Emma Blackery’s ‘Magnetised’ – an honest, powerful EP about heartbreak and moving on

YouTuber and singer-songwriter Emma Blackery’s latest EP Magnetised is, quite simply, an emotional rollercoaster. Granted, the record jumps between dance tracks (such as Nothing Without You and Don’t Come Home) and stripped back soul (in Magnetised and Instead), but all songs unite around the same powerfully honest tone. Over six tracks, the artist packs in a variety of feelings, accentuated with atmospheric instrumentals, to create the sense of ‘mending’ – the one word which Blackery has used to describe the EP.

‘Magnetised’ was released on iTunes and Spotify today. Photo: Emma Blackery on Twitter.

Whether it’s a thanking an ex, moving reflections on unrequited love, or a dismissive ballad, the message in each track is conveyed with confidence by Emma’s voice and her choice of lyrics. It’s a skill which means that every song stands alone in its own right, whilst also contributing to a bigger picture. Similarly, for new listeners, there’s something for everyone. For fans of upbeat, drum-heavy pop, Nothing Without You or Don’t Come Home would appeal to them, country fans may sense a Taylor Swift vibe in Fixation or Human Behaviour, whilst those seeking catharsis may prefer the title track, for example.

Meanwhile, for fans of Emma Blackery’s YouTube channel, some songs will of course sound similar. Instead and Don’t Come Home have already been released to fans online, albeit in a different form. Now, with a refreshing studio quality to them (and even a complete redesign for Don’t Come Home), the two tracks take on an entirely new identity within the EP’s narrative. With moving violins melodies, Instead is even more emotional this time around, whilst Don’t Come Home is transformed into a sad poppy track which is in direct contrast to Nothing Without You.

As each track tackles a different problem in a relationship, Blackery has six tracks to demonstrate her vocal talents. The two ‘bops’ of the EP (the opener and Don’t Come Home) see the artist tackle and execute impassioned high notes, whilst the other, more stripped-back releases see Emma showcase her softer voice. As well as having a brilliantly constructed message at its core, Magnetised is the EP which solidifies her style as an artist.

Musical Discovery: ‘Middle of the Night’ by The Vamps & Martin Jensen

Fresh off the release of his hit, Solo Dance, Danish DJ is back again – this time, with a high-profile collaboration with the British band, The Vamps on the track, Middle of the Night.

Unlike previous singles, Jensen adopts a more trap-like drop for this song. Hi-hat heavy drum beats and whiny synth make for an off-beat, slightly exotic feel. That being said, the producer is aware that The Vamps four-piece want a more emotional, heartfelt release this time as opposed to the club track with Matoma, All Night. At this point, it’s worth pointing out the band’s fondness to have songs with the word ‘night’ in them (All NightMiddle of the Night and Last Night being the three on the list so far). Thankfully, this song does well to stand out when put alongside the other two.

The track’s quiet tone – as previously mentioned – is also no doubt helped by the brooding, mumbling lyrics, with the occasional vocal outburst. The introduction of the complex drum beat in the second verse also allows for a bit more soul, whilst also rushing The Vamps to the next chorus. As much as the track should be about them, it’s Martin Jensen’s producing talents which really take centre stage here. Hot off the back of Solo Dance, the Danish DJ is making waves with this release. A big increase in his fanbase and a huge debut in the future looks likely.

Geo-Music: The pop world’s response to the Pokémon Go phenomenon

It was only a matter of time before other industries picked up on the success of Pokémon Go. An augmented reality app was encouraging mobile phone users to go outside and explore the world, promoting the franchise in the process. It was perfect advertising for one thing, which tapped in to an emerging form of gaming. Now, it’s unsurprising that the world’s biggest pop stars are making use of this interactive concept.

Katy Perry is one of the artists who’s jumped on this craze when promoting her latest single, Chained to the Rhythm. Photo: Samantha Sekula

Whilst Pokémon Go can be described as an ‘augmented reality game’ (or ARG for short), what artists such as Katy Perry and Gorrilaz are doing isn’t really a game as such, and it doesn’t quite cover the definition of geocaching. Instead, this sees them hide their new song or album at specific locations around the world, ready for fans to find. Although Gorillaz are using a mobile app when it comes to giving listeners the chance to hear their new album in advance, Perry’s ‘game’ to promote Chained to the Rhythm doesn’t – leading me to use the term ‘geo-music’, unless there’s already a term used to describe this phenomena.

So, do I think it works? Can it deter the leaking of albums in the search for exclusivity? Maybe not, but for strong fanbases and passionate fans who are dedicated to hearing music from their favourite artists first, it’s certainly a way to motivate them. They’ll get talking to others in search for these surprises, word of mouth will occur and the excitement about an upcoming release will rise. It’s additional advertising prior to the actual song coming out, and it’s working. Fans get rewarded (in some cases, even with tickets in the case of Frances), and artists get the word out. It’s a win-win situation for both parties which could very much rise in popularity over the years.

Musical Discovery: ‘Hard Times’ by Paramore

There’s certainly been some ‘hard times’ for Hayley Williams and the rock band Paramore over the years, what with the departure of some of its members in the past. Now, as the current trio return with a new pop hit, it’s an upbeat musical style which contrasts all this, and sees the band move away from their grittier sound.

Instead, this is their offering in a pop scene dominated with plucky guitars and tropical vibes, even when it feels a little flat. A marimba opening and heavy riffs certainly keep the listener interested, but there’s nothing particularly fruitful in the verses to maintain our attention (the repetitive melody here is more annoying than catchy). It’s the funky groovy chorus which we have to thank for injecting some originality into this track, with lyrics that actually are memorable.

It’s the first single from the upcoming album, After Laughter, and whilst a daring change of direction for a band is to be respected, hopefully the record will see some more rocky tracks as well.

Musical Discovery: ‘Caught Up’ by Sarah Close

There’s something reminiscent of Natasha Bedingfield and Eliza Doolittle in Sarah Close’s voice. Soft and sweet vocals are something her 754,000 YouTube subscribers (more or less) have been treated to for many years now. However, it was last week that the 21-year-old singer-songwriter released her debut EP – which includes the title track, Caught Up.

Jumpy synth chords and double-bass drums introduce the track, setting the perfect, bouncy rhythm to accompany Sarah’s fast-paced, rap-like vocals. With each line having its own speed (take the slowed down tick, tick, tick and the opening line, I’m dressed like a beauty queen, for example), listeners are entertained and intrigued right up to the chorus, which adopts a softer approach.

It’s almost as if the flowing verses see Sarah air her frustrations and annoyance at the partner, whilst the delicate chorus sounds more curious and intrigued, with nothing more than light synths accompanying the first refrain. On the second occasion, piano and drums heighten this emotion and upbeat feel. It has the traditional vibe of the pop genre from the noughties, with modern synths bringing the track up-to-date.

With Close already receiving Radio 1 airplay with her track, Call Me Out (also on the debut EP), it looks likely that this fun and upbeat pop track will also reach similar levels of success for Sarah in the future.

Musical Discovery: ‘Nothing Without You’ by Emma Blackery

Even before YouTuber and singer-songwriter Emma Blackery released her first track from her upcoming EP, Magnetised, fans were offered cryptic hints about the record’s story. ‘Mending’ was the one word the 25-year-old used to describe the collection of songs, and is an accurate term upon hearing the first single, Nothing Without You – which came out at midnight on Tuesday.

Aside from the line ‘I would be nothing without you‘ obviously alluding to Blackery’s gratitude at an ex-boyfriend for everything he has helped her achieve, lyrics such as ‘you shape me into who I wanted to be/and you made me take a look at myself and see‘ also touch upon this theme. In a comment on the music video on YouTube, Emma explained that this was a happy song – which provided some clarity after hearing negative lines like ‘I got shackles round my feet/They’re tying me to this place‘ in the track. Yet as a whole, the positive message becomes apparent after multiple listens (it’s that catchy) but it’s not just the lyrics which give off this vibe.

From the lively piano chords to the expressive drum rhythm throughout, the track’s instrumentals certainly continue this upbeat tone, but it’s Blackery’s refreshed vocals which really heighten these emotions. Throughout the nearly four-minute long song, listeners can be surprised with the occasional, powerful high notes (particularly in the chorus) from Emma, displaying increased passion and confidence both in terms of the subject matter and her singing in general.

With Nothing Without You being the first song on the six-track EP, it’s a release which has not only teased Blackery’s direction as an artist, but offered a first glimpse into the narrative of the record. It’s enough to justify the word ‘mending’ whilst keeping us intrigued in finding out how ‘the era of Magnetised unfolds.

Nothing Without You is available now on iTunes and Spotify. The EP, Magnetised, is out on May 26.

Musical Discovery: ‘Symphony’ by Clean Bandit feat. Zara Larsson

You’d have thought that a song called ‘Symphony’ by the electro-classical band Clean Bandit would involve bursts of violin and cello. Yet, with orchestral flourishes only appearing in the background, it’s another pop song by the trio which has this imbalance between dance and strings.

It’s a track much like Extraordinary and Dust Clears in nature. Bouncy, light synths and snappy drum beats are at the forefront underneath the vocalist’s sound, with the occasional, classical flair. In this case, it’s the artist behind Lush Life – Zara Larsson – and sings with pure, soft vocals reminiscent of her ballad, Uncover.

This track came out on Friday – the same day that Larsson’s debut album, So Good, was released. In that sense, Symphony‘s delicate nature was the perfect track to coincide with the record. It shows Zara in her true form, displaying her vocal talent. For fans of Clean Bandit who have only just been made aware of the Swedish singer, it’s certainly a great way to introduce herself.

As Larsson’s vocals take centre stage (both in the song and literally in terms of the music video), everything else – including Clean Bandit’s contribution – feels somewhat supplementary. There’s even an orchestra in the video, despite the classic elements of Symphony not being at the forefront of the song. Despite the lack of strings and the absence of a move towards the style shown on their debut album (New Eyes), that is not enough to be dismissive of this particular Clean Bandit track.

As with every collaboration, the trio always manage to pick a mood and singer which work well together. In this case, Zara Larsson leads a soulful single complete with impassioned verses and fluttering choruses. It continues the pop vibe of Tears and Rockabye, albeit with a completely different tone this time round.