Wow, this got long: Should we separate an artist from their art?

Recently, based on my tendency to indulge my nostalgia and listen to all the rock and emo music that got me through being an angsty teenager in 2007, YouTube threw up a song by Welsh rock band Lostprophets in my Recommended menu. Without thinking I clicked on the video – it wasn’t until the song was nearly halfway through that I realised I maybe shouldn’t be listening to it at all.

(For the uninitiated, the lead singer of Lostprophets, Ian Watkins, was in 2013 sentenced to 29 years’ imprisonment after being charged with a number of monstrous offences, most notably with conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a one-year-old.)

So this got me thinking – should we be separating artists from their art? Is it acceptable to overlook the criminal record of the man who sang one of my favourite songs for the sake of my sentimentality?

My gut instinct says no, of course not. Ultimately, art is an extension of the artist. It’s something they’ve created. In the case of Lostprophets, it doesn’t matter that we the audience don’t know Ian Watkins or any of his bandmates personally, or that our personal experience of their art is heavily influenced by our own memories, thoughts and emotions. Neither of these elements of a Lostprophets album changes the fact that its instrumentals, melodies, meanings and everything else were crafted, and belong to, a convicted paedophile.

Not only that, but to consume the art of any artist (in terms of paying to consume the art) is to show our support of them. That’s just the nature of consumerism – the same could be said for buying a chocolate bar. Whichever chocolate bar you choose, you’re choosing to support that particular brand. You wouldn’t buy something you didn’t like! Especially via monetised streaming services, such as YouTube and Spotify, by listening to a Lostprophets track you are inadvertantly supporting every member of that band, who will receive a payment – no matter how small – per stream or play of their work. There’s nothing wrong with this – the majority of us expect to be paid for the work we do – but when the craftsman has committed such serious offenses, to me it’s slightly uncomfortable to think we’re lining his pockets.

I know this isn’t the end of the discussion. I can certainly see the appeal of the response. For starters, Lostprophets as a band was not just Ian. Through his own charges, to which the rest of the band were allegedly oblivious, Ian Watkins has destroyed the reputation and livelihoods of five other musicians who did nothing wrong. Damning the other five band members for the sixth’s actions might be seen as unfair.

It could also be argued that you can’t switch off your feelings – if a song rouses certain memories or emotions within you simply by listening, you can’t exactly just switch that reaction off. To put it another way, if we’re expected to unlearn the emotions evoked by a piece of art, being expected to unlearn a smell should be no different. The majority of us know that stomach-flipping moment where you catch the smell of the perfume or aftershave worn by the person you like, or the warming, contented feeling that comes with smelling a roast dinner in the oven. I’m not sure I’ll ever be over the smell of bacon sizzling, or the harrowing first note of ‘Welcome To The Black Parade’ by My Chemical Romance. Both evoke an instant reflex. If we should be able to switch off from art – regardless of which of our five senses we receive the art through – why can’t the same be said of other human reactions?

(of course I know our conscience, and what is deemed as a socially acceptable conscience, plays a big part in the expectation to be able to switch off our emotions. I’m just playing devil’s advocate here.)

This is a very poorly constructed argument, I know, and it only really scratches the surface of what I really want to get to the bottom of. I’ve still got so many questions. Why does Justin Bieber have so many devoted followers and worldwide #1 singles when he’s no stranger to antisocial behaviour and disrespectful to his fans? How did Trump become elected as POTUS, for God’s sake, with all the sexual assault allegations and public displays of racism to his name?

Should we separate the artist from their art, if necessary? If we do, does that say more about the artist, or the callibration of our own moral compass?

The Life of a Twenty-Something || dodie ‘Intertwined’ EP review

Okay before we hop into the review I just want to do a little PSA to let you know I’m now a contributor for MyTrendingStories (it’s clicky, go on!) and this review is my first post over there. I’ll be posting something for them weekly as well as posting here when I can and I’d really appreciate support and feedback for the articles I upload on a Proper Website (ooh ahh scary stuff)

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I don’t know how she does it. With every original song she posts to her channel, YouTuber Dodie Clark manages to create relatable, heartfelt music, with the exact string of lyrics and melodies to hit the nail on the head of how it feels to live through the things she’s singing about. Naturally, when Dodie announced the release of her first EP ‘Intertwined’, I hopped right on the bandwagon and pre-ordered my download straight away.

After its UK release on November 18, I’ve had the EP on repeat. The collection of original songs Dodie has picked for Intertwined is perfect – the end result is a well-rounded, charming insight into how it feels to be muddling through life as a twenty-something, and it’s so refreshing to hear.

Its title track, ‘Intertwined’, shares the tentative, intimate feelings of having a little something with someone and hoping they feel the same but not being quite sure. It’s vulnerable but sincere. I suppose you could say that about the EP as a whole – nothing is amped up to sound too dramatic or extraordinary. Dodie is nothing if not genuine and down-to-earth in her music.

‘Sick of Losing Soulmates’ explores the heartbreak and frustration of losing – or the thought of losing – a best friend; ‘Absolutely Smitten’ is charming and cheerful, encapsulating that butterflies feeling of having a crush who likes you back and all the youthful excitement that comes with it; ‘When’ is a nostalgic longing for when life was easier – perhaps for a time that makes her feel the way Absolutely Smitten sounds. Personally, ‘When’ is particularly hard-hitting. We’ve all been there: those quiet, whimsical moments late at night that see you worrying over the pressure to live the best adult life you can make for yourself and wondering why you can’t trade it all in for the happy, carefree nature of being 16 and your GCSEs being the biggest of your worries.

‘Intertwined’ also includes two interludes which are slightly off-the-wall bursts of character. ‘I Have A Hole In My Tooth (And My Dentist Is Shut)’ documents a real-life experience which pretty much does what it says on the tin. ‘Life Lesson’ is an uplifting contrast to the sometimes raw and emotional subject matter of the EP,  reminding us that even though it can be full of soaring highs and lowest lows, life is best lived to its fullest and the hardship we may face is all part of what makes us human.

What gives Intertwined its richness and depth to me is, having followed Dodie on social media for over a year now, it’s plain to see that the EP reflects her personal development and growth as a person. She’s publically shared her struggles with mental illness and has made no secret of how she indulges in nostalgia. It’s this sort of honesty that just makes the whole thing work so beautifully.

From bedroom uploads of her strumming the ukelele bashfully to polished, lively studio recordings, I’ve loved being on this journey with Dodie and can’t wait to see where she goes next.

Until next time,

Emma x

All Good Things

Haven’t blogged in a month. Was recently reminded by my friend Polly that my blog, in her words, is ‘DEAD’. Caps and all. We’re still friends, I promise. It’s been a rocky month at home, but now I’m back to wanting to write again. That’s nice, isn’t it?

Anyway. Things I’ve done since the 12th of July (my last post) include…

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1. The Ukelele
Yes, you read that correctly. I have decided, after months of trying to shimmy myself into a hobby (teaching myself Italian and attempting to re-learn how to knit were among the non-starters), that the tiny guitar usually reserved for YouTube musicians and primary school children will be my weapon of choice. I discovered that Sue Ryder, a UK medical care and support charity, actually sell their own range of beginner’s ukeleles in a variety of colours. I opted for the garish orange model – of course I did, this is me we’re talking about – and with the help of my guitar tutor brother (handy) I’ve started tackling the basics. I’m enjoying it so far!

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2. Read some great books
Since the 12th of July I have finished two books (and I’m currently trying to juggle another two: bit of a Fletcher fest this end, I’ve gone for Billy And Me by Giovanna, and On The Other Side by Carrie Hope). They were both fantastic reads and I’d highly recommend them both!

– the first was I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh – a really creepy crime novel that rapidly becomes a psychological thriller that’ll make your blood boil and not want to move until you’ve finished it. Part 1’s a bit slow, but it’s all context and it’s all crucial to the development of the plot – once you hit Part 2 you’ll be on the edge of your seat. This was also a bonus, while I was still in the post-book haze:

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– the second was Dead Famous by Ben Elton, which I bought off the back of watching a ScarfDemon YouTube video (this one, to be exact!). Ben Elton’s writing style is quick, witty and his characters are so well-rounded and likeable. Dead Famous is a parody of Big Brother, written at the time where BB was the talking point of the summer. Elton introduces a cast of wacky housemates, but throws a whodunnit into the mix when a housemate is murdered on day 27 with no recorded evidence. The timeline of events is so cleverly presented in Dead Famous that you’ll be kept guessing right until the final few pages.

3. Bought…a lot of new clothes
I won’t disclose how much I actually spent, because I’m slightly ashamed, but it’s one of the best things I did this month. On a night out a few weeks ago I realised I didn’t have anything to wear that I felt good in. I felt the same a few nights ago heading to a chilled reunion with all but one of my girls, and that night didn’t even require leaving the house. So I did what any girl in a self-esteem crisis would do – took myself off to Birmingham for the morning in my easiest-to-remove pinafore and tried on half the clothes in the Bullring. I came back with six tops, three skirts, two pairs of shoes, a feeling of accomplishment and a depleted bank balance. All in all, good Saturday. If only I now had any money left to go out and look good in the things I bought…

So that’s been my month! I’ve done a lot of hanging out with pals, foaming milk and blending milkshakes, but these are the bits and pieces I’ve done for myself, by myself – something that’s equally as important to feel comfortable doing.

If you fancy checking out the ukeleles – they’re £14.99 each and the proceeds go towards helping critically ill patients and their loved ones when they really need it – you can peruse the whole collection here.

Emma x

The Albums that Changed My Life (yes, we’re going there) (video heavy sorry lol)

This week, in the Knowles residence, we’ve been going through Dad’s mountains of CDs in an attempt to declutter and, eventually, redecorate. We don’t really have visitors to the house much because it’s essentially a contained, yet messy pile of things that aren’t even ours! One thing I’ve learned about my Dad through all of this is that he was a collector, through and through, and a bit of a hoarder to boot.

So, baby steps. I came across some of my old CD collection amongst his, and realised that there are actually a few albums (and singles) that ‘changed’ my life – or at least shaped me into who I am now. It’s been nice and nostalgic to listen to them and let all those old feelings wash over me.

1. The Black Parade – My Chemical Romance
Oh man, this album. Typical melodramatic ’emo kid’ of 2006, TBP was the first album I ever properly connected to and cared about more than just hearing the songs on the music channels. It was my gateway album into the whole emo/rock/pop-punk body of music, which was so different and exciting compared to the ‘chav’ music that most other people at my school enjoyed in 2006 (lol). It also inspired me to dye my hair ketchup red and wear pink-and-black stripy fingerless gloves, but everyone makes mistakes. TBP showed me there can be a lot more to music than the melody you hear, and MCR remain one of my all-time favourite bands for that reason.

2. Made of Bricks – Kate Nash
When Kate Nash first came onto the scene in 2007, I was obsessed. It was actually my Dad who suggested I give her song Foundations a listen, so I went the full hog and bought the album without hearing anything on it beforehand. As well as being an album of great indie-pop, it came out at *just* the right time – I was going through a big teenage transition in terms of my friendships, wanting to dress in crazy colourful clothes and branch out to do more exciting things and make more friends. Made of Bricks helped a great deal with my accepting that it’s okay to be a bit different and quirky, as long as you’re happy and being yourself. I needed that.

3. We Were Here – Joshua Radin
Joshua Radin’s music is so great. It’s a peaceful, quiet night with the fire on, or a walk in the sun with a bit of a breeze. It’s just nice. As a family, we discovered his music while watching Scrubs, after ‘Winter’ was featured in one of the series’ most emotional scenes ever (somewhere in season 3, episode ‘My Screw Up’). Winter is one of my all-time favourite songs. His album ‘Simple Times’ is a big one for me too, as I listened to it religiously before seeing him live in 2008 – and for months afterwards. My go-to artist if I need to just sit the fuck down and relax.

Some other songs that deserve an honourable mention in a post like this:
Just A Song About Ping Pong by Operator, Please – because it’s barmy and this post would not be complete without it:

Harry Rag by The Kinks – for all the ‘living room discos’ I grew up having before bed (this really was our song of choice, at the age of ~6):

What’s My Name? by Rihanna – for giving me the confidence to be the ‘new kid’ at sixth form on my walk over every day:

What If? by Safetysuit – the song that reminds me of fandom. I’m not kidding. My first ship was Kradam and there was a beautiful fan video going round at the time set to that song:

Bubbles by Biffy Clyro – a song I used to help me get over someone that didn’t really help me get over them. It’s a great song though:

Summertime by My Chemical Romance – a song, the song, that I wish was written about me:

Down by Dodie Clark – I’ve only discovered Dodie in the past year or so, but she’s really helping through what I can only describe as the worst time of my life, mental health wise:

Obviously there are many, many more songs and artists that I love, have seen live and been influenced by. These are just a few. Music’s great, isn’t it?

Until next time,

Emma x