‘Beautiful Boy’- Movie review.

By Mollie Campbell.

Movie review: Beautiful Boy

Directed by: Felix Van Groeningen

Starring: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet.

Duration: 120 mins

Rating: 4/5

When I heard about this film I immediately loved the idea of Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet teaming up as a father/son duo, I knew both acting capabilities would result in something powerful. Although I did feel a tad reluctant to submerge myself within content that has been covered so many times before, whilst addiction is incredibly important and should be highlighted in every way possible, I was afraid that this might be another tale in which the protagonist is addicted but the director solely focuses on what got them there as opposed to fully immersing the audience into how the character is experiencing this situation in the present. Although I am very much invested in any film that focuses on addiction, something that has become such an impactful crisis in the United States and the rest of the world but I was hoping this would put a more realistic twist upon the scenario.

Director Felix Van Groeningen certainly provides this as the film progresses, probably due to the fact that this is a true story, and has an extensive use of the source material which include two books; ‘Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction’’ by David Sheff (the real-life father who is watching his son try to battle his addiction) and ‘Tweak’ By Nic Sheff (the ‘addict’). By using these materials so thoroughly and working with the real people, it certainly gave Groeningen the space to portray something as real and gritty as it could be, it has a focus on the present alluding to the message that it doesn’t always matter why a person got addicted to drugs but how they are going to get through it, a very important message which is ultimately what gives the movie its foundation.  Due to the fictitious nature of a lot of addiction films there tends to be a lack of rawness and honesty, directors throw in plot devices to spice up the narrative, in this movie, the many awful situations Nic and his father find themselves in are the unpredictable plot devices of real life…a powerful story about a young man’s addiction to Meth and the recuperations of this upon the people around him.

As soon as the movie starts there are a lot of sounds around us, there is rarely a moment in which there is just silence, these are reserved for the more emotionally charged moments in which the characters experiences are so overwhelming, life-changing or dramatic that it is impossible to focus on anything else but the moment. The rest of the time there is a lot of background noise around us within the scenes making it feel real and present, almost as if we are right there in the room with them, forcing us to envision a world in which our own loved ones or even ourselves are living in this moment, which isn’t hard to do and also highlights the concept of addiction being present, the only way to combat it is not to focus on the why’s but the how’s, how are we going to fix the problem?  It just is… something the film really highlights. Quite early on we see David looking in his son’s room, all of his things and posters are still there within the innocence of Nic’s childhood bedroom yet the bed is empty and the beautiful boy is now a tortured man, instantaneously representing the loss of childhood and the extent of the problems that come with this.

The scenes are very focused on nature, wind, trees, maybe signifying the passing of time, the past always being with us but at the moment we are within and surrounded by things that signify the present and we can never go back in time no matter how hard we try or how good it will be for us. It focuses on parental stress-the obligation you have to protect your child, a parent can never truly switch off the worry for their children and their whereabouts.  As he continues to look around Nic’s room it becomes clear that even though they are tied by blood, he doesn’t really know a thing about the new persona his son has adopted. The emptiness signifies a normal feeling of empty nest syndrome for his eldest child and how the temptations that come with adulthood becomes too hard to resist as we leave the realm of childhood, but he will always be this beautiful boy/child to him as the parent.

There are longshots of childhood photos, slowly being zoomed in on, this happens a lot portraying the idea that parents almost expect their kids to stay as they were, or how they remember them when they were little, when they were entirely dependent on them. Maybe that is the problem… parents don’t see the need for their child to grow and transform despite it being a natural human requirement, therefore not allowing them to become themselves, thus always feeling disappointed if they act in a different way. The idea of journeys in all forms are touched on a lot, there is a lengthy pan shot of a wide open road and the noises around them on the father/son car ride we are watching. There is a focus on the back of Nic’s head when he is taken to rehab for the first time, as if he is the same boy the dad is constantly seeing/remembering/ longing for. The fact that the narrative is straight to the point and we see Nic enter rehab within first ten minutes of the movie is very beneficial, it saves us an often unnecessary build up and attempted justification as to why the character has an addiction.

What is interesting is the way they show the dad’s perspective: it’s almost as if he is living two separate lives, one being stuck in a moment or period/chapter in the child’s past, tied in with the reality of living this current life with an addicted son.  This is a constant theme, there are constant bitty flashbacks interacting with the present content. The dialogue is honest and quite abrupt, or unguarded which is important, an open dialogue can save a lot of assumptions or lack of understanding, getting to the root of the problem. When Nic is in rehab for the second time after running away, he and his father talk about his Crystal Meth usage and the dad asks him: “Why? Why?” because this is constantly what we want to know, why?, how has this happened?, is it our fault?, my fault?, could we have stopped this? But he responds with: “I don’t know” which is often overlooked yet incredibly important, because addiction is often hard to pinpoint, some people have almost perfect lives but they still wound up addicted. And then he says “I’m really sorry about everything” reaffirming the idea that addicts truly do not want to be in the position they find themselves in, yes it was a choice, but one choice, not a life choice that it seems to end up being.

There is a very poignant surfing scene, a flashback to when Nic was younger. We see the dad falling behind the waves, as they grow larger he cannot see over the top of them, he loses Nic and can’t see him anywhere, only to find that he is too far ahead and he can’t catch up with him. Going further out into a sea he simply cannot navigate, he has no choice but to watch as his son leaves him behind. Nic is surfing a wave, he has to go through something his father cannot do anything about, this also signifies that you can only do so much for your children, eventually you have to let them go and allow them to live their own lives. Another highlight is after Nic goes to college and ends up at his new girlfriend’s family home for dinner, there is a gradual close up of Nic’s face as we watch him slowly become more withdrawn from the social situation as his body or mind adapts to a scenario without narcotics. He excuses himself and goes to the bathroom where the camera instantly focuses on a bottle of pills in the background, this is important because it highlights how out of control addiction can get over such a short space of time. Something that started with one small thing like pot in Nic’s case ends with anything to get him through the day. Just something to take the edge off, something to make him enjoy reality the way everyone else is, something to smile… but suddenly the drugs have taken away more smiles than it could ever force you to have in the first place. One minute he thinks one hit is ok but suddenly he’s stealing money off of his younger brother and sister, stooping to a level that he never dreamed he would, and normally never would have under any circumstance but the agonising one he finds himself in. Anyone can become an addict.

Eventually David looks through Nic’s notebook to find all of his poetry and drawings about using drugs and how it helps him, what goes through his mind when he’s high. It is a visual journey and the last page is one in which he documents his switch from meth to heroin. Then there is a significant gap with no pages written on until a random page full of delusional scribbles, this seems to be a metaphor for how drugs have the power to steal chunks of your life from you.  But it is also very important to think about how the people around the addict feels, Nic’s story is told from the dad’s perspective, how addiction changed his life too, it’s not just his own life Nic is destroying. As the parent or helper, your life changes as the addicts life does, whether you want it to or not. It seems to be a constant journey you don’t want to be on. Suddenly you have become involved in the messed up things you have seen or have even previously judged yourself.

As I stated earlier, most important aspect of this film is not establishing why it happened, to some extent. It can’t just be an attempt to figure out why but how, it’s never as simple as that. As we near the end there is a built up anger and suspense within the music and close-up, when Nic discharged himself from a New York hospital after overdosing. The choice of song ‘Beautiful boy’ –Lennon is fitting, just before a scene in which David says to a young Nic ‘I love you more than everything’. If you were going to pick apart the history of the addict, including any possible reasons, maybe Nic having to split his life between two homes as a child provided an unwanted space to live in as a totally different person, floating around in an unstable no man’s land, eventually settling onto this space as opposed to your other destiny, to become someone you were never meant to be, or maybe not…that really is the point of the whole film. There could be reason, there might not be but the point is to forget that and focus on the now, and quitting…before it has taken your whole life from you.

As the narrative moves on, the characters get on with their lives, and it hurts. Nic returns to his father’s home after a year, the stuff in his room is gone, replaced with old gym equipment, it is now storage space…almost as if he doesn’t belong anywhere, or at least definitely not within the bubble of the life he once lived. When he leaves the camera focuses on the blurred mirror in the car as he drives away, happy on the outside, tormented on the inside, representing the blurred distinction between each reality that the drugs create, or a limbo between who you are and who you once were, it’s that space that is much harder to escape from.

The final few scenes really makes you think about the whole journey of addiction, someone at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting talks about the people you help with addiction by saying:  ‘When you mourn the living and that’s a hard way to live’. They are mourning who Nic used to be and he is too, they are mourning the life they once had but now must let that go in order to help him in the best way that they can. In fact letting go is vital for him to find a safe space again, after the addiction has been battled, even if the battle is never truly over.

Timothée and Steve work very well together, another gripping contemporary drama under Chalamet’s belt and a refreshingly humourless role for Carell, which he plays excellently, somewhat unexpectedly. Its bitty and not chronological, mirroring that of a drug addicts life. There is no single formula for coping with and battling drug addiction, everybody’s path is different…but one thing is for certain and that is the lack of order in an addict’s life, how can there be order within the chaos? And this movie is an accurate commentary on all of the aspects of drug addiction, this story ended well, maybe it can influence another happy ending.

 

Why ‘Fahrenheit 451’ is still an incredibly important piece of literature and why every young person should read it.

By Mollie Campbell.

In my last article I wrote about how technology, the internet and Social Media is impacting our lives, and how it appears to be destroying our authenticity, in this article I will be discussing the importance of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury and why every young adult should read it.

Like I said in my last post, I am not dismissing the multitudes of positivity the internet can provide, I am literally publishing this article on an online blog, but I am still incredibly passionate about how we can regulate the way we and our children use the internet and everything that goes with it, to make sure we are still benefiting from it, instead of surrendering to its power. I think one of the biggest ways to help us keep the dangers of technology at bay, is to realign our focus onto things that were designed to help us try and predict and therefore stop ourselves from entering a dystopian future, classic pieces of fiction which are now more relevant than ever, like George Orwell’s ‘1984’ for example.

‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury is set in a future in which a fireman’s purpose isn’t to put fire out, instead it is their duty to burn books, anything that acts as proof that a society other than the one they are currently living in existed, is torched, until every book in the world is gone. Naturally this fictional prohibition of literature created various underground groups or societies who devote their lives to keeping and treasuring books, but if the government finds out, they will be burnt along with the novels that they cherish.  First published in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 provides a terrifying yet alarmingly familiar tale which some regard as a farcical concept but the predictions Bradbury gave in a sense of fiction are now either an aspect of life in 2019, or will be very soon. For example, he gives us an insight into a world in which people do not read, and not only are they discouraged from reading, it is illegal to keep books in your home at all. Whilst this is certainly an extreme concept to think about now, if you think about it, reading is becoming less popular by the second. How often do you see a young adult sitting at the bus stop with a book in their hand as opposed to a smartphone? Newspapers are going out of print, in fact, modern technology almost mirrors that of ‘Parlour Walls’ (huge television screens taking up entire walls of a room) that we read about in Bradbury’s book.

It baffles me when people can’t see just how much of a possibility these futures are, the ones created by Bradbury, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley etc.… even though, whilst to a lesser extent and within a different set of conditions, these ideas have all unravelled in some type of context within society before, e.g. Nazi Germany. Fahrenheit 451 was released only 8 years after World War Two ended, the author likely drew some inspiration from the fact that the Nazi’s literally burnt books as a way of banning materials containing ideologies that opposed to Nazism. Anything that didn’t fit in with their idea of how society should be run was censored, free speech was gone, if you didn’t comply, you wouldn’t survive. In reality, these events didn’t happen that long ago and if a dictator like Adolf Hitler is currently waiting in the shadows, on the cusp of creation, what do you think they’d use as their weapon? The internet.  It’s not that hard to envision a world in which things are taught solely on the internet, many school classes have already switched to this method of teaching, occasionally the government might slip in a few ideologies of their own, as a way of spreading messages to the people, to keep them in line. Maybe this power gets into the wrong hands, a few paragraphs are altered, eventually we might not be able to tell fact from fiction. The reliability of the media is already in question, these days it is hard to know whether the truth is even in there, within the layers of constant political bargaining from each side, from sources we once trusted. Now we have to try and weave our way through constant news stories which seem to be focused mainly on manipulating us to pick a side, right or left. If simple news stories can be tarnished by the influence of those in power in order to get us to think in a certain way, many things can be manipulated and in such a covert way that we aren’t even aware it’s happening. This is frighteningly similar to the dystopian novels I am talking about; we are creating a society in which people only identify as someone who exists on social media, they hastily click ‘accept’ when websites ask permission to collect their data without a second thought, not even opening their minds to the concept of why they might be doing this.

Moreover, this may sound like a rant on the way people have submitted to the early stages of brainwashing and I suppose it is, and it is only my opinion but I strongly believe we need to revert back to the days in which books mattered. You might be wondering what good it would do to a phenomenon that is already taking place, but books provide something that we cannot find on the internet. Sure you can read an exact replica of a book online but it is still keeping you tied to a virtual world, the feeling of an old book in your hand truly gives it a purpose, it isn’t just another online outlet that can be wiped away in an instant. It is something that exists in the real world, transporting us back to a time in which people had no choice but to research information for themselves, or interact with people in the flesh. The internet is an amazing way to research any topic you are curious about but books help us to stay tied to our roots and not in a way that holds us back, one that keeps us safe from the exploits of human greed and power hungry individuals just waiting to manipulate the authenticity we are losing in terms of life and experience and we are giving them the tools to do this, we need to remember that we don’t need to pick the future over the past, we can have both if we allow ourselves too.

But it’s not even these blatant warnings in the type of literature I am talking about that we should be focusing on, any kind of literature is something at least. Anything, from fairies to dragons, from politics to sports, a tale of fiction or non-fiction, something which acts as a catalyst for a person to think for themselves or feel a sense of creativity, something we are lacking in. The patience in terms self-discovery instead of trying to find a fix within the seconds it takes to google something is fading, the only way we can truly learn about the type of people we are is to focus on our own lives and how we act in the real world, as opposed to constant comparisons on social media. We can only do this by taking a step back, and making sure we still have enough strength in us to get back to the shoreline, no matter how tempting the depths of the ocean can be.

This article may not be everyone’s cup of tea and in no way am I telling you to agree with me, but writing this article has really given me the opportunity to learn a few things about myself, how passionate I am about this topic and how all of this was sparked by re-immersing myself in the bleak yet important concepts of dystopian literature. I encourage every young person to read Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’, as well as George Orwell’s ‘1984’ or Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’, persevere with them, it may enlighten your mind in terms of a concept, a self-discovery, even just a planted seed, or it might even change your life…just take advantage of the luxury of reading a book, who knows…one day we might not be able to.

‘He imagined thousands on thousands of faces peering into yards, into alleys, and into the sky, faces hid by curtains, pale, night-frightened faces, like grey animals peering from electric caves, faces with grey colourless eyes, grey tongues and grey thoughts looking out through the numb flesh of the face’- Fahrenheit 451.

 

Is technology and Social Media becoming so integral to people’s lives that it is lessening the impact of our passions? Just how dangerous is it?

By Mollie Campbell.

We all understand the current climate of society, a very large proportion of life now revolves around the use of technology and its corresponding apps, social media etc… from simply using email, to Apple Pay, from ordering Christmas presents, to managing your bank account from the comfort of your own phone. These things have not only become a very popular way of doing things, they have become essential to the way we live in 2019. If you think about it, in the least systematic way possible, we have created a system that relies so heavily upon satellite connections that if anything were to go wrong, society would grind to a halt. We would be thrust back into pre-technological methods, which can be somewhat more reliable anyway. This overwhelming technological dependence that has developed has created a surge of people who cannot pry themselves away from their social media apps/accounts, and with this comes consequences that we were simply incapable of predicting during the early days of the internet’s existence.

According to current statistics, Facebook has by far the largest user base, with over 30 million people actively using the site, with 45% using it ‘several times a day’. This means that almost half of the population are checking their devices multiple times a day, on an app that didn’t even exist just over 15 years ago. Whilst Facebook, like many other social media sites, is a great way of connecting with friends and family, and even employers (e.g. LinkdIn), there is a darker trend developing. Since the launch of Facebook many other apps like Instagram and Twitter have stemmed off this idea of connecting with people from all over the world. All of this has erupted at a time of major technological advancements, we can now search a topic and know everything about it within minutes, someone from Wales can have a full blown conversation with a native of Japan or New Zealand in the time it takes to make a cup of coffee, this sort of accessibility and freedom has been a catalyst to a seemingly harmless concept, turning it into something far more dangerous, a prison…and we are responsible for locking ourselves up and throwing away the key.

Technology and Social Media has turned into a massive aspect of childhood, with more young people using the internet than ever before. Should we be letting our children loose on something that can let them access every dark corner of the world? Obviously parental controls can keep the darkness hidden, for a small amount of time at least, but it is the less alarming threats that can cause more damage.  Many people aren’t aware of just how much the inescapable sphere of social media can impact a person, especially a child. We are all on a voyage to this next era of modern society, and nobody is looking back. But if you think about it, whilst the pros are incredible, the cons are almost endless… the internet encapsulates thousands of different aspects, the main thing we see is other people, different relationships, opposite lives, a complete juxtaposition of worlds. It is a constant comparison, and whilst an unparalleled sense of differentiation and contrast is good and unique, it doesn’t diminish the simple fact that every single individual is seeing something that they might not have even thought about before, a seed is planted, and we cannot determine if it is good or bad until it is too late. It may range from a quality they don’t possess, wealth that they will never be able to acquire, a life they will never be able to live, the list in endless. What is this doing to our mental health? On the outside it can be hard to detect, but it is happening to all of us subconsciously, although it is hardly covert. According to NHS UK, 91% of 16-24-year-olds in the UK use the internet and other social networking sites regularly. More importantly, rates of anxiety and depression in young people have increased by 70% over the last 25 years.

Arguably, the ages from 13 to 18 is a pivotal time in our lives, we develop who we are, laying a foundation, central to the way we live the rest of our lives. Up until this point, every generation has gone through their teenage years without the magnetism of the online climate, providing a somewhat harmless environment in which to learn, morph and grow. These days, children do their growing up on the internet; they express themselves on a platform. Due to this, people see what is ‘successful’ in the eyes of popular digital trends, and this in turn will bury itself deeper and deeper into their minds until they are blinded by the world’s desires, as opposed to focusing on their own dreams and ambitions.  This not only strips us of our individuality, it also diminishes our passions for contrasting things, kids these days feel so much pressure to join in with the ‘correct’ online trends of their age group from around the world, that they conform to this modern sheep like mentality that is only fuelled further by the endless capabilities within social media. This makes branching off and creating your own identity and enjoying your own hobbies far more difficult and much less popular. What makes all of this even worse is us, the adults in the situation. We have given our approval when it comes to these modern capabilities, confirming that it is safe in the eyes of every child in the world…but how do we give something a seal of approval when we don’t fully understand it ourselves? Should we be taking more responsibility in terms of sheltering them?

Yes. We are forcing our children into something that is inescapable as soon as they set foot in it, stripping them of their chance to grow into their own individual personality. For example, why pick up an instrument and use your own organic elements to write a song when you can tap an ipad and produce identical sounds and be welcomed with a hit single? Why take the time to read a classic book when you can just watch the adaptation on Netflix? All of these things are creating not only a lack of passion but also a culture of laziness, people can gain so much through the internet that they don’t want to put in the time and effort in the real world. Without this individuality there will be no diversity, a generation of brainwashed zombies with nowhere to look for inspiration, not that they would even think to.

Without sounding too much like a conspirator, I think the dangers of the internet and social media is taking away what makes us all unique, it feeds into this dystopian future, a future that is parodied constantly in popular culture…ironically, we may be headed there quicker than we realise. If you think about it, the internet can be disguised as many things, it can morph into whatever we want it to be, which is catapulting us into a society in which we are slaves to something that doesn’t even have an identity. We are on the cusp of transcending into something that parallels Orwell’s ‘1984’, we are signing up to be identical puppets on a perpetual string all for the sake of a like on Social Media.

In conclusion, whilst I am not disputing how much the internet can help us to connect, develop, explore and ultimately live, we must wake up and look at things for what they really are…before we are remembered in the history books, or tablets, as the generation that didn’t put a stop to the manifestation of a worldwide dictatorship, one which we created ourselves.

Alec Benjamin ‘Narrated For You’- Album Review.

Alec Benjamin ‘Narrated For You’ – Album review.

By Mollie Campbell.

The title immediately foreshadows what the listener is about to hear, a musical narration… and if the music is delivered in acts, the songs are delivered in chapters.

Genre: Pop/Acoustic.

Rating: 8/10

Lyrically: 5/5

Musically: 3/5

Highlights: If we have each other, Steve, Boy in the Bubble.

The album begins with ‘If we have each other’, a poignant and mature viewpoint for such a young artist highlights the theme running throughout, the balance between the struggles of life and the happiness we are determined to find, and how it shapes us as human beings. ‘The world’s not perfect but it’s not that bad if we got each other and it’s all we have’. This is an insight into a songwriter who has established strength as a story teller at such an early point in his career, the potential is undeniable. Every verse is a story, strung together effortlessly…in the most rewarding sense of simplicity. ‘Water Fountain’ opens with a straightforward electronic drum beat and piano. Despite the interesting use of instrumentation in terms of the acoustic guitar being the focal point, you can really tell that the lyrics are arguably the main focus of Benjamin’s artistry…it is evident that at times there is so much he wants to say that he adds in another bar just to continue the depth of the story, something which tends to be lost in an ocean of monotonous structure in the modern music industry. The way he switches perspectives captures the idea of there always being two sides to every story… ‘But at that time she was too young, I was too young’.

Benjamin shines again in ‘Annabelle’s Homework’, with his strong use of metaphorical lyrics, providing a witty yet honest depiction of the contrasting depths to different relationships. “Doesn’t matter how many papers I write, end of the equation won’t be you and I and now I am just another who got hurt, doing Annabelle’s homework”.  The chorus is catchy with a more laidback drum beat and soothing fingerpicking. The next track ‘Let me down slowly’, recently re-released as a duet with Alessia Cara, is a welcomed change from an album that was in danger of sitting within the same groove for its entirety. The electric guitar is contrasting yet still conforms to the gentle tone of the album, this track is a highlight in terms of building anticipation, and the lyrics have the incredible capacity to really transport the listener into the situation he is singing about.  “Don’t cut me down, throw me out, leave me here to waste, I once was a man with dignity and grace, now I’m slipping through the cracks of your cold embrace, so please, please”.  The lyrics are presented to us in a fairly standard way, but they somehow transform into a verse you wouldn’t be surprised to hear within a song released by a much more seasoned writer. ‘Cold skin, drag my feet on the tile, as I’m walking down the corridor, and I know we haven’t talked in a while, so I’m looking for an open door’.

‘Swim’ is somewhat of a step backwards, in the wrong direction… catchy yet monotonous. But it lives up to its ‘filler’ mentality in the exact way you would expect it to. ‘Boy in the bubble’ is one of the most impressive tracks lyrically, fairly simple again but effortless in the sense that we are interjected into the scenario, and to the extent that we feel as if we are actually in the room with the writer.  “It was 6:48, I was walking home, Stepped through the gate, and I’m all alone, I had chicken on the plate, but the food was cold, then I covered up my face so that no one knows, I didn’t want trouble, I’m the boy in the bubble, but then came trouble”. And by using ‘Boy, you gotta tell me what they did to you’ I said, ‘You don’t wanna know the things I had to do’, She said, ‘Son, you gotta tell me why you’re black and blue” within the song really adds to the unique narrative and style of the album and artist. The use of his singing in an almost rap is different in a good way, it allows him to increase the word count in order to give us more of an insight, it also provides a fresh and energetic chapter to the book that ‘Narrated for you’.

‘Steve’ is easily the highlight of the album for me, musically simple yet astronomical in terms of metaphorical writing, the use of such a famous tale in order to present a much more important lesson in a modern way is very creative. The music is catchy and interesting in terms of structure and format and really pumps fresh life back into the album. The lyrics are unique and important: “Oh, you want what you can’t have, but you’ve got all the things you need, there was Adam, there was Eve and there was Steve, He said “Adam, don’t be a fooled by the snake, don’t risk it all for a taste, oh what a waste, to have everything and give it all away”. ‘Gotta be a reason’ follows the same message or outlet as its predecessor, with impressive lyrics and catchy music. A grown up narrative and tone provides the listener with a deeper insight into a younger viewpoint of modern life whilst still reflecting on stories of the past, intertwining the generations. “Walking down to the burial ground with a sad song in his brain, General Cloud is an old man now but it feels like yesterday, he was on the front lines, stranded on the beach, crawling to his best friend, floatin’ in the sea, but he didn’t make it, he still can’t believe, how arbitrary fate is, he says…” The interesting drum beat and trumpet adds another layer that was potentially lacking up until this point with the tone sounding somewhat bare up until this track.

‘Outrunning Karma’ is a masterpiece of storytelling in my opinion, it is hardly a work by Bob Dylan but it is still of a fine calibre. “Outrunning karma that boy, He’s such a charmer all the, Bugs and their larva follow, Him out to Colorado, Ten dozen hearts in a bag, Their bodies lying he’ll drag, Them down to Colorado, A modern desperado”.  The words are almost haunting, accompanied by delicate yet impactful guitar tones and an accustomed drum beat, straightforward yet a growing staple of an Alec Benjamin track. The use of ‘Desperado’ accurately matches the folk vibe it is giving us, a tale of an old outlaw within the confinements of the modern world. The distinction between old and new is concrete but still bestowed to us as something that lets us blur the two together. The next track ‘If I killed someone for you’ is fairly similar to the previous song which doesn’t exactly help in terms of progression, but it is solid nonetheless. The lyrics are rather innovative and clever with another laidback compilation of sounds, and a sharp-witted middle 8.

The penultimate track ‘Death of a Hero’ begins with nostalgic fingerpicking, parallel with a comfortable vocal progression and honest lyrics. “That night I put my youth in a casket, and buried it inside of me, that night I saw through all the magic, now I’m a witness to the death of a hero”… Benjamin’s vocals are rather haunting as he sings these raw lyrics; he has the ability to let the listener inside, so intensely that it allows our emotions to mirror his. This is a perfect lead up to the final track ‘1994’, during the first verse it is easy to feel kind of underwhelmed until you grasp the nostalgia and depth to the lyrics. The words are very blunt and act as a running commentary, reflective of such a broad era in which everything was changing, he mentions the last of arguably ‘real’ MTV music and the impact 9/11 had on the world, “when the towers fell down, September’s not the same place now”. This is a wholesome track relevant to the writer’s life, an honest finale to an album that truly takes the listener on an authentic journey from start to finish, despite minor bumps in the road. But maybe the bumps in the road is what makes this album so good, nothing is perfect and if there is a problem with our society it is that everyone is trying to achieve this concept of ‘perfection’, despite that being an impossible feat…and as is implied in this ‘mixtape’, what kind of life is perfect?

Overall, the lyrics really strike me as honest, that is what makes this album so inspiring…there is no doubt that it possesses modern musical qualities on the whole, but the style of writing is so raw and honest that it really wouldn’t be a bad thing if people took note of what Alec Benjamin has achieved here. He manages to portray his own life and the things he has experienced in such detail and still somehow manages to tap into other people’s lives and experiences within his own little musical sphere. And finally, any young writer who manages to incorporate words like ‘arbitrary’ or ‘desperado’ into their songs deserves some attention, in my opinion of course.

The 1975, ‘A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships’- Album Review.

The 1975, ‘A brief inquiry into online relationships’- album review.

By Mollie Campbell.

An accurate reflection of modern society and culture perfectly packaged within an album that provides an appropriate equilibrium between insight and inspiration.

Genre: Synth-pop, Indie-pop, Alternative.

Rating: 4/5

You will like this if you are a fan of: The Talking Heads, M83.

Highlights: Give Yourself a Try, TooTimeTooTimeTooTime, It’s Not Living (If It’s Not with You). 

Originating in Manchester in 2002, The 1975 have come a long way since their self-titled debut album released in 2013, they have even managed to enhance their musical capabilities since their breakthrough album ‘I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It’, released in 2016. ‘A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships’ sticks to the successful song- writing formula the band have acquired, yet it is given space to breathe and sets itself free from the entrapment of a cliché, introducing new concepts and meanings throughout, and establishing itself as a personal yet extensive portrait of life in 2018.

It begins with an accustomed intro of ‘The 1975’ meeting us on the cusp of our venture into the band’s third studio album, a minute and a half musical prologue designed to gently introduce the audience to a greater concept that goes far beyond the music they are about to hear. Opening with a haunting vocal rawness, you can feel a sense of emptiness in the room unequivocal of the ironic loneliness of a world with the internet at its centre. This is suddenly filled with overwhelming synth sounds, perhaps commenting on the constant confliction between two ends of the same spectrum, or just an attempt at intertwining the old in with the new… a classic trait of the band. The lyrics within the band’s single ‘Give Yourself a Try’ seems to encapsulate modern life and the trouble that comes with learning and developing in a digital setting. Healy’s provocative and raw vocals immediately seek out and capture the listener’s attention, the honest concept simply leaves them with no choice but to listen.

A highlight of the album, TooTimeTooTimeTooTime provides a glimpse into modern love, confirming how much the contexts of relationships have changed in correspondence with social media. It attempts to analyse, or comment upon the current relationship climate or structure, implying that the internet gives more opportunities to ‘two-time’, whilst justifying this nature as normal and socially acceptable.  The piano at the start of ‘How to Draw/Petrichor’ is mesmerising and for good reason, by making the intro almost a minute and a half long, it is keeping us at bay…leaving us on the cusp of greatness in terms of what is to follow, testing the patience of the fast moving music culture in 2018. When we eventually get there, we are treated to a monotonous yet important 3 and half minutes, the vision of this song is what gives it its eccentricity, the attempt at singing the same four lyrics whilst incorporating popular sounds results in a satisfying listen mentally, but maybe not in terms of musical variation, despite the experimentation in sounds. Certainly not a single but the message is received, it clings onto the idea that love is even more of a difficult subject to define in this modern internet-ridden world than ever before, questioning if any of these relationships will last due to the instant gratification and then throw away aspect of internet dating, undoubtedly projecting a sense of loneliness that is more prominent now than ever before.

‘Love It If We Made It’ is a representation of what modern societal expectations are doing to our generation, the lyric ‘modernity has failed us’ is a standout moment…if you are going to retain any of the concepts from this album, let this be one of them,  it resonates profoundly. It also gives a representation of the somewhat laid back and nonchalant attitude of such important things, almost an oxymoron: ‘ I’d love it if/ we made it’.’ Be My Mistake’ is reminiscent of an Eagles classic combined with the necessary shades of a modern anthem, the gentle guitar and raw vocals guides the listener into a place of profound thought whilst still retaining that tender emotion of a love song.  It is a solitary reflection upon the singer’s mistakes in love, almost as if it is a burden to even try at all. Instead he needs to get drunk in order for his lover to be a mistake as opposed to connecting on an emotional level.  This, along with ‘Sincerity Is Scary’, is a daring attempt to dictate the conflicting feelings between lust and love, and empty relationships in this post-modern world.

When we reach ‘I Like America & America Likes Me’, the focus of this album really starts to emerge, overtly yet somewhat surreptitiously.  This is a clear attempt to gain an insight into modern America, its divisions and the problems that come with it. Gun violence is probably a big influence here with the opening line being ‘I’m scared to die’ yet the title implies that his relationship with America isn’t as black and white as that, he still loves the idea of it and it is both rewarding yet devastating living within the centre of such conflict. The lyric ‘no gun required’ alludes to the fact that we are all scared of dying, so why add a gun to the equation? An interesting aspect of the continuity of this album is the fragmentation in which the music is presented to us, mirroring the somewhat fractured element of the modern societal no man’s land in which we find ourselves trapped in.

‘The Man Who Married a Robot/Love Theme’ is the lowest point of the album musically, but taking the time to listen to the concept is rewarding, it seems to embody the idea’s presented to us in the science fiction show ‘Black Mirror’ but within the realm of music. By using a ‘robotic’ voice, it adds authenticity to a very important idea, the concept of the Internet/Social media being a villain, simply lurking behind the mask of a friend. The music in the background is comparable to a lullaby, and serves as an oxymoron, representing the child like naivety of how we as a society use the internet. The powerful keys and distorted guitar acts as a buffer between concepts, a palette cleanser for the ears.  ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not with You)’ opens with a catchy and vibrant high-pitched riff, designed in the laboratory that is the 1975’s studio, a concoction of contradictory sounds. This song is a refresher course in terms of the band’s distinguished sound, with verses acting as Stanza’s and Healy’s narrative taking on the role of a tortured poet. Easily a highlight of the whole album, the acoustic guitar in the next track ‘Surrounded by Heads and Bodies’ strips away the confident voice of the narrator, leaving us with the honesty of a soul that has been exposed, this is very laid-back and an almost Elliot Smith style moment for the band, with a superior element of production value.

‘Mine’ reminds us that we are nearing the end of this contemporary voyage, bringing us back down to earth, where stereotypes of what we ‘should’ be doing with our lives comes back into play. The Piano is poignant and the Saxophone reminiscent of the history and society that precedes us, one that is still relevant, regardless of where technology has taken us. The singer reflects upon life in 2009 and the societal pressures that have been thrust upon him, something that he wants to escape. The penultimate track, ‘I Couldn’t Be More in Love’ refers to this concept of loneliness that undoubtedly haunts us throughout the whole album, a notion that even finds its way into our relationships…even if the feelings are inside of us, they aren’t reciprocated in the way that the partner desires them to be, adding to the idea that relationships are desolate and void of any significant meaning or longevity. This leads us into the final track on the album ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’, it is nostalgic in the most current way possible, an amalgamation of gentle acoustic guitar and the howling tones of an electric, gentle piano weaving its way into the synths and the stone that they are set in, giving a platform for the lyrics to make an impact. The choice to end this album with a somewhat negative concept is daring, it provides us with the tools to really go away and think about modern life, the pros and cons of the internet, the way we disregards lives and mental health, and the lack of sincerity that goes along with modern love.

Whilst it does start to melt into a trend of repetition, this is prevented by the constant reinvention and rejuvenation of the sound, creating a continuous stream of energy and potential for individualistic insight. This album is a handbook for a generation lost in technological fragmentation, a challenge to confront the modern world given to us by a band that continues to rock the boat within a music industry in turmoil, a stalemate of creative progression. It covers such a varied spectrum, touching on loneliness, modern love, regret, hope, fear and death, all within the realm of a pop album which has enabled an innovative leap into their mighty third act. ‘A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships’ juxtaposes greatly when compared to the identity it initially presented itself in, this inquiry is endless and utterly indispensable. This album is an up to date narrative on modern life, and certainly worth the wait.

Marketing Report- How to run a successful Marketing Campaign.

By Mollie Campbell.

The Aim:

The aim was to run a successful Marketing campaign for Summer Live. Initially I researched into Marketing techniques and how to run a successful marketing campaign.

The Research:

I researched Marketing Techniques, marketing is basically the promotion of services, a product or an event, it includes market research and advertising. Market research can include primary (the use of surveys, interviews or questionnaires), and secondary (internal records or data from previous events). I had a meeting with Rich the designer of the summer live poser, we discussed ways in which the flyer could stand out more and advertise thoroughly for the event. I also interviewed the organiser of summer live and a colleague from a business for my research, asking them questions about the marketing mix (product, place, price, and promotion).

A representative from Summer Live gave insight into how they market for the event and what works and what doesn’t. This was very helpful to the marketing campaign because it gave us tips on what to do and what not to do, and how to optimise its potential for success. Whereas a colleague from Absolute Music gave me details on how marketing differs between an event and a company. He said how they went about marketing, what worked and what didn’t. This gave me helpful information on how marketing campaigns work in different areas.

The Marketing Mix:

As I mentioned before the marketing mix is Product, Place, Price, Promotion. The marketing mix is vital in planning a marketing strategy as it covers all the areas you need to consider when marketing for an event or business.

Item of Publicity:

For the marketing campaign for Summer Live I created a publicity item, used as merchandise in which to promote the event. I designed Summer Live branded sunglasses, which are blue and yellow to fit with the Summer Live logo, the actual vibe of the event and the colours of Bournemouth itself. These help with the overall marketing campaign due to the fact that they can be used as promotion, and will be seen around the town during the event. The item of publicity contributed well to the campaign.

Feedback form: These questions can be used to determine what went well during the marketing campaign as well as the event itself, and what could have gone better, it gives the chance for the event goers to give honest feedback.

Do you think the event was successful?

Would you go again next year?

Is there anything that stood out, any highlights?

Is there anything that you think should be done differently next time?

Did you enjoy the event?

Did you think it was appropriate for the demographic of families?

How did you find out about the events?

Did you see any of the Summer Live branded sunglasses and did they make you come down to the event?

 There could also be different categories like feedback from different groups e.g. 16-21, 22-40, and 41+). Or different feedback of certain publicity items like the flyers or sunglasses.

Return on investment:

Return on Investment is the benefit to the investor resulting from an investment of some resource. The event itself had its most popular year this year, with the highest amount of footfall they’ve seen since the event started. Return on investment can sometimes be difficult to determine as it is hard to know exactly how many people saw advertisement, and promotion or publicity items before deciding to go the event, and if that was the thing to even make them decide to go anyway. One way to try and do that is by a Feedback Form. On the feedback form I have written, one of the questions is ‘Did you see any of the Summer Live branded sunglasses and did they make you come down to the event’ this gives the opportunity to try and find out how many people turned up because of seeing the publicity item.

Another way to try and determine the success on investment is the actual figures, the comparison between the turn out in previous years and the turnout this year. Also, if there are any items that can be bought at the event, you could compare how many were purchased this year compared to last year. Lastly, during recent years there has been a huge increase in the amount of feedback through Social Media. Facebook was a big factor in promoting the event and can also be used to determine Return of Investment and just how successful the event was. To do this you can look at many different Facebook comments either from people who went to the event or artists who performed. This way you get to analyse the reviews, decide what the successes and weaknesses are and use it in reference to the next event.

Successes and Weaknesses:

The successes and weaknesses can be determined through the ways I have already describes, either through feedback forms, word of mouth, return on investment and social media comments. You can also analyse successes and weaknesses through the marketing pitch and strategies you have already put together, for example by using the two week plan that I came up with before the event to use for marketing, you can decide what went well and what didn’t. If the campaign went to plan and the feedback was good, you can decide what the successes are and make sure to implement them during the next event. You can also spot any weaknesses and be sure to think of better ways of doing things next time.

Marketing Techniques

By Mollie Campbell.

 

Marketing Techniques:

I have been studying marketing and promotion and how they are used when planning an event, or when marketing for a business. I have researched marketing techniques used by Summer Live and Absolute Music.

 

What is marketing?

Marketing is the techniques used to promote and advertise products or services, this can include market research. Market research is the process of gathering information which can be useful in either figuring out how a business successfully sells their products, or it is used by a business in order to obtain consumer needs, product markets, product feedback and demographic information.

 

Market research includes primary (the use of surveys, interviews or questionnaires). And secondary (e.g. internal records, or data from previous events). Market research also includes the understanding of the marketing mix, which is Product (analysis of event/production), price (costs, production budget etc.), Place (venue/location) and Promotion (forms of publicity/distribution methods).

 

I chose Summer Live as one of my companies to research in terms of marketing. I researched the actual event and interviewed one of the organisers. I organised my questions into categories about Product, Price, Place and Promotion and used the responses to help with the creation of my own Marketing campaign.

 

Product questions: What is Summer Live and what does it have to offer? Why do you think it is successful?

Price questions: What is your budget and where abouts do you decide to distribute it? Why is it free?

Place questions: Is there anything that hasn’t worked well due to the location, or in general?

Promotion questions: How do you go about marketing for an event like this one? Are there any restrictions due to there being more of a general target audience as opposed to specific ones? Do you use merchandise at all? Where do you advertise? Do you have any internal record, or any form of feedback at all?

The second company I chose is Absolute Music. Absolute Music is a Music store located in Bournemouth which sells music equipment, instruments and has rehearsal rooms etc… I interviewed one of the colleagues at Absolute Music.

 

Product questions: Do you have any store merchandising?

Price: How do you structure your prices?

Place: How do you advertise and where?

Promotion: How do you market for events at Absolute Music? Are there any marketing restrictions? Do you have any internal records, or feedback system? Do you distribute flyers and posters etc?

 

After analysing both companies, I have learnt how they market their products/events, why their techniques are successful and what techniques they need to work on. I have also discovered the differences between marketing for a business, and marketing for an event.

 

Press Release – example

World Class product and demonstration comes to Bournemouth.

By Mollie Campbell.

 

Have you just finished your GCSE’s? Do you want to study music and begin your venture into the music business? Interested in World Class products and DJ skills?

 

Worldwide electronic manufacturer ‘Akai’ are bringing their new MPC Live product to Bournemouth, and you can be one of the first to watch a live demonstration of the brand new product. The new product has futuristic and top of the range features, and with a professional DJ demonstration, it won’t be something you’ll want to miss. Be a part of this free and exciting opportunity by coming down to the next BAMM open day at Absolute Music in Wallisdown, Bournemouth on Saturday 19th August.

 

Open from 10am-4pm, there will be plenty of time to have a look around the Bournemouth Academy of Modern Music, located in the Absolute Music store. You can look into the many different BTEC courses the college has to offer, ranging from Performance, Production, Songwriting and DJ skills (Brand new for 2017). The course is equivalent to 3 A-levels and is perfect for 16 year olds who want to gain a qualification whilst doing something that they love.

 

Absolute music is an award winning superstore that provides excellent opportunities for BAMM students, with unlimited access to multiple master classes from global brands such as Orange Amplifiers, Marshall and Mapex Drums etc., it really is the place to be for local musicians looking to begin their venture into the music industry. The partnership also gives students access to several rehearsal rooms which can be used for free, and allows students to surround themselves with experts from the industry. As well as rehearsal rooms, there are studios for recording, special events designed to help and enrich young musicians experiences and knowledge, and an onsite cafe (prices of which are subsidised for students).

 

BAMM is the perfect place for aspiring musicians, songwriters, producers and DJ’s, providing a direct link to the music business, and giving students a great support network in every aspect across music. Learn more about every exciting opportunity BAMM has to offer by joining us on Saturday 19th August at Absolute music. The event is free, and there is no need to book. For further information contact Absolute Music at 01202 597180.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gig Review- Bournemouth

Canvas gig- Review

By Mollie Campbell.

On Wednesday 13th June, young musicians from the Bournemouth Academy of Modern Music took to the stage to showcase their end of year gig in front of family, friends and industry VIP’s. As the bands filled the room with sounds old and new, it was difficult to not feel inspired. From the moment the up and coming talent of Bournemouth took to the spotlight, it was foreshadowing a very impressive night of live music to come.

The opening bands included first year students of the academy, and whilst ordinarily you might expect them to not have developed a ‘professional’ way of performing yet, this was not the case on Wednesday night as they graced the stage with confidence and a refreshing sense of familiarity. The second year 2 band to play featured very impressive musicianship, a level of expertise you might not expect from young adults, the vocals matched that of a seasoned musician, only adding to the excellence of the showcase. The splurge of funk sounds filled up the intimate venue with infectious energy and an accomplished level of skill. Whilst some speech extracts can feel forced and cliché in a music venue, these guys delivered their audience interaction with conviction and a sense of boldness that even some professional musicians find hard to muster. The audience response was energetic to say the least, especially for such a small venue. Breaking into a Bill Withers cover was an audacious move for a student – assembled band, yet it paid off, coming across as an undeniable parallel with the original, a feat hard to achieve. Whilst the replication was special, the musical interpretation was brimming with artistic flair and intuition, achieving a powerful measure of competence.

An unexpected interjection was the inclusion of BAMM principal Martin Bradford on saxophone, which not only contributed to this sense of unity from the small music college, but it also portrayed the inclusion of music role models who don’t shy away from music performance themselves,  something for students look up to and learn from. Next was an old school-infused band who opened their set with a soft-rock 70’s classic, Hotel California by The Eagles was never going to be an easy song to cover but they pulled it off. Musically very impressive, the sounds flowed throughout the venue, provoking a mystical sense of nostalgia. Specific praise should be directed towards the guitarist in this band, who provided an immaculate replication of Don Felder’s timeless sound. This audience focused band finished their set with a Guns ‘N’ Roses classic (Paradise City), encapsulating their hard-rock driven, glam-rock attempt in this post-glam modern world.

The passion surrounding the tutors and students of BAMM is evident from the moment you walked into the venue, and when onstage this passion manifests into pure energy, making it nearly impossible to look away. Their infectious sounds and an undeniable hunger for success ensured that the audience was experiencing a glimpse of the future of music, and based off this gig, a future that will hardly disappoint.