Clean Bandit are relatively new on the British music scene, having initially formed in 2006 and first appearing on the UK top 40 only last year with their single ‘Mozart’s House’; a curious electronic mix with classical elements. On occasion they also like to throw some deep-house into their music. Frankly, I think it works brilliantly from what I’ve heard of them so far.
This single, Rather Be, achieved even more success when it hit the number one spot of the UK charts back in January of this year. I think it’s great, not least because it’s set in Japan (a country I have a strange affection for) and has lovely vocals provided by British singer-songwriter Jess Glynne. There is a general good feeling that resonates from this song that one can’t help but associate with summer. Have a listen and see if you agree!
Oh, wait a minute.
You see, I was sitting here writing up this synopsis when I thought what a shame it would be if I only gave you the latter having also promoted one of their former singles. Rather Be is a very nice song, granted, but Mozart’s House is something else entirely. I couldn’t just assume you’d heard it as well, so this Tunesday I have decided to make a little exception and give you two songs for the price of one. Sssh, don’t tell the boss...
The Power of Introverts.
“Solitude matters. And for some people, it is the air that they breathe.”
I wonder what your first thought is when you read a line like that. Are you willing and able to admit immediately that it applies directly to you? Does it strike you as strangely poignant, like a sort of half truth that many people know but few of them actually voice? Or do you just snigger because it’s not the case for you, and you can scarcely imagine how it would feel to be that ‘lonely person with no friends’ to whom it supposedly applies?
Out of those three options, more of you probably picked the first one than you’d care to admit openly to a Western society in which the prevailing cultural attitude favours anything but solitude. Extroverted bias dominates the consciousness of our everyday life; the societal balance is not quite right, and it is only beginning to be readdressed. If you’re an extrovert yourself, or are one of those introverts who has spent your life aspiring to be one, you may take a slightly awkward offence to this, but rest assured that I have nothing against you personally.
Nor does Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (2012) and speaker in the short video that I wanted to share with all of you today. An introvert herself who let the attitudes of those around her dictate the direction of her life, Cain accurately covers the topic much better than I could in less than 20 minutes. She’s also a better speaker than you’d expect – certainly a lot more competent than some of the extroverts I know, anyway. So please check out the video. And for the many introverts that I know are out there, whether you wish to be open about it or not: be encouraged, for even in your blissful solitude, you are not alone.
I had originally chosen this cover by Us as today's Tunesday a few weeks back, but stumbled upon this song one Sunday. It's one that they wrote and performed for the first time at their wedding in 2013. When Pentatonix came out with their cover of A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera's Say Something, we considered the song as a option for a Tunesday post at some point. My problem with the song was that because the person to whom the writer was speaking didn't reciprocate, they were being given up on. In so many instances when someone is dealing with mental health issues, the problem is not that they don't want to respond or reach out for help, but that they simply cannot. As it turns out the song is actually about unrequited love, but it definitely left me thinking.
The message that we want to send to people is that we will support them and stand by them, not that we're placing conditions and a time limit on the relationship. As the saying goes, "You never know who your true friends are until something goes wrong." Going through what can - for many - be the most difficult thing they will experience, sometimes what you need, is someone not to try and fix you, but just to be there. That's what Us is saying in this song. Even though they say that these words are essentially their wedding vows, it seems a beautiful and perfect promise to make to anyone you love.
Until next time...
We may have just entered World Cup season but that isn’t why I’m writing this piece now. In fact this very line is only a late edit. As is this one, and the one following. Admittedly, though, entering a summer of sport did give me that extra motivation to finish it.
When I began writing, Ronnie O’Sullivan was in the midst of setting the 2014 World Snooker Championship on fire. He won his quarter and semi-final matches comfortably, setting up a final against Mark Selby; a final which he then lost upon going 10-5 in front. I’ll always remember this final because simultaneous to it, Liverpool were conceding three goals to draw with Crystal Palace in their last ditch efforts to convince people they were genuine title contenders.
The loss was somewhat of a blow for Ronnie, a man known as a genius in the world of snooker, but without doubt he typically provided fans with some of the tournament’s most memorable moments along the way. You may recall my reference to O’Sullivan a couple of weeks ago – Once Upon a Time in China, a former Tunesday choice of mine, is his personal entrance theme. That’s right, it wasn’t just some random movie theme I’d thrown in there for fun – although I nonetheless reserve the right to casually drop random movie themes in future.
Granted it would have taken you to go through a few links in your head to figure out what any of this has to do with emotional and mental health. But Ronnie O’Sullivan has spoken openly of his own battle with depression in the past, most recently in his autobiography ‘Running’.
O’Sullivan’s eccentricities are obvious to his fans. He is a character that has thrived on the public scene thanks to his excellence in and passion for his sport, but there is a side of him that has clearly hated this exposure at times.
One needn’t look far for some of the curious headlines he has made on the snooker circuit, including a controversial forfeit in the middle of his 2006 UK Championship match with Stephen Hendry. Some of this faulty temperament is attributed to a deadly perfectionism that has plagued most of his career, a quality that has helped make him an extremely watchable yet, at times, intensely frustrating character.
A loss like his World Championship one a few weeks ago, where he had to endure an amazing comeback from his skilled opponent, was something the old O’Sullivan would have struggled to deal with. But to observe the man on that night showed a more level-headed, calmer figure, even in the face of defeat towards the end.
This improved temperament in the latter stages of his career has been largely attributed to the help of sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters, who’s also been working with the Liverpool and (perhaps significantly) England football teams more recently. I think it’s worth considering the success of this sporting development for a moment; setting some context would be useful.
Reaction to O’Sullivan’s aforementioned forfeit was notable for its awkwardness. No-one knew what was going on inside his head at the time, and for the vast majority of viewers and fans, this was the scariest thing about it. Had we been aware, perhaps, that he had just suffered some great bereavement or was in some kind of physical pain, the situation, while still out of the ordinary, would have been more understandable. But he didn’t seem in any pain. He didn’t even seem unhappy. The only thing he seemed, in the end, was unprofessional. This was reflected in the hefty fine he was given by the snooker authorities in the aftermath of the event.
In part this was exemplary of a wider taboo within sporting environments toward mental health issues. It’s only fair that we widen the scope a little. Let’s look at cricket, although I scarcely need to remind any cricket fans out there of the Jonathan Trott ‘stress-related’ illness saga that has become a major issue not once, but twice in the past year.
Again, this story has been notable mainly for its curiosity. Trott seems to have been reluctant to reveal full details of whatever he has been suffering from, and one wonders whether he himself even knows, having simply labelled it as burnout at first, only to have a reoccurrence of the ‘illness’ upon his return to international cricket. Make of it what you will, but it struck me as a persistent lack of understanding (dare I say, lack of wanting to understand) towards mental health that, in sporting terms, is only beginning to be addressed across the board. Dr Steve Peters and his emerging profession is a sign of that development.
This follows major strides that have been made in football since 2011. I know some of you can’t stand how mainstream football has become – you can’t go anywhere for the next month without seeing frequent references to the World Cup, whether online or in real life – but this aspect of the sport, while in some cases being a double-edged sword, has helped raise significant awareness of mental health within it. Why do I highlight 2011 as an important year for this?
In November 2011, Gary Speed, manager of the Wales national football team, committed suicide just hours after appearing live on television looking physically healthy and showing no signs that anything was wrong underneath. It was an event that sent emotional shock waves throughout the footballing world. But out of it came many positive things as well. The Football Association began looking into initiatives to increase mental health awareness in football; former Premier League footballer Clarke Carlisle filmed a documentary (‘Football’s Suicide Secret’) last year that showed how far the sport has come since then.
While there are other areas I could venture into, I think it’s prudent that I stop here, leaving some room for your own thoughts and possible discussion on the matter. Stories that I haven’t touched on and may not be aware of at all would be useful to share. Then, at an undetermined point in the future, I’ll return to the issue for another assessment on its progress. To be honest, I think the future is bright, and if you were watching the Spain-Netherlands match tonight, you would also have to admit that it’s orange.