Are Music Fans Going Too Far?

I’m writing this right after reading an interesting piece by Simon Young in Kerrang! magazine. In it, he discussed the idea of fans of musicians overstepping their boundaries to try and meet their musical heroes, quoting examples from All Time Low, Frank Iero and Brendon Urie, and I thought I’d weigh in with my ideas on the matter. Now let me get this straight, this doesn’t just mean asking for autographs or photos if you see them after a show. This is perfectly normal, and if you want a chat or a picture with your favourite artist, there shouldn’t be anything stopping you, so long as you’re not bothering them at an inopportune time. In fact I’d even go as far as to say musicians should have an obligation to interact with their fans – after all, they wouldn’t be famous without them. And don’t even get me started on paid meetups with bands (I’m looking at you, Kellin Quinn). The idea of paying to meet a band you love is ridiculous, and I am completely averse to the idea – it creates unnecessary boundaries between the musician and the fans. No, what I’m talking about is fans going what can only be described as too far. Screaming in the face of musicians when they meet them, pounding on car windows, even following them back to their houses, this is the problem here. The thing is, this problem seems to have gotten worse over the last few years, especially with the rise of internet fandoms, like the cult following Twenty One Pilots have gained over the past few years. But why is this a growing problem? Surely the vast majority of people should understand that this is not okay at all?

Now, obviously most musicians have had the odd stalker here and there, but it seems this is getting all too common. After all, Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco had to sell his house after too many people finding it and sending him ‘creepy messages’. I think what separates this issue from previous generations, however, is the rise of social media and the internet. I feel like the crazy fans have always been there, but the internet gives the the means, motive and opportunity to go after their favourite musicians. People have ways of finding out or leaking information over the internet, like peoples addresses, or the whereabouts of certain stars. And fans like this can find other like-minded people over social media, essentially creating an echo chamber for themselves, only surrounding themselves with people who’ll say the same things back to them, and reinforcing the idea that this is okay. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t think social media or the internet are bad things. In fact my life would be a whole lot different without them. I just think that this is an unfortunate side effect of something good.

But how can this be stopped. Well I, for one, don’t really have a clue. Obviously artists should be more careful about sharing personal information, but I think people will still find ways to find out. An important step could be education, teaching people from a young age that this isn’t okay, but I believe that that would just limit the problem a little rather than stopping it. I just think that whatever to be done to stop this needs to happen, because if it keeps getting worse, more boundaries will be put in place between the artist and the fan, and that can only be bad news. Music is about community, and anything that threatens this has no place in the music world.

Album Review: Kesha – Rainbow

I think it’s fair to say Kesha has had a terrible few years. She has spent the majority of them being embroiled in an legal battle with American pop producer Dr. Luke after he allegedly sexually abused and assaulted her. She seems to have made her way out of this difficult time even stronger though, which is fantastic news. On the 6th of July of this year, she released the first single from this album, called ‘Praying’ – a triumphant anthem against Dr. Luke and everything he stood for. So here she is, with fourteen brand new songs, and her new album RainbowKesha has claimed that she has been inspired by her ‘true’ musical influences on this record, including Dolly Parton, The Beach Boys, and Iggy Pop. So Kesha seems to be finally free on this album, but how is it?

You can immediately see what she means about the influences of this album. This album is full of emotional, powerful anthems, with a few rock influences rather than the electropop she has been known for. Considering that, it is definitely her least ‘mainstream’ album she has come out with, but that isn’t a bad thing. ‘Woman’ is a powerful, but catchy feminist anthem, whereas ‘Let ‘Em Talk’ and ‘Boogie Talk’ feature the Eagles Of Death Metal and are great rock songs in their own right. Everything on this album is new, and unlike anything Kesha has ever made. This uniqueness makes this one of the most genuine and original albums of the year so far. Kesha has never really released a bad album, but with this one she has gone above and beyond anything that she’s done before.

The album is packed full of incredible moments. ‘Hunt You Down’ is a great country-inspired song, showing not only Kesha’s adaptability, but her great voice. Another great moment is ‘Learn To Let Go’, the closest song to Kesha’s previous material, but with a brand new spin on it. Not to mention ‘Praying’, which is an anthemic ballad, yet again showing the best of Kesha’s voice. Arguably the best moment on the album is Kesha’s own take on ‘Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You)’, a duet with Dolly Parton herself. Whether you’re a Kesha fan or not, you should pick this album up – it is a triumphant, incredible record, with some of the best songs of the year. Kesha, we’re so glad you’re back.

Best song: Let ‘Em Talk

Score: 9/10

Album Review: Ghostly Times – When All That’s Left Is Grey

We’ve had a lot of beautifully atmospheric rock music released this year. From Manchester Orchestra’s fifth album, to Bellevue Days’ third EP, people have been perfecting the art of creating an atmosphere through their music all around the rock world. One more band that aims to do this are Brooklyn-based Ghostly Times, who have created a fantastic sound on their debut full-length album.

The first two tracks typify this sound fantastically. ‘Ghostly Times’ and ‘Sleepless State’ create a great atmosphere that sets the tone for the rest of the album. The lead singer’s great voice is perfectly complimented by a plethora of guitar sounds, ranging from melodic swirls to low rhythmic accompaniment. This, alongside the fantastic drumming all comes together to make an atmosphere that is both beautiful and melancholy at the same time. Not all of the songs are the same though. ‘Book of Love’ takes much more of a typical rock format to great effect, and ‘Sit Back, Relapse and Go’ is a 6-minute-long odyssey. Not to mention the incredible ‘Murder of Crows’ – my favourite song on the album.

I have never been one for longer songs, and this album has quite a few of them. Having said that, the band has managed to make them in a way that has kept me engaged throughout the album. Everything on this album just feels right, from the start to the end, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for this band.

Best song: Murder of Crows

Score: 7/10

My Top 100 Songs: 60-51

60. Prayer Of The Refugee – Rise Against

One of the most catchy and easily recognisable tracks Rise Against have ever written in their career, this song is an absolute gem. It shows them at their furious, political best.

Find it on: The Sufferer And The Witness (2006)

59. Holding On To You – Twenty One Pilots

I love an intense song, and this is definitely one of those. It mixes all the best aspects of Twenty One Pilots’ work, mixing soaring melodies, intense rapping and great electronic influences to create a song that once you hear, you won’t get it out of your head.

Find it on: Vessel (2013)

58. Ocean Avenue – Yellowcard

This song is yet another example of early 2000’s pop-punk. Great vocals and guitar are combined with one of the most easily recognisable choruses of all time to make an incredible song.

Find it on: Ocean Avenue (2003)

57. Smile Like You Mean It – The Killers

This is one of the songs I’ve liked for the longest on this list. I always had it in my head when it first came out, but I only found out what it was called after discovering The Killers later on in my life. An amazing song.

Find it on: Hot Fuss (2004)

56. Team – Lorde

2013’s Pure Heroine was an incredible album, but I feel like this is the best song from it. Not only does it bear all of Lorde’s trademark incredible writing and production, its chorus can get in my head like no other song.

Find it on: Pure Heroine (2013)

55. Stacy’s Mom – Fountains Of Wayne

I may lose my credibility to a lot of people by saying this, but I love this song. It’s as catchy as anything I’ve heard, but not only that, it’s possibly one of the funniest songs ever written.

Find it on: Welcome Interstate Managers (2003)

54. I’m Made Of Wax Larry, What Are You Made Of? – A Day To Remember

I mentioned loving intense songs earlier, but this is something else. It feature incredible screamed vocals and an incredible chorus, the best of both worlds between hardcore and pop-punk.

Find it on: Homesick (2009)

53. Lost In Stereo – All Time Low

From one catchy chorus to another, this is one of the best songs in All Time Low’s discography. It contains one of the best vocal performances too!

Find it on: Nothing Personal (2009)

52. I Could Have Lied – Red Hot Chili Peppers

There is a beautiful acoustic track nestled in amongst all of the smash hits in Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and it’s this song. It’s serene, beautiful, and features some of John Frusciante’s best guitar work.

Find it on: Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)

51. This Is Letting Go – Rise Against

This part of the countdown is started and finished by Rise Against, but the songs couldn’t be any more different. While ‘Prayer Of The Refugee’ is filled with anger, this is much more reflective and thoughtful. The lyrics are some of Tim McIlrath’s best work as well.

Find it on: Endgame (2011)

Come back in a fortnight for more of my favourite songs!

Classic Album Review: Bowling For Soup – Drunk Enough To Dance

Bowling For Soup have been creating the catchiest pop-punk for well over 25 years now. While some people may say that their music has lessened in quality recently, no one can deny that they still have a talent for writing some incredibly catchy hooks. And that ability catapulted them into fame in the early 2000’s, so much that their name is still mentioned amongst the greatest pop-punk bands of that era. There was one album that started all of this success though, and that was 2002’s Drunk Enough To Dance. This album would change their fortunes forever.

Without listening closely enough, this may sound like just your average 21st century pop-punk album. But what’s unique about it is vocalist Jaret Reddick’s ability to create a catchy hook. From the chorus of ‘Emily’ alone, I knew that this would be a memorable album. Every song has something catchy about it, from the first track to the last, and even on incredible bonus track ‘Punk Rock 101’. Are all of the songs perfect? Of course not, but all of them are good enough to stay in your head for the next week or so. And let’s be honest, what more can you ask for? The lyrical side of the album isn’t bad either. Most of the songs have that trademark Reddick humour that Bowling For Soup songs are known for. Occasionally this can come across as childish, but never enough to be a real problem.

Even if the name Drunk Enough To Dance might not be remembered much by pop-punk fans in ten years or so, the songs will definitely stick to people’s memories. The songs are catchy, energetic, and humorous, which is exactly what any pop punk album needs. This album has had a lot more influence, and is a lot better than people give it credit for. I hope it will be listened to for years to come.

Best song: Emily

Score: 8/10

EP Review: Maypine – In The Back Of My Mind

In The Back Of My Mind is the brand new EP from south coast pop-punk band Maypine. From the first listen, it is clear that this band have a lot of energy to bring to the table. But as essential as that is to a pop-punk release, an EP can’t get by on just energy alone – so is there any substance to it?

Initially, I wasn’t sure about the answer to this question. ‘Day After Day’ is a nice enough listen, but I think I’ve listened to so many pop-punk ballads that they all blur into one in my head at this point. ‘North/South Divide’ also never initially stood out to me, sounding like just your average pop-punk song, nothing more and nothing less.

But on the second listen, everything began to fall into place. While I hadn’t originally been too fond of the above two songs, they began to stand out more and more to me. ‘North/South Divide’s catchy hooks and pop-punk sensibilities grew on me, becoming charming rather than tired. Not only this, ‘Day After Day’ is actually a long way above your average pop-punk ballad, approaching a serious subject in a charmingly sentimental way. Not to mention ‘Day After Day’, easily one of the best songs on the album; an absolute anthem and a great closer.

While at first it may seem like this is another average modern pop-punk release (and trust me, there have been a lot of those over the past few years), I urge you to try it. Listen more closely and you’ll find it brimming with charm, energy and style. This band have potential for sure.

Best song: Day After Day

Score: 6/10

 

An Interview About Sexism And Sexual Harassment At Concerts

If you have been following rock music news recently, you’ll have found it impossible to miss punk band The Dickies’ abusive rant at a women in the audience of one of their shows on the Warped Tour. If you haven’t, I’d advise you not to look for it, unless you have the desire to get really angry, really quickly. Many people have come out to defend the band, but let me make this clear to you. What the band did was unacceptable, and anyone defending them or what they did should frankly be ashamed of themselves. The band were immediately banned from performing at the Warped Tour, and rightly so. No one should have to endure this level of sexism at a show, but sadly, it happens more than you’d think. This chain of events got me thinking about the problem of sexism and sexual harassment at concerts though, and I got to writing a post about it, but it quickly struck me that I was completely unqualified to talk about this, having never been a woman at a concert. However, I know many people who have, and have reached out to someone who has been to many concerts over the course of her life to get her perspective on the matter:

After watching the video of The Dickies’ abusive rant at a woman in the crowd, what are your reactions?

‘Firstly, I think it’s completely unacceptable. I believe that they were reacting to a sign that read ‘Punk Shouldn’t Be Predatory’. The thing is, nowhere should be predatory! I don’t know why anyone would be bothered by that. A lot of fans have defended them, going on about people being ‘triggered PC lefties’ who need ‘safe spaces’. The fact is, if you’re the one who has to go on an abusive disgusting rant like this over one sign, maybe you’re the one that needs the ‘safe space’. People have also been calling this ‘real punk’, but I’ve always seen punk as fairly progressive. It’s certainly never claimed to be misogynistic. I think it’s awful that men there are laughing along; it’s never acceptable to say things like that to a woman, or anyone in general. You don’t need to be a feminist to see this man has no respect for women, and I think the reason he got so defensive is that he saw a bit of truth in the sign.’

How big a problem do you think sexual harassment is at concerts?

‘I think it’s much more of a problem than people think. A lot of people have brushed it under the rug since it wasn’t really their main focus that night – they were there to see a band after all. The reality of the situation is that most women either have been or know someone who’s been harassed at concert. It seems almost too normal since the possibility is always there for a woman to be harassed, and with concerts being such a crowded environment, it’s easy to do. I think the targets are mostly teenage girls that are there on their own. They’re seen as an easy and vulnerable target.’

Do you have any personal experiences or stories of sexual harassment at concerts?

‘You’d expect these harassers to be older men, but they actually seem to be the most respectful. In my experience, it seems to be people closer to my age [20] that have been a problem. I’ve had a couple of experiences of sexual harassment, but not as much as some people that I know. I’ve been groped before, and some people have pushed their bodies inappropriately into me. Some people would blame this on being in a crowded space, but you can feel the difference, trust me. Two girls I know have been fully harassed, and not left alone by the offender, and I’m pretty sure most people I know have had some sort of similar experience. Some men think that this sort of behaviour is okay, and it is just flirting, but that is no excuse. It is unacceptable no matter the consequences. For me it also varies with the type of concert I’m at; I’ve had more bad experiences at pop-punk concerts than solely pop or solely punk concerts. A pop audience is usually made up of mostly women and young fans, and punk fans seem very respectful. There’s a strange divide in pop-punk though, as most of the bands seem fairly progressive, but the fanbase can sometimes be the opposite.’

Why do you think sexual harassment happens at concerts?

‘Well firstly, it’s such a crowded environment, with so many people there. This makes it really easy to do when there’s not a lot of security around. It’s basically a perfect environment for predators, which is quite terrifying when you think about it. And I’m talking about people who know they’re doing something wrong here. They’ll see young girls on their own, often with no parents around. It’ll be dark, and if no one notices, which most of the time they won’t, there’ll be no consequences. Not only this, but some girls aren’t educated enough about sexual harassment, leading to many people thinking that this is normal behaviour, and can even be seen as a complement. Not that I’m blaming the girls; you can’t blame someone for not knowing, but it should definitely be taught to them.’

What measures can be put in place to protect people from sexual harassment at concerts?

‘As I previously mentioned, education to all genders on what sexual harassment is is vital. I think it’s important for people to learn both what it is, and what to do if they feel threatened. People can also be discouraged from unacceptable behaviour, and learn not to do it from a younger age. There should be more security at the sides of concerts, as not only is it easier for them to see what’s happening, they’re easier to go to if you need help. It should also be encouraged to go and talk to security after something like this happens, as there seems to be a stigma about this. It’s important to note that there are several sexual harassment and abuse charities around the UK, and if you have any concerns or want any more information, then you should definitely go to them.’

So there you have it, an important insight into the world of sexual harassment and sexism at concerts. I feel that it’s important for the music world to really take a deeper look at this issue, and do a lot more than is being done at the moment to really combat the problem. Concerts should be a safe space for music fans, and anything that threatens that should never have a place in the music world. If you have been or know a victim of sexual harassment at concerts, or just want to learn more or donate, I have included some important links from various charities below.

(N.B. While I have based this article on sexual harassment to women, it is important to note that this can happen to men as well. If you are a man and have been a victim of this it is important to speak out and seek help)

https://www.rainn.org/articles/sexual-harassment

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/abuse/sexual-abuse/#.WW_jbojyvIU

https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/crime-info/types-crime/rape-sexual-assault-and-sexual-harassment