This came up on my shuffle today as I was getting breakfast cereal. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, this is proof of why both Jay-Z and Kanye are genuises and can therefore get away with anything. I’m also proud to say that I can now rap along, like the G-monsta that I am. Think of that what you will, but I feel no shame.
Also, this is the explicit version, so a shout-out for all you sensitive souls out there is necessary: rap music has swearing in it. So, if you don’t like it – grow a pair.
On a side note, I heard Kanye and Kim Kardashian are dating. The world doesn’t make any sense any more; up is down, and down is up.
Rating: 4 stars
Still showing at the Royal Opera House: Wednesday 18th April, Monday 23rd April.
Last week I finally went to a ballet at the Royal Opera House (ROH). Since first arriving in London two years ago, I’ve been meaning to go, even if only to compare the ballet with what I’d grown up watching at the Bolshoi theatre back in Moscow (I acted as a space-filler when my mother failed to talk my father into going with her). This time I had purposely sought out some of the cheapest tickets (I am a student, after all) and grabbed a couple of studenty friends to share in the experience. What we lost out on with our noticeable ROH-virginity and lack of bourgeois lifestyle, we made up for with our blatant over-excitement at everything we saw (“Oh look, ice cream!”), and shouts for the ‘water-closet’. Because we were ladies, and ladies do not refer to the bathroom as a ‘toilet’, for that would be vulgar and common, and for one night at least, we were definitely not common.
An added bonus to this review is of course my own masterful photography – I like to think of myself as a semi-professional, and like to use different mediums of film to capture the essence of the moment. For this particular outing I chose to use my crappy Blackberry phone camera to cut across class divides, and to leave the viewer with the raw image of our experience…
No, it’s because I only had my shitty phone camera with me. Enjoy. And be grateful there are no finger blurs over the edge of the photos, you stuck up pricks.
* * *
The first of the three ballets was the half-hour Polyphonia, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. To my knowledge this was a reappearance for the ballet, having first been presented at the ROH back in 2006. This contemporary piece was at times very dynamic and intense, performed to Ligeti’s virtuoso piano music. However, when it wasn’t intense and dynamic, it was confusing and over-worked, with some moves resembling a dance I would have invented if I were on mushrooms with my friends in my bathroom (hypothetical scenario). Or if I were a toddler at a yoga class, bustin’ a move. Some dance moves were so ostentatious, there were awkward laughs from the audience (not knowing if laughter is allowed is a big problem for the upper class, it seems). Having read other reviews of the ballet, I find myself in the minority of the slightly confused and at times, falling asleep spectators. Think of that what you will; maybe I’m simply a philistine who failed to see the true meaning and story behind this mysterious choreography; maybe I’m too spoiled with Bolshoi Ballet performances (I did notice some slip-ups in technique, something which was not present, or not as visible, in the other two ballets, although maybe due to the fact that neither were quite as stripped-down as Polyphonia was); or maybe it just wasn’t as good as everyone said it would be, and that ultimately it was trying too hard to defy the norm. I’ll side with the latter.
* * *
The slightly longer, but definitively more enjoyable and captivating ballet that followed was Sweet Violets, choreographed by Liam Scarlett and based on Walter Sickert’s famously gruesome series of paintings. The Camden Town Murders. Complete with a brilliant score including Rachmaninoff’s Trio élégiaque No. 1, stunning costumes and performances from the dancers, this dark tragedy both shocks in its vulgarity and harsh tones and evokes sorrow and despair at the fate of its characters (disclaimer: the paintings are based on a 1907 Camden Town murder, where a painter was tried and acquitted of murdering his then lover and prostitute. There are lots of prostitutes involved in this ballet in general). My only regret was that our seats were quite far away (Amphitheatre, row E), which led to some confusion with the introduction of new characters; all dancers had very similar costumes (being all hookers, I imagine there wasn’t much of a choice of wardrobe, even if they were based in trendy Camden) and dark hair. Eventually I managed to unpick the complications in the story, but I do wish I was sitting close enough to see the faces of the dances. There’s a solo number where one of the ballerinas dances around a bed and it’s so moving, I teared up a little. But it was dark, so no one noticed.
* * *
Last but not least, was the long-awaited and highly acclaimed Carbon Life, the star-studded miracle lovebaby of Stockport-born (big up Stockport) choreographer Wayne McGregor CBE, and producers Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt (also a member of the Swedish band, Miike Snow). When I first heard that the score would be co-written by Mark Ronson, I immediately jumped at the idea of going – Ronson peaked back in 2008 when I was still at school, listening to Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black on loop (which is what won him at least one of the three Grammy’s, I think. Wiki it if you’re interested, you lazy sods) and his own album of collaborations, Version (also played on loop, except the Kenna track because that made me feel unsafe in my own home. Serious stalker vibes, that one). Upon further research I discovered that up-and-coming young designer, Gareth Pugh, will be doing the costumes, and the band will include vocals from Alison Mosshart of The Kills, Jonathan Pierce of The Drums, and even 80s all-around cool kid, Boy George. The line-up just shot up from plain ‘great’ to extraterrestrial amounts of ‘great’. This assortment of magical talent could be otherwise possible only under one condition – if Michael Jackson and Dumbledore had a lovechild…which is impossible. So this is the next best thing, really.
Unfortunately, as is always the case with extremely high expectations, the actual result never really lives up to them. McGregor’s choreography was out of this world, as per usual (I caught Chroma last year at the Bolshoi, and yet am still short for words when describing his work). I actually preferred the numbers with the fewer dancers in them, simply because there were often six or more on stage at one time, all clad in Pugh’s pure and streamlined creations (and often just plain weird, see image below), all performing the most beautiful dances I’d ever seen; thus making it difficult to pay the desired attention to all the couples.
Just like the dancing, the music was, as was expected, phenomenal. I never thought it would be possible to convey the true passion behind a ballet with a rock song or even a rap (yes, one of the numbers was a rap), but this was a rare moment where I was proved wrong, and I enjoyed the feeling. The final number of the ballet deserves a special mention – it’s not often that the audience is literally left on the edge of their seats, waiting for more. This, if anything, highlights the intensity and beauty of the piece. The only thing which makes it a close tie with its predecessor, Sweet Violets, is that I sometimes felt that the music was overpowering the ballet, especially in moments when the vocalists were seen walking amongst the dancers. As much as I hate to say this (because I enjoyed the music so much, both in composition and its immaculate performance on the night), I wish some of the arrangements were simpler, if only so that the dancers had more room to breathe. I suppose you really can have too much of a good thing. In spite of that comment however, this is definitely a one-of-a-kind experience, one which has left me unable to make up my mind and pick a favourite between Sweet Violets and Carbon Life.
A photo my friend took with her shitty Blackberry camera; I was too distracted/furious that the ballet was really ending to keep up with my arty photography ambitions. The musicians are the tiny blobs at the front, the dancers are the ones dressed in black at the back.
I couldn’t resist – this is a close-up I got off the Internet. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past 10 years, Andrew Wyatt is the one on the left, Mark Ronson on the right; the filling to this musical genius sandwich is (I THINK) Edward Watson, dancer extraordinaire. His solo was crazy good, as was his number with Olivia Cowley. All sporting Gareth Pugh’s crazy Carbon Life inspired gear.
The weather is being (reasonably) mellow today, I’m finally moving onto revision of a subject I actually enjoy, and most importantly, yesterday I went to bed straight after watching an Austin Powers re-run on Channel 5. Having completely forgotten how terrible (and yet how great) the films were, I was in hysterics for most of the film – not exactly a rare, but a pleasant occurrence nonetheless . I’m picking this catchy tune as my Song of the Day. Yeah, baby, yeah!
“One tiny step for hands, one giant leap for mankind.”
Have you ever wondered what George Clooney would look like if his hand was the size of a pea? More importantly, have you ever considered how funny this would look? If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to either of these questions, you should seriously consider adopting a busier schedule.
The weird thing is, someone had taken it upon themselves to think this theory through. Not only that, but they’ve created a webpage to honour all things ‘one tiny handed’. And just to make it clear, that’s One Tiny Hand, not both. Just one.
To honour somebody else’s depleting sanity (and their amazing sense of humour), I give you One Tiny Hand George. More One Tiny Hands can be found on www.onetinehand.com
The Guardian has called it ‘the greatest British protest song in years’, NME says it’s a direct threat to David Cameron, and Huffington Post says Plan B has reason to fear a drop in fan numbers following his change of style. Ill Manors isn’t my Song of the Day because of any of the aforementioned statements; it’s my Song of the Day because I liked it, and I think it deserves your attention, regardless of your own musical preferences.
I myself enjoy a fair bit of good old American rap (ain’t it cray?), and the occasional British break-throughs that appear sporadically on the Top 40 Charts, like Rizzle Kicks and Maverick Sabre. To be quite honest with you, I hadn’t heard of any new releases from Plan B since his peak at No. 3 with “She Said” in the BBC UK Top 40 Charts (vid available here). And then, like a phoenix rising from its ashes (I’m sure he’s had more successful releases since then, but nothing’s caught my ignorant ear), he comes up with a new single, Ill Manors. iLL Manors is actually being turned into a film, due to be released later this year, with much more music done by Plan B, so look out for that!
N0w I’m not going to butcher the song by relaying all the lyrics, but I do recommend that you pay special attention to them when you listen and/or look them up. The words are sharp, they cut to the core, meaning the song does a great job of highlighting the perspective of the often ignored party – the prejudiced-against, the beaten-around, and often misundertood London ‘youths’. If anything, it’s a direct conversation with the government, and it’s a proclamation of betrayal and feeling let down. It’s angry, it’s bitter, and best of all, it’s set to Dmitri Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony (or Symphony No. 7). I won’t be lying if I said that this was the main reason I stayed tuned and didn’t skip radio stations; to me, any contemporary musician who can mix multiple types of music and, even better, pay tribute to the classics in his work – is a genius. Plan B definitely just soared up on my music radar after all this Shostakovich business, and I suspect this is not the last time he’ll be appearing on my blog.
PS This may be a very nerdy thing to point out, but given that the 7th Symphony was written to commemorate resistance against the Nazi invasion of Leningrad, this can be a relevant point. The video starts with Plan B playing air violin atop a tower block, looking over the smoking city beneath him – much like a general might have done when surveying the Soviet city landscape before him (or so I like to think). I may be wrong, there’s a lot of speculation about the intention behind the original 7th, so comments welcome.
Plan B’s single, “Ill Manors” was released on 23rd March. The film “iLL Manors” is due to be released on 4th May (UK).
I’ve seen the likes of Made in Chelsea (Season 3 is starting back up on Channel 4 tonight, by the way. It’s on at 10pm, but whatever, I don’t care), The Only Way Is Essex, and even glimpsed a bit of Geordie Shore once (never have I felt so angry about wasting five minutes of my own time). The notion of mock/scripted reality TV is sweeping the nation, and has been since earlier last year. I’m crazy about the idea (there’s very little cultural enlightenment in learning about vajazzling, if you ask me), but I will concur with many others in saying that the English shows have been a massive improvement on their American cousins across the pond – The Hills, Laguna Beach etc. etc. If you ask me, their US counterparts are all complete tosh because they lack the one quality all British shows possess, in one form or another; the ability to make fun of itself/not take itself too seriously.
And this is where Dalston Superstars comes in. The UK’s branch of mass media conglomerate and every hipster’s wet dream, Vice, took it upon itself to tap into a new niche market. Thus, in Autumn 2011 a mini web series following a group of young East London creatives was born: I give you Dalston Superstars.
There is little I can say to explain the project in the way it deserves to be. Essentially, it’s a mockumentary about five 20-somethings living their weird, obscure lives in London’s hipster hub, Dalston. If you’re familiar with this ‘way of life’, you will find this short series as hilarious as I did. If you’ve somehow managed to live your life in London, never once wondering down Camden High Street or Brick Lane, never having experienced Swag in the way that it should be, and never having been exposed to this fashion trend since your time here, then trust me – you will still find Dalston Superstars hilarious. If anything, you may even was to dabble with the alternative lifestyle yourself for a short while. Just remember – these are all real people, most of them with real jobs, giving you a glimpse of their (slightly exaggerated) daily lives purely for your entertainment. Just like the cast of Made in Chelsea/TOWIE etc., these folks live the lifestyle they showcase (or at least a very close equivalent), but they’re the small group of individuals who have the balls to showcase it to the rest of the world. And yes, to laugh at it with us.
The original links to the 4 episodes (only approx <10 minutes each) can be found on the Vice webpage, and Episode 1 can be found free with here.
NB If I appear a little defensive and protective in the last paragraph of this article, it’s mainly because I understand these guys have received a lot of criticism for the show, so I guess I just wanted to stipulate that it’s all done in good fun and in the interest of our entertainment. In short, if you take yourself too seriously, you risk sounding like an ass.