Tuesday, 18 November 2014

When something is better than nothing

I have to admit, my heart sank a little upon hearing that Band Aid 30 was going to be a thing. “Really? They're releasing that song for the fourth time?” (I then took a great amount of pleasure in being able to prove to Drummer Boy that yes, we have now heard four incarnations of Do They Know It's Christmas? People always forget the 1989 version. Probably with good reason. I digress.)

It's just all a bit, well, pfffff... You know. That song again. It doesn't even make sense – and the lyric edits this time around haven't helped in the slightest. If there's anything more sinister than Bono singing “Tonight, we're reaching out and touching you”, well, I don't want to hear about it. Tomorrow, we're applying for a restraining order. And I mean, who even is Rita Ora? I still don't know.

So, yeah. It's problematic. Rich, famous people telling poorer, less famous people what to spend their money on – and possibly shaming other rich, famous people* for not doing so – is never going to go down well, and Bryony Gordon's somewhat uncharacteristic rant makes this point really well.

*I'm still not 100% sure Adele was “shamed” for not being a part of it. All the reports I've read – and admittedly, that's a grand total of 2.5 – have been very vague about what was actually said.

However – and when I bring out the GCSE History essay game-changing word, you know shit's going down – at least Sir Bob Geldof has done something. Even if that 'something' is 'assembling a rabble of mediocre chart-botherers and cobbling together a single and a music video'. They managed to do that in the space of 36 hours. In the last 36 hours, I've... had a pub lunch, slept a bit, and sat in an office fiddling about with a shitty Sharepoint site. So I can't fault the man for deciding to do something and then bloody well getting on with it.

And yes, the criticism that the great and the good and the former rock stars should just put their hands in their own pockets, donate to one of the incredible charities that are already doing so, so much and shut the hell up about it is perfectly valid. Of course it is. Personally, I'm way more in favour of  quietly donating to your chosen charity than I am of any of the rather more public fund-raising efforts that have been so popular this year. (I'm not going to be specific; we know what I mean. I was going to write about it at the time but I'll be honest, I didn't want to be crucified. I still might throw a few thoughts down; everyone loves that one idiot who's brave/stupid enough to voice their unpopular opinion.)

But there's still something to be said for the people that wish for change - and then come up with ideas to bring about that change, and follow them through. Take Russell Brand - yes, he spouts a lot of words, and maybe only some of them are well-chosen, but whether you agree with him or not, he's done something. He's had enough faith in his own convictions to write a book about them. (I can hear the "yeah, but Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, and look what happened there" quips from here, OK?) It's easy, and often right, to criticise people for their egos, their self-promotion and their seeming naivety. Reading some of the criticism of Brand in the last few months has made me think that there is a sense of "but he's just a very average comedian, how dare he have opinions on other things? Get him back in his box!" If you set the dogs on the first person with a new idea, no-one else is going to want to come forward. And so nothing will change. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - the only people who've ever made a difference to anything important have always been the ones who were naive - and mad - enough to think that they could.

And do you know what? If I'd had the year Bob Geldof's had, I don't think I'd be throwing all, or indeed any of my energy into putting out a charity single. I really wouldn't. I cannot imagine how awful this year must have been for him, so if he can be thinking about the suffering of others at a time like this, then all credit to him.

I think the only point I'm making here is... live and let live. Or, to nick a Caitlin Moran quote, "don't get in the way". If someone's doing something that they believe in... let them. If you don't like it, do your own thing. It's as simple as that.

This is a much better track than Band Aid 30.

And so is this. I'm going to learn all the words to this; it can be my [very tedious] party piece.


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Because a blog post doesn't have to be serious...

 ...sometimes, it's just a case of "I'm really into this right now, so I'm going to inflict it on everybody else!"

I'm pretty smug when it comes to my taste in music (not sure if anyone's noticed). I am wholeheartedly in love with Brontide, who no-one's heard of, I've been to a [very, very drizzly] post-rock festival, and about ten minutes ago I listened to all eight minutes of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir. But I do have a bit of a thing - and I won't say 'guilty pleasure', because life is too short to feel guilty about the things that give you pleasure - for late nineties and early 2000s pop.

Such as this prime example. Oh, the acoustic guitars. The harmonies. The spiky hair. The smily boys. The implausibly clean-looking station.

And this. A slightly moodier version of the above, and it looks like a Jack Wills promo video. I still fancy boys who have curtains and who layer short-sleeved t-shirts over long-sleeved ones. And that wobbly, overwrought "I can't get over YEW, baby!" Take it away, boys.

A personal favourite is this one. I have this on my iPod, and still listen to it at least once a week. Again, we've got those acoustic rhythm guitars and incredibly flimsy lyrics. The video itself is kind of dreamy and a little bit soft-focus, and Jennifer Paige is a) wearing clothes, and b) styled in a way that is so typically late-nineties it hurts. The denim jacket over the baby blue, Calvin Klein-esque dress. The choppy haircut. The "natural" make-up. I'm just going to dissolve into a puddle of nostalgia, I'll catch you guys up.

And who didn't love this song? At least the first 492 times it was played on the radio in 1997, anyway. Once again, it's all a bit dreamy, and once again, our singer has a bob that's less "choppy" and more "Edward Scissorhands is my stylist, what of it?" She's also rocking a floaty-dress-and-boots combination that I quite like.

And, the video that actually sparked this post - it's one of my all-time favourite songs and I will always love her - this one, from 2001. I revisited this video while writing about Michelle Branch for something else (codename: The Other Project), and it made me laugh out loud, because suddenly I was eleven again, and just starting to learn the guitar, and music was The Most Important Thing In The World.

There's the bootcut jeans, and the top with the cut-off sleeves. The impeccably straightened, layered hair. The Lust Object with his shirt unbuttoned over his vest thing. A lot of moody shots of Michelle, as she plays guitar like she means it, and sways slightly, because the video director is telling her she has to move a bit - she's a female pop star, she can't just stand there and play her instrument. The requisite party scene, where people are jumping up and down for no apparent reason. We've also got people standing in front of a backdrop of trees for no apparent reason. Upon spotting her mystery man, she legs it downstairs to try and find him. But alas, she has to return home alone - clearly pissed off that stalking him and noting his every move hasn't worked - but would you look at that? He's in her living room.

There's no way I can end this post with a meaningful line, so I'm not even going to try.