Category Archives: Culture

Does a perfect success formula exist for Music Industry?

What do Justin Bieber, Zayn Malik and Adele have in common? They are what every musician dreams to be like one day. Fame, success, power, money and music, they are the complete golden package.

Every year the Music industry sees many new artists flock from all over the world in hope to score their one sweet chance to be the next musical sensation. Some of them grow up listening music and dream of becoming like their idols, some wish to live the life of fame and have their moment in limelight, some feel it is their calling because music is the way they want to express their life’s story. They spend most of their life training for music, learning their instruments, performing, some even pursue music in their college degrees in hopes of improving their success chances. Seven in every 10 children (69%) in the UK say that they currently play a musical instrument with adults at 74%.

And these people come in all shapes and sizes with vast diversity in their ideologies. Yet the one thing they profess that unites them is their passion, inclination and inherent talent for music.

But then why is it that when we observe the working lives of these people, only a very few manage to break big in the industry? What is the difference between the artists who become famous and those who don’t? Are they more talented? Or did they have any special connections that most don’t? Or were they just plain-and-simple lucky?

The answer is as simple as it is frustrating, for all of the above reasons are true, but one. For people who do manage to climb their way to the top of the pyramid, being talented is a given thing. Because really without talent why would they even consider pursuing this career. This super competitive industry with more supply than demand for new musicians. It’s not like the musicians have the ‘fake it till they make it’ kind of liberties. Nowadays big record labels mostly want those artists who already have established themselves up to a certain level, who have their fan base, have already performed many gigs, and even better if they can write their own songs too. They practically want people who already have their plans figured out down to the last detail and are halfway done in executing it.

Now imagine the kind of distress a newbie but a wannabe feels when he first decides to go down this path. All the planning, making the right connections, discovering their ‘unique’ style and finding a way to sell it as ‘new and original’ to their audience, putting themselves out in the open and creating a fan base, finding the right people to help in the PR and production of their music and connecting with other artists to get a chance to perform in big gigs. So much work to do in so little time, because if we are being real, the music industry is notoriously ageist when it comes to accepting new artists. And unless you are an already established celebrity or a super-rich individual trying your hand at music, there is not much room for entry in the music industry at a ‘late’ age.

But still every year the music industry sees more and more artists coming into it. It is a huge business, with it contributing £4.4 billion to the UK’s economy as recorded in the UK Music “Measuring Music 2017” report with about 142,208 jobs sustained by the music industry. And now with the growth in the online streaming platforms, the industry is experiencing a resurgence in its profits.

And one such newbie artist, looking to make it big in this industry, is Leonard Nedelcu. There are many things that he shares with other talented musicians, like his love for romantic songs, playing the piano, penning his own songs, and being born with the looks of a superstar. But the things that make him stand out in the crowd are his deep appreciation of music by John Legend, Shawn Mendes and Sam Smith, his approach to music as his way to include the LGBTQ+ communities and share his story in a way that is relatable to all.

In this interview of his confessional musings, he shares his story, aims, and the beginning of his musical journey. He talks about how a person, a child of two economist parents gets into music, his struggles. And how despite them all he managed to create and release his first single, “Start with you”, while working on an extended playlist which he hopes to release by end of this years’ summer. All the while being a student at the University of Westminster, pursuing a Commercial Music bachelors’ degree.

Here’s a snippet of ‘Start with you’

He seems to have tapped into the ‘success formula’ of pursuing formal musical education to work on his talents, learn to create his music, find and make industry contacts and finally get discovered. It’s almost like he is trying to pull an Adele (success story) here.

You see, even though every artists’ success story is different, the basic formula of approach to things remains the same. And the six main success formulas are:

  1. Using YouTube to break big
  2. Performing at the biggest, most popular music clubs to get discovered
  3. Participating in Musical Contest show, and with any luck, winning it
  4. Becoming a part of a band, and when/if it goes big, using that exposure and experience to fuel solo act
  5. Formally studying music and training to be the best through schools
  6. Self-releasing music until discovered by big record labels or celebs to endorse music deals

Some of the very well-known celebs got their starts using these very formulas.

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Justin Bieber – the YouTube star before becoming the Global star

Like most things relating to him, even his start in music has a story. Even from a young age, Bieber had an affinity for music, and he narrates himself that when his mom gifted him his first set of drums he was “basically banging on everything I could get my hands on.” But it was an obscure talent contest in his hometown, in which the 12-year-old Bieber finished second that put him on the road to superstardom. Although, his YouTube journey did not begin with the purpose of becoming the next pop sensation. As a way to share his singing with family, Justin and his mom began posting clips of Bieber performing covers of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Ne-Yo on YouTube. And the next thing you know, Justin was an Internet sensation, with a large following of fans and an eager manager arranging for the teenager to fly to Atlanta to consider a record deal. There, Bieber had a chance meeting with Usher, who eventually signed the young singer to a contract.

Taylor Swift – from performing small gigs at the Country music capital to performing globally at her sold-out concerts

Inspired by her grandmother, a professional opera singer, Taylor Swift soon followed in her footsteps. By the age of 10, Taylor was singing at a variety of local events, including fairs and contests. She sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a Philadelphia (where she lived at the time) 76ers basketball game at the age of 11, and began writing her own songs and learning guitar at 12 years old. And to further pursue her music career, Taylor often visited Nashville, Tennessee, the country music capital. There she co-wrote songs and tried to land a recording contract. Noting her dedication, Taylor and her family moved to nearby Hendersonville, Tennessee, in an attempt to further Taylor’s career. Then a stellar performance at The Bluebird Café in Nashville helped Swift score a contract with Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Records. She released her first single, “Tim McGraw,” in 2006, and the song went on to become one of the Top 10 hits on the country charts. It also appeared on her self-titled debut album in October in 2006, which went on to sell more than 5 million copies. With that, more popular singles soon followed, including “Our Song,” a No. 1 country music hit. “Teardrops on My Guitar,” “Picture to Burn” and “Should’ve Said No” were also successful tracks. And once she firmly established her roots in the music industry, the sky became her limit.

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04.12.18

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Zayn Malik – gone from contest show to being part of famous boy-band to finally becoming the solo music star

A triple threat of music in terms of utilizing the success formulas if you say so, he began as a teen taking performing arts courses and appearing in school productions. Then in year 2010, he auditioned for the seventh season of the reality TV music contest show The X Factor. He sang “Let Me Love You” by rhythm-and-blues vocalist Mario as his audition song and was accepted into the next round. Then he was eliminated before the final round of the competition, but judges Nicole Scherzinger and Simon Cowell grouped him with fellow competitors Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson to form a new act for the remainder of the show. And thus, the global sensational boy-band One Direction was born. They finished the competition in third place and they were immediately signed to Cowell’s Syco music label. Then came the One Direction with their first single, “What Makes You Beautiful,” which topped the pop music charts with when it was released in September 2011 in the United Kingdom. And their debut album, Up All Night, proved a best-seller in both the United Kingdom and the United States in 2012. After that Malik toured extensively with One Direction, meeting the band’s young female fans around the world. But in March 2015, Malik surprised fans by dropping out of the group’s world tour. On March 25 then, Malik announced that he was leaving One Direction for good. And soon after leaving One Direction, Malik launched his solo music career with a demo version of “I Don’t Mind,” which was leaked online by producer Naughty Boy. Then official singles followed, including “Pillowtalk” and “It’s You.”  And both of these tracks were featured on his first album, Mind of Mine, which debuted in March 2016.

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Auckland / Mt Smart Stadium / Mar 25

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Adele – the modern-day champion of classical and old-school-style music

“There was no musical heritage in our family,” Adele told The Telegraph in a 2008 interview. “Chart music was all I ever knew. So, when I listened to the Ettas and the Ellas, it sounds so cheesy, but it was like an awakening. I was like, oh, right, some people have proper longevity and are legends. I was so inspired that as a 15-year-old I was listening to music that had been made in the ’40s.” And it soon became apparent that while clearly bright, Adele wasn’t oriented towards traditional classroom settings. So, her mother enrolled her in the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology, which has the likes of Amy Winehouse as its alum. Then while she was at school, Adele cut a three-track demo for a class project that was eventually posted on her MySpace page. And when executives at XL Recordings heard the tracks, they contacted the singer and, in November 2006, just four months after Adele had graduated school, signed her to a record deal.

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Thank god for factor 50 sunscreen – photo by Nic Minns

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Ed Sheeran – from street-smart artist to king of the global music charts

Even from a very young age, Ed had been as quick and smart at learning things as he had been active at working on his dreams. He studied at Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham. Then he also studied music with the help of ‘Access to Music’, a UK-based independent training provider. And he also joined the National Youth Theatre when he was a teenager. So, it was no surprise when he had started recording CDs and selling them from his teenage days. At the age of 14, he released songs ‘The Orange Room’ and also ‘Spinning Man’, both he regarded as important works of his early years. And it wasn’t long before Sheeran was recording CDs and selling them, and he soon put together his first official EP, The Orange Room. With that accomplishment and his abiding ambition driving him, at only 14 years of age, Sheeran headed to London for the summer. Thinking he could find gigs in the big city, Sheeran left home with his guitar and a backpack full of clothes, and his musical career took flight. And once in London, Sheeran got busy recording and playing the local singer/songwriter circuit and quickly released two albums: a self-titled record in 2006 and Want Some? in 2007. He also began opening for more established acts, such as Nizlopi, the Noisettes and Jay Sean and released another EP, You Need Me, in 2009, a year that found Sheeran playing more than 300 live shows. Then in 2010 Sheeran posted a video online that got the attention of Example, a rapper, and Sheeran was asked to go on the road with him as his opening act. This led to establishing an even larger online fan base and gaining inspiration for many more songs, which later ended up filling three new EPs, all in 2010. Next Sheeran headed to the U.S. that year and found a new fan in Jamie Foxx, who asked Sheeran to appear on his Sirius radio show. Soon after, in January 2011, Sheeran released yet another EP, his last as an independent artist. Without any promotion, the record reached No. 2 on the iTunes chart, and he signed on with Atlantic Records. With Atlantic, Sheeran released his major debut studio album, + (called Plus) which became an instant hit, and the album sold more than a million copies in the U.K. in the first six months alone. Then Sheeran began co-writing songs with bigger artists, such as One Direction and Taylor Swift and supported Swift on her 2013 arena tour. And quickly and steadily he became the huge global star that he is today.

 

Still out of all the artists who pursue music as their career, 95% of them fail to make a proper living out of it, let alone become huge successes (results from a survery of 200 musicians in UK). The artists we celebrate as our champions, as the main faces of the music industry are only a handful of people out of the millions that get into this industry with dreams of making it big.

And every person wanting to make a career in music looks for a success formula, but life doesn’t work that way, especially in music. For every successful artist following a set mould to enter music industry, there are thousands who failed at it. That is the harsh truth about this industry. And no amount of wishing, dreaming or googling for tips and tricks can change that. The only thing sure about a success formula is that it only works for a few people. At the end of the day, the only way one can make progress towards becoming a musical success is through genuine talent, unending hard work and determination, and with loads of luck and good timing.

GMO’s: How do they effect our bodies and our environment?

 

Video credit: TabithaDurrant

Genetically modified foods are everywhere. Technology has come so far that we can now design our ideal foods. Genetic modification is when the DNA of the crops we eat are changed in attempts of resistance against pathogens, herbicides and pesticides. Other benefits include additional nutrition and more crops being produced.

I reached out to Greenpeace, who were unable to give me a direct quote, but gave me permission to use their GM campaign in support of the article. The campaign suggests that using GMO crops isn’t what is right for the general public because we need to know what it is we are putting inside our bodies. Much isn’t known about the process of genetically altering the DNA of these crops.

As we don’t know exactly how they are made, nor do we know for certain what it means to modify crops, should we really be putting them into our bodies?

As they are in nearly everything, especially processed foods, it is difficult to avoid them. But, if you do want to avoid them, try going for organic fruits and vegetables and anything with a GMO free label.

But this may not help you entirely. Even the livestock we eat can be affected by these crops. Farmers feed their livestock genetically modified feed because, simply, it is cheaper. But when the livestock end up on our plates or on the shelves at your local supermarket, there is no way to tell which beef joint was fed genetically modified grain and which was not. So, in any case you could be consuming GM foods without actually knowing.

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Image credit: TabithaDurrant

GM foods are not the only thing that is wrong with the food industry though. If we look at what we are putting into our bodies, we need to look at what types of foods we eat as well. Not eating genetically modified foods won’t be effective to your health if you carry on eating non-healthy foods.

In defence of GM products, they have a longer shelf life, which essentially can reduce the amount of food we, as a collective, throw away. Think about how much food your household throws away and whether these are genetically modified foods.

Even so, these crops can be designed to produce the maximum amount of nutrients and vitamins that we need to survive. This is revolutionary, because it can (if used properly) end world famine. But is that really an excuse to change the DNA of food that has served us well for so long?

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Image credit: TabithaDurrant

Well… yes and no. The world’s population has increased massively since mass farming began and now in 2018 farmers can’t keep up, especially if they are faced with bad weather and crops don’t make harvest. Genetically modified crops can fix this. They are able to protect themselves from bugs, germs and weather because their DNA has been adapted to do just this.

GMO’s are suspected to cause food allergies, of which there is an increasing number of people who suffer from them; wheat, eggs, milk, dairy, fish, nuts and seeds. Though it is uncertain that genetically modified food actually causes these allergies, most of these food products have had their DNA altered, which kind of puts them hand-in-hand.

It isn’t just our food we need to think about and how it affects our bodies. What about our environment? Are genetically modified organisms good for the Earth and its wildlife?

Well, it is common knowledge that the pollen in these crops is vastly different from plants that are not altered in any way. It is supposedly far down inside the plant so it is not picked up in a wind transfer, however Prince Charles made an excellent comment, “can you govern how far a bee flies?”

No, no you cannot.

Monsanto were unavailable for comment when I reached out to them. The company has facilities in 69 different countries and contribute to the use of GM crops. Monsanto encourage the use of these crops on the basis that they can be more efficient in feeding the masses.

Genetically modifying crops can be harmful to the earth but it can be very beneficial, especially to humans. I mean, now that we have over populated the earth and are running out of food, we need this food-based revolution so we have enough for everyone.

Is the unknown as scary as we think it is or should we continue to allow the modification of our food?

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Image credit: TabithaDurrant

Black Panther: a shift in the representation of race in Hollywood​?

The film industry’s failure to represent people of colour dates all the way to the early 1910’s. An era where the systematic exclusion of black people from production, distribution and exhibition is evident. But many critics and activists have argued that the release of films such as Hidden Figures and Black Panther show we’ve reached a time of change. A time where black culture and people are being celebrated.

Historically, how has Hollywood represented black people?

The history of African Americans in the American motion picture industry is both long and complex. In films from the 1910s and 1920s, such as Hearts and Flags (1911) and Birth of a Nation (1915), African American characters were played by white actors in blackface, as whites and blacks were not to share screen time.

Early depictions of black men and women were confined to demeaning stereotypes, portrayed as either incompetent, criminal, child-like or the Jezebel.

In the 1929 all-black cast musical Hallelujaha southern black family is depicted as illiterate, singing and dancing gamblers. Reinforcing racist and prevalent stereotypes of the time, the film presents African American’s as sinful, hyper-sexual and incompetent.

And, if African Americans were shown as ‘good‘, they were loyal servants, butlers and mammies. Hattie McDaniel was the first African American entertainer to win an Academy Award for her performance as “Mammy”, a house servant in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind.

From the mid-1910s to 30’s, a black cast or the use of a white actor in blackface reinforced the belief that the ‘proper’ social position of a black man or women was that of a servant, who was devoted to his/her white master and upheld the social order.

But things soon began to shift, in the 1940’s and 50’s the way black characters were written and portrayed in mainstream Hollywood films changed. Due to meetings and actions taken by the National Association for the Advancements of Colored People (NAACP), an agreement to improve the depictions of African Americans was made, and the opportunity for African Americans to work throughout the film industry.

While large productions featuring all-black casts continued, such as Carmen Jones (1954) and St. Louis Blues (1958), there was an increase in films that challenged social segregation norms and values, as seen in The Defiant Ones (1958).

And in the 1960’s, Sidney Portier became one of the best-known and loved utilised black actors in the industry. His level of stardom was unmatched by any other black actor before or during his time.

Portier played complex characters who weren’t just criminals, they were intelligent (In the Heat of the Night 1967), strong, helpful, sensitive and caring (Lilies of the Field (1963), and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967).

The depiction of a black man in the 60’s and 70’s was very different from the 20’s and 30’s. While African American’s are no longer just seen as illiterate, criminal, child-like or the servant/Mammy, those stereotypes have still carried on to the 21st century.

Films like Boyz n the Hood (1991), Precious (2009), Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005), The Help (2011), and Think Like a Man (2012), are focused on and reinforce negative stereotypes, such as being hyper-sexual, criminals, aggressive, unintelligent, the ‘Mammy’ and as having dysfunctional family dynamics.

But, is this more than just a black character issue? Directors_Chair_is_White_2016 According to a report issued by Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, minorities remain underrepresented in film leads (13.9%), film directors (12.6%), film writers (8.1%), broadcast scripted leads (18.7%), cable scripted leads (20.2%), broadcast reality and other leads (26.6%) and leads for cable reality and other leads (20.9%).

This lack of representation explains why critics argue the film industry presents narratives that don’t reflect black lives and experiences entirely and reinforce negative stereotypes.

As author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in her TED Talk: “if all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and Aids, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner.”

These are the images that have been created from films such as Hotel Rwanda, Blood Diamond and others.

So, why is the success of Black Panther so important?

Writer, Michelle Yaa told us: “Brothers and sisters were shedding tears for seeing what was being described as ‘an experience’ rather than a film. You have to remember we’ve never seen a predominantly African cast in such a positive way.

Hollywood has given us slavery, but nothing before or progressive and positive, as a part of our history and experience on film.”

Despite being a fictional comic story, on a part of Africa that doesn’t exist, Yaa told us that Black Panther gave black people, the representation “they needed”.

And if it wasn’t clear, the shared images of movie-goers attending cinemas across the world in their African dress, is a clear sign of that, according to the writer.

The film industry often depicts the relationship between a black man and woman as unhealthy and somewhat toxic, such as Why Did I Get Married? (2007) and Two Can Play That Game (2001).

But in the Marvel film, the relationship between men and women was both positive and respectful. Yaa agreed with fellow panellist Dr Lez Henry that Marvel film should be “an important cultural document that can be used as an educational resource.”

How have people on social media responded to Black Panther? 

What does the future hold for black actors/directors/writers? 

Yaa says: “Realistically until Africans own some aspects of this industry it will eventually be business as usual from Hollywood capitalist and propaganda perspective. We might see ourselves differently as a consequence of the film, but the dominant narrative will still be pushed for a long, long time.

We have to invest in our own propaganda instruments to flip this script. Power and representation are what upholds the White Western industries.  They will give us little concessions but no more.  We have to develop our own economic bases around representation and propaganda.

Creatively, however, there has been a surge in Afro futuristic writings and expressions. These were always there, but the film has made awareness greater. Sadly, we can easily forget and return to what we know.  This is why Hollywood pounds us with their narratives; the media generally.”

Building on it’s reported Black Panther’s box office success of $1.28 billion worldwide, you can still watch the film in cinemas across the UK.

Leah Bryant: from creative toddler to singer-songwriter​

Leah Bryant is West London’s latest soulful star. Blending powerful ballads with melodic raps, the young singer and songwriter is on the rise. Performing at gigs across London, she has managed to captivate her audience for over 10 years. In 2017, she won the prestigious ‘ICMP/ATLA International Song Contest’, and we’re sure that won’t be her last award. We caught up with Leah and talked about her writing process, the mantra she lives by, what’s next for her career.

What was your first encounter with music?

I’d say my first encounter with music would be when I turned around 6 or 7 and heard Katie Melua’s album “Call Off The Search”, and I was instantly hooked. I quickly learnt the entirety of the album inside and out, and have been obsessed with music ever since

Have you always known what you wanted to do?

Definitely! Even as a toddler I would create songs and melodies in my living room and show them to all of the family. Creating something out of nothing has always been a passion of mine!

What did you grow up listening to? How have those voices inspired and influenced your current sound?

I grew up listening to great artists such as Katie Melua, Amy Winehouse, Natasha Bedingfield and Pink. I was influenced a lot by female empowerment, as well as the art of “not being afraid to say exactly how you feel”.

I mix between genres. I have my more “R&B Acoustic / Melodic Raps” which were definitely influenced by Natasha and Pink, and then my slower, more jazz-infused ballads are influenced by Katie and Amy’s work.

How would you describe your music to somebody who hasn’t heard it?

I would describe my music as relatable and sweet, but honest and raw. My writing is always from the heart, and I feel like that comes across in my music without a doubt.

What drew you to songwriting and performing? Have you always had a natural aptitude for music?

I’ve always studied and focused my time on performing. After receiving my diploma in Popular Music Performance in Vocals at The Institute Of Contemporary Music Performance in London at aged 16, I knew that I wanted to continue my studies towards focussing on the more intricate aspects of music. I am currently still studying at ICMP in the second year of my BA Hons Songwriting Degree.


What do you want people to feel when they hear your music?

More than anything, I want people to feel like I’m their friend, just having a chat with them about my life, except that the chat has a few chords and the odd musical riff added to it! I like to keep things as comfortable and genuine as possible.

What makes you want to create music?

Creating and writing music is my form of escapism. I can spend hours upon hours writing melodies, discovering new chord progressions, brainstorming lyrical concepts – it’s my time to have people listen to my views and what I view as a young woman, and as some people aren’t fortunate enough to get that opportunity, I think that that in itself is a privilege.

What is your process when writing a song?

I usually begin by finding a concept. Once I’ve discovered what it is that I want to write about, I brainstorm some lyrical ideas and decide what direction I want the song to go in. Then, I’d usually pick up an instrument, whether that be a Guitar, Ukulele or Piano, and I begin finding melodic sequences that I think will match the idea in my head. Mixing the emotions to music and then hearing it out loud really is the greatest thing about being a songwriter!

Do you write about your past experiences?

I write about everything and anything. Whether that be the past, the present, or my predictions for the future; there’s no end or limitations to my song concepts!

Which song was the hardest to write?

The hardest song I’ve written recently would be one called “Somewhere Down The Line”. It was about a past experience that hurt me a lot, and I think between the mixture of getting over what had happened, paired with not truly knowing how I felt until I began the writing process was a hard one for me. But I got a great song out of it in the end!

What mantra do you live by?

“Everything happens for a reason”, I wholeheartedly believe that!

What’s next?

I’m recording my first single currently! Along with my music video being filmed throughout the summer of 2018!

Lastly, where do you dream of being in ten years?

In 10 years, I hope to continue to be creating and performing my music. Whether that be to millions, hundreds, a handful of people, or just my mum and dad. As long as I’m still doing what I love, the happiness will never end.

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Is teen-mom Kylie Jenner really the next role model?

So earlier this year Kylie Jenner, youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner sisters, gave birth to a baby girl at the age of twenty. And we all know that she isn’t any ordinary teen becoming a mom, she is a model, reality television star, socialite and social media tycoon. And with her lip kits and self-branded cosmetics business, also a multi-millionaire.

Now she, having a baby at an age when most people are busting their backs getting degrees or working (and paying off their starter loans) might seem a little odd. Funnily though, it seemed only ‘a little’ odd, if not completely normal after a while when the news first broke in the media. And now look at us, talking about it as if nothing really major happened.

But the other day, I was at one of my friends’ house, just chatting about the news, when her mom tells me she too was a teen mom. And I look at my friend with an almost shocked and disbelieved look. I couldn’t believe that my friend, who would be twenty now, had a mother who was just eighteen years older than her. And suddenly a presumed mental image of their lives popped in my head, complete with all the society’s pressures, expectations and resentments. But then I also could see my friend sitting next to me, so happy and relaxed, and her mom so full of life and humour, I couldn’t help but wonder, what was life like for a regular person who became pregnant during their teenage years.

Did she get the same level of acceptance from the society as Kylie does today for her early pregnancy? What were the circumstances that lead to it? How did her family react to the news? Who supported her during the time and along the way? Did she feel alone? Did she feel ready? How did she manage to provide for her daughter when she herself was practically so young? Did the stress of a different (and a significantly difficult) life, make bonding with her daughter difficult? Have they reached to the point in their lives now, when they feel comfortable with their life’s story despite all the stigma attached to this bigger idea (and how)? How do they make this unique bond between them work amidst all the pressures and responsibilities?

All these questions, but the question that surprised me the most was the one that I asked myself, why did the idea of my friends’ mother being a teen mom shocked me when I felt next to normal when I heard Kylie Jenner’s news?

So, I sat down with my friend and her mom, for a day of storytelling and revelations.

“I was young when I got pregnant. And my family was very religious. My mother was understanding, but my father and the society [were] not so much. So, when they found out [about it] they demanded I marry *Margo’s dad. I knew he wasn’t ready but since that was the only option we were left with, we went for it. Eighteen years old, in love, married and with my baby on board, I was quite happy. And one of my sisters was also expecting her baby around the same time, so I was excited to have our babies grow up together.” **Lily says with a rueful smile on her face.

And I think to myself, well that’s a good start. Mostly everyone’s happy and there are no mean blames thrown here, like that would ever be in case of Kylie and her family, them celebrating this change instead of being worried about future.

Kylie Jenner at her Babyshower, November 2017

“But life works in unexpected ways,” continues Lily, “and shortly after a year of marriage, me and Margo’s dad separated. He wanted different things in life, [things] that no longer included room for his family. So, baby Margo and I went back to living with my mom. Suddenly single and with complete responsibility of my little baby but no real work experience, I felt like I had somehow further failed in life.”

I can see that on outside, Lily looks relaxed as she goes down the memory lane, though a pained expression plagues her face, as if she could almost physically feel all the stings and stigma of her past again.

“But my mother was there with me, supporting me still, and pushing me to not give up hope in life just yet. So, I studied to become a teacher, and later started teaching at this place called ‘Kumon’. See Kumon is a kind of an after-school in Brazil, where kids go to improve their English and Portuguese skills. But my earnings from [working] there weren’t enough to support my family. So, in year 2008 I decided to move to UK to make a better earning and life for us.”

So many twists and turns in such short time, I feel my own heart sinking a little for all the problems Margo’s mom had to face in her youth. Social stigma and financial security, now that’s something Kylie Jenner would never have to worry about. After all, she is a celebrity worth millions.

Reality television star, Owner of self-branded cosmetics, Multi-millionaire

“Coming to UK was not that hard, we came through our EU citizenship. But after that things again got tricky to manage. No job, money or even a proper place to live, the only thing I felt like I had was a little piece of my family here, in this foreign country. My sister and her husband were already [settled] here, so Margo and I simply moved in the same house as them. Getting a roof over our heads felt like a huge blessing I received after such a long time. Shortly after that I picked up job as a nanny, and since I already had teaching experience I was good at looking after children.” says Lily, looking proud of the bravery her younger self showed at the time.

But now a troubled, and sad look came upon Margo’s face.

“Ever since then mom has been working as nanny. In our first year here, mom worked so many hours that I barely got to see.” says Margo. “Sometimes I felt really bad, I was young you know, and I missed my mom so much. We never had enough time to spend together. But it got better with time, and I think I too adjusted with my new life.”

I see Lily exchange a subtle look of deep understanding with her daughter. And Margo continues, “It’s similar in the present, she is working until late but since I’m older now so I don’t really mind anymore.”

“But during the time when she worked a lot and I was young too, it was difficult. But then it all got better once we started travelling together. We went on our first vacation to Brazil in 2010, which was great! But we really started bond when we travel more after 2014, and we visited Spain, Italy, Scotland and many places around England. Travel became our thing, it became the activity which truly brought us together.”

“And I think the best moment [between me and mom] was in Spain, where we just played cards by the beach. In that moment, I could feel all our worries and responsibilities drifting in the back of our minds, and we could just focus on spending our time with each other.” says a glowing Margo, looking happy to relive that moment.

“I guess in hindsight, I think we got lucky a lot of times. I know it’s [life after teen pregnancy] not all the same for everyone, but I feel quite blessed and content with how my life turned out. I am happy now, with only a few regrets, but who doesn’t have some [regrets in life] anyway.” says a broadly smiling Lily.

Margo and I were still sitting in Lily’s living room, but Lily took her leave to prep some tea for everyone after sharing her life’s story. And I can’t help but think to myself, even though they feel comfortable in their lives, look so happy now, and boldly accept their story, but overcoming all of that pain and struggle must take a lot of hard work and constant effort every single day. We all know by now that not everyone who walks down this path gets a happily ever after. Society makes that possibility perfectly clear and unforgettable, but only for the ordinary people. The rich and famous have the privilege and means to break free of the social boundaries that most of the world has to live in.

So, my only hope is that girls out there who are now in a similar position, transitioning into teen moms, don’t go into this life naively thinking it would all be rainbows because of what they see of celebrity lives on social media.

 

(Names of *daughter and **mom have been changed to maintain their privacy and anonymity)

 

Why have this year’s festival lineups caused so much controversy?

In winter months festival announcements serve as a glimmer of summer, that a weekend watching bands in the sun may not be too far away. But this year’s announcements have been met with an intense level of scrutiny over genre, gender and headliner deja vu. Here are the key questions the big festivals have thrown up.

While we’re focusing on the biggest festivals, to understand whether there’s a split between different markets, the festivals we’re looking at are; All Points East, Latitude, Reading and Leeds, TRNSMT, Lovebox, Wireless, British Summer Time, Bestival, and Parklife.

Where are the women?

The biggest talking point recently when it comes to festival season is that there’s not enough female representation on line-ups. While 60% of festival goers being women, if any of those want to see female representation on stage they may need struggle. 

There are promising signs for the future, as the newest festival on our list, All Points East (APE), offers three headlining artists featuring female performers – with headliners LCD Soundsystem, The XX and Bjork.

Bestival is typically strong as well with representation, with London Grammar and M.I.A announced to top the bill in Dorset. The festival’s booker, Rob Da Bank, told the BBC that this was an important part of organising the festival, “”We counted it up two weeks ago and almost a quarter of our acts are female – which I know is nowhere near the 50 [per cent] it should be but it’s more than a lot of other festivals.”

However it is a typically dismal affair from the traditional big festivals however. Reading and Leeds will have no female representation despite having four headliners, and TRNSMT – the replacement for T in the Park – have announced six different headliners but without a single female featuring amongst, and only five acts featuring women have been confirmed to play at the festival at all so far.

From the data available, the nine festivals we’re primarily looking at, there are 31 headline slots with just seven acts featuring women involved. If you want to narrow it down to all-female acts, that goes down to just three.

The discussion gained traction after famous stars such as Lily Allen shared a poster of Wireless’ line-up without men.

Here are edits we made to show the contrast for some of the most controversial line-ups. (the bottom of the Parklike poster features collectives that are yet to announce their DJs, so could still be all-male).

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s being done for the future?

Festival organisers have been aware of the criticism, 45 festivals around the world to commit to booking a 50/50 split of male and female artists by 2022. In the UK none of the larger festivals have signed up (most likely because it’s impractical to promise anything with hundreds of slots to fill), but if attitudes begin to change you’d suspect they’d follow in time.


The UK festivals that have pledged for equal representation include; Liverpool Sound City, The Great Escape, Kendal Calling and Bluedot. The full list can be found here.

Is indie/rock in decline?

Across the traditional indie and rock festivals, or festivals that cater to a similar audience (Reading/Leeds, TRNSMT, Latitude, APE and Bestival), there does seem to be a move away from traditional guitar bands.

There’s no foolproof definition of genres, but apart from TRNSMT, there’s definitely an embrace of pop music. Reading and Leeds will argue that Panic! At The Disco and Fall Out Boy both constitute being traditional headliners for the festival, but alongside Kendrick Lamar (both genre and popularity-wise) it seems a world away from popular recent headliners Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters and Metallica.

If anything, The Killers and Alt-J, who are headlining Latitude – also organised by Festival Republic – seem like a more natural fit for R&L, even if both bands are past their commercial peak.

Bestival has always flirted with indie, but aside from London Grammar’s headline slot it seems Rob Da Bank has gone for more alternative names such as Grace Jones, rather than typically huge ones.

Meanwhile the new festival All Points East goes for a more traditional indie line-up with LCD Soundsystem, The XX and Bjork, posturing itself to fans of 00’s indie, but refusing to go down the rock route – possibly a sign that there’s just not the interest to start a major festival for that audience in 2018.

If you are keen for guitar music, there has been a steady rise in popularity of smaller festivals which indie-rock heavy line-ups. Kendal Calling, Truck Festival and Victorious all feature similar headliners for fans already nostalgic for 00’s indie.

Where are the new headliners?

One criticism of major festivals is a reluctance to bring new artists through and give them headline slots. This year this has improved, though, out of the 31 headline slots in our research, 14 are filled with acts who had not topped a major festival bill before this year (some acts, such as Liam Gallagher have been counted twice, for both TRNSMT and Parklife appearances as this will be his first year as a headliner).

In 2017, the comparable number was 12 new acts making their way to headline status (with Glastonbury replacing All Points East in the comparison).

Is this increase a good sign or should we approach with caution?

One thing this doesn’t account for is the size of the acts coming through. For example, The 1975 headlined Latitude in 2017 and seem on course to use that as a step to bigger slots at Reading and Glastonbury, while Solange takes up the same slot at Latitude this year, but it’s likely to be one of her only major festival slots.

So it is encouraging that fewer bands are on festival rotation every year, but it’s unlikely the majority of them will become stadium-sized acts that headline Glastonbury, for example.

Who keeps headlining festivals?

Festivals have largely dug themselves into a hole when it comes to festival headliners. By relying on the same handful of stadium-sized acts, booking anyone smaller seems like a risk so they often have to return.

Here are the acts that have dominated the top of the bill at the UK’s three biggest festivals, Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds and T in the Park (until 2016). 

They all also suffered from the same trends, here shows that out of the last 15 years of these festivals, all three were dominated by the same acts. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, every member of each band is a white man.

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 22.39.02

Source: WNOLondon.net

Always Ascending: Franz Ferdinand return as a band reborn

While to outsiders Franz Ferdinand may be inextricably connected to the UK’s decade of post-punk revivalism, Alex Kapranos is still fighting against the notion; “I was part of the underground for a long time in Glasgow, where I was working myself to death for absolutely no reward.”

While many of the other bands associated with the 00’s were plucky young bands who got a guitar after hearing Is This It for the first time, the frontman is keen to stress his was not an overnight success story; “Franz started in my third decade of making music, so I don’t see us as being associated in my head with a decade.” And unlike many of his peers, who were became burned out; “We didn’t just make one record and stop – it’s a continued piece of work.”

That’s what makes Always Ascending such a pointed name for their fifth album. It seems unlikely the latest singles with match the success of Take Me Out or Do You Wanna, but that doesn’t discourage Kapranos. If anything, that chance to try new avenues is more exciting than that anyway.

“While you can tell this new record is Franz Ferdinand, it also sounds massively different from our second, third or fourth records.” He takes a pause; “Maybe that’s the secret. You’ve got to be unashamed of who you are, but equally unafraid of going somewhere completely new and embracing it.”

During our conversation that sense of enjoyment during the recording process keeps returning. After I ask whether he actively thinks about the reaction to this new sound while writing and recording the album, he tells me that from him writing “is actually a very selfish thing in a way, you’re writing to give yourself a buzz and that feels really great.”

He does concede, however, that in the past he was preoccupied with looking at album reviews once the record was out in the world. This time, however he tells me he’s been “psychologically very strong” and has avoided reading any reviews. He laughs and says that it’s got to the stage where he’ll interrupt friends who ask about reviews.

True to his word, he does the same to me once I say he’d probably be very happy with the reception. “The thing is, I felt good making the record. I put everything in to it, and we came up with something pretty original.” He already sounds nostalgic about the album, despite it being released just four days before we speak, “My memories of the record are really, really good and just having a good social time to laugh with my pals and that’s how I want to remember it, not through the filter of somebody else’s reaction.”

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Given the five-year gap between albums, it feels pre-emptive to start discussing album number six but there is a palpable lift around the band – from everyone in the press, to fans, to the band themselves. Will we have to wait until 2023 before we speak again about a new album? “I hope not,” Kapranos laughs, “the band feels really great at the moment. I love being back, I’m literally counting down the hours because I’m desperate to get on stage.”

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