Sunday, 20 March 2011

Rebecca Black - A Sorry State of Affairs

Unless you have spent the last 10days living underground without an internet connection, you will no doubt have heard the furore around the latest internet sensation: Rebecca Black. Her music video: Friday, has amassed a whopping 26million views in no time at all. It’s spawned cover versions, and parodies galore. It has also been referred to as the worst song of all time.

With people on both sides of the argument, vocalising their views, Black has been a TOP FIVE WORLD WIDE trending topic on Twitter for over a week. Overnight this 13 year old nobody has become one of the biggest names on the planet.

I have stayed (relatively) quiet on the matter until now. But I figure it’s time I waded into the debate.

Now: let me preface this by saying: I know full well the lyrics are terrible. And she can’t sing a single note in tune. And the video is kind of dire. I am FULLY aware of every single one of these things.

But Friday is a damn catchy tune nonetheless. This is a song which you genuinely (even if it’s for the wrong reason), cannot get out of your head. And you will find yourself humming it, hours after you see the video.

Can a lack of actual musical talent ever correspond to a properly good record though? Aren’t these mutually exclusive concepts? Just because someone puts a catchy pop beat behind something should not justify it as art, and it’s important that the distinction is made.

We HAVE to remember that Rebecca Black is a talentless, nobody who had fame thrust upon her. How this fame evolves will ultitmately be up to both the record companies, and the public who will buy her music – it’s gone top 100 on iTunes in several countries already. If we want to complain about the state the music industry is in, and that people like this keep cropping up, the way to stop it happening is to STOP BUYING THEIR RECORDS. But for some reason it just doesn’t happen.

Comparisons have been made between Black and the infinitely more talented Justin Bieber – himself discovered on YouTube before being signed to a major label. Do I think she could have that level of success? Not at all. I think she may well be the very definition of a one-hit wonder, and I’m honestly not even sure I’d recommend she puts an album out – it won’t sell, and she’d do better to milk Friday for all it’s worth.

That being said, this is a girl the corporate machine could work with. She’s a cutesie 13 year old, who, if they have to, they can easily auto tune to death to fix the lack of vocal talent. She can have a focus grouped lyric book written out for an album, and I’d be very surprised if it’s not well on the way already – even Simon Cowell has expressed interest in her future.

In this post Bieber world, every record label on the globe is looking for the next big thing. The next big child star they can wrench into the spotlight. I don’t think even they expect to find another kid as talented as Bieber, but they don’t need to, it’s not as if there’s a shortage of half talented 13year olds who want to be singers. – they can milk 10 kids dry in quick succession if they have to, with just one or two songs each.

It’s a depressing state of affairs, and frankly these children deserve better. Black herself doesn’t deserve half the stick she’s getting for Friday – the fact her label allowed it to see the light of day in its current state is not her fault, and they should have done more to protect an innocent 13 year old from this social media frenzy.

Unfortunately, while this stuff still sells, the companies will still make it, and we’ll have a vicious circle forever more. It’s time we made a stand. It’s time we stopped being bewitched by a catchy beat, and took the time to realise what we’re actually doing.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Gleecap: Original Song


Glee was back on top form this week, in an episode that simply has to be celebrated as the week of: "FINALLY!!!!!" From Blaine and Kurt (on which more later), to singing Original Songs, to New Directions smashing past regionals.

The episode opens on the Warblers council, and Kurt finally voicing the thoughts of everyone watching: Blaine, you're a great singer. But give someone else a turn!!!

Blaine agrees (kind of), and so now their sectionals performance will be a duet NOT a solo.

Pavarotti is dead.(the bird, not the tenor. Or...also the tenor...but in this case the bird), and in his funeral garb Kurt rips Blackbird a new one, giving a truly beautiful rendition, while Blaine watches from afar, Darren acting this sequence wonderfully, as finally his feelings for Kurt surface within him.

Else where, New Directions can no longer do MCR at regionals, and need a back up plan fast - the competition is less than a week away. Rachel suggests yet again that the group need their own original songs(after trying her hand with "Only Child", which is nowhere near as entertaining as last weeks "My Hairband"), and this time Quinn and Finn support her. It's settled then: this weeks assignment, 2 kick ass songs. STAT!

We get a song about Sam's mouth (Troutmouth) from Santana, and "Big Bottom Heart" from Puck (singing about Lauren, apologising for his earlier discretions.) While the former is genius on a comedic level, the latter is actually a not bad song, and it appears the team may finally be onto a winning system - but Schu figures it's time they worked together. Glee club is about being at the bottom of the heap. Being a loser. And not caring. And so, Loser Like Me is born.

This almost seems irrelevant though compared to what comes next. Blaine and Kurt finally sit down to have the heart to heart we've awaited ever since we first heard that Ryan Murphy was casting an actor to play Kurt's boyfriend.

Blaine and Kurt kiss. There is honestly nothing more to say other than that it was perfect, and it was understated in just the right way, and that I literally squealed out loud. The significance of this single kiss for television - especially on one of the highest rated shows on the box - is unbelievable, and Chris and Darren should both pat themselves on the back for getting this bang on.

Finally it's time to return to Regionals. The place New Directions lost out last time. And the first question on my mind (as it has kind of been all season:) WHERE ARE VOCAL ADRENALINE?!?!? Sue gave them one last chance last year to come back and kick VA's ass, and now VA haven't even turned up? It's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it just didn't sit right with me at all.

Sue's Aural Intensity pander to the judges with a dull and uninspiring tune, while Blaine and Kurt's duet is great. It's not as good as Baby It's Cold Outside earlier in the season it must be said, but it's fine. They finish with Pink's Raise Your Glass, and in true Warbler fashion, it feels like an event. Its undeniably great.

But on this night only New Directions could take it.

Starting first with Rachel's song (written after a heart to heart with Quinn where she realises Finn can never be hers). It's called Get It Right, and she informs Finn as she walks out "Listen closely. You just might learn something." It's a great pop-ballad, but realistically: this is the opening act for what is to come.

Loser Like Me is an ANTHEM. I know that was the brief, but seriously: they hit it bang on the head. The song could practically be the theme song for the show if it had a proper titles sequence. It's literally brilliant, and even while it's going the Warblers (or Kurt and Blaine at least) admit defeat and cheer for their friends.

New Directions win, Sue punches the judge (like, a proper full on punch out), and Blaine and Kurt walk off into the sunset holding hands, although confirming we'll see them again soon. ("The competition season may be over, but there are plenty of Gap's round here)

I've seen this episode twice now, and ever since the first time I haven't stopped grinning. I am so happy about literally everything that happened in this episode that I pretty genuinely feel it might have been the best episode of the show to date (or certainly the best of the season.)

And now, finally: Nationals await. Will we meet back with Vocal Adrenaline by then? Who knows. But one thing's for sure: I cannot wait to see what they throw at us next.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Being Human - The Wolf Shaped Bullet

The following post includes spoilers for the entirety of the third season of Being Human, including last night’s finale here in the UK. If you’re behind on the show up to that point, look away now.

Season 3 of Being Human reached an almighty, earth shattering climax last night, as both Herrick and Mitchell both finally met their end.

As the season finale opened, we pick up almost exactly where we left off last week. Nina is critical, Mitchell is in jail, and a newly reborn Herrick is on the brink of world domination.

It’s not long before he frees Mitchell from prison, only to throw him into the wolf cage along with a confused and disoriented George. Lia’s prophecy then is finally going to come true. The wolf and the vampire must fight.

Or so it seems. Annie ventures to the other side to seek out Lia, and find out once and for all what the prophecy means. “I made it up.” Laughs Lia. “This was never a game, it’s revenge. That man killed me, and he has to pay – it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is a wolf shaped bullet, and Mitchell carved his own name on it.”

Lacey Turner is a great actress, and she’s the perfect Lia. Growing beyond the character of Stacey Slater, and completely embodying this broken, torn apart young girl, she is believable, and even haunting in her portrayal. You can see that it is hurting her just as much as it is pleasing her, and so when she finally makes the right decision, you completely buy into it.

From here it was a non-stop thrill ride to the end, as Mitchell and George face off, only to be freed by fellow werewolf Tom, forcing Mitchell and Herrick to flee.

In one of the finest scenes in the entire history of the show, Mitchell and Herrick sit, overlooking a bay, talking about their differences. Talking about Herrick’s plans for domination, as Mitchell slowly realises that his rightful place is not at Herrick’s side. He finally hears the secret – “If George had staked me, I’d be dead. I was actually pretty lucky that he just ripped my head off” – before telling Herrick not to go on. It’s not about saving himself anymore, it’s about knowing how NOT to save himself. He puts the stake through Herrick, and then begins the slow march to his own destruction, returning to Barry Island, and to the B+B.

Mitchell stands, facing the three people he has betrayed, begging George to finish it. Begging George to save his own soul by disowning Mitchell once and for all.

Aidan Turner and Russell Tovey make this scene just as tough to view as you’d hope it would be. It is literally breaking both men to say these words, to completely despise the other enough to do what must be done. Finally though, after much crying, and a final kiss between Annie and Mitchell, it is time for George to take stake in hand, and finish the job.

It wouldn’t be a television series finale though without a cliffhanger, and if George killed Mitchell straight off, we wouldn’t have got it.

Setting up next season (which was officially announced this morning), we meet Wyndham, one of “The Old Ones”, the vampire troupe we have heard alluded to before now, but whom we’ve never seen. It’s clear Wyndham and his crew will be the new big bad for season 4, and to see them introduced now lets us anticipate for an entire year what may be coming next.

It’s clear Mitchell is terrified of Wyndham, and terrified of what he would have to do if he were to join him, so the complete relief as George finally fulfils his destiny, and ends Mitchells life is palpable.

The final shot of Aidan’s face, looking at Russell with such longing, such complete friendship and devotion, is a testament to this show.

Turner will be sorely missed, but he goes leaving a grand legacy behind him, and a trio of actors in Tovey, Crechlow and Keenan who can more than fill the void. I for one cannot wait to see how the group dynamic will evolve, as we see Annie and George especially having lost the most important person in the world to both of them. It will give the show a new breath of life, and completely change the way these characters interact with eachother, and for a show to do that 3 seasons in - accept that such a huge change can happen and come back from it - is astounding.

With werewolf babies, Old Ones, and god knows what else to come next year, Being Human is still firmly holding its crown as one of Britain’s very best shows in such a long time.

Nintendo 3DS - Hands On

Like many gamers, I have been avidly awaiting the release of the Nintendo 3DS, the first gaming platform to boast a full 3D experience without glasses.

You will imagine my joy then as I found a full, hands-on testing centre erected in Nottingham's Old Market Square, allowing the public the opportunity to try out the device before its release on March 25th.

So what of the actual experience then? Well I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Being able to try out several of the games, utilising both the 3D and 2D versions, the 3D worked a lot better than I had ever expected it to – having been rather sceptical of the whole thing.

1st up I got hands on with Zelda: Ocarina of Time, an old favourite of mine, having owned it on both N64 and Gamecube. The game play style works nicely on a handheld, and the game looks as good on the small screen as it ever did on the television. That being said, this game was the one with which the 3D struggled most.

If you held the device at just the right angle it looked great, but if you let it slip even a centimetre or two from dead centre, the image on screen clearly split, revealing the dual layers of the picture.

Next up was Ridge Racer 3D, and this was where the 3D finally shone. Bringing to life great graphics, and a fully immersive 3D landscape, this was a racing game I literally could have played all day, despite only having a few minutes to test it in reality. The motion issues I had experienced with Zelda seemed to have completely gone away here, and the entire look and feel of the 3D experience just hit another level.

The final product I got to test was a new 3D augmented reality game, utilising the full 3D video camera on the back of the handheld. Lining up the camera to a special card on the table, a fully interactive environment is formed right there on your table top.

This was by far the coolest part of the exhibition. I’ve experienced augmented reality before, but found it to often be ineffective, and the interaction with it to be clumsy. Here it was seamless, and it really felt like Nintendo had gone the whole hog to ensure that they were bringing something very new and exciting to their next generation of console.

Walking into the exhibit, I was rather sceptical at the concept of glasses-less 3D. We have been told for a while now that for it to work on TV’s or Cinemas could be as much as a decade away, so the idea that Nintendo had cracked it on a handheld already seemed unlikely.

Was it perfect: No, and as mentioned, some games had distinct issues when viewing in 3D. Others though honestly did work, and now we have one 3D handheld using this tech, developers will no doubt work to make this better and better as the 3DS gets going for real.