By Geoffrey Rowlands
It was 2003 when The Black Eyed Peas released their world-wide smash, Where Is The Love? Now, 14 years later, the lyrical message asking whatever happened to the values of humanity, fairness and equality has been taken up by English electronic trio Depeche Mode in many of the songs on their latest album, Spirit.
But while The Black Eyed Peas attempted to bring about change by persuasion, Depeche Mode’s message is much more forceful.
“I see so much which is wrong with the world,” said multi-instrumentalist and principal songwriter Martin Gore, 55. “I didn’t feel like I could just ignore these issues and write an album of songs about other things.
“You can’t get away from what is happening. It’s on the news and in the papers. Things like the situation in Syria and the resulting refugee crisis in Europe. Then there is the racial divide in America. There was a time when hardly a day passed without some black person being shot by police. These are just a couple of things. There are many more.”
“Society as a whole seems to have lost its way,” added singer, multi-instrumentalist and secondary songwriter Dave Gahan, 54. “As we point out in the opening song on Spirit’ we’re going backwards rather than making progress as local and international communities. We’ve got to pull together in these terrible times and find our way back to the right path.”
For a band who ask for the seemingly impossible objective of everyone getting along well together, they have endured more than their own fair share of infighting. Despite the underlying friendship which has kept them together since 1980, Martin did not take kindly to Dave’s desire to contribute his own songs.
“We all had our defined roles within the band,” remarked bassist/keyboardist Andy ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, 56. “Martin was the songwriter and Dave was the singer. This had been the case since Vince Clarke left us in 1981.
“Martin wrote two songs on our debut album, Speak & Spell, but Vince had written all the others. From then on, Martin wrote almost every song we recorded until Dave had three tracks on our 2005 album, Playing the Angel.”
“It was hard for me,” Martin admitted. “It still is to some degree. I’m happy with Dave writing songs but I regarded songwriting as my job after Vince left. I was in control of our output and it didn’t feel right for Dave to take at least part of this from me.”
Martin and Dave are still occasionally at loggerheads over whose songs are included on their albums. The tracklisting on Spirit was largely decided by producer James Ford.
“It was the first time we’d worked with James,” Dave stated. “He was great. He had a genuine enthusiasm for our music. He was also a great mediator between Mart and I.
“The problem about songwriting is you always think your work is great and should definitely be on the album. I came late to songwriting but it’s really important to me now. I fought for more of my songs to be included. Mart fought for his. At one point, James actually sat us down and thrashed out which were the best songs for the album irrespective of who wrote them.”
“That discussion cleared the air,” Martin admitted. “I’ve got used to having some of Dave’s songs on our albums but I’ve been our songwriter for such a long time that I felt like I deserved a bit more respect.”
“I do realise Mart is our songwriting boss,” Dave responded. “That’s what he fully deserves to be. But it’s difficult to give in willingly when you’ve written a song which you truly believe should be on the album.”
Having reached an amicable truce on the tracklisting, all parties are delighted by the number five spot achieved by Spirit in both the UK albums chart and the Billboard 200.
Depeche Mode will support the album on their Global Spirit Tour. Covering Europe, North America and South America, the tour opens on May 5 at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, and concludes on March 27, 2018, at the Allianz Parque in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“It’s going to be a lot of hard work and a lot of travelling,” Andy reflected. “But we did a small venue show for fans and competition winners prior to releasing the album. It was our first concert for a long time and we realised how much we missed playing to a live audience. We’re now really looking forward to the Global Spirit Tour.”
Dame Vera Lynn
Dame Vera Lynn has set a new UK chart record. Having recently celebrated her 100th birthday, the lady dubbed ‘The Forces Sweetheart’ during World War II became the oldest living artist to register a top ten album when Vera Lynn 100 debuted at number three.
She already held the record as the oldest living artist to have a top 20 album. This mark was established in 2014 when National Treasure – Ultimate Collection peaked at number 13.
Dame Vera is also the oldest living artist to have a UK chart-topping album. In 2009, when she was 92, We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn hit the number one spot.
“I’ve been truly overwhelmed by the response to my album,” smiled a delighted Dame Vera. “It was wonderful to have the good wishes of so many people for my 100th birthday. My album entering the chart at number three is like the icing on my birthday cake.”
Her additional success has been largely ignored. While all the attention has understandably been focused on the enormous popularity of Vera Lynn 100, Dame Vera also has a second new album in the chart. Her Greatest from Abbey Road, a 23-track compilation which boasts five previously unreleased recordings, entered the UK listings at number 45.
Iggy Azalea’s sophomore album, Digital Distortion, is set to be issued later this year. It was originally scheduled for release last July. The fact that lead single, Team, peaked at a relatively lowly number 42 on Billboard’s Hot 100 had nothing to do with the delay. Events in Iggy’s personal life rendered some of the album tracks anything from inappropriate to meaningless.
“I wrote the songs when I was about to get married,” Iggy stated. “After ending my engagement (to Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Nick Young), I wanted time to myself when I wouldn’t be asked about what happened. I also wanted to replace some of the album tracks with new songs written from the perspective of a single girl.”
Iggy, real name Amethyst Amelia Kelly, spent the latter part of 2016 in her native Australia working alongside Adam Lambert, Guy Sebastian and Spice Girl Melanie Brown as a judge and mentor on series eight of The X Factor. But she has now turned her attention back to her own work with the release of a new single, Mo Bounce.
The track has received generally favourable reviews but will require significant lyrical editing to be played on mainstream radio. The video, which is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQ2xtWgBlzk, was shot in Hong Kong. It primarily features 26-year-old Iggy and her dancers twerking.
Iggy’s fans certainly wanted to see the new video. It registered more than ten million views in just three days.
Despite not faring particularly well in the charts, the video for Team has now been viewed around 93 million times. It is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVGRN7Z7T1A
Canadian superstar Drake shot straight to top spot on the Billboard 200 with his latest album, More Life. It is his seventh successive number one on the album chart. This ties him with Kanye West and Eminem for second place in the list of chart-topping hip hop artists. But they are well behind Jay-Z who has taken pole position on 13 occasions.
However, Drake is the king when it comes to streaming records. Tracks from More Life were streamed on Spotify 61.3 million times in a single day. This erased the previous record of 56.7 million for Ed Sheeran’s Divide.
Even more people streamed the tracks on Apple Music. 89.9 million streams were registered on the day More Life was released. This set the record for most one day streams of an album on any streaming site.
More Life established yet another new record with a total of 384.8 million streams during the first week.
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