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Opinion: Niamh Cullen

Culture Vultures: Niamh Cullen and Emily Anderson review the week in Pop Culture - 26th March 2021

So… in a time of serious and depressing news, we think it is not just important, but vital, to tune out for a brief minute and indulge in the ridiculous circus of the pop culture world which, despite the universe’s best efforts (and our pleas), simply refuses to stop rising to the occasion. Buckle up!

I’m going down to the Men in Music business conference - want anything?

Courter of controversy and star of the Tumblr 2012-2015 era Lana Del Rey released her new album ‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club’ last week.

I entered into the album cautiously, all too aware of her very questionable ‘Question to the Culture’ Instagram post last year. However, it's not like Lana has ever struck the right chord in her aesthetic in relation to the 'cultures’ attitudes, with her work often waging a war with ‘the culture’ in its damsel-in-distress-romanticising-the-1960s aesthetic.

Image: Justin Higuchi from Wikimedia Commons

I decided to dip my toe in and see what all the online fuss was about with this new record.

The melody kicked off with the first song ‘White Dress’ - things seemed normal, classic Lana lyrics mournfully drenched in nostalgia and slow haunting tempo.

Then things shifted. We  reached the chorus, and I, along with the rest of the world, heard a line that none if us could’ve prepared for.

She launched into what I can only describe as a visceral pitch and pace rushing out the line that will live in infamy 'downatthemeninmusicBUSINESS CONFERENCE'.

No that wasn’t a typo, that’s the line and the exact way it was violently delivered.

Let's unpack that.

It is not 'down at the men in music', it's 'downatthemeninmusic'. The word “business’ must be enunciated like it's never been enunciated before.

Prior to this song business had a dictionary definition of being 'an enterprise entered into for profit'.

Now it's defined as being a conference for men in music. To hear this unprepared for the first time is nothing short of a spiritual experience. Because the line's delivery is so completely insane you can almost miss the chaos of the line itself.

So Lana, what on Earth is the 'men in music business conference'? Is it at a Marriott? What happens, do the men gather in a room also used for weddings and do team-building on how they can be better men in the music business? Who are these men? Whats the dress code for an event like this? Smart casual or is it more formal? Why is there a CONFERENCE dedicated to them?

It is a line I genuinely haven’t stopped thinking about for a whole week now and I know my life is forever changed thanks to it. (NC)

The night of the thousand-dollar masks

I will be frank: there is truly nothing that I love more than dissecting celebrity interactions from afar. Award shows and the talking points they produce line my brain and run through my veins.

The Hollywood Elite cooped up in one room can – and has – produced some truly spellbinding cultural moments throughout history. And so, the Grammys, broadcast on March the 14th, was an event that my soul was ready for, even if lip reading was off the table.

This was to be a Grammys like no other, everything pointedly 'in accordance with CDC guidelines'. I suppose slightly separate tables and designer masks is about as ‘behind closed doors’ as Hollywood gets.

There was no audience – rather, the invited celebrities watched each other perform and pick up awards while seated in a garden party fashion. The set up made me wonder who exactly the Grammys usually invites, because that Staples Centre is usually at full capacity, and I have never once received an invitation.

Image: Bohao Zhao from Wikimedia Commons

The slightly intense, slightly awkward format made for some excellent people watching, such as Bad Bunny dancing earnestly to Dua Lipa’s blockbuster performance of ‘Levitating’, or the too frequent cuts to Taylor Swift as Harry Styles accepted Best Pop Vocal Performance for ‘Watermelon Sugar’. Perhaps the Grammys producer was a 2013 Haylor stan. Me too, king.

On to the winners: Beyonce became a record setter, achieving the most Grammys won by a female artist ever. Miss Dula (Dua) Peep (Lipa) won Best Pop Vocal Album for her delicious disco album Future Nostalgia. She also gave the aforementioned performance of her life. Dua is clearly a staunch believer in constructive criticism’ as any past critique of her stage presence was forgotten in a six-minute Future Nostalgia bonanza.

Ms Taylor Swift rocked up wearing the garden she grew while writing Folklore all over her body, which was a well-planned move, as – Swifties around the globe rejoice – she took home the coveted Album of the Year award for the quarantine-made record.

Image: Cosmopolitan UK from Wikimedia Commons

That makes three AOTYs for Tay, once again proving that hers truly was the most productive lockdown. Haylor’s other half – Harry Styles – reignited his position as a sex symbol with a leather-bound performance of ‘Watermelon Sugar’. Mr Styles is living proof that it is possible for boys from Cheshire to wear outfits other than blue skinny jeans and a Nicce jumper. Proud of him.

H.E.R won Song of the Year for ‘I Can’t Breathe’, a track inspired by last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. In her acceptance speech, she asserted that she had 'never been so proud to be an artist'. The award marks her first Grammy Award and second nomination. (This is despite my personal opinion that her self-titled 2017 debut should have been nominated, but I digress).

Image: MTV International from Wikimedia Commons

Non-attendee Mother Monster Gaga – who is currently filming and doing some phenomenal PR with Adam Driver in Rome – took home Best Pop Duo Performance for ‘Rain on Me’ with Ariana Grande.

Megan Thee Stallion, rap superstar and certified Hot Girl, won Best New Artist, as was surely written in the stars.

Everything was going smoothly, everyone was (fairly) happy. And then, like clockwork, the Grammys displayed how truly out of touch they are by awarding Billie Eilish with Record of the Year for the mildly successful ‘Everything I Wanted’. Billie herself looked confused as she accepted the award.

Image: Toglenn from Wikimedia Commons

Doja Cat was right there! 'Say So' was RIGHT there. The song of TikTok and the summer itself was RIGHT THERE. Oh well. We move.

Another Grammys come and gone. Join me next year for my annual investigation into how my invite got lost in the post. (EA)

So, another week of culture, come and gone. Here’s to another week of spice and intrigue. Until next time!