Thursday, 3 May 2018

nothing lasts forever: the rise and fall of pop's brightest stars (and a quick life update)

old habits really do die hard: once again it's been nearly a month since my last post. i would apologise but due to my fairly small amount of readers i doubt anyone has even noticed. i however, have been painfully aware of my complete lack of motivation and inability to write regular posts. 

but before we get into that, a life update of sorts. since my last post, i went to see bryan ferry, a gig i'd been looking forward to more than most as i've loved his band roxy music for years and would even go as far as to say their 1982 hit more than this is probably my favourite song of all time. so imagine my joy when my mother and i got tickets to see him at the apollo last month. we didn't have the best seats due to the extortionate ticket prices and the fact i was paying for them meant i chose the cheapest seats right at the back of the venue, but he still put on a good show, even if i didn't know most of the songs. 

it's fair to say that the majority of the audience - of which i was by far one of the youngest members - were there to hear the roxy music hits, and he didn't disappoint on that front. the show opened with the main thing from 1982's avalon, and straight after his solo hit slave to love almost brought me to tears. other than that though, i didn't know most of the songs, save for oh yeah, love is the drug and crowd favourite virginia plain from roxy music's self titled debut album; i was amazed to see the crowd up on their feet as i'd expected them to sit tapping their foot for an hour and a half. however i found myself disappointed with his version of my beloved more than this; a slow piano rendition so unrecognisable it had nearly ended before i realised what he was singing. the highlight was actually the next track avalon, which saw actual tears spring to my eyes and fall before i could wipe them away. maybe it was a delayed reaction to hearing my all time favourite song live, or the realisation i was actually in the same room as bryan ferry; i'll never know. all was going well until the end, when he left the stage without so much as a thank you for the crowd and he didn't do an encore. i found myself in a state of shock yet again when the lights went up. my mother's favourite roxy song, same old scene had not been included in the setlist, so she left the venue somewhat disappointed, but overall it was a good night. 

our next gig isn't until june, but it's sure to contain some more pinch-me moments as we're seeing billy idol at the apollo once again. having checked the setlist i can see he'll be performing another one of my all time favourites, the devastatingly beautiful eyes without a face, and if he doesn't perform it in its original form i'll be devastated. 

other than that, i finally received some good news after what has been a terrible year work-wise. i didn't get a place on the masters course i applied for, but later had an interview for the news associates course, which provides training in becoming a Real Journalist and includes a work placement one day a week, giving me the experience i seem to have missed out on during my studies. it also promises the coveted NCTJ qualification i've found is a requirement for the majority of candidates applying for jobs. i'll hopefully be one step closer to attaining said job though, as after a fairly good interview i managed to secure a place for september. though i'm ecstatic about not being stuck in retail for the next year or so, the course doesn't come cheap and i'll have to pay for it myself - with the help of my parents, as no retail job will realistically cover its costs - and i'm slightly bitter at the fact i'll have to spend even more money after putting myself through three years of education. nevertheless, it gives me something to look forward to as i half-hardheartedly search for a job to tide me over until september. 

another major development has taken place on the friend front. after realising that britney was right and my loneliness really was killing me, i re-activated my meetup account and decided to attend a gathering on canal street, the heart of manchester's gay village. after my failing to find a new friend through citysocializer last summer, unable to stand the idea of going to another event filled with girls talking endlessly about their boyfriends and missing nights out in said village with my best friend - who hot footed it back to york after only a few weeks back home - i figured it was time to get back out there (no pun intended). i was still terrified, but the last minute nature of the event - which i only found out about the day before - meant i didn't have a week to over-analyse it and talk myself out of going. 

however it went better than i could have ever imagined and i don't think i've ever felt so accepted and welcomed by a group of strangers - some of whom are now firm friends - in my life. that feeling of being around people who just Get It and the relief of not having to explain my ~sexuality~ (that i'm still trying to figure out myself) to anyone is unlike any other, and we've already had a follow up night out last week - in which i managed to find the perfect balance between Being Drunk but not dreadfully hungover, and managed to get an uber home at a reasonable time - with more plans to follow. 

so now that i have some vague semblance of joy in my life, i found that the small matter of my blog was getting bigger and bigger, until it finally came to a head yesterday and was impossible to ignore. when thinking about my aforementioned lack of motivation, it dawned on me that though my mental health has been Not So Great for a long time now, i was actually posting more regularly on this blog during uni, which was one of the most difficult times of my life. now that i have all the time in the world to write, i've found it increasingly difficult to open my notebook full of ideas and actually translate them into sentences. maybe it's because i'm out of the habit of writing every day like i was doing at uni, or perhaps depression has had such a strong hold on me in the months since graduating that the thought of doing anything except sleeping until 2pm just hasn't appealed to me.

or maybe, just maybe, it's the fact that for the last year or so, my favourite artists have been releasing disappointing music. i understand that music is completely subjective, and there'll be people in the world who love these songs, but i've been desperately trying to figure out why i haven't been clamouring to write about them. 

take my end of year review, for example. at the end of 2017, rupaul's latest album american made it onto my most-loved list, but releases by lana del rey, haim and the courteeners - artists i've loved since i was a teenager - were nowhere to be found. then 2018 saw the release of the wombats' latest album as well as the highly anticipated follow up to thirty seconds to mars' 2013 album this is war. one theory i have is that perhaps i'm trying to recreate the love i had for these artists back when i was 15. obviously their sound will have changed somewhat, with lana in particular favouring a more minimal sound to the decadent drama of born to die, still one of my favourite albums of all time. 

another theory is that artists are trying to appeal to a wider audience by adapting a more ~mainstream~ sound. thirty seconds to mars' latest offering america was decidedly more electronic and lacked the powerful guitar solos seen on this is war, and even featured cameos from A$AP rocky and halsey, who as i've mentioned previously, has often fallen foul to overproduction on both her debut album badlands and 2017's hopeless fountain kingdom, leading to a generic, top 40 sound that means her music simply blends in with whatever one hit wonder is currently number one. again, the eagerly anticipated return of years & years and the debut album from "lesbian jesushayley kiyoko both proved disappointing - aptly titled expectations, it seemed she buckled under their weight with her batch of unmemorable, minimalist pop songs, while olly and co. released the disappointingly dull sanctify, which lacked the club-ready spark of king, desire and shine. and of course there's tinashe. her album joyride is perhaps the most eagerly anticipated of the last two years and after a lengthy battle with her label it was finally released last month. once again it was a minimal affair with not A Bop in sight; aside from title track joyride (which has a dismal 100,000 views), it was largely forgettable and definitely not worth the wait.

outside influences could also play a part; for third album love is dead - released later this month - electro-pop outfit CHVRCHES have worked with other producers for the first time. they started out strong with the release of get out, which reminded me of tracks from jamie xx's debut in colour - but follow up singles my enemy, never say die and miracle have been somewhat disappointing, missing the intensity found on the mother we share, lies and never ending circles. the new releases aren't terrible, but i wasn't in any hurry to listen to them again, and i wonder if their new producers will have radically altered the rest of the upcoming album into something that no longer packs that emotional punch.

in the case of the courteeners and the wombats, i suspect they are resting on the fact that their loyal fans will continue to support them whatever they release, something i wrote about in this post. while some listeners may be content to hear yet another indie inspired, guitar-heavy album, i feel like my own personal taste has evolved to include more pop and dance music over the years, and perhaps this is why i no longer enjoy the wombats as much as i used to back when i was sixteen and trying to prove how ~c00l~ i was. nowadays i look more towards artists like charli xcx whose work with PC music is undoubtedly the future of the genre. innovation is what keeps me interested, and i'm not willing to waste time on artists who won't evolve because they fear losing fans. 

or could it be my stupidly high expectations rearing their ugly head again? i can't help but feel some artists have already reached their peak - gaga with the fame monster, katy perry and teenage dream, marina with electra heart - but that doesn't mean their later releases were bad, they just didn't give me that feeling i look for when i press play on a new song. in the case of megastars like gaga and KP, perhaps it's unreasonable to expect them to always be at their peak. the music scene has undoubtedly changed since their golden years, as R'n'B, tropical house and latin american influences continue to dominate the charts. it's also perfectly natural for an artist to want to experiment; in gaga's case she went on to release both jazz and country inspired albums after ARTPOP's somewhat lukewarm performance (i personally loved that album). 

honestly i still don't have a definitive answer; it's probably a combination of all of the above that has made me reluctant to write about new releases. i have a couple of artists that i've been enjoying recently though, and am determined to get back into writing new music friday posts, if for no other reason than to get back into a more regular schedule of posting. 

here's to hoping my own glory days aren't over and i can get back to my three posts a week peak, as i'm full of ideas but just lacking the motivation to write. however, now that things are starting to improve, i can feel my spark coming back and i'm finally looking forward to what the future holds. 

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