Drake – ‘Hold
On (We’re Going Home)’ Well, duh. Of course this is the best song of the year.
Monkeys – ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ Congratulations to Arctic Monkeys for getting
their groove back this year and making music that sounds like they care again –
typified by this engorged, slow-burning number.
Camp – ‘Fresh’*Sigh* If only there was something anywhere near as good as this
swooning disco beauty on their self-titled second album…
Punk – ‘Giorgio By Moroder’ We all felt similarly let down by Random Access
Memories: “Wait, what do you mean it’s not got 13 ‘Get Lucky’’s? We demand
JUSTICE” (not the rival French electronic group – the abstract noun). This
explosive track was the album’s saving grace.
Gaga – ‘Do What U Want’ARTPOP’s finest cut by a long shot but how are we
supposed to respond to R.Kelly’s participation? How are we supposed to digest
Gaga’s sexualised live deliveries of this song which totally undermine the moral
message? And when will she stop caring about that week when people called her fat and start fighting back against the idea that she’s over? Seems just a
little bit more important…
of the Year
CARES? Why has every music criticism outlet bothered with an ‘Albums of 2013’
list? There has not been one single million-selling album this year. No one is
buying them. Even when big hitters release an LP it sells an okay amount (i.e.
enough to achieve a No. 1 debut) and then drops off the radar within a number of
weeks (if not, days). There’s just no point… We need music with staying power.
The Candelabra Devastatingly good cinema thanks to all the right ingredients: a "I can’t believe it is, but it damn well is" true story, sensitive character
portrayals and stunning visuals.
Morrissey’sAutobiography It was worth waiting for: Morrissey, in his own words. There
were lines which caused roaring laughter and passages that evoked intense
sadness. Did it make the author any more knowable? No, of course not. Did it
make you want to know everything about him? Yes, of course. Autobiography functions in the same way all of Morrissey’s lyrics do; posing as stark
confessionals but in actual fact are unravelable paradoxes.
year-end title for Morrissey is Best Trousers of 2013 for the airy flares he
sported at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert – very stylish.
of the Year
decision: Bruno Mars. For anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing his
Moonshine Jungle Tour you don’t need me blabbering on about his faultless versatility. His half-time show at the Superbowl will be the moment the
unconverted agree he is in the superstar league.
The latest issue of Iconic is out now. And it's a really good one.
Firstly, let's look at that cover. What you're looking at is a never-before-seen shot taken by photographer Scott Christopher (whom also took this rather newsworthy image) and I interviewed for the issue.
Another enlightening interview I conducted was with Craig Williams - the director of the forthcoming documentary Michael Jackson: The Last Photo Shoots. He's a fascinating fella with other MJ projects on the go that fans need to know about...
And to complete a triumvirate of world exclusive interviews is a talk with Jonathan Morrish who (as fans will know) worked for CBS/Sony as Michael's PR from 1976 until 2001. He rarely speaks about Michael so this is an interview not to be missed.
Elsewhere in this business-themed edition is a definitive guide to the ATV Catalog, an article on a lost Michael Jackson perfume and an intriguing investigation into MJ's HIStory album track 'Money'.
Like the rest of the world, I too have an opinion on Lady Gaga and her latest album/app/manifesto – ARTPOP. And the fact that everyone has their two cents at the ready to greet Gaga’s latest release is, of course, a testament to the Lady’s uncanny ability to generate intrigue and irritability in equal measure.
ARTPOP is the album that could have never been. Had a hip injury, subsequent surgery and a rest period of six months not derailed her Born This Way Ball world tour, Lady Gaga would have only wrapped up the globe-spanning jaunt in March 2013 – with precious little time to produce the 15-track, Jeff Koons sculpture-fronted ARTPOP.
Born This Way was a mess, something that was seemingly confirmed by the album’s utterly unappealing motorbike metamorphosis artwork. It was the kind of mess that isn’t made up purely of garbage, but more like the type of heap one accumulates when desperately trying to have a spring clean: should I keep this? Should I not? Oh, I may need that at some point for some reason in the future. A mish-mash of essentials and disposables. There was good amongst the bad, and treasure amongst the trash (the Clarence Clemons-featuring ‘The Edge Of Glory’ and roaring ‘Marry The Night’ were both distinct highlights).
The chief downfall of Gaga’s Born This Way was the multifarious vision behind it. In her self-appointed role as liberator of the underdog, Lady Gaga took it upon herself to write anthems for the freaks, the geeks, the gays and Mexican immigrants (see ‘Americano’) in the hope of liberating pretty much everyone everywhere who has ever experienced oppression in any form. It was a noble quest but too far-reaching and a little hard to swallow from a woman who had previously admitted to wanting nothing more than to be famous, and so accordingly named her previous releases The Fame and The Fame Monster.
With ARTPOP, Gaga has responded wisely by producing a rave-pop record that acknowledges that she is indeed a massive pop star, first and foremost. Unlike Born This Way there is barely any genre experimentation and her penchant for Euro dance ruthlessly dominates which, in turn, makes one half of ARTPOP an entirely worthwhile unified vision of glossy brilliance and the other a rather monotonous affair.
So, the bad news first… Lady Gaga, we get it; you like fashion, sex and weed, but unless you are going to do something new with such boring topics, please don’t bother at all. Having recently stated that outlandish attire allows her to deal with her “insanity”, one would hope for anything more illuminating on the subject of the sartorial sphere than what Gaga gives us here in the form of ‘Donatella’ and ‘Fashion!’ (the latter not to be confused with the similarly vacuous ‘Fashion’ of 2007). Equally yawnsome is ‘Sexxx Dreams’ which, not-so-scandalously, touches upon the subject of sex! And – cover your ears, Ethel – female masturbation! ‘G.U.Y.’ (an acronym for “Girl Under You”) has some beginner’s attempts at gender politics but the beats outshine the lyrics with ease. And no matter how tearfully Gaga sings “I need you more than dope” (on ‘Dope’), it’s still the lowest compliment I can imagine anyone dishing out or receiving.
And onto the good news… The same enticingly bonkers sensibility that produced ‘Paparazzi’ and ‘Bad Romance’ is still alive and well in the form of the self-produced galactic throb of ‘Venus’ and wandering EDM of ‘Aura’ – although step lightly when it comes to the misplaced musings on burqas in the latter. However where Gaga does successfully serve up a well-meaning message is ‘Do What U Want’: “You can’t have my heart and / You won’t use my mind but / Do what you want with my body”. If only someone had communicated the actual, liberating moral of the song to Gaga’s collaborator, R.Kelly; whose body, his body is telling him "yes", and remains fixated on the corporeal with a phoned-in-from-the private-jet couple of verses. It’s a shame too that Gaga chose to illustrate this metallic R&B jam with cover art that depicts a barely dressed, airbrushed arse-only shot (the deformed gruesome guise she tries on for ‘Dope’’s promotional picture is far actually intriguing and challenging).
“Do you wanna see the girl who lives behind the aura?” Gaga asks on ARTPOP’s opening number. Honestly, no. The idea and artifice of Lady Gaga is wildly more captivating than the Stefani Germanotta that lies behind and, thankfully, Gaga knows this too. On ARTPOP Gaga graciously accepts her pop queen crown and puts down her homemade freedom-fighter megaphone. Gaga plays the fame game well and to stay ahead of Miley, Rihanna, Katy et al – all of which blindly followed her, sometimes literally, naked ambition – she must continue to distort and disfigure pop music and it’s accepted conventions, as she does just intermittently on ARTPOP.
meet Cody Critcheloe at a London hotel, on his day off between European tour
dates. He s curled up in a lounge chair dressed in a neon yellow
twin set. I can't help but notice he bears a notable resemblance to a young
Alice Cooper, but he's so meek and unassuming. It's initially difficult
to reconcile him with the outlandish, dissident art collective he's been
leading since 1996.
Critcheloe is the head of Ssion (pronounced "shun" - we'll get to the
name later). Ssion is a communal art group that produces music, visuals and
films of the seemingly contradictory punk pop kind. The energy is raw and DIY.
The delivery is accessibly glossy. With revolving cast members, 30-year-old
Cody is the one continual presence. "It's a spearheaded
collaboration," Cody explains.
However, when asked to define himself and
what he does, it's not so easy to pinpoint: "I'm a musician, an artist, a
director - all of the above. I guess it depends on what I'm doing at the
time." To get a clearer idea of who Cody Critcheloe is, refer to the
subversive spirits he lists as his idols: Kathleen Hanna, Courtney Love, Little
Richard, Prince, Dead Kennedys. "Anyone who comes along and is fucking shit
up and causing some trouble," he says.
While it cannot be denied that Cody
has an eye and talent for visuals (he's directed videos for CSS, Santigold and
Peaches as well as his own fanciful shorts), Critcheloe admits that music is
the beating heart of Ssion. "The music is the vehicle for all of the
visual stuff and gives life to Ssion. I love directing, drawing and making
videos but those things wouldn't exist or exist in the same way without the
music." Ssion's music has evolved over the years. For those who got wise
to Ssion via the 2011 LPBent, Cody's punk background may come as a
surprise. Compare and contrast the technicolor alt-disco fest of Ssion's 2010
track and video 'Clown' with 2006's 'World's Worth', which features rough garage
guitars, Cody snarling the chorus "you only wanna come" whilst
dressed like a cow, thrashing around against a background of barely censored
mutations as Ssion's music may undergo, one thing will remain unchanged: the
baffling but brave band name. "Ssion is such a good name," Cody says,
smiling. "I love the way it looks. The name has been the one thing that's
constant. And considering how much my opinion changes on things! But I will
always love that name." He admits to some "ridiculous" band
monikers in his high school days, such as a punk trio called The Khaos Kittens,
but Ssion is the perfect stylishly perplexing name for the artistic statements
that Critcheloe makes.
their musical debut back in 1999 with a self-released cassette called Fucked
Into Oblivion. The aforementioned Bent album earned Ssion some long
overdue attention. It must have felt like a significant step forward, right?
see it as a breakthrough," says Cody, "because everything's so slow.
It's more about being successful over time. I don't see it as necessarily a bad
thing. I mean, you don't want to peak when you're 23." Bent is an underground gem of a pop
record and the most accessible of Ssion's back catalogue, which was Cody's
unashamed goal: "I wanted to make the most pop record I could." The
title too was a perfect fit: "I was like, 'Oh, it sounds like a Pet Shop
Boys album.' I liked the negative connotations of it too. It's a good pop title
- it's easy and direct."
self-release for Ssion. As Cody frankly states, "There was no one who was
interested in putting it out. There was no label. It was a very do-it-yourself
operation." So with a lack of traditional outlets, the decision was made
to give the album away for free online: "It reached a lot of people. There
was an insane amount of downloads within the first week." This release
method for Bent was a DIY move that recalled the ethics of Cody's punk
background. Speaking of which...
Ssion's visionary frontman come from anyway? Was he hatched from a disco ball
incubated by Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol?
"I'm from Kentucky
originally," Cody relays. It was a secluded, small-town upbringing. It was
the isolation of his hometown that allowed Critcheloe to discover and nurture
his creativity. "It just pushed me further in that you have to make do
with what you have. It was really good because you don't get jaded by things so
you stay excited and remain idealistic." Cody made a move to Kansas City,
and that's where Ssion was first formed. "It's a cool city. It's really
small but has a lot of very proactive art communities."
lives in New York, KC will always have the edge over NYC for him: "I still
do a lot of my work back in Kansas City because it's a lot cheaper, and I just
love the way it looks. It's a way weirder environment and is so much cooler
than New York." Ssion is sometimes referred to as a New York outfit, yet
Cody says his work isn't about New York. "I do not come from New York, and
we're not a New York band."
But the city
did provide a significant performance platform. Ssion played a three-night
stint at the Museum of Modern Art PS1. Cody had the opportunity to stage the
kind of pop-punk spectacle he had only fantasised about.
the first time I've ever had that type of budget to do the kind of show I've
always wanted to do. We spent two months putting the show together in Kansas.
It was really awesome and well received. I would love to travel a show like
that. That is my dream." Ssion's headline European tour, 10th to 30th June
2012, couldn't be more removed from their large-scale installation and
performance piece at PS1: "The show we're touring now feels rooted in punk
rock. It's been one of the best tours we've ever been on."
touring is a part of the job Cody really loves. Talking about life on the road,
he declares, "I love it. I'm actually more apprehensive about when we get
off the tour! Even when touring sucks and it's a nightmare, I would still
rather being doing it."
tour, Cody isn't planning on taking a break. "We will definitely be doing
another record but right now it's all about figuring out what direction I want
to push that in."
In terms of
film projects Cody has big plans: "I would like to do something more along
the lines of a short film. I like the idea of it having specifically a
soundtrack, as it means I could move away from writing pop songs in the
traditional way and have a bit more freedom to experiment - and have more fun
with the format."
As I sit listening to Cody running through all these ideas,
he continues to develop them during our conversation. "I don't necessarily
want to make a musical-type movie," he continues, "I would prefer it
to be more about acting and to have dialogue. I just don't want it to be like a
bunch of show tunes!" Anything else? "There's some photography and
art-related projects I'm interested in." As we're wrapping up, I remember
that this was supposed to be his day off. "I have down time - but I don't
do very well with it."
enthusiastically titled ‘Michael!’ is a slim vintage book published back in
1984. It serves as a capsule insight
into the time when Michael Jackson was truly, without question, considered a
when Michael was just 25 and the world was reeling from the videos for ‘Beat
It’ and ‘Billie Jean’, plus his Motown 25 performance, Mark Bego ensures that
his narrative conveys the contextual mania of 1984 through lively prose and a
generous smattering of exclamation marks – which is slightly grating after a
few pages but as you read on the punctuation does become somewhat humorous.
the book both begins and ends by talking about Michael’s burgeoning film career
– a venture that, of course, was never to be. It’s a shame Bego gives so much
time to talking up Michael’s acting aspirations and potential as he is writing
at a time when Michael, musically, could do no wrong. Surely this should have
been his focal concern.
unfortunate slip-up made by Bego is his story of the early days of the Jackson
5. Someone clearly didn’t check their sources as Bego, amusingly, informs
readers of how Diana Ross made her first-hand discovery of the Jackson 5 in
their hometown whilst the band performed as part of a benefit for Richard
Hatcher in his bid to become Gary, Indiana’s first black mayor:
Diana saw Michael and his brothers she flipped, and immediately got Berry Gordy
Jr., the president of Motown Records, on the phone to tell him what she had
seen. She made arrangements for the Jackson Five to audition for Motown at
Berry’s home in Detroit.”
is all completely fictitious but as all later books on Jackson tell this same
tale in order to contrast it with the true series of events that lead the
Jackson family to Motown, it is interesting to see how this casting of Diana
Ross as fairy godmother to Michael was believed at the time.
couple of chapters of ‘Michael!’ are dedicated to interviews of varying
significance. An unedited transcript of Bego chatting with Julie Klein – who
styled Michael for a promotional photo shoot that saw him don a rather fetching
yellow sweater vest and matching bowtie – reveals a few pernickety factoids. An
interview with John “Jellybean” Benitez on the other hand is a waste of time
and paper. So Jellybean, who is most well-known for his relationship with a
young Madonna, remixed ‘Say Say Say’ – umm… okay. Anything else? No? This is a
chapter to skip.
‘Michael!’ is a valuable primary source that conveys Jackson’s global
popularity during the early ‘80s. There are attempts to add a layer of analysis
to the Michael Jackson story as Bego incorporates quotes from J.M. Barry’s
‘Peter Pan’ to provide a better understanding of this untouchable pop music
sensation. However, the principal function of this book is fervent propaganda which
wants readers to know that Michael Jackson is the be-all and end-all of popular
culture. As Mark Bego excitedly concludes:
very rare that people all around the world agree on much, but in 1983 it was clear that people on the four corners
of the Earth unanimously concur that they are all into Michael Jackson.”
In a post
Kanye-West-interview-with-Zane-Lowe world, Drake is looking like an average
Joe. He’s a heavyweight big-name, big-bucks star, yet he registers nowhere on
the insanity scale of fame. Good for you, Aubrey.
It’s been two years since Drake truly
established his widespread appeal with Take Care and,
helpfully, this is exactly where Nothing Was The Same picks up
from. In a “last time on…” style reminder, Drake lets us know on opener ‘Tuscan
Leather’ that he made “20 million” off his last record and he doesn’t plan on
changing his winning atmospheric sound or his well-played conflicted sense of
character any time soon. Yet it’s not money that Drake sees as his biggest
Yes, he may have recently come in at
No. 11 on Forbes’ highest-earning hip-hop list, but mainstream success and
recognition is what Drake seems to want to show-off and have his contemporaries
bow down to. “Degenerates, but even Ellen loves our shit,” Drake
quite appropriately points out. He’s right – how many other rappers can
comfortably appear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show? And when he semi brags, “I’m
just as famous as my mentor” it feels like Drake is displaying that
rare beast of modesty in hip-hop as, let’s face it, Drake is making better
records and accruing more fans than Lil Wayne right now.
Drake’s growing fame is down to the
fact that he is a different calibre of rap star to that of Weezy. Although he
has mastered his dichotomy of braggadocio rapper and sensitive singer well,
we all prefer the latter mode. Girls love the Drake who says
the stuff they want to hear. You know, like liking your hair when it’s wet,
noticing that you’ve been eating right, working out and getting an education…
Swoon. Again, how many rappers could get away with professing, “Next
time we fuck, I don’t wanna fuck, I wanna make love” (‘Own It’) or
plainly talking through a deep sense of regret and loss over an ex (‘From
More than this, it’s Drake’s ability
to get introspective and show off his vulnerability (all the while propped up
by a gorgeously minimalist yet sprawling R&B backdrop) that sets him
apart and makes his brand of hip hop so prevalently esteemed.
The straight down the line R&B
heartthrob is his strongest suit and he should stick to it more often. As
showcased on ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ – aka the best song of the year, no
question – he can do insanely catchy hooks and auto-tune-free vocals. And as
the accompanying video proves, Drake can and will save you from a hostage
situation and put his jacket over your shoulders once his heroic mission has
been completed. This is the Drake we want, know and love; if he can curb the
seemingly requisite ego trips, Drake could produce an entire album as perfect
as ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’.
Taken from IDOL Issue #4 (not sure why I didn't post this online sooner...)
Images by Jesse Untracht-Oakner
THERE BE A DANGER OF GOING FROM 'SLUTEVER' TO 'WHATEVER'?"
Karley Sciortino was a
squatter. Sharing with 12 of her friends, it was "all the things you want
when you 're in your early twenties. No rules. No rent. Just parties.
But it had its drawbacks too. "Not having a shower was the worst thing
ever," says Sciortino, "I always looked dirty and had partial
dreads." Picking food from the garbage, only eating carbs and weird Marks
& Spencer mayonnaise salads... My skin was green. I couldn't do it now."
Sciortino's ketamine chronicles and
squatter tales were a large component of her now infamous blog Slutever when she established it in
2007. There's no point in me recounting the utter insanity that made up Karley
Sciortino's everyday life – living in abandoned warehouses and sleeping in
stairwells – as no one could possibly
tell her story better than the girl herself. If you want to know exactly what
life is like when you're making £80 a week, living with three drug dealers and
getting arrested three times in six months, do yourself a favour and go raid
the Slutever archives.
However, the salient facts are these:
Karley Sciortino's writing experience before creating Slutever was limited to enjoying English classes at school and
writing "really bad poems." Harbouring ambitions of becoming an actress, she studied Drama at
Kingston University as an exchange student.
But she quickly found herself disheartened by "pathetic losers" and
frustrated that her higher education consisted of having to "listen to
music and make shapes with our bodies."
Dropping out of
university aged 19, she committed to the rent-free modern bohemian life of her
artist-friend Matthew Stone, whilst "not doing anything, being a little
bit of a bum, taking a lot of drugs and hanging out." Another acquaintance
of Sciortino's, a staff writer at Dazed & Confused, encouraged her
to take up some intern work and advised that "the best way to be a writer
is to practice." Thus Sluteverwas born – a blog made up of Sciortino's carefree lifestyle and,
perhaps most provocatively, the peaks and pitfalls of her sex life.
Fast forward to
2012 and the unwashed, unmotivated, sallow-skinned squatter is a far removed
image from the Karley Sciortino I meet today in her native New York. Turning up
to our interview, she's Amazonian height, dressed in a short denim skater skirt
with a bright block coloured blouse and a pair of leather Frye platform sandals
that she sourced from a thrift store for $9. Her hair is a scintillating shade
of ultra-pale blonde, and her makeup is flawless; even in the 95 °F heat of the
city her complexion is a natural matte canvas, and her Amy Winehouse-esque
sweeping flicks of liquid black eyeliner remain intact.
for me not to be in awe of her. I feel like Aubrey to her seductive Lord
Ruthven, or, to be more modern, the Amy Farrah Fowler to her Penny. I've been
an avid reader of her blog musings and professional freelance commissions since
being introduced to her work as columnist in 2008. I was downright shocked by
the outrageous content, but the relaxed informal tone of her writing instantly
won me over. And I'm not her only admirer. As we wait to catch the subway later
that day, it feels as though every other commuter can't help but look at her – not
that she notices. Plus I'm just one of the 100,000 readers that visit Slutever eachmonth.
Slutever isa personal website and a labour of love
that's changed over the five years of its existence, says Sciortino. "A
lot of what I wrote about when I was in London was my own sex life, and then
when I moved to New York I got a boyfriend. And I remember thinking after a
while, 'What are you going to write about? Because you can't keep writing about
having sex with the same person over and over again' So that's what led to me
to start interviewing other people more."
"other people" she tends to shine her unique spotlight on are those
with particularly outlandish sexual fetishes – with the aim of creating a
natural and very real dialogue with people who would normally be perceived as,
for lack of a more eloquent word, freaks. Sciortino is adamant that her aim is
to humanise sexual misfits. "You have to be able to laugh at yourself.
Like, if you drink pee cocktails and saunter around your house in women's
nighties, you know what I mean? I'm kind of laughing, but also I'm trying to
humanise these people and say, 'Sure, you can laugh at them, but also they can
laugh at themselves,'" she explains. "Which everyone should be able
to do," she adds, "The main goal is to never exploit anyone, and to
be able to show them for who they are."
investigations into sexual behaviours extend into a video series for Vice –
her blog in an extremely watchable visual form. She searches for the answer to
questions like what to do when you're "at the age where you don't want to
date losers anymore." She meets her Internet slave who gets his kicks from
financial domination and would send Sciortino gifts and pay her rent. Her
videos also provide moral messages like, "If you remember to read lots of
books, take your vitamins and not be a total bore, one day you will find that
special person who will love you for you, will give you semi-regular orgasms
and ask nicely before he puts it in your butt."
A further video
venture of Sciortino's is a monthly short film release for the French culture
title Purple. Her videos for Purple consist of a series of
distinct, unconnected aesthetic projects. Sciortino takes inspiration from the
photography of Nan Goldin to create "simple beautiful videos that feel
intimate." Sometimes they have a narrative, sometimes they don't.
Sometimes Sciortino stars in them, sometimes she doesn't. It's an artistic
project that operates completely on her terms and is often an outlet for her
brazen exhibitionist side.
she is willing to share images and information of and about herself that most
others would consider strictly private – she once claimed that it's a good idea
to post photos of yourself having sex online in order to beat "an asshole
ex" inevitably doing so in the future – Sciortino rationalises her
unashamed openness as a case of closeted exposure. "I don't want to
psychoanalyse myself, but there must be an element of exhibitionism. I like the
idea that it's provocative; but I guess there is an exhibitionist quality to
me, and I get off on that a little bit. But almost in a cowardly way because
I'm not performing in front of people. I'm not reading the words out loud. I'm
not stripping," she says. "It's really easy to do all that stuff when
you're alone in your apartment – like blogging about sex, or taking pictures of
yourself – but you don't have to be there when anybody else sees it. There's a
barrier that kind of makes it not so scary. You can upload something, walk away
and then not have to think about it."
consistently ups the shock factor of her writing and film work, could there be
a danger of going from Sluteverto
"whatever" in the provocative stakes?
In one installment
of her Purple video series Sciortino talks about her occasional side job
as a dominatrix, specifically how she urinates on men (earning $350 an hour and
content for future blog posts). She also talks about the surprisingly short
amount of time it took for her to become desensitised to the extreme situations
she found herself in. She hesitantly admits that constantly delving into the
darker recesses of human desire may be leaving her emotionally indifferent.
conscious of it a little bit," she says, "I was doing an interview
with a stripper, and she was talking about how her career as a stripper has now
made her become what she believes to be asexual… I guess I already am there." She pauses.
"It feels bad to say, but I feel like I'm at a point where I can have sex
with someone and it doesn't mean anything. But you can have sex and it means
something as well, but I feel like more often I have the other kind."
common phenomenon amongst the comments left on Slutever.comis the expression of
compulsion. Which generally goes along the lines of, "I've read one post
on this blog, and I've now spent the day reading all of it." I put it to
Sciortino that it's not necessarily what she's writing about that draws in
dedicated readers, but rather the fact that it's her writing it. A key strength
to her blog is the ease with which she transmits her effervescent personality.
agrees that her blog thrives on its protagonist-centred delivery – in a similar
vein to Tavi Gevinson's Style Rookie. Both blogs focus on "a girl
writing about her personal life and something else," she says. But she
also sees her exceptionally gonzo style as the combination of "the idea of a character" and a
real, relatable "normal person."
tagline to Slutever isthat
"This blog is intended to trick strangers into thinking my life is more
exciting than it actually is." Therefore it begs the question, what
exactly is the fact to fiction ratio to Sciortino's work? "My blog is like
a sensational version of my life because it's only the good or interesting
parts," Sciortino explains, "It's all true, but it's a very
edited-down version of my life."
her editorial process to that of social media. "We all have the ability to
curate our lives and edit our lives so that the public perception is the best
that it can be," she says. "No one Instagrams when they look like
shit or they're crying because they've broken up with their boyfriend. Or no
one uploads pictures to Facebook where they look bad." Similarly,
Sciortino doesn't write about her part-time job as a waitress as she views it
as "a symbol of being unsuccessful."
carefully curated diary entries (these being the pieces of written work she
feels most proud of due to the time, effort and creativity she invests in
them), Karley Sciortino has carved out a niche for herself as perhaps the
premier "it girl" of the Internet age. She lures in readers and media
interest through an enticing combination of tenacity and well-selected and
documented moments of glamour and debauchery whilst still having something of a
successful as her online outreach is, the world of printed media – as for
everyone everywhere – is not so kind. Following a more professional approach to
her blogging duties around 2009, Sciortino's popularity is growing.
Professional commissions arise. Sciortino puts her name to cover stories and
interviews for a wide variety of high-brow culture titles, but it's no secret
that the magazine industry in the 21st century is a bitch. "It angers me a
lot that I don't get paid very well. I get paid in pennies for everything I do.
It's at the point where I feel like I don't want to do stuff because magazines
and websites really exploit the people that work for them. It's actually like,
fuck you, I'm working really hard. If you work in the magazine industry or
write or make art, you're expected to intern – and you're expected to pay your
dues. But when does it stop? When am I going to make money from this?
justifies her frustrations. She talks about the sacrifices she has made to
pursue her creative ambitions, "wanting to be thought of as a successful,
powerful woman and not someone who refills soy sauce bottles at a noodle
restaurant" and not having a real room in the apartment she shares with
Williamsburg living quarters consist of a cornered-off area of the living room
shaped by two curtains with just a mattress in amongst piles of clothes, books
and magazines behind. She does find some solace in the philosophy of
photographer Bill Cunningham: "If you never accept money from anyone, then
they can never tell you what to do." "Which I think is a cool
idea," she adds. "So I suppose, not getting paid is a good thing. But
that's a bit of a stretch."
setbacks, it seems that Karley Sciortino is determined to take her reputation
as a writer to the next level as she's currently in the early stages of
composing her first novel. "I'm kind of writing a book," she somewhat
cautiously tells me and keenly stresses that it will be a novel and not a
memoir. "I'm calling it fiction because – although it's heavily based on
my own life – I feel like if I was calling it a memoir, I would have to be so
accurate about facts. But I like the idea of creating and using my own life but
also having the freedom to write." She's aiming to have her first draft
finished by autumn and is escaping the city for her family home in upstate New
York in order to focus on her work and meet her self-imposed deadline before
Sciortino informs me, is one of her idols. "I think when I started
writing, his writing was a really big influence on me. He writes fiction and
novels that are very poetic. He writes
about sex and young, skinny, long-haired boys with sunken eyes who are sexually
confused. I feel like reading his books really formed the type of guys that I
like because I fell in love with all his characters. Like, I want to date a
skinny, long-haired, sexually confused teenage boy! Which I still do!" She
gushes: "His writing is really beautiful and sexy, but also what I really
like is that he expresses a lot of emotion and pain and sadness and love in a
very minimal, colloquial way. It's not in any way difficult or academic
It's an evident
influence that shows itself on Sciortino's blog through a natural,
conversational tone that mirrors her spoken voice. Sciortino concludes, "I
think that's why it's readable because it's like someone is talking to
you." One can only hope it's an influence that will permeate into her
novel. What's sure to remain ever-present in Karley Sciortino's work – whether
it is on Slutever,in a
magazine, a book or on film – is her headstrong, unapologetic attitude.
"If you do something that everyone likes, then there's a problem,"
Music sales figures in 2013 are not as healthy as they
may appear. Single sales continue to soar but the popularity of individual
track sales come at the expense of albums. And since album sales are where the
real money lies, our shift to cheap digital downloads also comes at the cost of
the music industry at large. It's more important than ever for music acts to
seek capital elsewhere: touring, endorsement deals and product placements. This
is where the Blueprint Group come in.
The Blueprint Group is a full service,
multi-platform management and artist and brand development firm with an
exclusively hip hop roster of A-list artists including Lil Wayne and Nicki
Minaj. Born out of a merger between management and production companies Hip Hop
Since 1978 and Bryant Management, The Blueprint Group turns rap artists into
They masterminded world tours of Nicki
Minaj (Pink Friday),Lil Wayne (I Am Still Music),Drake
(Club Paradise)and Jay Z and Kanye West (Watch The Throne) — all of which reached audiences
around the globe and brought urban artists into lucrative arena venues. But
besides live music, The Blueprint Group's other serious forte is branding.
The company prides itself on aligning
its artists with brands to produce high-income business partnerships that raise
music artists' profiles and earning potentials. Just a handful of the branding
deals The Blueprint Group have generated include Kanye West's line of Air Yeezy
sneakers for Nike and a further shoe collection for Louis Vuitton, Lil Wayne's
TRUKFIT clothing range, and Nicki Minaj as the face of Adidas and star of MAC
In essence, The Blueprint Group makes
brands out of rappers; and in the process turns their clients' dreams of success
into a reality through savvy business acumen. "I'm honoured with that
definition," says The Blueprint Group's co-CEO, Cortez Bryant. Alongside
Gee Roberson, 33 year-old Cortez Bryant heads up this entertainment branding
powerhouse and has amassed an estimated personal net worth of $66 million.
The New Orleans-born entrepreneur
learned his craft hands-on — by hitting the road with long-time friend Lil
Wayne as well as DMX and Nelly, while still a student at Jackson State
University on a music scholarship. Fresh from graduating, Bryant started
managing Lil Wayne. He became the Chief Visionary Officer of Wayne's Young
Money Entertainment and founded his own management company, which ultimately
turned into The Blueprint Group. "Wayne always had trust in me," says
Cortez. "He had trust in me to come in straight out of school and ask me
to be his manager."
Despite an unsteady start to his career,
with the support of his friend and now client Bryant quickly thrived: "It
was rocky at the start because I had to prove myself but Wayne has always been
loyal to me, even when there's been times when I didn't believe in myself in
the music business." On balancing his professional and personal
relationship with Wayne, Cortez explains, "It works perfectly… We can turn
off and talk about the past and growing up anytime, but we can also turn and
talk about business… He trusts me and The Blueprint Group to carry out and
represent his brand."
The Blueprint Group have had to fight to
give their clients the high profile sponsorship deals and entrepreneurial
opportunities they're known for. Despite Cortez's worry that "people are
always scared of hip hop", he believes his clients are leaders when it
comes to making hip hop mainstream: "As far as I'm concerned, our clients
have knocked down a lot of doors for the hip hop space to move forward and to
get the culture into that branding space. Now more than ever hip hop is more
accepted in the corporate community."
Bryant is being coy. Hip hop is not only
accepted by the corporate world, it's positively welcomed. And the jewel in the
crown of rap music's crossover success is Onika Tanya Maraj, known as Nicki
Minaj. Just as Motown invested heavily in their crossover queen Diana Ross, The
Blueprint Group have similarly thrown their weight behind Minaj's widespread
appeal. Minaj's pop culture supremacy has been cemented by a continuing string
of extracurricular business ventures including, but not exclusive to, a seat on
the judging panel ofAmerican Idol,being
the face of MAC's Viva Glam campaign, creating her own fragrance with Elizabeth
Arden, producing a line of nail polishes for OPI and inking a seven-figure
endorsement deal with Pepsi. Minaj raps on Drake track 'Make Me Proud',
"…best legal team so the deals is ill/It's MAC, OPI and a fragrance
too/Apparel, I'm dominating every avenue." You can see why Cortez Bryant
says the concept of "selling out" is an "outdated ideal".
To compliment her burgeoning business
portfolio, Nicki Minaj has also developed a distinctly loyal and passionate fan
base, bolstering her career's longevity. She has accumulated in excess of 16
million followers on Twitter, and her constant activity on social media is an
asset that The Blueprint Group admires — but this isn't a requirement they
force upon their artists. As Bryant points out, "when we signed her, she
was already doing all of that."
He also fondly remembers a dinner date
with Minaj that confirmed the closeness between her and her fans — or her
"Barbz" and "Kenz" as she's christened them. "Once she
was trying to give me a taste of Caribbean food for the first time, so she
invited me to this restaurant in New York. I went to the restaurant and there's
like 20 people at the table. I thought it was her family but she actually sent
out a tweet asking her fans if they wanted to come and eat dinner with her. I
thought that was amazing! She knew them by name and was talking to everyone
like she knows them. And this was afterSuper Bass.This wasn't like an artist just
Another high-ranking figure who admires
Nicki Minaj's fan interaction savvy is The Blueprint Group's general manager
and partner, Al Branch: "The thing about Nicki is that she knows how to
conduct herself. I'm really impressed with how she does it." And Al is a
man to listen to.
Back in 2009, before The Blueprint Group
had come to exist, he wrote an article forBillboardtitled "The Deals Of The
Future" in which he essentially predicted the formation of the innovative
firm he is now a part of. In 2009 Branch argued: "record labels are
exploring new and drastically different business models. The model du jour is
called a 360 deal, which allows labels to get income from live performances,
merchandise sales and other revenue streams… this model could help
revolutionise the label as we know it by giving a way to make up for the loss
of revenue from sales of recorded music." When asked about the foresight
of hisBillboardarticle, Al roars with
laughter. "Nobody believes I wrote that!"
So do record companies welcome the
money-spinning non-music endeavours The Blueprint Group offer their music
artists? Al stands firm that his company supports rather than distracts artists
and that whilst record labels are busy surviving, The Blueprint Group is
thriving. But surely if branded deals are making up more and more of artists'
incomes, they must also be giving a similar ratio of their time and energy to
corporate arrangements as they do to their art, which begs the question: should
an artist ever compromise their art for the sake of a business opportunity?
"Never," Al asserts.
"Ever" he stresses.
"No," he confirms.
"If a deal isn't right for you,
it's going to hurt you in the long run," Branch explains. He points to Jay
Z as a shining example of striking the right balance. "He's successful,
but at the same time he has never compromised himself." Lil Wayne too, Al
believes, is an artist who maintains the right music and business equilibrium.
"Wayne is generous, but at the same time he never compromises himself or
his art for any brand or partner."
That brings us around to the tricky
subject of Lil Wayne's sponsorship deal with Mountain Dew. In March 2012, a
multi-million endorsement deal between the PepsiCo-owned soft drink brand and
Wayne was announced. It was the biggest sponsorship pay-out in Mountain Dew's
history. At the time of the partnership Jamal Henderson, Mountain Dew's brand
manager gushed, "We are celebrating Wayne through this campaign as an
artist who found his personal success by following his own path." He also
praised Wayne for "always dancing outside of the box but mak[ing] no
apologies for who he is." Unfortunately, Wayne would be making a public
apology just months later.
A lyric written and performed by Wayne
on a cameo spot for Future's 'Karate Chop' remix track sparked complaints and
the rapper was dropped by Mountain Dew. The lyric in question sees Wayne boast,
"Beat the pussy up like Emmett Till". Till's family were incensed and
pressured Mountain Dew to sever ties with the rapper.
Emmett Till was a black 14-year-old boy
who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955 after reportedly whistling at a white
woman. The teen was beaten up, had one of his eyes gouged out, was shot in the
head, had a cotton gin fan fixed around his neck with barbed wire and his body
was thrown into the Tallahatchie River. Two white men were acquitted of his
murder by an all-white jury. Once Till's mutilated body had been recovered,
Emmett's mother insisted on holding a public funeral with an open casket. It
was an act that shocked the civil rights movement into America's dialogue.
"We're dealing with Emmett Till's
family right now. Direct," Cortez informs us. Whilst Cortez admits he
"understands people's sensitivity to this issue," he is also
defensive of his client's intentions. "Artists are artists. They use lyrics
and words to paint pictures. That applies to artists of every genre." When
specifically addressing Wayne's lyric, Cortez maintains, "I think that the
emphasis was on how good Wayne is in the bedroom. He took a historical moment
and he applied it to his prowess in bed to make a picture… Wayne didn't have
any intention to attack what happened or to make light of it. If anything, his
plan was to make people realise who Emmett Till was and make people go back and
look into that." Nevertheless, Lil Wayne issued a public apology to Emmett
Till's family. PepsiCo cancelled their deal with Wayne.
Lil Wayne's endorsement deal, rather
than his music, was the focus of the Till family's campaign.Business
headline, "How Mountain Dew's Hip Hop Ads Misfired".
However, it's onwards and upwards for
Cortez, Al and The Blueprint Group — a company that the pair refer to as
"a family" and "a blessing." Cortez is excited about the
development of young rapper Lil Twist. "You can look out for him as the
next artist coming up," Bryant promises. Al too is enthusiastic about the
fresh talent The Blueprint Group are involved with, in particular the
alternative rock pop sounds of G-Eazy.
As their roster and infrastructure
expands, so do their business ventures. They are busy planning projects — a
Nicki Minaj KMart clothing line, her own Beats Pro headphones, a range of
wine-based low alcohol content beverages called Myx, a part in a movie and a
return to the studio.
As Al Branch succinctly concludes,
"We want to be like the guys who brought George Foreman to the George