Beyonce: From Roaring Alter Ego to Boring Altar Lover

It’s official. The age of the new puritans is here. Some grew suspicious when Russell Brand was sacked, or yesterday when Radio 4 apologised for a bestiality joke. But it takes a Beyonce song to properly initiate any real change of direction in society, and here it is – her new song Single Ladies in which she tells women of the western world if they like a man then they should ‘put a ring on it’…

So, from an Independant Woman to a Get Me To The Church On Time trainwreck, who would have thought it? I relished B’s (That’s Beyonce-fan slang for Beyonce by the way) sassy hits from the early noughties, like the Austin Powers soundtrack gem Work It Out in which she warbles ‘I can’t wait for the bedroom, so let’s hit the floor’. Then she has her high note lipstick-feminism numbers like Suga Mama and Independent Women. But finally it seems she’s buckled under the heavy-duty weight of Jay-Z’s muscles and finally turned herself into a marital propaganda machine.

The video flaunts B in a supersexy tight outfit and heels, so we may have to wait a bit longer before the aprons, mops and rubber gloves make it onto the screen. But it’s still scary, to think three weeks ago MTV was showing her in a policeman outfit acting as if she was the first pop singer to play with cross-gender narratives, and now suddenly we see her staggering around in a terrifying wedding ring rant frenzy. I suppose the kind of ring she wants to put on the figurative guy in her song is open to debate, but I’ve got a feeling she’s talking religious bling as opposed to her orifice.

Marriage is quite an antiquated system, usually perpetrated through propaganda by societies that want to increase their population, and subsequently their work forces and armies. Marriage also constitutes heteronormativity: the woman cooks and cleans, the man makes the government richer. Why is Beyonce suddenly pushing these ideals in her pop music? Okay, if she loves Jay-Z and wants a family then that’s admirable, but it’s got nothing to do with rings, paperwork and obligation.

The only other answer I can think of is that B is anticipating the surely inevitable Beyonce: The Musical, for which she probably needs a pro-relationship song to help whatever storyline they come up with, as at the minute she’s only really got ones about sex, bills, being irreplaceable, ringing alarms and jumpin’ jumpin’. Not even Lloyd-Webber could spin a story out of that lot.

Ultimately I love Beyonce, she’s undeniably a world class act, and when I meet her she definitely owes me a drink, considering I saved up to by The Writings On The Wall when I was 13! Single Ladies is a fantastically produced track with really contagious synth samples and a hard-hitting beat. I just hope in future she uses her influence to push against America’s boring grand narratives: getting married, working your ass off for some lame company, getting fat and then dying.
Words: Jack Cullen -

The Name's Bond... Bond No.9

Last night I attended the late night shopping media party at Harvey Nichols in Leeds, and purchased my first ever bottle of Bond No.9 aftershave.
Bond No.9 is an American fragrance company best known for its collection that pays homage to areas of New York, for example Wall Street or Riverside Drive. I spent the best part of an hour smelling samples from the 30 Bond No.9 fragrances available in their store, until settling for Hamptons. It's royal blue, smells very bright and masculine, but in a sweet swimming pool sort of way.
The Bond No.9 bottles are all very impressive. Their shape is starfish-like with accentuated corners that connote the looming New York skyscrapers. The packaging is plush too, with colour-coordinated velvet-esque sponge and a tight fitting fortified white box. Everyone knows that fragrance shopping is all about packaging.

I loved the bottle for the Andy Warhol fragrance, but unfortunately I wasn’t taken by the smell, after all he has been buried a good twenty-five years now.

The lady in Harvey Nichols was hilarious as she explained in a thick Yorkshire accent the various assets of the Bond No.9 range, a verbal amalgamation of what she could remember from the press release folder and some of her own poetic innovations like “this one’s unisex, but it’s very financial and smells of wealth” … thanks love.
Hamptons is a superb scent though, understatedly powerful, icily confident and like all Bond No.9 scents – kind of humorous.
Words: Jack Cullen

Patti Smith: Victory

Patti Smith: Dream of Life
I finally saw this biopic today. It was visually beautiful and verbally acute. So many people have written great reviews of it, and all I want to do right now is make a hot drink and read in bed, so I’m not going to write much. I loved how Stephen Sebring’s film steers away from the conventional traits of a biographical film, instead capturing more arbitrary, more insightful, moments of Patti Smith’s life. Made over 11 years we see her children growing up, we see her eating hamburgers and spending time with her since deceased parents. Amongst some action-packed footage of Smith singing riotously on stage there are some great outdoor scenes, on the beach, and paying a visit to Ginsberg’s grave at the foot of Shelley’s. It was funny to observe how her run down white shirts and dirty black boots are actually Prada and Comme Des Garçons. Bob Dylan, Michael Stipe, and Flea (of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers) make appearances amongst others, as well as a deeper engagement with the legacy with writers like Arthur Rimbauld and William Blake.

Viewers are granted permission to piece together all of the vibrant and gifted individuals that have informed Smith’s artistic vision, helping us to build a fuller picture of this incredible woman. We see some of the process behind her music, her painting, her politics, her sexuality and her poetry.
Smith says she is often asked what it feels like to be a rock icon. She says the question makes her think of Mount Rushmore.

Words: Jack Cullen

Du Are You?

I want to know more about Du Juan, the Chinese fashion model, soon to be supermodel. She’s currently the face of Giorgio Armani, and is all over H&M with Daria. She was the cover girl for the first issue of Vogue China. Her name sounds like Byron’s timeless epic poem Don Juan too, based on the famous historical libertine, which is cool. Du is 180cm, which is good going for a Chinese girl.

It seems Du doesn’t hang out much with western supermodels though. Does she speak English? We always hear about Gemma, Daria, Lily 1 and Lily 2 hanging out. I have a constant mental image of them all sitting around in Moschino LOGO trackies with hot chocolates discussing which photographers get on their nerves, and how it’s such a waste that all those D&G boys are so good looking. But little Du? No. There’s very little about her on the internet considering the massive labels she’s fronted like Roberto Cavalli, Luella, Dries Van Noten and Chanel.

According to Du Juan is a keen chess player. That’s such a Chinese supermodel stereotype, like Lucy Lui’s character Alex in Charlie’s Angels. Lily Cole is really smart too. That’s why models are so much hotter than the girls in lad mags, and paid in millions as opposed to FHM girls who are paid in ‘here’s a bag of chips Keeley now fuck off’.

So, Du Juan, the first Asian model to crack the western market, filling in the void that Devon Aoki left, and expanding it. Congrats Du.
Words: Jack Cullen

Vive La Leeds!

The opening gala for Leeds Short Film Festival took place tonight in the town hall. The final film was a world premiere – an unseen short John Betjeman film about Leeds that archivists recently discovered in an old cupboard somewhere. It was really funny and insightful.

Betjeman stands in City Square, 1968, commiserating and lamenting over the modern architecture sprouting up around the city. “This monstrosity” he croaks energetically while the camera directs itself at the old Norwich Union building “has no artistry, it says nothing but CASH”. It was really interesting to see Leeds in the 60s, the Town Hall and Queen’s Hotel are both pitch black, the railway station has wooden ticket barriers and the women on benches sport green shift dresses and beehives.

The university is spoken highly of, although I was intrigued to learn that some of our campus was built on top of the demolished Woodhouse Cemetery! The streets of Hyde Park were cobbled too, with washing lines hanging across the air. Betjeman condemns Leeds as a dark city, but claims that the new era of the University of Leeds shows promise of a bright future and a much needed boost to the economy. How right he was.
Words: Jack Cullen


Do you find yourself always listening to your most recently purchased music, permeated occasionally by the odd classic? For example, today I am listening mainly to Friendly Fires, seasoned occasionally with a biggy from the archives like One More Time or Pretty Fly For A White Guy. Naturally we want to hear new and fresh music, but I usually overplay new songs until after three days I am done with them for life.

If you are suffering from the same depressing symptoms induced by a music industry too fast for itself, then you may be interested in my new scheme called From The Old We Travel To The New, or FTOWTTTN for short (pronounced towtin’(silent F) and spelt this way too from now on).

Okay, so what you do is pick an old album and play it in its entirety, maybe while walking somewhere with your iPod, or maybe while cooking. Then afterwards you travel to the new and select three songs which you feel are in someway derived from the old album, or build upon it in someway.
I am not claiming to be in any way innovative with my discovery for towtin’. In fact, my Mum always plays old albums from starts to finish, and then puts the radio on afterwards because she ‘fancies a change’.

Tonight my towtin’ choice was 'The Sweet Escape' by Gwen Stefani. It reminds me of winter 2006, playing loud from the night-time interior of a car while we drove to collect a Christmas tree. I remember playing it at a small party one night through the ceiling speakers in Rupert Everard’s swimming pool house. The album features the single Wind It Up, for which Sophie Muller directed the post-modern highly choreographed Sound-Of-Music-inspired video in which Gwen marches around chanting about LAMB in a nun outfit). There is also the annoyingly summery title single The Sweet Escape, and 4 In The Morning – Gwen’s lovesick ballad sang while she sits croning in a bath and then rolling around aimlessly in some crisp bedsheets. My favourite tracks are Fluorescent with its rigid yet understated Prince sample, and Breakin’ Up – which is icy minimal pop with a deep urban synth sound and topped with mobile phone chimes, the ridiculous mobile phone-based relationship metaphors are Gwenderful.

My three new tracks were then Paris (Friendly Fires), Must Be Love (Fya) and Love + Pain (Clor). Cannot be arsed to explain their relevance.

Words: Jack Cullen

Love Gum?

This evening in the Old Bar at Leeds University Union I couldn’t help staring with partial disgust at this guy leaning against the bar who was chewing gum so ferociously for about twenty minutes, as if giving everyone a very animated yet mute monologue, leaving me wondering whether he had a mechanical oral disability that I had never come across before.

Chewing gum is quite an interesting issue really. It can play a miniscule role in our identities, perhaps you never buy it, perhaps you are faithful to a specific brand, some people support blue or green Extra like a dedicated football fan – bursting into mock offence and patriotism if they witness somebody buying their opposed colour.

Chewing gum is glamorised as slightly rebellious since we are brought up being told off and cussed by teachers for having it. My mum’s boyfriend once told me that if I swallowed a piece of chewing gum it would wrap around my heart and I would die! I once offered a piece of gum to a girl who instantly quipped “oh, haven’t you grown out of it yet?”, because back then aged 15 she had made the image-conscious decision that gum was ‘like so lame’. Once my friend Rob told someone with great vigour that only tw*ts take two bits of gum at once, deliberately just after that person had put two pieces into their mouth.

It is certainly incredible to glance across a pedestrianised shopping street and just take in how much gum is stuck to the ground. I know from experience when I worked in a bar at The Savoy in Nottingham that gum is a PAIN to scrape off.

The US military gives gum to troops since it relieves their stress and help soldiers to think. Jolt Gum is a brand which contains caffeine and is sold to more than 35,000 military tuck shops worldwide. Gum probably makes homosexual kissing easier for soldiers to adapt to when these liberal and confused gender-blind scenarios inevitably arise out in the desolute jungles and desert camps.

I once bought gum quite religiously as a school boy. Although I often still find myself helping myself to my friends’ packets of gum, I only buy it myself now if I need to make myself eligible for cash-back in a shop. It comes in handy after an all-night party or plane flight if your toothbrush isn’t to hand. However, visibly chewing it makes one look a bit primitive and stupid, like that guy in Old Bar.

Words: Jack Cullen

Stella Tennant Drowned At Sea?

Daria Werbowy (pictured above with untitled man) is apparently the 9th highest paid supermodel now, earning 3.5 million last year, not bad for 23. I quite like seeing her face in seemingly every other campaign. She's currently staring out at us from House of Fraser across the Briggate, watching fat ladies stuffing their faces with Greggs.

I find Kate Moss is a bit too famous to feel any connection with, and Gemma Ward – although one of the most beautiful supermodels – isn’t quite as visible these days either. As for Lily, she’s studying, although I'm sure she'll be back. So Daria is a welcome billboard hugger for now, a friend almost.

However, one model of recent times who has practically vanished is Stella Tennant (pictured below). I know she’s a mother, a good decade older than Daria’s lot and consequently has a more severe image, but I just want to know what she’s up to these days… I'm worried.. what if she went to some outlandish coastal stretch of Scotland in seek of some catwalk inspiration and was dragged off by a fashion-mad giant squid? Or what if one of her Oscar de la Renta dresses got trapped in the closing gates of the Shetlands ferry, throwing her into the fathomable sequined frenzy of a violent nautical death? The possibilities are endless.
The woman who was once celebrated for her “aquiline and aristocratic” features, what has happened to our favourite Scottish supermodel Stella Tennant? The granddaughter of The Duchess of Devonshire, five years ago there seemed to be no stopping Stella – the face of Burberry and Calvin Klein, striding the runway for Chanel, she was starting to threaten Kate’s long reign on the front of Vogue, she even had public opinions on eating disorders.
One guess is that Agyness Deyn offers the fashion world a younger and sharper version of Miss Tennant, forcing Stella to withdraw from the spotlight. Another theory is that she is currently focusing on being a mother. A third theory is that Stella is focusing on the development of her own range of jigsaw puzzles. My suspicion though is that her french photographer husband David Lasnet is keeping her chained up in a basement. What do you reckon?
The Jack of Hearts
Words: Jack Cullen