SAPPY NEW YEAR | 5th January, MMXVII

Well hello there esteemed readers, welcome back to a fresh and shiny new solar year, called 2017!

I really do hope everyone has had a chance to spend happy and healthy holidays with their loved ones, whichever festivities one may adhere to. I had some fantastic time off at home and skiing on the Swiss Alps. I also got the best Christmas present I’ve ever received in form of a kickass necklace with two splendid pendants that represent two of my biggest passions in life and for that matter the whole single reason why I started this site in the first place (read this if you’d like to know more about it, + pic of said best Christmas present below). Before we go any further, I’d also like to take the occasion to wish every single one of you a wonderful and passionate new year from the whole team at Everything Must Swing, which in all true honesty it’s just me, no one else really. Nonetheless, I would like for everyone’s onboarding on the new collection of 365 days into a single unity to be as passionate and inspiring as possible, and therefore I thought I’d come up with scattered bits and pieces listing some of the things that are getting me excited during the first days of 2017.

First of all, do yourself a favour and give a listen to the whole Frank Ocean‘s discography. It’s not immense, it starts with his debut mixtape nostalgia,ULTRA. (retrievable almost anywhere on the web with free download) and ends up with his latest, long-awaited LP Blonde that came out in August last year. In between these there’s the critically acclaimed first sensation studio album Channel ORANGE (released in 2012) as well as the totally unexpected, music-industry Trojan horse of a visual album Endless which came out a day before Blonde last Summer, however still only available through Apple Music. I’m suggesting to take a deep dive into his art because Frank Ocean is a pretty big deal. He used to be (or still is?) one of the most creative and daring members of the highly influential L.A. hip hop collective Odd Future and over time has received more praises and accolades in and out the music industry than almost anyone else in the past five to ten years. However, more than anything he’s a true R&B, soul sonic experimenter who has not been afraid to speak out on gender and sexuality issues as well as brilliantly setting up an elegant and refined strategy to screw a major record label – Def Jam Recordings/Universal, to be specific – through his double close-up release of Endless and Blonde. My personal take is that his music not only transcends genres and formats, but also possesses an extremely intense staying power, growing immensely on the listener at every new play. Try out for yourselves.

Secondly, in case you’re looking for some prompts and cues in terms of movies and television, I couldn’t recommend enough Dan Gilroy-directed thriller Nightcrawler, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and taking place in a dark and gloomy L.A. whenever one would like it to take place time-wise. Wikipedia says that the movie portrays “a thief who starts shooting live footage of accidents and crimes in Los Angeles, selling the content to a local news channel as a stringer while secretly sabotaging both crime scenes and other news reporters” and to be fair I think it’s a good description of what it is about. Yet beyond its plot I truly believe that the movie has some of the best on screen dialogues and cinematography around, and while it was released quite some time ago already, appears to remain more relevant than ever theme-wise hinting at modern society’s perverse and twisted relationship with breaking news as well as a long lasting crisis of contemporary journalism. Also, it’s no surprise given the excellence of the script and some of the exchanges in the movie that the producers even decided to release the movie script in full on the Interweb. Definitely worth a watch/read if you too like me enjoy dope convos, double meanings, and lightened lines while at the same time not sacrificing an engaging and suspenseful plot.

Third, this time moving to the literary dimension, I currently find myself deep in the reading of American author James Franco’s Actors Anonymous novel, published in 2013 and tracing parallel (mostly very weird) stories about different (mostly very troubled) actors in California. The semi-autobiographical book deploys heavy name-dropping and I believe borrows most of the storylines from James Franco’s own acting career, notably having starred in movies such as the first Spider-Man trilogy, Pineapple Express, Milk, 127 Hours and many more as well as having been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in 2011. The novel’s tale is inspired by Alcoholics Anonymous’ famous 12 steps and 12 traditions by adapting them to the acting world and the Hollywoodian high entertainment industry as a whole, converting the book into a dark, genre-bending ensemble that – as stated before – shamelessly mixes personal memoir and quintessential fiction, not least scrutinising all sins and excesses of those involved in the maintaining of said industry. Extremely funny at times, the novel represent a true and profound insight into Franco’s take on what it really means to be acting and which higher purpose the whole activity oughta serve. Though above all the book might as well be considered a first-account collection of anecdotes, trivia and little behind-the-scenes stories about the world of global celebrities and world-famous actors that might otherwise have gone unheard, mostly because of the extent of shame and mercilessness involved. Or, as Franco puts it himself in the book’s frontispiece: “Hollywood has always been a private club. I open the gates. I say welcome. I say, look inside”. Give the book a read if you’ve ever wondered what happens to big entertainment stars in between movies and projects.

Well I guess that’s about it for now, as you can see I’ve touched upon three fundamental artistic formats (music, film and book) so as to try to not overrepresent the Queen of them all – the sonic one – as it is usually the case with this site. To be fair, there could be other entertaining-escapist suggestions I could potentially be giving you for this rather downish period of the working year, such as a couple of other movies or TV shows I’ve been glimpsing at here and there, however I don’t want to feel like telling you too much what to do and see but I’d much rather give out some initial, core inspirations such as the above ones, from which then everyone goes on their individual journey to find what really enriches them perhaps ending up at a much different place than the starting one. Actually, looking back at my three artistic cues above I only now realise that there is indeed a deep, underlying theme that somehow connects them all: Los Angeles. That is, it turns out that the Californian city of Angels – unbeknownst to me – is the lowest common denominator to all Frank Ocean, Nightcrawler and Actors Anonymous, for many different reasons. Yet, the narration of how and what this comes to be might be as well be outside of the scope of this very blogpost, thus let’s just say that I’ll leave that to me alone by considering it my own personal artistic journey that has taken off out of those initial three ingredients. Now it’s your turn to make yours a reality. Enjoy (not so) responsibly.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

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FALL 2016 MIX (OR, A MOST MISCELLANEOUS POST) | 20th November, MMXVI

Yes hi all I’m back. For the first time since I started Everything Must Swing I couldn’t make up my own mind on what to write about in a single blogpost, which felt kind of irritating and strange at first but somehow got ok after a while and I have since been able to come to terms with it. Therefore, this one is to be understood more as a collection of scattered, not necessarily-related topics that have contributed to filling my thoughts during the initial period of this fall (or autumn, for those reading from the UK). On top of this, the past few have literally been some sort of crazy weeks to experience, for (more or less) obvious reasons. Really interesting times to be in folks, oh boy they are.

Partly because of the latter point I’d like to start this post by raising awareness and the reader’s attention to an online initiative called 30 Days, 30 Songs. The project is essentially an independent website turned protest movement that had been releasing one song per day from October 10 until US Election Day. At heart, the initiative gathers different artists united in their desire “to speak out against the ignorant, divisive, and hateful campaign of Donald Trump”. Or, as they like to put it themselves:

“We will not be duped by Mr. Trump’s rhetorical contortions, by his pandering and lies and false promises. He has shown the content of his character time and time again, and the very fact of his candidacy is a blight on the nation. His words incite hatred and celebrate inequity. Most troubling of all, over the past year, the country has become inured to the towering vileness of his rhetoric and deeds, his attacks on women, Mexican-Americans, Muslims, and those with disabilities. But we have to remember these acts, and act against them. In the words of Cornell West, we cannot become ‘well-adjusted to injustice’.”

Out of the wealthy catalogue of artists who contributed to the compilation – which incidentally and possibly out of recent developments expanded itself becoming 30 Days, 50 Songs – there’s one particular song that stood out to me, namely “Locker Room Talk” by Long Beach-based indie rock band Cold War Kids. While my previous knowledge of the band’s music certainly helped cementing this connection, I’m not entirely sure what exactly struck me so much in this song, hence I’d rather let the song speak for itself and let the readers decide whether they’d like to agree with me or not:

[Verse 1]
Locker room talk
I can’t believe
You think you’re gonna get around it
Dirt in your mouth
Mic on the sleeve
We all heard how it sounded

[Pre-Chorus]
So many lies
Ya think that it’s true
Try walking on water
With a brick in your shoes
You’re gonna end up drowning
So many lies
Ya think that it’s true
Try walking on water
With a brick in your shoes
You’re gonna end up drowning

[Chorus]
It took a long time to break these walls
And he wanna build ’em up
It takes a long time
To earn my trust
I’m gonna give it to the girl I love

[Verse 2]
Ya conquer the small
To live like a king
From way up in your tower
Show us your hand
We know you’re just bluffing
You got no real power
Keeping your word
Don’t mean a thing
All your friends turn in to enemies
How could you be grounded?

[Bridge]
The hate in your heart
Everybody can see
Your head is hollow, man
You ain’t fit to lead
Let’s stand up and be counted

[Outro]
The girl I love
Give it to the girl I love

Moreover, the last two weeks have been characterised by the release of two of the most highly anticipated albums of this year, that is Policeman Sting’s 57th & 9th and the just unearthed tenth studio album by mighty Metallica called Hardwired… to Self-Destruct. While I’m definitely not in a position now to express myself on said records in form of a proper ARM writing (which might as well never see the light of the Interweb as far as I’m concerned), initial reception and surrogated feelings are very positive and encouraging, especially with regard to Sting’s output. I don’t know if it is because of the contemporary harsher socio-political times or maybe even a need for revisiting older sounds, but both records totally seem to borrow heavily from both artists’ harder and more direct past influences than ever before in recent times. As said, extremely uplifting signs suggesting that – unlike other artistic and societal domains – true, real music is still to be trusted and sought after.

Speaking of real music, another interesting thing I stumbled upon just recently is a NME’s news story item claiming that a Kanye West fan named Dorian_Ye on Reddit massively reworked on the Chicago rapper’s latest album The Life of Pablo by remixing the whole tracklist as well as adding in some early demo leaks, tracks that never made it onto the record and songs that West samples on the LP. I think the result is pretty spectacular and some cuts off the remixed collection such as “Famous”, “Highlights”, “30 Hours” and “No More Parties in LA” sound even stronger and meatier than Kanye’s OG version itself. Regardless of taste, what this guy did is incredibly intricate and I think he definitely deserves a shout out and some RTs online. By the way, here’s how he defines his approach to the whole project, very much in harmonic spirit with Kanye’s original creative vision:

“My criteria for editing the songs was based off of what I felt were the best elements of the final Pablo tracks, the earlier Pablo tracks and the original samples, and how I could blend them together in the most efficient manner. Please keep in mind that a lot of the earlier versions and demos of Pablo songs were not of the highest sound quality (as well as one or two samples on here that were impossible to find HQ rips for). I tried re-mixing the additional elements in these tracks along with adding bass and treble to help them blend in better, but not all of it is 100% perfect. Also, moving this record up 3 weeks from its original December release means that I didn’t have time to get the mixing down quite as perfect as I wanted to (though I still think it sounds pretty solid overall), but much like TLOP I intend for this to be a “living document” and hopefully before the end of the year I’ll have an updated version out with some minor mixing tweaks.”

Let me then switch from the audio to the video artistic realm for the last part of this post by spending a few words on a couple of TV shows that got me excited lately. My choice might indeed surprise you, not least because of the mainstream and social media buzz series like Black Mirror, Narcos or Westworld are currently getting. No, the series I’d like to highlight at this point in time are political drama show Designated Survivor and comedy The Ranch, both available on a website for watching TV shows called Netflix. I believe that my fondness of the two shows comes from two very different places. Designated Survivor relies on my enjoyment of the not-so-remotely-related show House of Cards – come on, in the end it’s all about the President of the United States of America – by adding an extremely addictive catchiness to its high-paced plot making it one of my most binge-watched series of all time. Sadly, there’s only one 10-episode season available as of now though judging by public reception and its ratings we shouldn’t be waiting too long for further seasons. The Ranch, instead, is a gritty, punchy and very, very funny short-form sitcom starring mass tech investor Ashton Kutcher that takes place at a fictional ranch in Colorado narrating the life of the Bennett family, nothing else than a truly dysfunctional group of relatives consisting of two drunken brothers, their angsty rancher father and his separated wife, who also happens to be the local bar owner. Simply great television, not much else to add.

Lastly, just in case you’re asking yourself, yes, I’m still wondering where the hell that promised Ryan Adams record is too. I haven’t forgotten either. Checking his Twitter feed on a daily basis. He can’t be fooling us around for too long. Can’t he?

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

P.s.: Happy Thanksgiving USA!

http://www.30days30songs.com

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THAT TIME I RESEARCHED THAT THING U2 DID WITH APPLE | 26th March, MMXVI

One of the useful things that I did in the past few years was completing a Master’s programme at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). In order for me to obtain the degree certificate and therefore complete the curriculum I had to undertake an extensive and comprehensive research project that would broadly fall within the field I studied, what others, especially in the UK, usually call a dissertation. I decided to explore the public and media cataclysm that exploded after legendary Irish rock group U2 and the biggest brand in the world Apple decided to partner on an exclusive promotional deal for the band’s latest album “Songs of Innocence” in September 2014, realising it for free for over half a billion iTunes customers. I did this not because it was – and unfortunately in many ways still is – highly fashionable to criticise and be against U2, but rather for the exact opposite reason: I was excited about the distribution strategy and couldn’t really understand all the rage and resistance that was being put forward by not only the public but also by social and mainstream media outlets themselves.

I thus found myself analysing a whole lot of content and material deriving from traditional media outlets (newspapers) and social media (tweets) trying to make some sense of both the mainstream narrative as well as the opinions deriving from bottom-up reactions of social media users around the globe, all from a predominantly journalistic perspective. Well, long story short, after having handed in my dissertation last August 2015 – entitled “Songs of Guilt”: When Generosity is to Blame – A Content Analysis of the Press and Social Media Reactions to U2’s “Songs of Innocence” Giveaway on iTunes – I was lucky enough to be considered for an external publication within a working paper series called Media@LSE MSc Dissertation Series hosted by LSE’s Department of Media & Communications. I wouldn’t onboard on such a shameless act of self-promotion other than for the fact that the research project is now publicly available and downloadable here and maybe of interest of you, esteemed reader. As one does with pretty much anything new that’s being presented and/or launched nowadays (especially cultural and artistic artefacts), I’m attaching the dissertation’s abstract here below as a preview/snippet/trailer/extract in case you’d still wondering whether this whole explorative journey could be something of your interest (though come on, you could still download the freaking file and just skip to the 2-page results section, isn’t this what we all do anyway? Also, some of the figures are cool.):

“The present research project aimed at delivering an update on networked journalism practices within hybrid media systems’ theorisations. It approached such a theoretical framework, completed by the notions of framing and (inter-media) agenda setting, through the consideration of the case study of tech giant Apple and Irish rock group U2’s promotional deal directed at the giveaway of the band’s latest album “Songs of Innocence” on iTunes, which was notably accompanied by widespread disapproval and a questioning of its means. The study set out to appraise and analyse the reactions of the mainstream and social media to the promotional stunt as hybridised phenomena. A quantitative content analysis of 145 English-speaking press articles (further subdivided into general-interest and specialised music press clusters), as well as of over 1200 tweets, published during the course of the operation, allowed the researcher to assess the narratives of the two dimensions in relation to their interactive development.

The research concluded that the mainstream and social media shared various patterns of content development, such as the predominance of negative tone over positive tone and the reliance on framings relating to both the top-down imposition of “Songs of Innocence” and issues of privacy. The study also found that the two media dimensions employed significant cross-referencing, with social media relying relatively more on the mainstream than vice versa. However, key events in light of the overall public discourse concerning the operation were found originating on social media first and being later taken up by the mainstream. Thus, in general the research could further contribute to the conceptual acceptance of a fluid hybrid media system in which traditional and online media ought not be seen so much as replacing each other, but rather as complementing themselves in a fast-paced supportive symbiosis.”

I obviously had to reformat the whole document in order to comply to the series’ standards and I guess that made for a very long article in its final version, but I’d say that in general it’s pretty enjoyable and worth a read if you’re even remotely into music. It was definitely an interesting experience for me as I got to gain really surprising and fascinating insights into people’s perception of privacy and intimacy in the modern social media age as well as key thinkings surrounding the music industry after its digital disruption that happened over fifteen years ago. If any of these buzz words sound remotely exciting for you, I’d say you wouldn’t waste your time reading the research. If not, no problem, there are a lot of exciting TV series out there to spend your time with. If you’re currently searching for inspiration, give Daredevil, Better Call Saul, Mr Robot or House of Cards a try. All highly addictive. Otherwise, simply stop by Kanye West‘s Twitter timeline and that should keep you busy for a good while too. Either way, I guarantee for quality to be found.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

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WHERE DOES THE HOUSE OF CARDS LIE? | 13th March, MMXVI

The fourth season of Netflix’s original drama series House of Cards premiered earlier this month on 4th March and it’s obviously already all over everyone’s mouth. Similarly to previous seasons, the latest instalment of the highly successful and critically acclaimed political web series dropped all thirteen episodes at once thus pleasing hungry and indebted binge-watchers who eagerly waited for over a year to properly nurture their fictional thirst further with cutting-edge political intrigues. Despite this one being a very hot and concurrent period for big TV series releases and new season premieres – see for instance Better Call Saul, Vinyl, Love, Daredevil and Flaked to name just a few… – House of Cards quickly and intensively stole the scene for me emerging as the preferred streaming choice lately among the aforementioned titles. A good reason for this is undoubtedly the show’s extremely catchy and dense plot, full of deep one-to-one confrontations, narrative twists, and terrific cliff hangers that it’s probably safe to say have only gotten better with time, if compared to the previous three seasons. Sometimes I truly wonder how much more suspense can legitimately be created in the storyline without falling into the risk of self-reference and fast-food entertaining stimuli constructed pretty much just for the sake of it: well, the writers (as well as the actors involved) somehow always manage to contradict me while delivering solid, surprisingly credible and especially status quo-relevant narratives.

It’s precisely this very last attribute that I’d like to detail in more depth after having almost approached the end of the season: namely the show creators’ ability to sustainably grow with and adapt to the changing times, partially in a chillingly realistic fashion. [Readers don’t worry at this stage as I won’t unveil anything plot-specific that will ruin your entertaining experience with the show (THIS BLOGPOST HAS BEEN DECLARED SPOILER-FREE BY THE MPAA®), whilst I’m sure a good portion of you will have already gone through it all by the time you’re reading this and will only have to agree on the point I’m about to make].

Back to the main track. My argument here is that it’s somewhat surreal to note how many parallelisms and real world-related happenings are outlined throughout the whole season.  Undoubtedly, this has also to do with the current simultaneous 2016 United States presidential election and related campaigning somewhat reflected in the fictional story telling of House of Cards’ fourth season, though aside from this (not entirely insignificant) tie there are a number of other strong connections between the show and real-world politics. Take for example main character Frank Underwood’s ruthless and pragmatic modus operandi recalling some of Donald Trump’s bold and controversial statements referring to radical decisions (albeit substantial party-specific differences), or even fictional Secretary of State Catherine Durant both physical and attitudinal resemblance to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Or again, on a more macro-political level, the analogous National Rifle Association’s controversies, tense relationships with other major countries such as Russia and China and, last but not least, ISIS-ICO’s terrorist threats presented under different name but having strikingly similar motives. This is obviously overlooking other minor but certainly not less influential similitudes between a blurry fiction and reality continuum, such as the role of spin doctoring in both everyday politics administration and campaign management, the disruptive and increasing role of the Internet as well as the inflated ego-centrism of political leaders eventually flowing into enhanced personalisation of politics.

However, what it’s most striking to me here is that, if one does the historical recalling right, the events and trends emerging from House of Cards appear to have preceded many of their look-a-like happenings in real life, at least as far as the writing and shooting go. At this point a variety of questions could arise. Did Frank Underwood’s cynical and pragmatic skills inspire modern day politicians and delegates? Does the dark and cutthroat spectre that contours Netflix show’s have something to do with the more and more scandal-filled and fear-driven showcasing of American politics? Did the strong profiles of Claire Underwood, Heather Dunbar, and Catherine Durant play a role in cementing and fortifying Clinton’s ambition for the White House this year? In some ways, it’s as if in the realm of politics fiction has come to acquire some kind of influence towards reality, and while this can’t legitimately be fully true – or can it? Conspiracy NWO-Hollywoodian theorist debating in 3, 2, 1… – one could the least note here is that show creators Beau Willimon and David Fincher could’ve earned a hella lot of money had they bet on the concretisation of some of their fictionally created events in the series. Again, think of not just when the series is being premiered online but also about the realisation that such shows originate years back from when they first air and normally go through long processes of conception, writing, casting, pre-production and shooting that can take ages. Hence, there should definitely be room to ask where the title-referenced house of cards really lies, is it in the apparent fictional world of TV shows or in our concrete everyday life reflected by ongoing campaigning and political manoeuvring? To say it all, at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if on 8th November it will be Frank Underwood’s big smiling face that will be taking over everyone’s screens.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

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THE RISING TIDE OF SOCIAL MEDIA: REFLECTIONS FROM #EVNSOCIAL | 4th April, MMXV

It is certainly not the biggest of all surprises that the main substantial takeaway from attending an industry-driven summit on social media trends – organized at the LSE on 26th March thanks to a successful partnership between the European Broadcasting Union and Polis – is the conviction that social media are fundamentally reshaping what it means to do good journalism in the public interest. Probably a little more unexpected was the fact that such an agreement was almost unanimously shared by all stakeholders practicing in the realm of public service broadcasting. That is, the public service entity does in fact represent a category which is not exactly the definition of precursors with regard to adaptations to new innovations, large-scaled reorganizations, and more generally willingness to undertake strategic changes in the media landscape, not least because of their often underestimated burden of having to deliver performance under the pressure of optimizing the use of incomes generated by the license fees paid by the respective populations.

Probably the most interesting point coming out of the event was, in my opinion, the inherent juxtaposition between repetitive claims that “there is no such thing as ‘best practice’ in the use of social media” – even comparing it to the art of painting by Mike Mullane, Head of Media Online at EBU – on the one side, and the deep readiness to “philosophically reinvent” the notion of public service on the other side, with the latter process especially emphasized by NRK’s Head of Social Media Ingeborg Volan. In a way, it is as if everyone agrees that for healthy media outlets there is no way of bypassing social media use in the current landscape, but at the same time there are very little existing points of reference that could act as initial guidelines in implementing social media strategies onto traditional editorial processes. I think that this sort of dilemma does nothing more than rising both the excitement and the risk perception on the part of media practitioners willing to invest in social media presences.

Actually, a number of speakers, captained by Director General of Swedish Radio Cilla Benkö as well as BBC News’s Jeremy Skeet, tried to outline some conceptual pillars concerning the initial embracement of social media, addressing particularly the most skeptical ones in the field, expressing in this case that “you really have to be on social media simply because your audience is on social media” or again “social media journalism can and should be fun”. Whether these and similar statements really help in formulating concrete strategies for the use of social media on the part of public service broadcasters is probably to difficult to tell. Rather, it is the enthusiasm and believable conviction manifested by the majority of the speakers when talking about their (current or future) use of social media that should, as it appeared to me, be the best and most honest promotional tool for investing in it.

I really like the suggestive idea that something practically uncontrollable a priori like social media and their impact on content strategies and management are meant to fundamentally reshape a cornerstone of modern secular societies such as the functioning of public service broadcasting. In some ways, some hesitation on the part of the players necessarily affected by its now fully recognized establishment in the digital media universe is partially understandable. Probably to overcome such initial indecisions, if not fears, of journalists about to embark in the social media adventure, Swedish Radio has been clever and kind enough to produce – in my opinion – a very useful as well as publicly accessible Social Media Handbook available as PDF for all those who do not have a single clue on where to start from.

I believe it is fair to say that, if even public service broadcasters have come to the agreement that social media is no longer “the future” but an inescapable, powerful reality that cannot be ignored, it is really time to preach their actual establishment in journalistic practices almost globally (or at least on an European level, judging the countries of origin of the speakers present at the summit). While it is no secret that commercial and private media have already fully invested in social media resources a while ago, at least with regard to the intensity of the investment, there are no excuses left for their colleagues operating in the public service sector to follow the trend and start surfing along on the multiform wave of social media channels. After all, did we not already hear at some in history point that, in the end, a rising tide lifts all the boats?

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

P.s.: this blogpost has also been published on Polis’s blog in a slightly edited form.

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ARCADE FIRE, PROFESSIONAL GUARDIAN | 4th March, MMXV

A couple of weeks ago I came across this news story on NME’s website. Not a huge connoisseur of Arcade Fire myself, for I only know a couple of songs pretty good, although I may’ve bought an album somewhen, but nonetheless I really had to read the whole article. In fact, my interest was already captured by the unusual headline used: “Arcade Fire’s Will Butler to write songs based on Guardian news stories”. The article is basically about this new thing the singer-songwriter Will Butler had agreed to do in collaboration with The Guardian from 23rd to 27th February where he’d write and release a song a day based on news stories produced by the liberal UK newspaper.

Well, I think this operation is at the same time very cool and really worrying. I’ve been interested in journalism and all its various forms and developments for a long time and, above all, I do consider it being a fundamental pillar of modern progressive societies, if functioning properly with discrete transparency and accountability. In addition to that, I’m at the moment interning at a journalism and society’s think tank called Polis based at my university (to be specific, I’m taking care of their Twitter profile), so I do feel a bit of a personal duty catalysing me to comment on this featuring.

On the one hand, I honestly see the collaboration as something useful to try out new forms of songwriting and inspiration generation in realms never really tried out before, particularly in an established way. As Butler himself – whose by the way solo debut album “Policy” is due to be released on 16th March via Merge Records – declared in an associated interview: “It’s a cruel thing, but sometimes you read something and think, ‘Uh oh. I could make something really meaty out of that'”. Thus, if he’s admitting to feel inspired by real-world phenomena and issues, who are we to stop him from doing that? After all, it was even the folk-Lord Bob Dylan himself who involuntarily kicked off his tradition, as he once declared that certain of his songs were actually based on news headlines. Yet, on the other hand, I’d have to ask myself: are songs and especially lyrics not always somehow triggered by what specific artists come across in their everyday life experience, whether consciously or unconsciously? I feel there is no real need to officially frame this process directly by setting up such kinds of collaboration. If one gets inspired by a newspaper’s story, then he/she should just go on and write the piece without feeling obliged to give back something in return or to somehow acknowledge the source of creativity. What is really missing here, for me, is the true point of the overall operation.

However, these may be considerations concerning more the artistic-musical dimension of the relationship. I think one should also be aware that The Guardian itself could really gain something by such a featuring with someone who’s without doubt a really valuable musician. I’m not only talking about a healthy portion of promotion across target audiences (even though I concede that it’s debatable who’s really profiting between Butler and The Guardian on a mere publicity-level). I’m actually also referring to an interesting analysis that could be done of how their news stories can get perceived by someone who’s deployed to turn them into musical pieces. What is being consider relevant? What can be left out? Are such conceptions of values shared across the two parties or is there a big discrepancy in the output? This is exactly where the operation gets really fascinating, in my opinion: to see how something rather static presenting events and facts happening in the world in a journalistic way gets converted into an art effort. Still I think it’s not extremely surprising that The Guardian has come up with something like this. Thus, it’s certainly right to say that the UK newspaper has always been very successful in re-inventing itself both on- and offline as well as in finding new ways to undertake ‘alternative’ approaches to traditional news reporting across time, being it by redesigning specific features, undertaking risky editorial choices, or simply establishing new columns. It’s almost become its recognised trademark, and probably also what it makes it so popular.

For those interested, the result of the featuring between Will Butler and The Guardian’s website can be admired and heard here. I’m not gonna judge on the five songs themselves – after all, this isn’t an ARM blogpost – I really just wanted to let these thoughts out on the overall collaboration. Which, at the end of the day, I’m not really sure if I genuinely like or quietly fear. The answer is probably that since it was The Guardian that was implied, maybe the whole thing doesn’t seem so out of control after all. Great initiative, yet with an obscure goal.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV