You may not know this, but if Spotify has been your go-to streaming service for jamming to your favourite tunes during your office commute or while keeping up with the latest fashion trends on Esquire (yes shameful, I know), then you’ve been unknowingly settling for low-quality music this whole time.

Spotify, of course, is aware of this and has been trying to introduce a high-fidelity (HiFi) subscription plan since 2021, despite rumours of them scrapping the idea. However, the plan is finally coming to pass as HiFi streaming is expected to arrive by the end of 2024, joining fellow streaming moguls, Apple Music and Tidal as streaming services that offer a high-quality option.

Amidst the controversy surrounding Spotify's recent price hikes—increasing costs twice a year across all subscription plans (the second hike thankfully sparing Singaporeans), users finally have something to cheer for, right? Well, I have some ill tidings that may convert even the staunchest Spotify apologists. HiFi streaming will be offered as an add-on that costs users at least USD5 more per month on top of their existing plan. This means that if you're currently on the individual plan paying SGD10.98, you might end up forking out SGD17 per month instead.

In contrast, both Apple Music and Tidal offer high-fidelity audio built-in to their streaming services, charging SGD10.98 monthly. Anyone else thinking of jumping ship?

As Angela Davis aptly puts it, “Palestine is a moral litmus test for the world”. The ongoing suffering of the Palestinians has become a dark stain on the global conscience. As Singaporeans, it's all too easy to feel disconnected and powerless regarding global conflicts, especially those unfolding thousands of kilometres away. Our country is small, and we may feel even smaller as a result. But true power lies in the masses, it always has, and we cannot turn a blind eye to the plight of the oppressed.

Spearheading humanitarian efforts for Singaporeans is Gilbert Goh, the founder of Love Aid SG. Goh has helped raise over a million dollars for various Gaza-related projects. His initiatives include building a Gazan kitchen, which an Israeli airstrike later destroyed and killed nine people he worked closely with. He then constructed solar panels to generate electricity for Kamal Adwan Hospital, but another airstrike decimated that as well. While these setbacks are terrible, they have only strengthened Goh’s resolve to assist Palestinians. He currently remains in Cairo to continue the facilitation of aid into Gaza.

To rally solidarity, Collective Minds is partnering with Mandala Club to organise a music event called Dance for Life. It aims to raise SGD10,000 to support Love Aid SG’s humanitarian efforts in Gaza. With the entire population of Gaza projected to face famine by July, we have an opportunity and moral obligation as citizens of a privileged nation to help prevent that.

The deets

Dance for Life will feature an electrifying lineup of local artists and DJs, including Aurora, Bongomann, and Chris. Other artists include Dean Chew, Toppings, James Selva, Jenn Chunes, Kylie Nicole, and Leland. Also performing are Miss Lil, MZA, Puddle, Sivanesh, and RAAJ.

Tickets are priced at SGD40 and is inclusive of a complimentary drink. For those unable to attend in person, a SGD30 donation option is available. All proceeds from ticket sales, donations, and a percentage of the bar sales will be channelled straight to Love Aid SG.

Dance for Life will take place on 15 June 2024 at the Mandala Club from 12 pm to 11 pm. Buy your tickets or donate here.

It's that time of the year where Apple kickstarts its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2024. Esquire Singapore was at Apple Park where it all went down. Although Tim Cook opened the keynote and revealed a few of what the company was working on, it was ultimately Senior VP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi's show. Through his amiable style and parkour (you'll understand if you watch the keynote video), it was announced that there would be updates to its OS—iOS 18; iPadOS 18; macOS Sequoia; watchOS 11; visionOS 2—; what's on Apple TV+ slate; the Vision Pro coming to Singapore and the reveal of Apple Intelligence... or AI (“give-the-marketing-team-a-raise”). Here are the biggest takeaways from WWDC.

Apple Intelligence

After keeping mum on AI, Apple loudly announced its proprietary AI, the Apple Intelligence. The Apple Intelligence works across all of Apple's devices and we saw a demonstration of its use in Writing Tools. Now you can see summaries of your e-mails or books and its ability to rewrite the e-mail tone to reflect your intent. Apple Intelligence can also generate transcript summaries of live phone convos or a recordings.

If you tire of 😉 (winking face), 🫃("Uh-oh, I seem to have cirrhosis of the liver.") or 💦🍆 (wash your vegetables), you can generate customised emojis with Genmoji. Simply describe what you want to see as an emoji and Apple Intelligence will create it.

A step up from Genmoji is Image Playground. Again, type in any descriptor and the style (currently only animation, illustration and sketch options are available) and the image will be produced. You can do the same with images from your Photos library or from your Contact list. We were also shown how Apple Intelligence can flesh out rudimentary sketches or ideas through Image Wand. With a finger or Apple Pencil, circle a sketch and after analysing it, Image Wand will produce a complementary visual.

With Apple Intelligence, Siri finally gets the limelight it deserves. Siri can carry out specific tasks with an awareness of your personal context. This means that it’s able to go through your apps and create a personalised approach. For example, if you ask Siri, how to get to a destination, Siri will trawl through your travel history and the weather forecast to formulate the best and personalised route for you. Which for me, is a long languid bus ride because I have no money for cabs and I hate playing the game of “Should I Give Up This Seat For This Person?”

Siri also has a richer language understanding, so if you have made a verbal faux pas and you backtrack, Siri will know what you mean. Does this mean that Siri will understand Singlish? Welp, Apple says that US English will roll out first, followed by other languages. Hope springs eternal, I guess.

And if you’re skittish about speaking out loud to Siri about—oh for example—whether you need to give up your seat to someone who may or may not take offence to said seat offer, you can type it to Siri instead, you coward (my words).

There were rumours leading up to WWDC24 about Apple’s collaboration with ChatGPT came true as it was announced that ChatGPT is integrated into Apple’s Siri and Writing Tools. If Siri is stymied by your request, it will tap into ChatGPT’s expertise. You will be asked if your info can be shared with ChatGPT and can control when it is used. It’s also free to use without the need to create an account. Some people aren't too keen on the Apple Intelligence and ChatGPT union.

Given the outcry about user data being sneakily used to aid in machine learning, Apple doubled down on its stance on user privacy ensuring that even though Apple Intelligence is privy to your personal information, it doesn’t collect it. While many of the large language and diffusion models are run on the device, there are certain instances where it needs to be stored on the cloud. That's where Private Cloud Compute comes in. As a cloud-based model on special servers using Apple Silicon, your data is never stored and only used to handle your AI request. This is what Apple proudly termed as a “new standard for privacy”.

Apple TV+

Ever wondered who the hell is on screen and you scroll through IMDB? Now, there inSights, an Apple TV+ feature that shows who is playing what when their characters appear in a scene. There's even a handy bit of info of the music that's playing in the scene as well. inSights is only available for Apple TV+ original programming.

We even got a preview of what's coming to Apple TV+. A slight squeal may or may not have issued from us over the sight of Severance and Silo in the montage.


Called Sequoia, it comes with a Continuity app that allows for iPhone mirroring. You can connect to your iPhone from your Mac. We saw a demo where one could access the iPhone's Duolingo app and actually go through a lesson. The best part of it is that while this is happening, the iPhone is still in locked mode so that no one else, other than you, can have access to it.

iPadOS 18

There's now the Calculator app but with an added feature. Using your Apple Pencil, you can utilise Math Notes in the Calculator app and write out an equation. Once you write out the "=" sign, it immediately calculates. If you change any of the numbers, the tally automatically adjusts.

There's a Smart Script feature that refines your handwritten notes. You can scratch out certain words and it automatically erases, just like that.

VisionOS 2

Finally, this special announcement from WWDC: Apple's Vision Pro gets an operating system update. Using machine learning, it takes your 2D photos and adds depth to it; giving it more life to these spatial photos. There are expanded intuitive gestures to use with your Vision Pro and an ultrawide virtual display to operate on.

Oh, and the Vision Pro will soon be available to Singapore on 28 June.

For more information on WWDC 2024, check out the Apple website.

Well, well, well, it looks like Barry Keoghan’s boxing lessons have finally paid off. The actor put his athleticism to good use in Sabrina Carpenter’s latest video, “Please Please Please.” His role? Carpenter’s jailbird boyfriend. Don’t worry, though—he’s a bad boy with a big heart.

In case you missed it, Carpenter and Keoghan have been dating for a while. In January, eagle-eyed fans spotted them at Luna Luna, an interactive art museum in Los Angeles. Then he was seen filming her Coachella performance, stage-mom-style. Now they seem to have taken their courtship to the next level—which, in 2024, is a buzzy music video. Don’t you love it when a couple maximizes their joint slay? (Look it up.)

In “Please Please Please,” Carpenter spots Keoghan in jail. She walks out, he walks in, and it’s love at first sight. When it’s Keoghan’s turn to leave his confines, Carpenter scoops him up, and thus begins their whirlwind romance. “I heard that you’re an actor, so act like a stand-up guy,” she sings. “Whatever devil’s inside you, don’t let him out tonight.” Carpenter is ready to take a chance on the man. He has a rough reputation, but it’s fine!

Wrong. Keoghan’s character can’t stay out of trouble. He takes her to a gang’s den and promptly gets into a brutal fistfight, then he robs a bank and is arrested again. Meanwhile, his poor girlfriend begs him to chill out. “Please, please, please / Don’t prove ’em right,” Carpenter sings. “Heartbreak is one thing, my ego’s another / I beg you, don’t embarrass me, motherfucker.” It’s no use. The man is who he is—which, by the way, is a pretty decent fella. Despite the chaos, he still remembers to hold her hand. He’s not all bad.

The cheeky video appears to be a nod to Keoghan’s onscreen bad-boy reputation. (None of us are over Saltburn’s Oliver Quick, are we?) Still, in “Please Please Please,” Carpenter asks him to behave. If not for his sake, then for hers. It ends with her cuffing Keoghan to a chair and kissing his duct-taped mouth while he lovingly gazes at her. I guess you can’t get into trouble if you can’t get up.

Originally published on Esquire US

The song you're listening to heralds the birth of psychedelic symphonies, predating The Beatles by a staggering 130 years. Hector Berlioz, the French composer who wrote "Symphonie fantastique" (French for "fantastic symphony") in 1830, offers one of the earliest musical depictions of a transcendent journey. Celine creative, artistic and image director Hedi Slimane stumbled upon this masterpiece at just 11 years old and was instantly captivated.

Berlioz's composition vividly captures the torment of unrequited love and obsession. Regarded as an "immense instrumental composition of a new genre", "Symphonie fantastique" showcases Berlioz's unmatched orchestration skills, impressing critics with its avant-garde essence. Transitioning seamlessly to Slimane's fashion narrative for Celine's Winter 2024 menswear collection also titled "Symphonie Fantastique", the collection boldly revives tailoring, epitomising the designer's pure sartorial essence.


The fit: Bold and cutting-edge, the garments featured in the film embody Slimane's unmistakable design language in menswear. Embracing the iconic "I" line silhouette—reminiscent of 1960s tailoring with a nod to 19th-century Anglomania—the collection exudes timeless sophistication. Frock coats, three-buttoned suits, and intricately hand-embroidered waistcoats are meticulously crafted from sumptuous fabrics like silk, cashmere, and vicuña. Throughout, matte black, satin, and lacquered finishes dominate, infusing each garment with an unmistakable sense of opulence and refinement.

Standout pieces include iconic motorcycle jackets with cropped hemlines, elegantly paired with 1970s flared bottoms as well as pinstriped peacoats transformed into militaristic uniforms. As with every collection, embellished accents adorn a number of garments, adding a captivating touch. Well-dressed cowboys take the lead in ballooning denim and multi-pocket button-down shirts for more casual proposals from the collection.


The details: Silver hardware embellishments on leather jackets inject that signature Slimane edge into the garments. They create a striking contrast to the refined aesthetic of the collection, all the while maintaining the rebellious spirit of Celine. Wide-brimmed hats and square-framed sunglasses further punctuate the collection's distinctive style.

Three exceptional looks: An embellished golden coat catching the sunlight; a sleek mandarin-collar jacket; and a pin-striped coat accentuated with a velvet collar.

The takeaway: This collection vividly embodies storytelling. Each piece reflects Slimane's current fascinations, meticulously crafted in every detail—from the setting and casting, to the music and garments.

View some of looks from the Celine Homme Winter 2024 collection in the gallery below.

I WAS PLAYING around in the surf one day in Hawaii and someone zoomed passed me on a boogie board and I thought, “That’s amazing!”. And then someone went by on a surfboard and I thought, “That’s even more amazing!”. It’s hard to explain how invigorating and joyful surfing is.

WHENEVER I SURF, I feel something deep inside me. That’s the same feeling I have when playing on stage in front of a lot of people.

OUR CHANGING THINKING on spirituality fascinates me. Where quantum physics meets with philosophy meets with mathematics meets with engineering; how they’re all coming to the same place from different starting points and how the numbers and teachings vindicate one another. We’re all one. We’re indivisible.

THAT KIND OF IDEA is not for everyone. You basically have to say goodbye to everything you thought was real. It gets craaazy!

WHEN I LISTEN TO MUSIC—even classical music—I have a tendency to imagine that all the instruments are guitars and that makes it all so much more interesting. Play an oboe passage on guitar and it can sound amazing. Translate a French horn passage in the harmonics of a guitar and the result can just be incredible.

I KNOW ONE DAY my children will come into a lot of money and that bothers me. I still don’t know what I’m going to do about that, especially as I grew up with very little and know that when I had some disposable income I went a bit crazy. I’ve had pretty much everything I’ve ever dreamt of having.

THE TRICK always is to want what you already have, not to keep on wanting.

WHEN I WAS A TEENAGER and inspiring to be a rock musician, I was taken with rock ’n’ roll’s glamour, the romanticising of the lifestyle. Well, then you experience it—and it’s all bollocks.

BELIEVING in sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll is a quick way to ruin your life. Pretty much all of my peers bought into all that and didn’t come out at the end of it—addictions, narcissism, just inappropriate behaviour, all that changes people for the worse. The problem is that it seems like a good idea at the time. Yes, it was fun, but every day I have regrets [about it].

WHERE METALLICA STANDS in culture is very important to me. The band just gets bigger every year and when people hear your music for the first time when they’re younger, they just latch on to it. There’s only a handful of bands that are like that. In our case, it speaks to people who are pissed off and don’t know why, people who haven’t had enough of a voice or who haven’t yet found a way to express it.

WHEN we’ve all run out our lives, Metallica will still be this living entity. For some reason, it’s so much bigger than the four of us [band members].

IT’S SO HARD to find stage clothes—something that’s unique, that you don’t see everywhere but has a flashiness to it because it also needs to be something you can see from 50 feet away.

WEAR ALL BLACK—as you do in heavy metal—and the stage gets dark and then suddenly it’s like, “Where’s Kirk gone?” It took time for me to realise you can really express yourself through clothing and that clothing can be fun.

WHEN I WAS YOUNGER I never really understood what machismo was. And then one day I realised I was neck-deep in it. All my friends, my father, my uncles and cousins—they were macho so I was naturally drawn to that way of thinking. It wasn’t like we were all Clint Eastwood exactly but there is a covert kind of machismo—the aggression and hostility, the need to be the toughest guy in the room. For me that even meant writing tough, scary riffs. It’s still hard for me to write happy-sounding music. It needs to sound like scraping a shovel along concrete.

I TELL MY CHILDREN never to feel pressured by dad’s day job [or] by the idea that they have to rise to some kind of standard [of success]. I tell them to just try to do what makes you happy—as long as it contributes to your well-being—and pray that you can make a living from it.

THAT and be nice to people.

I DON’T KNOW where the points come from but you get extra points for being nice to people. It makes you a lot more positive. And positivity is progress.

I’M A HABITUAL COLLECTOR, BRO. My friend called me the other day and asked me, “Why do you collect plastic bags?”. And I thought ‘I’ve been completely rumbled here’ because I do. I have OCD and collect anything.

I’M AT THAT AGE when I can look back on my life and see patterns when I go hard on certain things—guitars, vehicles, watches... plastic bags.

THE TRICK IS to not care what people think [about you]—not the way you’re dressed or your music or anything.

EVERYONE WILL HAVE AN OPINION—that’s what my parents told me—and it just doesn’t matter, especially since everyone’s opinion is coloured by where they are at in their lives.

UNFORTUNATELY, social media has turned that around.

Childish Gambino is up to something. Then again, when isn’t he? The rapper—who is, of course, the great Donald Glover—is a Swiss Army knife. Glover began his career as both an actor and a musician in the early aughts, impressing fans on Community as well as with albums such as Camp, Because the Internet, and Awaken, My Love. Then he dropped the viral political anthem “This is America”—and flexed his acting chops on Atlanta (which he wrote and produced, too). And let’s not forget the recent Mr & Mrs Smith reboot. (He a co-creator and Mr Smith.)

Got all that? Good. Now he’s back in the booth. Early this morning, Glover dropped Atavista—the “finished version” of his 2020 album, 3.15.20. He announced the news on X, teasing a special vinyl, upcoming visuals, and another (!) new album that we’ll hear this summer. He also posted a link to the music video for his latest song, “Little Foot Big Foot,” which you can watch in the video streaming above.

Fans of Glover will recognize most of the tracks on Atavista, but “Little Foot Big Foot” is a new treat. The song features a verse from Young Nudy—and the Hiro Murai–directed music video stars Quinta Brunson, Monyett Crump, and Rob Bynes. Now that Atavista is out, we can appreciate the record in all its glory. But for those surprised by the release, perhaps it’s time we pay closer attention to Glover—he’s been dropping hints since April.

Last month, Glover played a few tracks for fans on Instagram Live, telling a stunned listener, “It’s a rollout, dummy.” His Instagram includes posts for Gilga Radio—a mysterious website named after his production company—and an album visual with the social-media star Casey Frey, along with dates for his upcoming world tour.

So what’s the difference between Atavista and 3.15.20? The new record boasts refreshed arrangements, but the most significant difference is that the tracks have names. Each song on 3.15.20 has a time stamp for its title. At the time, Glover decided to keep the titles simple amid personal and global strife from the pandemic. “I took that approach because I guess that’s what I was going through,” Glover told Complex“People are always going to want what they want, but I have to express what I’m going through. I had just lost my father, I had just had a kid, and I was going through a lot. I was having a lot of different new experiences, and that’s what I expressed.”

Originally published on Esquire US


The evolution of music consumption over the past three decades has been a wild ride from questionable downloads to unlimited playlists. Remember when downloading music and burning CDs felt like it took an eternity? 

With internet speeds being what they were back then, patience was indeed a virtue. Today, it’s all about 24/7 access and listening. It’s incredible how fast things can change. 

Amid the rapid rise of AI and the digital age, the tempo of music consumption shows no signs of slowing down. As physical album sales plummet and streaming services take over, where will this relentless progress take us next? 

Rewind the tape

The ’90s was the era of physical albums, which stored about 700 MB worth of audio tracks. Then came MPEG and MP3 formats, where transferring music between devices became as common as burning CDs. MP3s—and the world’s open secret—digital music piracy in the 2000s were the unsung heroes of the time, allowing people to acquire and carry tunes wherever they were. 

That was everyone’s reality before iTunes, where instead of buying a physical album, you can buy music from your computer. Last.fm, SoundCloud and Bandcamp entered the market and offered budding artists a place to share their music with the world. 

But it was Spotify’s arrival on the scene in 2008 that created a seismic shift in music consumption. It’s as if the platform has everything—infinite music to listen to, free and premium account options and an algorithm that seems to know every person’s music taste. Spotify quickly became the go-to destination for music lovers everywhere 

Contemporary perspective


♬ Water - Tyla

Fast forward to today, the dynamics are evolving yet again. Research has shown that Gen Z spends more time streaming music than every other generation, dedicating 40 minutes more than the rest of the population. 

Their eclectic taste spans genres like hip-hop, R&B and alternative rock. Having grown up with the internet as an integral part of their lives, this demographic embraces genre diversity more than any other generation. 

It’s not just the younger audience—older generations are jumping on the bandwagon. Have you ever gone to TikTok, found great music and added it to your Spotify playlist? TikTok has emerged as a place where viral hits can catapult artists to stardom even with just one hit. 

One perfect example is “Driver’s License” by Olivia Rodrigo, which became a massive song on the platform before dominating streaming services and “Water” by Tyla, who is often called a one-hit wonder. 

What’s truly exciting, though, is the rise of DIY music. With a rising preference for fresh beats produced outside established recording studios, aspiring musicians are embracing their creativity like never before. This democratisation of music creation is not just a trend, but a movement reshaping how music can empower and connect people with others on their own terms. 

The rising popularity of home studio

J.Cole waited two hours in the rain outside Jay Z’s studio to give him his mixtape, which the latter casually dismissed. Back in the day, aspiring artists needed to get through the O.Gs to reach the top. 

Gone are the days when success in the music industry depended on securing deals with prestigious labels. That was the reality for many musicians, but the game has changed. Today, indie artists are rewriting the rules. For the first time in many years, a new breed of independent copyright owners is growing and making music from the comforts of their own homes. 

Home studios are all the rage today—with the rise of independent artists, they’re not going anywhere soon. With the advancements in technology and the rising accessibility of tools, artists can craft professional-grade music from the comfort of their own space. 

This newfound accessibility will continue to empower many artists to embrace their own creativity in the following years. Who knows, it might inspire casual listeners to create their own beats, too. 

The future of learning an instrument

The rise of home studios isn’t just changing how music is made—it’s reigniting the interest in learning musical instruments. Thanks to the digital age, access to music education has never been more democratised. 

From free tutorials on platforms like YouTube to hybrid instruments, anyone can be a musician. Studies may have shown that music-related ability is 50 per cent inherited from a family member. Still, the availability of free resources means anyone can hone their skills if they dedicate enough time and effort to learning.

Musical instruments have also continuously adapted to the technological advancements of artists. Case in point: virtual instruments—powered by artificial intelligence and advanced software—allow individuals to learn a specific instrument and experiment with unlimited possibilities. 

It’s also hard to keep up with the recent otherworldly musical inventions, such as sitars made from golf clubs and miniature synthesisers. Recently, the world’s first Kovar guitar strings were produced. They’re more corrosion-resistant than your typical Titanium string. Kovar is a nickel-cobalt alloy commonly used in the construction industry and has now made its way into the music industry. Will these strings strike a chord with guitarists? Only time will tell. 

Even if you’re not strumming a guitar yourself, the prospect of future instruments looks promising. Picture wearable instruments like bracelets embedded with sensors and hybrid instruments that seamlessly blend digital and acoustic elements. In an AI-dominated era, what better way to appreciate technological advancements than through music? 

Innovations to look out for

As streaming continues to dominate the musical landscape, expect to see even more tailored-fit experiences in the years to come. Much of people’s lives are accompanied by a soundtrack, whether at work, home or play—and it’s not going anywhere. Around 71% of people say music is essential to their mental wellness, and 78% say it helps them relax and cope with stress. Given that, what we can expect is a total blast on hyper-personalisation.

As streaming platforms use artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve recommendations, you can expect more innovations like Spotify’s AI DJ and Daylist in the coming years. Soon enough, systems can analyse beyond your streaming activities, current weather, time of the day and location. 

It’s a bit frightening knowing that AI can soon predict your desires long before you identify the need for it. That future is not impossible, given the rapid advances of AI. One thing’s for sure, though—personalised innovations will quickly rise as CD sales and digital downloads slowly go extinct. 

With the rise of VR and AR technologies, music streaming will become a catalyst for more innovative live music experiences—exclusive live streaming of concerts, DJ sets and virtual series are possibilities of the future. Considering the future 6G, you can look forward to virtual visual streaming—imagine having your favourite artist performing in front of you as their only audience. It’s like having an intimate concert in the comfort of your own home. 

With music playing 24/7, it’s easy to get tired of the same tunes. Talking about music is more than finding new songs to listen to—it’s a way for people to connect. That being said, you can expect to see the emergence of social music streaming, where users can follow friends’ listening activities, share playlists and collaborate on music creation. 

How AI plays in the scene

Future music consumption tools would likely involve a mix of AI-generated and human-created instrumentals, songs and soundscapes. When the song “Heart on My Sleeve,” featuring Drake and the Weeknd’s AI-generated vocals dropped, it immediately went viral. The track was posted on TikTok and streaming services, which racked up 600,000 Spotify streams and 15 million TikTok views before it was removed from all platforms due to copyright violation claims. Despite the controversy, people love it, even going as far as telling AI is terrible, but not until this song dropped.

While some artists feel threatened by AI, others see it as an opportunity to make passive income from other creators producing songs that use their voices. Grimes is the living embodiment of this concept—she released Elf.tech, a platform that allows people to create new songs using her voice. 

If you’ve ever created YouTube videos, you know the struggle of finding royalty-free music. Enter Beatoven and Boomy—platforms that let you generate music and royalty-free tracks with the help of AI. These tools will let you create music based on your chosen genre, energy level and mood. What a way to be your own DJ. 

What the future holds

Looking back on the past, present and future of music consumption, one thing is certain—streaming will remain an unstoppable force. What’s exciting about the future is how people listen to music and the opportunities for music creation as home studios become more popular. 

Whatever the future holds, remember that consuming music is more than just hitting that play button. It’s also about connecting people. 

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This year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (or, you know, Coachella 2024) has been exceptionally remarkable, with headliners such as the eclectic Tyler, the Creator as well as powerhouse performers from K-pop group ATEEZ to J Balvin. Iconic ska band No Doubt also made their return to the stage after a decade-long hiatus.

Besides the notable lineup, Coachella is the occasion for festival dressing, and this year's did not disappoint. As arguably the most popular music festival in the world, Coachella drew a huge number of attendees over the past two weekends, with many dressed in their most eye-catching fits. The headliners and performers were put on outfits that matched the intensity of their setlist while celebrity attendees made sure they stood out in the sea of the Coachella-loving crowd.

Suits aren't commonplace at Coachella—this is not an award show red carpet—but folks like Jon Batiste switched it up with show-stopping tailoring. Everyone tend to be a bit more experimental in the way they dress. From midriff-baring top to streetwear-inspired looks, it was quite a spectacle to behold. In the gallery below, we take a closer look at some of the best-dressed men seen during the two weekends.

Tyler, the Creator. (GETTY IMAGES)
Barry Keoghan. (GETTY IMAGES)
Lil Uzi Vert. (GETTY IMAGES)
Lil Uzi Vert. (GETTY IMAGES)
Kevin Abstract and Lil Nas X. (GETTY IMAGES)
Peso Pluma. (GETTY IMAGES)
Landon Barker. (GETTY IMAGES)
Tyler, the Creator. (GETTY IMAGES)
Kim Woosung of The Rose. (GETTY IMAGES)
Jaehyeong of The Rose. (GETTY IMAGES)
Lil Yachty. (GETTY IMAGES)
Saint Levant. (GETTY IMAGES)
Kim Woosung of The Rose. (GETTY IMAGES)
Lil Yachty. (GETTY IMAGES)
Hajoon of The Rose. (GETTY IMAGES)
Dojoon of The Rose. (GETTY IMAGES)
Jon Batiste. (GETTY IMAGES)

Annie Clark, who records under the name St. Vincent, is one of pop’s originals.

The missing link between Kate Bush and Jimi Hendrix, she is noted for her mezzo-soprano voice and her virtuoso musicianship.

A multi-instrumentalist of Prince-like ambition, Rolling Stone magazine once named her the 26th Greatest Guitarist of All Time.

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Clark began her career as a member of sprawling Noughties’ oddities The Polyphonic Spree, before joining Sufjan Stevens’ touring band.

She released her first solo album, the excellently-titled Marry Me, to critical acclaim in 2007, and has not stopped since.

Each release is significant both for its handbrake-turn in music styles and for Clark’s accompanying new visual direction, sometimes provocative, sometimes demure, but always fascinating.

She has won shelves-full of awards, including a trio of Grammys – most recently for her 2021 album, the 1970s-influenced Daddy’s Home. If all that sounds a bit like hard work, she also knows how to write a hit.

St. Vincent’s seventh album All Born Screaming is a big, noisy, crunchy record, heavy on fat 1980s synthesisers and a growling industrial menace that has already seen it compared to Nine Inch Nails.

We met in a central London hotel to discuss it recently. As celebrity cliché dictates, Clark is a big presence on stage but tiny in real life.

Dressed exclusively in black and red she was dwarfed by a suite-sized sofa as she waxed lyrical about her love for a UK restaurant that doesn’t get enough love from visiting global superstars: Pret A Manger. (Formidable porridge, apparently.)

Impossible to credit with being 41-years-old, Clark chose her words with care, weighing up each question before answering.


Is it weird doing interviews when you’ve finished a record? A succession of complete strangers meeting you for 30 minutes to tell you their opinion on something you’ve made

I don’t mind. I feel like anything that helps bring this little cow to market is okay. [Laughs] I’m bringing my prize pig to market.

And what a pig it is

Some pig! I mean, anything that helps get this music that I love and care about out there….

Somehow, this is your seventh album. They all sound very different. When does a collection of songs start to become ‘an album’?

Making albums to me is sort of like polishing perfect little puzzle pieces. Toiling away on these intricate little puzzle pieces. But you don’t know what the big picture they make is. Until the end. Everything on this record was, like, ‘Does every song go deep enough? Does every song take a big enough swing?’

I can hear echoes of Talk Talk, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie…

Oh, I love all those things!

but then the press release mentions Steve Albini and Nine Inch Nails. Who’s right?

Everyone’s right. You’re right, too! I love all those people. Yeah. But it’s missing The Specials.

Two-tone ‘done wrong’ on the track ‘So Many Planets’, apparently

Two-tone done wrong, yeah.

Is there a more satisfactory way to talk about new music than comparing it to old music? That Elvis Costello quote: ‘Writing about music is like dancing about architecture – it’s a really stupid thing to do’

To me, this music is black and white and all the colours in a fire. That’s the best way I can think to describe it. And ‘This is the sound of the inside of my head’.

All Born Screaming is the sound of the inside of your head?

Like, ‘Let’s just get into it’, you know? Like, life is impossible. But we get to live it. We’re all born screaming. If you’re screaming when you’re born, that’s a great sign because that means you’re alive. It’s miraculous! The baby’s alive. But we’re all born in protest in some way. It’s just… heaven and hell. And everything in between.

Where does the title come from?

Actually, that line has been with me since I was 22. I’ve been trying to write a song with that in mind since I was 22. [Archly] So, you know, three years ago.

Does it still mean what it meant to you when you were 22?

I don’t know. I think it was always, like, [what-are-ya-gonna-do? voice] ‘Well, we’re all born screaming!’ It’s just: ‘Here we are’.

Haven’t you described this as your ‘least funnest’ record?

No! I think it’s so fun. Or, at least, funny. I meant: it’s not ‘winky’. You know I spent a few records, for sure, dissecting the idea of persona. And dissecting the idea of a ‘pop idol’ and using certain kinds of iconography. In this case there’s not a persona. I’m not really playing with the idea of persona. This is just what the sound of my head sounds like.

What’s ‘the look’ going to be for this one?

Black and white and all the colours of the fire.

Okay! You’ve had some good dressing up moments in the past. Daddy’s Home came with a dishevelled 1970s nightlife vibe

That was so great. It was exactly what I need to do at the time.

Is your job fun?

Which part?

The whole thing

Oh, my God. Playing music for people? Best job in the world. I mean, it’s so miraculous and it’s so rare that anybody gets to make a living doing the thing that they love the most. It’s crazy. I’m so lucky. I’m so fucking lucky.

Alex Da Corte

You’ve also said you want to ‘fuck people up’ with this record. What have we done?

Don’t you sometimes go to a show and you just want to be pummelled? Like, you just want to be thrashed. If artists are a weather vane for culture, or, like, a psychic mirror to what’s happening in our collective unconscious [then right now everything feels] violent, chaotic. And the great thing about music is that, even in the process of making this music, it was using modular synths, which are chaos machines, to create a little bit of release and transcendence. But I just want to be pummelled. I want to hear something that makes me want to go ‘Fuck!’ That’s what I want.

Does that mean you want to shake people out of their complacency?

I mean – any reaction people have to this is totally fine by me. Because that’s for them. And I don’t prescribe to [the idea of wanting] to know what that reaction will be. But for me making it was raw. I just wanted to make something that to me felt dangerous.

There are some fantastic jarring sounds. What’s your favourite noise on this album?

I love noise. Like [the sound of] a snare or something – [makes snare sound ] pchzch! pchzsch! – so there’s some of those. Like, in ‘Broken Man’. The snare in ‘Broken Man’ makes me happy. There’s Two-Tone dub-gone-wrong, running Josh Freese’s [Devo/ Foo Fighters drummer] drums through a Hawk Japanese tape machine [vintage reel-to-reel contraption], playing with the speed of that, so it sounds like absolutely melted. Another of my favourite sounds on the record is Cate LeBon playing the baseline in ‘The Power’s Out’ on an A2 fretless [bass guitar noted for its melodic sound], Cate’s playing it left-handed and my engineer is holding the e-bow. [imitates sound] Raow! Raow! Raow! Raow! And it’s ugly. It’s ugly in something that is otherwise quite sonically beautiful. I would say another of my favourite moments in the record is the way the chorus in ‘Hell Is Near’ just sort of blooms…

You’re a bit of a musical gear-head, right?

I’ve got a lot of gear. But I also went to my friend Justin Meldal-Johnsen [Beck, Nine Inch Nails, Air], who played bass on the record, and he had all the synths. So I would go over to his. He’s got quite an impressive collection. I’ve got a solid collection. Maybe 20 drum machines. And synths… a bunch of them.

Do those jarring sounds originate from, for want of a better expression, ‘mucking about’?

Most of the music-making was me going in, syncing up all the drum machines, syncing up the modulars [synthesisers] and then running them through my board and just making 8am dance parties for myself, on a little bit of mushrooms. Just entertaining myself, for hours and hours.

That’s quite a strong start to the day

Yeah! But you gotta do what you gotta do.

Dave Grohl plays drums on some of the songs. You can tell

Yeah, he was the most fun. I sent him the songs and he comes over to my studio and he drinks a bunch of coffee, he smokes Parliments and he tells the best stories and we have a laugh. We trade war stories. And then he’s, like, [brightly] ‘Alright’. And then he goes in and he plays the song perfectly. Every hit. Every turnaround. He just nails it.

This is the first album you’ve produced yourself

I mean, I’ve co-produced everything that I’ve done. But it’s a lot longer of a process because you just don’t have somebody going ‘Yeah, alright, that was good’. [ie: ‘We got it now. Let’s move on’.] But I think I knew on this record that sonically there were places that I wanted to go that I just had to do alone.

Would another producer have stopped you going there?

No. That’s never the kind of producer I’ve worked with. It’s more like there’s a different energy to a room when you’re with someone. And that’s the beauty of it. I love collaboration. There’s just a different energy to the workflow, to the amount of – I sang some of these songs 100 times to get any ounce of falseness out of it, to make it exactly what was happening here in my chest. But that’s not something I would ever put another person through. That’s sadistic at a certain point. I’m fine being masochistic. But I’m not a sadist!

How much of making a record is inspiration, and how much is perspiration?

It’s never a straight line, is it? You just go in there until you know that if you spent five more minutes on it, you’d make it worse. It’s just knowing the point of diminishing returns.

The other thing that’s mentioned in the press release is the influence of your first band, The Skull Fuckers

That was a noise band I played in, in college. We were very inspired by [challenging US noise/ ‘math rock’ band] Polvo.

I found a photo of The Skull Fuckers on Reddit. You don’t look quite as intimidating as the name suggests. You’re wearing a brown felt hat and a scarf, playing acoustic guitar, sat on a chair

I know! I remember that. Yeah, that’s really unfortunate.

Was that not representative of The Skull Fuckers?

No. For some reason we played a gig when the drummer couldn’t come. And we were, like, ‘Okay, I guess we could still do a noisy set with the three of us’. The early 2000s were not a great time for fashion.

When we spoke in 2021, I asked you how we should best listen to Daddy’s Home. You said ‘Put it on a turntable. Pour yourself a glass of tequila or bourbon and smoke a joint. That’s the vibe’. How should we listen to All Born Screaming?

Like, on what drugs?

Just ‘How should we listen to it’?

Listen to it loud! Listen to it loud, wherever you listen to it.

So would you advise drugs, too?

You know, I think the end of ‘All Born Screaming’ [a wild instrumental section, seeing out a seven-minute song] – I think that’s where the ecstasy is peaking. Before any gurning starts.

For the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and for other tribute performances, you have variously stood in for Kurt Cobain, Kate Bush, David Bowie and Prince. Is there anyone you can’t do?

You’ve just named four of them.

That is some list

That’s wild. I don’t know… they asked me.

What’s your reaction when they ask?

Usually terror. And then I cycle through that and then just practise a lot.

I rewatched your performance of ‘Lithium’, with the surviving members of Nirvana, for their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, last night. It’s astonishing. What was going through your head on stage?

It’s genuinely indescribable. I mean, that’s the first music I heard that was like ‘This is mine. This isn’t something my parents played me. This is mine. This speaks to some resonating frequency in me and some experience that I’m gonna have’. It was like a premonition of a whole life when you heard that music.

Presumably people now have a similar reaction to the music you make

It blows me away. Especially when young artists come up, and they’re, like, ‘Your art has helped me making more art’. That’s the generative spirit. That’s the multitudes.

What do you look for in a good stage outfit?

I need to be able to jump into the crowd if I want to. And I also need to be able to be as active as possible in my footwear. So I require ankle support. So I can jump and move and run around. If it’s constricting, it’s because I’m constricting myself intentionally. For [2017 album] Masseduction I was in latex. I was making myself as uncomfortable as possible because it would give me something to fight against in a performance, you know? Daddy’s Home was a lot more comfortable. Easy-breezy. Got to move those hips. And this [album] I just need to be as kinetic as possible.

You did a MasterClass, one of those multipart online tutorial guides. Yours was on ‘Creativity And Songwriting’. Did people find it useful?

I don’t think I gave them any practical theory. Except to say ‘Try to get out of your own way. Let yourself throw it at the wall and then judge it, or be critical of it, later’. You can’t be critical of it as it’s coming out. Or else it just won’t come out. I hope that was helpful. But I don’t think I was, like, ‘Well, here’s how to write the perfect bridge!’ I wouldn’t necessarily know how to do that.

Let’s talk about your contribution to the Minions: The Rise of Gru soundtrack

Lipps Inc. ‘Funky Town’. Lipps with two ‘p’s. I love that song! It changes keys. It’s so weird. This was before the pandemic. I was working on Daddy’s Home. And [pop music’s current favourite producer] Jack Antonoff was working on the Minions soundtrack. And he just said ‘Okay, you want to do something?’ And I said ‘Can I do ‘Funky Town?’’

Another highlight of your CV: you co-wrote ‘Cruel Summer’ with Taylor Swift. It went to Number One this year, four years after being released

I mean, it’s very cool and it’s very indicative of the way people consume music now. Like, it wasn’t a single from that record [the album, Lover]. The fans just decided it was a hit – four records later. It’s crazy. I’ve never experienced anything like it, first-hand. But also I’ve never actually seen it happen before [ever] – except maybe with ‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)’ when it was in Stranger Things [Kate Bush’s 1985 song, finding wild new popularity on the back of a pivotal role in the Netflix series]. The fans just decided it was a hit.

Hurray for the fans

Yeah, hurray for the fans.

Where does Taylor Swift’s insane work ethic come from?

You’ll have to ask Taylor Swift.

Taylor can’t come to the phone right now

I think she’s just tapped like that. She’s just built for it.

Are you planning to tour this record?

Yeah, of course.

Can you tell us more?

I think it will be a pummelling. A pummelling, plus making sure the beat don’t stop. Like with Daddy’s Home where I took catalogue material and reinvented it in [a new] style with that band. I’ll do similar. With shows your job is to surprise, shock, delight, console, surprise, shock, delight, console, disgust, console. Not necessarily in that order. So sometimes you need to give people a kick in the teeth. And sometimes you need to tell people that everything is going to be okay. And then sometimes you need to dance together in ecstasy. And that’s what I imagine the show will be.

Who’s missing from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

Let’s go Throbbing Gristle.

What do you like about ‘noise bands’?

The nerdier answer is that I like that there were these [music] scenes that existed because people lived in a place and a time and everyone was in communication with one another and people were cross-pollinating in a very organic way. I mean, that’s why you have Two-Tone, right? The UN couldn’t have made a better cultural collaboration. And I like that. Because it’s genuinely the thing that music does which is to bring people together and give people a voice. It’s also fucked-off people just expressing the violence and the chaos of the wolrd. And it’s ugly.

Peter Gabriel. Lipps Inc. Taylor Swift. Throbbing Gristle. Polvo. Is there any sort of music you don’t like?

Coffee shop singer-songwriters aren't for me. You know – [sound of an acoustic guitar being strummed] - ding-ding-ding-ding-ding. I don’t begrudge anyone their taste. But that’s not for me.

All Born Screaming is out on 26 April

Originally published on Esquire UK

Paul Slattery / Camera Press

It’s late January, 1994. Alerted by a friend, I go to see a new Manchester group, Oasis, at The Water Rats near King’s Cross in London. There’s a buzz: the smallish venue is packed, which makes it difficult to see what is happening on the low stage. A couple of numbers in, I get it: they’re good. The four musicians, dressed in scally/baggy/sportswear, erect an overdriven wall of sound, while the vocalist—wearing what looks like a Marks & Spencer’s pullover—commands the crowd with a definite attitude.

The frontman’s swaggering demeanour suggests confrontation but, at the same time, he embodies a curious precision: I’m going to stand just here, place the microphone just so, and sing the lyrics exactly this way. He elongates various vowels and phrases in an almost exact reproduction of John Lennon’s psychedelic sneer on “Rain”, a deal sealed by the group’s rather convincing cover of “I Am the Walrus” at the end of the set. They make it their own, and I’m impressed.

This isn’t Oasis’s first London show, but it’s a kind of showcase: full of journalists and fans, the curious and the competitive. The band carry it off with what many people will, soon enough, recognise as their customary blithe insouciance. On the way out, I’m accosted by an EMI press officer: why didn’t I go see Blur rather than this lot, she demands; I reply that if I wanted to go to see Blur then I would, and I don’t. Seems like unprofessional behaviour, but the needle is already there.

Nineteen-ninety-four was a good year for music. The dominant sound that I heard emanating from cars, shops, pubs and clubs in London was dance music and its myriad derivatives: the seemingly infinite and proliferating varieties of house, techno, rap, hardcore. I absolutely loved the multiple times of jungle—hyper-speed breakbeats jamming up against half-speed reggae bass—and heard it at its best at that summer's Notting Hill Carnival, where the record of the year—Shy FX’s Sound of the Beast—sampled the Carnival song of 1976, Junior Murvin’s “Police and Thieves”.

At the beginning of 1994, the UK charts were the usual mix of contemporary dance music (Chaka Demus & Pliers’ great Latin/ragga cover of “Twist and Shout”), novelties (Doop), and boy-band pop (Take That). There wasn’t much sense of the rock style of the moment—grunge—and the great UK hope, Suede, were temporarily stalled after a banner year in 1993. There was a pre-echo of the future in February’s number one, “Things Can Only Get Better” by D:Ream, which would have an afterlife that no one could have predicted.

Britain was living under the 15th year of four consecutive Tory governments and, by the beginning of 1994, the party and the public were definitely getting fed up with each other. The week before Oasis played The Water Rats, a Mori poll had the Labour Party at 48 per cent, 20 points ahead of John Major’s government that, despite improving economic data, was beset by sleaze, misguided “back to basics” rhetoric and an irreversible momentum of decline. There was a sense of light at the end of a long tunnel.

Oasis were determinedly a part of this from the beginning. In the middle of 1993, they had produced a few copies of a demo cassette with an artwork that depicted the Union Jack going down a plughole. Asked about the image, Liam Gallagher replied that, “It’s the greatest flag in the world, and it’s going down the shitter. We’re here to do something about it.” Along with their coevals and competitors Blur, the group would be involved in nothing less than an attempt at redefining Britishness—one that would gain political impetus as the year went on.

There was a definite British-rock resurgence at the start of the year. In February, the female-fronted Elastica went top 20 with their stuttering, sarcastic “Line Up”, followed shortly afterwards by Suede’s magnum opus “Stay Together”, which went top three. In March, Blur released “Girls & Boys”, the first and best single from Parklife, their next album, which, aided by a launch at Walthamstow dog track, went top five. In early May, Parklife entered the charts on its way to number one and an ultimate chart run of 106 weeks.

By that time, Oasis were making waves. An incident that February, when every member of Oasis except Noel Gallagher was arrested after a brawl on a ferry to Amsterdam, made for amused coverage from the music press. In late April, John Harris began his agenda-setting NME article with the following set piece: “Liam Gallagher is poised above his elder brother, pressing his hand into Noel’s face, and occasionally barking frantic questions, like the one about whether or not he fancies being pushed through the window. ‘Let’s f—ing go then, you DICK!’ says Liam. ‘Let’s have a f—ing FIGHT.’”

Bad boys; battling brothers—rock archetypes all. In their early days, Oasis were both reassuringly familiar—mashing up rock history from the 1960s to the 80s: The Beatles, The Sex Pistols, The Stone Roses—and strangely adapted to the times. Their first generally available single, “Supersonic”, pushed baggy tropes onto apparently random lyrics that chimed with post-rave hedonism as well as offering affirmative advice: “You need to be yourself/You can’t be no one else”.

“Supersonic” was released within a few days of a shattering event: Kurt Cobain’s suicide, on 5 April. Nirvana had long seemed poised, like Joy Division, between the light and the dark, and the darkness had won. The news cast a black pall, marking the end of grunge and a definite change in pop culture: after the shock and sadness, people wanted something different, if not uplifting and joyful—which was precisely what Oasis were constructed to provide.

Noel Gallagher already had lots of songs, including one called “Live Forever”. As he recalled in 2006, “It was the tune that changed everything. It was written in the middle of grunge… Nirvana had a tune called ‘I Hate Myself and I Want to Die’ and I thought, ‘that’s fucking rubbish’. Kids don’t need to hear that nonsense. We had fuck all, and I still thought getting up in the morning was the greatest thing ever, ’cos you didn’t know where you’d end up that night. And we didn’t have a pot to piss in but it was fucking great.”

Early that summer, I went to see Oasis for the second time, at Manchester’s Academy 3, the university’s students’ union. “Supersonic” had gone to number 31, and the group had a second single, “Shakermaker”, which opened the show. The reasonably sized audience were interested, but not manic. Seeing the five clearly for the first time, I turned to their manager Marcus Russell and told him that I understood: it was the brothers, that was it. Russell protested that, no, they were a tight unit, but time would prove otherwise.

“Shakermaker” continued the slightly lightweight feel of Oasis’s trajectory so far, with burbling lyrics, taken from a Trebor Mints commercial, about Mr Soft, and a tune distinctly reminiscent of The New Seekers’ “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”. Noel Gallagher rationalised the lift that August: “The Beatles, the greatest band in history, write ‘Hey Jude’, and it’s a cheap-shot melody. Our singles—‘Supersonic’, ‘Shakermaker’—are cheap-shot melodies. Never be afraid of the obvious, because it’s all been done before.”

The CD single of “Shakermaker” contained three extra tracks, one of which was a live version of their first released masterpiece, “Bring It On Down”: “Good evening Great Britain! Hello,” Liam Gallagher intones over a fast, tribal beat, while the lyrics addressed contemporary realities: “What was that sound ringing around your brain?/You’re here on your own who you gonna find to blame?/You’re the outcast, you’re the underclass/But you don’t care, because you’re living fast”. It was this song that made me realise that Oasis had intention.

Shakermaker: Noel Gallagher performing with Oasis at the Astoria, London, on 19 August 1994 / Getty Images

“It was a tribute to The Stooges, MC5 and punk rock,” Noel Gallagher remembered 20 years later. “We smashed it when we used to play it live. For my part, all those songs that have a political undercurrent are real because I was just writing from the heart. At that point I was unemployed, in rented accommodation, trying to make it in the world, living from one week to the next, not knowing if you’re gonna have enough money for a pizza. You are in a political situation even if you don’t realise it, ’cos that is the battleground, that is the essence of politics: accommodation, food and trying to make a living.”

“Shakermaker” occasioned Oasis’s first performance on Top of the Pops, where they played to an enthusiastic crowd in front of the Union Jack design from their first demo tape. Coming after a successful appearance at that year’s Glastonbury, it propelled the single up to their highest chart position thus far, number 11. Along with Blur—who had headlined the NME stage—Oasis seemed to embody the new pop mood: British, guitar-led, hedonistic, upbeat and laddish.

Class was a strong element. The Gallagher brothers were from Burnage, a district in South Manchester whose suburban appearance masked deep poverty. As shaped by Noel, Oasis were defiantly Northern and had a working-class work ethic: as he told me at the end of the year, “We’d always get in a van and go anywhere to play a gig, whereas your middle-class groups will say, ‘I’ve got college in the morning.’ We just say, ‘Fuck it, we wanna play.’ I like working hard.”

They were committed to the classic, mainstream idea of a good time: cigarettes, alcohol and the white lines. “I think our music is quite universal,” Noel Gallagher said in 1995. “I wouldn’t consider myself a great lyricist. I’m not a poet or anything. I write like an average person would write. ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ means the same to some kid in Brooklyn as it would to someone from Belfast. Go out, get drunk and have a good time. That means the same in any language.”

The group’s early publicity played up the hedonistic-lad aspect: the drugs, the drinking, the fights, the football. They appeared in the third issue of a new magazine aimed at young men: Loaded. The influence of this lad bible would prove baleful but, like the antics of Oasis themselves, it had seemed fresh and light-hearted. Blur attempted to tap into this mood with Damon Albarn’s Sergio Tacchini sportswear and support of Chelsea Football Club—a pose that was successful in the short term but ultimately unconvincing.

What went unnoticed in all the laddish cosplay and sibling rivalry was Oasis’s optimism. As Noel Gallagher said that year, “I know how shit it was living in Burnage, so I don’t have to write about it. You want to write about how great life could be if only you could pluck up the courage to ask that girl out, or if only you could fly.” The group’s third single, “Live Forever”, made this explicit, as Liam sang: “Maybe you’re the same as me/We see things they’ll never see/You and I are gonna live forever”. It was their first top 10.

This poptimism found its parallel in party politics. After the sudden, shocking death of John Smith in April, Tony Blair was elected Labour leader in July. At 41, he was young enough to have been a pop fan—even to the extent of singing with a rock band at university—and, unlike the Tories, understood the importance of British music to the country’s economy and its youth. In early August, the first poll since he became leader had Labour at 56 per cent, a 33-point lead over the Conservatives.

At the end of that month, two days before I saw them for the third time in the decidedly unglamorous surroundings of The Tivoli in Buckley, North Wales, Oasis’s first album was released. With 11 tracks, four of which had been or would be singles, Definitely Maybe was a greatest hits before its time. As well as the archetypal wish fulfilment of rousing opener “Rock’n’ Roll Star”, there was another statement of Oasis ideology in “Digsy’s Dinner”: “These could be the best days of our lives”.

With a power belying its troubled gestation—the finished album was the third attempt—Definitely Maybe included rerecordings of the relentless “Columbia”, betraying its origin as a house-inspired jam, and “Bring It On Down”, which attained a new level of ferocity. As John Harris wrote in his definitive history of the period, The Last Party, “Some of their best songs—'Columbia’, ‘Bring It On Down’, ‘Supersonic’—pulsed with a kinetic sense of confrontation as if, despite the absence of a real agenda, the Gallaghers could not help but vent some deep-seated rage.”

On 4 September 1994, Definitely Maybe entered the UK album chart at number one, beating The 3 Tenors in Concert and End of Part One: Their Greatest Hits by Wet Wet Wet, the Scottish group whose version of The Troggs’ “Love Is All Around” lodged at number one for 15 weeks that summer. Two weeks later, Oasis left for their first US tour—a fraught, drug-sodden affair that resulted in Noel Gallagher going AWOL for over two weeks, leaving a question mark over the group’s future.

In the middle of the turmoil, Oasis released their fourth single, “Cigarettes & Alcohol”, featuring the most concise of their live-for-the-day lyrics: “You could wait for a lifetime/To spend your days in the sunshine/You might as well do the white line.” It went to number seven in the UK charts, no doubt boosted by the feral cover of “I Am the Walrus” included in the package. “The Beatles, to us, were the be-all, end-all,” Noel later recalled. “Where it starts and where it finishes. Everything we do is inspired by The Beatles.”

Oasis recording at Monnow Valley studios in Wales, photographed by Michael Spencer Jones, who also shot the cover of their debut “Definitely Maybe” / Michael Spencer Jones

The day before the release of “Cigarettes & Alcohol”, there was a huge march in London protesting against the Criminal Justice Bill, introduced by the then Home Secretary Michael Howard, principally to prevent illegal raves and to clamp down on the traveller festival circuit, the popularity of which had been highlighted by the huge Castlemorton Common Festival of 1992. This presented as a direct attack on rave music—famously, and rather loosely in legal terms, defined as “repetitive beats”.

If the Tories wanted to alienate a large section of the young, they couldn’t have planned it better. There had already been two demonstrations against the bill, in May and July, but the third—held on 9 October—attracted a crowd of 20,000 to 30,000 (according to the police; the organisers put it at 100,000). When protestors tried to bring sound systems into Hyde Park, there was a confrontation, and the day ended in a full-scale riot, with tear gas, charging police horses and random beatings. That weekend, Tony Blair addressed the Labour Party conference.

Bullish after Labour’s success in May’s council elections, his speech set out a programme that included investment in public services, an accommodation with market forces and enthusiasm for “the information revolution”. He concluded: “The next election will offer us the chance to change our country, not just to promise change, but to achieve it—the historic goal of another Labour government. Our party: New Labour. Our mission: New Britain. New Labour. New Britain.” The hall rose in a standing ovation.

Nineteen-ninety-four was the year of two novel coinages. Blair’s speech was peppered with the word “new”, an attractive concept after years of Conservative stasis. New Labour soon entered the political lexicon, along with another term that was invented to mark the upsurge of popular British rock groups: Blur, Elastica, Oasis—and the others in their wake, most notably Sheffield’s Pulp, whose The Sisters EP had made the top 20 in summer 1994. Suddenly the time seemed right for a short, sharp style that harked back to mod and punk, while still remaining contemporary.

The idea had begun with the famous April 1993 Select magazine front cover, which featured Suede with the sub-head: “Yanks Go Home! St Etienne, Denim, Pulp, The Auteurs and the Battle for Britain.” In May 1994, The Face coined the term Brit Pop, which by the autumn had turned into its more familiar form: as The Guardian wrote in September 1994, “We are in the middle of a Britpop renaissance.” As a term it was useful, but exclusive: Britpop was more like Eng-rock, omitting any Afro-Caribbean, Anglo-Asian or Afro-American influences.

Nevertheless, New Labour and Britpop were joined in time and place, and soon the connection would become more definite. Six days after the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act became law, Noel Gallagher met Tony Blair at the Q Awards on 9 November: the meeting was brief but affirmative, with the rock star apparently exhorting the politician to “fucking do it for us, man”. Blair’s speech at the event celebrated the British music industry and the importance of rock’n’roll to the British “way of life”.

The next month, I went to see Oasis for the fourth time, at Manchester’s Academy 1, a large venue packed with an enthusiastic crowd. The set included most of the first album, a few B-sides and a three-song acoustic feature by Noel Gallagher. I liked the punky thrash of tunes like “Bring It On Down”, but I noticed that Oasis weren’t a moshpit group: the crowd would leap up and down for the first 20 seconds of a song and then subside into the more mid-paced tempos. That didn’t denote a lack of enthusiasm, but a different way of responding.

The previous day, I’d travelled to the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool to interview Noel Gallagher for The Guardian. I was spending a lot of time in the North West then, reconnecting with my father’s Irish roots. Oasis seemed to me to be in a direct line of Anglo/Irish revenge, where “Bring It On Down” sat next to The Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen”, Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Dance Stance”, The Smiths’ “The Queen Is Dead”, and “I Am the Walrus”. I asked Noel about his Irish background:

“Mam was born in Mayo, and Dad was born in Meath, which is just outside Dublin. They would have come over in the early 1950s, looking for work, and they met in a place called the Carousel, which was an Irish club, which was part of the National 2. My dad was a DJ, plays country and western. It makes a difference to yourself that you have an Irish background, I think it makes you more passionate about music. Obviously, you’re always brought up Catholic and you always end up denouncing that.”

He talked about his lyrics: “I always say the whole song doesn’t really mean anything, but if you ask about a certain line, I could talk for days about what it means. Then you try and make them all rhyme and it becomes a song and has a title and has to be about something. But they’re just sentences: ‘All I want to do is live by the sea…’ Lyricists can be a bit too clever for their own good; the audience has to be part of it, or I don’t think it’s any fucking fun. I hate that division that says: “We’re the band, you’re the audience.” I’d rather involve the audience in what we do.”


I got the impression of a serious musician who was sure of his own talent and his achievements: “I’m in for the rest of my life now,” he told me. “Even if I don’t have the band, or never write another song, I can always pick up an acoustic guitar and walk out in front of 2000 people and sing ‘Live Forever’—not even bother singing it, ’cos everyone else sang it last night. I just sat there and played it. I’ll always be able to do that, and so I’ve earned it, writing that song.”

On 18 December, Oasis released their fifth single of 1994, a six-minute, string-laden epic called “Whatever”, full of Christmas communality and hints of freedom. On the CD version, there were the customary good-value extra songs, including the tender “Half the World Away”—written by Noel on the US tour—and the anthemic “(It’s Good) To Be Free”, a song about pressure and release that ended with an Irish jig. That line—“All I want to do is live by the sea”—stuck in my mind. Within a few years, that would be my life.

The year ended with Tony Blair triumphant as the latest Mori polls showed Labour support at 61 per cent, nearly 40 points ahead of the Conservatives. In the charts for 25 to 31 December, “Whatever” entered at number three, bested only by Mariah Carey and East 17. In the last album chart of the year, Blur were at 15 with Parklife after 35 weeks, while Definitely Maybe was on the rise again at number 27 after 17 weeks. The Beatles were back, with the Live at the BBC compilation of 1960s radio shows at number six.

It was the 1960s redux: competitive, ambitious pop groups being courted by an ambitious, media-savvy Labour politician. At the March 1995 Brit awards, Oasis won British Breakthrough Act, while Blur swept the board with Best Group, Best Album, Best Single and Best Video. That same month, Damon Albarn—who had registered his intention to vote Labour the previous December—spoke to Tony Blair at a meeting arranged by Darren Kalynuk of deputy leader John Prescott’s office, which reaffirmed the link between new pop and new politics.

Early the next month, the Labour Party contested their first UK local elections with Tony Blair as leader. The results were shattering for the Conservatives, who lost over 2,000 councillors. Labour received 48 per cent of the vote, a record high for the party. I remember the feeling of euphoria and hope at the results: at last, it seemed that the 16-year Tory nightmare might be coming to an end. It was as though a door had opened in a dusty, dark room.

On 24 April, Oasis released their first single of 1995, “Some Might Say”, an uplifting tune with a soaring, surging chorus—Liam at his best—and lyrics that, again, cemented the group’s connection with their audience: “Some might say you get what you’ve been given/If you don’t get yours I won’t get mine as well”. Backed by the acoustic “Talk Tonight” and the tender “Acquiesce”, “Some Might Say” went straight into the charts at number one in early May. Oasis had caught the mood and the time, and it was their first zenith.

Thirty years later, it’s easy to remember the decadence and demise of Oasis, the disaster of lad culture, the failure of Labour to capitalise on the 1997 election landslide, the creeping march of populism. But in 1994, both politics and pop were moving in the same direction, towards a more hopeful and inclusive Britain. For me, that move was soundtracked by Oasis songs: “Bring It On Down”, “Columbia”, “(It’s Good) To Be Free”. They gave me hope in a personally very difficult year, and they were the last rock group ever to have that effect on my life.

Originally published on Esquire UK

Today’s the day. After months of anticipation, Beyoncé has finally released Cowboy Carter, the country-inspired follow-up to Renaissance. Cowboy Carter is the second entry in a planned trilogy of albums—though the artist just revealed that it was meant to be Act I. “I was initially going to put Cowboy Carter out first,” said Beyoncé in a press statement, “but with the pandemic, there was too much heaviness in the world. We wanted to dance. But I had to trust God’s timing.”

Like its predecessor, Cowboy Carter features plenty of stellar collaborators. First up are budding country stars Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, and Tiera Kennedy, who appear on a cover of the Beatles’ “Blackbird.” In the Cowboy Carter version, Beyoncé trades the Beatles’ hum for a smoky, bluesy melody. Later on, her youngest daughter, Rumi, gets a brief cameo to request “the lullaby.” Cue “Protector,” Beyoncé’s touching ode to motherhood.

Then country legend Willie Nelson makes an appearance in a radio-show-inspired interlude. “Welcome to ‘The Smoke Hour’ on KNTRY Radio Texas,” he says. “You know my name, no need to know yours / Now, for this next tune, I want y’all to sit back, inhale / And go to the good place your mind likes to wander off to / And if you don’t wanna go, go find yourself a jukebox.” Nelson’s message is followed by the charts-topping single “Texas Hold ’Em,”

Then, just when you think Cowboy Carter can’t get any better, Dolly Parton (!) shows up. “Hey, Ms. Honeybee, it’s Dolly P,” she says. “You know that hussy with the good hair you sing about? Reminded me of someone I knew back when / Except she has flamin’ locks of auburn hair.” With Dolly’s stamp of approval, Beyoncé delivers a Sasha Fierce-coded cover of “Jolene.”

Later on, in “Spaghetti,” Beyoncé loops in Black country star Linda Martell to talk about the concept of legacies, before breaking into a rap duet with Shaboozey to remind us of their star power. (As if we could forget.) Afterwards, Nelson returns to announce “Smoke Hour II,” ushering in the second half of the album. “Sometimes you don’t know what you like until someone you trust turns you on to some real good shit,” he says.

The real good shit? It’s just beginning. Next up is country singer and former X Factor contestant Willie Jones, who is featured on the ballad “Just for Fun.” Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus (!!) shows up to sing her heart out in the unexpected (but perfect) duet “Most Wanted.” Moments later, Post Malone appears on “Levi’s Jeans,” followed by Linda Martell again in “The Linda Martell Show.” Before closing the album with a heartfelt reflection in “Amen,” Beyoncé reunites with Shaboozey for some well-deserved fun in “Sweet Honey Buckin.”

I don’t know if you’ve been counting along with us, but that’s a whopping 12 features. Like Renaissance, Cowboy Carter is a team effort—and the result is one of Beyoncé’s greatest records.

Originally published on Esquire US