Friday, 25 February 2011

Usher in the fun, not sleaze

Usher’s tour stop at the O2 last week showed just how a male ego can get in the way of performance. Opening the show with an album track, the smooth man unexpectedly rose from the sound booth at the back of the venue on a platform – which would have worked much better if non-hardcore fans knew the song. He tentatively floated across the audience to the stage throughout the song, and then followed it with another album track. Hmm. Finally at song three he belted out in 2004 hit ‘Yeah!’ (yes, 2004) and the crowd erupted into party mode.

However the party was short-lived, as the next 45 minutes were filled with uninspiring, slow album songs surrounded by the concert-standard barely dressed dancers and only one crowd-pleaser ‘Love in this club’. The title of said song reflects the overtly sexual nature of Usher himself, who was certainly entertaining the ladies. Sure, the man has some amazing moves, a good body and a voice that can make you melt but arrogance will make things awkward.

Three ripped shirts later Mr Raymond decided to search the audience for a lady to sing to. Seeming as I was up on the O2’s fourth level it was obvious that I would be chosen, so instead the rest of us had to wait for what felt like 10 minutes while Usher walked to and fro to pick a shawty. Then the girl he eventually ‘picked’ was so obviously a plant I couldn’t help think I was wasting my time, plus their gyrating was so much that it borderlined pornography.
NO-ONE clapped after that song.

Either unaffected or oblivious by this, Usher returned to his platform an hour after he started on it to sing ‘Burn’. With no lady to distract him it seemed he had finally turned his attention to his audience and in return, we sang back whole-heartedly. What followed was a different show to the sleazy first half. A medley of ‘My Boo’, ‘Pop Ya Collar’, ‘U Remind Me’ and ‘You Make Me Wanna’ reminded us of party Usher and the brilliant ‘Caught Up’ in full got the whole place jumping.
So like that bad boy we know we shouldn’t like, Usher had redeemed himself from a try-hard crooner to world-class performer in two songs. His professionalism and showmanship was how I’d always thought a younger Michael Jackson would have been, with the dance moves and smooth tunes to go with it. He ended on a triple whammy of ‘More’, ‘DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love’ and ‘OMG’ to the delight of the party-hungry fans.

So while a smooth talker may always appear to have the ladies in the palm of his hands, it’s more than likely that he actually comes across as too sexual. Loosen up and the response will follow. Although the fit body, dancing and voice certainly help.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Ahead of the Brits: trying to decifer an obsession.

Since a young age I've had a slight obsession with the Union Jack. It's got to the point where my room is painted like one and people buy me Union Jack-emblazoned items purely because of the pattern. For the record, I don't like everything with the flag on it and, particularly when it comes to clothing, I still have a 'style' that I'd stick to. Anyway, here is my room in all its kitsche glory.

I've been trying to figure out what it is that I like about UJ so much. Perhaps the romantic in me likes the way it symbols unity on this island (I know, I know, that's not the case now) and I am certainly proud of where I come from. In addition as a graphic design student I grew to appreciate the flag's shapes, colour and arrangement - it's only 'flaw' that Wales is not represented. I'm not pedantic enough to insist the flag is its right way up but I love that there is a correct way.

Despite that, the colours shouldn't be messed with. Rip it up; use red, white and blue patterned fabric; burn holes in it - I don't care so long as it remains in those three bold colours. Although it says something that a flag can be changed so dramatically and yet still be recognised.

Despite my love for the Jack, there is something about it that makes me cautious to wear it with pride (usually in the form of the five bags I have), particularly in a work situation or on holiday. For one I don't really want to stick out in those situations and secondly, it can appear too bold, kitsche, possibly even intimidating.

This was epitomised in Geri Halliwell's dress on the Brits 1997.

I've watched the awards religiously since I was small and as my passion for music grew, I saw that the awards showed the best of the British. Some of the most iconic moments in our popular culture have come from those awards shows - even as recent as Cheryl Cole's 'I'm-living-without-Ashley' performance last year. Okay, slight bad example, but even now when I see it I think 'yeah, go girl!'. In addition, growing up in the whole Britpop era was bound to have had an influence. It sure did on the next PM.

Actually now I've mentioned the the Spice Girls I've realised they may have had more to do with this than I thought. When Wanabee was released I was eight years old and getting heavily into popular music. These bolshy, unashamed women used the Union Jack as a symbol of confidence. This clicked in my mind last week when I ended up watching Spiceworld: The Movie(don't ask) and noticed that the flag was EVERYWHERE.

So there you go, it seems the Union Jack, despite its male name, has become synonomous with my girl power. Now I have to hope that shops calm down their Union Jack covered homeware before I get a flat, otherwise my place will be covered in the stuff.