REVIEW: SIAN CROSS – ‘CONSCIOUS’ EP 5

Having already shared the stage with Jessie J, Daniel Bedingfield and the icon that is Stevie Wonder, Sian Cross is no stranger to the music industry, and she’s well and truly on the way to leaving her own mark on it.

Her EP Conscious showcases her talents superbly and there’s a passion and honesty to her lyrics that have been missing from a lot of releases in recent years. With a vocal delivery that is so full of emotion it sent shivers up this reviewers’ arms at least once, the 5 track collection serves as a great introduction to those who have yet to discover how good this young woman is.

The EP opens with “Tell Anybody”, an anthem perfect for anyone struggling through life or fighting a battle that seems never-ending. It’s a testament to individuality and a call to all those who listen to it to be themselves, to stand up for what they believe in and to live their life their way.

“Stare At Me” was inspired by a Katie Piper documentary Cross watched shortly after undergoing surgery to remove a teratoma, which left her with several scars. While she recovered and while feeling insecure, the documentary encouraged Cross to reveal her true self to those around her; scars and all, and this song is a reminder to everyone, herself included, about the strength that comes with being yourself and accepting who you are 100%.

In a world where so many people are judged and judge others on their appearance, Cross should be commended for creating a song to inspire, encourage and motivate all those who listen to it to think twice about what they say and do, but more importantly, to remind them that we’re all human and that no-one, even if they believe that they are, is perfect – and that’s something we all have in common.

Next is “The World As I”, a melodic little number that would work well as a future single. It’s slower and softer than the previous two tracks, which some listeners might be put off by, but it’s certainly worthy of several listens.

“On and On” meanwhile is another empowering track, inspired by an encounter with a stripper Cross had one day. Strippers and other individuals often get a bad reputation for what they do, without others taking into consideration a persons’ back-story or reasons for doing the job in question. “On And On” serves as yet another reminder that those who do what they want to and what they believe in are some of the strongest people around, and no-one has the right to judge them for it.

Adding a touch of poignancy to the collection, “Four Weeks” is a sentimental track which pays tribute to Cross’ father who died several years ago. The emotion with which Cross delivers the lyrics is enough to bring those who hear it (certainly myself anyway) to tears as she puts into words and to music how difficult for her the loss was to deal with. She wanted to write and share the song as a way of helping others through similar situations and, as she explains, that’s exactly what the track has done:

“Since releasing the song, I have received a number of messages from people expressing the comfort and strength that Four Weeks had given them. One person even told me that they hadn’t been able to grieve for their mum but this song allowed them to release the pain they had been hiding.”

Very few artists in recent years have addressed such a personal issue so publicly as Cross does on this track, the exception perhaps being “Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day, written about the passing of front-man Billie Joe Armstrong’s father, and I for one want to stand up and applaud her for doing so. As someone who lost a loved one a few years back, this song has given me a new perspective and serves as a musical reminder that I’m not alone in struggling with the loss I’ve endured. Sometimes we all need a little reminder that we’re all living life on this Earth together, and as much as we might feel it sometimes, we’re never truly alone in what we’re feeling.

As of this moment, this collection is easily my EP of the year and it will take something truly, truly special to top it. Conscious is available now on iTunes.

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KENDRICK LAMAR WINS BIG AT THE MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS 2017 11

Kendrick Lamar was the king of the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, winning six awards on a night full of emotional performances, political moments and a new, eye-popping Taylor Swift music video.

The 2017 MTV VMAs at the Forum in Inglewood, California, kicked off with lasers, fire and Kendrick Lamar. Break dancers performed amidst the light beams and fog as the rapper performed “DNA.” The song culminated with a ninja break-dancing while engulfed in flames. Then, the rapper transitioned to Humble” and Lamar’s backup performers, who were wearing martial arts uniforms, clamoured up and down a ladder that was set ablaze.

Ed Sheeran then took the stage to perform “Shape of You” against a prismatic set before Lil Uzi hopped onstage to add a few rap lines and helped Sheeran close out the song before the two launched into “XO TOUR Llif3.

The show cut to a skit featuring host Katy Perry hatching up a scheme to visit space, asking for advice from Buzz Aldrin, Peggy Whitson, Abbi Jacobson, Kathryn Hahn and Kevin Bacon who reminded Perry, “I wasn’t really on Apollo 13.” Perry then detailed her fictional trip to space before she floated down to the stage in her holographic space suit.

When she got to the stage, Perry explained to the audience that she has been missing in action because of her trip to space.

She said: “The world is doing so well right? Everything is fine? Great! Maybe not so much.”

Perry explained she wanted to change clothes. As she started to disrobe, she went through a rack of clothes. At one point, she took a “Handmaid’s Tale” uniform out and asked what it was. She said, “You guys have really been going through it, haven’t you? How the f**k are you coping right now?” before she was handed a fidget spinner as an explanation.

Paris Jackson presented best pop video award, but not before giving an impassioned statement against white supremacists.

“Let’s leave here tonight remembering we must show these Nazi, white supremacist jerks in Charlottesville and all over the country that as a nation with liberty as our slogan, we have zero tolerance for their violence, their hatred and their discrimination,” said Jackson. “We must resist.”

Fifth Harmony won best pop video for “Down and they got teary as they thanked their families and Gucci Mane, who was on the stage with them.

Hailee Steinfeld announced Julia Michaels’ performance of “Issues.”

The VMAs premiered  Taylor Swift’s video for her new single Look What You Made Me Do” while a new minutes laterYara Shahidi announced Shawn Mendes’ performance of “There’s Nothin’ Holding Me Back.”

Perry returned to the stage with a message for people affected by Hurricane Harvey and said, “We are praying for your safety … because we’re all in this together.”

Alessandra Ambrosio and Jack Antonoff, who sported a prominent Star of David necklace, announced a performance by Lorde.

Lorde opened by turning on a boom box onstage and dancing to her song “Homemade Dynamite.” Later, backup dancers joined her to lift her into the air so she could float over the stage. She ended the performance without singing a single word.

Pete Wentz and Teyana Taylor presented best dance, which went to “Stay” by Alessia Cara and Zedd.

DJ Khaled took the stage with his baby, Asahd Tuck Khaled, who Perry said would obviously win the social media baby contest. He then announced a performance by Fifth Harmony. The girl group started with “Angel” before transitioning into “Down.”

Ludacris and Olivia Munn presented best collaboration, which went to “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” by Zayn and Taylor Swift. Jack Antonoff and his “favorite new artist” Sam Dew accepted the award on the singers’ behalf.

Jared Leto took the stage to pay tribute to Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington and Soundgarden front-man Chris Cornell.

Leto then urged audience members and viewers at home to stand up for a performance by Linkin Park.

A few minutes later, host Perry announced a performance by Miley Cyrus, who sang “Younger Now” after shouting, “Love you, Katy!”

Cardi B announced a spirited performance of “Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato.

Later, P!nk appeared onstage in a convertible to sing a medley of her songs, including “Get the Party Started” and “Raise Your Glass” before hopping onto an ATV to sing “So What” as backup singers danced nearly nude with only black bars to cover themselves.

P!nk then sang “Don’t Let Me Get Me” and “Just Give Me A Reason” against a screen playing her old music videos before she performed her newest single “What About Us.”

After Pink’s performance, Ellen DeGeneres took the stage to present the Vanguard Award to P!nk.

Stranger Things actress Millie Bobby Brown took the stage to present artist of the year and quipped, “Just last year, I was stuck in the upside down and now I’m here.” The award went to Brown’s “personal favorite” Ed Sheeran.

Vanessa Hudgens announced a performance by Alessia Cara.

Kesha announced a performance of “1-800-273-8255” by Alessia Cara and Logic, encouraging people to seek help and advice. The song title is also the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Bebe Rexha and The Chainsmokers presented best new artist, which went to Khalid, before Thirty Seconds to Mars sang “Walk on Water” with a performance that saw them appear as a heat map.

Reverend Robert Mead IV took the stage and said:

“I am a descendent of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue was at the center of violence. We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy. As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin. Today, I call on all of us with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on. We can find inspiration in the Black Lives Matter movement, the women who marched in the Women’s March in January and especially Heather Heyer, who died fighting for her beliefs in Charlottesville.”

Mead then introduced Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, who said of her daughter:

“I miss her, but I know she’s here tonight. I have been deeply moved to see people across the world, the whole world, find inspiration in her courage.” She announced the launch of the Heather Heyer Foundation, which will provide scholarships to “help people join Heather’s fight against hatred. I want people to know that Heather never marched alone. She was always joined by people of every race and every background in this country.”

She announced that MTV decided to honor all six nominees for its category, best fight against the system, adding:

“I congratulate all these artists on their VMA tonight and I look forward to the important work that they and all of you will do together to make the world a better, kinder place. Thank you.”

Hailey Baldwin announced the performance of the “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” reboot by Rod Stewart and DNCE, who put on a colorful and flashy performance from Las Vegas.

Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot presented video of the year, which went to “Humble.” by Kendrick Lamar.

Noah Cyrus announced a performance by host Perry and Nicki Minaj who together closed out the ceremony.

Here’s the full list of winners from the 2017 VMA’s:

Video of the Year: Kendrick Lamar: “HUMBLE.”
Best New Artist: Khalid
Artist of the Year: Ed Sheeran
Best Hip Hop Video: Kendrick Lamar: “HUMBLE.”
Best Collaboration: Zayn and Taylor Swift: “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker)”
Best Pop Video: Fifth Harmony: “Down” [ft. Gucci Mane]
Best Dance Video: Zedd and Alessia Cara: “Stay”
Best Rock Video: Twenty One Pilots: “Heavydirtysoul”
Song of the Summer: Lil Uzi Vert: “XO Tour Llif3”
Best Direction: Kendrick Lamar: “HUMBLE.”
Best Cinematography: Kendrick Lamar: “HUMBLE.”
Best Visual Effects: Kendrick Lamar: “HUMBLE.”
Best Choreography: Kanye West: “Fade”
Best Editing: Young Thug: “Wyclef Jean”
Best Fight Against the System (all nominees win):Logic: “Black SpiderMan”; The Hamilton Mixtape: “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)”; Big Sean: “Light”; Alessia Cara: “Scars to Your Beautiful”; Taboo: “Stand Up / Stand N Rock #NoDAPL” [ft. Shailene Woodley]; John Legend: “Surefire”

PAM TAYLOR TALKS ‘STEAL YOUR HEART’, SOCIAL MEDIA & DREAM SHOWS 8

Since releasing her first album Hot Mess in 2012, Pam Taylor has been compared to the likes of Janis Joplin and earned herself growing support from fans and critics alike. Currently on a UK tour in support of her new album Steal Your Heart which is due out next month, Pam took time out of her hectic schedule to chat dream shows, song-writing style and her ultimate ambition.

TITL: Which bands and artists would you say have influenced your sound the most since you started out?

Pam Taylor: I’ve been thinking on this question and it’s hard to pinpoint. My music is probably an amalgam of all the music I’ve ever heard growing up so it’s hard to narrow it down to certain band or artist. Certain genres have definitely influenced my sound, like rock, soul, blues, country…the roots. Roots music is just that…a blend of American music and that is my sound.

TITL: Which band or artist are you most often compared to and do you mind such comparisons?

PT: I’ve heard Janis Joplin the most, but not in the sense that we have the same sound, but the same energy, inflections and mostly, stage presence.  I always am honored to be compared to one of the greatest icons of all time. We both had many afflictions that probably gave us more in common than anyone knows. Luckily, I survived.

TITL: How would you say your song-writing and performance style has changed since you released your first album, Hot Mess, in 2012?

PT: My life experience has definitely changed my song-writing since Hot Mess. As an artist and a human in general, I hope to always be evolving. My music has more focus today with a message of healing, overcoming obstacles and self-love and sharing the stories behind the songs is something new since Hot Mess. It all happened by accident. The first time I shared what I was going through when I wrote a particular song, it had such an impact on the audience, I knew it was something that I had to keep doing in my live performances. This has made all the difference.

TITL: You suffered a ruptured disc in 2013 which caused you considerable pain. How did your path back to health impact the music you’ve since gone on to make?

PT: I experienced first-hand the healing powers of energy and positive thinking and I knew that this was something not unique to me. We all have inside us the power to cause disease in our own bodies or healing and so that message is intertwined in my music today for that reason. It’s an important time for people to realize what they have control over and what they don’t. Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. Music heals and has been used for centuries in all cultures for that same reason. It’s just gotten lost in translation. Music is the common thread and I’m here to “spread the thread.”

PT: How would you sum up your new album Steal Your Heart in a few words?

It’s a personal yet universal testament of the path to loving oneself.

TITL: The album is driven by the message and idea of loving and being yourself. Given the recent difficulties around the world particularly with LGBTQ communities and the recent clashes in Charlottesville, that’s quite a bold statement to make, wouldn’t you say, or is that ultimately why you wanted to do it?

PT: Like the statement before… Steal Your Heart is a personal testament. I wrote these songs as a way for me to heal. Writing for me, is cheaper and more effective than therapy.  I am not ignorant to the world’s issues but my philosophy is this… what you focus on you bring to you so for me to stay positive I focus my attention on the things that are going good in the world and I tend to bring more of that into my life. I don’t watch the news, I don’t share negative things on social media and I am definitely not political.  The law of attraction is a real thing. This is ultimately why I wanted to do it….to give myself something positive to focus on and to share with the world. In my experience, this is the only true way to affect change.

TITL: Do you have a favourite track and if so, which is it and why?

PT: All of my songs have a special place in my heart but I would have to say “Mountain” is my favorite. It has become my anthem. I wrote it to help get me out of depression and I compare my inner struggles with that of a mountain. Under the earth’s surface, there are struggles and harsh environments that we couldn’t survive but it pushes the mountains to rise and this is the message behind this song; to take your struggles, things that would normally break you, and use them to build yourself up, as a foundation to rise above. My frans (friend + fan) really love this one. I’ve had frans paint me pictures of mountains and one even got a tattoo of a mountain. The positive effect it’s had on others is why it’s become one of my favorites.

TITL: You’ve received considerable critical acclaim over the years but which comment/message, either from a critic or a fan have you been most touched by?

PT: To hear that my songs are getting people through tough times is so fulfilling. This is why I wanted to record this record now. I had a fran reach out to ask me if I had a song(s) to share with her daughter about strength and grace because she had gotten bullied at school and the fact that she thought of me and my music made my heart sing. This is why I do what I do.

TITL: You’re currently on a UK tour – how are you finding the audiences? Any highlights so far?

PT: It’s just getting started but so far, the audiences have been very appreciative, enthusiastic and respectful. Before I left to go on this tour, I did a show for my hometown in a small brewery and it was packed, which was awesome, but they were chatting with each other so loudly that I could hardly hear myself sing.  I tried not to let it get me down because I still needed to deliver the message to the folks that were trying to hear but it was really hard for me. My first gig in the UK was in a small venue much like the brewery, packed with even more people but you could hear a pin drop while I was telling my stories and singing…that is until the end when they clapped and cheered with great enthusiasm. I feel more appreciated here, that’s for sure. I look forward to experiencing how the rest of the world embraces me. It’s off to a fabulous start.

TITL: You’ve opened for John Primer and Debbie Davies among others, but if you could support any band or artist, living or dead, who would they be and why?

PT: Have you ever heard of the 27 club? Well, if I could share the stage with just half the folks in that club, it would be the gig of a lifetime. I got sober at 25 and didn’t start performing until I was 27. Luckily for me, I got all the struggles with drugs, alcohol and other damaging personal afflictions out of the way before any fame or other by-products of being a well-known musician came into play. I couldn’t imagine doing what I do and having the typical rock-star lifestyle to go along with it. Being under the microscope while dealing with demons….no way!! Janis, Jimi, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison and Amy Winehouse…they were larger than life and had such an impact on the world in just their short 27 years here. To be on a stage with them, or to just warm a crowd up for them would be surreal.  Could you imagine that gig!?!! I am working on a song called “27 Survived” and it’s a reflection into that comparison. Overcoming, surviving…carrying the torch.

TITL: To what extent has social media impacted your career and would you agree it’s been and continues to be a more positive than negative tool for those in the industry?

PT: Social media was definitely a gateway for me and I feel it really catapulted my career.  I use it to network, investigate venues, and just to put myself out there. It’s an easy way to stay connected to my frans too. I have never had a negative experience with any of it…maybe just trying to navigate all the updates. I always think it’s funny when I see people saying things like, “taking time off Facebook, it’s too much drama” because my philosophy is “wherever you go, there you are.” Social media is like everything else – you get out of it what you put in it.

TITL: What else does this year have in store for you?

PT: I have some great gigs coming up on this world tour including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on Aug 25-26th, ending up in Israel for my CD release party at Mike’s Place in Tel Aviv on September 23rd.  I can’t believe I’m kicking it off in the Holy Land. I’m still pinching myself. Who knows what else this year has in store!  I do see lots of love, more personal freedom and adventure…that’s for sure.

TITL: Where would you like to see yourself three years from now and what’s your ultimate ambition? What would you have to achieve in order to happily call it a day?

PT: When you make plans, God laughs, is the saying that comes to mind.  If you’d have told me this would be my life 3 years ago,  I would have never believed you and probably laughed in your face. My ultimate ambition is to share my music with as many people as possible and to continue to grow as a human, and as an artist in general.  This world tour has opened my eyes to more possibilities than I ever dreamt of. I don’t have an endgame really; I just want to continue “Spreading the Thread” and let people know how awesome they are.  Let’s see where that takes me. Ask me again in 3 three years. Until then…I’ll be the light, give the love, share the music.

Pam Taylor plays Edinburgh Fringe Festival August 25th & 26th, the Cellar Bar (Ruzz’s Guitar Blues Revue) in Devizes on September 1st and Downend Tavern (Bristol Blues Clubhouse) on September 5th. For more information, visit her website, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. Steal Your Heart is out on September 22nd and available for pre-order now. You can check out a promo for the collection below.