Beauty Behind the Madness review

By Kiesha Dosanjh

Abel Tesfaye, the Toronto born singer, better known as his stage name ‘The Weeknd’ is back with his third, but first ‘mainstream’ album. The Weeknd first arrived on to the music scene in 2011, when he released three mix tapes which all joined together to create the album Trilogy in 2012. When these tracks first came out no one had any idea who he was, his identity was as mysterious as his music but fast forward three years later and he lands himself a UK and US number 1 album and is slowly becoming one of the most recognised RnB artists in the world.

The Weeknd first became popular in the mainstream world when surprisingly, at least to his fans who had been there from the start, recorded the soundtrack to the Fifty Shades of Grey film, releasing the hit song “Earned It” which appears on the album and collaborated with one of the biggest pop stars at the moment, Ariana Grande on the track “Love Me Harder.”

Beauty Behind the Madness features collaborations from many stars such as Lana Del Rey and UK stars Ed Sheeran and Labrinth, a far cry from his previous two albums where his fans were still getting to know him and what he was about.

The most iconic track on the album, “Tell Your Friends” which features and was co produced by Kanye West is the track he uses to tell the story about his career and how he feels now he’s made it so big opposed to when he was releasing the mix tapes with no identity where he tells his fans “I used to hate attention now I pull off in that wagon” and who better to help you to talk about attention than Kanye West.

The change in The Weeknd’s career is not only apparent in the track “Tell Your Friends” but also in tracks such as the hits “I Can’t Feel my Face”, “Earned It” and “In the Night” which are all suitable, and have been played on mainstream radio stations such as Capital FM which would have been unimaginable for his previous records. Although these tracks still have a dark tendency to them, they’re not as raw as the records the old Weeknd fans know and love and this could be a disappointment.

However, he does stick to his roots in some tracks, where his main focus is what it always has been, drugs and sex. The Weeknd addresses youth culture with the song Acquainted where he tells the woman he’s singing about: “to say that we’re in love is dangerous but girl I’m so glad we’re acquainted” which could be a situation many of his fans could relate to. He also addresses a large proportion go his fans in this song by singing: “These girls born in the 90’s are dangerous” so he isn’t leaving them behind for the mainstream world just yet.

In this album, The Weeknd had to get the right balance between what would suit his new mainstream audience and his original fans, which he seems to have done a pretty good job at.

Rating: 4/5

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The Death and Reincarnation of Video Game Retail

The last bastions of video game retail stand defiant in the face of changing markets but Oliver Huxtable asks how will this battle end and what will it mean for the way players access their games?

 

For many of us, the high street branches of our local Game stores have been seen as a Mecca of media for those seeking escapism of the electronic variety. Hours could be eclipsed as a youngster staring longingly at shelves stacked with the latest in releases, housed in a bustling store of dedicated customers and enthusiastic sales people. Nowadays the scene is different – plastic Amibo figurines preside hauntingly over empty shelves as a lone sales assistant stalks the aisles in search of customers.

Undoubtedly, the retail sector is in a state of crisis. As new forms of distribution join the market and online retailers take centre stage, the effects of this have been felt particularly hard by the video game sector, which has seen once unswayable giants of physical media distribution such as Game and Zavvi enter administration and almost lost from the high street altogether. But just what caused this radical decline of an industry, once appearing recession-proof, and what does it mean for the future of gaming as a whole?

As of 2012 it has been reported that the supermarket sector had taken over from both Amazon and dedicated gaming stores as the leading distributors of video games in the UK. This could be attributed to their revised sales strategies, such as taking a leaf from gaming stores and hosting midnight launch releases for the latest blockbuster titles. A more casual friendly gaming scene has also allowed supermarkets to stock more family friendly titles which, combined with changes in the economy, have seen more people being drawn to less expensive retailers. It has also been reported that these supermarkets have often been selling these latest releases (notably ten pounds cheaper than gaming stores) at loss leading prices in a bid to draw more customers.

The online retailers revolutionising the retail landscape for the past decade have made their presence known within gaming retail with the meteoric rise of Amazon forever altering the way gamers could access their content. The internet has been the fastest growing sector for games retail for some time and looks set to continue and improve that lead as prices on these sites for new releases remain vastly superior to the high street sector. This paired with their far greater catalogue of stock has not gone unnoticed by platform holders Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, who all now release consoles with dedicated stores, allowing the owner to download games directly to their hard drive without ever having to leave their living room, albeit at a price set by the platform giants instead of any retail trend. Services such as PlayStation Now also provide a subscription model which allows players to gain access to entire generations of games for a monthly fee. This ease of access has contributed towards creating an audience which expects a wealth of content at near instant availability.

Alex, manager of Game World Leicester, is concerned over a platform holder having that much control, “it just shows you how much they’re planning on charging if basically they stopped producing physical media. That’s how much you’ll be forced to pay. It’ll be like, do you want this game? Well you’ve got to pay through the nose for it.”

Dominant control over a market by a singular corporation has never proven to be anything short of a blight and this model could envisage a potential future where the only source of purchasing video games is from the console you play them on and the publishers behind it.

Alex added: “So basically, in the future, if it all goes all digital, there’ll be no boxes and circuit boards and it’ll probably be wireless so you’ll end up with just a black box with the Xbox of PlayStation on it.” With the decline in customer consumption of physical media, consoles of such a nature are a very possible future. Sony already experimented with a diskdrive-less handheld console, the PSP Go, released in 2009 and leaked information on proposed ideas for the Xbox One included a download only design.

These console stores, which sell games with a one-use digital code, will also eliminate the second-hand market which operates on a system of trade-ins and which has always provided a back up to cash-strapped and youthful gamers. When the sight of nostalgia-ridden stores laden with treasure troves of decades worth of memorabilia have been removed from our high street to be replaced by the cold glow of a screen displaying a price and a contract, gaming will have lost more than just a financial battle – it will have lost its cultural heritage and heart.

An audience with Cristi Bratu – a dancer destined to dazzle

By Alexandru Bratu

 

The spotlight is on young dancer Cristian Bratu as he looks ahead to taking on his most difficult role yet – a student aiming for life on centre stage.

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“Sometimes I have a think about what life would be like if I didn’t choose ballet, but I am happy with my choices and where I am now.” Those were the words of an emerging dancer with the potential to reach amazing heights in the art of ballet, Cristi Bratu, who has recently ended his first term at the prestigious London Royal Ballet Upper School.

From humble upbringings, Cristi is a 16-year-old ballet student from Gartree in the Harborough district, a diamond in the rough unearthed by former Royal Ballet principal Graham Fletcher aged just eight, before joining the London Royal Ballet School aged 11 to polish off his skills and begin to develop into a more clear-cut performer.

In somewhat of a ‘rags to riches’ tale that is progressing soundly towards its happy ending, I ask Cristi to look to his future, and think about what he needs to do in order to complete a defining chapter in the story of his future career in ballet as he progresses through the first year at his new school.

“I need to increase my strength and confidence as a dancer; I can do this by working hard and motivating myself,” he begins, recalling the arduous journey to the stage he finds himself in at this present moment, “The standard is rising year by year. I have four appraisals every year that test all aspects of my dancing to see if I’m progressing or not, that will be tough.”

It becomes clear to me in the way he articulates his responses that this is a boy who knows exactly what he needs to do to realize his dreams, and there was no question as to whether he is motivated to face up to the unforgiving examinations. “I want to achieve things and be the best that I can be,” he continues, “auditioning for White Lodge, my teacher told me that you can’t win the lottery without entering and I’ve stood by that ever since. I use it to test my capabilities and see how far I can go. The end goal on stage keeps me and my enjoyment of it going.”

Cristi hopes to one day emulate the achievements of renowned dancers such as Carlos Acosta and Graham Fletcher, and it is the latter, the very man who discov12250257_10206381829639193_153410885_oered his potential, who believes he can go all the way. Speaking in an article for the Harborough Mail, Fletcher offers a recollection of the moment Cristi revealed his potential: “I thought straight away: ‘Gosh this boy’s talented!’”

Fletcher discovered Cristi during his annual visit to Foxton Primary School, asking him amongst other potential young dancers to attend his after-school classes where the students would learn contemporary dance. From this, Cristi made the transition to ballet, a move that would determine his entire future, changing his life completely.

Fletcher is the main contributor to Cristi’s early development, and the young dancer feels he owes a lot to Fletcher’s guidance. “It’s exciting to think that I could one day become just as good as he was. It was my friend Graham who got me into this world and he is usually the first person I think of when something good happens, because I always want to make him proud.”

It’s a sentimental thought. The two often keep in contact, and Cristi has aided Fletcher in teaching summer school classes for other future dancers. And it is the future that Cristi continually looks to as he ventures towards his own destiny.

When asked about where he sees himself in years to come, he responds: “Hopefully in a company becoming a professional, I don’t imagine doing anything else.” A regular performer at the Royal Opera House during the Christmas period, it appears that a life on stage is one that he desires so greatly.

To cultivate the ability to move audiences and stir emotions with the elegance and poise which defines the art of ballet is the greatest task presented to a young performer. Whether it were to be warming hearts or moving pairs of eyes to tears, it is clear that the path to stardom is one to be walked on with pointed toes, aiming to jeté past any obstacles that stand in the way.

Standing centre stage as his future plays out, the spotlight is on Cristi. An audience of examiners, experts, family, friends, teachers and mentors look on with watchful eyes, anticipating whether the final curtain draws a close to a performance which warrants a continuation in the profession. In Cristi’s own words: “the challenge just gets greater.”

Our modern Christmas: who is it really for?

Christmas cheer? That’s not what Amanda Hemmings can hear. She shares her view on what the holiday season has become and why we should change our attitudes.

I have to keep a straight face. I can’t crack. This is my job. And it’s Christmas time soon. I mustn’t frown at children at Christmas. Even if that once a year spirit has been drained out of me after two Christmases of working in a department store which happens to have a vast array of ‘awesome ninja turtles’ and of course, a stock room dominated by Frozen dolls. They’re so haunting that I feel like I’m reliving Halloween every time I’m asked to refill a shelf.

Honestly, I do enjoy Christmas. But I value the season because it’s a time I spend with my family, watching ancient Christmas movies, drinking too much mulled wine, reminiscing about old Christmas tree decorations (ours are at least as old as me) and generally appreciating each other’s company. And I think that’s a word children are increasingly forgetting about; appreciation.

I glare at the youngsters throwing toys bigger than them across the shop floor, screaming and sometimes pushing their parents when they, for once, don’t get everything they want, and I think; why is Christmas associated with cheer when this is today’s reality of the ‘most wonderful time of the year’?

To me, and I’m sure to many others, Christmas is heavily associated with stress and consumerism. As my work colleague, Sharon Clarke, smartly said: “I feel sorry for the parents; they’re always under pressure to buy the next gadget.”

Children aren’t learning the value of money, which has daunting prospects for their future. Our economy is already in turmoil; imagine grown-ups twenty years from now as politicians spending their budgets ruthlessly just because they don’t know any different! Sounds quite familiar, come to think of it…

So, what is to blame for this seeming increase in greed in the children of today? Is it the new generation of kids who were brought up surrounded by technological advancement and all of the cheesy advertising that accompanies it? Or is it the parents’ fear of saying ‘no’ because in our rushed, work-oriented world, it’s just so much easier to give in after a long day than to deal with the consequences of rejecting a hard-to-please little one.

“Christmas is about the children”, my work colleague Lisa Gill admits. “But presents aren’t what Christmas should be about. I feel like a hypocrite for enjoying Christmas because I don’t celebrate it for the real religious reasons – It’s just a tradition for me.”

Let’s think about the word ‘tradition’. When I buy presents, I do it because I feel like I have to, because that’s the socially constructed norm of Christmas in countries such as ours. But I genuinely feel like Christmas should be about something more emotive and sentimental than people physically attacking others in supermarkets for the latest gadgets on Christmas Eve, or spending hundreds on gimmicky toys that are going to be forgotten about by New Year’s Day.

Children of today are being brought up to associate Christmas with ‘yay, things for ME!’ and then the ‘boring’ family coming over. Of course, Christmas is about giving. But you just cannot buy memories and priceless time spent with our loved ones. Children are beginning to see their parents and grandparents as suppliers of endless money. However, children aren’t the only culprits for this. We are all guilty of over-indulging, whether it be on fruit cake or Christmas gifts.

As we grow up, we lose the spirit of Christmas because we do more of the buying and less of the receiving. In fact, we are so blinded by the media and corporations making us spend that we lose sight of what really matters to us.

I for one, am going to cut back on my spending this year and instead, substitute this money for time. Each family is unique, but for mine, we are rarely all in the same room together during the year. I’d much rather be merry and bright, devouring mince pies, and having warm, heart-to-heart conversations with my family (and my cats) than having anxieties over whether they will like their presents that I just spent half of my student loan on.

There’s no escaping the fact that Christmas will be taxing on us all. My advice to all of those feeling the pressure, whether it be to decorate the house, cook the huge Christmas dinner for the relatives coming to visit, or simply to be prepared; slow down. Remove sky-high expectations, devour your roast dinner, play old board games with your children, take too many cringe-worthy photographs and circle yourself with your favourite people on Christmas day. It’s time to forget about what society expects of us and give Christmas our own meaning.

How does mentoring benefit the community?

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BY TIM INCE

Hundreds of children have benefited from one-to-one mentoring by a De Montfort University student.

As part of the DMU Local Homework Club Project, around 300 students have been involved in raising the attainment and aspirations of hundreds of primary and secondary school pupils.

David Hollis, DMU Local Operations Manager, said: “Originally, it was a project that was created in response to what teachers were telling us around some of their children falling behind in specific subject areas.”

With DMU students are working in schools across Leicester, more communities are able to benefit from this additional school support.

Sarah Ford, a mentor at Lancaster Boys School, said: “I think they [mentors] are vital. I think we are really well positioned; we’re not teachers, we’re not family but we are professionals.

“We are able to sit down with a young person and speak to them about what’s really going on, how they’re really doing.”

The benefit also extends to DMU students though, who get to benefit the community and improve their CV.

Ellie Hummerstone, an English Literature and Education Studies Student and volunteer mentor, said: “It [mentoring] helps with my course. I actually get mentoring and I’d like to pass what I learn onto other students.”

For more information or to get involved visit www.dmusquaremile.our.dmu.ac.uk.