Monthly Archives: June 2010

Review: Eminem – Recovery

Eminem is back with his seventh studio album and his second offering in just 13 months. Originally billed as Relapse 2, a follow up to his self-criticised Relapse album released in the May 2009, the new album was renamed ‘Recovery’ to break with the slightly immature and fluffy nature of Eminem’s previous two albums.

The cover of Eminem's new album - Recovery (released 21st June 2010). Picture: Phil Campbell

On Recovery, released on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records, the controversial rapper rediscovers his darker, more serious side which saw him rise to fame with ‘the Slim Shady LP’ (1999) and later, The Marshall Mathers LP’ (2000). Doing away with immature topics and toilet humour which has plagued his two previous albums: Relapse (2009) and Encore (2004), the new album is an uncompromising mix of complex, earth-shattering beats and melodic choruses accompanied by Eminem’s most serious and meaningful lyrics for a decade.

On the album, Eminem teams up with artists such as Pink and Rhianna on tracks entitled ‘won’t back down’ and ‘love the way you lie’, the latter of which is a radio friendly, guaranteed single with the potential to become the anthem of summer for many.

A new chapter

Other highlights include ‘no love’ on which the Detroit-born rapper teams up with hot property Lil’ Wayne to deliver a stunning lyrical performance accompanied by a catchy chorus featuring a sample of 1993 club hit ‘What is love?’ by Haddaway.

Eminem has worked with long term producing partner Dr. Dre to successfully achieve the heavy-hitting basslines which resemble Hip Hop’s golden era of the late nineties. But he has also created new partnerships with such producers as Just Blaze and DJ Khalil among others.

Put simply, this album was never likely to recapture the exact mood of the two that made Eminem a household name at the turn of the millennium. But it comes closer than many expected, whilst at the same time, introducing an incredible new chapter of Eminem’s extraordinary career.

Since 2000, Eminem has released albums which have been playable, without necessarily featuring any ‘timeless classics’. In Recovery, he has finally delivered a new sound which will reinvigorate people’s love for the troubled star, and see demand for a UK tour smash through roof several times over. These tracks will be played for years to come.

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World Cup 2010: so far, so poor

Five days into the world’s biggest and most anticipated sporting event, we are left hopelessly begging our television sets to give us more. More goals, more chances and just more excitement in general.

So far, 26 countries have scored only 20 goals between them in 13 fixtures. With Germany being the only team to have provided anything close to attractive and entertaining football, their impressive 4-0 victory over a rather chaotic Australian side on Sunday has been the only game to feature more than two goals. The rest has passed me by in an increasingly irksome fashion.

In a tournament that has so far seen an average of only one goal every 59 minutes and, what feels like a higher number of mexican waves than attempts on goal, what are the reasons for such a tedious display? and is there anything better on the horizon?

The Jabulani:

A giant model of the Jabulani. Photograph: Warrenski

Adidas’ new ball, designed specifically for this World Cup, has been partially blamed for the poor standard of football so far. And the pre-tournament fears that it was too light and did not fly properly, look to have been proved correct as Adidas have already sent scientists to South Africa to undertake further tests on the ball’s flight at altitude (better late than never…).

In my opinion, it is by no coincidence that the only team to have played well at the tournament so far, have been using the Jabulani in their domestic league (from which all the players in the national team hail) for nine months. I refer, of course, to Germany and the Bundesliga.

It is unclear what steps can be taken to counter the apparent problems. With replacing the ball entirely out of the question, it seems that we, the spectators, might have to wait until the multi-million pound footballers manage to work out how the hell to play with it before the standard improves. And that includes goalkeepers too. (mhm… ‘Calamity Green’).

Vuvuzela’s:

The buzz of the vuvuzelas has become customary, and seems to have replaced, or at least drowned out traditional cheering and singing in the terraces. Whilst their have been calls for a ban on the traditional South African horns, event organizers have so far refused to oblige.

It would be careless and naive to suggest that the vuvuzelas are the cause of poor quality football. Although I have noticed that they do contribute to the air of boredom which has unwelcomely crept into my World Cup viewing.

Imagine, if you will, a situation where you are forced to watch a man doing nothing but pace up and down in a straight line for ninety minutes. Pretty boring eh? Now imagine if that man was constantly humming loudly to himself in a tiresome, monotonous manner. No longer is it just boring, but it begins to materialize into a natural and aggressive annoyance.

I have no doubt that vuvuzelas contribute to a magnificent atmosphere within South Africa’s impressive stadia. But I fear they do not lend themselves to the hundreds of millions watching on television.

Over reaction?

Perhaps I am over reacting. After all we are yet to complete the first round of group matches and it could be argued that everything up until now can simply be termed a ‘cagey opener’. However, when presenters, pundits and commentators all begin to use phrases like “it’s just been absolutely dyer” (Andy Townsend – Half time in the Ivory Coast, Portugal match) and “I’m not expecting very much from this game in terms of attacking play” (Mick McCarthy before Italy’s first group game against Paraguay on Monday night) you get the feeling that, so far, the tournament has not quite conformed to the script.

In fact the only thing that has unfolded in line with many people’s pre-tournament expectations is England’s disappointing opening result against the USA on Saturday, and the unsurprising negativity that continues to drone on in the national press as a result.

Still, there is hope. We have reached the time in the tournament when five-time world champions Brazil begin their challenge. And, as is proclaimed every four years at this stage: “the World Cup hasn’t really begun until Brazil kick off their first game.” Everyone is hoping that something special is around the corner. With the South Americans playing a little-known North Korean side this evening, surely even a dodgy ball cannot scupper what promises to be a bucket load of World Cup goals.

Also, with European champions and hot favourites for the tournament Spain in action tomorrow against Switzerland, there is feeling that this World Cup might just wake up as we approach the end of the week. And not before time. Always look at the positives. It cannot get any worse.

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The sun is shining in the Big Brother house

On Wednesday night Sunshine Martyn was chosen as one of the ‘lucky’ few to enter the Big Brother house for the final series of the country’s favourite reality television show.

Sunshine on her first full day inside the Big Brother house

No sooner had her face appeared, shocked and confused on the big screens outside the house, my phone began having it’s very own nervous breakdown. Due, in part to my ludicrously varied message tones, it sounded like a fire alarm that was slowly running out of battery and crying out for help.

In an effort to calm the poor thing down, I duly opened the first of the messages, only to be met by a series of expletives so obscene that to repeat them here would be frowned upon even by those who inhabit the most liberal end of the so-called ‘blogosphere’.

All the messages followed a similar tone and they were all from people who, like me, have spent the best part of the last year studying journalism with Sunshine at Westminster University. Everyone was clearly as shocked as ‘Doc Martyn’ herself.

Needless to say, it was not long before I sent a number of similar messages, but Sunshine herself summed up exactly what we were all thinking and texting (albeit in a more conservative fashion), with her first words upon entering the house: “What just happened?!”

Sunshine is different

Three days on, I have had time to come to terms with the fact that somebody I know is actually on Big Brother. But there is still one question playing on my mind: why would anyone want to go on Big Brother in the first place?

A common belief is that you have to be ‘stupid’ to apply for Big Brother. However, throughout this year I have been acutely aware that Sunshine has consistently achieved some of the highest grades in the class. All the while sprinkling gentle reminders that she is actually studying to be a doctor and that she might not want to be a journalist at all.

So, far from being ‘stupid’, Sunshine is one of the brightest people I know (no pun intended). But the question remains, why is she going on the show? I think a better analogy is that you actually have to be ‘different’ to want to go on Big Brother. And Sunshine is certainly different.

She was often seen trooping into the newsroom, on an overcast day wearing blue sunglasses and matching blue lipstick (or various other combinations of unconventional, yet, i’m told ‘fashionable’ accessories), looking like she had just walked off the set of a Lady Gaga video. Before she even took a seat, Sunshine would invariably address the class with a story beginning: “you’ll never guess what happened to me…”.

At this point, I would usually turn back to my computer and ‘finish off my emails’ or continue ‘checking my facebook’, but not in such a way to ignore her tales. Instead, because they sometimes lasted a while, I would casually tune into Sunshine’s surreal ramblings as if it were a background radio, knowing that they would rarely fail to bring a little humour into my morning.

Sunshine ready for a day in the newsroom

My conclusion from nine months of being regaled with her colourful stories is that these ‘things’ that happen to Sunshine are a million miles away from the sorts of experiences we ‘normal’ people encounter in our day-to-day lives. I am amazed that so many exciting and random things could happen to one person, but it is no coincidence.

At times I would glance around the room and see other people raising a smile too, safe in the knowledge that they were enjoying the day’s story just as much as myself.

Mixture of intelligence and comic appeal

The fact that Sunshine has now succeeded in being chosen for Big Brother is the beginning of another interesting, and exciting chapter in her life. I look forward to the inevitably witty and creative tabloid headlines and weather-related puns, although not so much to reading the no doubt manipulative and slightly exaggerated stories they introduce.

Whilst she is understandably yet to venture out of her shell in the house, I think she will grow into a very entertaining housemate who offers a rare mixture of intelligence and comic appeal that has been absent in previous housemates. In this sense, Sunshine is truly unique, and I am backing her all the way.

Previous winner’s of the show have risen to fame, but more often they fade back into the relative obscurity of everyday life. However, for Sunshine, everyday life is already vastly different from yours or mine. If she wins the final series of Big Brother, I have no doubts that she is capable of determining the direction in which she wants to go, whether it be a career in presenting, modelling, journalism or medicine, when you look past the slightly eccentric exterior, Sunshine has the personal qualities to succeed in any one of these fields.

As for the financial reward, I would like to think she would use her £100,000 winnings to pay off some student loan debts and go on holiday, before giving us, her poor journo classmates a chance to fight each other for whatever is left, simultaneously allowing us to play a very minor part in the extraordinary puzzle of her life. I’m starting boxing lessons tomorrow. Please join me in voting for Sunshine to win.

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