The Greatest Showman – ‘I’m putting together a show’

At first glance, this film looks like it pushes all the right buttons. A lonely man with a big idea fighting against all odds, some misfits who just want to be accepted, and… well, and Zac Efron.

But all you need to remember from this trailer, and hopefully from the movie is this:

No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.

Wisdom.

Taylor not-so-swift

I was really looking forward to Taylor Swift’s new album. I’ve been racing through her back catalogue in preparation, and was captivated by the four songs that were released ahead of launch day. Mr C, previously the biggest TayTay fan in this household, hasn’t been convinced by the new stuff but I’m all in.

Except, I’m not all in because I can’t listen to the album yet. Reputation has been kept off streaming services for at least a week, in a well-planned and manipulative launch schedule.

Now, I know that some artists don’t like the concept of streaming and I can understand that it’s not the perfect solution to earning a living from making music. But it’s the way music listening is going and you have to, at some point, go with it.

Taylor, previously, has rallied for higher pay for artists from streaming services. She won the battle with Apple on that front, after publishing an open letter to them to say artists should be paid for their work even if the subscription service is giving away three months free to new users. Apple agreed, adjusted their terms and conditions, and it seemed like she had fought a battle that really meant a lot to her.

And it seemed like all was lovely between the singer and the streaming service since then. Taylor has even featured in some adverts for Apple Music.

But now, no album.

It’s an artist’s absolute choice what they do with their music, but all I can say is that I hope it’s achieving what she wants because it just makes me dismiss it in favour of other, more accessible, works.

On the record 2017, Part 9: Tortured souls but great songs

This is the penultimate round-up of albums for this year’s adventure and more than ever I am getting concerned about having to narrow down the incredible selection of music I’ve listened to in 2017 to just five best albums of the year, and which should be added to my top ten of all time.

These five weeks have had a great variety to them, with some excellent surprises. I loved Johnny Cash, and wasn’t so keen on The B-52’s, with the rest of pop and country filling in the gaps.

Week 41

  • Now, Shania Twain
    Lovely album from Shania, it’s incredible to think it’s her first in 15 years. The songs veer from positive life-affirming pop to serious personal pain, but all with the sheen of pop-country that you come to expect from Shania. Never gonna beat Come On Over as an album, but an incredible return.
  • With His Blue and Hot Guitar, Johnny Cash
    Something about Johnny Cash’s deep and sultry voice just washes over you and wraps you in a comforting blanket – even when he’s singing about troubling topics. Prison, death, heartbreak, and just the occasional glimpse of love going right, this is a brilliant, if short, debut album.

Week 42

  • Beautiful Trauma, P!nk
    Was really looking forward to this after the genius of What About Us, and for the most part it totally delivered. It felt like a rollercoaster of emotions on the first listen, but it really grew on me on the second. With the documentary giving a bit of extra insight to some of the songs, as well, it really helps make this one shine.
  • Foreigner, Foreigner
    I am adamant that if Cold as Ice was made today, it would sound totally legit and fit in with the current music scene. The rest of the album, not so much. It’s good but very seventies, very of its time. Things get off to a good start with Feels Like the First Time and Cold as Ice, but the rest of it is less memorable.

Week 43

  • Younger Now, Miley Cyrus
    Wasn’t expecting too much from this – I’m totally on board with Miley reinventing herself whenever she has a mind too, but it was sold as an updated take on fifties beats. Odd. But actually it really works for me. I like almost all the songs, and they have a good, chilled out, mostly positive vibe.
  • Camino Palmero, The Calling
    Love this album. I know it from old, one of my favourites, and it’s still up there. Just plain simple guitar rock, tortured souls but great songs, and some real gems including Wherever You Will Go and Things Don’t Always Turn Out That Way. Could listen over and over.

Week 44

  • The Meaning of Life, Kelly Clarkson
    Really solid album from Kelly Clarkson. It occurred to me before I listened that I only really knew the singles and very little else about Kelly, but still managed to love her. This album just adds to that: great vocals, some great hooks, and a nice overall positive feeling about love, life and everything in between.
  • Cosmic Thing, The B-52’s
    Hmm, not my cup of tea really. I like Love Shack, and the album is stacked full of the quirky nature that makes that song fun. But, I think it’s all quite samey and aside from one instrumental at the end, it could basically be a 45 minute version of Love Shack, and I’m not sure I like it THAT much.

Week 45

  • Unapologetically, Kelsea Ballerini
    Love this album, it’s very much like the first – nice, simple, clean and crisp country songs with a youthful edge, and plenty of unique moments to make it stand out from the crowd. I thought this album indulged a little more in the “we’re not in high school anymore” vibe, with plenty of references to US high school tropes that I’ve only seen in movies, but even with that, it’s still up there with the best albums of the year.
  • Eyes Open, Snow Patrol
    This album speaks so clearly of a specific point in time, midway through the noughties, where music was transitioning from fun pop to the more grungy pop that it is today. Guitar bands were prevalent and Snow Patrol were one of the best. Some great songs on this album so that I can’t believe I haven’t listened to it all before!

I’ll name that tune in one

I’ve been rallying for more music television content since they took Top of the Pops off the air, and the BBC have delivered somewhat in the form of Sounds Like Friday Night (half an hour isn’t really long enough for that kind of show, but I’ll take anything at the moment). Now I think we’ve got time and space on TV for the return of music quizzing as well, and that brought to mind Name That Tune.

I was vaguely aware of the concept of this show, and somehow “I’ll name that tune in…” was one of those things my family say all the time without me really knowing what it related to. I was super keen to see highlights of this show on YouTube.

Lionel Blair seems to me to be the kind of host that absolutely didn’t want to be there and was just banking the cheque and hoping for more. Peter, the contestant, though, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of music that is almost scary!

This show was on in the 1970s and 80s, and then was resurrected in the 90s with Jools Holland. This is much more what I want to see back on our screens.

I reckon we could do with Name That Tune back, and if you combined that with a full half hour of the Intros round from Never Mind the Buzzcocks, then I’m all set.

Taking the 8 Plus for a walk

I’ve needed a new phone for a while, and was umming and ahhing about what specific iPhone to go for. In the end, I went for the 8 Plus and now I wish I had shut up and bought it sooner because the dual-lens camera is totally incredible. I’m not a natural photographer, but every single photo I’ve taken this past week or so is the best photo I’ve ever taken, thanks to the camera. The colours are gorgeous, the focus crisp, and portrait mode is something else entirely. Now I want to take more photos of everything, everywhere all the time, and I think that is worth every penny.

Taking the 8 Plus for a walk.

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Adventures in Netflix, part 2

Earlier this year, I wrote up some thoughts on Netflix original content, and having just finished up yet another fabulous Netflix series, thought I would post an update.

One Day at a Time (series 1)

I don’t know the original show that this was based on, and by all accounts it’s different enough to not matter, but I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. The Cuban family dynamic is one quite alien to me, but actually it draws you in pretty quickly, and you start to really feel for the characters. Sometimes I wondered how Penelope kept on going, but it was reassuring and quite uplifting that she did. Can’t wait for series two.

Designated Survivor (series 1, part 2)

Not much more to add to this than last time – it’s an interesting drama that clearly wants to emulate the success of House of Cards without the script to do it. Clunky dialogue, and heightened moments to increase drama that don’t always pay off. This second half of the first season was a little more politically heavy than the first, so I must admit to getting distracted by other things when watching. But the underlying story continues to intrigue.

Orange is the New Black (series 5)

Loved this. Was looking forward to it after the unexpectedly tragic and moving end to the fourth series. There were two fabulous things about this series – seeing people acting out of character but with total reason to do so, and the total breakdown of a society that has no real reason to try and stay together. The coming apart and the coming back together of groups, and what they would end up doing to each other was fascinating. The only bit that seemed totally out of place was the weird talent show in the middle.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schimdt (series 3)

Kimmy Schmidt is a weird series for me. I like it, but I don’t laugh at it particularly, and I don’t always think it’s good. I love the optimistic but slightly damaged Kimmy, and when the focus was more on her, the relationships she formed, and finding her way in the world, I really enjoyed it. Each series that goes by spreads the focus to others like Jacqui and Lilian, and of course, Titus, and it makes me like it a little less.

Anne with an E (series 1)

I know this series caused some consternation amongst fans of an original Anne of Green Gables remake, but I haven’t seen that one. I have read the books and I was surprised by the dark nature of the series. I quite liked it, although there was one moment halfway through when I really just thought I’d have to stop watching. Things kept going wrong to Anne to the point I wasn’t sure I could take it. I could though, and she could, and so the first series ended – bleak but really well made drama.

Stranger Things (series 2)

I haven’t watched anything on Netflix for a while, other shows have dominated my viewing. But the return of Stranger Things got me curiously excited. I enjoyed the first, although it took a while to grow on me, and I can’t say I was particularly anticipating the second series. The Netflix hype machine worked well though, and I started watching as soon as I could.

It was absolutely epic. No words, really. I laughed, I cried, I binge watched it in one weekend, and I can’t wait for the third series already.