Graphics by Ella-Mae Earnshaw
Introducing Strand Magazine’s weekly music column, ON REPEAT where you'll find...
NEWS – a round-up of the biggest stories making the headlines
IN-DEPTH – Strand talks about the latest releases and all things music
OLD AND NEW – a curated playlist featuring the songs we’re loving.
August Mixtape is a special extended edition of ON REPEAT, covering the whole month of August to celebrate our launch. With Beyoncé’s Black Is King, the cancellation of High Fidelity and heated controversy over WAP, August saw too many big stories not to make it into this column. Read on for what Strand thought of this month in music.
1) WAP gets the conservatives sweating
Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallions dropped the music video of their smash hit WAP on the 7th of August. Featuring Normani and Rosalia, the video had the internet buzzing including the likes of conservative Ben Shapiro. In his podcast, Shapiro read the lyrics word-for-word which resulted in multiple remixes. Republican DeAnna Lorraine, running agaist Nancy Pelosi, took to twitter writing “Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion just set the entire female gender back by 100 years with their disgusting & vile ‘WAP’ song.”
The song has sparked a debate not just between Democrats and Conservatives but also about policing women's bodies. WAP has made Billboard history, breaking streaming records with 93 million streams in a week.
2) Artists Threaten To Sue Trump Over Copyright Infringement
Neil Young is suing the Trump Campaign for copyright infringement. He has objected to the use of Rockin' in the Free World and Devil's Sidewalk as a “theme song”. Previously, The Rolling Stones threatened to sue trump after his campaign used the band’s songs at re-election rallies. They had complained about the same in 2016 as well. Tom Petty’s family have issued a cease and desist against the campaign's use of his song I Won’t Back Down″
Adele, Elton John, Queen and R.E.M are among other artists who have had their songs played at the rallies without their prior permission.
Britney Spears filed to remove her father as her conservator on the 18th of August. Since 2008, Spears has been put under conservatorship. Her father, Jamie Spears, has been her conservator for 12 years, controlling Spear’s finances and daily life. Her conservatorship that was set to expire on the 22nd of August was extended for another six months by the Los Angeles Superior Court. The fan led #freebritney movement is calling for an end to her conservatorship and held a protest outside her hearing.
BLACK IS KING
The third visual album by Beyoncé employs luxurious visuals in a powerful expression of African heritage
Even though it was technically released at the end of July, Black Is King is too ground-breaking not to feature in the August edition of On Repeat. It had already sparked controversy on Twitter months before, fuelling debates about African heritage and their American diaspora. But when it finally appeared on Disney+, it was met with an overwhelmingly positive response, as viewers were glued to Beyoncé’s gorgeous visuals for a mesmerising 90 minutes.
What she refers to as her ‘passion project’, Black Is King was written, directed and executive produced by Beyoncé, in addition to an array of black music artists and creatives. It was inspired by her role voicing Nala in the 2019 remake of The Lion King. Beyoncé delved into the history and cultural origins of the story, soon after releasing her soundtrack album The Lion King: The Gift. The sound advances Beyoncé’s signature rhythm to an eclectic mix of R&B, pop, hip hop and Afrobeat, intended to elevate black musical traditions. Despite its success, Beyoncé was dissatisfied and looked to boost its message further. After a year of filming across Africa, North America and Europe, she presented us with Black Is King, her visual album accompaniment.
This is not the first time Beyoncé has combined music and film. Black Is King is her third visual album, following self-titled Beyoncé in 2013 and Lemonade in 2016. With each album, she sought to create a body of work that conveyed her whole vision, so naturally turned to visual media, symbolism and poetry. Beyoncé fans had been streaming The Gift for over a year before the film was released. They knew her songs well, able to recite much-loved singles Spirit and Brown Skin Girl off by heart. Musically, Black Is King contains no surprises, beyond an evocative extended version of Black Parade. It is all about the visuals.
Oh, what gorgeous visuals. Beyoncé combines high fashion, idyllic natural scenery and hypnotising choreography. The opening sequence sees her in elegant white chiffon, echoing the white foam of the waves breaking around her. Soft natural imagery is soon replaced with Valentino haute couture and a leopard print Rolls Royce. Her wardrobe spans a rainbow of pink tulle, red silk and diamonds symbolising starry constellations. As a music column, On Repeat cannot do justice to the mastery of design in Black Is King. We celebrated black musical traditions in The Gift. In contrast, the visual album celebrates black creative directors and designers. Beyoncé’s use of film certainly enhances our musical experience. My favourite moment occurs during NILE, with its slow, slightly off kilter beat and deep tones from Kendrick Lamar. The all-white scene and lace costume adds opulence and drama.
The visuals in NILE and throughout the album honour Blackness in all its forms. The timing of its release, though coincidental, could not have been more prescient. Black Is King emerged in the wake of vigilant Black Lives Matter protests and activism, two months after the murder of George Floyd that shook the world. In an Instagram post revealing a short preview, Beyoncé explained how the album now served a greater purpose. At first, she intended “to celebrate the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry”, but recent events “made the film’s vision and message even more relevant.” Black Is King serves as a beacon of light amidst the fight against the forces of racism.
The indie hub of Manhattan gets a eulogy
Other Music was an influential record store located in the heart of East Village, Manhattan. Since it opened in 1995, it grew into much more than a retailer of CDs, records, tapes and magazines. It became a beloved underground hub of independent music culture. Other Music brought together NYC creatives in an atmosphere of free-flowing, subversive conversations and even more subversive music. The store specialised in rare, experimental sounds and acted as the platform for ground-breaking new artists. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Vampire Weekend, The National and Interpol were amongst many alternative icons to make their names there.
So when it announced its permanent closure in 2016, the music world felt deeply wounded. New York’s cultural and musical landmark had been lost. According to co-owner Josh Madell, rising rents and the changing face of music meant the store could no longer make money. For filmmakers Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller, this was a devastating blow. Other Music was the serendipitous place where the pair first met, before they married, had children and became a successful film-making duo. Determined not to let its spirit die, they decided to immortalise it in a documentary.
Photo by Robert M. Nielsen, edited by Ella-Mae Earnshaw
Basu and Hatch-Miller spoke to dedicated staff, regular customers and members of Other Music’s most influential bands and shared their experiences in a film of the same name. It features interviews with Martin Gore of Depeche Mode, Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend and Brian Chase of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Fittingly, my favourite aspect of the documentary is the music. Its soundtrack is a clever mix of experimental electronica and classic alt. I’ve been streaming it on Spotify ever since. Other Music also includes never-before-seen live footage of artists before they made it big, such as a deeply soulful performance by a young Vampire Weekend.
Other Music could not survive the Internet age and rising dominance of streaming platforms. The communities which met and thrived there, like with similar music stores, have slowly migrated online. Since the onslaught of COVID-19, this trend has accelerated. With stores and venues forcibly closed during lockdown, streaming was our only means of engaging with music. As a result, Other Music has taken on a greater purpose, reminding us of how great it felt to socialise in energetic creative spaces.
If you can’t beat them, join them. Like all modern music, the documentary was made available to stream in North America on 25th August. If you missed the ‘virtual screenings’ by British indie stores back in April, then you’ll have to wait to see in the UK. Look out for its premier at Dalston Roof Park next month. In the meantime, pay your local record shop a visit. You might just discover the big indie names of tomorrow.
Photo by Rob Hatch-Miller, edited by Ella-Mae Earnshaw
Hulu canceled High Fidelity and they’re going to regret it
Bring out your top five lists and thrifted outfits, High Fidelity is here for the third time. Nick Hornby’s novel by the same name follows Rob, a record shop owner who lives and breathes music, and his obsession with his exes. The book has inspired a Broadway musical, a feature film and now a ten part web series. The book and the movie are both brimming with toxic masculinity which posed a question- ’Do we need another reboot?’. For Zoë Kravitz (Rob) and Da'Vine Joy Randolph (Cherise), I think we do. Set in present day Crown Heights, Rob and her 2 best friends Simon and Cherise run Championship Vinyl. Hulu's adaptation flipped the script in an attempt to make it a relevant show which would prove to be challenging and you do see the flaws. An unrealistic apartment for a record store owner who is surprisingly doing well in New York City, one can romanticise. You see the pressure put on this series to undo the wrongs of the male characters, an attempt to crown Tina Turner “good pop” and forget that she made the “bad pop” list before. Zoë Kravitz's Rob follows the same story but with buckled morals. Questlove’s playlist that soundtracks the show has everything- from the Talking Heads to Frank Ocean, telling you the story we are watching unravel.
Kravitz ‘s interpretation of Rob is similarly self-centred, self pitying and obsessive so much so that she forgets about her friends and their very real problems as opposed to her replaying her top 5 break-ups. Her iconic outfits along with those of Cherise are a reason in itself to watch the show.
Throughout the show I adored Cherise. ‘They want to reinvent themselves to become themselves’, while listing her top 5 underdogs, Cherise is speaking about her own journey in crafting her sound. She is ambitious but often dismissed by Rob and Simon (David H. Holmes) who mock her for labelling herself as a musician but never making any music. The cracks in her confidence become more visible throughout the show as she navigates to find a band for her frontrunner persona and saves up to buy an electric guitar hoping to finally pen the songs that are locked within.
The show broke down stereotypes, showcased women of colour in music, explored the importance of disco in history and the LGBTQ+ community. Sadly the show that reinvented the book, has been cancelled by Hulu and will be thoroughly missed.
Photo by allocine.fr, edited by Ella-Mae Earnshaw
AUGUST RELEASES OLD AND NEW
For this extended edition, your ON REPEAT editors Anoushka and Emma each share a playlist featuring tracks releases in August, this year and across the ages.
Anoushka’s August Playlist
Waving, Smiling – Angel Olsen (Aug 2020)
CUT EM IN – Anderson .Paak ft. Rick Ross (Aug 2020)
Hurt – Arlo Parks (Aug 2020)
Under My Thumb – The Rolling Stones (Aug 1966, in honour of the vinyl reissue announced this month for Scott Pilgrim Vs The World)
BOY BYE – BROCKHAMPTON (Aug 2019)
Emma’s August Playlist
Tangerine – Glass Animals (Aug 2020)
Midnight Sky – Miley Cyrus (Aug 2020)
Sorry - Alternate Edit – beabadoobee (Aug 2020)
Provider – Frank Ocean (Aug 2017)
Leave Before The Light Comes On- Arctic Monkeys (Aug 2006)