5 reasons why Norman Fucking Rockwell! should win the Grammy for Album of the year

Lana Del Rey certainly isn’t Recording Academy’s sweetheart. Despite having released six albums and scoring some iconic career moments such as the success of Young and Beautiful from The Great Gatsby, she still hasn’t managed to earn music’s most important trophy.

Del Rey has always been neglected by the Grammys. She was, in fact, nominated for the above-mentioned movie theme, as well as her  2017 album Lust for life, her most optimistic work to date. However, it’s this year that Lana managed to make it to the main categories. Her latest body of work, critically acclaimed Norman Fucking Rockwell!, or Norman Effing Rockwell how Bebe Rexha announced it to the millions of viewers watching the ceremony, received nominations for both the Album and Song of the year. Better late than never.

Having lost three times in the past, I’m sure Lana isn’t expecting miracles. In the best song category, she’s competing against Taylor Swift’s Lover. Even if we forget that Swift already has 10 awards, we need to remember that her song has been praised by almost every single relevant music critic. Getting one of the Grammys won’t be easy, but there are definitely a few valid reasons why NFR! should be the first Lana album to receive one.

1. Jack Antonoff’s production on the album is fantastic

Norman Fucking Rockwell! was produced mostly by Lana and Jack Antonoff. It would seem like everything Antonoff takes part in turns into gold. He was a contributing producer of Taylor Swift’s (yes, I know!) three albums: 1989, Reputation and Lover. He also produced Lorde’s iconic second album Melodrama. The fact that Jack produced for two of Grammy Awards’ favourite artists gives us a reason to believe Lana has a chance to win this year. NFR! is great, because it’s not overly produced, with instrumentals complementing Lana’s beautiful vocals instead of distracting the listener. Let’s hope the members of the Academy loved album’s beautiful pianos and guitars as much as I did.

2. NFR! is Lana’s most mature album to date

Over the years, Del Rey received a lot of criticism for, so called, lyrical cliches. A few years ago Lorde, who shares a lot of mutual fans with Lana, criticised her work saying that “all that “don’t leave me stuff” is unsuitable for young people to listen to.  With Lana’s music often called overly dramatic a lot of music critics refused to give her credit she deserves.

Don’t get me wrong: themes of hopeless romanticism and mysterious relationships are present on Rockwell. The general vibe of the record, however, is much more empowering. Many critics including Anthony Fantano praised the slight change in Del Rey’s lyrical approach. The album opens with a verse: “Goddamn, man child… You fucked me so good that I almost said I love you.” 

3. Lana wasn’t scared to take risks on NFR!

Del Rey’s previous album Lust for life was a little bit more diverse than NFR! It featured two collaborations with A$AP Rocky and a few quite radio-friendly tracks, including the title song featuring The Weeknd. Grammys are mainstream awards, which means a lot of fans hoped Lust for life would win in the Best Pop Vocal category. That didn’t happen.

NFR! is a completely different type of record. The singer described it as a “chill record to drive to”. The main single, Venice Bitch is a 10-minute long psychedelic soft-rock ballad. That didn’t stop it from receiving two major nominations this year.

4. Just months after release, Pitchfork named it 19th best album of the decade

Lana’s relationship with Pitchfork hasn’t always been easy. The publication gave her first album Born to die a 5.5/10 rating, comparing it to “fake orgasm”. They aren’t the easiest publication to get a good rating from, that’s why it’s important industry professionals acknowledge how much Lana has developed as an artist over the years. On top of that, Del Rey’s single The Greatest was called best new music on their website.

5. Elton John is a huge fan

Lana and Elton recently appeared together on the cover of Rolling Stone. The legendary musician said he really enjoyed the record. “I don’t think you’ve ever made a record with such a flow to it. I don’t think I’ve heard a record like this for so long. They’re kind of timeless songs” said Sir Elton.

“Fashion doesn’t have to be superficial” Interview with Julia Napoleon Ka

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“I think it did have a reputation of a rough place, but I feel like creativity has always lived in Glasgow.” These are the words Flint, one of the Glasgow School of Art students used to describe his school in the 2017 iD Magazine documentary. Known all over the world for incredibly high standards, attention to detail and eco-friendly approach, Glasgow School of Art is definitely a place filled with ideas, inspiration, and creativity. I think most people would definitely agree with Flint’s statement. In Glasgow, you can walk into a bar on Sauchiehall Street and see the upcoming band playing a gig, hear buskers around every corner, or pop into the CCA to see an independent film with your friends, rather than yet another LEGO movie in a mainstream cinema chain. Despite the big appreciation for music and cinema in Glasgow, its captivating fashion scene remains a bit of a niche. I caught up with Julia Knie, the second-year fashion student at the GSA to ask her more about that. After being introduced to her fellow students and the studio in which she spends long hours working on different projects, I was impressed by the hectic atmosphere and the amount of effort they put into their course. Click below to listen to the interview.

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Lana Del Rey appreciation post

If we met at least once then you know how much I love Lana Del Rey. She’s my number one artist and I can’t imagine my relationship with music without her. Ironically, New-York-born queen of disaster and hopeless romanticism was first introduced to me at the age of fifteen by a middle school friend, a boy so straight, drowning in his own masculinity so much he could easily play the character in one of her songs. That was, in fact, Video Games. Few days later, another straight friend posted the DIY video for Blue Jeans on my Facebook wall. (Straight guys had Lana before gays appropriated her [laugh])

Even since then I’ve been a massive fan. Everything about her just spoke to me straight away. The world made of horrible cheese(sorry Lana), hidden behind a facade of romantic symbolism was something I have always wanted to incorporate into my own life. Strings, roses, mascara, tattoos, guns, tears and white gowns – all the dramatic glamour of a real attention seeking, barely functioning bitch.

At Born to die stage we were all confused. Pop instrumentals blended with orchestral elements and monumental bridges were enough to make the album successful, despite bad reviews from critics. Some of Lana’s most basic work sonically(despite the monumental orchestral theme) includes some of her most iconic lyricism: “I will love you til the end of time”, “money is the anthem of success, so put on mascara and your party dress”,”let me put on a show for you daddy”,”heaven is a place on Earth with you”, “kiss me hard before you go” – just to name a few. Those became industry standards very quickly, inspiring other(younger) barely functioning bitches who later on released their own stuff, in one record label or another. With those simple, captivating lyrics Lana created her own genre, a brand new trend in pop music space. We’re all born to die and we’ve made fuckloads of bad decisions in life. That’s the tea. She then followed the success of the bittersweet whore-candybar with the EP Paradise, one of my personal favourites. I’m proud to say I’ve got that word tattooed on my chest. As Lana would say: I’m fucking crazy, but I’m free. Cliché much, huh.

Her second album Ultraviolence is the fan favourite. She kicked off her darkest, most sadcore work to date with words: I shared my body and my mind with you, that’s all over now. The black and white cover perfectly matched the contents of the record. On Ultraviolence, Lana abandons her hip-hop fuck me after school vibes and decides to switch into heavy, rock instrumentals, electric guitars and nostalgic melodies. Ultraviolence reminds me of leaving your boyfriend at night in bed, sneaking out in your pants, smoking fags on the bench outside the train station together with Courtney Love, shitfaced. Oh, and she also played Glastonbury that year, blessing massive audiences with her sadcore. Who cares if it was kind of a fail.

The motif of summer has always been extremely important in Lana’s work. In Lana’s universe, life is either summer or waiting for summer to start. That’s when we fall in love, make friends, push the boundaries. That’s when the world comes alive. We can hear the nature outside more, we can see more, the days last longer – there’s more to be missed, more mistakes to be made. There’s “summer love”, a term that wouldn’t apply to any other season. “He’s my winter love”, said no one, ever.

It seems like Lana’s third studio album Honeymoon is the perfect example of that. The strings make their come back on this one, but in a slightly different way. This time we can hear them together with slower melodies and bare pianos. On Honeymoon, most tracks sound like taken straight out of Italian mafia films. If Honeymoon was a place, it would be a Mediterranean country, where the temperature is always thirty five degrees and people eat only grapes, plums and oranges. And smoke cigarettes. Adele herself described Salvatore, one of the tracks, as heavenly, saying she feels like she’s flying when she listens to it. If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what the fuck would.

On her last record Lust for life, Lana started making some significant changes in her approach to creating and performing. Critically acclaimed(at last) album included Lana’s first ever officially released collaborations. Her friends from the hip-hop side of Lanaverse, The Weeknd and A$AP Rocky both appeared on the album. She also recorded tracks with Stevie Nicks and Sean Ono Lennon. She invited back up dancers to perform with her on stage. Not in a traditional, Britney Spears way, no. Sometimes they pretend they’re backup singers, sometimes they just jump around or act sexy. And let’s not forget the cover, which included Lana smiling(!).

Lana had been teasing Norman Fucking Rockwell for over a year before she released it. Now that’s it’s finally here, people can see how long and eventful Del Rey’s journey has been.

It always feels amazing to see your favourite artist doing well. Currently, the same music publications that used to make fun of her in the past praise her music giving it the highest of ratings. In 2012, music website Pitchfork called Born to Die a “fake orgasm”, giving it a 5/10. The same website gave NFR! a 9/10 rating, stating Lana is one of the most talented songwriters of our generation.

Lana’s new album features a summery, surfing vibe, which isn’t anything particularly surprising. But let’s make it clear, you need to have massive balls to start off your album by singing: “God damn, man child… you fucked me so good that I almost said I love you…”

Madonna “Madame X” – Review

Madame X is a dog’s dinner, but delicious! Annoyingly, Madonna somehow managed to become a joke, at least within my circle of friends. That is not because of her age as many would assume, but her rather desperate efforts to follow the trends and appear “on top of the music world”.

The last few albums from Madge could be described as good pop, but nothing groundbreaking. As mentioned before, Madonna started following the trends (often poorly) instead of setting them. That is not the case with Madame X, her best album in over a decade. To be honest, I felt Madonna would start making deeper material as soon as I heard she relocated to Portugal. She’s a very influence-sensitive artist, with the effective ability to absorb the unknown into the zeitgeist. The album includes elements of Latino, African instruments, acoustic sounds, bits of disco, singing in Portuguese and intentional overuse of vocoder (often annoying).

Medellin is a great lead single and album opener. I’m a fan of the composition, the combination of dreamy verses with catchy Latino Pop hooks.

Bohemian Rhapsody-structured Dark Ballet is a real mess. What starts as a piano ballad later turns into a Daft Punky, vocodery, psychedelic bedtime story. Lyrically starts strong, ends a bit cringeworthy (“Can’t you see outside of your Supreme hoodie?”)

God Control isn’t much different in terms of the structure. Gun control-related lyrics sang monotonously with a choir of monks in the background later transform into a strange Daft Punk extravaganza.

Then we have Future, in my personal opinion the worst track on the album, but it might be the matter of me highly disliking both Quavo and reggae music.

Batuka offers crazy percussion and ends beautifully with a violin outro.

Killers who are partying is yet another story. From my observation, fans love this kind of Madonna – an indie-acoustic pretentious witch. Most critics do hate it though. I will be gay if the gay are burnt, I will be Africa if Africa is shot down – Madge lists everyone she feels sorry for with very interesting instrumentation. A bit of an eyebrow-raising moment but I don’t care, it’s Madonna, after all. She lost the plot ages ago.

Crave could have been great without Swae Lee and his moany vocal efforts. The song itself is an interesting combination of acoustic guitar and a trippy beat, so it’s nothing more but a wasted chance.

Crazy isn’t very interesting either but it’s a good introduction to Come Alive. Acoustic percussion, some sick, melted strings in the background and subtle vocals make a good combination yet again.

If you’ve been blessed with a deluxe edition, you can listen to Extreme Occident which includes a lovely melody with vulnerable vocals and oriental instruments. It’s one of my personal favourites.

Faz Gostoso is a true bop with one of the catchiest hooks on the album. Rapper Anitta is featured on this godly bop and together with Madonna, they created one of the best up-tempo songs in Madonna’s discography.

Bitch, I’m Loca is a second collaboration with Maluma. Must be a nice listen for fans of this type of music, however, its location on the tracklist confuses me as the song doesn’t hold as strong artistic value as the ones behind and after it.

I don’t search I find could easily be played in Studio 54. With an addictive beat, disco era-inspired dance track reminds me a bit of I Feel Love by Donna Summer and something you could hear in London’s Vauxhall at 6 am, high on ****, drinking Stella in the smoking area. And this kind of Madonna I want to listen to.

A few words about Eurovision 2019

We all know what Eurovision is like – sparkly, camp, colourful, over the top competition in which (mostly) European countries compete with each other to win a trophy that gives the winner nothing but fame (by which I understand being remembered in competition’s history).

The extravagant contest is responsible for introducing some really good recording artists to the general public (us!), whether it’s the A class ABBA in the 1970s or artists-phenomenons such as Conchita Wurst, Salvador Sobral or Netta.

I’m not here to tell the history of the contest or any funny anecdotes(15 things you didn’t know about Eurovision Song Contest!) but to mention few things that caught my attention while watching this year’s circuses (with bread).

Netta from Israel won the contest last year. Her success, surrounded by an aura of controversy, resulted in dozens of news publications around the world. She was accused of cultural appropriation, banal composition and lyrics and (that’s actually ridiculous in this day and age) criticised for her weight. The artist herself stated her song “Toy” was inspired by the #MeToo movement. I personally enjoyed it to the fullest and felt incredibly happy when she won. Toy is definitely one of the best songs in Eurovision history, in my opinion.

Israel’s conflict with Palestine is one of the reasons why a lot of (important) people decided to boycott this year’s Eurovision.

Hatari, who represented Iceland this year, held a Palestinian flag in front of the cameras. They got booed by the people in the arena.

Surprise, surprise! It didn’t stop Israel from creating an amazing show, filled with self-promotion, guest performances and… scandals, of course!

This year’s contestants couldn’t get close to last year’s artists in terms of performance and compositions, but the competition was still very interesting and some songs are, without a doubt, worth listening to on streaming platforms.

Young gentleman Mahmood was definitely my favourite performance of the night. Introduced by Graham Norton as an internet sensation, with over 83 million views of his video, the young artist didn’t disappoint. He delivered a magnetic performance of a great, modern, smartly produced song called “Soldi”. He brought sexy back just like Justin Timberlake did in 2006. Australian entry sounded like Kate Bush impersonation and looked like college student’s experiments with green screen, but still managed to sound weirdly interesting.

UK’s Michael Rice came last, which is harsh, but I think anyone who wins a singing competition (Rice won a show called All Together Now) and spends the money on opening a waffle and crepe place in their home town deserves the worst in the music industry after that. And, of course, there is Brexit.

The Spanish Guy was really cute and staging was amazing. He came last, together with Michael Rice, but definitely deserved better.

And of course – there’s Iceland. Holding a Palestinian flag wasn’t the only thing they did that caused controversy that night. There was also their Rammstein inspired, BDSM performance. Thank God no one ended up being penetrated by a dildo. On a serious note, I do think it takes massive balls to do what they did…. (Palestinian flag in Israel, not the performance).

Oh, and there was Madonna. Pop music’s legendary superstar appeared as a special guest to promote her new album Madame X. Wearing her signature (for this era) eyepatch and accompanied by Quavo she performed, in my opinion, the worst single in her career so far, with ridiculous staging and disappointing vocals during “Like a prayer”.

Perhaps, we should just stick to Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands who won this year. I’ve listened to his song at least five times while writing this and I still don’t remember any of it. It sounds a bit like Heal by Tom Odell.

For now – good morning Europe and good night Australia!

Lizzo: “Cuz I love you”

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This Detroit-born flute-handling singer-songwriter and her major-label debut “Cuz I love you” cuzed a little stir in the music industry due to the loud, body-positive image and often genreless (technically confusing?) tunes. Her newest album is full of musical influences, energetic beats and obviously confident phrases – sung, rapped, yelled…

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The record opens with a title track. Cuz I love you, according to Lizzo herself is a big, brassy, orchestral moment. Indeed, it does sound like some show-opening, Beyoncé-inspired, monumental high school drama audition. Soulful, powerful vocals appear now and again, in between of rappy verses. As the record ends with its powerful and dramatic title verse, another song starts. Like a girl is a pleasant, entertaining and sweetly naive anthem, with lyrics referencing Serena Williams and personal independence. That could have been one of the modern feminist anthems. Well, I think Kesha did it better a couple years ago on her “Rainbow” album.

Juice, the lead single off the album, which to me sounds Motown inspired(in a very lovely way!) is the quintessence of Lizzo’s style(both musically and lyrically) and the best song on the record. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, don’t say it cuz I know I’m cute!” – even the first few seconds of this bop prove the banger-ability this girl has and the reason why she got signed to Atlantic Records. Such a shame that the next track, Soulmate, is a totally predictable, tired to death bore full of industry tricks. Jerome shows the amazing vocal ability of the singer, and despite sounding a bit like Rihanna’s Love on the brain and using the “open letter to the guy who hurt me” formula is still one of my favourites. Cry Baby and Tempo are also worth listening to. The first one has a great instrumental and first-class, heartfelt, vocal performance. The second one, with an instrumentally confusing intro, is a duet with Missy Elliot and proper ping pong, mind fuck piece. Exactly how I feel is a squeaky collab with Gucci Mane, Better in color shows off her true ones, with production again being a mix of vocal-showing retro and “these today’s rappers” style. After brilliantly written Heaven Help Me, the album ends with a stripped-down Lingerie.

Lizzo is definitely a desperately needed figure in today’s music, and a great inspiration for artists who don’t want to be locked inside a one genre drawer, despite the suggestions of their record label. Hopefully, for Lizzo it’s the beginning of something big. Is the album worth listening to? Yes. Is it going to be iconic one day? No.

The Glasgow School of Art fashion show

The Glasgow School of Art is without a doubt one of the most renowned and respected university-level institutions for future creatives in the country. It seems to be impossible to even read an article or watch a video about the city that wouldn’t include some information about the school. The students usually describe the place as a free, creative space, that despite being hard to get into, motivates the students to express their ideas and provides them with all the required skills. In the 2017 documentary created by i-D Magazine, one of the Fashion and Textile students said:“I think it did have a reputation of, maybe perhaps, a rough area, but I feel like creativity has always lived in Glasgow”.

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Recently I was provided with a chance to attend their annual fashion show. As a person deeply interested in fashion, not only from the perspective of business and media but also from its often forgotten niche and artistic side, I felt excited to finally see the real outcome of students’ work. I arrived at the venue quite early, had a quick look at the posters and leaflets laying everywhere around me, then had a nice quick chat with two students in the gender-neutral toilets.“My friend worked so hard for this”, one of them told me.

The show, which seemed like it was almost sold-out, started with a quick presentation of the second year students and the theme of White Shirt/Black Silhouette. In total, twelve students presented their work which for me concentrated on deconstruction and playing with shapes. It’s a very popular approach to fashion design in art schools. After a short presentation of second-year students, over thirty designers of third-year Fashion and Textiles presented three outfits each. The work of each of them was categorized as either Embroidery, Fashion, Print, Knit or Weave. It wasn’t hard to notice the source of inspiration in some of the work presented that day. Print students impressed me the most, with some of the designs including a true WOW-factor. Colorful and vibrant outfits, simple in their form, like a set of total-printed shorts and a shirt put together with a pair of plain white trainers reminded me of designers like Jeremy Scott from the brand Moschino or current things we can see at Prada.

After the show, I caught up with one of the students – Kelly Sloan, whose work concentrated on Embroidery at its very best. After Kelly told me she came to Glasgow School of Art straight from college, I finally realised the phenomenon of the famous school. A goal-focused, hard-working environment of people who are being taught how to embrace their creative visions by staying true to themselves.“For me, I definitely think it’s colour and texture that inspires me the most” Kelly told me after the show.“Whether it being on a building or within a random object, I always seem to be drawn to these elements. These elements also help me develop my further as I begin to look closely and focus on these different qualities”.

As I have mentioned before, different influences and designers of inspiration could be noticed within Kelly’s work. It’s important to know your path and direction at the beginning of any creative career. I asked Kelly to tell me a bit about artists and designers that inspired her designs.“I am inspired by different designers for each project I’m presented with. But if we’re talking fashion show, then avant-garde was a huge inspiration as my goal was to showcase large and intense fashion pieces. Viktor & Rolf were also a prominent inspiration for my fashion show garments as I’m a huge fan of the scale and silhouette of their collections.”

In the i-D Magazine documentary about Glasgow which I mentioned above, we can hear about the hard-working environment and the amount of effort students of the school need to put in to finish all the required tasks. I decided to ask Kelly about this as well.“[The Glasgow School of Art is] Extremely hard working!” she told me without hesitation.“As I went straight into the third year at GSA with a direct entry from college, I wasn’t aware of the workload at The School of Art and the thing that’s struck me the most was the work ethic. Most days you’re in from 10 AM until 10 PM and that’s just the complete norm for everyone to be working those hours in order to get stuff done.”

There is no doubt that for many people, fashion is still seen as wearing crazy outfits on a catwalk and selling underdesigned garments for way too much money. I finished my conversation with Kelly by asking her: What would you like the readers to know about creating a collection and putting on a fashion show? Just so they can understand your position better…”.After a short while, Kelly replied: “Fashion industry is so huge that I think it can be difficult for designers to get their name out there and be known [by a larger audience]. I think my biggest goal is for my work to be noticed and recognized for its style, really just to be successful with selling my creations to a large crowd and be able to make a living from something I love to do so much.”

Follow Kelly Sloan on Instagram – @sloankel and her portfolio account @ksloantextiles