#NewMusicFriday: ‘I See Love’ by Jonas Blue feat. Joe Jonas

It’s Jonas-meet-Jonas as DNCE frontman Joe Jonas joins forces with tropical house hitmaker Jonas Blue on I See Love, taken from the Hotel Transylvania 3 soundtrack.

With the animated sequel being called Summer Vacation, it’s fitting that the team at Sony called on Blue to produce a summer single to accompany the movie. Mix this in with the funk typical of Joe Jonas and you move into your usual, commercial pop track. However, that is not to say that this latest collaboration isn’t at all enjoyable.

While previous singles such as Alien and Rise have seen the Essex DJ and producer flex his tropical house music muscles, I See Love sees him explore a new genre entirely. If you’re a Joe Jonas fan, then you’ll definitely enjoy this song, as it sounds more like a DNCE single than a Jonas Blue one. It’s alright for those like myself who will happily settle for typical funk pop, but for those who expected another single with tropical house at the forefront, then they may be disappointed.

In terms of the main hook, it’s the mixture of Joe’s chanting vocals and the underlying, refined bass notes which give the song its catchiness. Outside the realms of the chorus, the rhythm of the lyrics in verses follows the same off-beat pace throughout. Although this is both ideal and typical of this genre of music, if there’s the opportunity for experimentation with the speed of the vocals, then it feels somewhat lazy to have the same sound running all the way through. Sure, it may help with the song’s memorability, but it’s not the most creative.

Despite the criticisms, I See Love sits comfortably within this week’s new music playlists, but as your traditional pop track. If you’re looking for a casual, commercial sound and an easy dance track, then this is it.

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Musical Discovery: ‘Find Our Way’ by Midnight Kids feat. klei

Slowly but surely, a more relaxed form of dance music with a euphoric feel is making a resurgence, and Midnight Kids are certainly helping to bring it back with their atmospheric hit Find Our Way.

Having made a name for themselves already with huge remixes of tracks from the likes of The Chainsmokers and The Temper Trap, the DJing duo are now switching over to production with the release of their debut single.

In keeping with the pair’s remixing style, Find Our Way is quickly establishes a chilled tone in the verses, sticking to soft piano chords and a controlled beat in order to allow the vocalist (in this case, up-and-coming singer klei) to shine through and guide the listener to a loud and ecstatic chorus.

After some trap in the build-up, the track descends into galactic electronica full of intriguing synth sound effects, yet it’s the pulsing chords and bass lingering underneath the vocals and melody which deliver the subtle kick to this single.

Capturing a sense of mystery and intrigue with lingering instrumentals, Midnight Kids certainly live up to their name with this chilled dance debut.

Find Our Way is available now on Spotify and Apple Music.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Icarus’ by Emma Blackery

There’s something different about Emma Blackery’s latest single Icarus. Moving away from the buzzing pop of Dirt and Agenda, the release takes a more delicate, personal approach – using a tale from Greek mythology as an unusual source of inspiration.

While there’s no doubt that some of Emma’s fans will have to take to Google to find out more about Icarus (a man who flew too close to the Sun, causing his wings to melt and him to fall into the ocean and drown), the story serves as a wider metaphor for online drama – of which Emma has had her fair share.

Working as a YouTuber as well as a musician, the 26-year-old has had a few heated arguments with fellow creators in the past, and Icarus serves as a reflection on that period in her life. “A song I wrote as a letter to myself,” Emma writes on Twitter, before explaining later that it’s “about retaliating to the people who want to see you fall, and looking like a fool.” Even Icarus flying to the Sun could well be symbolic of rising to the ‘heat’ or bait in an online argument. Either way, this creative take on the Greek legend is incredibly imaginative, and is a promising demonstration of the singer’s songwriting talent.

Yet it is not just the lyrical aspect of Icarus which helps it strike a more anecdotal tone. Opening up with a fragile harp melody (almost like one out of a music box), we not only see a nod to the song’s Greek inspiration, but it lays down the foundation for an emotional outpour. This is slightly different from the short, sudden burst of cymbals we hear during the chorus, which almost symbolises the lashing out online in retaliation to a public dispute. This is all down to interpretation, of course, but the large amount of symbolism in this song is incredibly impressive.

Almost like the Magnetised of the Villains era, Icarus is a hit packed full of creative imagery, emotional vocals and fluttering instrumentals.

It is available now on Apple Music and Spotify.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Glass Mansion’ by Elephante

The second EP from American DJ and producer Elephante (real name Tim Wu) contains songs as delicate as the record title itself. Glass Mansion, following on from the artist’s 2016 debut I Am the Elephante, seems to adopt a more stripped-back sound whilst still preserving the electric grit and punch of the previous release.

It’s a sound which was hinted by singles such as Troubled and Come Back for You, switching pulsating  synths for smooth guitar melodies. With that being said, the chill vibes of Plans appear throughout the EP, and the grungy Black Ivory instrumental gets a follow-up in the form of Red Smoke.

Come Back for You opens up the EP with smooth guitar, dramatic fanfare and marimba alongside soulful vocals courtesy of Matluck. It’s a song which feels somewhat selfish lyric-wise, working with the instrumentals to give off a sense of loud, bold bravado. It’s certainly a strong introduction to the nine-track release.

Contrast this with the following three songs, and the record becomes more reflective. Have It All featuring Elephante regular Nevve (from Catching On and Sirens on the previous record) comes with a slightly harsher feel no doubt compounded by deep, hazy synths. It’s a return to true Phante grit, but unlike previous tracks, the instrumentals are saved for the hook. Soft verses pour out emotional messages before being bolstered by expressive choruses which, although not your traditional party sound, bring with them a feeling of calm euphoria.

Off the back of perfect seaside track The In Between, Wu returns to the mic to sing alongside singer Knightly on the bouncy All Over Again – the layered vocals seeming to cleverly represent the frustrations of two individuals stuck in a complicated relationship.

Yet, it’s the fifth track of the EP, No Room for Lovers, which is perhaps the most significant. Not only does it serve as the beginning of a new emotional mindset across the remainder of the record, but it also strikes listeners as being the most ‘out there’ in terms of Elephante’s typical sound.

Completely devoid of any electronica, this track – featuring female vocalist Crystal – instead adopts plucky guitar and a fluid drum beat to give it a boisterous, confident groove. It’s your traditional sassy funk hit, and it sure as hell embraces that.

After Red Smoke serves up an expressive instrumental break, the final three songs of the EP become increasingly reflective, uploading and upbeat in nature, concluding an emotional arc present across the nine tracks.

In a series of tweets on Twitter, Wu said the EP is about “the journey of finding grace and happiness in a half-built home” and over the course of the record, the producer takes a creative and imaginative approach to this concept whilst also fleshing out a new stripped back style.

If his debut I Am the Elephante was the weekend party record, then Elephante’s Glass Mansion is the EP for chilled evenings.

Rating: 4/5

‘Quiz’ review – James Graham’s ‘coughing major’ play explores justice in a post-truth era

James Graham’s latest play Quiz is one of binary oppositions. At its heart, audience members tackle the question of whether ‘coughing major’ Charles Ingram was guilty or not guilty of cheating on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, whilst also exploring truth versus falsehood, and showbiz versus justice.

Photo: Johan Persson.

No doubt a political playwright, Graham says the “curious overlapping of light entertainment with criminal justice” in the Ingram case became a “prominent theme” whilst working on the play. Yet this particular point feels lost in amongst the nostalgic, exaggerated and slightly excessive quiz presenter impressions by Keir Charles (although this portrayal was most likely deliberate), the brief media circus scenes, gimmicks in the court case and the audience pub quiz. Although a treat for hardcore gameshow fans, the connection is a weak one.

Perhaps the strongest point suggested by Graham is one around post-truth – a political concept surging in importance in a time of Trump and Brexit. As both acts explore different narratives in the trial before asking the audience to vote, confirmation bias and manipulation are thrust into the spotlight for the crowd’s scrutiny. In a time where we find ourself subscribing to different narratives and interpretations of the facts, the investigation of this through the courtroom is Graham’s strongest point.

Accompanying the thought-provoking writing are some great performances from the cast. Utopia‘s Gavin Spokes delivers an impressive performance as the eccentric major, Stephanie Street is a solid Diana Ingram and Greg Haiste plays a variety of roles with vibrancy. Sarah Woodward and Paul Bazely also give enthusiastic portrayals of the two lawyers involved in the trial.

Chuck all this in with audience participation and a fourth wall break, and you have a thrilling multi-media production that both investigates and challenges reality. Quiz is a must for big thinkers and gameshow fanatics.

Rating: 4/5

Trump’s UK visit cannot be ignored | Liam O’Dell

Just like you shouldn’t fight fire with fire, you can’t defeat bigotry with ignorance.

The comments on the official Facebook page for protesting Trump’s UK visit makes for interesting reading. In amongst the comments opposing Donald’s presidency are a few suggesting a different reaction to POTUS’s arrival, which is to simply ignore him.

Donald Trump
First people wanted Trump’s UK visit to be revoked outright, now they’re suggesting we ignore him completely. Both are the wrong approach. Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode.

This is particularly interesting when one considers the response to the news already. When May made the extremely premature offer to Trump just a few months after he was elected, petitions were launched calling for the invitation to be revoked. It hasn’t, and rightly so. At a time where people voice concerns over speakers being censored on university campuses (a place people say is the centre for debate, critical analysis and discussion), it would be incredibly hypocritical for us to take the stance of banning him outright, rather than allowing him to visit the UK to be met with opposition. The former shows ignorance and hostility, the latter sees a fair and decent approach to differing opinions which we need to see in our society.

Now that that option is off the table, the next idea seems to be simply ignoring the fact that the so-called ‘leader of the free world’ is visiting the UK – something which is not only completely impossible, but has failed to get the President’s attention in the past.

Those holding this opinion most likely believe that for a man who came from the world of reality television, not getting the attention of a large audience is the most irritating thing to happen to Trump. Quite possibly, but in all the times that the leader has unleashed anger and frustration in less than 280 characters, it has been with regards to more public acts of defiance. Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and others have all succeeded in getting the President riled through high-profile political messages, not members of the public who have decided to not pay attention when Trump is in their country on a visit.

Donald’s affinity for Fox and Friends and extensive rants on Twitter paint the picture of a man who is, primarily, a man who prefers visual, easily understandable information – something which both platforms provide.

This brings me to the planned protests on Friday, 13 July. When images surfaced of the crowd size for Trump’s inauguration, the 45th President didn’t take the news too well. Some might argue that protesting may lead to further unnecessary hostility or Trump seeing it as a positive, but if enough people protest, and it makes the news, he’ll realise that all the attention is for all the wrong reasons.

Not only that, but the right to protest is an essential part of British democracy, and would be a welcome return to a peaceful and civilised approach to public discourse around socio-political issues. As one of the organisers, columnist Owen Jones wrote on the Facebook event: “We’re not just protesting against Trump, we’re protesting against Trumpism, including in our own country: where minorities are blamed for the injustices caused by the powerful.”

People thinking of ignoring Trump fail to realise the bigger issue here and to separate personalities from politics. As Owen says, the protest will also take a stand against Trumpism. Ignoring the president when he visits could very well be the right response when it comes to an individual with such an ego, but we must remember to protest what he stands for – something which cannot be ignored, no matter what.

By not paying attention to Trump, we would also reveal the polar opposite of the hostile political debate which we see in our society. While anonymous Twitter users fire hate and personal attacks at politicians and commentators online instead of criticising the issue itself, a new idea has emerged where outright refusing to acknowledge or challenge political ideas is considered the best approach. It is not, and such an idea must be tackled before it finds itself nestled in our political discourse.

In today’s climate, we must strike the middle ground which is devoid of ad hominem remarks or plain ignorance. A return to passionate but civilised discussions on the topic at hand is needed now more than ever.

To meme or not to meme? Thoughts on the EU Commission’s Article 13 copyright directive | Liam O’Dell

Try to regulate the Internet, and you will get memed.

In the middle of a controversial debate around net neutrality in the United States, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai tried to win support with a cringeworthy promotional video. In addition to the strong opposition to the new plans, the video was repeatedly mocked and parodied by Internet creators around the world.

href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/worldbank/26421582746/in/photolist-GfMw37-nsu7gs-TDQKNi-SNpLk2-ai3cWC-mHBoPM-ahZpin-mHBh1B-qBgEFf-YVbwfq-oGmrob-YWCkAv-WdH6Mb-rnWCzZ-bBBaVc-cWUVsG-cWUV2m-cWV2kG-ai3b9U-rm569g-pKsDPn-rEhPvJ-rEia1e-ai2W5U-25ebHLS-SKXvqN-9W8LBH-qbRTMn-pLuvPR-7Jf5hc-ptYyXJ-avHezq-pLuF7f-aURFUe-9PYsjS-WdH7Af-o3ZC3r-o46HDB-pLqpAX-avKPBq-oPBXMB-avEC2g-avEA36-oJbc7E-avEAGH-avHfGS-XTCfRQ-9PVARz-9PVAHD-pNfyKR”> Photo: World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode.%5B/c
Next in line to propose new regulations on the Internet is the European Commission, who, through a new copyright directive known as Article 13, want to “[improve] the position of rightholders to negotiate and be remunerated for the exploitation of their content by online services giving access to user-uploaded content” and make sure that “authors and rightholders receive a fair share of the value that is generated by the use of their works and other subject-matter”.

The concern comes from campaign groups such as Save Your Internet, who argue that websites will have to “implement complex and expensive filtering systems and will be held liable for copyright infringement, potentially incurring fines that threaten their economic viability”.

“The days of communicating through gifs and memes, listening to our favourite remixes online or sharing videos of our friends singing at karaoke might be coming to an end,” it goes on to add. It was these specific concerns about memes which made the headlines in media organisations such as BBC News and Sky News, and led to many young and witty remainers to joke that they now support the vote to leave the EU in 2016’s referendum.

As with most policies, there is a degree of ambiguity and over-the-top formality in the EU Commission’s proposal, but campaigners are right to voice concerns about Article 13 affecting memes. In the UK, there’s certain instances where duplicates of copyrighted work such as photos and videos can be monetised – provided the new version is transformative. In other words, creative forms such as reviews and parodies are covered under fair use or fair dealing because they bring new ideas to the table, and thus don’t infringe upon the market of the original work.

Before I elaborate, I should stress and issue a disclaimer that I am not a legal expert or lawyer, and so my knowledge of copyright and fair use comes from my time on YouTube and as a journalism student whose dabbled a little bit in media law.

Upon hearing this news for the first time, I was curious to know how such a proposal – if fully backed and passed within the different organisations within the EU – would be enforced. However, after seeing the term “recognition technologies” within the document, it’s clear that we’re talking about systems similar to YouTube’s Content ID function. Yet, even that has its problems…

With any legislation – especially those regarding any form of expression (e.g. free speech laws or copyright laws) – it’s important that it allows for context. On a site like YouTube, for example, video game cutscenes may be flagged for copyright infringement when they may be a part of a play through by a games reviewer. YouTube film critics face issues around copyrighted movie footage which, for a video-sharing site, is essential for illustrating their review. In all of these instances a computer system may struggle to understand the underlying context in which the copyrighted content is placed. Searches for matching content can be easily coded and incorporated into an algorithm – context cannot.

Therefore, I am mainly sceptical of this proposal, but that’s not to say that I don’t see where the EU Commission is coming from. Whilst the possible restriction on memes is ridiculous and nonsensical and falls under transformative fair use, I do believe that more adequate protection needs to be put in place for talented artists who may find companies using their drawings and illustrations online without credit.

Although, this brings me to another issue with this policy. Whilst legislation can be a blanket law to address a rare event or a small instance, group etc., on this occasion, using algorithms to scan whole websites for this one specific issue may actually do more harm than good. We have to protect artists and illustrators who are having their content duplicated without no transformative element, but a dragnet algorithm is not the right way. Instead, much like some sites already have flagging and reporting systems, each platform should have a report button which allows creators to request to have the duplicate taken down.

As much as we should be concerned about what Article 13 means for memes, we should also question what alternative laws there needs to be to protect artists’ work.