Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: June 2016

Roy Hodgson reluctantly faced the music on Tuesday after Englands shock 2-1 defeat by Iceland

Roy Hodgson reluctantly faced the music on Tuesday after Englands shock 2-1 Euro 2016 defeat by Iceland. I dont really know what I am doing here, he said at a media conference in Chantilly, having resigned as manager the previous night.

Hodgson issued a statement after the last-16 match in which he confirmed he was standing down and was clear on Tuesday that he would have preferred not to have appeared alongside the Football Associations chief executive, Martin Glenn.

I dont really know what I am doing here, I thought my statement last night was sufficient, he said. Im no longer the England manager, my time has gone, but I was told it was important that I appear here.

I guess that is partly because people are smarting from the defeat last night that saw us leave the tournament. I suppose someone has to stand and take the slings and arrows that come with it.

My emotions are obvious ones. I am really disappointed. I didnt see the defeat coming. Nothing in the first three games here gave me any indication that we would play as poorly as we did.

Unfortunately, they are one-off events. If one of those one-off events you dont turn up, even an opponent that are not entirely fancied like Iceland can beat you. That is what happened.

Read more:

Prier was at the heart of the pop explosion of the 1960s, capturing homegrown stars such as Jacques Dutronc and Johnny Hallyday along with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Miles Davis

Read more:

Alexis Petridis watched as Worthy Farms vast audiences were swept away by preposterous pomp, moments of magic and real emotional connection

There was a time, before smartphones and broadband, when you could happily spend the Glastonbury weekend cut off from the outside world. News of what was going on beyond the festivals boundaries tended to arrive in the form of profoundly unreliable rumours: for some reason, on annual basis in the mid-90s, these included one about the sudden death of Cliff Richard. Now, you cant get away from current events. Early arrivers on Thursday take part in a gathering in memory of MP Jo Cox; a tribute video, featuring Portisheads sombre version of Abbas SOS, is shown before proceedings begin on the Pyramid stage on Friday morning. Over in the NYC Downlow, DJ Roger Sanchez interrupts his set to read out the names of the victims of the Orlando massacre.

While you would have a hard time arguing that Friday mornings news about Brexit plunges the festivals mood into shellshocked reflection or anger indeed, if it affects it at all, you get the feeling that people who have paid a lot of money to be here might have been even more determined than usual to enjoy themselves before returning home to face an uncertain future it would have taken an almost superhuman effort to avoid it altogether.

People keep talking about it from the stage. Sometimes their comments are downcast: I have a very heavy heart today, says Damon Albarn. Democracy has failed us because it was ill-informed. Sometimes they are angry Fuck David Cameron, yells grime MC Novelist and sometimes theyre self-deprecating. Im a rock star, what the fuck do I know? muses the 1975s frontman Matty Healy, before suggesting: Theres a sentiment of anti-compassion thats spread across the older generation, and theyve voted us a future that we dont want.

And sometimes they urge us to look hopefully at the bigger picture. I know this is a disappointing day for some, offers Yannis Philippakis of alt-rocker Foals, but the sun is out and its a big day for us. Alas, the cheer that greets this feels a little half-hearted, as if even their most vociferous fans are beset by the sneaking suspicion that Friday 24 June might not go down in history as A Big Day For Foals.

Damon Albarn with and Bassekou Kouyate and the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians. Photograph: Ian Gavan/Getty Images

Albarns comments come at the start of a performance by the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians, the latest world music project to arrive in Britain under the auspices of his Africa Express organisation. It feels like a brave move, not just because of the logistical difficulties in assembling the musicians, scattered around the globe by Syrias civil war, but because it was an expectedly lengthy musical interlude featuring some of the musicians performing today that sent Gorillazs famously underwhelming 2010 Glastonbury headlining set off-piste: strangers to the concept of leaving them wanting more, the Syrians ended up leaving them leaving to see what was happening on the Other stage.

This performance, however, really works. The strings weave dramatically around the kora of Seckou Keita and the ngoni of Bassekou Kouyate, the latter played through a wah pedal to distinctly psychedelic effect. Albarn comes out for a version of Blurs Out of Time, set to an eerie, off-kilter backing. It sounds haunting and strange, although the increasingly frantic looks being passed between the singer and the musicians suggest its eerie off-kilterness might not be entirely intentional.

Over on the Other stage, Hlose Letissier of Christine and the Queens has come up with a novel approach to worsening weather conditions: standing at the lip of the stage, throwing punches at the sky, she appears to be offering the rain out for a fight. Then again, Letissier seems to have come up with a novel approach to virtually everything she does. Her set is one of Glastonburys unequivocal highlights, slipping between the coolly stylised and choreographed flanked by male dancers, shes a slick, captivating performer and the impassioned and eccentric.

She throws roses at the crowd because its a first date, muses on the resemblance of various other flowers to a selection of R&B divas (This one is like Rihanna, she says, brandishing a lily, So beautiful. Id like to eat Rihanna), interpolates her own songs with covers of Technotronics Pump Up the Jam and Stardusts Music Sounds Better With You, and smacks herself in the chest with her fist as she sings. She couldnt be more French if she came on stage in a beret with a string of onions round her neck, but watching the crowd sing along with Tilted her addition to a fairly slender pantheon of anthemic pop songs about pansexuality the idea of her achieving the same mainstream fame here as she has across the Channel seems far from inconceivable.

French royalty: Christine and the Queens (AKA Hlose Letissier) performing on the Other stage. Photograph: Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage

Indeed, for all the Radio 2-friendliness of some of this years big names Bastille, whose brand of synth-pop sounds as if it was thoroughly scrubbed with Dettol before being allowed out in public, the cheery one-woman M People de nos jours that is Jess Glynne more complex and idiosyncratic approaches to pop music are cheeringly easy to find.

Up on the Park stage on Friday afternoon, Unknown Mortal Orchestra draw a big crowd for their off-message blend of 80s funk, psychedelia and lyrics about the emotional convolutions of a polyamorous relationship. The crowd hang around for Ezra Furman, having clearly decided that if you only listen to one cross-dressing, gender-fluid, observant Jewish singer-songwriter performing ramshackle 50s rocknroll-influenced songs heavy on the honking sax, it should be him. They are rewarded with a set that opens with Furman, for reasons best known to himself, eschewing the traditional Hello Glastonbury, its so good be here greeting in favour of shouting, Tentative stab wound!, and gets progressively less predictable from thereon in: the whole thing teeters, rather thrillingly, on the verge of a collapse into total chaos.

Anyone who likes their music more reliable is presumably over at the Pyramid, watching ZZ Top, who are exactly as you would expect ZZ Top to be: beards, hats, furry guitars, the mid-80s MTV hits floating around in a sea of amiably chugging blues-boogie with lyrics about things that unreconstructed real men from Texas write lyrics about: going to barbecues, cars, female buttocks etc.

Pomp and circumstance: Matt Bellamy of Muse. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

You couldnt wish for a bigger contrast with headliners Muse, a band who are not likely to write a song about having a barbecue or, indeed, goin downtown to look for some tush any time soon. Their set opens with a Big Brother-like figure mercilessly haranguing the audience from the screens on either side of the stage, but its not all as subtle as that. For years now, Muse have sounded like the winners of a competition to see who can cram the greatest number and variety of bombastic flourishes into every song: riffs that sound as if they are based on Bachs Toccata and Fugue in D minor; widdly-woo guitar solos involving much tapping of fingers on the fretboard; bovver-booted glam drums; pounding Giorgio Moroder-ish synth lines; ostentatious Rachmaninov-inspired piano embellishments; a combination of quasi-operatic vocals and conspiracy-theory lyrics that occasionally leave them sounding like Queen if Freddie Mercury had digested the complete works of David Icke en route to the studio.

At its worst, when youre assailed by the terrible creeping fear that all the New World Order and survivalist cobblers in their lyrics might not be meant ironically, it can feel a bit exhausting its hard not to wish they would occasionally dial it down a bit: perhaps a couple of numbers about barbecues or bums might not be such a bad idea after all. But at its best, when the songs pack choruses as big as the bands desire for grandiosity Plug In Baby or Starlight its both preposterous and preposterously entertaining.

Saturday morning brings with it more rain, which seems to dampen peoples enthusiasm for Shuras take on synth-pop a shame, because it sounds noticeably richer and smarter than the kind of thing Radio 1 usually clasps to its heart. Squeeze, on the other hand, go down a storm with an audience that is, admittedly, largely of an age to remember the band from the first time around. Their set is peppered with impermeable hits Up the Junction, Tempted, Is That Love? while Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrooks evident delight at the rejuvenated Squeezes success is a pretty infectious thing. Labelled With Love, the saga of an ageing, lonely alcoholic, seems a strong candidate for the most depressing song ever to provoke a mass festival singalong.

Skepta performing on the Pyramid stage. Photograph: exEX/Shutterstock

Anyone surveying the swaying crowd and wondering where all the young people went could do worse than head up to the Park stage, where Lady Leshurr is doing her second set of the weekend. There is a lot of grime on offer at Glastonbury this year. If you are looking for confirmation of the genres ascendancy to huge commercial, as well as artistic importance, then Skeptas Friday-afternoon set on the Pyramid stage seems strong evidence. He is not the first grime MC to appear there: Dizzee Rascal beat him to it by several years. But Dizzee Rascals sets were heavy on concessions to pop-rap, and Skeptas is anything but. Its raw and wilfully menacing, the appearance of fellow MC Frisco on stage astride a BMX notwithstanding: it provokes a mosh pit.

Lady Leshurr, meanwhile, wins over the crowd with self-deprecating Brummie wit: Go crazy, she tells the crowd. Just pretend youre watching Adele or Jay Z. Shes an incredibly engaging performer, dedicating Crispy Bacon to a particularly sunburnt reveller in the crowd, and enquiring after the audiences hygiene: How did you brush your teeth today? Toothpaste and no water? Ugh. Behind the pulverising bass and the gunshot sound effects, there lurks a very British and very funny kind of lyrical bathos. In Queens Speech 5, one adversary is dismissed as a pick your nose and eat it gyal; elsewhere, her lyrics are changed to reflect her surroundings: I cant stand girls who take their wellies off in the rave, Ill step on your big toe to teach you how to behave.

Wigging out: Suggs with Madness. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Curiously, it doesnt feel jarring at all to leave her performance and go and see Madness, who draw an immense crowd to the Pyramid stage. Id like to apologise to anyone whos camping near my family some of them seemed to move away this morning, says Suggs, who does have the air of a man who has recently been enjoying himself in time-honoured Glastonbury style. The success of their performance is about as close to a foregone conclusion as you can get the sun comes out during Our House, It Must Be Love retains its nonpareil ability to make everything seem temporarily all right with the world, the crowd let out a collective aw when the stage is flooded with the bands children and grandchildren. But its not without its surprises: quite aside from Suggss increasingly wayward between-song pronouncements, theres both a beautiful cover of David Bowies Kooks and a baffling interlude where proceedings are halted in order for guitarist Chris Foreman to sing a karaoke version of AC/DCs Highway to Hell.

In the John Peel tent, John Grant seems to be having one of those fabled Glastonbury moments where festival mood and music combine into something that feels genuinely magical. He has flu, he complains, and hes losing his voice. But when it gives out, on Glacier, a tumultuous version of Queen of Denmark and GMF, the audience take up the slack, to hugely moving effect: you realise how much the lyrics of these songs at turns coruscatingly bitchy and tender and warm mean to people. Grant looks authentically overawed: later he takes to Facebook and calls it one of the greatest experiences he has ever had on stage.

Every inch the rock star: Matty Healy of the 1975. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Elsewhere, the 1975s Matty Healy has helpfully turned up on stage dressed as a rock star white flared suit, sunglasses, cigarette dangling from lip but, like Hlose Letissier, his onstage persona is an intriguing, engaging combination of the knowingly mannered and the heartfelt. He moves like a man who took that motivational poem about dancing as if no one is watching very much to heart; his bands clever repurposing of 80s AOR replete with a saxophone played by a man dressed as a mid-80s saxophonist, his flowing locks tousled by the breeze sounds flatly fantastic here.

By contrast, Tame Impala, parachuted into the pre-Adele slot, struggle a little to connect. Theres nothing wrong with their music, which sounds every bit as dense and spectacular as it does on record a polished, individual 21st-century reboot of psychedelia but, with the best will in their world, they are not a band overflowing with charisma on stage.

The announcement of Adele as Saturday-night headliner met with considerable controversy: you dont have to be implacably opposed to her brand of multi-platinum heartbroken balladry to see why. Indeed, she can see it herself: I dont have a lot of upbeat happy songs, which is why I think people were annoyed, she says from the stage. But fuck them, eh?

Charm offensive: swearing and perfect delivery from Adele won over the Saturday-night crowd. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

She neednt have worried: the crowd she draws is absolutely vast, even by the standards of Saturday-night Pyramid stage headliners, underlining the fact that she is currently the biggest pop star in the world. In the middle of it, a boy sits on a camping chair, doggedly ignoring everything around him in favour of playing Minecraft on his iPad, but everyone else seems almost as delighted to see her as she is to see them: initially, she keeps squawking the words, Fuckin ell, in the middle of songs, as if she cant believe whats happening, later showing a video of her first Glastonbury performance to a tiny audience in a Guardian-sponsored acoustic tent nine years ago as evidence of why she might be feeling flabbergasted. Indeed, theres something pretty winning about the dramatic contrast between Adele the singer a composed, effortless, unshowy vocalist, still capable of injecting real emotion into songs she now must have sung thousands of times and Adele the person who takes to the microphone between songs and asks if anyone in the audience has shit themselves over the course of the weekend. Is there piss in that cup? she enquires of someone in the front row. Dont throw it at me.

Unperturbed by the lack of almost anything you can dance to in her set there are potent versions of Rumour Has It and Rolling in the Deep, but otherwise its ballads all the way the audience lap up her charm offensive, which extends to diving into the crowd and re-emerging wearing a fez, and bringing a 10-year-old girl on stage, asking her what her favourite colour is and taking a selfie with her. You could argue its got a whiff of the end-of-the-pier about it, but, equally, theres something pretty bracing about her absolute refusal to conform to the standard notions of festival headlining cool: perhaps one of the side-effects of selling 50m albums is that you develop a keenly defined sense of self.

She ends with Someone Like You, which is both her biggest hit and an oddly downbeat conclusion. She leaves the stage before it ends: there is no encore. No one seems to mind: they drift off into the night, still singing its chorus en masse.

By Sunday, its hard to avoid the sense that the conditions on site are starting to wear on people a little: even Michael Eavis, a man who you suspect would still find a way of declaring it the best Glastonbury ever if the site were subjected to an outbreak of plague, is paying sombre tribute to the fortitude of anyone who has stuck it out. ELO roll out the hits to an audience whose enthusiasm is impressively undimmed, but there is no mistaking the ripple of hollow laughter that greets the line in Mr Blue Sky about there not being a cloud in sight: the skies are a blanket of slate grey and constant drizzle. It feels bizarrely like being at a festival on overcast afternoon in November.

Elsewhere, PJ Harvey reads out John Donnes Meditation XVII in protest at the Brexit vote in the middle of a really powerful set. It is heavy on both the twisted, doomy blues that powers her most recent album The Hope Six Demolition Project, and the singers knowingly arch, stylised, regal posturing. Meanwhile, its hard not to be impressed by the sheer size of the crowd that Kamasi Washington draws to the West Holts stage. Modern jazz artists who transcend the limited audience for modern jazz tend to do so by popping up their sound, much to the disgust of purists You want to do crossover? Crossover my black ass, as Miles Davis once rasped but Washington seems to have done it without compromising his music at all. His sound is tough and funky, sometimes beautiful, sometimes confrontational, about as far removed from the world of Michael Parkinson-approved jazz-lite as its possible to get.

On the main stage, Beck looks a little bewildered, as a gentleman born, raised and still resident in the sun-kissed loveliness of California is perhaps wont to be when confronted with the sight of what is officially muddiest Glastonbury ever. Nevertheless, his performance cuts a crowd-pleasing, populist swathe through his eclectic back catalogue E-Pro, Loser, a lot of stuff from Odelay. He joins the ranks of artists keen to pay homage to the late David Bowie, encouraging his guitarist to perform China Girl. It might have made for a more heartfelt tribute if he had actually known the words, but the audience seem to decide that its the thought that counts.

Shamelessly corny and hugely effective: Chris Martin of Coldplay. Photograph: Ian Gavan/Getty Images

What is needed on the Pyramid stage as Glastonbury draws to a close is not a head-spinningly original and challenging exploration of rocks bleeding edge, but something comforting and familiar the musical equivalent of a baked potato. Enter Coldplay, stadium rocks answer to Spudulike, to an accompaniment of fireworks and a tape of a voice saying: You the people have the power. It is tempting to go: yeah, and look where exercising it has got us. But a suitable degree of cynicism is genuinely hard to maintain in light of what follows. Its our favourite place in the world, says Chris Martin as he walks on stage: by the conclusion of Yellow, hes thanking the audience for restoring our faith in the world.

The audience, for their part, start bellowing along and dont really stop for the next hour and a half: through Every Teardrop is a Waterfall, a version of Paradise that now comes with a pounding house coda attached, Viva La Vida and Fix You, the latter a song that always sounds substantially less mawkish when thousands of people are singing along. The trick of distributing thousands of flashing wristbands to the crowd and getting them to wave their arms in time to the music is both shamelessly corny and hugely effective as the night draws in.

They eschew a cover of David Bowies Heroes in favour of paying tribute to Viola Beach, the young band who were killed in car accident earlier this year: showing a video of them playing their debut single, then joining in the song themselves, creating an alternative future for them. They also seem to have noticed that the other Pyramid stage headliners havent done anything particularly out of the ordinary, and that its down to them to, as Martin puts it, pull out all the stops to make it special.

For an encore, they bring out first Barry Gibb to sing To Love Somebody and Staying Alive, then Michael Eavis to sing My Way. People, understandably, go nuts: you can, if youre so minded, mock Coldplays innate musical conservatism, their shameless emotional button-pushing, but youd have a hard time arguing that they dont make perfect sense in a setting such as this. What is the point of Coldplay? is an oft-asked question among more waspish music fans and critics. Tonight, the fairly obvious answer seems to be: well, this.

Read more:

Against signs of global intolerance such as Brexit the proper answers are cosmpolitanism, art and solidarity

Jo Cox. Amjad Sabri.

This may seem like an unrelated pair. One was a British MP, one a Pakistani singer. But within one week, the two were killed by their countrymen. They were humanists. They faced outwards, at a moment when fascists are trying to shove us into cages of religion or race. They stood up for universal values, not exclusionary tribalism.

Exclusionary tribalism is making a comeback. In America, the Cheetos Fascist rallies the crowds with promises to Make America Great Again, a feat he intends to accomplish by kicking out Mexicans and Muslims, and kicking black people down. Never mind that his Great America never actually existed. And though the Brexit was a 17.4-million-vote fuck you to David Cameron and the austerity-loving EU, it was also a self-destructive convulsion of xenophobia. Within days, eastern Europeans and people of color reported over a hundred instances of racist abuse. A letter reading Leave the EU. No more Polish vermin appeared in the mailboxes of Polish families in Huntingdon. To many Leave voters, taking Britain back meant more than booting out the EUs technocrats they wanted to purge their island of foreigners and brown people too.

There are other, more obviously violent fetishists for purity. Religious fascists such as the Pakistani Taliban and Isis imagine a return to some glorious Islamic golden age if they can just murder all atheists, intellectuals, artists, uppity women, religious minorities, journalists, bloggers, gay people and anyone with a thought in their heads.

Is this our grim meat-hook future? Will we wake up in five years to see a world where notions such as universal human rights elicit snickers, and humanity is a benefit afforded only to members of ones group?

What can guide us through this cesspit? Cosmopolitanism. Art. Solidarity. Universal ethics. These might seem like fragile concepts, but they are ones that people have died for.

Jo Cox was killed on 16 June. As an MP, Cox fought for refugees, for Britains Muslim community, for Palestinians under siege in Gaza and for Syrians under barrel bombs in Aleppo. She took brave, unpopular stands, even breaking with her own party, because she did not believe that a foreign life was worth less than a British one.

On 22 June, the Taliban gunned down Amjad Sabri. Sabri was famous as a master of the qawwali, an exquisite, 800-year-old form of Sufi devotional music, whose complex, lyrical beauty brings listeners closer to God. Born on the subcontinent, the qawwali is one of Islams great contributions to culture, but to the Taliban, religion is only legitimate if its stripped of art. To them, qawwali singing represent a dangerous impurity so they murdered one of it great practitioners.

They are dead. Worse, their deaths seem part of a great shrinking of the world, into one crueler, pettier, stupider and more violent a world where machine gun towers seal off borders, kids drown in the Mediterranean, fanatics murder artists and orange jackasses trade in fear.

If theres one note of hope, its this. History keeps moving. Tomorrow always comes, and we help shape what that tomorrow will be. An MP and a singer made the world larger just by living. We build the world by living too. In spaces large and small, we can fight for universal ethics, cosmopolitanism, art, solidarity. On the beaches of Lesbos, across the mud of borders, in the streets of Chicago, against our lovers lips.

Read more:

Gimlet tries out sponsored content while Strange Fruit tackles pop culture from a black gay perspective and Turned Out a Punk takes a personal look at the genre

The Pew Research Center recently published its 2016 State of the News Media report, which shows that while podcasts are growing, podcast companies are still trying to come up with creative ways to make money. To that end, Gimlet Creative is now open for business. The sponsored content arm of the company behind shows like Reply All, Start Up, and Mystery Show (please come back soon, Mystery Show!) has teamed up with eBay for their first outing. The six-episode series is called Open for Business and focuses on stories of entrepreneurship. While its easy to be skeptical of marketing masquerading as podcasting, fans of serial drama The Message, which was produced by GE and Panoply Media, already know that sponsored content can make for compelling stories. So far, the stories on the show, which are not produced by Gimlets editorial staff, have been interesting enough to make you forget youre basically listening to an ad. The company also has five new podcasts in the works, including a true crime show from the creators of The Jinx.

For non-sponsored business-related content from Gimlet, Start Up had a fascinating story of a man who came up with his big business idea while sitting in solitary confinement for running a multimillion dollar drug operation. As Ramadan continues, On Being features the stories of 16 Muslims who share beautiful memories of faith and family in their exploration of the holiest month in the Islamic calendar.

The Toasts Mallory Ortberg has finally taken up residency on Slates Dear Prudence podcast. The highly anticipated pairing of Ortbergs exuberant ideology and the advice column has Ortberg waxing on important topics like the inner lives of people who spill drinks on themselves and Paneras clean salads. Bad Feminist author Roxane Gay and Lindy West, who penned Shrill, came to This American Life to talk about weight and self-esteem in a fascinating episode called Tell Me Im Me Fat.

Journalist Susan Faludi stopped by Open Source to talk with host Christopher Lydon about her real-life Transparent. In an episode titled My Father the Woman, Faludi continues the themes from her book, In the Darkroom, to discuss her relationship with her trans father. Fans of shows like Another Round and the Show About Race may want to check out Strange Fruit, the podcast from community activist Jaison Gardner (Jai) and University of Louisville professor Dr Kaila Story (Doc), who take deep dives into politics and pop culture from a black gay perspective. For more stories from behind the rainbow flag, subscribe to Cocktails and Cream Puffs, which takes a decidedly lighter tone in their conversations about gay culture, whether they are going out with contestants from RuPauls Drag Race or experiencing the exuberant joys of pride parades.

Podcasting tends to be talk-centric, but there are plenty of music-based podcasts that offer a lot more to listen to than talking heads. Seattles listener-sponsored radio station KEXPs Music That Matters has been keeping music fans in the know for years now thanks to their playlists of under-the-radar acts and indie outfits that are about to make it big. Recent episodes have featured songs from Twin Peaks, Speedy Ortiz, Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Prank, The Julie Ruin and more, all curated by the stations savvy DJs.

To further beef up your music library, there are plenty of Song of the Days podcasts including those from Austins KUTX, Minnesotas The Current, and Los Angeless KCRW. NPRs Alt. Latino takes listeners on a tour of whats next in Latin and Spanish rock and alternative music and Homoground gives listeners a playlist filled with queer (and queer friendly) bands and musicians for all their Pride parties (and beyond).

For those who like talking about music almost as much as listening to it, there are plenty of options for nerding out with other fans. Switched on Pop takes a closer look at the messages behind saccharine-soaked pop music. On their recent episode All About Those Baseline Assumptions About Feminism in Pop, hosts Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding teamed up with We Were Feminists Once author Andi Ziesler to explore the selling of feminism in pop music from Taylor Swift to the commercialization of riot grrl rebellion to Meghan Trainors corporate-approved feminism.

Song Exploder takes fans behind the music to get into the technical details of their favorite songs, like on a recent episode where they sat down with Chvrches to talk about their song Clearest Blue. The Talkhouse features great interviews between great artists, including a surprisingly interesting conversation between Sean Lennon and Les Claypool. The Combat Jack show is the reigning champion of hip-hop podcasts with every episode delivering a knock-out punch of music news, cultural conversations and interviews with industry heavyweights, proved once again in a recent chat with hip hop radio legends Stretch and Bobbito. On Turned Out a Punk, Fucked Up frontman Damian Abraham spoke with rock legend Priya Panda about how punk music shaped her life, including how she went from listening to the Misfits to working alongside the bands Jerry Only.

Read more:

As inspiring as it was to watch black people speak up about the state of the world, it was equally as depressing to see how corporate the entire affair was

Ideally, the BET awards should be a sort of state of blackness an awards show that doubles as a celebration of an entire culture. If you want to know where black people stand in the United States, tune in to the BET awards. Just dont expect a polished, thrill-a-minute, suspense-filled evening of television. At most, maybe you can hope that DJ Quik might forget hes on basic cable and use the F-word or you might see Lil Kim dressed like a mermaid.

That last nights show was unabashedly political with a memorable acceptance speech by Greys Anatomy actor Jesse Williams as its centerpiece and struck the right tone of fear and loathing was fitting after a week and 12 months that have been perilous at best. The BET awards took a stand for responsible gun legislation, against systemic racism, and for the lives of black people everywhere. It was a great show, unless it was doing literally anything else. You had to swim through missed cues, daft comedy sketches and awards that felt like they meant nothing, even to the winners. Plus, the dominance of advertisers was staggering. As inspiring as it was to watch black people speak up about the state of the world, it was equally as depressing to see how corporate the entire affair was.

The below is my running commentary a record of my decent into boredom.

5.01pm: The BET awards are filmed live from the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles. Your hosts are Black-ish stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross. Are they opening with Beyonc performing Freedom? Bold choice.

5.03pm: Theres a large pool in the middle of the stage, which my wife tells me is part of Beyoncs tour set-up. Well, now we know Beyonc doesnt actually walk on water. I can see very clearly that her feet are fully submerged. Like, how is anyone going to follow this? Why not have her go last to force people to stick around and watch the entire show?

5.09pm: So, to follow Beyonc and Kendrick Lamar, Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson do some Billy Crystal melody of popular hip-hop songs in the style of Hamilton and theres not a joke in sight. I guess they all thought it would be enough to put them in silly costumes and sing modern songs. They were sorely mistaken.

5.12pm: Congrats to everyone whos ever wanted to see R&B star Anthony Hamilton stroke a musket between his legs. The camera cuts to Birdman and DJ Khaled, who legitimately look unhappy to be there.

5.15pm: The first of many cutaways to the crowd revealing a person texting rather than watching the show. Memo to anyone who ever attends one of these events and gets to sit in proximity to a camera: they are filming you. Assume they are always filming you. If you are making plans for the after-party, wait until after the show. If you are sliding in some DMs, thats even worse. There should be a firm No DM Sliding rule at the BET awards. Having never been, maybe there is and I just dont know. That would explain why JR Smith didnt attend this year.

5.21pm: BiBi Bourelly performs in front of a giant Nissan ad.

5.27pm: Best male R&B/pop artist goes to Bryson Tiller. Tiller thanks his granny, which proves we are watching the BET awards. When was the last time a white artist thanked their grandmother for anything?

5.29pm: Desiigner performs Panda. Instead of rapping, Desiigner does some rudimentary tricks with his microphone throwing it in the air and catching it, flipping it in the air and catching it, and finally, moving it close to his mouth while pretending to rap.

5.31pm: MC Lyte has to sit at some desk sponsored by Coke a mile away from the stage and announce the commercial breaks. Did I mention that everything on this show is sponsored? Even the bumpers before the actual commercials are sponsored.

5.38pm: Wow. Surprise! Michael B Jordan didnt show up to the BET awards. Deon Cole says he was too busy being knocked out somewhere. Is that a reference to Creed or a diss? I know what it wasnt: a good joke. Dave Chappelle comes out wearing sunglasses to kick off the Prince tribute, classing up the joint for a second.

5.40pm: The Roots, Erykah Badu and Bilal perform. Badu sings The Ballad of Dorothy Parker while half asleep. Bilal sings The Beautiful Ones, nailing the famous high notes at the end. Props to Bilals struggle braids and 10 gallon bags under his eyes.

5.55pm: Next is the Shine a Light advertisement … I mean award, presented by the US Air Force. Young black men, you too can be heroes if you just enlist in the military! Just saw two more guys texting in the front row.

5.56pm: Was Kevin Hart not available to host this? Fat Joe, French Montana and Remy Ma perform their hit song, All the Way Up. They brought out some geishas and now I want to say something about cultural appropriation, but Im going to bite my tongue. Maybe theyre not geishas since they also have swords?

6.00pm: One of the guys in the cast of the upcoming BET New Edition biopic named Keith Powers is dressed like the villain from an episode of Miami Vice or a random hanger-on from Rick Jamess posse. The real New Edition comes out and the cameras cut to Floyd Mayweather who looks completely bored. I think this was supposed to be a big moment, but Bobby Brown has pissed away literally all of his goodwill for obvious reasons.

6.03pm: The physical BET award looks like a trophy you give to the winner of a child beauty pageant. Taraji P Henson gives an impassioned plea to black people to vote while accepting her award for best actress.

6.12pm: Alicia Keys played the guitar in a red jacket surrounded by a bunch of synthesizers and random equipment. Thats all I got for this one. The music sounds like she turned into a coffeehouse open mic act. I half expected DJ Khaled to stand up and say that, yes, order number 23 the almond butter croissant and the soy latte is his. Then she tosses one of the synthesizers and throws up, like, westside or something.

6.16pm: Snoops new album is called Kool-Aid, which is like Lemonade, but worse for you. Jermaine Dupri and Birdman join him to promote a BET show about music moguls. You think Lil Wayne will pop up in the season finale?

6.27pm: Stevie Wonder and Tori Kelly perform Princes Take Me With You. Im so bored. Im going to walk my dog.

7.00pm: Im back from walking my dog. A great Muhammad Ali tribute is introduced by Jamie Foxx and his daughter. Layla Ali comes out and makes me tear up.

7.08pm: Maxwell was invited to perform some Prince music, too. I got a glimpse of Kardashian baby daddy Scott Disick during Nothing Compares 2 U chewing gum and looking for the nearest exit. Memo to white people: If you were GIFTED an invite to the BET awards, show some respect and pay attention. You might learn something useful, like how to nae nae or dab or something. Maxwell added some lyrics about Spotify to Nothing Compares 2 U.

7.13pm: Tracee Ellis Ross mentioned the many uses of water on the stage tonight. Nevermind the very serious California drought. Make it rain! Anthony Anderson drank the pool water from Beyoncs performance and said it tastes like Lemonade. Theyre officially not trying to be clever.

7.15pm: Debra Lee, president and CEO of BET comes out to call for gun control legislation, gives the humanitarian of the year award to Jesse Williams. I wont quote the entire speech, but heres a sample:

Now the thing is though, all of us in here getting money, that alone isnt going to stop this. All right? Now dedicating our lives to get money just to give it right back for someones brand on our body, when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies and now we pray to get paid for brands on our bodies.

7.31pm: The following segment is brought to you by the United States Air Force.

7.32pm: Theres a Cadillac on fire in the back of Futures performance like hes in a bad Hype Williams video. Another cutaway to a dude texting.

7.35pm: Nissan has long been a sponsor and supporter of the BET Music Stage, says Empire star Jussie Smollett. Anderson.Paak gets the honor of shilling for a car for four minutes before cutting to another commercial.

7.44pm: Janelle Monae performs another Prince tribute. So far, no one has done Batdance, which is a colossal missed opportunity.

7.58pm: Spike Lee presents the lifetime achievement award to Samuel L Jackson. Dont get tricked like they got tricked in London. I think they got tricked in the rest of England, too.

8.09pm: Tracee Ellis Ross is wearing a veil over her face and a sweatshirt like she just left Tommy Hilfigers funeral. Usher is out to perform his boring new song. You can find Ushers music at

8.18pm: DJ Khaled promotes the premiere of his I Got the Keys video. Khaled comes on stage with a Coca-Cola to present an award to some person Ive never heard of and then give out the viewers choice award, which is apparently the most important award of the night. Beyonc is nominated for this one. If Beyonc ever doesnt win a peoples choice or viewers choice award, you know it must be rigged. Tina Knowles comes up to accept the award because, while Bey was happy to perform, when she was done, she got the hell out of the arena.

8.26pm: Sheila E is out playing the drums. I love Sheila E and all, but this show is really freaking long. Its been three-and-a-half hours of ads for soda pop, fast food, and affordable mid-sized automobiles. The camera cuts to Jamie Foxx singing Erotic City to his daughter. Its just as weird as it sounds, folks.

8.34pm: More Tracee. More Anthony. More 2016 BET awards. Next! No. No more. Please. Please God. Can I just watch Game of Thrones now?

8.38pm: Its finally over, with a complete and utter whimper, but not before Anthony Anderson gets a chance to thank Viacom. Theres some kind of after-show that I am not going to watch because I have to sleep.

Read more:

Beyoncs new tour finds her at the height of her artistic powers. What makes her sound, her dance moves, her image and her feminism so distinctive?

The sound: It sounds like a push to dominate all of pop

Of late, some music writers have got into the habit of referring to Beyonc as Queen Bey. It doesnt exactly imply a great deal of critical distance, but you can see why the nickname has stuck. It is hard to think of a recent album that feels more commanding and imperious than Lemonade, not just in its lyrics where defiant woman-scorned wrath meets righteous social anger but in its music. It sounds not like an R&B record, but a push to dominate all of pop. Country, alt-rock, left-field electronics, hoary Jack White blues-rock? I can do the lot. That seems to be one of its messages.

So pervasive is the Queen Bey persona that it is easy to forget that there was a time when Beyonc didnt seem to know what she wanted to be, at least musically. Her solo career never faltered commercially she continued the run of peerless pop hits that had begun with Destiny Childs No No No as if the groups dissolution were a mere formality, as if she had been the only thing that mattered about them all along but she also gave the impression of being torn between a career as an R&B diva and the desire to be an MOR entertainer.

Many of the best tracks on her first two solo albums tended to point up her voices similarity to R&B singers of the 60s and 70s the raw drums and see-sawing organ of Freakum Dress, the funk-rock of Suga Mama, Crazy in Loves blaring Chi-Lites horns but they were surrounded by stuff that erred on the sickly side of perfect, as if she were quietly investing in a future that might have more to do with cabaret than clubs.

Beyonc at the BET awards in Los Angeles. Photograph: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for BET

The sense of an artist being pulled uncomfortably in two opposing directions reached its peak with 2008s wildly uneven I Am Sasha Fierce: one disc full of self-help-motto power ballads and tracks that sounded as if they were following trends (Halo was audibly made in the image of Rihannas Umbrella), and another that suggested, for the first time, a willingness to experiment the percussion battery and oddly doomy minor chords of Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), Video Phones minimal fusion of crunk rhythms, sampled groans, and needling synthesisers.

I Am Sasha Fierce sold 8m copies, but its follow-up suggested a rethink or at least a focusing of her approach. Made after she had severed ties with her manager and executive producer father, 4 built on its predecessors more experimental aspects, and introduced the I-can-do-anything musical expansiveness that you hear on Lemonade. There were influences drawn from Afrobeat, dancehall and alt-rock; thrown together with Kanye West collaborator Jeff Bhasker, the Sleepy Jacksons Luke Steele contributed the psychedelicised Philly soul of Rather Die Young.

Destinys Child had largelyshied away from the kind of ultra-futuristic R&B sound big in the late 90s and early noughties their singles were always about the chorus rather than the novelty of the production but, just at the point when the charts were awash with R&B stars making tinny pop-house tracks, Beyonce released Run the World (Girls), based on Major Lazers Pon De Floor, a battery of drums, dancehall rhythms and squealing noise. It was refined on Beyonc, the album on which she finally abandoned the last vestiges of conservatism. The sound was rooted in hip-hop, but dragged everything from chillwave to the Aphex Twins abstract electronica to doo-wop into its orbit. It was filled with tracks that stopped abruptly, as though she was impatient to move on to the next idea. There were songs that sounded like suites (Haunted, Partition), even, on No Angel, an audibly off-key vocal allowed out into the world.

A gushing profile in Vogue found her joking that she might take on jazz or even country next time. As it turned out, she wasnt joking.
Alexis Petridis

The dance icon: She and her troupe move as one unit a drill team, an army

Beyonc performs at the Super Bowl in 2016. Photograph: Thearon W Henderson/Getty Images

Beyoncs music, style and message make her an untouchable ruler at the top of the pop-culture pyramid. Her dancing, however, is what makes her feel reachable.

We have watched Beyonc grow from seductive showpiece to sexually empowered woman. She has graduated from the male-gaze booty-shaking of Crazy in Love to the unapologetic, hard-hitting struts of Formation. Sure, all the action still happens in her pelvis and chest, but the execution is different, with a sway back, upturned chin and heavier step. Something about it says: This dancing is for me and no one else. Not for your eyes; not for Jay Zs.

Notice that Beyonc is rarely without her all-female squad of dancers, and that she doesnt usually deviate from their choreography. That is completely deliberate, because Beyonc can certainly carry a stage alone. Instead, she and her troupe move as one unit a drill team, an army in the name of black pride and girl power. Allow your eyes to blur and it is as if Beyonc is multiplying, until 50 of her are swarming the stage.

More from the Super Bowl show. Photograph: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Refocus your vision and she is just one woman among meticulously organised rows of dancers. She might be the point of a pyramid or centre of an X, but she is always standing with them. It helps convey the idea that Beyonc is your spokeswoman; that she is in this with you, fighting the same fight. That no matter how rich and powerful she is, she is a girls girl, the Everywoman. That she walks, spins, and grinds like each dancer behind her. Because what anchors Beyonces persona once a shiny display, and now a little more vulnerable isnt the dancing itself, but the staging. She does not underestimate the simple and persuasive power of movement in unison.

That is not to say that the actual movement that Beyonc and her team puts out is particularly inventive (though they have certainly come up with some great hairography). While Beyonc has become more radical in message, she has actually toned down the creativity of her dancing since the days of the Bob Fosse-inspired Single Ladies video. Formations punchy isolations, booty-bouncing and chest-popping are evenly set with the beat and the melody, with knees twisting in and out. At its most basic, its a heightened, polished version of something you would do in the privacy of your own living room, music blasting, two glasses of wine in a feel-good romp. Its another way to connect with her fans. For modern-day Bey, dance is no longer a main event; its there to serve her highness. And sometimes, that is all dance is supposed to do.
Kristin Schwab

The brand: She doesnt release albums; she creates cultural events

Beyonc and Jay Z at the Met Gala in New York. Photograph: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Theres the A-list, and then theres Queen Bey. Beyonc has risen to a rare level of fame where she has surpassed mere celebrity and become an archetype of achievement. When she dropped Lemonade, the world dropped everything to listen Beyonc doesnt release albums; she creates cultural events.

Beyonc has been famous for almost 20 years, but, it is only in the last eight that she has gone from phenomenal to phenomenon. This is no accident, but the result of strategic brand-building learned from Madonna and Apple.

Her metamorphosis into a brand can be seen in three key milestones. First, she married Jay Z. Then she killed Sasha Fierce. Finally, she fired her father. Strategic partnerships can be a highly effective way to build a brand and, leaving romance aside, Beyoncs 2007 marriage to Jay-Z was as strategic as you can get. Both benefited from the merger I mean marriage, gaining new fans and elevating their respective statuses.

When Beyonc married Jay Z, she was going through a period of transition. You can see this play out in the character of Sasha Fierce, an alter-ego that let Beyonc experiment with a more risqu sexual persona while maintaining her traditionally wholesome image. The 2008 album I Am Sasha Fierce reflected this tension. One side had more mainstream songs for new fans, the other was aimed more at old fans.

The I Am Sasha Fierce album cover

In 2010, she announced she didnt need to separate her persona from that of Sasha Fierce any more. Killing off Fierce signalled a Beyonc newly confident in what she stood for. This was reinforced shortly after, when Beyonc made arguably her most important move ever: she dropped her father as manager and seized control of her brand. When I decided to manage myself, it was important to me not to sign to some big company, she said. I wanted to follow in Madonnas footsteps and be a powerhouse.

Part of becoming and staying a powerhouse was exerting painstaking, Apple-like control over her brand. Its a mistake to call Beyoncs notorious attention to her image diva behaviour; its businesswoman behaviour. Beyonc understood that she couldnt let Beyonc-the-person encroach on Beyonc-the-brand. So she stopped saying much, and rarely gave interviews. In 2013, she made waves by appearing on the cover of the September issue of Vogue without deigning to give the customary interview that went with it. Her silence made her voice even more powerful, and reinforced the mythology she was creating.

A couple of months later, Beyonc really dropped the mic when she launched her fifth album, eponymously titled Beyonc, unexpectedly on iTunes. The launch broke all the conventions of music marketing and announced to the world that she only played by her own rules. The next year, she was on the cover of Time for their most influential people issue.

Today, Beyonc is more influential than ever. She has become a voice for feminism and civil rights. While this move to the left may seem to run the risk of being polarising, remember that her timing has always been flawless. She understands exactly when she can activate activism for her own benefit. Further, the sign of a strong brand is that it can evolve with culture, and weather the occasional controversy. The strength of Beyoncs brand is such that, at the moment, it seeems she can do no wrong. After all, to err is human but Beyonc is divine.
Arwa Mahdawi

The feminist: She calls out to the masses to rise up

The Lemonade album cover

Its all Maya Angelou in those now iconic first 15 seconds of Beyoncs visual album masterpiece Lemonade. As the most famous pop star on the planet, golden cornrow coiffed, and supine on the back of a sports utility vehicle, comes up off the back of her ride in haunting slow motion, the spirit of legend Angelous classic 1978 poem And Still I Rise pulsates like an undercurrent: You may write me down in history/With your bitter, twisted lies/You may trod me in the very dirt/But still, like dust, Ill rise. Our heroine has taken Angelous words (that many a black girl has memorised) to heart, turning the wisdom of her lyric anthem into a long-form visual and sonic meditation. The result is a feminist breakthrough in the world of stadium pop. It is 18 million cracks in pop music cultures glass ceiling delivered by a sister wielding a baseball bat in a marigold sundress.

One of the biggest pop-culture events of the year so far, Lemonade has nonetheless weathered some high-profile handwringing from feminist scholars such as bell hooks, a notorious Beyonc hater, who conceded that the albums visual imagery shifts the gaze of white mainstream culture challeng[ing] us all to look anew, to radically revision how we see the black female body while nevertheless continuing to warn of her oppressive ties to capitalism and patriarchy. These sorts of concerns about Beyoncs brand of feminism are nothing new.

Beyonc at the Super Bowl in 2013. Photograph: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

If you are a woman whose independence depends on making money, as Yonc and her fellow children of destiny would sing about in the year 2000, can you ever really be free of the systems that have historically oppressed women and people of colour? If, in your celebration of the single life, you are still chastising your ex for not having sealed a commitment with a rock, are you more of a material girl than empowered woman warrior?

The ambivalences in Beyoncs pre-Lemonade musical repertoire have led some, such as critic Andi Zeisler in her razor-sharp new book We Were Feminists Once, to characterise the superstars relationship to the F-word as a form of marketplace feminism, a mainstream, celebrity, consumer embrace of feminism that positions it as a cool, fun, accessible identity that anyone can adopt But Zeisler is also quick to point out that we need not hate the player, but rather the game in which our reigning queen of pop is ensnared.

The difference that Lemonade makes in Beyoncs career-long, increasingly sophisticated engagement with feminist politics is that it is an album that ambitiously aims to address the game of large-scale, deeply entwined racial and gender oppression, even as it foregrounds a tale of intimate deception and duplicity. True, this is still the Bey weve come to know who extols the virtues of revenge by way of paper, when many a feminist longs to hear her say instead that best revenge is dismantling patriarchy in all facets of modern life. But Lemonade is ultimately an album that moves well beyond a focus on being black Bill Gates in the making.

Just when a series of pop starlets from Taylor Swift to Emma Watson and Chlo Grace Moretz were willing to embrace a kind of feminism that oversimplifies its meaning, that thinks in limited and sometimes twisted ways about girl squads, making womens equality welcoming for men, and gender neutrality, along comes Bey with a new album that demands that we think about feminism as a sophisticated and multilayered practice rather than a slogan. The album encourages black women, in particular, to examine the wholeness of their beings and the complexities of their identities.

Beyonc and her team of artistic collaborators turned what had been an initial embrace of feminism into an epic sonic event. It demands that mainstream popular culture reckon with the conditions of being a modern black woman in ways never before seen and felt.

Beyonc and Coldplays Chris Martin at the 2016 Super Bowl show. Photograph: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

For the first time, a superstar black female musician aligned herself with intersecting racial and gender freedom struggles by way of a concept album, as well as the Super Bowl halftime routine watched the world over.

Most would be hard-pressed to recall the last time a black female pop star had enough cultural capital and sheer recording industry power to boldly weave together critiques of racial and gender inequality into a full-length recording. The go-to reference for many is still Atlantic Records-era Aretha, crowned the iconic foremother of the feminist pop anthem. Others might cite the audacity of Lauryn Hills ferociously introspective narratives of self-discovery and personal redemption, the biting lyricism and sophisticated instrumentation of Meshell Ndegeocellos or Erykah Badus finest releases, or the recent Afrofuturist liberation odysseys of Janelle Mone. But none of these artists, not even the Queen of Soul, have commanded the kind of multimedia global platform that fourth-wave Bey has been able to seize upon in this rapidly changing digital age.

And so enter Yonc with her Run-the-World army of women: an all-female dance troupe, backup singers, her celebrated Suga Mama band, and her pathbreaking alliances with diasporic black feminist intellectuals such as Warsan Shire and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. At the height of her artistic powers and political vision, she calls out to the masses to rise up, Angelou-style, and ride with her as she sits behind the wheel of a Hold Up video demolition monster truck, driving pop culture forwards and into the future with no turning back.
Daphne Brooks

The celebrity: Even sneezing on stage gets her coverage

Beyonc on tour in Houston, Texas. Photograph: Larry Busacca/PW/WireImage

Pop superstars fall into two camps: the boy or girl next door, or the character who would buy the house next door, evict the family and erect a neon and diamant castle in their own honour. Britney, Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift would have you believe they would pop round for a cup of sugar; Kanye, Gaga and Madonna appeal because you know they would send in the JCBs. Fans engage with all those artists with a similar intensity, but we attach ourselves to the humanity of some and the audacity of others.

Most artists stay in one lane, but during her two-decade career, Beyonc has deftly segued from sugar (early interviews show an artist with little to say maybe, we might now speculate, she simply wasnt being asked the right questions) to steamrollers: Aprils Lemonade addressed, owned and even exacerbated rumours surrounding her marriage to Jay Z in the pop equivalent of a controlled explosion, by an artist now able to unleash, control and manipulate her own celebrity on her own terms.

Tech companies pivot when their original proposition goes wrong: Beyonc did it when things were going right or, at least, before diminishing returns set in. And she did so while achieving critical and commercial success.

The shift in Beyoncs celebrity status didnt happen overnight. Her relationship with Jay Z created a celebrity whole far exceeding the sum of its parts, while the aggressive sound and styling around Run the World (Girls) put a hard edge on the broad-stroke feminism of early Destinys Child tracks. But 2013s surprise album really saw Beyonc take control. The power of instant releases shouldnt be underestimated: by stripping critics of any meaningful role in an albums release, Beyonc and others have allowed for a frictionless exchange of celebrity energy between fan and artist.

Jay Z and Beyonc in San Francisco in 2014. Photograph: Mason Poole/Invision for Parkwood Entertainment

Six months later, Beyonc topped the Forbes celebrity power list, based on mentions in print, radio, TV and online, for the first time since her initial appearance on the list a decade earlier. This reflects shifting, click-driven priorities of the global news agenda, but Google Trends echoed Beyoncs role in that shift: before 2013 there were clumps of interest around album campaigns, but in December 2013 Beyonc began prompting huge peaks in interest that wildly outstripped any that came before.

As her politically charged Super Bowl performance earlier this year showed us, Beyonc understands tentpole moments, but she also understands the smaller details, the pegs without which tentpoles wouldnt hold up. She knew this early on. Consider Question! in Independent Women, Pt 1 or I aint gonna diss you on the internet when the world was still on dial-up lyrical proto-memes that now seem like Beyonc staking her claim on the modern world of social-driven celebrity culture.

Fast-forward to 2016 and Becky With the Good Hair the woman rumoured to have been a third party in the Beyonc-Jay Z marriage is a celebrity in her own right, while restaurant chain Red Lobster reported a 33% boost in sales after being namechecked in Formation as the ideal location for a crustacean-themed post-coital lap of honour. If that is interesting in itself, interesting, too, is how widely that news was reported. But this is an era when Beyonc sneezing on stage can guarantee coverage from Time, Vanity Fair, Mail Online and the Hereford Times. That, as much as anything else, defines the meaning of celebrity in 2016.
Peter Robinson

Read more:

When Timberlake declared in response to Williamss barnstorming expose of white privilege that we are the same, he revealed his lack of understanding

On Sunday night, the Greys Anatomy actor and social justice activist Jesse Williams was honored with a humanitarian award at the BET awards. His acceptance speech, in which he addressed centuries of systemic racism, cultural appropriation and exploitation, was clear, critical and powerful. It excoriated the construction called whiteness, which has engaged in ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.

Uche Jombo Rodriguez (@uchejombo) June 27, 2016


Best speech

Millions of black people tweeted in solidarity moved by the sense of urgency, the lucid and remarkable truth of it. Justin Timberlake tweeted too. He was, he told his 55.6m followers, inspired by the speech. This didnt go over well. The dragging began swiftly, from followers who asked about his own appropriations of black culture, and particularly his part in the 2004 Super Bowl show, in which Janet Jackson was hung out to dry after a stunt in which Timberlake exposed her breast the famous wardrobe malfunction.

Ernest Owens, the black writer, was the first to call Timberlake out on Twitter. The singer and actor responded: Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation. Bye. (On Monday morning, Timberlake apologized, claiming his tweet was misinterpreted.)

Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) June 27, 2016

Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation.


Now that we are talking about whiteness as a real thing an identity, a privilege, the American default we are flush with examples of what it can look like, and how not to do it. There are, of course, the obvious and the banal Trump supporters but then there are those who think they are so down, so woke, that they can come along with we are all one after a brilliant black celebrity activist delivers a revolutionary speech at an award show for black excellence and achievement. We are not all one, Justin Timberlake, and if, as you tweeted following Jesse Williams radically spot-on speech about the centuries of whiteness using and abusing and stealing and co-opting blackness at the BET awards last night, you really do feel we are all one, then you should really stop feeling that way.

Perhaps even more offensive than such a tone-deaf remark from a white man whose fame has come from emulating black culture is the casual arrogance, the utterly striking condescension of his initial dismissal of Owens. Because its up to us, the black folks, to read the memo written by white people telling us that we are all equal so that we can show up for the meeting and take careful notes while you show us how to be black? The very point that Williams was making with such resounding clarity was: we are not here for your memos anymore. We are here for you to read our memos now.

Freedom is always coming in the hereafter, but, you know what, though? The hereafter is a hustle. And lets get a couple of things straight. Just a little side note: the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. Thats not our job, stop with all that Weve been floating this country on credit for centuries, and were done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind, while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil, black gold.

It doesnt really get clearer than Williamss words. Unless you are so deep inside the invention of your whiteness the delusion of your grandeur, your Michael Jackson-influenced dance moves, your Jay Z collaborations, your DAngelo inspired music that you are unable to see how complicit you are, how backward and misguided and violent it is to suggest you are doing us a favor by saying we are all one. That delusion serves only you, and has been serving and saving you for years. When Williams said, Now this is also in particular for the black women, in particular, who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you, he meant black women like Janet Jackson, whose talent and body Timberlake exploited when he tore off a piece of her costume to reveal her bare nipple.

The sad truth is that whiteness isnt really all that much. When you take away the appropriation, the racism, the exploitation whats left? Its been a long time coming, but we shall not be moved.

Read more:

The self-professed Star Trek fan falls short in her single for the third entry in the revamped film franchise, with a generic-sounding ballad co-written by Sia

Rihanna continues her reign as the most prolific pop star working today with Sledgehammer, her latest summer single featured on the soundtrack for Star Trek Beyond.

The singer took an uncharacteristically long time to release Anti, her eighth studio album. But since its unveiling in January, Rihanna has been everywhere: on top of embarking on a world tour, she collaborated on numerous new tracks with Drake and reunited with Calvin Harris for their second song together, This Is What You Came For.

Sledgehammer (not to be confused with the 2015 Fifth Harmony single of the same name, or indeed the Peter Gabriel single of 1986) flies in stark contrast to the audacious tone set by Anti, her least radio-friendly and most experimental album to date. The song, co-written by Sia, is a largely uninspired empowerment anthem only elevated by Rihannas forceful delivery.

I hit a wall I never felt so low, Rihanna sings in the first verse, before coming up on the other end (I will rise up from the ashes now). The lyrics are largely rote, and sonically it doesnt break new ground.

Heard on its own, Sledgehammer sounds dull, calling to mind Pinks similarly generic contribution Alice Through the Looking Glass, another summer blockbuster. In other words: its a long way from Diamonds, Sias 2012 ballad, sung by Rihanna.

The song works better as featured in the latest trailer for Stark Trek Beyond. The robust editing of chaotic galactic action goes a long way to heighten the emotional impact of the track.

  • Star Trek Beyond opens 22 July.

Read more:

Image copyright Sarah Bradwell
Image caption Gaze Cooper founded the Nottingham Symphony Orchestra in 1933

The granddaughter of a composer, who founded the Nottingham Symphony Orchestra, is searching for a wedding march he wrote in 1955.

Gaze Cooper, who died in 1981, set up the orchestra in 1933 and was its conductor for over 40 years.

Sarah Bradwell said her grandfather composed a wedding march for her parents’ wedding, but “sadly we can’t find the sheet music”.

Mrs Bradwell has also launched a campaign to keep his legacy alive.

Image copyright Sarah Bradwell
Image caption Mr Cooper’s compositions include eight symphonies, four piano concertos, two ballets and an opera

Mr Cooper, who was born in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, died at the age of 86.

His compositions include eight symphonies, four piano concertos, two ballets, overtures, an opera, chamber music and songs.

Image copyright Sarah Bradwell
Image caption Sarah Bradwell hopes to find the wedding march sheet music to play at her daughter’s wedding

Mrs Bradwell said the wedding march he composed for her parents more than 60 years ago, which was played on the organ at Sawley Church, Derbyshire, was also played at her own wedding.

“My daughter’s getting married next year and she would like it played at her wedding but sadly we can’t find it. It’s the sheet music we’re looking for,” she said.

“I’ve contacted the lady who played at our wedding and she can’t find it.

“I’ve looked through all the opus lists and I can’t identify it myself from the music scores in the archive.

“But I’ll just have to keep hunting.”

Gaze Cooper

Image copyright Sarah Bradwell
  • Cooper learnt to play the piano and began composing, he wrote his first serious composition a piano concerto in 1923
  • In 1925, aged 30, he joined the staff of the Midland Conservatoire of Music giving lessons
  • In 1933, he founded the Nottingham Conservatory of Music Orchestra, which later became the Nottingham Symphony Orchestra in 1942
  • Music was one of his two passions, the other was collecting antiquities

Image copyright Sarah Bradwell
Image caption His grandchildren and others have launched a website hoping to keep his legacy alive

Mr Cooper was well known in his lifetime, but Mrs Bradwell said he and his music have been forgotten.

“It is sad and I don’t understand why he’s not heard of,” she said.

“It’s amazing to hear the music, it makes me feel like I’m soaring into the air.

“It makes me very proud of my grandpa, makes me feel very privileged to have known him.”

A group of ex-pupils, musicians, music lovers and his grandchildren have launched a website hoping to revive his memory and his works.

Read more: