The Brit Awards 2015

The Brits 2015 were an interesting affair. The Brits has always had a particular aura about it which makes nobody take it particularly seriously in contrast to the US equivalent The Grammy Awards. The Grammy’s involves artists and celebrities dressing up for the occasion and sitting attentively waiting with bated breath to see who has won each prestigious award. Talented musicians you would never have paired perform together and it’s a celebratory, sophisticated evening. The Brits on the other hand tends to be rather more… British. It’s a drunken catastrophe which never appears to be able to run smoothly without controversy. They couldn’t be anymore different, aside from the fact they are both music award shows. That said, I love both because they are on opposite ends of the spectrum and are both always an entertaining watch.

Ant and Dec replaced previous host James Corden as presenters of this year’s ceremony. Whereas James had a natural wit and enthusiasm for music, for Ant and Dec, it didn’t come as naturally. It was a little bit forced and ended up as bit of a Circus act for me. Whilst they had grown on me by the end, I did miss Mr Corden very much.

As far as performers go, I can’t fault it. It was an incredible line-up with some of the best artists around. That said, the quality of some of the performances leaved a lot to be desired.

Taylor Swift gave a rather seductive but a little flat, vocally, performance of massive hit ‘Blank Space’. She appeared to pick and choose which parts of the song she sung, miming badly from time to time and then singing other parts. It was an enjoyable performance but perhaps not the explosive opening performance to the Brits everyone was hoping for. She would have been better performing a little later in the show.

Four-time Grammy Award Winner Sam Smith gave a classy performance of latest single ‘Lay Me Down’, accompanied by a gorgeous string piece section. It was a lovely performance and his vocals shone as always. Royal Blood took to the stage to perform an explosive rendition of ‘Figure It Out’ – not really my thing but the other performers made up for it.

edThen, the performance of the night for me was Mr Ed Sheeran. Ed did his one-man-band routine using his guitar and loop pedal. He performed latest single, the haunting ‘Bloodtstream’ in front of a visual background of a type of time lapse. It was clever, it was raw, it was gripping. By the time Sheeran growled ‘Tell me when it kicks in’ in the final couple of minutes of the performance, everyone was won over.

Then we were subjected to Mr Arrogant himself, Kanye West who leapt around the stage with more bounce than a child on a space hopper. West was introduced by wife Kim Kardashian which simply added insult to injury and took to the stage to perform new single ‘All Day’. Unfortunately, it appears that he didn’t get the memo about use of language on the Brits as every other word screamed into the microphone was ‘n*****’. The poor sound engineer had his work cut out as he was forced to hit ‘mute’ every two seconds and viewers back home were met with 30 seconds of the song once all the expletives and offensive language had been muted. The sound engineer did a fine job although a couple of bits of offensive language did manage to fall through the net. The facial expressions of the celebrities in attendance perhaps said it all. Taylor Swift looked rather stunned by the performance, as were many of us back home. It was just so full on, so unnecessarily aggressive and it was just rather odd. One was rather grateful when Mr West and his entourage left the stage and the rather less threatening Ant & Dec returned.

take thatTake That were rather bizarrely booked to perform despite not being nominated for an award which failed to make any sense to most people. Why book a massive band and therefore recognise their continued relevance yet not nominate them for an award? Still, the band performed an explosive version of new single ‘Let In The Sun’. It’s a powerful track with house/dance beats, fierce guitar strums and empowering lyrics. The three-piece were dressed fantastically for the occasion and each performed on their instruments – Barlow on keyboard, Donald on drums and Owen on guitar. Whilst Barlow was always known for performing on his keyboard, the other two members performing instruments has been more of a Take That Mark II thing and it’s great to see. The lights, confetti, backing dancers, silky smooth harmonies all combined to make an electrifying performance. Mr Barlow did get his lyrics slightly muddled ‘Want you to see the next step a day at a time’ but it’s easily done and it’s unlikely anybody noticed. Particularly when keyboard warriors were quick to vilify the performance. It’s unfortunate they appear to not have such a place in the public’s hearts anymore since the tax scandal and Jason Orange’s departure. I personally really enjoyed the performance.

George Ezra took to the stage to perform massive hit ‘Budapest’ and did a wonderful job. He has such a rich tone to his voice that makes him sound wise beyond his ears. It’s still a great song even now after it’s over exposure on radio. Paloma Faith performed the fantastic ‘Only Love Can Hurt Like This’ before Madonna appeared…
I’m sure there’s not one person who is unaware of why Madonna was (and continues to be four days later) the talk of the Brit Awards. All evening, we were reminded by Ant & Dec that we had Madge’s performance to look forward to and that it had been twenty years since her last visit to the awards ceremony. Fair enough, I guess. Twenty years is a long time and there’s no denying Madonna is a global superstar. The unfortunate thing is she became the talk of the ceremony for all the wrong reasons. Because less than a minute into the song, Madonna took a tumble down a set of stairs onto _81279916_ef45fb6a-58e0-4296-bf5d-ef72ca358f3bher back. Apparently her cape was tied too tight and she could not undo it in time for one of her dancers to whip it off her, causing her to fall backwards. Social media responded in an amusing manner. For me personally, I was more concerned than amused. I must admit, I do often find humour in other people tripping or falling over but with Madonna, it just looked so painful. It wasn’t just a trip or stumble. She fell flat onto her back with quite an impact. Viewers at home were met with a thud and an audible ‘Oohh’ from those in attendance at the ceremony. After several seconds, Madonna carried on and managed to finish her performance, reinforcing the pro she is. I didn’t particularly enjoy the song or the performance and I do think the quality of Madonna’s music has deteriorated over the years but I still think she was wonderful to be able to finish the performance. She looked visually shaken and was a little flat vocally from that point onwards but who can blame her?! I did enjoy the response on social media, however. Lots of rather hilarious vines and memes surfaced soon after the incident. Perhaps it was a sign to Madonna that she should quit pretending she is in her twenties and to act and dress her age. 

Sam_Smith_second_awardAs for the awards themselves, I mostly agreed. British Male contained lots of very talented musicians and was therefore tricky to call. Very glad Ed Sheeran won, however. He has had a massive year with an amazing act. He deserves every single bit of his success. Like-wise, I’m glad he won Album of the Year. Paloma Faith was right to win British Female as her talent continues to amaze me. Her excessively long speech didn’t, however but I can forgive her because as she said, who knows if she’ll ever be in that position again? I thought British Group should have gone to Coldplay or One Direction but the fellows from Royal Blood seemed like humble, appreciative guys so I can live with that. International group was an odd category but was right to go to the Foo Fighters. It was odd Sam Smith won British Breakthrough considering it feels he has been around forever but still rightly deserved. It’s a shame George Ezra didn’t win anything considering his talent but he was very humble about it and still has a long career in front of him to win many awards. He seemed grateful even just for the nomination.

I disagreed with British Single. ‘Uptown Funk’ is a catchy number and has been a massive song. But there’s been plenty of other better singles in the past year more worthy. Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’ was a sweet affair with beautiful lyrics whilst Ella Henderson’s ‘Ghost’ was a massive hit. Sam Smith’s ‘Stay with Me’ would also have been more worthy. Pharrell Williams won International Male and rightly so. What a couple of years he’s had! Taylor Swift won International Female which again, I agreed with. ‘1989’ is an awesome album. Brit’s Global Success was won by Sam Smith which was well deserved whilst Best Video was won by One Direction for ‘You and I’. Ed’s video for ‘Thinking out Loud’ would also have been worthy of a win but I do agree with One Direction’s win. I know many criticised the video for not being anything out of the ordinary but sometimes simplicity is best. I loved the special effects by direction Ben Winston and it’s a lovely video well matched to a beautiful song.

It was an enjoyable watch this year, made all the more entertaining with it’s controversial moments. Let’s face it, The Brits wouldn’t be The Brits without controversy! I am looking forward to next year’s ceremony.

Music Monday – Volume Forty Four

1) S Club – Gangsta Love

Massive guilty pleasure. Catchy, a little bit infused with garage music. Awesome song.

2) Melanie C – May Your Heart

This woman is SO underrated. One of my favourite songs of all time. Absolutely beautiful song.

3) Tom Baxter – Better

Beautiful folk song by Tom Baxter. Boyzone later covered it.

4) Whitney Houston – Step by Step

Beautiful, inspiring and catchy song written by Annie Lennox. Annie recorded it in the early 90’s but wasn’t keen so she gave it to Whitney who rearranged it and turned it into the dance classic it is. Can’t get enough of this at the moment.

5) The Pretenders – Don’t get me wrong

A fantastic song and one I was reminded of when watching Bridget Jones’s Diary the other day.

6) Herbie Hancock, John Legend & Pink – Don’t give up

The original by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush is beautiful of course. I just love this take on it. All talented artists and a beautiful fresh take on a very heartfelt, inspiring song.

7) Sting – My Funny Friend and Me

Gorgeous song that Sting wrote and recorded for the 1999 disney animation ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’. Love how it builds up and the gospel choir at the end.

8) Roxette – Making Love To You

Beautiful, chilled out-take from my favourite Roxette album, 1999’s ‘Have a Nice Day’. Wish this had been on the album.

9) John Mayer – I Will be Found (Lost at Sea)

Beautiful song by Mr Mayer. It’s refreshing to have a piano-based song by him.

10) John Mayer – In Repair

Uplifting and inspiring song by John.

The Brit Awards 2015

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The Brit Awards ceremony is one of my favourite moments of the year. Every year, I follow it right from the nomination announcements to the after-party show. I am also well known for live-tweeting throughout the show – I have ended up in Twitter jail a few times!

Here’s a playlist of songs associated with this year’s ceremony. Some of these are nominated songs, some are by nominated artists and some are by some of this year’s performers. I have only included songs/artists that I like!

Stay tuned for my post-show blog (if I find the time!).

Therapy – A Playlist

From this blog and my footprint on social media, it must be fairly obvious that music has a huge significance in my life. I think it plays a big role in most people’s lives but a lot of my life does revolve around music. Music is what I do for a hobby, music is there for when I am happy and when I am sad. Music is there to boost me up, music is there to support me on low days.

I’ve had quite a lot of low days recently and I attribute much of the healing process to music. Take That’s ‘III’ album in particular has really supported me with the uplifting music and inspiring lyrics. All throughout my life I have built up a whole bank of songs that I can relate to and/or lift me back up when feeling down. So I thought I would create a fairly large playlist of inspiring and uplifting songs for anyone who needs it. That’s including myself in future! Not all songs will be to everyone’s tastes but this playlist is guaranteed to act as a support mechanism.

I really hope maybe this will help some people. And if not then I hope you enjoy having a nose through some of my favourite uplifting, inspiring songs!

Music heals.

Jermain Jackman premières debut single

The Voice UK doesn’t have a particularly good track record with successful contestants… some past contestants had limited success (Bo Bruce, Tyler James, Becky Hill) but others have faded quickly into obscurity. It’s unfortunate. All previous contestants have had a large amount of talent, it’s just a shame they haven’t been marketed effectively.

Jermain Jackman won last year’s show and recently dropped his new single ‘How Will I Know’ (not a cover of the Whitney Houston track with the same title). It has a catchy R&B, soul vibe that sounds like a throwback to songs from the 1960’s. It doesn’t particularly reach a climax or go anywhere much but it’s a great track all the same. The difference with Jermain’s début is that it’s an original song, unlike previous winners. I really, really enjoyed it and wish him every success.

Markus Feehily premieres new single

Markus Feehily has premièred his début solo single ‘Love is a Drug’.

It’s been three years since Westlife split. Markus has kept a relatively low profile until now whilst ex-band members Shane Filan and Kian Egan have had a reasonable amount of success with their solo albums. Westlife were always an acquired taste. I enjoyed some of their music but wasn’t really into them if I’m completely honest. That said, I am always interested with any music developments and am looking forward to seeing what Markus has to offer in his solo career.

‘Love is a drug’ is co-written with songwriter/producer Mojam who has previously worked with Sam Smith and Emeli Sande. It’s a massive track with sweeping strings, 90’s house/trip-hop beats in the same vein as Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ and Emeli Sande’s ‘Heaven’. Markus really showcases his impressive vocals and I am really, really enjoying this track.

Check it out below!

Why Jason Orange is greatly missed.

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I meant to write this blog long ago but as usual, life got in the way and it never happened. Better late than never, here’s my blog on Jason Orange leaving Take That.

24 September 2014:

It was to become another day of immense sadness for Thatters worldwide, an addition to the previous dark days on which Robbie Williams announced his departure in 1995 and Take That announced their disbandment in 1996. Jason Orange dropped the unforeseen bombshell that he was leaving Take That.

01xt8-vi2The response was quite astonishing considering we are now twenty-five years into Take That’s career and there are arguably fresher-faced more ‘current’ bands around. Take That’s relevance was reinforced once again. It became front page news, splashed all over tabloid newspapers and was a hot topic on the internet for days. Twitter trolls were quick to give their commentary and add their ‘wit’ to the situation. “Take That will never sound the same again”, said one particularly sarcastic moron. Other posts were critical of Orange’s role in the band whilst some suggested the band give up altogether. Of course, as the last few months have proved, the continuation of Take That as a three-piece has been wonderfully successful with many records broken and a killer album released. Yet, even throughout their many wonderful performances, Orange’s absence has been more noticeable than anyone could ever think possible.

Upon Take That’s formation, Jason Orange was selected by manager Nigel Martin Smith for his dance ability and he was bloody brilliant at it. Even the harshest critic would not be able to undermine Jason Orange’s dance ability. He was able to choreograph fantastic routines, glide across the floor effortlessly and he continued this well into Take That’s second life as a band. Even as a 41 year old, he youthfully breakdanced on 2011’s ‘Progress Live’ tour, which was to become his final tour with the band.

093-viPart of Take That’s appeal back in the ’90’s was the range of talent and personalities in the band. Jason and Howard were incredible dancers, Mark was the boy next door, Robbie was the cheeky lad and Gary had the genuine vocal talent. Of course, all talents crossed over – Mark was also a fantastic dancer, Robbie sang fantastically, Jay could be pretty cheeky and vice versa. But it was five guys from Manchester, all of which had wonderful individual talents which, when put together, made Britain’s best loved boyband. When Take That re-formed as a four piece in 2005, the focus became more on the music and the public was shown that Take That were able to function well as not just a generic boyband but as a band. Harmonies became cleaner, instruments were played more live and Jason was finally given lead vocal duties, breaking him in gently with the stunning folk ballad ‘Wooden Boat’, the final track to 2006’s ‘Beautiful World’ album.

Jay wooden boat 2Jason Orange proved he could sing. And a beautiful voice he has too. ‘Wooden Boat’ was a sweet, gorgeous folk-ballad which closed the ‘Beautiful World’ perfectly. ‘How did it come to this’, his next lead vocal from 2008’s ‘The Circus’ was a rock foot-stamper, highlighting his ability to sing across multiple genres. His final lead vocal was to be the gorgeous ambient ‘Flowerbed’, an underrated hidden track on 2010’s ‘Progress’. Jason was given some of Take That’s best-loved material to sing. He was also bloody brave! On 2007’s ‘Beautiful World’ tour, his bandmates left him alone on-stage with an acoustic guitar to sing ‘Wooden Boat’, accompanied only fellow guitarist Milton McDonald and a small string section. He did a wonderful job.

imagesCAE8U6E9It was Jay’s fantastic stage presence which became an integral part of Take That’s strong, visionary performances. This was often centred around his sense of humour – he would often move in comedic fashion, particularly when sprinting to the B-Stage in Take That shows. He also has a wonderful element of charm about him which came through not only in interviews but also during performances. He famously drew attention to himself during the 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony which some suggested may have been to take attention away from Gary Barlow whose baby daughter had been delivered stillborn just days earlier. It’s this charm and cheek that’s now missed dearly in Take That. Performances are still fun but there is certainly something missing. And that something is definitely anything associated with Mr Jason Orange.

And it’s not just the singing and dancing. It’s also the personality. The humour, the charm, the wisdom. Jay clearly spent a lot of his ten years off thinking about everything and this really showed in any interviews he was a part of, particularly ‘For The Record’ and ‘Look Back Don’t Stare’ in which he thoughtfully discussed his time in Take That.

3125c03a769136e00ea9ea4a1425c667Whilst obviously very grateful for the privileges he had earned, Jason always appeared to be uncomfortable with fame and his celebrity image. Any downtime away from the band was spent in anonymity, only being photographed very occasionally in everyday places doing mundane activities (he was once photographed sitting casually on a bench) and most often unshaven with
scraggly hair. His avoidance of Twitter or any social networking sites only facilitated in making him a more endearing character. His perception of fame and modest attitude could only be admired. Upon being asked by Piers Morgan, ‘If you could go back to the anonymity you enjoyed before Take That ever began, would you take it?’ He responded unhesitatingly with ‘I would. Fame corrupts people’s lives.’  It was this lack of egocentrism and profound outlook that made Jason Orange so well loved as a band member. Despite being remarkably grounded for a man in his position, he had a jokey alter-ego as a full-of-himself cheeky-chappy, once announcing in an interview “Mate, I was famous before I was famous”. He could also be rather filthy. Who can forget his steamy shower scenes with a mystery female in the music video for ‘Relight My Fire’?! In another interview laden with innuendo, he advised “If you sit down on your left arm for long enough, it feels like someone else!” His fantastic sense of humour really bought Take That interviews alive.

Take That have done a sterling job at adapting to their many line-up changes and continuing their success as a band. Their determination and continued success is certainly to be admired and I am so very grateful they still exist as both a brand and a band. Performances are still spectacular and lively but it’s clear that a presence is missing. That presence is Jason Orange. It’s just a shame that seemingly, his only way of proving his worth to critics was through leaving.

01858820084_519020_180028979_n-viIt’s the little things I miss. Him losing himself in every performance – the Donage bromance with Howard Donald, his comical running to the b-stage, the on-stage flirting with dancers, his wit and profound outlook in interviews, his sweet vocals and the breakdancing. Maybe one day he will return, even for the smallest of moments but until then, I hope he’s happy and comfortable with the life he’s living.

We all miss you very much, Jay!

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