Last year, two-tone legends The Specials released an album entitled ‘Protest Songs 1924-2012’. It featured covers of tracks by Bob Marley, Leonard Cohen, Big Bill Broonzy and other legends of protest music – but not one song penned by a British person, despite the band’s Coventry origins. This, UEA Professor John Street tells me, was part of the impetus behind the project Our Subversive Voice: The History and Politics of the English Protest Song.
by Lewis Martin
On March 20th I had the pleasure of interviewing The Handsome Family as a part of their tour for the 20th anniversary of their album Through the Trees. I interviewed Rennie Sparks, half of the band’s duo, about the difference the band offers from the usual Americana band (and if they are even an Americana band), what it’s like releasing music under your own label, and if being in the spotlight makes their message more powerful.Continue Reading
by Mike Vinti
This week, racial tensions in America have been reignited by the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castle and five members of the Dallas police. The response from the the majority of people of all races has been one of shock and sadness, with many black musicians and artists using their platforms to voice their solidarity with the victims and their support for the BlackLivesMatter movement.
Beyoncé and husband Jay-Z both released statements following the attacks, with Jay-Z even releasing his first new song – Spiritual – in years to support the BLM movement. UK rappers Stormzy and Novelist, two increasingly political artists in their own right, have spoken out, highlighting the issue of police violence in the UK as well as the US. RnB icon Miguel has recorded a song listing the names of black Americans killed by police with plans to update it every week. These are just some of the interventions made by high profile musicians in the last week. Continue Reading
by Mike Vinti
We’re barely a month into 2016 yet it’s becoming plain to see the musical trend that’s going to dominate the next twelve months: comebacks.
For as a long as there’s been a history of popular music there have been comebacks, it’s a natural part of the scene. The bands and musicians you idolise as a child and throughout your teenage years hold a special place in your heart and that’s always going to translate into a desire for more music and more shows form those artists; nostalgia is a powerful force.
Of, course, where there’s nostalgia, there’s money. Artists that have been around for longer can charge more for tickets, command larger production budgets and utilise the demand from fans to open doors not available to their more contemporary peers. This is doubly true for those than have been away and come back again. From Blur to Black Sabbath, Take That to Jay-Z, the combination of die-hard fans and risk averse record label execs sets the stage perfectly for a comeback if you’ve been officially out the scene for more than five years. Money and nostalgia, it seems as simple as that, right?Continue Reading
by Mike Vinti
It was announced on Wednesday that influential music blog Pitchfork – virtual second home to many music nerds – has been sold to Condé Nast, the publishing group behind Vanity Fair and Vogue.
On the face of it, this is a pretty boring piece of news to anyone other than music journalists; Condé Nast is no longer the giant of media it once was, and Pitchfork has a relatively niche audience. As such, this announcement has been met with derision by many in the blogosphere, perhaps wary of the old-world Nasties infringing on their ad revenue, alongside some legitimate concerns for the diversity of its audience and contributor pool. Yet aside from the dull business of one company purchasing another, the deal proves far more interesting than it first appears.Continue Reading
by Mike Vinti
Last time round we focused on the explosion of hip hop taking place across the UK, this week we focus on the UK Rap scene’s mainstay: Grime.
Grime initially took off in the early 2000s thanks to pioneering production and vocal stylings of artists like Skepta and Wiley, whose invention of ‘Eski-beat’ birthed grime as we know it. Characterised by double-time rapping and generally sticking around 140 bpm, grime is hip hop’s faster, louder, and often far more hype cousin. Unfortunately, I was eight years old in 2002 and subsequently missed out on a lot of ‘OG’ grime. In better news however, after a lull in which the closest thing to grime you’d find on the radio was Wiley’s rather ill-considered attempts at pop, grime is back. With it comes a wealth of fresh, young, talent, raised on the genre’s roots and unafraid to experiment.