Sound of Spotify

As a prerequisite to reading this article, go out and immediately listen to Emeli Sande’s album; “Our Version of Events”. What you are about to read can only be understood having heard it, as the only words I can think to do it justice are your standard music review adjectives (“stunning, gorgeous”, so on and so forth…), and these adjectives, however apt, don’t really give you an insight into the mood I am in whilst writing this article.

Basically, I’m outraged. Not because the album offended me in any way, but because I simply don’t have access to it. You see, when I find an artist I like, I fall in love with them. I form a proper attachment to them- an attachment that Spotify Free just doesn’t seem to comprehend. It’s a love that is forbidden by their “five listens per song” limit. And it cuts me deep.

When I was first introduced to the Arctic Monkeys, I played them on loop for about three months straight. Rihanna, One Night Only, Black Kids and Jamie T all suffered similar fates. Two Door Cinema Club have only just been relieved of their duties, and currently in charge of my iPod are Friendly Fires. It’s just how I go about listening to music. A phase of a band here, fifteen consecutives listens of an album there. I blame this peculiar way of enjoying music for my very stunted knowledge of what’s popular at any given moment. I’m anti-hipster, essentially. I hear of an artist when they start to gain popularity, and I’m still singing along long after they’ve fallen out of the charts.
(c) Emeli Sande

Sometimes, the choices are acceptable; the general consensus on the Arctic Monkeys is that it’s OKAY to be able to recall any lyric from any of their (first three) albums (I gave up post Last Shadow Puppets…). However, some are less acceptable, and some are just all out embarrassing. My entire A-Level period was spent revising alongside Pixie Lott’s cheery meaningless pop- which has since become so ingrained into my studying patterns now, that whenever I am in desperate need to concentrate on revision notes, I just whack her on my iPod and I’m good to go.

My music habits aren’t obsessive; I don’t particularly care much about the celebrity behind the music. The only music poster I have still is one I pinched of Azealia Banks giving me the finger (less than delightful to wake up to, but I really have grown to love it). I very rarely venture out to live music gigs that don’t involve my own friends rocking out on stage. I just want to listen to what I like. Again and again and again. And again. Consecutively. As though I’m trying to commit it to memory.

For those of you who aren’t Spotify Savvy, it’s a free music service- essentially an on-demand radio. I love it. It allows you to siphon off what doesn’t appeal to you, and leaves you with what does. I’ve recently discovered Ben Howard and Passion Pit through their “similar artists” function, for which I’m very grateful. It’s also cracking for having a good nosy at what your friends are listening to, though I’m not sure I want all my friends to know that I actively listen to Alanis Morisette (I’m slowly turning into my mother, I may as well embrace the soundtrack).

Spotify- spoiling the customers?
One massive bugbear I have with it, however, is that it just so happens to limit the amount of times you can listen to any given song to five times. Which, for my habits, is very frustrating. When Our Verison of Events cut off at the beginning of the week, I was furious. This frustration, I recognise, is completely unjustified. I’m very aware that this reeks of a First World Problem. You’re only allowed a certain amount of free stuff? Poor you. Must be taxing. Fancy that big bad company not spoiling you completely, those bastards.

Which got me thinking. Why do people resent paying for music so much? Any entertainment, in fact? No one seems to buy music anymore, or go to the cinema, or buy DVDs. Everything is downloaded, and I’m willing to bet a massive deal of that is illegal. Personally, I’m so terrified of The Internet Police knocking on my door and suing me for copyright infringement because I’ve downloaded the Mulan soundtrack, that I never, and I mean NEVER, illegally download things. If I really want to listen to something, I’ll use Spotify, or grooveshark.com, or youtube. Or, as an ultimate last resort, I’ll download it on iTunes. But paying for my entertainment really is considered a last resort, and I have to have some sort of guarantee in my head that is going to be worth the £5.99.

Why is there a sense of entitlement with entertainment? Artists do not OWE us their music/films. The amount of money it costs to make a blockbuster, or for a band to produce and distribute albums, is highly disproportional to how the general population values its worth. What results is this stand-off between consumers and the producers of entertainment; we don’t want to have to give money away for something so easily accessible; they don’t want to give everything for free.

It’s a boundary that’s becoming harder and harder to define. The lack of a willingness to pay for music has surprisingly benefitted many in the music industry. Lily Allen and the Arctic Monkeys famously rose to power through the online music host MySpace, and have both made a lot of money packing out stadiums as a result. Software such as Spotify allows music to be recommended solely through social media, creating up to date and vital information on what is popular, and allowing artists to gain much more attention than was necessarily previously possible.

Perhaps this begrudging does benefit both sides of the battle. Customers are being pickier about what they’re willing to pay for, and therefore we’re sorting the wheat from the chaff ourselves, rather than allowing some media buffs to do it for us. Increasing the difficulty of competition can only increase the quality of the winners, right? Or does it damage smaller artist’s chances of any acknowledgement? Personally, I think not. Ed Sheeran’s success speaks volumes, for instance.

Either way, the industry has won this time. Our Version Of Events must mean a lot to me, because instead of sitting in my Spotify account, it now lives in my iTunes account- the true sign that an album is worth it. A song know’s it has made it when people transfer from Spotify to iTunes. You’ve won this one, Emeli. Better luck next time, bank account.

How To Behave.

Last year, I was voted “Least Posh” out of the seventeen people I lived in halls with. While it’s one accolade I’m probably going to forget to mention on my C.V., I wasn’t offended. My competition was a Northerner who pronounces “pasta” “paahsta”, and a girl who legitimately owns a yacht. A YACHT.
Despite my democratically assigned title, however, I’ve been thinking a lot about etiquette lately. It has many ways of tripping people up- be it whether you have to wait and hold the door open for the person at the other end of the corridor, or that point in your third conversation with an acquaintance when you realise it’s just too late to ask their name.

For instance, not long ago, I had to rush out of the shower to answer the door. Imagine my frustration when I opened the door to two charming elderly women, who wondered whether I’d ever “encountered God.”

I was wearing a towel, lone drops of water were running one after another down my nose, and the shampoo was turning cold in my hair. I was already going to be late and I knew there was a queue for the bathroom, but there was no way I was going to be one of those people that slams the door in a Jehovah’s Witness’ face.

Instead, I stood there, freezing in the breeze that my open door was letting into my already under-heated house, nodding along to what they had to say. I know that people of this particular religion do not walk streets in the cruel cold, knocking on door and door, just because they want to piss people off. And I know that they will get treated rudely on a frequent basis. I’ve always quite smugly thought that should I ever answer the door to a Jehovah’s Witness; despite having no invested interest in forming a religious belief in what they say; I would be at least polite enough to listen.

So I did. And they could clearly see it was not an ideal time for me to explain whether I had ever prayed, so they asked if it would be okay to call back at a more convenient time- an offer I accepted graciously, clutching at my slipping towel as they passed me a leaflet. They never did come back; I imagine the sight of my eye-make up half washed down my face put them off or something.

The point is, even though I was really uncomfortable at that moment, I couldn’t bring myself to come off as impolite. It’s a strange phenomenon often found in people who work in customer service positions. I’ve been insulted by customers, and mocked, and outright ignored by them- but it doesn’t shake the fact that I’m going to be cheerfully courteous to them.

When I’m with friends, though, it’s a completely different story altogether. In fact, on telling a friend what I’m currently writing about, she jokingly responded with “you’re not polite”. I was outraged and immediately shouted at her, probably disproving my point. Whatever, she’s a close friend and is used to my abuse by now.

What really gets to me is flamboyant impoliteness. Not saying thank you to someone letting you pass by. The train conductor who’s intent on being as impatient as possible as you hand over your tickets.  Drivers speeding up through a puddle to create a bigger tidal wave over the poor bloody pedestrians. That kind of rudeness that can only stem from arrogance, and is found in the people jumping the McDonalds queues at 4am, post-lash.

So while I might not be the type of person who knows the first thing about polo, I take some comfort in the fact that I find it almost impossible to be purposefully rude to strangers. The title “Least Posh” is fine by me, just so long as it doesn’t translate into “Most Rude” for others. Unless you’re a close friend, that is. Then you can expect incessant abuse, and nothing less.


I Hate Fireworks

The New Year brings out this unnecessary urge in humans to set off fireworks. To go out with a bang (dyageddit?). To stand with your gormless faces pointed towards the sky and go “look at awl de pweddy colours!”

Well, sod that. You all look like morons. While you’re all stood in the freezing cold, waiting for some creepy uncle to set fire to Catherine Wheels (that were probably damaged as they fell off the back of the lorry- therefore have an added safety risk), I’ll be inside sulking, warm and protected by entire brick walls from what can only be described as a disaster waiting to happen.

Though it’s not like I can avoid then from inside- is it? They’re LOUD. The first one is always the worst- giving you the fright of your life. Has someone been shot?! HAS A BOMB GONE OFF OR SOMETHING?! No, it was a bloody Rocket that caused you to scald yourself with burning hot tea. And now you have to brew up again. With burnt hands.

And they’re everywhere. Every city in the world had some form of fireworks display to see in 2012. What better way to begin a year than by throwing flaming packets of gunpowder into the air, after all? All those terrified puppies hiding under beds just scream “have a happy new year”!

Fireworks aren’t even that impressive. Once you’ve seen one sparkly thing in the sky, you’ve seen them all. So why year after year, thousands of people line the icy streets to ooh- and aah- them like some excitable pantomime audience, I’ll never know.

Having once had a firework thrown at me (Manchester was tough, growing up), I can reliably inform you that they are as terrifying up close as they are boring at a distance. Hearing one whizz gleefully past your ear to burst into “pretty” sparkles a few feet ahead of you (not surprisingly) certainly takes the shine off how attractive you find them.

In fact, who CAME UP with them? The “entertainment” that can be used as a weapon against pets and teenagers walking through parks everywhere? Who looked into the star-speckled night sky, and thought “that needs more explosions”? Who thought that letting children wave sticks of skin-melting goodness around was a clever and well-rounded idea? An idiot, that’s who.

-In the (attempted) style of http://luvandhat.tumblr.com/

The Yorker Archives… (Movember.)

November brings a lot for us to celebrate; Bonfire night, the Halloween hangover, and premature Christmas adverts. We’re all cosying up in hats and scarves, and for the men amongst us, beards. No Shave November is puzzling. For one month a year, men globally embark on a bemusing mission to grow facial hair. Gilette must be terrified.
No female seems to fully comprehend this new and bizarrely cool trend. One friend of mine sincerely thought “Movember” stood for “not ‘Mowing the lawn on your face’-ovember”. Why November? Why can’t you just buy a scarf? What’s the point?
I’m told that this peculiar tradition, does in fact, have a good cause behind it. According to the official website, uk.movember.com, the millions of people who take part are all participating in one giant mission to raise money and awareness of mens health, and more specifically, prostate cancer.
So what are the repercussions of this hairy cause? Well, for a start, I’d block every male participant on any social network sites if you don’t want to receive millimetre by millimetre updates. But more importantly, I’d get behind the spirit of it all. While I’m not suggesting females all attempt to grow their own beard (by all means, go ahead if you can physically do it…), I am suggesting that you support the cause. Donate! Find your friend who you think will look the most ridiculous, and sponsor his facial fuzz.
The genius of this quirky fundraiser is that it gives lads everywhere an excuse to see what they look like with a fully grown beard, but it also requires no effort whatsoever, so all men can get involved. It raises awareness for a wonderful and often overlooked cause- so girls, I think we’re all morally obliged to deal with it. Stubble-rash from kissing your boyfriend, lengthy discussions about the almost imperceptible growth of your slightly less beardy friends, and the smugness of the friend that discovers that a tash really does genuinely suit him. It’s all for a good cause, ladies.
(Originally published November 10th 2011 http://www.theyorker.co.uk/news/alphamale/7840