I’m writing this with a slightly damp, sparko spaniel next to me on the sofa. He’s called Noodle – don’t ask, because I’ve no idea how we arrived at Noodle, I wanted to call him Cassius or Gulliver – and he’s like a silky-eared, jewel-eyed toddler. Bouncy, playful, loving and a little bit chewy at the moment. He does not feature below because he only arrived yesterday, but there will be oodles of Noodle to come, I promise.
Say what you like about Taylor Swift, but she’s one of about four artists who, when she releases something new, can bring social media to absolute boiling point (the others being Beyonce, Ed Sheeran and Adele). Her ability to secure miles of column inches is almost more impressive than her ability to knock out a great pop hook – which is really saying something, as she can write a big chorus like no-one else.
Which is why it’s disappointing that her new single doesn’t have a big chorus. Personally, I like ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ – it’s catchy, it’s vengeful, and the video takes deliberate self-parody to a whole new level. The title’s a bit of a letdown – “look what you made me do” is the abusive partner’s go-to excuse, so Swift is in dodgy territory there. The lyrics also aren’t her best – the slickest line “honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time” probably doesn’t make it into her top five best lines – but it’s still a solid track.
I find the amount of flak Swift gets quite interesting – a certain amount of it is justified, but most of it isn’t. It’s odd how “micromanaging her image” is often levelled as an accusation at Swift. What’s wrong with that, exactly? The girl had a writing deal by the age of 14 – she’s probably had quite the fight on her hands to control how she’s portrayed. Another accusation she gets is that she’s not political enough, and this one I certainly understand, but I’m not sure it’s a particularly helpful criticism.
Obviously it’s right to expect high standards from influential people. If you’ve got an audience – particularly one made up of the young and the impressionable – you should use that platform for as much good as you can. I wish Taylor was more outspoken in her feminism, I wish she was more political, because I think it denotes a certain level of confidence that famous women aren’t always encouraged to display, but it’s not a dealbreaker for me. I love outspoken, politically active artists – Bruce Springsteen, Sara Bareilles, Thea Gilmore – but I think you can wholeheartedly endorse “authenticity” in music and still enjoy a bit of glossy, manicured artifice.
Do pop stars have to be political? Does Taylor Swift have to call herself a strident feminist? In these troubling times, there’s a strong argument for “of course” on both counts, but equally, dismissing a famous woman as an embarrassment to her gender simply because she’s never worn a “this is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt is just silly. Acting like you’re compiling some sort of register doesn’t really benefit feminism in the long run. And in yet another episode of “but do men get this shit?” I don’t see anyone hassling Ed Sheeran for saying “I don’t get involved in politics”, or demanding that Harry Styles condemn Brexit, or whatever.
Having said all that, Swift’s involvement in this is grim and frankly that kind of thing should be illegal. Interesting times, right?
This has been receiving rave reviews and thoroughly deserves them. Admittedly, it caters to several of my literary kinks – class divide between characters, a slippery-fish narrator, and a university setting – but it’s beautifully written and perfectly paced. The action flits between the party of the title, thrown by rich, successful Ben Fitzmaurice, and his university friendship with obsessive outsider Martin. It took barely two days for me to devour this, and that was with some serious restraint. If you love a page-turner but also appreciate a witty turn of phrase, I’d recommend seven bells out of it.
Brontide farewell show at The Garage, Islington
I was gutted when 3-piece post-rock band Brontide announced they were calling it a day – I was so hoping they’d write the soundtrack to the next uber-slick indie British thriller. Their second album, Artery, is an 8-track masterpiece, and at a running time of 44 minutes, it’s an excellent record to, erm, run to. Anyway, like all good things, Brontide have come to the end of their time together and it’s a bit of a bummer. Still, they played a stonking farewell show in Islington on Thursday night, and the crowd couldn’t get enough of them. Rather sweetly, all three members of the band were in black Brontide t-shirts, and black confetti rained down at the start and end of the night. We’ll miss them, but by God, they went out on a supreme high.
The only thing that the big screen version of Dave Eggers’ novel has going for it is Emma Watson’s wardrobe. She looks great in every scene – exactly as you’d expect a 20-something working at a tech firm to look. Jeans, t-shirts, TOMs. When she’s giving presentations, she’s in skinny trousers, flats and a casually-tucked-in shirt – #girlbosswardrobegoals, quite frankly (Lord, what a nauseating hashtag).
I was warned against watching the film many times. I really enjoyed the book, and thought it made excellent adaptation material. Everyone who told me the film was rubbish was right, and I should have listened. It’s bizarre though, because Eggers was involved in the screenplay, and Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton and John Boyega star alongside Watson – you’d expect something that’s at least passable. But alas. It steamrolls through plot points that need time to build, it scrambles the timeline so that a major twist is given away far too early, and manages to utterly flatten what could have been a really prescient, thought-provoking film in the vein of Minority Report and Ex Machina. Massive opportunity missed.
“Hormone Horoscope?” I hear you scoff. “What piffle!” (Because apparently in my mind, my one solitary reader is a monied bachelor who spends his evenings in a maroon velvet “housecoat”, sipping brandy and being dismissive of things.) But you’re going to have to trust me on this one. The app simply gives you a full rundown of which hormones are doing what on any given day and how they might influence your mood and energy levels. It’s certainly helped me answer the following questions…
- Is there a reason that for five days a month, I can sleep for a good nine hours a night and still feel like a wrung-out dishcloth?
- Is there a reason that in the days running up to the Red Wedding, there aren’t enough Minstrels in the world to satisfy my sugar cravings, and I regularly fantasise about being baked into an enormous cinnamon bun with my only method of escape being to eat my way out?
- Is there a reason that at certain times of the month, Drummer Boy can’t do anything right but all I want to do is cling to him like an orphaned koala? (Suspect the reason for this one is in fact my personality, and nothing whatsoever to do with fluctuations of oestrogen and whatnot.)
- Is there a reason that bang in the middle of the cycle, I spend three or four days being attracted to men I’d normally dismiss as being too “Sketch from Tattoo Fixers”? The rest of the time, give me clean-shaven posh boys who like knitwear, reading and explaining feminism to their male friends after one too many gins. For one week a month, though, I can’t take my eyes off bearded, tattooed, long-haired men who look like they may have once been kicked out of The Libertines for being too unreliable.
There are biological explanations for all (well, most) of the above. Hurrah! Now pass me the Minstrels.