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RIP Caped Crusader

15 Jun

Last week I had just returned from an exhausting yet exhilarating bike ride in the Andalusian heat to see that Adam West, for many the first and most iconic Batman had passed away, aged 88. Although not in the same league as the devastating recent news stories that have come from Britain in the past month, seeing the news still had an effect on me, albeit for different reasons. It represented the end of an era.

adam west

Needless to say, I didn’t know nor had ever met Adam West, but I am one of multiple millions for whom Adam West was their first cultural ‘hero’. While I was not alive in the 1960s to see the cultural impact the series had first hand, I was at least around to see it’s second wave of popularity during the late 80s and early 90s, when the series was repeated in response to the furore and excited anticipation that surrounded the upcoming release of Tim Burton’s 1989 film. In a life-defining moment, my parents had taped a Channel 4 screening of “Batman: The Movie” in 1988, and made the blessed decision that it was something that my 3-year-old self might enjoy. Oh how well they knew me. In the years that followed, I watched that tape so many times that not only did I know practically every word of dialogue from the film itself by heart, but even the adverts that interrupted it (such as this beauty from Ariel, featuring the colourful cockney Mrs B and her droopy tenant Mr H). From the moment I could talk, I was a Batfan, not to mention an expert over the benefits of choosing Ariel and Oil of Ulay (later ‘Olay’) instead of other leading brands.

A big part of the reason why is because Batman was a series perfect for young children – the colours the bright, the action was plentiful and the characters were unforgettable. The casting of the key players and the most popular super villains was note perfect – in particular Cesar Romero as the Joker who somehow made the leap from his trademark suave Latin lover persona to an ADHD-riddled hyena in clown makeup almost without effort. But in the middle of all the zany madness was West as Batman, the cool as a cucumber protagonist our young minds instantly knew it would be wise to get behind – he was the respected parent in a world of the naughtiest of children. For lack of a better word, the straight man. It wouldn’t be until much later when I, like many others, revisited the series at an older age and saw the true comedic genius in his performances – something that completely went over my head as a youngster. In short, the reason why the series was just as enjoyable for adults.

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The beauty of it was in the tone. It is my belief that one of the key reasons why Monty Python became such a big hit all over the world was the way in they (In particular John Cleese and Graham Chapman) could say the most the most ridiculous things in the most sensible manner. It messes with our minds – you expect one thing yet hear another. As a comedic device it’s timeless, while others come and go according to tastes and fashions of the era. Chris Morris was able to take it several steps further in the 1990s with The Day Today and Brasseye, able of getting the public and celebrities alike to believe practically anything he said, no matter how ridiculous, purely due to deadly serious way he was able to say it. However, before them all, there was Adam West.

Few could speak lines such as “True. You owe your life to dental hygiene” or “In future, be more careful from who you accept free lemonade.” with the utmost sincerity as he was able to do. His school-master tone could convince anybody that his words were gospel irrespective of what they were, and I suspect is a big reason as to why the series has stood the test of time. Even after the groovy pop-art atheistic of which the series revolution began to look dated, the comic gold of West’s delivery remained as fresh as ever.

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As mentioned above, Adam West’s Batman was the first and best of my childhood heroes. One tragedy of getting older is the fact that these heroes inevitably begin to pass away, cutting another tie with your youth as you move further and further away from it. With adulthood, for better or worse, comes a lot of unpredictability and instability, so it can be a nice thought that at least some consistencies remain. For me, Adam West was one such consistency – being that I still watch and love the Batman TV series, he’d been a part of my life for just shy of 30 years and I simply liked the idea that he was still around. Better yet, he wasn’t just a relic. In recent years, he has won over a new legion of younger fans due to his appearances as the deranged “Mayor Adam West” in Family Guy – easily one of the series’ more popular characters, based on the sheer number of compilation videos on youtube alone. For me, his “This is my Jam” scene in the drycleaner kills me every time.

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As for the Batman series, Adam West is now added to the extensive list of main players that are now sadly no longer with us. All that really remains now is Burt Ward and Julie Newmar, better known to I suspect even their friends and family as Robin and Catwoman. While I have absolutely nothing against Newmar, I’m actually one of those who prefers Lee Meriwether’s slightly more sensitive portrayal of Catwoman, when she replaced Newmar in the film due to scheduling conflicts (Meriwether, incidentally also still with us, on twitter and somehow still gorgeous at the age of 82). As for Burt Ward, for me he’s always come across as a bit of a wally and is known to lie extensively about his experience as Robin (See here for his baffling claim that he was suspended in the air over a real pit of tigers when all evidence points to the contrary). Neither, with the possible exception of Meriwether (first crush after all) can hold a candle to Adam West. But then again, not many could.

Rest in Peace Caped Crusader!

adam-west-career

 

The EU Referendum. Please think about it

13 Jun

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To begin, it’s worth noting that I have a vested interest in the UK staying in the EU. Since 2013, I have lived and worked in Spain, and have personally benefited from the freedom of movement, free hospital care and lack of working visa requirements that being a member of the EU has given me. Being able to live here has allowed me to find a profession I actually care about, the opportunity to learn a new language (something my 16 year old self painfully struggling to get a C in GCSE French would not think possible) and given me a belief in myself that I certainly didn’t possess before. I expect that many others who have done something similar feel the same. Therefore, as we approach June 23rd and a decision as to whether the UK will stay a member of the EU, I have a profound sense of anxiety. I personally could lose a lot by the UK no longer being in the EU, and it is never a nice feeling to know that decisions about your personal future are out of your hands.

However, I don’t expect you to care about my life and exploits, and nor should you. This decision is bigger than that. This could be one of the biggest decisions you will ever have to make  – be it for social, economic or political reasons. It is also worth noting that it is the younger generations that will feel the biggest impact – it would be them that potentially suffer the most should they be robbed of opportunities that some of us have been fortunate enough to enjoy.

While I don’t feel I’m qualified to speak about the economic implications of a ‘Brexit’ to any great degree, I do feel that it makes much more sense to listen to someone who actually does know about the subject rather than the deplorable Michael Gove. Gove has previous when it comes to believing he knows better than experts. His 2 year spell as education minister was a non-stop tirade of ignoring and belittling people who had spent their lives working within the sector to push through a rushed, ill conceived policy of free schools. The result? Abject failure . Even Gove’s biggest fanboy Toby Young, who opened his own free school in 2011, was eventually forced to admit the whole ordeal was probably a mistake and ‘harder than he thought’. I would hazard a guess that if in the future you were to need major medical surgery, you would probably prefer that a qualified surgeon carries out the procedure than Michael Gove, no matter how vehemently he claims that he would do a better job . I feel the same about economical matters. He, along with Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage can simply not be trusted.

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Michael ‘Punchbag’ Gove

While I am admittedly an economic novice, I do have a bit more experience in regards to the other major issue that has sadly come to dominate the debate – immigration. This is due to me being brought up in a city (Leicester, home of the 2016 Premier League champions no less) that I believe has benefited greatly from its immigrant population, and by me being an immigrant of sorts myself in another EU country.

I obviously can’t speak on behalf of every immigrant ever, as everyone has a different story to tell as to how they ended up living away from their homeland and their general day to day experience. What I can say however is that while it may be rewarding, it is never easy. Adapting to a new culture and all the individual challenges that come with it can be exhausting and the desire to integrate yourself can bring as much frustration as it does satisfaction. After three years, it’s something I’m still trying to do – there is no finishing line as such, or even much of a template. What helps enormously however is that very rarely have I felt unwelcome here. I can’t imagine how much more difficult this would be if I was told on a daily basis that I don’t belong and that I should ‘go home’.

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This, for me, has been the most alarming aspect of the entire Brexit debate. Sensationalist headlines with biblical expressions such as ‘swarm’ and ‘flock’, coupled with unashamedly racist ‘opinion pieces’ produced by national newspapers has created a culture of seething anger and animosity, where some individuals see it as their duty to threaten those they don’t perceive to be English enough.

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While I concede that not everyone has become a racist overnight, the ‘go home’ message pushed by the media and nearly all major political parties in recent years has given the illusion of legitimacy to a deeply racist and xenophobic prejudice – that England is “for the (white) English” and all foreigners should be treated with suspicion. What makes it worse is that immigration is an issue in which the public are statistically misinformed on an almost daily basis, as evidenced by the recent findings by Ipsos Mori that show just how off the mark a large number of people are when it comes to knowing the real figures of immigration . It’s an area where politicians and the media will unashamedly avoid the facts, preferring to fuel the flames of prejudice in order to win votes. Despite the numerous studies (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1114/051114-economic-impact-EU-immigration – for one)  that explicitly state that the UK, and most other countries, rely on immigration in order to function (the NHS is practically dependent on it), the message will never get through. Years of slander and lies on the issue from the mainstream media has muddied the water to such an extent that actual facts and statistics will always be buried underneath the scorn and fury of a downtrodden public that have been led to believe that the immigrants, not the deliberate acts of those in power, have destroyed their livelihoods.

On a personal level, it pains me to think that a person who came to the UK with an aspiration to better themselves and who makes a big contribution to society could be on the receiving end of verbal or physical abuse of this nature. In the current climate, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that a nurse could help to save someone’s life in the day and end up getting glassed at night for being a foreigner. The language used by the Brexit campaigners on immigration is inflammatory to the extreme, makes little sense and only serves as evidence that a society has fallen to its lowest depth. Irrespective of the final outcome of the referendum, I fear that the ugly head of racism will dictate UK politics for the next few years, as it currently does in the USA Presidential race.

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Donald ‘Punchbag’ Trump

I could finish with a well-meaning but ultimately useless soundbite like ‘love wins’ or write a story of how I came across an immigrant with ‘tears in his/her eyes’ (conveniently without any evidence) in a quest for retweets, but this is a serious issue. Millions of peoples lives will be affected by the decision the country makes on June 23rd. If none of my wet liberal arguments have persuaded you, that’s your prerogative. However, I think the best way to conclude is with a quote from Rupert Murdoch when questioned by Anthony Hilton at the Evening Standard why he holds such an anti EU stance:

“… ‘That’s easy,’ he replied. ‘When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.”

If you plan to vote in June 23rd, I won’t tell you which way. I only ask that you make an informed decision.

The 5 Worst Types of ESL Classroom songs

2 Dec

I have been teaching English to children in Spain for a little over a year, and although generally speaking that isn’t a particularly significant amount of time, it’s been enough to expose me to various unusual situations which bear no relation to any other job I’ve ever had. For example, while working as an admin assistant in a university I never had the power to decide whether or not another person was allowed to go to the toilet, or chastise a co-worker for ‘talking when I’m talking”.

Another thing that I never had to do, but which is now required, is to spontaneously break into song and expect others to join me. ESL lessons for children are full of songs referencing a relevant grammatical point or vocabulary, and in fairness, some of them do it very well

(There’s a nice early 90s jangly guitar pop vibe about this one for example, I’m a fan!).

However, some of them are cringe inducing (made all the worse when accompanied by dancing dead-eyed mannequins ).

While for many teachers this really isn’t a problem, I consider my biggest character flaw to be my unwavering inability to feign enthusiasm about something I think is shit. Hence, at times, the delights of learning English with me through the magic of song can be a rather harrowing experience.

Focusing on songs mainly from textbooks (because these tend to be the lamest), I’ve noticed that they generally fall into 5 main categories, of which I’ve listed below.

The Chipmunk

The Creepy

The Shameless rip off

The Comedy

The Ballard

So let’s get cracking

 

1) The Chipmunk

Woman displaying usual human reaction to 'The Chipmunk'

Woman displaying usual human reaction to ‘The Chipmunk’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The chipmunk is usually used for younger learners, for whom I can only assume that the song writers have mistaken for dogs. Recently, I had to physically lower the pitch of a song I have for my five year olds fearing that the incessant squeaking may shatter the windows and cause an injury. Here is a five second clip, just so you know I’m really not exaggerating.

I may be wrong about this, but I don’t remember as a child liking a song any more if it was sung at a higher than usual pitch. Of course, there are children’s songs featuring children’s vocals, but ‘The Chipmunk’ doesn’t feature any children. Instead, the vocal track has adults whose voices have been altered to supposedly make them sound like children. It doesn’t work – the result is an ear splitting nightmare that makes Jackson 5 era Michael Jackson sound like Nick Cave in comparison.

And here’s the thing. When I lowered the pitch with one  in order to make it possible for me to sing (easily done with quicktime, for anyone who wants to do the same), it made no difference whatsoever to the kids. There were no protests or tears that the voices they heard actually sounded like actual human beings instead of unconvincing children, and being at a respectable octave meant we could all enjoy it!

So why does ‘The Chipmunk’ exist? How can we be expected to sing along to a song that the vocalists themselves needed their voices to be digitally altered for? That’s like asking me to mimic a champion fencer whilst armed with a spoon.

Furthermore, hearing adults attempting to be children is rarely pleasant. There are some voice actors who can do it quite well of course – just look at The Simpsons. However I’ve yet to come across anyone employed by a series of ESL coursebooks that has successfully convinced me, or any other person, that they really are 5 years old, and I wish that they’d just stop trying.

Which brings me on to…

 

2) The Creepy

Hello children...

Hello children…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Ah, the creepy. Much like ‘The Chipmunk’, creepy songs are usually created exclusively for younger children, and despite their unsettling nature, are often pretty popular in the classroom. It would therefore seem mean spirited to criticise them, but seeing as I’m a deeply mean spirited person, I shall continue to do so with relish. They have provoked many a nightmare.

A good number of ‘The Creepy’ would fit quite comfortably into any horror film’s soundtrack, particularly if the film features clowns. To demonstrate this, I’ve made a short video where, adding 3 scary images to a horrible song that was designed to play at the start of a lesson as a routine for 4-5 year olds. If you manage to make it past one minute, you’re a braver person than I.

Look if you dare

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why a song is creepy – it’s something you instinctively feel rather than logically conclude. But I believe I can pigeonhole most ‘creepy’ songs into two categories – ‘Clown bait’ (such as above) and ‘lobotomy’. Lobotomy is when a children’s song is performed on video by a perma-grinned but dead eyed soul who looks directly into the camera throughout, as if their brain has only just been tinkered with by a power mad surgeon armed with rusty tools. While the voices telling them to burn things may be gone, so have any feelings of genuine joy and emotion. All that remains is a fixated smile through the teeth with an often repeated declaration that ‘the sky is blue blue blue’, ‘the rain comes down down down’ or that ‘chainsaw killings are fun fun fun’. Upon hearing a lobotomised creepy song, I am reminded that life is fragile and the world at times can be cruel. Bizarrely though, the kids love it! Weirdos…

 

3) The Comedy

A new mobile you say?

A new mobile you say?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The set of textbooks for kids I’m currently using end each section with a ‘joke box’ feature, surrounded by speech bubbles with ‘Ha Ha Ha’ written in them. One of these reads as thus:

“Q: What has a mouth but doesn’t eat, a bank but no money and a bed but never sleeps?

A: a river”.

If this type of long-winded half joke/riddle resonates with your sense of humour, then you will without doubt love ‘The Comedy’ song, as this is a good representation of the chortles coming your way. However, if by some miracle the joke hasn’t caused you to collapse into a fit of giggles then imagine how even less funny it would be if you were 8 years old, you were made to sing it and it was written in a language you don’t really understand yet. This, in essence is the underlying problem with the ‘comedy’ songs – even if they were side splittingly hilarious, a child with just a basic understanding of English isn’t going to appreciate it.

One example I had last year, in a section labelled ‘technology’, was a rib tickling ditty about convincing a grumpy grandfather to buy a new mobile phone – (“I don’t need one, I have a pen and paper” moans the voice actor in a tone less ‘grandfather’ and more ‘constipated’). The song itself wasn’t awful, but the constant unfunny interruptions made it difficult to sing. It’s a bit trying to teach this bizarre collaboration between Roy Chubby Brown and 1970s pop rockers Smokie to a group of disinterested 8 year olds. It seems a monstrous amount of effort for something that in reality is rather pointless.

However, it’s not all bad. I believe nothing brings people closer together than a mutual hate of something, and nothing is more hateful than comedy that isn’t funny. Therefore it can be said that ‘the comedy song’ has enabled my pupils and I to bond, for which I really should be grateful. I’m still not, though.

 

4) The Shameless Rip Off

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In the days when I still went to church, I remember that there used to be a number of popular singer songwriters that would tour the country, if not the world on the back of their hits that were sung nationwide in the happy clappy churches that made up evangelical Christianity (and in 1997, even headlining Wembley stadium on God’s request, apparently). Most correctly assumed that their target audience wouldn’t listen to secular and morally moribund pop bands, and therefore wouldn’t notice how suspiciously similar their songs were to their more popular, heathen counterparts.

The same can be said with the authors of ‘The Shameless Rip Off’. It’s safe to assume that foreign children won’t be aware that ‘Home is Home (A house or a flat)’ is EXACTLY the same as ELO’s 1970s smash “Don’t Bring me Down’ or that “We are family” has taken a rather generous amount from the Sister Sledge song that shares its name.  And so far, this has proven to be correct. Well I’m on to you, Cambridge University Press!

In all fairness though, I don’t have a big problem with ‘The Shameless Rip Off’, because more often than not, they’re the best songs to sing. It turns out popular song writers know how to write good songs – who knew! It’s also worth noting that young children don’t tend to give a flying fuck about whether a song they like harbours similarities to one made by 1970s pop rockers. Therefore the image of me furiously complaining of the thievery while declaring that the ‘sheeple’ kids should ‘open their fucking ears’ is a rather pathetic one.

However, if anyone reading is a songwriter who rather wouldn’t go through the rigmarole of actually writing music, I think ESL classroom music would be an excellent route for you.

 

 5) The Ballad

"Activity centre, lots of fun..."

“Activity centre, lots of fun…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have my suspicions that this type of classroom song, usually found in the last two units of a coursebook, is included purely to appease long suffering vocalists. The ballad, at last, gives them the opportunity exercise their moderate talent, perhaps as a reward for all the times they had to sing about vegetables, or something equally mundane, whilst pretending to be a 6 year old boy.

These songs are slow, with big choruses and always end with a Westlife-esqe key change presumably to allow the children to leap from their seats and thrust their cigarette lighters into the air. However, when the subject of the song is about what items of clothing are most suitable for a cold and windy day in the park (hat, coat, sweater and scarf, for those interested) or about what colour the grass could be, I feel that the explosive emotional crescendo is a little misplaced in this context.

To add insult to injury the songs can often be up to 4 minutes long, meaning that by end, the children are literally begging you to turn this shit off. Alas, they have sadly not been moved to tears as ‘The Ballard’ reminisces that ‘the games we played, the food we ate, the party was good, the party was great’ over and over again in ever rising keys. Instead, their reaction is remarkably similar to mine when I’m at a party or bar, and some wanker decides to get their acoustic guitar out.

So to sum up, I don’t think I’m ever going to truly get over my inhibitions and teach these songs very well, and admire greatly the teachers that can. In the mean time, I’ll just keep returning to these two classics, and hope others can make more like them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDj9Cl2YY-U (not made any better by the strange ‘adult pretending to be child’ actions, admittedly)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8F0NYBBKczM (Where is it! Where is it!)

Kiss FM: The Dissected Playlist (Part II)

24 Sep

Having now listened to Kiss FM for over a week, I am currently able to recite the lyrics to each of the following songs backwards. To mark the 7000th listen of Will I Am’s “This is Love”, I submitted a declaration of War to the veteran Peas front man, to which he is given until Wednesday 26th Spetember to respond. Although this has yet to formally go through the UN, I have been informed unofficially that they are likely to give me their full backing, a circumstance I’m told is absolutely unprecedented.

Right, back to the music….

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Stooshie – Black Heart

Hmmm. This song bothers me. With a chorus hook containing the line “I’ve fallen for a Monster, he’s scaring me to death”, I can’t shake the horrible idea that ‘Black Heart’ is about being beaten up by your boyfriend. Considering that domestic violence is still a big problem worldwide, Stooshie following this with showering the ‘Monster’ with praise , almost as if to say “Yeah, but I think he’s brilliant, so I probably deserve it to be honest” disturbs me a little. The ‘bad boy’ myth lives on.

I want to stress that there’s a world of difference between being a ‘bad boy’ and a ‘cunt’. Chris Brown is currently labelled in the media as a ‘bad boy’ (http://entertainment.topnewstoday.org/entertainment/article/3314864/ ). But let’s be absolutely clear – Chris Brown is a ‘cunt’. The line is too blurry at the minute and too many cunts are getting away with beating their girlfriends/wives on the basis that they’re believed to be ‘big, bad, and the best I’ve ever had’.

I may be over analysing, but I’m not sure how else I’m meant to interpret lyrics claiming a boyfriend is ‘scaring me to death’ and “I don’t like it when you break me, honey”.

Right, that’s enough of me being Tipper Gore. What’s next, Kiss?

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Proud of his work: Chris Brown

Chris Brown – Don’t Wake me Up

Oh Christ, speak of the devil. Here’s another piece of faux electro garbage from the world’s most famous fuckwit. Now, I’m no fan of Chris Moyles, but at least he had the integrity to not play this dick’s records on principle – one clearly not shared by those at Kiss FM. If you’re in a position where Chris Moyles is above you in the morality stakes, then you should really reassess your playlist policy. As for the song itself, the chorus is so pitched up and auto-tuned, it may as well be by Alvin and the fucking Chipmunks. So to sum up, Chris Brown struggles to sing his own songs without robotic assistance, and he beats up his girlfriend. Why is he still around?

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Example – Say Nothing

Good advice. Shame Example instead listened to whoever mistakenly informed him he could rap.

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Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson – Good time

Forget everything I said about Carly Rae Jepson. I’m hoping to God that this is all Owl City’s fault. “Good Time” sounds like the sort of tune that’s performed to indifferent five year olds at Butlins by 5 overexcited teens and a guy dressed as a friendly elephant. Should you wish to sing along, I’ve written the lyrics below for you.

“Whoah” (Repeat)

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Cheryl Cole – Under The Sun

Poor Cheryl’s been lied to one too many God Damned times and her heart can take no more Ashley, you bastard! At least pop’s very own Jennifer Aniston remembers who she is now. Stay strong, poor Cheryl.

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David Guetta – Titanium

Not sure I should say this about no one’s favourite DJ and producer, but this isn’t at all bad. The chorus is an anthemic affair, and will provoke many a fist pump in Ibiza no doubt. But Titanium’s strength is that it could also be enjoyed by non idiots.  I really don’t want to encourage the guy though, we may never see the back of him.

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DJ Fresh f Rita Ora – Hot Right Now

I vaguely remember seeing a DJ Fresh on a few occasions during my ill advised ‘DnB’ phase at university. Back then, it was safe the say the genre had died a death with the only other people liking drum n bass being students from the home counties who desperately wanted to appear ‘urban’ and buzzing 40 year old men who still thought it was 1991. If this is the same DJ Fresh, he appears to be back in favour having teamed up with Rita Ora, or ‘budget Rhianna’ as it says on her CV. Despite being told many times that Rita Ora is the best thing to happen to British pop since Lisa Scott Lee finally decided to end her solo career, I’m convinced that she falls firmly into the category of “Singers signed on the basis that they look like other more popular singers” (see also: James Morrison with Chris Martin). In the chorus, Rita criticises me for ‘only being in it cos it’s hot right now’ – ‘it’ from what I can gather, being the ‘Drum n Bass scene’. So I propose that if she isn’t on stage accompanying DJ Fresh at the Bristol UWE Student Union Freshers Ball in 2017 when once again no one gives a fuck about ‘DnB’, I am well within my rights to throw Rita’s angry accusations right back at her.

Perhaps I’m being a bit unfair on poor Rita for her likeness to the world’s biggest pop star. Sorry Ms Ora, I wish you and your ‘bad boy’ partner Kris Braun all the very best for the future.

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Florence and the Machine – Spectrum (Say my name)

God, the shrieking! Another singer wants to know their own name, but this time I’m loath to tell her. The best quote I’ve ever heard about Florence’s trademark wail came from Liam Gallagher (who is hardly in a position to judge these days, but I’ll quote him anyway), who said it sounded like “someone has trodden on her foot”. I now challenge anyone to listen to a Florence and the Machine song without now thinking of this analogy. I know I can’t.

Kiss FM: The playlist dissected (Part One)

18 Sep

I’ve recently been working in an office which has a radio. In normal circumstances I would welcome this, but this week the dial has been turned to Kiss FM, a radio station that caters for those who think Jessie J is a little too street. KISS FM has a song playlist of under 15 songs, which they can get away with playing several times a day, often in exactly the same order, due to the fact that no one of sane mind would ever listen to the station for eight hours straight every day.

Except me. It’s only Tuesday, and I calculate that I have heard each of the following songs approximately 30 times since 9:00am Monday morning, and if I didn’t want to kill Will I Am before then, he tops my list today. I therefore believe that no one on earth can speak about these tunes with a more intricate knowledge than I, and I am prepared to share my educated views with you

1) Will I Am – This is Love

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First to the aforementioned William. This is without question the worst song on the radio at present. William has never failed to enrage with his lazy and often plagiarised song writing, in which constant repetition of the same fucking singular line, occasionally interspersed with an autotuned atrocity feigning as a ‘rap’ (again, usually the same one line repeated)  equates to a chart single. Eva Simons (more commonly known as ‘who?’) shrieks the chorus over and over and over and over to the point that I no longer fear Hell – eternal fire and brimstone being no match for listening to this mind eroding shit 6 or 7 times a day.  Everyone involved in this track should be utterly ashamed of themselves – I would gladly give Will and his Peas all my future earnings if they promise to just stop the horror they inflict on us all.

2) Flo Rida – Wild ones

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I am a little mournful about this track, as I think the chorus hook is pretty damn good. Wisely, the song opens with this and I imagine it provokes a roar of agreeable screams when pumped out at an 18-30 type nightclub, whether it be in Ibiza or Swindon. However, I also envision excitement turning to indifference once reliable old Flo’s trademark dull rapping takes over for the verses. While I’m impressed that a Flo Rida song actually has a decent chorus that wasn’t nicked from someone else (like Dead or Alive), he somehow manages to make his own song worse.  I suspect that ‘Wild Ones’ probably would have performed just as well if Flo Rida didn’t feature on it at all, and I suggest that he consider this option for his future singles.

3) JLS – Hottest Girl in the World

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To which I am asked several times by the chaps ‘How does it feel to be the hottest girl in the world right now?’. Unless the organisers of the distinguished “Hottest Girl in the World Contest” have made a serious error of judgement, I don’t think this question was meant for me.

4) Cheryl Cole  – Call My Name

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I fear there’s a wave of collective amnesia amongst pop stars at present, due to numerous requests in recent pop songs to call, or say, ‘my name’. Poor Cheryl Cole is the latest victim, presumably caused by  that dastardly Ashley being an idiot again, and after three minutes she’s no closer to knowing her identity, the year or the president. The chorus hook is a standard Calvin Harris affair, but it’s fair to say he’s left his best for Rhianna – once again, poor Cheryl comes second. Having heard this far too many times, I conclude that if this song dropped in tempo and were played on a series of acoustic guitars, an out of tune choir and a crap drummer, it would sound exactly like most of Graham Kendrick’s happy clappy output. Much like this one

5) Carly Rae Jepson – Call me Maybe

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Not a lot I can say about this really, other than I honestly think it’s a fucking good pop song. For me, this song has managed to do everything all Katy Perry songs have failed to do – it’s fun and catchy without trying to be “LOL RANDOM” (translation: annoying). As we know from Will I Am’s pathetic efforts, writing a deceptively simple pop song is not at all easy, so I take my hat off to the writers (I’ve since learnt Jepson is one of these – good work!). I have no idea who Carly Rae Jepson is and something tells me she’ll be a one hit wonder. But this doesn’t matter – when the tenth playing of ‘This Is Love’ in two hours has made me smash a window with my forehead, I’m extremely glad she’s there to restore serenity.

PS – Justin Bieber apparently popularised this. So he has contributed something after all.

More to follow…..

Lorraine Kelly. Our only hope for a better future

29 Jun

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I love Lorraine Kelly. Much like Alex Ferguson and my perpetual feelings of self shame, Lorraine has always just been there. She is a sturdy backbone in a rapidly evolving society where, if the Tories are to be believed, everyone is now an entrepreneur or small business owner.

 I am not an entrepreneur. I can’t even spell entrepreneur without the aid of trusty old spellcheck – and even that has trouble, offering only ‘entrapment’ as an alternative when I right click on my red, underlined monstrosity of an attempt. I don’t own a business and I have not at any point applied to be on ‘The Apprentice’ so am therefore, in these times of ill-advised austerity, a failure. Even Paris Hilton calls herself a ‘businesswoman’ these days. And although I still harbour my doubts about that, what is clear is that I have failed to follow this decade’s golden rule – that life equals profit, and everyone else can go fuck themselves.

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Yep. All business

But despite now being an arduous drain on society, I can count on Lorraine to never pour scorn on me. On the contrary, Lorraine has made a career of telling those of us who are now able to watch television between 8:30 and 9:30am on a weekday not to worry about anything and that it will all be just super in the end. She offers a slice of morning comfort before Jeremy Kyle begins his daily dose of incessant screaming at the poor.

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 A typical showing of “Lorraine” begins with a morning paper review, alongside two guests from the world of broadcast journalism. These can range from the New Statesmen’s political editor Medhi Hassan to ‘Celebrity Love Island Extra’ host Mark Durden Smith. With this being Lorraine rather than Newsnight, the paper review is usually made up of a ratio permitting one story covering the main political issue of the day to three about the perils of childcare, Jennifer Aniston or whatever rubbish study Mumsnet have orchestrated . Arguments are generally kept to a minimum and conclusions always fall in to the categories of “isn’t that nice” or “oh dear”. It is the most upbeat and smiley newspaper review on television, even if faced with a major natural disaster or a new government proposal to introduce extra tax breaks for cabinet ministers.

 After the obligatory “ring us to share your worthless opinion on today’s stories” piece, Lorraine asks if I would like £30,000. Before I can say “yes please, thanks Lorraine!”, a forgotten star from TVs golden past (Tim Vincent! Jenny Powell!) is on screen wondering around a swimming pool and telling me what I could do with the money Lorraine has just kindly offered. Sadly though, just as I think my day couldn’t get any better, it transpires that I need to answer a devious brainteaser before Lorraine will let me claim her gift. The show swiftly moves on from there as I tear my hair out; Lorraine knowing full well that I will never know whether “A big fuss over a small matter can be described as “A Storm in a…

  1. Teacup
  2. Hiccup
  3. Buttercup

There are a couple of ‘real life’ story sections of the show, in which a person or persons is gently asked about a horrible thing that’s happened to them recently but it’s all ok because now “things are looking up”. This is of no interest to me, as I’m too busy deliberating over whether I should ring in and have a stab at C) Buttercup.

Later on, we’re treated to advice/chat from a varied selection of contributors who are experts in their chosen field – Lorraine can’t be expected to know everything, after all. These sections can be about fashion, diets, celebrity gossip, soap news, food preparation or the study of quantum physics, with only one of these being a lie. There are two co-presenters that I have a particular fascination for above all others – money man Martin Lewis and self-styled ‘Fashion Guru’ Mark Hayes.

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Martin Lewis

Martin Lewis, not to be confused with stern 1990s newsreader Martyn Lewis, is a money saving expert who has seen demand for his expertise rise tenfold since the banks fucked the world up. The man is made entirely from money off coupons and free samples. It is believed that Lewis only buys produce if it offers a full refund if you’re not 100% satisfied, claiming only 90% satisfaction and his money back every time. Lewis has reportedly never been in a pub when it wasn’t happy hour or £1 VK bottle night.

If I were so inclined, I imagine a date with Martin Lewis would either be the best or worst thing ever. On one hand, he has so many vouchers saved up he could probably take you around the world for three weeks for the price of a Cornish pasty. Alternatively, he could quite possibly spend all night arguing with staff at a branch of Prezzo who can no longer take his excessive abuse of their “2 for 1” deals.

But with such economic mastery, comes great power and Lewis’ enthusiastic approach to scrimping has nearly destroyed me on many occasions. This morning, he bounded on to my screen to excitedly tell me that Marks and Spencer had reduced the price of its school uniform by 20%. Beside myself with glee, I immediately rushed out and bought 36 pairs of primary school shorts. Surrounded by small shorts and unable to afford food for at least 2 weeks, I now realise that the dastardly cheapskate has snared me again.

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No chance of that from Mark Hayes, a fashion expert who on today’s show was brought on board to calm our fears about looking flabby on the beach, usually while surrounded by three or four skinny models. I have no doubt whatsoever that Mark Hayes knows his subject area very well, but I find that I never listen to a word he says due to being hypnotised by his choice of haircut. As a male on the wrong side of 25, I’m often concerned by the rising temples that make up my hairline. However, Hayes seems to fully embrace his, embodying a style comparable to a shorn, hardened Tintin that screams “Look at my massive widows peak!” He also (much like myself) has a rather awkward stance when standing still, which he has to on a daily basis at the beginning of each episode, surrounded by pretty models as Lorraine informs us who this evil Tintin is and what the fuck he’s doing there.

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Ross King

After Hayes, we may be treated to a bit of Ross King, who sits in front of a picture of the Hollywood hills and talks about the famous people he’s met that week. While this is sold as celebrity gossip, it is actually just a vehicle for King to tell those of us watching at home that he’s having a far nicer life than we are. While some may consider that Lorraine is sticking the boot in at this point, I would argue that this is completely necessary. Lorraine is preparing us, if only slightly, for the foul and loud abuse Jeremy Kyle is mere minutes away from unleashing. Ross King is an orange stop gap between the “be confident, fatty” mantra of Hayes, to the “Kill yourself right now you dumb piece of shit” philosophy of Kyle. Going directly from one to the other would provoke riots on our streets, and Lorraine Kelly, with nearly 30 years of broadcasting experience under her belt, knows this all too well. 

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The Jeremy Kyle riots of 2011 brought the country to it’s knees

And so concludes Lorraine for another day. As the closing theme music plays, I am left contemplating about how much discounted school uniform I could have bought with the £30,000 offered earlier, or whether I could form a small business based around throwing bricks at Jeremy Kyle. As ever, she’ll be back tomorrow, fresh with a new set of tips for looking acceptable on the beach and telling Posh Spice to cheer up a bit.

When the sad day comes that “Lorraine” is to be no more, replaced by her inadequate Friday stand ins, they’ll be no need for hell. We’ll already be there.

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Yep

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Why are TV Adverts always challenging me?

11 Apr

I’ve written on this very blog before about a senseless ‘challenge’ in the world of advertising – that of the Gillette Fusion Pro Glide that stole all our hearts about a year ago. However, it occurred to me recently there has been an increasing number of ‘challenges’ set before me by a television advert.
The discovery came to me during Colgate’s latest advertising campaign, where a disapproving man in a shopping centre scans the filthy mouths of unsuspecting members of the public. Presumably after a swift ticking off, he hands them a tube of Colgate and sends them home in shame. They are to return to him the next day for further inspection, and God help them if he doesn’t see an improvement.


This is not a new advert, and I’m sure many have dissected it better than I. However, recent airings have asked me to take part in the Colgate ‘Healthy Mouth Challenge’, making Colgate the latest of a number of quite bland consumer products to inflict baffling quests on its audience to make them appear more important, or dare I say, fun. Oddly enough, these challenges usually consist of you buying more of their products than usual.
While adverts put their products ‘to the test’ all the time (the most aggressive of these was the stork margarine test from the 1970s, in which TVs Leslie Crowther harasses shoppers for not buying Stork) the first advert I can remember that directly set a challenge for the consumer was for Kelloggs cereal. This advert featured shots of angry women squirming into a pair of ill fitting jeans – Kelloggs then promised that we would drop a Jean size if we ate nothing but their cereal for breakfast and dinner for two weeks. It of course makes more sense to buy bigger jeans than buy a truckload of Special K, but where’s the challenge in that? Besides, this gave us a quick fix solution to an issue we all know can’t be fixed quickly – that of ‘slowing down tubby’.


Its a near genius concept – firstly, participants would have to buy twice as much Kelloggs cereal to keep up with the double dosage. If successful, there may be a week or so of reduced jean size delight before your arse expands to its original state, unable to cope with the increased calorie intake of which your pre Kelloggs challenge diet consisted. The solution? Buy more cereal and do it again – it worked last time! It was interactive advertising and proved very effective, despite it being a rather obvious marketing ploy.

It’s no wonder other companies wanted in on this gold mine – somehow buying more of their stuff became a challenge of which your health would benefit. Soon we were awash with ‘challenges’ which were at best questionable, and at worst utterly pointless.


Volvic took to copying Kelloggs entirely by ‘challenging’ its customers to drink its water for 14 days in a row. The reasons for this were rather unconvincing – the best Volvic and their trusty lab technicians could muster was that it made you ‘feel better inside’ and ‘alert’. While they waited for their Nobel prize, we were given lacklustre advertising campaign that followed the exploits of ‘Jimmy’, a hyper active wannabe Children’s TV presenter who has braved this quest for reasons only known to himself. This, in short, was a pretty crap challenge.

And so it proved – it seemed that ‘feeling better inside’ wasn’t as good an incentive as ‘lose a fair bit of weight without doing much’ and unsurprisingly, we haven’t heard much about this challenge since its launch in 2009. Given the additional quandary that you can get water out of a tap for free with the same result (or possibly better, if this study is to be believed), the ‘Volvic challenge’ felt like a completely pointless endeavour.
However, bad as it was, at least Volvic’s campaign did make correct use of the word ‘challenge’. Other campaigns, such as the aforementioned Gillette and Colgate, or the recent’ Asda Price Guarantee challenge’ seem to misunderstand the concept entirely.

From what I can gather, the ‘Gillette fusion pro glide challenge’ consists solely of buying a new razor – theirs to be specific. Meanwhile, Colgate’s ‘Healthy Mouth Challenge’ pits you against an online questionnaire in which you are set devious mind teasers such as “Are you Male or Female” and “Do you brush your teeth more than once a day?”.

As for Asda’s challenge (leaving for a moment that the advert features what could be the shittest family day out ever – what’s so funny?), it seems to involve spending over £40 at one of their stores, then getting a voucher for £5. How any of these can be considered a ‘challenge’ is never really made clear, especially as it appears there is no possibility of failing them.

If the Gillette, Colgate and Asda campaigns are a challenge, the same can surely be said for almost everything you do. Why, just today I was pitted against my wits when I took on the ‘Having a Piss Challenge’, and stared danger in the face whilst attempting the ‘Opening the Curtains Challenge’ . I am immensely looking forward to taking on the ‘Eating a Sandwich Challenge’ later on today.
I suppose my point is that the obsession with products setting pointless challenge is getting a little ridiculous now. How long before I’m invited to attempt the “Natwest Current Account Challenge” or dared to take on the “Hilarys Blinds Conquest”? Will I be nobly defeated by the “Injury Lawyers 4 U Challenge” that’s surely coming my way?

Frankly, they should just stop it now – we’re not buying it anymore. I can find my own challenges thanks, and rest assured none of them involve block buying a common household product.
Incidentally, if anyone would like to instead sponsor me in my charity “Put on my socks whilst eating Three Birdseye Potato Waffles Challenge” on June 14th, please go over to my just giving page at http://putonmysockswhilsteatingthreebirdseyepotatowaffleschallenge.justgiving.com and give all you can!

It’s for a great cause – tube fares are getting a bit expensive nowadays so it would be good to raise a bit of money to help me out a bit. Thanks guys!