), I find the words she uses to create the vivid and attractive mental images inspriring.

Lana Del Rey is a wonder at writing lyrics – again, most likely due to her own possible inspiration of old-fashioned Hollywood movies and noir – and this makes me love both her and her music even more. As a writer myself (though it’s more me *wishing* I could make it as a talented one) I admire the way she uses her words, even on a topic I don’t agree with.

I’m still new at this review thing, I don’t know how to finish it.

Chaos and the Calm [James Bay]

Another review made too late.

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 One of the albums I was giddy to buy when it was first released was Chaos and the Calm by James Bay, back in earlier 2015. A few months prior (if I remember correctly) he had just released his first single, Hold Back The River, so he was fresh on the public scene. In honesty, Hold Back The River wasn’t the first single I heard, despite its successful place in the charts. It was my friend who had come to me telling me I should check out his music, as she assumed (correctly) that I would like his style.

 In doing so, I stumbled upon his YouTube channel, which had acoustic versions of his album’s song pre-release, many of which done all in one take with a visually pleasing backdrop. It was When We Were On Fire that I had first decided to watch and listen to, and I was immediately impressed with him. The riff of his guitar in this particular song/video was a pleasant surprise, as I didn’t know what to expect, but it was a perky, quick tune of abrupt notes that made me smile, and even better was his talented voice; his natural, acoustic singing voice is very much like his studio recordings, showing he needs no touch-ups to make himself sound passable as a singer, and there is an enjoyable warmth to his tone that emulates himself as a person (he comes across as a lovely person). After becoming hooked on this, I checked out his single and immediately loved it, with each pluck of the guitar string and the fabulous build up during the song’s progression to a storming jam that is impossible to not sing along to.

 Bay’s style was distinguishable from the off, and as I discovered and delved into more of his songs, the spirited feel of his voice and excellent instrumentals – always with his guitar at the forefront – I was getting more and more hooked on his sound. It wasn’t just his wonderful voice, however, but his personal style too: his discernible look of long hair and a hat, which almost echoes the ‘rock star’ trend but with a chiselled, polished clean-up. James Bay is clever in how he visually portrays himself – though he lets his music do the talking, he is recognisable as having the long hair, the hat, the guitar (and I’m sure his cheekbones have had their own recognition before), which is a good tool when becoming memorable by the public. Melanie Martinez, for example, has her own sweet and girly baby style, with pretty, childish clothing, and the King of Pop was remembered during his career for the militant jacket, the hat and the glittering glove – though James is far more reserved. [some very random examples of memorable style, I know]

 Of course, I’m not at all saying it’s his style people remember him for. It’s his talent. His perfectly indie rock/folk rock/soul voice has an earthy feel, not perfected (as I mentioned before) like most mainstream music is. It somehow makes his thoughtful lyrics more relatable, though they themselves capture real emotions, real thoughts (notably in Craving where he sings of the train of thought we all encounter – “Where do I go? What do I need?”)

 When I bought the album, it was a wonderful experience for the first time, with some eye-openingly brilliant songs, though brilliantly it doesn’t lose its appeal after several listens. Strangely, despite there being some quick-paced, chirpy songs, and tracks with stomping rhythm, I finish the album often with a mellow feeling – it’s perfect for some quiet background music.

 Each track has its own flavour and difference (predominantly): the cheerful yet thoughtful Craving, the hopeful and heart-warming Best Fake Smile, the slow and beautiful Move Together (with adorably polite sexual lyrics), the dirty and strained Collide* and, of course, the irresistable song that started it all: Hold Back The River.

 The way Mr Bay flows from emotion to emotion, with a multitude of stories and themes within his music and lyrics, shows his real passion for music: you can tell from his vocal ability and envious lyrical writing that he is a man in love with what he does. He isn’t a try-hard, he doesn’t perform for the money or write songs for attention – he does it because he loves it, which can only make equally passionate listeners feel more connected with the songs and the artist.

 In conclusion, I thank James Bay for blessing me with his music, as he is an inspired creative artist who inspires me. Which is a weird thing to say, but it is the best I can do as a closing note.

*my personal favourite.

Flaws of the ‘Flawless’: Bella Swan

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When I was a few years younger, I was very much invested in the young adult fiction series, The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer, much like many teens were. As a girl who was obsessed with books – from the Harry Potter series in my pre-teens to the Jacqueline Wilson books which brought real-life dilemmas and family matters to my attention – I was very much into Twilight.

I adored (and still do adore) the writing style of Meyer, and did have a certain fondness and fascination for the characters, though I am somewhat less fascinated by them now. However, Bella Swan was always on the fence between my usual passion and connection between myself and the main character of a book, and the irritation and head-shaking she continuously inflicted.

I have seen several articles before criticising Meyer’s lead female as being a ‘Mary-Sue’ – an idealised version of typical teenage outcasts or in the very least ‘ordinary’ characters. Bella is incredibly beautiful, though not at all vain; Bella is very smart, though doesn’t boast that she shares the same intellect as a man who’s age is around a hundred years old; Bella gets all kinds of positive attention, particularly from the boys, though does not accept any of it. In fact, in order for Bella Swan to be ‘relatable’ to the bookish teen audience the novel was aimed at, Bella is an outcast, who seems to actively avoid human contact – until she meets the godlike Edward Cullen.

Even then, this epitome of perfection seems to love this apparently ‘completely ordinary’ human, and she in turn becomes an even better character: she’s selfless! She would die for him! Everybody praise Bella Swan for not only being generally clever, beautiful and humble, but she also has suicidal tendencies to protect the man (or vampire) she loves!

Of course, Bella Swan isn’t a Mary Sue – though Meyer tried hard to make her into the girl every female aches to be, Bella has some critical flaws that make me pull a face similar to wandering onto a farm and inhaling manure whenever I see these issues (that being said, I do not think Bella is entirely fecal and I do still think The Twilight Saga is an excellent series of books to read).

Putting aside some of her flaws (including her attachment to her vampire bae Edward, which is a tad worrying considering the intensity – as a fellow 17 year old, I can’t understand how she got so attached to this individual who really isn’t that special, to be frank), one of the flaws that frequently bugs me is her disregard to her real family.

As the novels progress, her relationship with the Cullen coven also progresses, and she sees them more and more as her family, and vice versa. However, this makes me feel concerned for her real family -particularly her long-suffering father, Charlie. Though she does his cooking and cleaning, she barely spends time with him, which I’m sure, despite their mutual acknowledgement of being awkward, he would have enjoyed and appreciated. Instead, she continuously puts herself in the path of danger: chasing after a (very old) boy who could kill her or get her killed at any moment; riding motorcycles with no experience; getting on motorcycles that belong to a stranger; cliff-diving into water in a ‘recreational’ activity without supervision or guidance from much more experienced divers; rushing of to Italy while Charlie was at a funeral (which isn’t dangerous from her father’s perspective, but I think it was just damn rude of her). The disregard for his feelings is concerning, and though it is clear within the books that she cares, she doesn’t do Charlie many favours (if we look at most of the saga from his perspective).

There many other things to say about Twilight – criticisms of the characters themselves and their actions, particularly Edward Cullen – but I feel the saga redeems itself enough to keep from being entirely critical of Meyer’s work. Though Bella does not stick with me as a likeable character and frequently frustrates me, she is still an interesting read with an entertaining story to tell, and she does have her positives and amusing moments that I just personally tend to overlook; like, for example, Meyer’s clear exaggeration of heady young love channelled through the flawed ‘flawless’ Bella Swan.

The purpose of this post was for writing practice (not hating).

 

Another Love [Tom Odell]

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 A few days ago, I wrote a post on Tom Odell, commenting my undeserved and most-likely biased opinion on his two albums. As I had previously said, Another Love – Odell’s first single – impacted me greatly, making me fall in love with each of his other songs and with him as an artist.

It was on the UK music chart compilation CD, Now That’s What I Call Music! 85, right near the end of disc two – the section of before-mentioned CD that I tend to ignore as I often don’t know the songs at that point. However, on a test listen of the track, it made me curious: I had never heard of this artist or the song (though I had vague memory of it which probed me to check it out on YouTube properly.

 The song’s beginning – the simple, isolated piano that already showcases the complexity of the emotions in Odell’s lyrics with each impressively layered note – had a sound that could have been a sunny song if it weren’t for the folorn tone. His voice was simplistic, growing hopeful as his notes raised then ended each line with a much quieter tone, the realisation resonating. Yet again, his distinctive voice and singing style fascinated me, as it wasn’t like anything I had quite heard before.

 As the song builds, with more instrumentals coming in and emotive gospel choir (a particularly enjoyable feature of his other pleasing-to-the-ear single Can’t Pretend), as does the soul-stirring (at least from my standpoint): feeling of your throat catching and breath changing, which is often the signal of an excellent song. Tom’s voice grows louder with a firmer quality to it, the underlining of a statement he wishes to make through song – the emphasis on hard letters keeps the song growing, progressing to a beautifully noisy and almost aggressive final chorus. The emotion in the music, the piano, his voice – it all impacted me as a listener greatly, and it’s a track I can barely sit still to now. His exasperated tone in his final six lines makes you want to sing, want to shout, want to cry, and, oddly, want to bop around in your seat in time to the thumping music.

 It’s a song that often makes me cry – in my sad or distressed times, I frequently use music as something to cry to, to trigger off the tears and allow me emotional release – and the sad storyline of using up all your love on someone you lost, leaving none left for those present, is a brilliant assistant.

 After a few more listens after the first intitial introduction to it, I was hooked. It wasn’t quite the same as any other song I had heard before, and I had grown up on all kinds of music and genre. There was something about Another Love that was unique, and touched my metaphorical core. Tom Odell’s voice, I also found, was (and still is) just as unique, which seemed to make his musical efforts more distinctive.

 His voice is what I would describe as ‘unpolished’; raw and without the autotune heard in many popular songs today. With allowing each strained note or vocal tremor to be heard in his tracks, you feel he is really there – not in a studio filled with buttons and technology that will perfect your real voice unecessarily – but live, like he is performing on stage. I did hear he had intended for his released music (digitally, on CD, etc.) to sound the same as it does on stage (don’t quote me on that), and indeed it does. I saw him live once (unfortunately not a Tom-centered show) and his voice was very much the same as it was on disc, so he fails to disappoint like some celebrities do when they often have to resort to lip-synching.

 Another Love, to me, is a track to be praised – it may not be everyone’s taste, but it found it’s way on the music charts and I firmly agree that was where it belonged. Much like the rest of his other singles, and his newer releases from the 2016 album Wrong Crowd, I believe he is becoming bigger as an artist, which is hardly a bad thing after all the edited voices we hear on mainstream radio today, instead giving people a refreshed view of a true musician and his talent.