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Madonna at 60: Take A Bow

Thursday, 16 August, 2018

Take a Bow is a track from Madonna’s sixth studio album, Bedtime Stories (1994), and the story of the song’s video says so much about Madonna (Happy 60th Birthday today!) and her impact on the worlds of music, fashion and culture.

The clip was directed by Michael Haussman and filmed in Ronda in southern Spain. Madonna arrived in the city in November 1994 with a team of 60 people and wanted to shoot at its most famous bullring, the Plaza de Toros de Ronda. Her request was rejected by the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda, however, who considered it a desecration of the arena, since her name was associated with provocative sexual imagery. The refusal was unpopular because many in the city believed the video would be of great PR value.

Eventually, money changed hands and a permit was obtained to shoot inside the palace of the Marquis of Salvatierra and at the Plaza de Toros de Ronda, where matador Emilio Muñoz performed alongside three fighting bulls. Madonna wore a fitted suit by John Galliano, and other designers who provided accessories included Donatella Versace and then then-unknown shoemaker Christian Louboutin.


Wind & Rain

Saturday, 16 September, 2017 0 Comments

The 184th Oktoberfest begins in Munich today and it will run until 3 October. Normally, it’s an occasion for Kaiserwetter (glorious, sunny weather) but it’s kicking off this year with wind and rain. That’s ideal weather, though, for rugby and, for the first time ever, Oktoberfest will feature a world-class “sevens” rugby tournament, with teams from Fiji, South Africa, England, France, Ireland, Australia and Germany.

Wind and rain are central motifs in the ballad performed here by the superbly talented Hanz Araki, who combines his Japanese and Irish heritages in an American mix that makes for a refreshing interpretation of traditional music.


First Aid Kit could fill in for Bob Dylan in Stockholm

Sunday, 20 November, 2016 0 Comments

On Wednesday, the Swedish Academy announced that Bob Dylan would skip next month’s Nobel Prize in Literature award ceremony because of “other” commitments. “He wishes that he could accept the award personally, but other commitments make it unfortunately impossible,” it said.

But all is not lost as Dylan is expected to play a gig to Stockholm in spring. Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, told Swedish public radio that she received confirmation from Dylan’s manager. “Then he will have an excellent opportunity to hold his lecture,” she said. Giving a public talk is the only requirement for the Nobel laureate and must be done within six months starting from December 10.

A radical solution would be to get First Aid Kit to fill in on the Big Day. The Swedish duo consists of sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg and here’s their interpretation of It Ain’t Me Babe, which originally appeared on Another Side of Bob Dylan, released in 1964.


Facebook predicts the end of text. Fail

Friday, 17 June, 2016 0 Comments

After 2020, Facebook “will be definitely mobile, it will be probably all video,” said Nicola Mendelsohn, head of Facebook’s operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, at a conference in London on Tuesday. Mendelsohn even suggested that the written word will be replaced by moving images and sound:

“The best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us, actually is video,” Mendelsohn said. “It conveys so much more information in a much quicker period. So actually the trend helps us to digest much more information.”

Does it? Facebook is said to be hosting eight billion views a day on its platform, but most of that is happening in silence. Millennial news site Mic, which is averaging 150 million monthly Facebook views, said 85 percent of its 30-second views are without sound, while PopSugar says its silent video views range between 50 and 80 percent. Note: Facebook counts a view at three seconds.

The result is that publishers are now creating videos that have the same look and feel and they increasingly feature text that does the talking, as it were. This Facebook video about a futuristic bike features visuals with a text explanation of the content. Prediction: Text will outlive Facebook and cat videos.


The stars come out with Chris Stapleton

Saturday, 19 March, 2016 0 Comments

Brief bio: Chris Stapleton is a 38-year-old Kentucky singer-songwriter who has written a series of chart-topping hits for other artists — Adele recorded If It Hadn’t Been for Love — and is married to fellow country singer Morgane Hayes. His debut solo album, Traveller, was an instant hit and his musical alliance with Justin Timberlake has spread his fame far beyond Nashville. The voice contains the souls of Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett and the songs are filled with the longing and loss that hallmarked the work of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.

“Everybody’s got a friend of a friend
Somebody that can get you in
Begging angels for a sin
In a game that we’re all playing
You and I, we’re gamblers holding cards that we can’t see
And I’m betting on you, you’re betting on me.”


Liam Neeson in ‘Death of an OLED TV Salesman’

Wednesday, 3 February, 2016 0 Comments

In conjunction with Sunday’s Super Bowl 50, LG has just released a commercial for its Signature OLED TV. It must have cost a fortune as it stars Liam Neeson and was produced by Ridley Scott. Is it a winner? The Verge is deathly: “…we’ve got a schlocky 60-second journey through a Tron knock-off fantasy land, with Neeson growling cliches about how ‘the future belongs to us.'” John Gruber is equally morbid: “As with many Super Bowl ads, I feel like they would’ve gotten more bang for their buck by just setting fire to a few million dollars in cash and putting the video on YouTube.”

“My character is an enigmatic man from the future who has traveled back to the present day on a very important mission,” said Liam Neeson to/for LG. “He represents that inner appeal, that curiosity we have to find out about the future.”

One gets the feeling at times that Ridley Scott has made a handsome trade of recycling memes from the iconic television commercial that introduced the Apple Macintosh personal computer. But is LG happy to be placed in a spectrum that’s 30 years behind Apple? Is it so incurious that it’s willing to be associated with a tired rerun of “1984”?


I Got You Babe

Monday, 27 July, 2015 0 Comments

Fifty years ago, I Got You Babe by Sonny & Cher spent three weeks at #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The single sold more than one million copies and the song went on to top the British, Irish and Canadian charts. Our 1965 music series continues.

“So let them say your hair’s too long
‘Cause I don’t care, with you I can’t go wrong
Then put your little hand in mine
There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb.”

Responding to Bob Dylan’s acerbic It Ain’t Me Babe, Sonny Bono conceived I Got You Babe as an opposing work in every sense. Where Dylan was lyrically complex, Sonny was simple. Where Dylan was musically simple, Sonny was complex and he built upon Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound using the song’s verse-chorus-verse format with a rising coda, led by a distinctive oboe, to reach a climax. Then, the song started to crescendo again before the fadeout, and all this in just three minutes. A pop masterpiece.


She bid me take life easy

Saturday, 13 June, 2015 0 Comments

The repertoire of the Canadian musician Loreena McKennitt is Celtic to its core. For the 150th birthday of the poet W.B. Yeats, her rendition of Down by the Salley Gardens, with its meditations on love, life and the passing of time is most appropriate.

Down by the salley gardens
my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens
with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy,
as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish,
with her would not agree.

In a field by the river
my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder
she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy,
as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish,
and now am full of tears.

William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939)


The ruin of Marina Diamandis

Saturday, 28 March, 2015 0 Comments

It’s going to be loud at the Autódromo de Interlagos in São Paulo tonight, but instead of the usual revving of F1 engines, there’ll be music. Lollapalooza Brasil promises two days of great sounds with a lineup that includes Pharrell Williams, Skrillex, Jack White, Interpol and Marina and the Diamonds. The Welsh singer is promoting her third album, Froot, and from it here’s I’m a Ruin, which was directed by Marcus Lundqvist and filmed in January on the island of Lanzarote.

There might be a few too many echoes of Kate Bush, Lana Del Rey, Florence and the Machine and Madonna here for some of Marina’s core fans, though. Snippets from the YouTube comments:

Daniel Sanchez Davey: “I love Marina but this video is too similar to Madonna’s Frozen vídeo clip (not a Madonna fan) seriously the oriental black clothing, the desert, fast skies, the hands on the earth. I’m sorry but it looks almost like a copy, just take a look. What happened here Marina? You are always very original.”

Dania Osorio1: “Well, marinas a huge fan of Madonna so I think she hot inspired from that video. Yet you cant really judge on her for making an awesome video its similar but it was marinafied?.”


Life in Film

Saturday, 14 March, 2015 0 Comments

Out of Hackney in East London emerges Life in Film, which comprises Samuel Fry, Micky Osment, Dominic Sennett and Edward Ibbotson. This is Brit Pop with hints of The Smiths and David Bowie along with Belle and Sebastian, but the jangle sound of the band contains trans-Atlantic echoes of The Strokes and the Kings of Leon as well. The Followills will be pleased with the homage that reverberates right through Get Closer, which comes from Life in Film’s debut album, Here it Comes.


La Frontera

Saturday, 28 February, 2015 0 Comments

The late Lhasa de Sela was an American-born singer-songwriter who was raised in the United States and Mexico, and then divided her adult life between Canada and France. She died of cancer aged 37 on 1 January 2010.

When she was five months old, her hippie parents were reading a book about Tibet and the word Lhasa “just grabbed” them as the right name for the baby girl. The first decade in the life of Lhasa de Sela was spent criss-crossing the US and Mexico in a converted school bus with her family and La Frontera is autobiographical to the core.