Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Hacking Just Got Starry-eyed, Be Careful, Or You Could Be Next!

If someone told you that you were going to live on a desert island, what three things would you take with you? I'm almost certain, you would choose your phone and its charger as two of the three items. We all become attached to our mobile phone, let's face it, it's the truth! You think your privacy is safe? Trust me, it’s going in one ear, and out the other. Think about the celebrities we know and love. The first thing that came to mind was the recent scandal caused by British tabloid newspaper: News Of The World (NOTW).

A tabloid that sat on our shelves for 168 year, its publisher was the News International, a news corporation owned by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. The tabloid was forced to shutdown, as allegations were made against the staff who hired private investigators to hack thousands of mobile phones of murder victims, including Milly Dowler, a teenage girl from the U.K, who was registered missing nine years ago.

NOTW was laid to rest, after 168 years of publishing news to over 7.5M readers. The company published its final issue on July 10, 2011. The front page read: "Thank you & Goodbye". Here are some of the many thousands of celebrities whose privacy have been violated by Murdoch’s News Corp. According to International Business Times, the following celebrities are the victims of the phone-hacking scandal:

•    Sky Andrew – former Olympic and Commonwealth games. In addition to being the first black sports agent.
•    Jude Law – actor
•    Hugh Grant – actor
•    Gordon Brown – ex Prime Minister for the U.K.
•    Chris Brynt – MP for the British Labour party.
•    The Royal Family

I won’t have time to mention the thousands of other celebrities that were cornered by the newspaper. As you would expect, the scandal killed its reputation. Many important people from The International News Corporation, Scotland Yard, MPs, and Metropolitan Police resigned from their position.

On Sunday, August 17, according to British broadsheet newspaper The Guardian, former chief executive of The International News Corp, Rebekah Brooks was arrested. Brooks claims she did not have any knowledge of the phone hacking.

How do we prevent this from happening? In my opinion, it can’t really be stopped. Superman is not coming to the rescue this time! Technology advances each and every day of our lives. A new device, or program creeps up from behind us that gives us another thing to worry about.

PCWorld magazine reports, a victim of the phone hacking scandal former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, strictly requested a private investigation to take place.  You’d think since we’re living in such a tech-advanced world, we’d have security down by now.

If you want to stay safe, add a PIN to everything. Once you have a PIN activated, there’s nothing to worry about, right?. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as everything can be hacked, if you try hard enough. For example, most of the victims’ mobile phone voicemail, required a PIN to access information. Nevertheless, that was hacked too, with private investigators watching like a hawk.

Thanks once again to PCWorld magazine, for providing us with the advice, we need to stop hacking. It might leave some people disappointed, but here's what you need to do. Don’t use the one thing, we rely on to take our messages. Ask your network provider to turn voicemail off. If you need to be reached, encourage your callers to use SMS or e-mail. We live in a smartphone world. Take advantage of it. Voicemail is old school!

If you insist on having voicemail on, then this paragraph is for you. Set a default PIN, yes, I know we talked about PINs, and it not being completely secure, but wait like a magician, I’m about to pull out a magic trick that’ll keep you worry free. If you change your PIN regularly, then you’ll keep the hackers guessing. Sooner or later, they’ll give up.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying SMS and e-mail is the safest option to keep the hackers away. If you’re using a smartphone, I could be stating the obvious, but whatever you do, don’t download apps from unknown publishers.

These apps can be the easiest way to access your data, according to PCworld magazine. One final thing, always update your phone with the latest software updates, these updates provide the tools to keep your phone out of harm’s way.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Changing Face Of Glastonbury 1970-2011

Article first published as The Changing Face Of Glastonbury 1970-2011 on Blogcritics.

Oh Glastonbury, oh Glastonbury, how wonderful it is to have you in our lives. OK, I know what you’re thinking--what’s going on here? Glastonbury 2011 fllew past as fast as Superman. It was on June 22 till 26 when Glastonbury screamed once again as music lovers treated their ears to the sound of music.
This four-day extravaganza set Worthy Farm Pilton UK on fire. Well-known acts including U2, Coldplay, Beyonce, and Wu Tang Clan joined the stage to make the crowd roar with excitement. Believe it or not, I’m not here to talk about this year’s festival. Did I surprise you? Let’s begin to understand the real reason behind this article.

This festival has taken centre stage in Pilton UK for 41 years. It built up a reputation of being a rock 'n roll territory. You can’t help but want to delve deeper, and find out just how it all began. Join me on this journey of adventure as we uncover the changing face of Glastonbury.

Page one of this exciting story is the first Glastonbury Festival, which hit the stage on September 9 1970.

The grand opening was held a day after Jimi Hendrix’s death. It must have been one of those moments when a British citizen screams out, “I’m proud to be a Brit, Hallelujah, God Save the Queen”. All the artists featured were representing Great Britain on that day. These artists included the following;

•    Marc Bolan - Singer/song writer and guitarist who's best known as a solo artist. However, he was previously part of a group which he also founded, entitled Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Keith Christmas - Singer who released his first rock album, Stimulus, in 1969.

•  Stackridge - A group of four men, one of whom looks a little like Winston Churchill (sorry, I know I went off track for a second there). Anyway, the band had all the girls screaming in the 1970s, with their self-titled debut album released on August 1971.

Oh, and a few others I’ve never heard of, until now. Despite it being Glastonbury’s first event, It was still an impressive turn out of 1,500 people getting together to celebrate and appreciate music.

As The Glastonbury Festival grew, it started to be identified as rock 'n roll territory, where listeners bopped their heads to their favourite rock anthems. Back then in the 1970s, the entrance fee was £1 ($1.60). In 2008, tickets cost £155 (approximately ($249). However, in 2010, tickets slightly increased, and attendees paid £165 ($265).

For 38 years, the Glastonbury Festival was rocking out. it wasn't until 2008  when changes started to happen, when hip-hop invaded the rock 'n roll territory. potentially opening the doors for a music war.

The festival organisers made a decision to try and boost ticket sales by making changes to the traditional line-up. Roc-A-Fella CEO Jay-Z was announced as the first rapper ever to appear on the Glastonbury stage. Many other rappers were amongst Jay-Z, including Dizzie Rascal and Lupe Fiasco.

According to MTV, the attempt to boost ticket sales wasn’t as successful as Glastonbury hoped. The rappers' appearance at Glastonbury didn’t really maximise ticket revenue. It only sold 10,000 on the first day; prior to this event, tickets usually sold out in a matter of hours.

The changes to Glastonbury, made a lot of people unhappy, including rockstars and their fans. Stars like Noel Gallagher, the lead singer of the British band Oasis, made this statement to MTV in 2008: “If it ain't broke, don't fix it, If you start to break it, then people aren't going to go. I'm sorry, but Jay-Z? No chance.”

According to an NME report in 2008, Glastonbury boss, went completely against the “Wonderwall” singer. Michael Eavis, founder of the Glastonbury Festival, said

Jay-Z just worked for us, it could have gone the other way, but the crowd were into it,  They knew all the words, that amazed me, it's very fast street New York poetry, isn't it? It amazed me people knew all the words, and two of those were my grandchildren!

Despite all the drama, attendance was notable with 134,000 weekend tickets  and 137,000 backstage passes sold.  Since 2008, Eavis has continued to push the boundaries with festival fans.

Future line-ups proved no different to 2008.   Bear in mind, these are not so much hip-hop acts. So, instead of drinking gangster juice, choose to go pop. Let this be a reminder for you, as it proves just how quickly Glastonbury is changing, and making us feel numb, particularly rockers.  Last year, the following acts ‘rocked’ the pyramid stage: Shakira, Pet Shop Boys, and Stevie Wonder.  This year, this trend continued as Queen B of R&B Beyonce, Wu Tang Clan, Tinie Tempah, and Plan B, wowed the audience.

How can something that started out to be ‘rock land,’ turn into hip-hop/pop central? I would think it has to do with money. Do I agree with it? I don’t really know. I believe music has a right to expand. It has the power to bring people together; that I don’t doubt. If you wanted my opinion, I’d say; “Let music unite us, whatever the genre is."

We all love music, so why not enjoy it together right? I understand it’s a tradition which is now broken. Remember, change is sometimes good. On the other hand, I realise that some people don’t like change. These people who refuse to accept changes don’t want the chain to break, especially when it has been working seamlessly for 41 years.

Come on, is this really necessary? If I’ve learnt anything from life, its that everything changes in time, whether you like it or not!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Music Review: Streets - Computers & Blues

Article first published as Music Review: The Streets - Computers & Blues on Blogcritics.

I realise I’ve kept with the Glastonbury theme since my last two articles, but stick with me, because I’m on a roll here! The Streets, a British rap group led by Mike Skinner from Birmingham, England. The Streets was first constructed in 1994, and made a scene in the U.K. garage scene with the likes of Craig David and Artful Dodger.

Enough about the history, let’s get down to business.

The group released their latest album, Computers & Blues in February 2011. Their lyrical flow is cleverly random, and still able to make sense, if you get what I mean. For example, the opening track “Outside, Inside”, and the songs that follow, “Puzzled By People”, and “OMG” capture the essence of this album. It demonstrates the skill set, of the Streets in terms of their selection of words, which makes it fun, and humorous for listeners. It delivers exactly what you would expect from any hip-hop/rap artist.

It's an album of 14 tracks that’ll make you laugh out loud and roll on the floor, and on "Cry Me A River Of Tears", it'll make any male as emotional as a female.

In “Outside, Inside” The Streets rap: “The world is outside but inside warm/inside informal outside stormy inside normal”.

Is Skinner suggesting that the world outside is cruel, but when you step back inside, into your own comfort zone, everything is OK again? Going further by using “outside stormy, inside normal,” is a metaphor to prove the statement I made earlier.

One of the most meaningful, and favourite tracks of mine has to be “Puzzled By People”. Here, the lyrics are cleverly written, as it gives you the illusion that the lead rapper is in the middle of a crossword puzzle.

It is in the first verse of this deep and meaningful song, Skinner raps:
“I'm pretty good at puzzles but puzzled by people, and I don't trouble, trouble, and trouble. Don't trouble me.
Stare at the paper, fold it in two.
Facing the walls are the soles of my shoes”.

This opening verse of this track is pretty interesting, as The Streets could be suggesting that sometimes they fear their closest friends can turn into a "fren-enemy". So in their mind, it’s better for them to keep out of trouble, and “fold it in two”.

Skinner continues: “Puzzled by people, loving isn't easy/You can't Google the solutions to people's feelings ... Sometimes you have to find out for yourself/Sometimes you need to be told. Sometimes you never find the answer”.

This is very interesting, as the Streets try to explain the complications of life, in a very clever and creative way. The Streets are able to combine the struggles of life and modernize it with something up to date, like the Internet.

Computers & Blues illustrates the fact The Streets love to live spontaneously. A track that suggests this is “Without Thinking”.

In it, Skinner says: “I'll go out without a blink, out without a blink, I'll go downtown without thinking and shout over a drink [2x], all the people in the place [2x]”.

Computers & Blues provides an intriguing vibe to hip-hop, as the beats are eccentric, and not always the traditional beat, which makes it fun to listen to. With tracks like “Those That Don’t Know”, The Streets explain the day-to-day life of living in a big city like London.

The album also demonstrates a moving overview of life, with songs like “We Can Never Be Friends”, which talks about the emotional connection between two people, preferably a male and female. Furthermore, “OMG”, and “Trying To Kill M.E” also shows a deep connection between music and his personal life.

For example, he raps the following:
“Pull some paper out the printer, pick up a pen and pen into the winter. The oldest cell in my body's only 10 years old,

With the smell of the kitchen, I dwell on the kissing of my missus
Holding a bowl and reminiscing”.

“ABC” is a fun song that goes through the alphabet, but not like you would expect. “A you cant say what you B/I don’t C what you seeI hear a meloDy/To drop with a mellow E/Hell not, never give an F/Never shit a G”.

As I listen to the album, it reminds me of why The Streets deserved to be performing at Glastonbury this year. Songs like “OMG” and “Puzzled By People” strongly prove my point, as they're able to provide strong lyrical content and value.

Virtual Concert Review: Chemical Brothers, Jessie J & The Kills at Glastonbury 2011 (Via YouTube)

Article first published as Virtual Concert Review: Chemical Brothers, Jessie J and The Kills at Glastonbury 2011 (Via YouTube) on Blogcritics.

This is a first, even for me. I present, live performance reviews from Glastonbury 2011. But wait! I wasn't actually at the event. Well, let's just say, "My spirit was at Glastonbury, while my body was elsewhere." There’s a first time for everything, and it’s happening here.

I want to have your attention for a couple of minutes, as I review three performances. It's a three-in-one article, so what more do you want?

I bet some of you recognize this lyric, “Hey boy, hey girl, superstar DJ, here we go,” which slowly merges with a funky beat in the background that has you jumping on the dance-floor.

Here I am presenting you my live performance review of the Chemical Brothers at this year’s Glastonbury. Thanks to the footage that was provided by BBC's official YouTube Channel.
If anyone was to ask me my opinion of the Chemical Brothers, two words, “Too repetitive”. When a beat is on-going, and lacking lyrics, it doesn’t really catch my attention. Only my views, and I know it’s worth two cents, but I thought I’d make them heard for the sake of this article.

The Chemical Brothers bring you a stage performance of their song “Don’t Think.” It looks to be a basic setting, with lights to mesmerize the audience. The words "Don’t Think" hit you in red, similar to a traffic light as soon as the lyrics are said. The words are staring at you in the face. However, there wasn’t much activity on stage, besides the red lights flashing to the beat of the track.

The camera finds the need to switch back and forth between the stage and the audience. Interestingly enough, I didn’t fail to notice that most of the crowd was waving flags that represented the following countries.

•    St George’s flag (England)
•    Israel
•    Denmark

There were a few other countries represented as well. Why? I’m still struggling to understand the reason.

However, Chemical Brothers did manage to entertain the crowd, as the audience was bouncing to the beat without a care in the world.

Thanks to a YouTube user head1969, I am able to bring you my opinion on Jessie J’s performance of “Price tag.”

Jessie J, a 2011 Brit Awards winner, released her debut album, Who You Are in February of 2011. She’s always reminded me of “I Kissed A Girl” hit-maker, Katy Perry. I don’t know why. Could it be the hair, and makeup? Hmmm, that's one to think about.

An interesting, and cute performance of “Price tag” comes from Jessie J, sitting on her throne, and inviting one of her little fans in the front row to sing a duet. With little Shay by her side, they start singing it.

However, I did notice a couple of other things. According to the BBC Three, prior to her performance, the singer requested mud to be put on her face. This is mentioned at six minutes, and five seconds of the video below. Maybe she's trying to set a new trend? Hey, Let's call it "mud makeup." Maybe she wants to be as wacky as Lady Gaga.

For me, the fact, Jessie J featured one of her fans to sing with her showed how much she loves her fans. It became personal for her, something that I expect, she’ll never forget. During the performance, I also noticed that the singer never got up from her throne. Was she injured? It certainly looked that way.

Finally, up next is The Kills, performing “The Last Goodbye.” Special thanks again to YouTube for providing us viewers with the video. This rock band recently released their latest album, Blood Pressures. The Kills is a band who is half-American, and half-British. They embraced the Glastonbury stage with a quiet performance.

In my opinion, the performance seemed to be very mellow and lacking energy. However, despite the lack of activity, lead singer Alison Mosshart gave a presence that forced you to delve deep into the back of your mind.

So, there you have it, folks! These are my thoughts on this year’s Glastonbury performances, so if you saw them too, did I make the right judgement? I thought I’d give you a review with a twist, by providing you with an article of established, up-and-coming, and less familiar acts, and help you discover some new music.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Music Review: Beyoncé - 4

Article first published as Music Review: Beyonce - 4 on Blogcritics.

The Queen of R&B, Beyoncé Knowles, brings the spotlight back onto herself with 4, her fourth solo album. It's been a little over a week, since the iTunes store release on May 24, 2011. It has already made a strong impression on me. The title, 4, was enough of an attraction for me to review this album.

It's a collection of 12 tracks that summarizes the life of a woman dealing with a combination of emotions. The release is about a frustrated female who seeks love and affection from her man.

However, despite her disappointment, she is still determined to fight for love.

4 delivers a personal representation of Beyoncé possibly reflecting her life before her marriage to Jay-Z. I could be completely wrong. It could just represent women who've had similar experiences.

However, whatever the case may be, the album allows the “Halo” singer to reveal her inner thoughts on life.

4 forces me to question, and understand why she gave her album this title. What’s the significance? Let us not forget, this album is her fourth studio LP. Nevertheless, I’m happy to report, we have the answer right here!

In an interview with Billboard.com, Beyoncé reveals the truth behind the album title: "We all have special numbers in our lives, and 4 is that for me."

She says: "It's the day I was born. My mother's birthday, and a lot of my friends' birthdays, are on the fourth; April 4 is my wedding date."

The more I listen to this album, the more I'm truly convinced this release is about her life before husband Jay-Z. It’s a long shot, but it's possible. What’s driving me to this conclusion is the song “The Best Thing I Ever Had”. As the first verse easily portrays her strength, determination, and confidence, she sings: "There was a time I thought, that you did everything right. No lies, no wrong, Boy I, must've been outta my mind. So when I think of the time that I almost loved you, You showed your a** and I saw the real you."

She goes on to say: “Thank God you blew it, thank God I dodged the bullet/I'm so over you. So baby good looking out.” These lyrics suggest the importance of leaving your past behind you. It's a song that can give you the strength to never look back to the past. It encourages you to believe that when a door closes, another one opens soon after.

Let’s just flip the coin for a second, and consider another explanation given for the album title. 4 could be a reflection of Beyoncé's love and devotion for Jay-Z, as her opening track is “1+1" (and no, this isn’t a math lesson). However, if we were to learn something here, then It's the connection of two people who are crazy about each other.

The song illustrates the importance, and the power of love effortlessly. She sings: “If I ain’t got nothing, I got you, If I ain’t got something I don't give a damn, ‘cause I got it with you, I don't know much about algebra, but I know one plus one equals two, and it's me and you, that’s all we'll have when the world is through.”

Tracks that stood out to me the most were “I Miss You,” and “I Was Here.” Could “I Miss You” be expressing the fact, both husband and wife lead a demanding life?

It's so demanding in fact, and they spend so much time apart that it almost feels like they’ve become strangers. It's another long shot, but it's just my opinion.

Here’s what encourages me to believe that this may be the case. She sings: "I thought that things like this get better with time, but I still need you. Why is that? You're the only image in my mind. So I still see you...around. I miss you, like everyday, Wanna be with you, but you're away. Said I miss you, missing you insane, but if I got with you, could it feel the same?”

Hearing these words leaves you no choice but to feel sympathy, encouraging you to reach out your hand to help ease the pain and frustration.

As I analyze the lyrics further, I see this thought come forward even more. She says: “It don't matter who you are. It's so simple, a feeling, but it's everything no matter who you love. It’s so simple, a feeling, but it's everything.”

The lyrics above suggest the experience of loving someone who has been in your life for quite some time. Dealing with the ongoing problem of distance causes that person to become a complete stranger.

“I Was Here” is a song that I believe was written for the important people in Beyoncé's life, which are family, friends, and fans. 

The song leaves a strong aura of Beyoncé’s existence, bringing her spirit, her passion, and her commitment, for her family, friends, and the music industry forward.

She sings: “I wanna leave my footprints on the sands of time. Know there was something that, and something that I left behind. When I leave this world, I'll leave no regrets, leave something to remember, so they won't forget!"

The singer continues to emphasize: “I was here...I lived, I loved, I was here...I did, I've done, everything that I wanted, and it was more than I thought it would be. I will leave my mark so everyone will know I was here...”

This looks to be a reminder for the V.I.Ps in Beyoncé's life. She wants to be remembered as a strong character, and that she is. It’s pretty self-explanatory, as she wants to be considered as someone who’s made a strong impact, and touched people’s heart with her contribution to the music industry.

“I want to say I lived each day, until I died. I know that I had something in, somebody's life. The hearts I have touched, will be the proof that I leave, that I made a difference, and this world will see.”

Before we reach the end of this extensive review. I would like to take a quick look at two other tracks on the album. These are  “End Of Time,” and the first single from 4, “Run The World (Girls).”

When I first heard “End Of Time,” it felt like I joined a festival with hundreds of dancers, grooving to the funky beat. It kind of reminded me of the dance sequence of 100 women who danced to “Single Ladies” at London’s Piccadilly Circus. A video of this performance is shown below. Thanks to Conanbelletty on YouTube.

“Run This World (Girls)” has the potential to be known as the next generation of "Independent Women." I’m sure you don't need a reminder of this classic Destiny’s Child track. This classic just got a crazy makeover, with “Run This World (Girls).” Beyonce sings: “I'm repping for the girls who taking over the world/Have me raise a glass for the college grads.”

The independent woman continues singing: “My persuasion can build a nation/Endless power, our love we can devour. You'll do anything for me.”

With these influential words, she’s able to maintain her authority towards men, suggesting that a woman doesn’t need a man to live her life.

You don’t need to think twice. This album is a strong comeback from the Queen B. I don’t know about you, but I’m not disappointed with 4!