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Blogging about film, music, television, and pop-culture

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I have launched a brand new website reviewing Television, Film and Music available at www.theshirker.com

Please come on over and check out the content, comment on the articles, and spread the word.

Also, if you are interested in writing or advertising on The Shirker website please contact martin@theshirker.com

Thank you.

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Saturday 31/03/12 - Hall of Fame

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After what was already a long day trekking around the Miami Beach Convention Centre mingling with thousands of other wrestling fans and harassing our favourite wrestlers, it was time to head back to our hotel and get ready for the evening’s Hall of Fame ceremony at the American Airlines Arena.

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Saturday 31/03/12 - Wrestlemania Fan Axxess Session 2 and 3

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On the Saturday we had two Axxess sessions to attend. The General Admission 8am morning session, and then an hour break, before the 1pm session. So it was wake up at 6:30am, get ready, and take another taxi to the Convention Centre. It was a long day bearing in mind we also had the Hall of Fame ceremony to attend in the evening.

As we had picked up all our tickets for the different sessions on the Thursday, we didn’t have to queue at the ticket office, so this time we went straight in. We headed over to the General Admission waiting area, and we had a plan this time. When we got in we were just going to run straight to one of the signing tables and hope that it was someone worth meeting. We’d done all the other activities, so today we were simply trying to meet as many wrestlers as possible.

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Last week I attended the Wrestlemania festivities in Miami, Florida. Travelling all the way from sunny Hull, to Heathrow airport, to Miami International. It was a week long trip that cost almost £2000 in total, including flights, hotel, tickets, and spending money. But it was worth every single penny. 

For none wrestling fans it would seem crazy to spend that much money on something as silly as the WWE, and I’m not here to convince non-fans why they should like wrestling, that would be like someone trying to explain to me why they spend endless amounts of money on going to football games or One Direction concerts - people like, and are entertained, by different things.

That’s what it boils down to. Wrestling entertains me. It also frustrates me and makes me angry at times, but that all adds to the appeal. I appreciate the hard work and effort that these men and women put in over 300+ days a year for the fans. I appreciate the athleticism, the story-telling, the drama, the comedy, the backstage politics, the rumour-mill, the highs and the lows. And experiencing this live is like nothing else on earth, and for any fan of wrestling, I recommend to attend Wrestlemania at least once in your life.

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soko

Imagine Kimya Dawson went on a foreign exchange program to France and returned with a Jean-Paul Satre novel, a flick-knife, a couple of porno mags, and a French accent, then you are getting somewhere close to the enigma that is Soko.

Stéphanie Sokolinski aka Soko quit music in 2009 before she even released her debut album, claiming herself “dead” via her Myspace page. It was a bold move given that she had a sure fire hit single with “I’ll Kill Her” in Australia and Denmark at the time, and was touring with middle-finger raising, electro-hip hop singer M.I.A. But the pressures of the music industry just weren’t for Soko.

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sleighbells

There are a few people that call the Brooklyn noise-pop duo of Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller, better known as Sleigh Bells, a one trick pony. That may be the case, but if it is, then it is a trick that they do very well.

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lana

The big debate regarding haunting, hip-hop fueled, singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey has become less about her musical output, and more to do with her image and it’s authenticity. Seemingly rising out of nowhere with her viral hit “Video Games” last year, Del Rey appeared to be a fully-formed pop princess, destined for future chart success. But then came the shouts of “fake” and “fraud” from cynical critics and angry music blogs. The criticisms have been written about many times before: she was already signed to Interscope Records, she already had an album under the name Lizzy Grant, her Dad is a rich businessman, she used to dress differently, she has had lip surgery etc.

My stance on this debate? Who cares? Many artists have changed their image over the years, either in search for success or because it felt like a natural progression. The Black Eyed Peas went from a semi-socially conscious hip hop group to a sugar coated pop outfit rapping about “My Humps”. P!nk started out as another of many R&B divas in the late 90s, and then transformed in to a rock-chick. Christina Aguilera went from “girl next door” to “dirrrty” to “soul singer”. Rick Ross was a former correctional officer for christ’s sake, and constantly raps about being a gangster don.

So what if Lizzy Grant changed her name to Lana Del Rey and started wearing sun-dresses? Isn’t it just like David Bowie becoming Ziggy Stardust? Or Stefani Germanotta becoming Lady Gaga? It’s not as if Del Rey’s musical style particularly changed, her Lizzy Grant album features the same slow, love-lorn, bad boy obsessed, Lynchian influenced ballads, and she was making homemade “Video Games” style music videos back then too. Everyone got caught up in the Lana Del Rey hype, and now music websites like Pitchfork are embarrassingly back-tracking, oblivious that they were part of the cause.

But with that out of the way, lets just try and judge the album for its own value, shall we?

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Stuck to my bedroom door is a poster for the David Lynch film Mulhollad Drive (http://bit.ly/wWTMHG), featuring a palm tree bordered road leading to Hollywood Hills, and the two female stars staring at something off in the distance. The tag-line for the movie is “A love story in the city of dreams”, and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate description when thinking of Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die. Like the film itself, Del Rey’s album focuses in on the allure of Hollywood, role-playing, and self-invention.

Lana Del Rey plays a character, in fact she plays many characters, and her songs are like mini-movies. Her album is full of tragi-romance stories, conflicted heroines, road trips, bad boys, whiskey, and sun dresses. Wild at heart with weird on top, to quote another David Lynch line. She drifts in and out of these personas with relative ease, from the gullible lover in “Off To The Races” with its girly chorus, to the young femme-fatale in “Carmen”, to the seductress in the march-along “National Anthem”.

Del Rey harks back to the days of 1950s starlets, perhaps most specifically Lana Turner, who she shares her namesake with. "You fit me better than my favourite sweater". Dubbed The Sweater Girl, Lana Turner was a beautiful blonde actress with a troubled past. Here is a short description of her from Michael’s Movie Mania blog:

"In real life, there were many shadows in Turner’s world. Her father was murdered, reputedly for gambling debts, when she was a child. She struggled with alcoholism all her life and had many famous and a few notorious boyfriends, including billionaire Howard Hughes, pretty-boy actor Tyrone Power, and Tarzan star Lex Barker. Turner eventually married seven times." (http://bit.ly/AhzUHo)

If that doesn’t sound like direct influence and inspiration for Del Rey’s entire burn Hollywood burn outlook, then I don’t know what does. Artifice has always been a part of pop music, and Del Rey has perfected that, she comes under criticism because in this age of paparazzi and blogging, the media feel a need to know everything about you, and not just your public life but your private life too. But regardless of Del Rey not actually living the lives she sings about, her music is relatable in the sense that we can all empathise and sympathise with heartache, love-loss, and pain.

The sound of the music itself doesn’t stray too far away from internet crossover hits “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans”. Del Rey delivers her whispered, slightly slurred, sultry vocals over sparse, hip-hop influenced beats, every so often accompanied by sad pianos and swooping string arrangements. Production credits go to Jeff Bhasker and Emile Haynie, who between them have worked with the likes of Eminem, Kanye West, Jay Z, and Beyonce. Del Rey doesn’t aim for the big notes like her British counterpart Adele, instead she wallows in a low register, creating a heartbroken yet mesmerising sound.

There are times when Del Rey is covering the same subjects, her lyrics can often descend in to cliche, and perhaps none of the other tracks quite reach the heights of “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans”, although “Born To Die”, “Off To The Races”, “Summertime Sadness”, and “National Anthem” are only a whisker behind. But with Born To Die Del Rey has created a very good pop album, an album that will unfortunately never live up to the hype surrounding it, but a welcome alternative to the Katy Perry’s and Kesha’s off this world.

by Martin Holmes

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list

"Enough with the lists already!" I hear you scream, alright, soon I promise, but you should all know by now that it’s common practice to sum up your opinions of the preceding year in list form; lists help us function as a society, and also make for easy blog-reading.

Below I list my personal favourites and not-so favourites of 2011, including TV, Film and Comedy. Remember, these are just my personal opinions, and I can only vote on what I’ve actually watched this year, that’s why shows like Breaking Bad and Louie are absent, because I’ve only just started to catch up with them.

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And here we arrive at the Top 10, those albums that stood out to me the most this year and left a lasting impression…

30 - 11: http://thehippestkidsintown.tumblr.com/post/13870527027/the-50-best-albums-of-2011-30-11

50 - 31: http://thehippestkidsintown.tumblr.com/post/13833492797/the-50-best-albums-of-2011-50-31

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On we go with the 50 Best Albums of 2011 list, as we countdown 30 - 11, revealing those that just missed out on a spot in the Top 10…


50 - 31: http://thehippestkidsintown.tumblr.com/post/13833492797/the-50-best-albums-of-2011-50-31

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