Friday, 27 February 2015

This choreography is everything (especially when viewed unedited) 

Sunday, 8 February 2015

DIGITAL WORDS / Seen On Screen Dance Review

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After turning 25 late last year it suddenly dawned on me: "Oh wait. Maybe those dreams of becoming a pop star aren't going to come to fruition. Shit."

As my hope fully crumbled around me and I realised that by the time Britney Spears was my age she had already released five albums, completed four tours, married twice and had her public meltdown (with her resurrection to follow). I've skipped all the good stuff and gone straight to the burn out!
However, just as Britney rose from the ashes of 2007 to the splendor of her 'Womanizer' return, I too am fighting back. And it all begins (and perhaps ends) with some kick-ass dance training.

Seen On Screen Dance is the answer to my private prayers. SOS provide the dance classes of my dreams. Running a comprehensive timetable of sessions across London that teach all-level wannabe pop stars the choreography of their idols, SOS is an accessible, affordable, and above all, fun fitness option.

For my inaugural class I signed up to learn the footwork of the moment - Bruno Mars' 'Uptown Funk' routine. The hour-and-a-half class was a sell-out and hosted at Rambert on the South Bank. The large class of 99% female attendees varied in their dance experience - from the shy girls, initially, hiding at the back, to the sassy pros throwing in extra hairography down the front. As well as marveling at some of the other gals' moves, a key tip I picked up was that the thing to wear to these classes is leggings, a vest top, lightweight trainers and a checkered shirt tied around one's waist (that last detail is crucial. I felt oddly moronic for not thinking of such an accouterment beforehand).

After a quick warm up to Mark Ronson, Mystikal and Bruno Mars' 'Feel Right' it was straight into learning the first few phrases of 'Uptown Funk'. Teacher Elliot was impeccable - he kept the class well paced so everyone was always on their toes but picked up on when we needed to revisit any quick paced moves. Plus, any teacher who uses Jack McFarland and a drunk Tina Turner as reference points to enhance our interpretations of the choreography is A-okay with me. He also encouraged the already very welcoming and friendly atmosphere of the class by getting everyone to sing along and sass it up as our learning progressed.

As the class drew to an end and we ran through the entire song and dance twice non-stop, there's a sense of not just personal achievement but a group enthusiasm (even amongst strangers) when the whole routine comes together in such a flawless fashion. The time goes by so quickly that even before I'm on my way home on the tube I'm already planning when I can book my next installment of SOS fitness.

Written for DISORDER

Saturday, 7 February 2015

DIGITAL WORDS / "Michael Jackson Inc." Book Review

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‘Michael Jackson Inc.’ is a refreshing addition to the ever increasing catalogue of MJ titles. Zack O’Malley Greenbug, a seasoned Forbes journalist and author, has breathed life into the biography genre with his business-focused account and has addressed an aspect of Michael Jackson’s career that has been sorely neglected. Greenburg’s ‘Michael Jackson Inc.’ is an excellent counterpoint to Joe Vogel’s vital ‘Man In The Music’, providing the business, financial and legal details that underpinned Jackson’s hold over popular culture.

Just as all biographies take Michael Jackson’s money-making and business acumen for granted, so does Greenburg with Jackson’s music and artistry. It is a given in ‘Michael Jackson Inc.’ that Michael was a superlative composer and performer, so the focus is solely on the contracts he signed and the figures he hired and fired which allowed him to build, collapse and, in death, restore his business empire.

The narrative does not really pick up until attorney John Branca (now co-executor of the Michael Jackson Estate) enters the story in 1980 at the advent of Jackson’s adult solo career. The pace of Greenburg’s writing ensures that he quickly rattles through the Motown/Jackson family deals that went beforehand, but it also means he sometimes skims on detail. Indeed, anyone wanting to deepen their knowledge of the mechanisations of the music industry through reading this book may be disappointed, but, on the flipside, Greenburg writes clearly enough to ensure that novices can follow the business jargon.

The sources for this book vary in their veracity. On the one hand there is an impressive level of corroboration from the Michael Jackson Estate, with involvement from John Branca and archivist Karen Langford, plus access to personal notes penned by Jackson himself (although such input may have come with conditions, one suspects, as the closing chapter reads like an extended advert for the current Cirque du Soleil ‘One’ show in Vegas). On the other hand, Greenburg also takes on testimony from the likes of Joe Jackson and Dieter Wiesner. Whilst on many occasions the author takes the time to discredit and disprove some of the statements made by his shadier sources, one wonders why he bothered interviewing them in the first place.

Whilst the narrative of this book makes it a quick and accessible read that avoids repeating the same biographical details that we all know so well already, one way ‘Michael Jackson Inc.’ could have been fleshed out is with a little more personal input from the author himself. As a senior Forbes editor, I would have appreciated his own views on whether some of the business decisions and acquisitions Jackson made were good or bad moves. Should he have purchased the ATV catalogue? Should he have given up a stake to Sony? Should he have bought Neverland? Whilst it is admirable that Greenburg leaves his ego out of the text, his own expert analysis would be welcome. However, an interesting emphasis is placed on a soured endorsement deal with L.A. Gear as a turning point in Michael Jackson’s previously untarnished business portfolio.

Two key areas that it feels like ‘Michael Jackson Inc.’ sadly fails to get to the bottom of are the most WTF times of Jackson’s life and career: the ‘HIStory’ era and Jackson’s post-2005 trial wanderlust days. For example, who the hell was pulling the strings when Michael decided to announce Kingdom Entertainment and why did it get to the point of a press conference? Why did his recording and performing track record turn fallow after ‘Invincible’? And what exactly lead Jackson, who once earned $125 million in a single year (that fact is brought to you by the ultra-handy career earnings chart housed within ‘Michael Jackson Inc.’) to soliciting advice on a Monday on how to prevent Neverland going into foreclosure on a Friday? It would be a Herculean task to truly unfurl all of the comings and goings of Michael Jackson’s staff and bank balances around the time of ‘HIStory’ and his final years, but if anyone could rise to the challenge, it would be Greenburg.

Overall ‘Michael Jackson Inc.’ is a fantastic read with a pleasingly original angle and unfaltering focus on the topic in hand. One can only hope that this title paves the way for more forensic details of Michael Jackson’s finances and assets in the future. 

Friday, 30 January 2015

DIGITAL WORDS / Viva Las Vegas

As artists with younger fan bases than the usual Las Vegas veteran performers are making their mark on Sin City, Kate Allen considers the benefits of live residencies for artists and fans alike

In a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, the female contingent of the programme take a trip to Las Vegas and debate what night time entertainment they’re going to invest in – seeing a male strip show or a Barry Manilow tribute act (Fairly Manilow). It’s a pretty outdated and unfair summation of what Las Vegas has to offer to its growing clientele of younger tourists.

After suffering a 5% slump in tourist rates between 2007 and 2010, Las Vegas reversed its fortunes in a major fashion last year. 2014 saw Vegas attracting over 40 million visitors – an all-time record for the resort city. The average age of tourists also significantly dropped from a median age of 50 in 2009 down to 45 today. Predictions for 2015 look even rosier and a substantial factor, alongside an upturn in national economy prosperity and increased airport capacity, is Vegas’ new adoption of younger musical acts and trends.

Celine Dion first setting up camp at The Colosseum back in 2003 set a new precedent for what artists could expect to earn from a Las Vegas residency. She paved the way for the likes of Rod Stewart, Cher and, most recently, Shania Twain to follow in her footsteps. One of Caesars Palace post-Celine stalwarts is doing better business than ever. Elton John, who first touched down in Vegas back in 2004, is now making $500,000 a night from his Million Dollar Piano residency.

However the last galvanising shock to light up The Strip was Britney Spears. Whilst the proliferation of EDM across the States saw the advent of eye-watering pay days (around $200,000-$300,000 per DJ slot) for the likes of Calvin Harris, Tiësto, and Deadmau5 in 2013 in some of Vegas’ uber-clubs like Hakkasan, Spears is the artist who had the publicity powers to show what Vegas has to offer younger stars and their youthful fans.  

Following a $100,000 announcement event for her Piece Of Me residency that involved a helicopter arrival and a thousand Britney lookalikes, Spears is now raking in $475,000 per show and has extended her original contract for shows that will now date into 2017. So successful has the “Miss American Dream” been that to celebrate her impact on Sin City November 5 was officially named “Britney Day” and Spears was presented with the key to the Las Vegas Strip.

Speaking about the arrangements of playing her stationary show in Vegas, the ‘Work Bitch’ singer flagged up the consistency that a permanent residency has given her: “The way I used to travel all around the world and do a different show every night, I'm like, ‘How did I do it?!’” In her wake, artists of a similar calibre are beginning to follow suit. Mariah Carey will be kicking off her #1s residency in May at The Colosseum and rumours persist that Jennifer Lopez – whom, like Spears and Carey, is a mother of two – will be the next name in lights on the Vegas Strip.

Not only are there the personal benefits to consider in eliminating touring from an artist’s schedule, there are also the huge financial incentives. As live music continues to be the lifeline of the music industry it would be ludicrous for popular acts not to look at the sizeable savings to be made from eradicating stage construction, transportation and staff costs of a world tour when compared to a residential stay. Also, without the limitations of having to make a show travel-friendly, artists are afforded a greater amount of creative freedom when it comes to designing their concerts; thus Celine Dion could employ a 40-piece orchestra as her backing band, Britney Spears can perform in front one of the world’s largest indoor video installations and Liberace – the Godfather of glitz – was able to pull up onstage in crystalized cars whilst wearing capes that weighed in at 60 pounds. 

Furthermore, Las Vegas residencies hold great advantages for fans too. Compare and contrast the relative intimacy of Britney Spears’ theatre at Planet Hollywood with its audience capacity of 4,600 to the venues she toured in 2011 that saw her playing to crowds of anywhere from 8000-30,000. There are also the personal touches of fans being able to shop from a dedicated Britney boutique before her shows and viewing a makeshift museum of Spears costumes and relics in the concert hall lobby. There’s even the option of heading to a post-show bar that serves Britney-inspired martinis and employs dancers dressed like ‘…Baby One More Time’ school girls. It may sound tacky but it’s giving fans what they want and then some.

With the inaugural Rock In Rio USA festival taking place in Las Vegas in May, which sees big hitters like Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars and Metallica topping the bill, it gives other sure-fire sell-out names the chance to consider what else the “Entertainment Capital Of The World” has to offer them. With the only prerequisites, really, for a Vegas residency being that an artist has A) 90 minutes worth of material that can be dressed up to the nines and B) enough fans who are over the age of 21, who’s to stay that Britney Spears’ runaway success isn’t just the tip of the iceberg?

Whilst there remains competing heritage acts and revamped legends, such as Cirque De Soleil shows using music of The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Elvis, the reality is that Las Vegas punters are getting younger and an extravagent concert is just the start of a good night out. Was Kanye West ill-advised to have turned down a recent offer of $4.5 million for a nine day residency? Probably. If Britney Spears can thrive out there in the desert just imagine what kind of damage a Beyoncé, Jay Z or even Daft Punk could do…

Written for Record of the Day 

Monday, 12 January 2015

DIGITAL WORDS / Bonnie Parsons, SOS Fitness Founder, Interview

I got some  pointers on staying motivated from Seen On Screen Fitness founder and back-up dancer to the stars, Bonnie Parsons for My Flash Trash.

Find the original post HERE

Have you given up on your New Year’s resolution yet? Have you already cursed yourself for setting yourself an overly harsh goal and fitness regime? Same.

Well we’re getting back on the health horse this month by signing up to classes from the coolest, sassiest dance collective – Seen On Screen Fitness. SOS run a tireless schedule of all-levels dance classes that teach you the famous choreography of your favourite pop stars.

My Flash Trash caught up with Bonnie Parsons – founder and director of Seen On Screen Fitness – to talk all things health and dance…
Three top tips for getting and staying motivated to exercise…
1) Find a form of exercise you LOVE. You’ll never stick to something if you don’t enjoy it. 
2) Find a fitness option that fits in with your lifestyle. It really makes a difference when the studio is around the corner from your office, on the way home or close to your favourite shops/restaurants etc. Seen On Screen has eight venues in London and a new studio opening in Manchester so our students can choose the right location for them. 
3) Exercise with friends. Exercise should be fun so you can have a laugh with them and motivate each other.
What’s your favourite healthy snack?

Definitely a green smoothie. I make one before class if I need an energy boost. Check out Juice Generation for recipes and Imbibery for great juice/smoothies in London. Both fab!
What classes do you have coming up that you're most excited about?

I’m most excited about our Super Classes on January 31st. We have taken the music video experience to the next level by inventing the ‘Super Class’, a two hour workshop held at a professional rehearsal studio on Oxford Street complete with wind machines, smoke machines and spot lights (you will feel like Beyoncé herself!). The January theme is Girl Boss so we’ll be holding workshops to empowering female anthems – Fifth Harmony ‘Bo$$’ and Beyoncé ’Flawless’ and ‘Run The World (Girls)’. I 100% recommend, they’ll be EPIC! 
For girls who’d like to burn serious calories and dance non stop, I’d recommend our new 90s inspired workout series, running every Saturday. Each week you’ll get a dance and cardio work out to new themes including TLC, Salt-N-Pepa and Destiny’s Child. 
What song gets you pumped and ready to work out?
It’s too hard to choose one so here’s a mini playlist for you. All will be played in Seen On Screen classes or held as workshops in their own right! 
Beyoncé ft Nicki Minaj ‘Flawless’ 
Bruno Mars ‘Uptown Funk’
Beyoncé ’7/11′
Tinashe ’2 On’ 
Ester Dean ‘Drop It Low’ 
Danity Kane ‘All In A Days Work’ 
Major Lazor ‘Bumaye (Watch Out For This)’
David Guetta ft Nicki Minaj ‘Hey Muma’ 
If you could dance like anyone, who would it be?

What music video contains your favourite choreography?

It’s too hard to say one but here’s a short list of my favourites: 
Amerie ‘One Thing’
Beyonce ‘Crazy In Love ‘
Britney Spears ‘Slave 4 U’
JLo ‘Get Right’ 
Tinashe ’2 On’
Britney Spears ‘Overprotected (Dark Child Remix)’
Do you have any resolutions for 2015?

Just to have fun doing what I love, work hard and live life to the full!
Written for MY FLASH TRASH

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Friday, 2 January 2015

I Like... Remembering all the fun stuff I've done this year / Best of... 2014

Here is a summary timeline of my favourite articles of the past year:

Collage provided by Kawaii Hunny (click to enlarge) 

In January I read a very good but kinda controversial Michael Jackson biography…

February saw me having a chat with Karley Sciortino and worrying about Justin Bieber’s future (why did I bother? He clearly doesn’t care. Does he still have fans?)

By March I moved on to worrying about another pop star: Lady Gaga. I also got very excited about Pharrell Williams’ G I R L the best album of the year, of course!

May was a touch cooler. I boarded The Orwells’ tour bus for an interview with irrepressible front man Mario Cuomo, experienced Macaulay Culkin’s Pizza Underground at their debut UK gig (sadly,the majority of their subsequent shows were either cancelled or cut short), and I caught Carl Barat and his new band The Jackalsplay their first London gig.

In June I listened to (and loved) Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence (the second-best album of the year), and found a positive correlation between the success of pop stars and costumes designed by The Blonds.

July brought heartbreak as The Libertines played a substandard set at Hyde Park for the most poorly organised day festival I have ever had the misfortune of attending. Luckily, my faith was fully restored just months later when The Libertines pulled it out of the bag at Alexandra Palace and cemented their place in my heart even further when signing a new record contract alongside a sober-of-his-own-freewill Pete Doherty (keep going, Pete!)

In August I reviewed Michael Jackson’s Xscape album, and had the utter delight of seeing two of my favourite living pop stars live in Las Vegas: Britney Spears and Bruno Mars (more on the latter in a forthcoming article…)

September belonged to Kate Bush. Her Before The Dawn residency was a life changing experience. Nothing looked, sounded or felt the same afterwards. And *smug alert* I had the complete luck of seeing the show twice! As I work in Hammersmith, I found it strangely comforting to know that most days of the week, Kate Bush was living her life just around the corner. I couldn’t help myself but return to the Apollo and join the cancellation line. Despite being nowhere near the front of the queue, the kindness of a total stranger prevailed and I was offered a spare ticket (for one of the best seats in the house!) and even treated to a tour programme afterwards. Music promoter David Gentum/Gentim (sp?) if you’re out there – please get in touch!

My highlights of October and November were seeing two live pop spectaculars from Pharrell Williams and Lady Gaga. Two totally different types of show, but both equally fun and worthy of five-star ratings.

And December? Does it really count? The Mushpit returned to print and everyone stopped releasing music (unless you're Mark Ronson and are forced to...) so I switched off... 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

I Like... Good pop music / Top Five Singles of 2014

No justification.

No arguing.

These are the best pop song's of the year (in no particular order):

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

DIGITAL WORDS / My Flash Trash Festivities

'Tis the season for Christmassy blog posts and branded content.

I've recently been asking cool girls in the know - like Victoria Higgs, Ekaterina Malysheva and Kylie Griffiths - what they'll be getting up to over the holidays.

I also rounded up the My Flash Trash team to talk all things festive (with added GIF art from Anne Horel

I've put together a gift guide that will save you money but impress your gift receiver... 

I have compiled an inspirational gallery of glitter makeup ideas

And as for non-Christmas content, I spoke to X Factor stylist Gemma Sheppard, got ear piercing envy from all of the famous babes who rock hoop earrings, put together a list of things that every girl is thankful for in 2014, and made a chart of Britney Spears' greatest stage costumes

So much stylish content. I'm spoiling you! 

Sunday, 14 December 2014