Recently I’ve really been divided about my views on social media. Sure, I, like many others, have accounts on a few different platforms and scroll through them routinely whenever I find a little bit of an empty space in my day. More recently I’ve co-founded an online magazine wherein most of our following and publishing is done through social media. I also love nothing more than seeing my favourite musicians on Instagram and getting a sneak peak of what they get up to in the studio, their writing process or sometimes even just their day to day. You could go on for days with positive stories about social media; reconnected loved ones, forgotten friendships rekindled and the wave of support often shown to positive causes. So with all this in mind why do I still have issues with it?
The first is one that is openly talked about; and rightly so. Whilst social media may seem like a great window into other people’s lives it is ultimately a small window in which we only see what others want us to see. We all do it; I’m not going to post a selfie of myself on holiday if I feel I look particularly fat, or my skin looks bad and so on. The picture you will probably end up seeing is handpicked; the lighting may have an effect of polishing the turd of my appearance; the background may suggest a more flamboyant and amazing experience than what was probably had. It’s natural; we all want to show our good sides to the world. This isn’t a new thing either. Think about when you see or hear from an old friend and give them the bullet points of your last few years; it’s most likely that the whistle stop tour only really stops in the nice parts of town. The thing with social media is that this has become amplified to us all. We log into our Instagrams and see people looking better than we do, people doing better than we are and people who on the face of things appear to have a life void of flaws. As we all know from our own lives the reality is very different but for someone who may already be having doubts about their looks, their career or their lifestyle a constant bombardment on social media of other people’s façade of perfection only drives us down. This is something I’ve experienced recently first hand; having graduated from university and being in my early twenties I feel a real pressure that my life by now should be heading towards something and this always gets worse when I head over to my socials. I am there met with an array of posts and pictures of people younger than me achieving their life goals or embarking on an adventure they’ve always dreamed of and of course it piles on this sense of inadequacy in my own life. The reality is of course the only real gauge of success in life is how we feel in ourselves and not a bar set by others; but ultimately when greeted with this information on a constant it is hard not to bring that bar that has been set into your own life and ultimately compare yourself to it.
My other issue is opinions. I’ve always been a fence sitter and my only political stance is that I don’t have a political stance. Whilst there are opinions or schools of thought that I tend to disagree with I also respect that the people who choose that way probably have their reasons, as I have my reasons for my own opinions. Social media has seemed to bring an end to this type of thinking though. I remember back when I was younger (typing this phrase made me feel old) and my parents taught me that asking people who they voted for is rude. It seems logical really, no one’s opinions are really more valid than anyone else’s and everyone is entitled to have one, so why start trying to dissect other people’s? The reality now is very different. I remember during the last election in the UK I actually removed Facebook from my phone for a while after becoming fed up of political posts. The reason I log into my socials is usually to relax and kill time but instead I would be met with turmoil; people engaging in arguments and accusations ultimately over opinions; the thing we all have. The reality is without social media if a political election was approaching I would seek the opinions of those I trust or care about; my family and maybe some close friends. We would discuss our viewpoints and why we take those; a political debate may ensue but ultimately, I would recognise their opinions and their reasons as I’d expect the same in return. The issue today is that going onto social media during politically pressing times is just an absolute minefield. People engage in arguments with people who they have never met; people accuse people of being certain things because of something they have said with no real knowledge of the context or reasons. I still to this day remove people from my social media network as soon as I see a post of this nature as it really isn’t what I’m there for. The truth is, and with respect, if I don’t ask your opinions it's probably because I don’t need them. I of course acknowledge whatever it is you believe and your reasons for doing so, but by forcing political stand points down people’s throats and suggesting that people who don’t agree are ‘uneducated’ and so on, you are not extending that same respect to others. What is even more frustrating about this recently is that social media platforms have too began picking sides and now instead of the once free ‘social’ media platform it was it seems to have become a bit of a machine of propaganda; only showing us what it wants whilst banishing everything else or marking them with fact checker labels which do no more than to state that whatever it is doesn’t quite agree with the opinion of whoever it was that checked it.
So what is my solution?
Social media has become a huge part of our modern society and as I stated before it does have many benefits. I think what we should do is firstly approach social media with the rose coloured spectacles firmly removed; we need to accept that not everything we see is exactly as it seems and that as with our own accounts people only display what they want to display. I think the opinions argument is a tough one – my problem is not with people having opinions or occasionally sharing them but instead when people start to get pushy, nasty or aggressive. Opinions are in their very definition someone’s own beliefs and because we all have different upbringings, experiences and personalities there are bound to be differences. People are all entitled to have an opinion and no one’s is more valid than anyone else’s; therefore, there is really no grounds whatsoever in which anything more than a polite debate should occur. We need to return to a time where we don’t all always feel the need to share our opinions all the time; if you ask I’ll tell you but I’m not sure we need to publish it to that person we met on that school trip that one time six years ago, right? Ultimately if everyone wasn’t so quick to argue about their opinions the whole platform would become a much friendlier place and this pattern of strangers bickering over something that affects each of them in entirely different ways would be removed. In terms of the recent social media bans on political figures; a lot of the people who were removed had opinions that I don’t agree with; but does that mean they need to be banned? I don’t live in a world where I want anyone who has any views that oppose mine to be censored because ultimately isn’t a good democracy based on debate, contrast and balance? In order to make social media the positive place it really has the power to be I really think we need to be more honest and accepting with ourselves and others; and we also need to learn to respect what others have to say without feeling the need to judge everyone else for their beliefs; at least not without fully understanding and empathising with their reasons.
Let's be positive on Social Media in 2021!
Mod Sun's 'Internet Killed the Rockstar' - a familiar story
I have to give credit to my cousin Dan for this – in a distant and more immediate sense. The distant sense is that pop punk wasn’t something that was at all on my radar until about seven years ago when he introduced me to it, and the more immediate sense is that he told me about MOD SUN. The simple tagline here is that MOD SUN is cut from a similar cloth to Machine Gun Kelly; MOD SUN’s recent single ‘Flames’ with Avril Lavigne was much like MGK’s ‘I Think I’m Okay’ in that it was a pop punk release from a rap and hip hop artist that preceded a full transition into unknown territory with an album to go with it. If you want even more links between the two then it might interest you to know that MOD SUN and MGK are good friends and MOD has even done some producing for his pal in the past. So whilst it is hard to deny the similarities between the two and the musical journey they are currently on, I’m going to try and minimalize the MGK talk from here on out. I’m also trying a slightly different style with this review in that I’m writing as I listen to Internet Killed The Rockstar for the first time; now obviously I’ll look back and fix the spelling mistakes and make it somewhat readable but the idea is that what you will read is my genuine first time reaction to each song and not some broad summary of the album once I’ve listened to the whole thing. I’m also hoping this will stop me from constantly comparing it to Tickets to My Downfall because I love that album and it probably wouldn’t be fair.
The first song on the album is ‘Karma’ and is one of those classic revenge anthems; there’s certainly a lot of frustration such as in the ‘I hope you get everything you deserve’ line, but it is delivered in a ‘teenage kicks’ sort of rebellion style, rather than with any real malice or aggression; it actually makes the song come across much more positive than some of the lyrics would suggest as the singer has clearly let go of his anger and is comfortable in the knowledge that karma will do it’s job. The song sounds like a sort of pop punk 101 session in that it follows the almost stereotypical blueprint of tracks in the genre with heavy guitars, breakdowns, chants and melismatic vocals but this isn’t a slander; these things get used so much because they sound great – as does this first song. A solid start. The second song is ‘Bones’ and is much more melancholic. A building but simplistic guitar supports MOD’s impressive vocal which carries meaningful and poetic lines about the feeling of falling apart and my particular favourite, ‘hold on tight, it’s a fast ride’; an astute commentary on the life we live. The guitar continues to build and the vocals get louder and more dramatic, and there is a feeling that it is leading to something really special, but I’m afraid it disappoints. Maybe I’m too harsh, but the drop doesn’t deserve that beautiful and exciting build up – everything drops away to leave us with some weak drum beat made on a computer and a less than inspiring vocal line. It’s not even that bad, but it just seems so much worse after what was such a promising start. The song does make up for it though as towards the end we get all the drama and anthemic style crescendos we had hoped for, but what would have been an 8 or 9 out of ten is reduced to a 7 for me because of the middle section that almost feels as if it was nicked from a different track altogether.
Following this is ‘Flames’ with Avril Lavigne. I’ve actually heard this already as it was released before the album and went some way to signposting MOD’s transition. This song sort of feels like a halfway point between the genres in that it sounds fundamentally pop punk but takes on occasional hip hop drum beats and the ‘featuring style’; in which rappers employ the aid of talented singers to take on the chorus. In the context of the album and after the first two songs it's almost disappointing having heard MOD’s vocal abilities to then hear a move back to a half sung half rapped style, but the song is still great. In the chorus Avril Lavigne expectedly delivers an awesome vocal and it sounds even better when MOD sings along with her. With the big name feature and the great sound it’s clear why MOD SUN released this as the single that would ultimately signpost his direction change.
Betterman’ takes us back to the best of MOD’s vocals, and back to a fully fledged pop punk style. Although ‘Flames’ was a great song, it's kind of refreshing at this point in the album to move back to this. I’m not sure whether it was because it was almost meant as the tentative first release, but ‘Flames’ has a whiff of commercial indecisiveness about it; a lack of commitment either way. ‘Betterman’ takes us back to the peak pop punk promised to us by the first couple of songs. ‘Prayer’ is an interesting one in that it would sit well on a hip hop or pop punk album; it actually sounds a lot like Hollywood’s Bleeding era Post Malone (for context I love Post Malone so this is a compliment). It seems to be more deep rooted in hip hop in the instrumentation but the vocal carries a more rock or pop punk sound. It feels almost like a psychological thing to me now knowing this album is a transition for the artist, as if I’d heard this song on a different pop punk album I probably wouldn’t have blinked an eye; but knowing the potential destination and starting point of this artist I find myself constantly debating about which songs fall into which category. Taking a step back from that though, ‘Prayer’ is a really beautiful song and an anthem of self-improvement. I’m not sure whether the song carries any autobiographical elements for MOD, but the lyrics look back and list a plethora of reckless and unhealthy behaviours before talking about learning and growing from mistakes and improving. That description doesn’t really do it justice, but short of copying and pasting the lyrics it’s hard to describe some of the beautiful sentiments in the song in simple summaries. Instead, I suggest that you give it a listen yourself, for those that have been on similar journeys it is relatable and for those that need to make those journeys it is inspiring. A truly great song. ‘TwentyNUMB’ and ‘Smith’ follow and bring back this ‘half and half’ style, again what we land on sounds much like Post Malone. I must admit at this point in the album I am a little confused; it could just be that these few songs do sound a bit more like hip hop or it could be that their grouping together means the rest of the album will be divided between the genres; whatever the thoughts though they are dominated by my desire to listen on and find out. ‘Rollercoaster’ does little to give me an answer.
‘Annoying’ seems to mark the end of an interlude of more hip hop based songs with another jump back to pop punk. It’s another great song and feels like one of those teenage classics. The lyrics do a great job at presenting the emotional turmoil of confusing love where the singer feels so overwhelmed by their feelings for someone that they eventually outburst in the chorus ‘f*** it’s annoying’. It almost sounds like it doesn’t make sense but when you listen MOD does a great job of telling the story and making us as the listener feel part of it; and even if you’ve never experienced it you completely feel like you understand what the singer is going through. I didn’t really like ‘Pornstar’; it just felt unnecessary. At first it seemed to follow in the light hearted but sentimental vein of ‘Annoying’ and I fully expected to be immersed in another emotional drama, but any chance of that is interrupted by the chorus of ‘Imma f*** you like a pornstar’; and that’s about it for the rest of the song. It seems like a waste because the instrumental had this really great third wave ska vibe going on that subtly harked back to the likes of OPM and Sublime, and I was genuinely excited to see how it would develop and whether it would lean further into that or transition into something else, but the lyrics just sort of butchered it for me.
I expected big things from ‘Internet Killed The Rockstar’ being the title track and final song on the album and it certainly delivered. The simple acoustic guitar perfectly supports the emotional quality of the vocal. I’m a real sucker for that stripped back feel where production is at a minimum and the raw sound is allowed to push through; it’s one of the main reasons I loved MGK’s album so much (yes I know what I said and I’m sorry I couldn’t stop myself) and I’d have loved to have seen more of it from MOD SUN. Even when we do hear the introduction of more instruments, the feel of the song is preserved and at no point is the vocal over powered. The sentiments of this song are similar to ‘Karma’ but presented in a very different way; whilst the anger, frustration and sadness are all there in ‘Karma’ they were presented in an upbeat way, whereas ‘Internet Killed the Rockstar’ allows them all to shine though in their truest form, in which the singer shows their rage with a series of insults. It’s still very well conveyed though and takes on a similar quality to ‘Annoying’ in that we feel we are listening to a genuine outburst or part of an argument.
So there we have it, my genuine response to all the songs on the Internet Killed The Rockstar album. Now for the album as a whole. Well first of all I liked it, I really did. All the songs individually sounded great, I only didn’t like one; ‘Pornstar’, and even that had a great instrumental. There are a couple of key issues though despite it being a really good album. The first issue is MGK; I tried to keep his album out of my mind when listening to this but it’s so hard not to compare, and against a great album like Tickets to my Downfall it’s hardly fair. In an odd way the albums are sort of the opposite of each other. In my review for Tickets to My Downfall I remember saying that the vocals could have been better, the production and mixing weren’t always perfect but none of that really mattered because it was so honest and raw – but with MOD SUN's the vocal performance was arguably more impressive than MGK’s and the production was much better in my opinion; but we missed that thing that MGK’s had that you can’t really put your finger on. We got glimpses of it in ‘Prayer’ which felt brutally honest and ‘Internet Killed the Rockstar’ which sounded raw; but I’d have willingly sacrificed some of the production value for just a little more of that authenticity that MGK harnessed so beautifully. The other issue was the mixture of styles; to be honest I think the blame here somewhat sits with the listener as knowing this album presents a transition, I found myself constantly trying to bracket each song into hip hop or pop punk when really they don’t have to be either. It’s a tough one because you can’t really critique the artist for this and I did actually like those ambiguous songs, I loved that Post Malone-like sound. I do think however that the way the album was structured didn’t help as all these confusing songs were grouped together in the middle, which after such a strong pop punk start had me questioning whether the album was split into genre specific sections or was just ambiguous throughout. What matters more than genre however is the music itself, and whilst it doesn't feel as special as Tickets to my Downfall', it is still a very good album.
Images From http://modsunmusic.com/
Being a huge fan of ‘How I met Your Mother’ and in particular Barney Stinson’s seemingly never ending list of rules, guidelines and theories to live life to its most awesome form I decided it was high time that I knuckle down and come up with a theory of my own to do with music; and I found the answer in a recent car journey.
It always amazes me how our response to music can change so dramatically and so quickly. I often feel rather fickle skipping 20 songs in a row on my own playlist knowing full well that the very week before they were my absolute jams. For me, this is about how music suits our needs in a certain time, ranging from simply our mood in the precise moment to the larger spectrum of our overall happiness. Sometimes we really need a power ballad, sometimes we really feel that classic dance tune, or sometimes we just get plain bored of songs that we have previously enjoyed, it’s that simple as to whether we sing or skip a song on a particular day. I've heard new songs and been infatuated with them, adding them to my playlist and listening on repeat for a week or so before they fall into a clutter of the hundreds of songs that see the next button before the vocal has even made its way out of my speakers.
This sounds like a negative when you put it like that, how we can simply fall out of love with music as quickly as we fell in love with it. The fact that songs can be picked up and dropped so quickly and easily almost feels like an insult to the time, effort and often emotions that went into their production. However, following my new Stinson based philosophy I am choosing to view it as a positive. Yes, our opinions of songs change but that’s what keeps things interesting; imagine if our taste stagnated and we only ever listened to the same small collection of songs all the time? The moment that encapsulates this for me was a couple of months ago in the car when my girlfriend had been given DJ responsibilities (it's rare I give these up as the driver but it does sometimes happen). She put on Miley Cyrus' Malibu, a song which came out a couple of years ago and that at the time I was totally indifferent about. I'd heard it a few times, thought nothing of it and moved on. It never crossed my mind and to be honest I’d forgotten it existed. However, the song that I heard in the car that day felt totally different. Every hook, every melody, the vocal, the lyrics it all just felt perfect. I repeated it three times on that journey and enjoyed it more with every listen. I suddenly fell in love with this song as if I'd heard it for the first time. It seemed entirely strange to me that something I'd glazed over in the past was my favourite song of the moment. How come I didn't care for it before but completely love it now?
This moment has really got me thinking recently. My playlist on Spotify consists of over 1000 songs that I call my favourites. I hear a song I like and I add it to the playlist. The issue with this is that I put it on shuffle and spend most of my car journeys skipping songs until something comes on I vibe with that day. In the past I've been on entire journeys where I've never managed to settle on a song.
So, there are two things that I have taken from this to move forward, and thus, here follows my new ‘Malibu Theory’ (patent pending).
Make concise playlists to suit your needs. Instead of my bad habit of just throwing every song together the best thing to do would be to make short playlists that vibe with you on certain days. Make one of songs you know keep you relaxed, cathartic songs that help with you when you're upset, songs that give you a pick me up when you need it. This way, when you know what you're after you can just go to that playlist with the confidence that you'll enjoy most if not all of the songs on there. And for those times we discover a song and listen to it constantly before dropping it, make a fickle new song playlist where you add all the tunes that have recently been brought to your attention and remove them the moment you find yourself skipping over them. Keep it refreshed and up to date and you'll have that playlist of songs you just can't get enough of right now.
The second thing is that Barney Stinson is wrong. Despite using the character as an influence to coin my own theory I do disagree with one of his. Barney famously said ‘new is always better’ but I don’t think that is the case and my Malibu experience proves that. We’ve all had times where we are looking for something to spice up our listening habits; we keep an eye on the new releases but nothing really sits well with us. Well, why not look back? I never really considered this until my experience where I fell in love with a song I had completely forgotten about; it just proved to me how dramatically our opinions can change. So, why not have a look through the charts from a few years back and have a listen, see if there is anything you missed at the time that now fits perfectly into your listening needs? I’m not suggesting that you will now love every song you’ve hated in the past but it is natural that the place we are in changes over time. We have new perspectives, feelings and experiences that might just resonate with something that never seemed relevant before.
Heartwarming and Honest
This article is kindly sponsored by Scarlet River Management
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