Vote for The Life of a Thinker in the UK Blog Awards 2016

I still remember attending my first awards ceremony, when I felt somewhat underdressed amongst other student journalists at Austin Court in Birmingham and was Highly Commended in my category. The Midlands Student Media Awards marked a significant turning point for my blogging; a few months before the event I decided my blog was to move away from boring babbling lifestyle posts and it was going to be an online portfolio of sorts, where I could practice my journalism. After I was Highly Commended for a journalistic essay (over 1,000 words long, might I add), I felt like my decision to take The Life of a Thinker in this new direction was the right decision to take.

Ever since then, I’ve pushed out more journalistic content. My Musical Discovery reviews have become more analytical, my Friday Article opinion pieces have explored new political topics, and my Sunday posts, A Fictional Reality, are allowing me to rediscover my love for creative writing – which has returned after a lengthy absence.

Since the Midlands Student Media Awards, I have been searching for other blog awards to enter. Previous attempts to find anything which I was eligible to enter or were relevant to my blogging style had failed, but one time, I found the UK Blog Awards – an awards ceremony I feel bad for only just discovering. This year, I decided to enter.

Photo: UK Blog Awards

If the Midlands Student Media Awards told me that I was right to pursue a more journalistic style, then being successful at the UK Blog Awards will mean so much more. It will show that there is such a strong community around The Life of a Thinker, that my blog is improving and it would enable me to meet and network with so many new people. It’s the biggest awards ceremony for UK bloggers, and to even be in a position where people can vote for me to win is amazing.

You can find my entry in the Individual Entrants section, under the PR, Media, Marketing and Communications category, on the UK Blog Awards website, and you can vote for me – if you like.

If you’ve already voted, then thank you so much. I really appreciate every vote I receive. Do feel free to share the above link with friends and family members who may also like to vote.

Thank you all as always for reading my posts on this little corner of the Internet. My next blog post should be up on Friday.

Musical Discovery: ‘Only One’ by Sigala feat. Digital Farm Animals

Even when it’s December, a new tropical house track from Sigala (real name Bruce Fielder) is always appreciated by music fans who still haven’t forgotten about summer. For the Easy Love DJ, he hasn’t quite finished with 2016 just yet, releasing one more track to add to other smash hits released this year (including Say You Do, Give Me Your Love and Ain’t Giving Up). 2015 ended with a massive breakthrough for the artist, and now 2016 ends with him becoming a fully fleshed out talent, with the release of his latest track, Only One (feat. Digital Farm Animals).

With vocals which sound like a weird mix between John Newman and Tinie Tempah, this new track is likely to be an opportunity for Fielder to showcase the range of artists he can work with. Easy LoveSweet Lovin’Don’t Need No Money and Say You Do all included high-pitched vocals. Now, Only One features a voice which sounds similar to Newman’s in Give Me Your Love, but for the most part, moves away from the falsetto. In the song’s bridge, we hear low-pitched vocal distortion which sounds unusual for a track from Sigala, but it works.

The chorus is always where Fielder’s talent really shines through. Once again, it contains the punchy piano chords, but alongside a fluttering melody and hazy background synths. It’s the ability to keep to a cemented style whilst trying something new within those confines which really makes a great artist, and Sigala is one.

Sigala is now a well-established DJ on the tropical house scene. Seven hit singles have allowed him to set his vibrant and upbeat style in stone, whilst demonstrating his skills as an artist. We’ve seen him feature a variety of singers on his singles, as well as dabble with different forms of house and electronica (take the drum-and-bass track Say You Do featuring DJ Fresh, for example). Now, we can only hope that 2017 sees the release of his eagerly anticipated debut album.

Musical Discovery: ‘Closer’ by Lemaitre feat. Jennie A.

It’s been a long time since we’ve heard triumphant trumpet solos in the electronic music world. The last, most distinctive track to do so would be Capital Cities’ Safe and Sound, but that was a song which was more bubbly nature. Combined with hard-hitting, hazy synths, Closer twists the emotive feel of the instrument into a more gritty-sounding anthem.

Contrast this euphoric chorus with the soft, delicate vocals of Jennie A. and a simplistic piano melody in the verses, then you have a balance between calm and chaotic which is where the track really flourishes. It’s also no surprise that the UK music video also picks up on this mix, with a story about a young boy who is calm and peaceful until some misfortune happens. Then, he turns into a raging adult, causing havoc all around him.

Now, as Google jump onto the smartphone scene with their new Pixel phone, of course they needed a track full of energy to accompany the commercial – and they needed to look no further than Closer by Lemaitre to find the right track.

Intermission…

I’ve been rather busy. As a flurry of university assignments come my way until the end of this year, I fear that the time I have to put into other creative commitments will be somewhat limited. Journalism is a practical subject and so are the tasks, where I have to conduct interviews, take photos and so forth. As a result, there’s a lot more work involved as opposed to essay-writing. Of course, my academic life must come first and so unfortunately for the next month, the number of posts on my blog may dwindle. If so, I apologise.

Photo: Creativity103 on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode.
Photo: Creativity103 on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode.

Aside from being occupied with other things, it’s almost as though my creativity has taken a hit too. Of course, it hasn’t gone completely, but as I work on my radio shows, assignments and other commitments, I get a sense of confusion (perhaps even a feeling of being ‘burnt out’) when I start to think about uploading another YouTube video or blog post.

For example, I had no idea of what to write about on Wednesday this week and for my Friday Article, whilst there were big political events happening (e.g. the Autumn Statement and others), I didn’t have a specific argument to make or enough time to conduct further research.

Looking ahead to next week, I do have an idea for tomorrow’s post, but I have nothing in mind when it comes to Wednesday, Friday or Sunday. I don’t want to abandon posting completely until the end of the year, so I will be uploading blog posts when I can. However, my weekly schedule may not be happening for a few weeks or so. I hope you understand.

Normal scheduled posting will resume soon.

Musical Discovery: ‘Rockabye’ by Clean Bandit (Jack Wins Remix)

Rockabye as Clean Bandit’s latest release built upon this new style the trio had started to create ahead of their next studio album. However, with messy vocal chop-ups, the appearance of ‘love him or hate him’ artist Sean Paul, and it being their first track without Neil Amin-Smith, Clean Bandit’s new song got off to a bumpy start – taking three weeks for the single to make it to number one. Whilst Rockabye is quite calypso and tropical in nature, fans who miss the band’s more pop-sounding style may enjoy a remix by the Dutch DJ, Jack Wins.

 

After all, at the core of the track is a build-up and drop with vibrant piano/synth stabs, which will take listeners all the way back to Clean Bandit’s earlier releases such as Rather Be and Extraordinary. Alongside a fast-paced tempo and bubbly instrumentals, Jack breathes life into Rockabye with a remix full of colour and emotion – which is a refreshing change from the laid-back original.

However, as well as being transformative (including offering an interesting alternative to Sean Paul, with Anne-Marie singing his lines instead), the track remains heavily faithful to the original – with the vocals remaining untouched and a slight hint of strings heard in the original. It’s a version which balances old and new – and that’s exactly what a remix should be.

Overall, Jack Wins’ style is wonderfully up-beat, tapping into the vibrant piano/synth chords trend we see adopted by DJs such as Sigala (Ain’t Giving Up) and MK (Piece of Me). Jack has already been noticed by key DJs and radio stations, and now, with another high-profile remix under his belt – this time in the form of Clean Bandit’s Rockabye – something tells me it won’t be long before Jack Wins makes even bigger waves on the house scene.

On Comfort Zones: The Beauty of Journalism

During my radio newsday at university this week, I was assigned the role of a sports journalist. This was quite daunting for me given that I’m not really knowledgeable on the subject. Granted, when football or tennis move into the general news agenda, then I do know a fair amount about what’s going on (for example, the Sam Allardyce scandal and Andy Murray’s pursuit of the world number one title). Yet, I don’t passionately support or keep a close eye on a particular football team. So, understandably, I was a bit nervous about being given the position of a sports reporter.

However, that’s the crazy but wonderful thing about journalism. The pressure surrounding the profession does force reporters to go outside their comfort zones. For those on my course who were a little bit shy at first, a couple of ‘vox pops’ (interviewing members of the public) helped give them confidence, and now for me, it’s gifted me with a little more knowledge about the sporting world. The area outside my comfort zone has now become – a small part of – my actual comfort zone.

In the space of six hours, I was clued up on a BBC report into the price of tickets and food at different football grounds, had an interviewee available and attended my first ever press conference at a football club. Journalism forces you to go outside your comfort zone, and if you do, then you learn new things and get rewarded with amazing opportunities or interesting people to meet.

It’s one of the reasons why I want to be a journalist: you have the opportunity to learn new information (or news) every day in such a short space of time, become an expert on it, meet new people and interview them, and then share the news with the rest of the world – and that is a beautiful thing.

Liam

#StopFundingHate: A call for change in an era of post-truth | The Friday Article

Britain is in stasis. Ironically, for ‘leave’ voters who put a cross in the box out of a desire for change, progression is yet to take place. The general public are left confused and twiddling their thumbs as a leaked memo fuels concerns that Theresa May has ‘no plans’ for Brexit. We are forced to ‘make-do’ and accept the result of the referendum, despite no clear signs of moving forward, and whilst we must have hope, it’s likely that most people have sunk into a state of defeatism as the establishment remains in power and right-wing populism sweeps the western world.

The election of Donald Trump is the latest example of right-wing populism. Photo: Gage Skidmore on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode.

The EU referendum vote started the politics of emotion. We were forced to prophesise; we couldn’t predict what would happen if we voted to leave or remain a member. Granted, there were some facts – a minimal amount, mostly from an economical standpoint – but soon politicians realised that the limited supply of facts, soundbites and trump cards were not enough. It was time to play with people’s feelings. Britain Stronger in Europe  and Vote Leave opted for scaremongering, with the latter also encouraging nationalism towards the end of the campaign period. Now, months after the result, both emotions are present in our society: a fear for the future overshadowed by false patriotism and anti-immigration sentiment. Anger and frustration are the feelings to harness in order to win votes –  it was used by Vote Leave and Trump, and it will soon be adopted by other Western countries (take France’s Marine Le Pen, for example).

This change in the political climate was even noted by the Oxford English Dictionary when it came to their word of the year. ‘Post-truth’, which they defined as being when ‘objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’ is the perfect description of the strategy political parties are adopting at the moment. Yet, it cannot just be applied to Westminster, but also to the media outlets which manipulate the masses.

We only need to turn to The Daily Mail for an example of this. The outspoken right-wing newspaper wet themselves when the vote to leave the European Union came in and now, as nationalism sweeps the western world, they feel as though their over-the-top, emotive journalistic style is now justified – and can be exaggerated further.

Bound to the pessimism of journalism, and with a sense that their emotive opinions are verified after Brexit, The Daily Mail has adopted a narrative of hate and extreme nationalism. The Enemies of the People headline still continues to attract controversy to this day and demonstrates the pure vitriol fired at any news which veers away from said narrative.

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union left an anti-establishment rhetoric hanging in the air. A clear vote against the Brussels elite (amongst other things) worried right-wing politicians. Underneath the facade of warped patriotism came the concern that this vote would impact the establishment’s position. After realising that, they twisted the story. It was not the 1% responsible for most of our country’s problems, but immigrants. However, the anti-establishment sentiment in society hasn’t gone completely.

Labour still has a very large membership and more people are seeing the true definition of who and what the elite is. We’ve realised that Theresa May’s promise of being a party which works for the 99%, not ‘the privileged few’ was a broken one, as they couldn’t help but enact their right-wing policies. Whilst our say over these decisions are minimal, there’s other methods people have adopted in order to change the structure of our establishment. If we can’t change the politicians, we can change the media.

To go back to topic of The Daily Mail, a campaign called Stop Funding Hate attracted huge amounts of press coverage last week. Its aim, as described in its bio on Twitter, is to “take on the divisive hate campaigns of the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express” and it received mass media attention after it encouraged toy manufacturer Lego to stop advertising with The Daily Mail.

More recently, students at the City University of London voted to ban The Sun, Daily Express and Mail newspapers from their campus because the newspapers “all actively scapegoat the working classes they so proudly claim to represent” and “publish stories that are inherently sexist”.

Whilst Lego’s withdrawal of advertising is an ‘indirect’ way of changing the media’s message, the ‘banning’ of the three papers at the university is more direct, which some have branded as censorship.

The motion itself argues that “freedom of speech should not be used as an excuse to attack the weakest and poorest members of society”, but others believe that it restricts discussion and debate. At what point does freedom of speech no longer apply? It’s a question which has lingered around in our society for a long time, but as unpopular and controversial opinions dominate politics and the right-wing media, it’s been brought to the forefront.

There’s no clear answer, but in an era of post-truth, journalists must make factual reporting their priority, rather than emotive sensationalism. If that’s what Stop Funding Hate aims to direct the far-right newspapers towards then so be it. One of the main influencers of public opinion is the media, and so if we can get rid of extensive and excessive emotive reporting, we may just see a return to the politics of fact which we desperately need.

The answer lies in change and challenge, rather than dismissal. As the spoof reporter Jonathan Pie argues in his video on Trump’s victory, the left cannot continue to shut down political debate by hurling insults at individuals with controversial or opposing opinions, as that then leads to bottling their views up until they reach the only safe place they have: the polling booth.

The Stop the Hate campaign is a wise move against tackling hatred in society, but whilst we can try to change the media outlets which influence public opinion (to an extent, a biased media does benefit a democracy), the one thing we cannot censor are the people with these opinions themselves. Otherwise, the silent voters will elect the right-wing candidate again and the sense of defeatism in society will become ever stronger.