With tedious inevitability something I've heard a lot about over the last few years is a pretty toxic atmosphere in writing sessions and writing camps where women and LGBTQ+ creatives are shouted down, overruled, ignored and generally treated badly by Men In The Room. One songwriter told me that their ideas would only be considered worthy by a producer when they were relayed via a (straight male) co-writer. Jesus, quite literally, Christ.
Anyway that all comes to mind because MNEK has today announced MNEK x Pride WC (the WC is writing camp, it's not being held in a toilet). MNEK will be there, obviously. Olly Alexander, Kloe, L Devine, Ryan Ashley and Rina Sawayama will also be banging out hits, along with producers like Jon Shave off Invisible Men, Sakima and Leo Kalyan.
A good group of people. Well, I haven't met all of them, maybe L Devine's a horror, but you'd assume MNEK is a good judge of character. Speaking of which here's MNEK himself, who told a press release:
"I’ve set up this camp to have a couple days specifically for Pride but to also invite some LGBT talent that I really rate to collaborate with each other. The community is so creative and full of really gifted writers and producers so I’m really excited that we are getting to come together, be there for each other and make music for this camp!”
I can't be the only one hoping that first thing to come out of this is a massive Band Aid-style collabanger. (The camp's taking place on July 4–5, so a full release with video on July 12 doesn't feel like it's asking too much.) Whatever else they come up with is a bonus.
Sigrid's chosen to release the 96% excellent Mine Right Now (ie the song that should have followed up Strangers at the start of 2018) as a single. And there's a video that's sort of an anti-video, but might actually just be a video, depending on the extent to which you believe the accompanying blurb and, for that matter, the extent to which you think the truth really needs to get in the way of a good story.
The story they're telling is this: the video was due to be shot in Bulgaria, but Sigrid's flights were cancelled the night before, so they shot the video anyway over two days (note: it was apparently not possible to find Sigrid any new flights in that 48-hour window) with director Max Siedontopf stepping in as 'Sigrid'. Sigrid added some bits in afterwards using a phone camera and portrait mode for added realism.
I mean, I say "added realism" — that suggests a degree of skepticism! Let's not be skeptical about this. I think we all know pop generally works best when you suspend disbelief and just believe everything you're told.
From the fortuitously on-brand video's press release:
Today Sigrid releases the video for ‘Mine Right Now’. A note from the director and star Max Siedentopf: “After a month of planning the Mine Right Now video with Sigrid and spending a week in the Bulgarian mountains building wonderful sets, the shoot quickly turned into the FYRE Festival of music videos.
The night before the video shoot we were told that Sigrid’s flights had been delayed and then cancelled, meaning she wouldn’t make it to the remote location in time. But our crew of over 40 people were all set to shoot a video, so despite the unfortunate news, we decided to still shoot something as we had spent the week building wonderful sets. Unfortunately for me, it was decided that I would have to take on the role of Sigrid. The thing I’m most self-conscious about is singing, so this really wasn’t something I was hoping to do…to end up in a music video lip syncing! As a director you always have to come up with all kinds of different ideas and stories for artists, but you’re never the one that actually has to execute them, which gave me an entirely new appreciation for what artists have to go through.
So, we shot over two days as many of the scenes we had planned to do with Sigrid. Some turned out great, but during the shoot many more obstacles came our way. From massive storms, collapsed sets, trouble with park rangers, my dog passing away…oh and there was a serial killer on the loose in the remote Bulgarian mountains we just happened to be in. However, we kept on going and going to make a music video for Sigrid even if she couldn’t be there”.
Look, this may very well simply be a case of some pretty imaginative and speedy decision-making by all-concerned, and if so well done everyone for delivering another quirky Sigrid video by accidentally tapping into the post-Fyre zeitgeist. Also, it's sad news about the dog. Long story short: it's a great video and as mentioned above the song's almost 100% excellent so all's well that ends well, right? Right!
I know we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Taylor Swift threw the first record release party at Stonewall but imagine, for a moment, the power of a video that swerved caricature, swerved established career narratives, swerved this era's visual identity and showed instead what real homophobia looked like for real people.
Two songs, both out today, use a very familiar lyrical idea. On Matoma's Bruised Not Broken, Kiana Ledé sings that "sticks and stones might break my bones"; in Taylor Swift's You Need To Calm Down she notes that "snakes and stones never broke my bones".
The Taylor Swift one's just better, isn't it? It takes the phrase and chucks in 'snakes' to bring it into Taylor's world, then puts the whole thing into the past tense. In general terms I'd happily live the rest of my life never hearing any sticks and stones reference in another song*, but pop law clearly states that if you're going to use a cliché**, you have to put a twist on it. No twist, no list(en). Rules are rules.
* This absolutely also applies to any deployment of the "love is a drug" metaphor
** Particularly a cliché that's based on total nonsense — the "words will never hurt me" part of the whole sticks and stones idea is, clearly, absolute bullshit
The Song Of The Week is TAPED by Naaz.
Naaz's steady journey in the direction of the pop a-list takes a big step forward, a big step up and a slight step sideways today with TAPED. "Sometimes, people will hear your pain but not actually listen," she wrote in some blurb I've copied and pasted off the internet. "It's like their ears are taped to whatever they don't want to hear." Additionally, she says that in her mid-teens she'd basically taught herself to stop speaking, as it'd often get her in trouble. Once she turned 18 and her music started taking off she had to socialise more, which meant she had to talk more. "I felt like my mind, ears & mouth were TAPED shut for years, and therefore I became an extremely open person — just to make up for all the years before where I mistreated myself with my mindset."
- Bastille's Doom Days album is out today, it's the best Bastille album in the entire history of Bastille and Another Place is a Pompeii-sized gloombanger.
- The new Little Mix single is a strange one — it interpolates an old Soul II Soul hit, and by 'interpolates' I mean it just uses the chorus, throws in some new verses that don't exactly push the boundaries of pop songwriting, doesn't bother itself too much with boring ideas like middle eights, and calls it all a day at 2:41. The artwork's really good.
- As noted the other day, Shura's new single is v excellent. It's quite La Roux-esque, isn't it?
- Glowie's new single is Absolutely Fine.
- When I went to the Madame X playback a couple of weeks ago I was impressed, in a strange sort of way, by the way Madonna had insisted on holding back the two songs most likely to have pleased older (and more recent) fans. The safer songs, in other words. One of them's the Vogue-esque I Don't Search I Find, which I've chucked on this week's playlist.
- Not on Spotify but available here as a pay-what-you-fancy download and available to hear here is one of Call Me Loop's strongest songs so far: it's called Property, CML wrote it having been "incensed by recent news", and cash from the downloads goes to the Abortion Support Network.
- For some reason there's a great cover of Natalimbruglia's Torn this week. It's by Swedish Idol semifinalist Hanna 'Fair But' Ferm.
- Taylor Swift isn't angry about Katy Perry any more and in a way that's a bit like homophobia, isn't it? (??) You Need To Calm down is pretty messily executed — and we haven't even seen the video yet — but I'm generally in favour of big artists releasing big songs about knobends being pathetic.
Shura's announced her new album Forevher (WHAT A TITLE) today and, with that announcement, comes a borderline-remarkable new song called Religion (U Can Lay Your Hands On Me) (WHAT A DEPLOYMENT OF PARENTHESIS).
There are two versions of the single; the proper version, which is just over four minutes long, and an edit which is a few second on the saggy side of the magical pop length of 3:30. The longer version is probably the best one, because it's longer.
In the video Shura does some vaping, hangs out with some nuns and at one point is briefly obscured by a lawnmower — the mark of a true star.
The album's out on August 16, which seems like a long way away but it'll be with you before you know it as life continues to flash before your eyes. One day you'll wake up and you'll be sixty years old. You can pre-order vinyl and CD on Shura's official site.
Dear iTunes libary,
I hear you're planning some big changes to our relationship and I wanted to write this letter to tell you that I understand. We have been growing apart for many years. And while I don't think you'll ever really be gone from my life, I think we both need to face up to where our relationship is now, what it means, and what we're going to do for each other moving forward.
We've been together for a long time now, haven't we? This must be one of the most significant relationships of my life. You've been with me through bad times I thought would never end and good times I thought would never begin. I love you. Or rather, I loved you. We became increasingly distanced, and I take some responsibility for that.
I just don't know who you are any more. I don't even know where you are.
Remember the time I attempted to use something called Tunespan to split you into more manageable chunks, but got confused about where all the chunks were, and which bits of which of them were in the cloud, on my laptop or on a hard drive? That was my fault. I thought I was making things better, but I just made them worse. I started to resent you for something that wasn't your fault. I guess I just felt insecure about the size of my hard drive.
But you also need to take some responsibility for what happened. Do you remember when you introduced me to iTunes Match? You changed that day. Parts of you suddenly looked different. Parts of you sounded different. You were never the same and neither was our relationship. I couldn't trust you any more. I remember how comfortable I felt back in the early days of our relationship, when I knew exactly where you were and what you were doing. Suddenly, when I didn't know where you were, I found myself panicking. Maybe this says more about me than it does about you. But I think it definitely says things about you.
You tried again, didn't you? You tried to make sense of yourself when you came up with Apple Music to put some spice back in the relationship. But I didn't know if bits or all of you were still in iTunes Match. Is some of you still in iTunes Match, or are you all in Apple Music? Are the bits of you in Apple Music still the bits I originally held on my hard drive, or are some of them automatically replaced songs with the wrong artwork?
I think perhaps, in the more recent years of our relationship, I wanted you to be one thing, and you wanted to be something else. Or, rather, you wanted to be lots of other things. I didn't ever love you for your apps, or your streaming services, or your movies or your radio stations. I started to miss the music library I fell in love with. I loved you for what we built together. You were so beautiful when we met. So confident. What happened?
Well, yes, I know you were doing all that other stuff because I'd started seeing Spotify, and again I take responsibility. If you hadn't feared losing me, you might not have tried so hard to win me back, and you might not have lost sight of who you really were.
We had some good times though, didn't we? I remember those endless days we spent together: ripping CDs I didn't even like, burning CD-Rs and printing out sleeves. Remember the time I found a hack to give things half-star ratings? That was a great day. I loved you so much that I even tried Ping when you offered it to me. I accept, too, that at times I was too demanding. There was that time you got yourself a brand new logo and I said I hated it. And the time I complained about not being able to see the full title of Mini Viva's Left My Heart In Tokyo. I can't criticise you for not loving who you were when I, too, refused to accept you as you were.
I'm writing this letter now because I've heard you've got some changes planned for how we'll be seeing each other in the future. I really hope we can make it work, because I do miss you, and while I know things can never be the same I do still want the old you back. I think you do too.
Hopefully, sometime soon, you can be yourself once more. And I'll be able to love you all over again.