Posts Tagged ‘Notorious’

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performance anxiety.

March 25, 2010

Last night myself and several of my coursemates, as well as Toby and his friend Miguel went to Mr. Wolf’s to watch one of our friends on the Careers Guidance course, Emma, perform some songs with her guitarist friend.  She sang Whitney Houston’s “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”, Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love”, Erma Franklin’s “Piece Of My Heart” and Eric Clapton’s “Change The World”, and did a fantastic job.  Emma and I spent an afternoon last term comparing our CD collections and marvelling over just how similar they were, since it often feels like nobody else in the UK listens to the same kind of music by artists such as Allure, Kelly Price, Angie Stone, D’Angelo and so on.  Obviously some people must buy their albums because otherwise nobody would stock them, but it’s rare to find somebody with whom you connect on such a musical level, especially as a singer or musician.  So I respect her music taste and her talent, and she was genuinely good (and outclassed the other performers that night 😉 ).

When she told me about the Open Mic night and her impending performance on Monday, she mentioned that I should perform something.  I thought it sounded like a nice idea but a little short notice, but nevertheless I dragged Toby to the UWE music practice rooms to hammer out a piano version of Beyoncé’s “Sweet Dreams”.  It sounded fine (after Toby’s hints that making it an octave lower would sound good – which I did; and that I am not Christina Aguilera and should stick to less notes – which I sort of did but I love putting some runs in my vocals, because that’s part of my style and sets me apart somewhat), but I felt that it required more practice than I’d be able to gain in two days.  So for the reason that I didn’t feel it was polished enough or “ready” to perform, as well as I had never been to the venue and didn’t want to rain on Emma’s parade since we were all going to see her, I decided not to perform.  Next time, I will, and I’m since working on a piano version of “Lift Me Up” by Christina Aguilera to compliment the Beyoncé song.  They sound ok, and with a little practice I reckon they’ll be performable and effectively show off my vocals and my piano (something I’ve always needed to work at is playing the piano and singing at the same time). 

And yet the thought of doing that is a little scary to me now.  I used to perform regularly at Open Mic nights at Oxford (gaining notoriety in the process, which was pretty complimentary), concerts at school and sixth form where I used to sing, dance, play guitar and piano – the whole kaboodle.  I even performed at a Hiroshima Remembrance concert, which was outdoors and to the public.  I’ve done a lot of this, I should be used to it.  So why am I nervous?  I guess that now I have a boyfriend, and some close adult friends, their opinion means a lot to me? I don’t want to fall short of their expectations? Is it stage fright?  Admittedly, the last time I performed on a stage of any sort was 2 years ago, but Mike and I did an impromptu version of Beyoncé’s “Disappear” at my house and I managed to perform well in that and impress him suitably.  So maybe I just need to bite the bullet and do it, once the songs are ready. 

The other thing that fills me with a little nerves is the fact that I have had mentioned to me that a few of my colleagues on the course have visited my myspace and listened to the songs I’ve put up from the Quiet Storm album (which incidentally you can download here) on there.  Now, obviously the purpose of my myspace is to promote my music to the public and my friends – it’s for public consumption.  But to hear that people have listened to my stuff and liked it makes me feel funny – I guess partly because while I’m proud of this album, I feel that I still have a long way to go and develop, particularly in my production and vocal production (I have done a couple of songs more recently where I feel my voice sounds more impressive on record).  So I feel like I don’t want them to judge me yet. Also, I guess once again their opinion matters to me more than I expected it to, more than it should? I mean, Mike, Toby, Hannah, Karina, Nick… all my close friends’ opinions are understandably important to me and I am flattered by the support of all my friends.  And I’m flattered by the support of other friends who don’t know me so well – it is really nice – but I don’t know what to say, because somewhere within me my insecurity says “Do they really like it or are they just saying that and laughing behind my back?” I mean, I should be like “Who cares?” but my music is such an intimate, personal part of me that it’s important for me to produce, and if that essential aspect of who I am is a source of mockery or easily dismissed, I have to admit that that would probably hurt me, at least a little bit.  I totally understand that you can’t please anyone anyway, and at the end of the day my musical executive producer is myself – I’m my own harshest critic.  But I just hope that their support is sincere, because it means a lot to me.  And I guess that when I do perform “Sweet Dreams” or “Lift Me Up” or whatever else I end up doing (I am extremely liable to changing my mind in these sorts of things!), I am hoping that I can justify and live up to that support, their expectations of me.  I want to impress, I want to please people.  I guess that that way, it validates my singing and my music (my lifelong passion and ambition) and I can get a little bit closer to pleasing myself.  So I’m going to bite the bullet and go for it, but it’s harder than I thought and I didn’t expect it to be.

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notorious. (a review of sorts)

September 8, 2009

Yes, I am very late but I only picked up the DVD to Notorious yesterday, because Tesco finally had it on sale and I had been interested to watch but never managed to catch it during its run at the cinema, and wasn’t about to pay £14-20 just to get the DVD straight when it came out.  So I bade my time and finally I watched it tonight.  I’m not going to give a very in-depth review, because we all know the story – Biggie gets into drugs, gets put in jail, comes out of jail, comes close to being put in jail again but his friend takes the rap (hah!) so that Christopher Wallace can fulfil his budding rap talent and become Notorious B.I.G. All goes well as Biggie takes Lil’ Kim along with him for the ride, then meets Faith Evans and wifes her up, all while keeping his first baby mama on the backburner the whole time.  A friendship with Tupac Shakur turns sour, misunderstandings occur and both rappers end up dead, 2pac 25, Biggie 24.  That’s the plot in a nutshell.

I’m not even going to attempt to address the 2pac vs. Biggie controversy.  I have both of B.I.G.’s albums on my iPod (I prefer Ready To Die, but only because I’m much more familiar with the songs – I need to study Life After Death more tbh), whereas I only have one of 2pac’s (All Eyez On Me), which again I have only listened to a couple of times.  Both were influential and towering talents, but I’m not about to compare one to another because I’m nowhere near informed enough to have a valid opinion, and I would need to research more of their material.  Again, I have no conspiracy theory about who shot either of them, nor what role Suge Knight may or may not have played in the whole business – I’m no detective, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to say something on the subject that hasn’t already been said.  The only perspective I have on 2pac and on Biggie is retrospective, because in 1997 I was only 11 years old and barely musically awakening (I received Mariah Carey’s Butterfly for my 12th birthday later that year, which is possibly when I really opened my eyes, ears and heart musically) so I didn’t really have any acquaintance with rap music past what I would hear on the radio and see on MTV and The Box.

I was pleasantly surprised with the film: as I said, I already knew the plot and yet I still found it an interesting watch.  The only character I found unbelievable was Sean “Puffy” Combs, because the guy playing him neither looked nor sounded like Puff Daddy, in my opinion.  I only caught passing glimpses of a resemblance between the two in terms of mannerisms and vocal tics, whereas most of the others nailed it at least a fair amount of the time.  Jamal Woolard did a great, great job playing Christopher Wallace himself; Naturi Naughton was a fiery if inaccurate Lil’ Kim (but more about that in a moment), but Naturi herself did a fine job and displayed a fearlessness in her acting; Angela Bassett was supreme as usual; Antonique Smith was an astonishing Faith Evans, looking the spitting image of her and displaying a similar blend of sophistication and grit.  Not knowing much about Voletta Wallace herself, other than that she played a large part in the creation, vision and focus of the whole film, I found it hard to believe that she was as naive about her son’s imperfections as she appeared to be (confusing crack with mashed potatoes?  Come on now… how long you been living in Brooklyn?). But then again the film was not as rose-tinted as I had heard it was: Biggie displayed extraordinary passion and talent, but he was also a serial womaniser and acted childishly at some points and plain idiotic at others.  So that was somewhat refreshing.

Faith Evans was portrayed as an almost angelic beauty who still kicked one of Biggie’s jump-off’s down when she found out that he’d cheated on her not long after their marriage (again, she really should have known better than to believe he would be faithful to her).  In contrast, Lil’ Kim was similarly painted as naively believing that her and B.I.G. would last forever (his marriage to Faith was quite a sore point in the film as in real life), but her part in Biggie’s life was massively downplayed; she appeared for a fraction of a second in the funeral montage whilst the photo of her weeping with Mary J. Blige outside the funeral service is one of the defining images of that era. Her talent, her look and her persona was portrayed as completely fabricated by Biggie in a post-coital brainstorm, and according to the film, Lil’ Kim was essentially nothing but a slut who fucked for tracks. Her enduring success and establishment as the premiere female MC surely contradicts this portrayal.  To quote the review from Pajiba (who put it much better than me, and in more entertaining language):

“The person who takes it up the ass the hardest is Lil Kim. Lil Kim’s always bukakked with the reputation of being the nastiest bitch, the stripper who’s empowered by her sexuality because she can use her snappin’ pussy to get all the diamonds and the rings and the bling and have any dick she chooses. (Under ten inches — ENNNT — sorry.) In Notorious, she bangs Biggie and asks if he’s got a girlfriend later. Then, her entire rap persona is supposedly imagineered by Biggie, who says men don’t want to hear about gangsta chicks but rather want girls who’ll fuck them with the lyrics. He turns her into a whore, his whore, who turns petty and jealous when he marries the sainted Faith, and basically spends the rest of the movie like a jealous psycho starting fights and trouble. Of course, when Biggie died, Lil’ Kim went into an almost two year depression. Faith Evans and Puffy remixed a Police song and essentially lived off the fatted calf of Biggie’s corpse for the same period. So you do the math. Or don’t. Both Lil’ Kim and Faith Evans have memoir/tell-alls due out sometime in the coming year.”

Being a Lil’ Kim fan, I have appreciated her at her highest peaks as well as in her tackier moments, throughout her up and down surgeries and provocative outfits, and even lamenting her stint on Dancing With The Stars whilst being glad that it was helping to rehabilitate her career.  I wrote a blog about her daring performance of “Time After Time / Lighters Up” with Cyndi Lauper recently. At the heart of it, she is a talented rapper with consistent flow, entertaining lyrics and song concepts, and buckets of sexuality, raw passion and hard-earned grit.  I’d be interested to see her movie and compare and contrast the two portrayals of Lil’ Kim… I guess we’ll have to wait and see if such a project ever materialises.

In short, I enjoyed Notorious more than I expected to.  I didn’t find anything out that I didn’t already know, and I am not educated enough in the music nor in the history of Biggie’s life to have any valuable opinion or counter-opinion.  But there was striking characterisation, solid acting and a couple of sticking points that held my interest and attention throughout.  And it’s got me listening to Ready To Die on my iPod once again.  I guess at the end of the day, even though we’ll never know everything about what happened to Biggie, if such a film gets us to re-appreciate and re-evaluate his music and legacy, and despite his moral and intellectual shortcomings, if we can admire his passion and talent, then that is definitely something valuable.

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self-control.

September 7, 2009

The past couple of days, I have been in various situations which have prompted me to think about the values of restraint and self-control.  Most of the time they are positive: I have a spreadsheet on my computer to track my evening snacking, and in the last 6 months I have managed to reduce my evening snacking to only 29% of a month (this is more difficult and more impressive than it sounds, believe me).  Restraining from this has complemented my gym regime and I’ve lost weight and toned up as a result.  I’ve been restraining from spending too much and buying too many pretty things because it’s only now that I’ve got money coming in again, and despite enduring desperate cravings for certain items, I realised that these cravings pass and I don’t need the things I think I need as much as I do.  (I am still getting that Gucci bracelet in the next month or so, make no mistake.) After wrecking my Nintendo DS during a bout of throwing a Naomi I have been making a conscious effort not to get so annoyed at Street Fighter IV on my PS3, and just taking a breather when I get frustrated.  I have been cutting down on my cigarettes only to preserve my voice, and it seems to be helping (or at least not getting worse), and I don’t feel quite as guilty.

Today at work, I seemed to be having a good day, working for my two bosses Cass and Kerry.  I was mainly helping Kerry today with endless spreadsheets, and I’ll continue doing that tomorrow.  However, Cass popped his head around the door after lunch and asked me if I could help him move some boxes from one room back to another (where they originally were, and where I moved them from right at the beginning of my job about 6 weeks ago). I felt sorry for him when he found out they had to go back, and it turns out that when I agreed to “help” him, I would actually be doing it by myself.  Fine, I said, I would go and do it when I came to a break with Kerry’s stuff, which I did.  I was barely physically able to move one of the cages full of stock (there were 6, Cass had told me there were 5) – Cass envisioned the whole task would take an hour or so, and then I could reload the cages once I was finished.  After 2 cages, the second of which I had to get a policeman to help me with when it came to pushing it up the slope towards its destination, I was aching and drenched in sweat.  And quite pissed off!  I couldn’t do any more, Cass had gone for the day so I couldn’t explain that the cages were just too heavy for me to physically move (and I am no weakling), and there was no way it was possible for me to empty them all before the end of the day, let alone fill them up with more stock.  (I am also quite confident that Cass did not fill up the cages himself, otherwise he would not have asked me to transfer them all within one hour, because he would have realised that that was an unrealistic and fairly dangerous demand!) I felt that I might let him down in some way (though I hope he will understand, he is usually very reasonable) and I hope that he knows by now that I am the farthest thing from workshy.  It’s just not physically possible for me to do, especially not within tonight’s time constraints.  Tomorrow if I have half a day to do it, and the cages are split into (much) smaller loads, it might be possible.  We’ll see.

In addition to this considerable irritation, I was trying to call my mother at work to get a lift home on her way back, since I was staying at work later than usual; it took me over an hour to get through to her work on the phone, and even then when her colleague answered the phone, he asked me to call back again in 5 minutes (I said no, and told him that I would rather my mother called me back – I think I had been calling that shop enough for one day).  So I was quite annoyed about that, although in both cases I know that nobody was deliberately at fault, and that I should keep my rapidly rising anger in check.  Somehow, I managed to do this, and me and my mum exchanged stories about our frustrating days on the journey home.  I bought 2 dvds at Tesco (Bride Wars & Notorious) and plan to relax with some chocolate Mars drink and good pudding (tonight will be a night where I probably will snack – I plead extenuating circumstances!) watching one of them.

The final straw tonight was when I got home from work with my mother, only to have problems deleting a message from our answerphone (which hates me); apparently, it senses my finger on the delete button and refuses to work, though I have witnessed my mother deleting messages and she does nothing different from what I do.  My parents both made a comment and I exploded, prompting my father to mock my “grumpiness”.  I stormed off (I was definitely grumpy, but there was no need to point it out – what do you think you are going to achieve by highlighting my bad mood?  Certainly not make me feel better…) and sat in the small computer room on the floor, and my mum came in and said that just after I’d left, he had done the same thing to her (her day had not been great either).  I didn’t have a massive explosion of anger, but there just comes a point where you can hold things in and hold things in and be aware of not pushing your anger or frustration or emotions onto other people, but just holding your tongue and taking deep breaths and dealing with frustration calmly and rationally… and it all spills out anyway.  Some people just don’t seem to realise that they pile burden on top of burden on top of you, and I’m not superhuman – eventually, after enough pressure, I snap, just like anyone else.  Is that a fault of mine?  Should I have more self-control?  Or is it an issue where I restrain too much and let things build up? When is it right to not say anything and deal with your issues by yourself for fear of upsetting or alienating someone else, and when is the time to speak up and say “I can’t take anymore”, before you explode?  How do you know when the right time to do that is?  In short, how do you predict when enough is enough?

As I said at the start of the post, although I recognise I have a temper (which developed due to Street Fighter and also due to various trying situations at the Perfume Shop), I am fairly good at controlling it, especially around other people.  But yesterday, discussing Jill’s death with my parents, I think I was the one who put my foot in my mouth.  I was asking about what kind of cancer she had died of – a reasonable question, I thought.  My mother didn’t know.  I found it odd that Jill’s husband, despite the fact he had spoken to my mother at least 3 times in the past couple of weeks and had asked her to pass on updates of Jill’s health to mutual friends of hers and my mother’s, had neglected to mention what type of cancer she was actually suffering from.  I understand people being private, especially in times of suffering and grief, but I thought that generally, people suffer from lung cancer or breast cancer or cancer of the womb or cancer of something.  If you say “She has cancer”, the automatic question is surely “cancer of what?” I found this weird that nobody seemed to know, and that Graham had not passed on this vital piece of information to my mother, especially if my mother was then supposed to inform other people herself.  And yet, my parents were both like “you don’t ask that kind of thing!” I understand not wanting to probe into someone’s grief, but I found it strange that the question had not been asked, and even stranger that my mother hadn’t been told in the first place!  Yet after our discussion, I felt like I was somehow unfeeling or tactless, and that I had said the wrong thing (my father’s sister also died of cancer – to this day, me and my mother know very little about it).  I guess that everyone deals with death in their own way, and I understand that grief is a private and individual process that not everyone wants to share or shout about.  But I don’t understand people not asking basic questions; I later spoke to my mum about it and she said that I hadn’t upset her at all, but that as you get older, you learn more and more as you get older not to disturb others’ fragile emotional states.  I understand this already, but I just don’t know the rules about what you talk about and what you don’t talk about in times like these.  If we don’t speak up and ask questions, even about fragile or poignant situations, how do we become better informed? Is it more respectful to be silent and remain in ignorance? Is restraint really the better option in this instance?  I don’t get why people don’t talk about these things.  If we did, then maybe it would clarify, if not ease the grieving process / understanding of exactly why Jill died.  So I don’t really know at all just how much restraint or self-control is a good thing after all.