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Kendrick Lamar’s new album is powerful and necessary, but I’m the last person who should review it

The world wasn’t ready for To Pimp A Butterfly. Hell, Kendrick Lamar wasn’t even ready. An accidental iTunes leak brought the release of the Compton rapper’s third full-length forward by a week, and its psuedo-surprise drop was swiftly followed by a string of poorly written first-listen reviews.

I get it: knee-jerk reactions fuel online traffic. Satisfying the demands of digital journalism (speed and shareability) with those of reviewing (quality and consideration) is something that I continue to find challenging. But there’s an even bigger problem surrounding the way in which the record was received. The only thing worse than a first-listen review is a review from a position of privilege and, in the case of A Butterfly, many have been both.

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Blade Runner 2: why I remain fearful of the sequel

After years of posturing from Ridley Scott, yesterday saw the promise of Blade Runner 2 edge ever-closer to fruition with the announcement that Harrison Ford, who starred as the protagonist Rick Deckard in the 1982 original, will reprise his role for the sequel.

Scott will reportedly yield directorial duties to Denis Villeneuve, who recently helmed the 2013 surreal sci-fi thriller Enemy, while he co-produces. Filming is scheduled to start in 2016, with producers vowing to deliver “a uniquely potent and faithful sequel”, but there’s every possibility it could go horribly wrong. So, with equal parts excitement and fear, here’s why I remain cautious about the news. Read More

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To compare drag to blackface is to undermine the consciousness of queer culture

When Sharon Needles, winner of season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, wore blackface to portray the titular host of the US reality show, the queer community took offense. And rightly so. An entertainer celebrated for her acts of patriarchal subversion had become, in that instance, notorious for her act of racial oppression. But how was Mary Cheney, the Republican, lesbian daughter of former US Vice President Dick Cheney, to know the difference between the two when she happened upon the trailer for Drag Race’s upcoming seventh season? Read More

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Alt-J, The O2, review: ‘from fidgetiness to finesse’

It may have taken Britain’s biggest arena to draw out the uninhibited beauty of This Is All Yours, but Alt-J’s timing couldn’t be more perfect. Rather serendipitously, the band will return to the O2 in exactly one month’s time in the hope of winning two Brit Awards. And, after missing out in 2013, their chances certainly seem stronger this time around.

Indeed, Alt-J have come a long way from playing gigs in their front room in Leeds, but they’re every bit as eccentric as they were in their early years. The only difference now is that they’ve honed their fidgetiness into finesse.

Read my full review over on the Telegraph site. 

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Philip Teir, The Winter War, review: ‘an intelligent debut’

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The Winter War of 1939 to 1940, fought between Finland and the Soviet Union, lasted from November to March – the same amount of time it takes for a cosmopolitan family to collapse in Philip Teir’s debut novel of the same name.

If the parallel feels tenuous, that’s precisely Teir’s point. In his novel marriage becomes melodrama for a generation made apathetic by its own privilege.

Read more on the Telegraph website. 

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Morrissey, The O2 Arena, review: ‘delightfully miserable’

For the first time in his 32-year career, Steven Patrick Morrissey doesn’t want your sympathy. “Remember me but forget my fate”, he implored during his only UK performance of the year, referring to his recent treatment for cancer. It’s a particularly hard sell considering he’s made a living out of fetishising death, both with The Smiths and as a solo artist. Read more on the Telegraph website.