Assignment 1 Blog 5: Technology as a Threat to Songwriters?

The act and process of songwriting is vastly under-researched within popular music studies (Barber 2016 b), despite being such an integral part of not only the music industry but to the concept of music. Whilst Barber looks specifically at the process of songwriting in terms of passion and productivity (Long and Barber, 2014), it is important to look at the current developments within the field of songwriting.

Like many areas of the music industries, the current developments within the field of songwriting are primarily revolving around technology. This isn’t surprising; technology has dictated the actions of the music industries since music became an industry – Wikstrom even suggests that technological developments are the easiest way to map the chronology of the music industry through the framework he utilises in writing a music industrial-history (2009). In addition, Burkhart demonstrates how technology can disrupt and impact the musical distribution process with his celestial jukebox model (Burkart 2013). It is clear technology can disrupt industrial musical processes, but how has it affected songwriting?

The use of ‘machine learning’ has already been used by companies such as Youtube for content ID purposes to help combat copyright infringements, as well as to pull apart tracks from complete mixes. Recently however, there has been a new emphasis placed on ‘machine learning’ (or AI) in terms of music creation. In a less disruptive manner, the technology will be able to be used by artists and composers to give them more options when creating music – although this isn’t the primary concern for some songwriters. The primary concern is that the technology could feasibly replace some forms of composition completely, even if this isn’t the main purpose of the technology (Cooke 2016).

This raises many questions – based on technology’s effects on other music industry sectors, one can assume it is going to drastically change the songwriting process. However, it is certainly questionable if a machine or algorithm could replicate the aspects of the songwriting process as listed by Barber (2016 a), such as passion, inspiration, preparation, idea generation, routine and collaboration, amongst others. This isn’t to say AI has never been used to compose music – it has, with a song known as ‘Daddy’s Car’ being composed by an AI program called The Flow Machine, using a vast database of varied sheet music, a human style prompt and human-written lyrics, production and mixing (Lobenfeld 2016). In addition to this point, the discourse surrounding the idea of ‘manufactured pop’ is very supportive of AI-composed music – the name alone connotes ideas of music being created in a factory production line, not dissimilar to Adorno’s theory of standardisation (1990), in which every song at its core is the same.

The idea of songwriting becoming an automated process then, is not a new one. Since Adorno’s lamentations of the standardisation of popular music there has always been a discourse based around the idea of mass-produced music. However, it isn’t until recently that the act of songwriting has been challenged by a new technology, which could eliminate the need for some human composers in certain types of music. It could however also be used to essentially write new songs for legacy artists such as The Beatles or Motorhead – Daddy’s Car was programmed to be written in the style of The Beatles, theoretically an algorithm could be developed that could take The Beatles’ body of work and either create new compositions in a similar style or could even predict what the band would have written next.

 

  • Adorno, T. (1990). On Popular Music. In: S. Frith and A. Goodwin, ed., On Record, 1st London: Routledge, pp.302-314
  • Barber, S. (2016 a). Songwriting and the Recording Industry.
  • Barber, S. (2016 b). The Brill Building and the creative labour of the professional songwriter. In: K. Williams and J. Williams, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Singer-Songwriter, 1st Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Burkart, P. (2013). Music in the Cloud and the Digital Sublime. Popular Music and Society, 37(4), pp.393-407.
  • Cooke, C. (2016). AI may replace some forms of music composition, but it will enhance others | Complete Music Update. [online] Completemusicupdate.com. Available at: http://www.completemusicupdate.com/article/ai-may-replace-some-forms-of-music-composition-but-it-will-enhance-others/ [Accessed 7 Dec. 2016].
  • Lobenfeld, C. (2016). Hear the first-ever full pop song composed by artificial intelligence. [online] FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music. Available at: http://www.factmag.com/2016/09/22/hear-first-complete-pop-song-composed-artificial-intelligence/ [Accessed 7 Dec. 2016].
  • Long, P. and Barber, S. (2014). Voicing Passion: The Emotional Economy of Songwriting. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 18(2), pp.142-157.
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Assignment 1 Blog 4: The Canon of Ticketing and The Materiality of Tickets

A rather prudent area of discussion within the music industry within recent months has been the secondary ticketing market, more specifically the fraud that occurs within it. Sparked by industry outcry (Smirke 2016) and a government review of the market (Cooke 2016), the debate has led to several attempted disruptive innovations (Christensen 1997) of the market, such as Dice.

Dice is an app-based curated ticketing agent, which promises immunity to touts, no booking fees and 100% reliability (DICE 2016). Throughout the website and during a lecture given by company representative Jen Long at Birmingham City University (2016), this disruption-based discourse is used in both their promotion and brand identity, presenting Dice as heroically making a stand against the corruption within ticketing.

However, I would argue there is a flaw in Dice’s manifesto. Their narrative suggests it is primarily the large ticketing agents such as Ticketmaster who are to blame for the secondary ticketing market’s issues. Whilst Ticketmaster’s integration with Live Nation is certainly questionable (Kreps 2009), one can’t blame one industry for an issue that encapsulates several. With the rise of debate surrounding this topic, the canonisation of this industry is dangerous, particularly when considering that paper tickets will never be obsolete.

Whilst the last claim is certainly a large one, I don’t feel it is unjustified. Even if Dice becomes the most popular ticketing agent, industry cornerstones such as Ticketmaster will continue – they offer more to their clients in terms of promotional tools, and customers in terms of conventional buying practices (Orr 2016). In addition, promoters themselves are often accused of ‘shady’ practices, such as selling tickets directly into the secondary market (Cloonan 2013) – another reason why the negative canonisation of the contemporary ticketing industry is damaging; ticketing agents aren’t the only agents of corruption acting within the secondary market.

In addition to the various agents of corruption within the secondary market, paperless tickets will never truly dominate due to the concept of materiality. Materiality has always been important to music consumers, but in recent years has seen a spike in prominence, with the resurgence of the vinyl format (Bartmanski & Woodward 2013; Hayes 2006), as well other popular, physical musical artefacts (BBC News 2016). Academically, materiality within music has leaned towards a focus on the physical artefacts of the recorded music industry – vinyl, cassettes etc. Of course, the frameworks and theories can easily be modified to fit within live music by viewing a ticket or festival wristband as an equivalent of a CD or cassette within recorded music.

Continuing from that analogy, one only has to look at the abundance of recorded music in existence today to illustrate the point. Despite the challenge presented to the major labels by the advent of digital music and p2p websites at the beginning of the century (Wikstrom 2009), physically formatted recorded music is still extremely popular, as shown by the resurgence of vinyl and cassettes for purposes relating to authenticity (Hayes 2006), collection and sentimentality (Shuker 2014). The same concept can be applied to ticketing. Even if a majority of tickets are sold digitally online, there will be those fans who wish to collect ticket stubs, and so will prefer to purchase physical tickets, even if they are less convenient, in a similar way to consumers who buy vinyl. Bennett and Roger have already shown ticket stubs carry materiality and cultural value as a treasured collectable (2015); there is no obvious reason for tickets to follow a different trajectory to vinyl or CDs when said trajectory is re-purposed for the live music industry.

 

  • Bartmanski, D. and Woodward, I. (2013). The vinyl: The analogue medium in the age of digital reproduction. Journal of Consumer Culture, 15(1), pp. 3-27.
  • BBC News. (2016). Gustav Mahler £4.5m manuscript breaks record at Sotheby’s – BBC News. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-38142482 [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016].
  • Bennett, A. and Rogers, I. (2015). Popular Music and Materiality: Memorabilia and Memory Traces. Popular Music and Society, 39(1), pp. 28-42.
  • Cooke, C. (2016). UK government publishes its secondary ticketing review | Complete Music Update. [online] Completemusicupdate.com. Available at: http://www.completemusicupdate.com/article/uk-government-publishes-its-secondary-ticketing-review/ [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016].
  • Christensen, C. (1997). The Innovator’s Dilemma. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Cloonan, M. (2013 b) Mastering Tickets (repost). [online] Livemusicexchange.org. Available at: http://livemusicexchange.org/blog/mastering-tickets-repost-martin-cloonan/ [Accessed 28 Nov. 2015].
  • DICE, (2016). Gig tickets with No Booking Fees – Get the app now | DICE. [online] DICE. Available at: https://dice.fm/ [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016].
  • Hayes, D. (2006). “Take Those Records off the Shelf”: Youth and Music Consumption in the Postmodern Age. Popular Music and Society, 29(1), pp.51-68
  • Kreps, D. (2009). Bruce Springsteen “Furious” at Ticketmaster, Rails Against Live Nation Merger. [online] Rolling Stone. Available at: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/bruce-springsteen-furious-at-ticketmaster-rails-against-live-nation-merger-20090204 [Accessed 14 March 2016]
  • Long, J. (2016). DICE Music.
  • Orr, A. (2016). An Exploration of British Live Music Promotional Practices from 2010-2015, using The Ticketline Network Ltd. (Ticketline) as a Case Study. Birmingham City University.
  • Shuker, R. (2014). Record Collecting and Fandom. In: M. Duffet, ed., Popular music fandom : identities, roles and practices, 1st ed. New York: Routledge, Chapter 10.
  • Smirke, R. (2016). One Direction, PJ Harvey Join New UK Industry Alliance Advocating for Secondary Ticketing Regulation. [online] Billboard. Available at: http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/7438312/fanfair-alliance-uk-secondary-ticketing-market [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016].
  • Wikstrom, P. (2009). The Music Industry. 1st ed. Cambridge:Polity.

Assignment 1 Blog 3 – What is ‘Indie’ music?

‘Indie’ as a musical term has become relatively ambiguous in meaning over recent years. Canonically, it originally meant independent, i.e. an artist or band who were not involved with any of the major labels. It has grown to essentially generic status however, with several generic signifiers being identified such as predominantly guitar-driven music (Bannister 2006). However, extra-musical generic signifiers are also important within this genre – Kruse identifies a ‘high cultural elitism’ and pursuit of uniqueness (2003) as indie signifiers.

It is interesting to consider the dual definitions of indie within music in relation to a recent artist whose identity is closely tied to the word – Chance the Rapper. The Chicago-native has seen a huge amount of success whilst repeatedly and publicly rejecting major label involvement, being hailed as a pioneer in several instances (Shamsian 2016; Austin 2016); it is clear to see how he is seen as an indie musician using the above criteria. It is intrinsically part of his identity – an underdog story where a young rapper from Chicago who got suspended from school has beaten the industry and risen to the top off the merit of his own talent.

The canon surrounding the term ‘indie’ within music is, however, problematic. The contemporary music industry is simply no longer defined by a ‘big 3’ companies. The insistence that without involvement from these three companies or their subsidiaries an artist is ‘indie’ is simply no longer true – it is part of a canon used (knowingly or otherwise) by journalists, artists and labels to help create an identity. To use Chance the Rapper as a case study, his activity outside of major label rejection would certainly indicate a non-indie identity, outside of the ‘indie canon’. His releases Surf and Coloring Book were released exclusively through Apple, one of the largest companies in the world (Statista 2015)) The nature of these distribution deals and their similarity with other artist’s deals have led people to question Chance’s authenticity (Friedman 2016). In addition his management team are very competent and connected – his booking agent Cara Lewis also represents industry heavyweights such as Kanye West, giving Chance opportunities to play higher profile shows during his rise (Quora 2016).

I would argue that the resources a major label would provide – connections, distribution, high profile shows – have been provided by major companies/entities of comparable nature (Apple and Cara Lewis), and that outside of the indie canon Chance is simply not an independent artist. This isn’t to sully his musical output – it is universally praised regardless of his indie authenticity – but it is important to be able to differentiate between the legitimate and the canonised.

Another important aspect of his identity is his hometown Chicago. Much of the narrative surrounding Chance focuses on his hometown, with many of his songs referring to the city (Bennett and B 2016). Interestingly, Chance goes against the academic consensus on musical heritage – he represents a wave of artists who take it upon themselves to proudly flout their hometowns, rather than relying on the cities to capitalise on their success (Fremaux and Fremaux 2013; Frost 2008). This is an interesting shift in the industry, with more artists and genres holding on to their roots within their music (Barron 2013) – this is epitomised in Chance’s Chicago festival Coloring Day, held in a creative quarter of Chicago with little industry backing (Gwee 2016) – he is managing the city’s management of their heritage in Chance and his scene.

 

Bibliography

Assignment 1 Blog 2 – Resistance Music

Musical identities based around resistance are a fairly conventional trope of the popular music industry. Entire generic categories are devoted to resistance; whether it be punk’s ideological resistance (Grimes, 2015), or resistance to generic monotony from genre-clash albums such as ‘City of Thieves (Boom, 2009) or ‘Roots, Rock, Riot’ (Webbe, 2007). However, I have always had an issue with ‘resistance music’. Either, the impact of the release/performance isn’t large enough to be seen as ‘resistance’ or it is too overt in its resistance, to the point where it loses authenticity and comes across as contrived. Using a contemporary case study of ‘resistance music’, I look to justify my thoughts on ‘resistance music’ whilst connecting to the concept of identity.

My case study revolves around musical resistance to the American presidential election, more specifically resisting Trump’s nomination. ‘90s alt-rockers Third Eye Blind played a charity gig in close proximity to the Republican National Conference. The band refused to play their bigger hits during the concert, instead playing songs with anti-republican lyrical content to boos (TMZ, 2016). This was followed swiftly by a CNN interview and a surprise social-themed single release, promoting their newly-announced EP.

It is clear to see how one could argue both for and against Third Eye Blind’s ‘musical resistance’. Their antagonistic stage-talk (Smith, 2016) implies a legitimate gripe with Republicans, yet the subsequent Black Lives Matter-themed ‘Cop vs. Phonegurl’ (Jenkins, 2016) release implies a promotional motive. This is furthered by the band refusing to play a similar event in the past (Jenkins, 2012).

I would argue that the motive behind the band’s actions is much simpler: identity maintenance. The band are known musically for several reasons, but perhaps at the forefront is their liberal philosophy. ‘Semi-charmed Life’ (Jenkins, 1997 b) refers to heavy drug use (a cultural signifier (Hunt, Milhet and Bergeron, 2011)); ‘Jumper’ (Jenkins, 1997 a) encourages homosexuals to ‘step back from that ledge’ and ‘Non-Dairy Creamer’ (Jenkins, 2008) is explicitly anti-republican, with the lyrics sarcastically stating ‘two young, gay Republicans’ brought marriage to an end.

Continuing from this, one could argue that, in a comparable way to The Huns appealing to their punk demographic (Shank 2006), Third Eye Blind simply appealed to their own demographic in their performance. Their demographic may not have been in attendance, but in antagonising a specific audience, they have appealed to their own, and maintained their identity.

Of course, this indicates a lack of ‘true’ resistance; this ‘resistance music’ hasn’t been written solely to resist, it has been written to maintain an identity, a pillar of which happens to be the band’s liberal-leaning political stance. It would seem, in a commodity-focused and oversaturated music industry (Wikstrom, 2009), identity has become more crucial to an artist’s commercial survival, and the notion of ‘resistance music’ has simply become another promotional avenue for producers to reach consumers with.

Bibliography

  • Boom, B. (2009). City of Thieves. [CD, online] Manchester: Rebel Alliance Records.
  • Grimes, M. (2015). Call it Crass but there is no Authority but Yourself: De-canonising punk’s underbelly. Punk and Post Punk. 4, No. 2. pp. 189-204
  • Hunt, G., Milhet, M. and Bergeron, H. (2011). Drugs and Culture. 1st Burlington, Vt: Ashgate
  • Jenkins, S. (1997 a). Jumper. [CD] Marylabd: Elektra.
  • Jenkins, S. (1997 b). Semi-Charmed Life. [CD] Maryland: Elektra.
  • Jenkins, S. (2008). Non-Dairy Creamer. [CD, online] Maryland: MRI.
  • Jenkins, S. (2012). Why We Aren’t Playing at the RNC. [online] The Huffington Post. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephan-jenkins/third-eye-blind-rnc_b_1839576.html
  • Jenkins, S. (2016). Cop vs. Phonegirl. [Online] Texas: Megaforce Records.
  • Shank, B. (2006). Punk Rock at Raul’s – The Performance of Contradiction. In: A. Bennett, B. Shank and J. Toynbee, ed., The Popular Music Studies Reader, 1st London:Routledge. pp. 114-120.
  • Smith, N. (2016). Third Eye Blind baits Republican Audience at Cleveland Fundraiser. [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/20/third-eye-blind-republican-national-convention
  • TMZ (2016). Third Eye Blind – Trump Supporters Didn’t Deserve Our Greatest Hits in Cleveland (VIDEO). [online] Available at: http://www.tmz.com/2016/07/20/third-eye-blind-stephan-jenkins-rnc-donald-trump/
  • Webbe, B. (2007). Roots, Rock, Riot. [CD, online] Florida: Bieler Bros Records.
  • Wikstrom, P. (2009). The Music Industry. 1st London: Polity.

 

Assignment 1 Blog 1 – John Lewis Christmas Adverts

Topics Covered: Music and the Moving Image, Music and Meaning

Beginning in 2007, the season John Lewis Christmas campaign has become something of a national tradition (Wallop, 2014) due to the sentimental and emotional chords the adverts have a reputation of striking. Typically, the adverts feature a Christmas-related narrative accompanied by a tagline related to the discourse, but perhaps more importantly, the adverts feature a single song each year. Each year the song has been a slowed-down cover of an older, ‘classic’ song. In 2012, the covers featured began performing well in the UK official charts, with relative unknown Gabrielle Alpin’s cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Power of Love’ (Johnson et al., 1984) reaching number 1 in the UK charts.

This year’s advertisement has carried considerable anticipation – teaser trailers have begun to circulate, and the artist and cover have been announced as The Vaults performing ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ (Crawford, Sample and Jennings, 1980). It is interesting to look at the identity John Lewis have created for themselves by using music and video together – they have proven that as an advertising force this combination can be very powerful, recently winning the Grand Prix award at the IPA Effectiveness awards for proving how successful their emotionally-charged campaigns have been since 2012 (ipa.co.uk, 2016).

An interesting aspect of the campaigns are the uses of cover versions. The covers featured are often very stylistically different to their original versions – last year’s cover of Oasis’ ‘Half the World Away’ (Gallagher, 1994) went from an acoustic guitar-led rock ballad to an ethereal, minimalist pop ballad with Aurora’s version. Adorno’s theory of standardisation is an interesting framework to place this campaign in. For Adorno, the form of ‘the whole’ of a song is so standardised it is unlikely to distract from ‘the detail’, which is what audiences react to (1990). John Lewis’ use of cover versions is a perfect example of this – the whole doesn’t change; it is the details of the form, the change in voice, style and instrumentation that change and garner the emotive reaction. This isn’t surprising – Gendron also makes the connection of standardisation to cover versions, arguing that if you put timbre and connotation into the core of the song, rather than melody and harmony as Adorno would, the song becomes vastly different due to Western pop music conventions (1986).

Connotation is created from context; perhaps this is why the adverts evoke such an emotional response. The context in this case is the video itself – the narrative the music is providing a soundtrack to. Whilst the covers provide the audience with raw emotion, it is the narrative that both gives the audience an object to project their emotions on to, and contributes further to the emotion using what Jeff Smith coins ‘semantic ambiguity’ (2006). Whilst Smith is referring to musical puns in cinema, it is applicable here – the visual situation gives the featured song lyrics new meaning. 2015’s ‘Man on the Moon’ features ‘Half the World Away’ (Gallagher, 1994). The original Oasis version lyrically is about feeling trapped, with the eponymous line referring to youthful spirit. Within the advert however, the lyric “half the world away” refers to the distance between the man on the moon and a child looking out of their bedroom window – linking the lyrical content to the visual content creates a strong emotional response through essentially synchronising the meanings contributed by the involved media.

 

References

  • co.uk. (2016). 2016 IPA Effectiveness Award winners announced. [online] Available at: http://www.ipa.co.uk/news/2016-ipa-effectiveness-award-winners-announced#.WCIGui2LTIU [Accessed 8 Nov. 2016].
  • Adorno, T. (1990). On Popular Music. In: S. Frith and A. Goodwin, ed., On Record, 1st London: Routledge, pp. 301-314
  • Crawford, R., Sample, J. and Jennings, W. (1980). One Day I’ll Fly Away. [7”] New York: MCA Records.
  • Gallagher, N. (1994). Half the World Away. [CD, Cassette] Texas: Creation.
  • Gendron, B. (1986). Theodor Adorno Meets the Cadillacs. In: T. Modleski, ed., Studies in Entertainment, 1st Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 18-36.
  • Johnson, H., Gill, P., Nash, B. and O’Toole, M. (1984). The Power of Love. [CD] London: ZTT Records.
  • Smith, J. (2006). Songs and Allusion in Contemporary Cinema. In: A. Bennett, B. Shank and J. Toynbee, ed., The Popular Music Studies Reader, 1st London: Routledge, pp. 326-333.
  • Wallop, H. (2014). John Lewis adverts from Christmas past. [online] Yahoo Finance UK. Available at: https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/john-lewis-adverts-christmas-past-173056309.html [Accessed 8 Nov. 2016].

Off the Record Manchester

Last week, the 3rd year and MA Music Industries students ventured away from Birmingham City University for a rare field trip to Manchester for the first ever Off the Record Conference, a multi-venue industry event featuring speakers from across the country and hand-picked emerging artists performing across the Northern Quarter (and free coffee!).

I began the day with Summer of Love, a panel discussing the incubation of new artists at music festivals, as well as how to maximise your minutes when playing on a big stage. The four panellists had backgrounds in some of the country’s largest and most innovative festivals, including Bluedot, Kendall Calling, Sound City and Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia. Considering this is the sector my career aspirations lie in, I found this talk to be extremely interesting and useful. Festivals don’t necessarily have an obligation to develop new acts, but the panellist’s reasoning behind their dedication to talent incubation was very enlightening.

Another interesting panel featured local mayoral candidate Andy Burnham and Liverpudlian labour politician Steve Rotheram. Whilst the industry talks were interesting, it was refreshing to hear about the music industry and its development from local politician’s perspectives. Both were very good speakers and showed a knowledge of the creative industries both Northern cities house, and spoke of their plans to highlight our musical culture and support and expand it.

The event also featured workshops – slightly more interactive and usually led by just one speaker, these were more intimate than the panels – a welcome variation. The first I attended was presented by CMU’s Chris Cooke about how to make money from music. As a young adult in his last year of education about to enter the job market, this was significantly important to me. Featuring a breakdown of the available revenue streams for performers, as well as costs this talk was very informative and connectable to the material I’ve been learning for the last three and a half years. Another of the workshops was ran by Ditto Music’s Matt Parson. He told his story of getting his business off the ground and the sacrifices he had to make on the way – it was truly inspiring to see someone talk so frankly about the journey to his current position. In addition, the industry-related part of the talk was very informative, particularly based around independent record labels and starting your own label. Starting a record label is a future ambition of mine, as well as something we do in our first year on the BA Music Industries course, so both the information given with regards to logistics and finance, as well as the services Ditto offers that can assist in label activity was very interesting and useful.

I attended several more panels and workshops during the day – too many to write about in one blog post (especially considering the amount of work I still have to do), but all were both entertaining and informative – credit has to be given to The Charlatan’s own Tim Burgess, who spoke about his label Ogenesis Records with Camille Bennett. The panel also spoke briefly about the beginning resurgence of cassettes as a physical music format, a topic spoken about the previous day in our lecture.

Week 5 Blog – Music, the Moving Image and Everybody

This week, we looked at the development of the pop film alongside the wider development of realism within British cinema. Specifically, we looked at Nic Roeg’s ‘Performance’ (1970), and how music was used and represented within.

Whilst is was interesting looking at how music and film interact and add meaning to each other, I believe that case studies of the opposite intended effect should be analysed more within music academia. Specifically relating to music videos, it is interesting to analyse examples where the musical elements and film elements very rarely interact, and opine about why this is the case. I look to provide a brief example of such a case study, using a musicological and a thematic comparative analysis:

Musically, this song is relatively simple. It is what some might refer to as a conventional Don Broco song tweaked somewhat to incorporate a ‘dancier’ tone.

Of course, what defines a conventional Don Broco song? The band self-identify rather broadly as a rock band. Not that they aren’t, but their recent releases have seen a significant leaning towards elements of funk (signified by heavy use of bass slaps and high groove), pop (signified by the catchy choruses and the extremely heavy lyrical repetitions) and post-hardcore (signified by the dual vocalist line-up, the in-band shout and response chorus structures and heavier guitars).

‘Everybody’ begins with a reserved, stripped back version of the chorus leading into the main riff of the song and the verse. The way the lyrics are sung imply a sense of distress due to the strain on the vocals the high range and slightly-violent tone require. The lead singer’s voice throughout the song is considerably more reserved, although becomes more aggressive in the chorus and towards the end of the song. The drums and bass are both quite funky – there’s a definite intended dance effect the band have tried to convey; the minimal singing in the chorus also lends itself to this. Lyrically the song is too vague to get a true narrative, or even subject matter – at a guess I’d argue the song is about the band’s experiences within the music industry (references to festivals, record sales, vans). The lyrics in the final chorus have a violent or aggressive tone – repeating “It’s a killer” during the final chorus over the main riff. Overall, ‘Everybody’ produces vague but violent tones mixed with a sense of funk and dance.

From a visual perspective, the song is extremely peculiar. The narrative features a woman being captured by a cowboy, then brainwashed in a cult-like fashion to join him as a cowgirl using a strange dance whilst smiling maniacally. The dance is heavily featured and has become a staple of the band’s live show, spawning a tutorial video.

There are elements of New Romanticism here, solely due to the sheer eccentricity of the video. The band are dressed in a flamboyant manner (Albuquerque ties, hats etc.), the dance is juvenile yet contains sexual elements and the smile is very over-the-top. The video’s finale is also very flamboyant and excessive, with religious symbols being placed alongside a room of dancing cowboys in a funeral.

When looking to compare the audio and visual elements initially, very little seems to add up. Both have quite strong violent overtones, and both have a certain flamboyant swagger about them reminiscent of late 70s New Romanticism. There is little else the two share (outside of production techniques (primarily cuts) that synchronise with the beat of the music) in terms of theme, narrative or performance (the band never play in the video). So why have they been clashed here?

My opinion would be that with the band about to attempt to break America (having signed with Sharptone Records and releasing two songs from 2015 there), the band needed a way to keep in the British public’s conscious whilst they are away. The ‘Everybody Dance’ as it has been dubbed seems to have been an attempt to attain a measure of viral success due to the sheer oddity it is. A small European tour was also promoted in the wake of the video release, in which the band performed the dance when performing the song. I would argue that promotion was the main motive behind the audio/visual incoherence.