BlackBook Interview: Brit Pop-Soulstress Jess Glynne Opens Up

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Raw. Soulful. Organic. They’re words that the British pop sensation Jess Glynne used to describe a fellow star – but they are also easily applied to her. With her mop of fantastic, ginger hair, her sparkling blue eyes, an earthen purity of emotion to her voice and a purpose that transcends the ordinary, much less expected, it’s perhaps not a surprise that the 29-year-old North Londoner has managed to clinch more number-one hits than any female artist in the UK…ever. (That would be seven.) She’s also, remarkably, the only female to achieve a number-one album in her home country.

As far as rises to fame go, there are ones that are meteoric…and then there is Glynne’s – which could be said to be from another universe entirely. Her debut album, 2015’s I Cry When I Laugh, not only topped the charts and went triple platinum, but “Rather Be” also won her a Grammy for Best Dance Recording of the Year. Her collaborators have spanned from Rudimental and Ed Sheeran to Tinie Tempah and Macklemore, but Glynne in the middle always rings true.

She’s a girl, like any other, trying to find her way through life, romance, friendship and confusion. Never a victim and always a step ahead of herself, she strives to come out empowered. Her lyrics are both supportive and moving, and she never shies from sharing her vulnerabilities with what has become nearly the entire world. She certainly thrives where the average angel often fears to tread.

 

 

To her, it’s never been easy being a woman, much less in music; but it’s through the difficulties and often wild emotions that this shimmering diamond was cut.

In her own words: “I think I speak very openly and honestly and I’m not afraid to try anything.”

Glynne has just released her sophomore album, Always in Between, and is not only slaying the charts once more, but is also revving up to embark on a pair of very high-profile 2019 tours. The first will bring her stateside, sharing a stage with Leon Bridges; the second will see her on the bill with the one and only Spice Girls. It’s hard to say how to top the British pops more than she has, but give her time – there is certainly much more story still to tell.

We caught up with her as she prepped for that tour of America next month, to chat about insecurities, riding on horses with girls, and what we all have to learn about life through music.

 

You shell out number-one hits the way one may pistachios. Are you sometimes surprised by how it’s turning out?  

I don’t think surprised is the word. I feel like I’ve worked hard for a long time and that’s why people succeed. If you put the work in, at some point you’ll find success. I’m very grateful for it and I’m very blessed that it’s worked out the way it has.

Would the nine-year-old Jess have ever guessed she’d one day go on tour with the Spice Girls?

If you had told her that she would be standing onstage with the Spice Girls, she would have laughed in your face and said, “good one!” But if you told me it was true, I would have been running around the house screaming and telling all my friends!

How does the Jess Glynne of today feel on stage, compared to the one from 2015?

I know myself a lot better and trust myself more. I’ve grown. I’m a stronger performer. I’ve learned how to be onstage and really love it.

 


 

As a woman in music, how has the process been for you as you rose to success?

It’s not been easy at all. There are so many turns and so many put downs along the way. It’s genuinely harder as a female to connect and get people to believe in you. But you know what? I’ve enjoyed every minute of it because it’s been so amazing. It’s just given me determination and made me work harder. Every inch of success I’ve gotten along the way seems even better just knowing that nobody can stop me from doing what [I’ve done].

Many of your songs are a breath of honest, fresh air, with messages of self-empowerment. And everything from your body image to sexuality gets bravely explored in your music. Is it a genuine reflection of who you really are?

You’re absolutely right. The writing and creating process are about self-reflection for me. I reflect upon what I’ve been through – the highs and lows and what is in the current moment. It’s also to teach myself a lesson and remind myself of the things I forget constantly.

Do you hope that your listeners will perhaps take a cue and be more open in their self-discovery too? 

Yes, once I create those songs, it’s a really nice feeling to know that I can release [them] into the world and potentially help people. I always hope that when people do listen to my music that they listen to it from their own point of view. I want people to relate to the lyrics and let that make sense of their own lives. That’s what I do, I listen to artists who inspire me, and I listen to what they have to say and relate that back to myself. And that’s what’s so amazing about music – you can’t buy those feelings and you can’t buy those moments.

Your lyrics point back to insecurities…not wanting to have them, not wanting to admit that you do. Where are you today in relation to some of the feelings that were exposed on your last album?

Everyone has insecurities, it’s a part of life and growth. At the moment I feel like I’m in an okay place. I’ve had a lot of lows, but my insecurities have to be my friends at times. You have to learn to live with them, look at them as positively as you can, and learn to deal with them rather than push them under the carpet. That’s what the song “Thursday” represents.

 

 

What inspirations and experiences have gone into Always in Between? And what does that phrase mean to you?

It’s a story of emotions and a journey of everything I’ve been through over the past few years. My life has been in between for that long, through relationships, through work, through traveling, my friends, my family. Everything has been so in between in my life that I began to look at it in a negative way. I felt like I could never really find a balance. But I eventually came to realize that it’s not always about being one way, or being balanced. This is just where I am. I have my personal life and my friends and family and the people who really know me from that little girl growing up; and I have the people who know me through my music and my fame. And that essentially is my life, I had to come to a point where I accepted that.

Who are the girls you are riding horses with in the “I’ll Be There” video? Why are you riding with them?

The [Excaramuza] Charras girls. It’s a sport in Mexico. They all ride and do crazy things on horses. The reason I chose them for the video is that riding is a really empowering sport. I horse rode from a really young age, it was my lifetime hobby. It can come across as something quite masculine, but it can be truly empowering to see females on horses in control.

You’re touring with Leon Bridges, who BlackBook interviewed recently. How do you feel that your music intersects with his? What do you admire most about him? 

I love that he’s a raw, organic artist and that he has such soulful roots. He’s a really cool guy and a great performer, very inspired by culture and fashion – he does what he knows best works for him. He doesn’t follow trends, and I find that really inspiring. I’m very excited to go on tour with him!

 

 

 

 

Watch: Freaky New Pram Video for ‘Doll’s Eyes’ Brings the Retro Psychological Terror

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For twenty years (until 2008), British art rockers Pram were the very epitome of freaky experimentation, surely even baffling their record labels on more than a few occasions. They returned in 2016, perhaps sensing that music had gotten far too normal without them.

Once again signed to Domino, their eighth album Across the Meridian saw release last summer, with Q magazine observing, “these songs [have] a bloodless, etiolated quality that’s as sinister as it is pretty.” And sinister is surely the only way to describe the new Scott Johnston directed video for the opulent, retro-’60s album cut “Doll’s Eyes.” It would be nigh impossible to fully explain, but it involves scratched out eyeballs, a mad female scientist, and, well, feline sleep control experiments – all shot in a purposefully grainy fashion.

“Pram’s music often conjures a world for me that lies disconcertingly between adult nostalgia and childhood terrors,” Johnston explains of his inspiration for the video. “The concept became, what if I were making this video when I was a 12-year old home movie monster kid, using Super8mm, crude props and family pets, all mashed up with a teen’s heightened view of love and obsession?”

And now we have the answer.

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Hypnotic New Blue Foundation Video For ‘Where The End Begins’

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Image by Nina Frifeit

 

Since releasing an eponymous debut album back in 2001, Tobias Wilner has stayed true to the concept of a rotating cast of collaborators for his anything-is-possible Denmark collective Blue Foundation.

Five albums and three EPs later, he continues to surprise. To wit, the stark yet opulent new single “Where The End Begins,” with its lush synths, jittery, reversed beats, and cryptic vocals, is captivatingly dreamlike, even otherworldly. The accompanying video, which BlackBook premieres here, uses cinematic trickery to startling effect

“The video is inspired by a vivid, bizarre, and disturbing dream,” he explains, “one that seemed hard to distinguish from reality. It started out working with still photos, and slowly turned into moving pictures, mostly shot through glass and mirrors. I wanted to create a self portrait. I was also able to turn singer Sara Savery into a sexy witch, and the other half of Blue Foundation, Bo Rande, into weird angel like figure.”

It’s taken from Blue Foundation’s upcoming sixth LP (out April 12 on KØИ Records) titled Silent Dream. Wilner now splits his time between Copenhagen and Brooklyn, with Bo Rande as an actual permanent musical accomplice.

 

New Clean Bandit + Ellie Goulding Video For ‘Mama’ Posits Donald Trump as a Grownup Damaged Child

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In keeping with the cultural zeitgeist, pop music has mostly taken a pass on whipping up commentary on our current socio-political turmoil.

But Cambridge dance-poppers Clean Bandit have just released a politically-charged new video for the single “Mama” – from there album What is Love and featuring fellow Brit Ellie Goulding – which attempts to explain Donald Trump’s abiding, well, meanness, as the product of a particularly messed up childhood. Damaged kid = damaged adult, as the saying might go.

The video shows a bratty, sullen youngster, getting himself into trouble, then maturing into a bratty, sullen teenager; the hair is a dead giveaway as to his identity. It ends with “Donald” and “Melania” dancing across a “presidential seal” that reads “Damaging Our Children Can Damage the Entire World.” And ain’t it the truth, really?

The band’s Grace Chatto explains, “We wrote this script about a boy whose power was taken away from him as a child, and he grew up determined to take that power back. We directed it ourselves and we found it to be a really interesting experience.”

Perhaps fittingly, the Latin-inflected music seems like it could easily have been conjured on a street corner in Caracas or even Havana. Feel free to dig out a whole other layer of critique there – or just get up and dance in a way that would make VP Pence deeply uncomfortable.

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Romantic-Nostalgic New Vasco Single ‘N’ Now I Feel Like’

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Images by Jonas Bang

 

What is it about our first love? Being young and amorous is certainly intoxicating, exhilarating and terrifying all at once. And yet, for all those deep, hormonally-charged emotions, the sneaking out, the smoking cigarettes and hanging out with your best friends…the memories of that time and how it felt are so fleeting. Butterflies in your tummy slowly subside into what become vague replays in your mind over time.

Leave it to Danish producer Nick Labajewska Madsen, aka Vasco, to nail that hazy, lost loving feeling with “N’ Now I Feel Like,” the new single from his upcoming EP Tender Luv (to be released through Big Beat).

“It’s a song about nostalgia and past time,” he explains. “It’s about growing up and still longing for the innocent feeling of youth, while adjusting to the [reality] that life is a process and no feeling is static.”

Today, February 14, is the best day of all to reflect on past loves. And so BlackBook is well chuffed to premiere “N’ Now I Feel Like” here.

“Releasing it on Valentine’s Day was important,” Vasco says, “because memories with [young] lovers are often the strongest – and that is important to remember and stand by instead of regretting lost love.

Known for his left-of-center electronic compositions, Vasco’s production chops include work with fellow dance-pop Danes Soleima and , as well as the critically acclaimed, Brooklyn-based Bauuer (of “Harlem Shake” fame). But Tender Luv is the first time he’s stepping out from behind the console to release his own music. And with his minimal, intriguing, yet utterly captivating way of threading sound, there’s much to look forward to upon its March 8th release.

Swedish Dance Mavens Galantis Enlist OneRepublic For Exuberant New Track ‘Bones’

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Image by Katharina Næss

 

The only thing that most people have been feeling in their bones is the ache of winter chill. Add that to the socio-political divisiveness flashing across our screens every day, and a bit of positivity would be more than welcome.

Curiously enough, it comes from Sweden – where it is, of course, particularly dark and cold this time of year. Indeed, Stockholm dance music duo Galantis have conjured a particularly exuberant new track, “Bones” (via Big Beat) an exhilarating new collaboration with American popsters OneRepublic.

“You’re like the opposite of all of my mistakes / You feel like home,” intones singer Ryan Tedder, lyrics that are sure to send a little warmth back through all those chilled and tired bones. Musically, acoustic guitars and piano are layered over a euphoric groove, with lush atmospherics and an absolutely monster chorus.

 

 

“It was an incredible experience working with OneRepublic and Ryan on this song,” enthuse the Galantis boys (Christian Karlsson and Linus Eklöw). “He has such a legendary voice and we’ve always been big fans of his songwriting – so connecting with him on ‘Bones’ came so naturally to us. This is out first music of 2019 and we can’t wait to show you what else we’ve been working on!”

The duo are coming off a 2017 album, Aviary, which charted in 23 countries. They’ll be kicking off an eight-date North American tour at Story in Miami tonight.

 

 

The New ‘Be Loud’ Video From Copenhagen’s Mr. Koifish is a Trippy Dippy Mind Warp

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Last year whilst visiting the Hearst Tower in New York, we were privileged to be taken to a private 50th anniversary exhibition on the animation in The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. And while it’s clear how its influence has continued to resonate, it was also a transporting experience, a peek into a 1960s decade of unfettered psychedelic mind expansion.

Wouldn’t you know, we felt nearly that exact same way upon viewing the video for Mr. Koifish‘s spacey new single “Be Loud.” The former bass player for Copenhagen’s Turboweekend, Morten Køie adopted the, um, fishy nom de guerre just in time to release debut track “The End” last summer.

 

 

But “Be Loud,” with its groovalicious bass line, trippy, widescreen atmospherics and weirdly affected vocals is something of a new kraut-psyche-rock paradigm. And to be honest, the hippy-dippy lyrical professions of, “Let’s be live, in high / Zero, you know,” sound like a really attractive alternative to dealing with the real world.

“The psychedelic pictures painted tell a story about letting go and feeling care free,” he explains, “seeing the world from far above, floating in that perfect place.”

Free your mind…

 

 

First Images: The Shinola Hotel Opens to a New Era in Detroit

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Detroit simply isn’t what it used to be. Depending who you ask, that may not be a bad thing. It may even be a great thing, if the continuing spread of gentrification and trendy amenities make life in the once grim, yet beautifully decrepit, urban landscape more livable.

After all, twenty years ago, after parties for the Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF) meant pitching in and rolling sod across the blown-out mezzanine level in a downtown hotel while high school proms and hairdos rolled deep on the surrounding floors. Detroit’s global export du jour was a thriving, yet ferociously underground, music scene. Grassroots collectives like Detroit Techno Militia, and a small handful of more forward-thinking record labels, like Carl Craig’s Planet E and Interdimensional Transmissions, were the low-key, buzzworthy brethren to Detroit Rock City’s second coming on the heels of The White Stripes and the local garage scene.

Made in Detroit t-shirts and vintage clothing were about the most fashionable things in sight. But even then, most faces were not ones recognized in daylight.

Today, of course, DEMF has long since been hosted by local music events production outfit Paxahau and was renamed Movement Festival, with sponsors like Ford to keep its machinery well oiled. Several casinos opened their doors in the city, and we all know what became of Jack White. Problem was, he skipped town.

 

 

At about a halfway point between half-exploded warehouse parties and today, local luxury goods company Shinola rolled onto the scene, focusing on a Detroit life more aesthetically pleasing. Most importantly, the brand committed itself to do a proper job of building Detroit’s future. Starting with watches in 2011, then going on to create everything from bicycles to jewelry, their first actual store opened its doors in 2013 – with outlets quickly spreading across the country. Now they’ve just opened the doors on the Shinola Hotel, located at 1400 Woodward Avenue, in the onetime TB Rayl & Co. department store and former Singer sewing machine store.

Partnered with Detroit commercial real estate group Bedrock, Shinola spared no connections and attention to detail in the new space, bringing together some of the country’s greatest minds in the culinary, art, hospitality and design worlds to collaborate.

The brand tapped New York’s Gachot Studios – whose portfolio includes New York’s Smyth Tribeca Hotel, Brooklyn’s Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, Marc Jacobs and Shinola flagship stores in New York and LA – to envision the hotel. Bedrock turned to Mac&Lo Hospitality to man operations. The founders, Sergio Maclean and Audrey Laurent, actually moved to Detroit to immerse themselves in Shinola and the city.

Detroit’s Kraemer Design Group, both a world leader in architectural consulting and historic renovation, served as Architect of Record and Historic Consultant on the hotel. While Detroit-based gallery Library Street Collective has curated a provocative mix of art pieces, with a broad representation of both local and international artists.

 

 

Starkly stylish, understatedly chic rooms have generous windows framing the cityscape. And for the gorgeous bathrooms, Waterworks’ custom fixtures go as far as taking cues from caseback details of Shinola’s luxury watches. 

When it came to the drinks and eats, they brought in the big guns: NoHo Hospitality Group partners Andrew Carmellini, Josh Pickard and Luke Ostrom (The Dutch, Locanda Verde, Westlight) will oversee San Morello, a Southern Italian restaurant that serves authentic dishes using local, seasonal ingredients. Expect Evening Bar, with its seasonally crafted cocktails and bar bites, to be the city’s creative-class scene-of-scenes in the coming months (though don’t look for Jack White there), followed this spring by The Brakeman, an American beer hall, and Penny Red’s, a dedicated fried chicken spot (Is that a thing in Detroit?).

While the city may still be synonymous with urban decay, and a Motown / automobile-building paradise lost, the hotel does represent a new sort of optimism. And while more change will come in carefully measured steps, Shinola could be considered as representing a new era of the can-do spirit that built this once-great town. Expect to find us there often, helping to move it along. 

 

 

Watch: The New Janelle Monae Video for ‘Screwed’ Makes Us Nostalgic for The Purple One

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Janelle Monae has transcended genre codification so many times, we’ve joyfully given up on possibly ever explaining her to anyone. So who better to take us into this new year, when we need the status quo blown to pieces more than ever?

And indeed, her new video for the groovalicious 2018 single “Screwed” (from the brilliant album Dirty Computer) is yet another perception-smashing work of unclassifiable genius. The track itself is something like Janet Jackson as filtered through Flesh and Blood era Roxy Music, with incisively zeitgeisty lyrical jabs: “And I, I, I hear the sirens calling / And the bombs are falling in the streets / We’re all screwed!” Which just may be the most relevant mashup of feminism and geopolitics….ever.

 

 

Said video involves (no surprise) unidentified flying objects, graffiti splattered halls, Zoë Kravitz, and a live performance that has us seriously nostalgic for his late great Purpleness Prince + The Revolution.

“You fucked the world up now, we’ll fuck it all back down,” Janelle sneers at everyone who knows they’re guilty of exactly what she’s accusing them of.

Yeah, seriously? Don’t fuck with Ms. Monae.

(N.B. Janelle Monae will be appearing at Coachella in April, and has already booked summer European festival dates in London, Barcelona, Berlin and beyond.)