Paloma Faith: Putting the message into music

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“I wanna dedicate this to all the underdogs and all the grafters who work hard….”

Those were the words of Paloma Faith as she accepted Best Female Solo Artist at this year’s Brits. Watching her collect the award – designed by Tracey Emin, was warming. There was something utterly sincere and honest about her few minutes up there. And you absolutely got it that she is one of those grafters. Good on her.

There’s something appealingly fresh about Paloma. She kinda just does her own thing. Besides having a wonderful step-back-in-time film star glamour that sucks you in, she has good chat and likes a giggle. She’s the archetypal down-to-earth girl next door, but with a big helping of quirk on the side. She even describes herself as ‘cockney madam in panto (brilliant)’. She’s straight talking and that’s why we like her.

Beyond her obvious music talents, she’s witty. Actually, she’s  hilarious. She’s also warm and the sort of person you’d want to have on your team. I guess what I’m trying to say is that she has personality and is personable. But not just that (and I’ll get to the point of this article in a sec) – she has stuff to say. And people relate to her.

She’s got a point.

Which leads me to my point….

Hearing that Paloma Faith has invited left-wing political commentator Owen Jones to be her support ‘act’ on her forthcoming tour made our ears perk up. Her motive? To provide an argument against what she describes as an increasing right wing movement towards a UKIP vote. Her method is both unique and passionate. An idea that puts the message into music in a big way.

But music has always been at the heart of driving passions of the human race. From the chorus of gospel to the rhythm of the tribal beat; people unify and share ideals through music. Whether it’s a love song or a hate song, you can guarantee there’s a song in your personal collection to suit any mood or time. 

And if we think about the artists who have used music to take a political stance, the list is endless. It’s the perfect medium: making a statement, delivering ideas, opposing systems, standing up for your rights. It’s everywhere in music, but sometimes the message gets lost. To start a movement, the story has to stand out in some way. It needs a contrast; a noise against the silence. 

One of the best juxtapositions was Rage Against The Machine topping Christmas No 1 with Killing In The Name and serendipitously knocking off a Top 10 that was riddled with X Factor humdrum. There was a certain eloquence in the ineloquence of that wonderful happening – it made the Queen’s speech a bit more bearable and was a firm-fingers up at the state of the nation’s charts at that time. 

But as far as political song concerned…there’s not enough time to give them all justice here – but to name a few; Gill Scott Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Edwin Starr – War, Dead Kennedys – Holiday In Cambodia, the Red Wedge collective, Rock Against Racism, Band Aid – Feed The World,  and the ultimate song of freedom – The Specials – Free Nelson Mandela. These songs stood up, made a heavy point and became a collective voice for many. 

But as we continue to find ever more ways to express ourselves (and feel) – through music, film, theatre, art, spoken word and ultimately our experiences – there are new ways to deliver those messages. And that’s why we think Paloma has really hit on something. Ok – we don’t know how it will go or indeed what Owen Jones is going to get up there and say – or how he will be received. But whatever it is, it will have impact. It’ll be the stark contrast of a single spoken voice where there would normally be song. And those people who buy into Faith’s music may also buy into the message that willl be relayed that evening. Or at least look at things from a different angle.

And that’s the power of music.

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EKOCYCLE: Will.I.Am putting Coke back into recycling

75 It’s a brand/artist partnership that’s made in heaven. We’re talking about Coca-Cola teaming up with Will.I.Am to launch EKOCYCLE – an ultra slick sustainability project that takes recycling to a whole new level. The whole ethos is about regenerating waste plastic to create desirable, design led products that balance form and function – whilst saving the world. (Oh and in case you hadn’t’ noticed – EKOCYCLE is COKE spelled backwards. Nice).

This is designer eco-chic with a great big chunk of clever marketing power behind it. But the one thing that’s going to make it fly, is an aspirational ambassador, who has not only sold a awful lot of records worldwide under various monikers, but also one who has been forging a name for himself within the world of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. We can’t think of a more suitable, worthy or believable man for the job.

So exactly what are these next generation, highly covetable creations? Well they’re only available at Harrods for a start. And there’s a plethora of other respected brand names form the world of designer fashion who have been working collectively to shape, create and stamp their seal of approval on everything that is produced. They’ve actually managed to create a luxury brand out of the blue, and with an equally high price tag to boot. Now that’s not an easy thing to do.

This venture actually flies in the face of the traditional luxury brand model – heritage being an important pre-requisite. Luxury is linked to expensive, hard to come by materials – something that empty plastic bottles and old phone covers are certainly not . Craftsmanship however, has been ingeniously remodelled with a futuristic innovative slant that pushes the boundaries of the (some might say) stuffy old school of luxury. (Now we’re not having a dig, but luxury fashion were the last to adopt eCommerce and it took a long time for the industry to get that accessibility in real world does’t devalue the product. Of course now, it’s creatively pushing the boundaries using technology to the max circa Burberry et al. But that’s another story.) But the key to making this believable is by partnering up with other respected designers and having a whole load of connected people creating together.

The EKOCYCLE project is one of those lightbulb moments where you can’t understand why no-one thought of it before. In this case, it’s like finding a four-leaf clover. You’ve already hit the sweet spot between brand, audience and market opportunity, but take it a step further by making it cause-related and bring in the credible frontman who’s going to drive it. Good work. Actually, it’s what fundraising departments for charities have been trying and do with brands on a daily basis for years – create meaningful synergies to persuade brands to champion their cause. It’s just unfortunate they don’t always have the money or the clout to get the absolute buy in from a brand to make it happen. But in this case, the brand has taken the initiative. And who better equipped to lead the way than Coca Cola.

Ok, recycling is nothing new and managing our waste has become second nature in our home, at work and even on the high street. But how much do we think about what happens afterwards. Let’s face it, it’s not a particularly sexy process and we don’t really want to think about where our recycled loo roll has been in a former life. But turn it on it’s head and create a story around it – make it fashionable and cool, then all of a sudden it becomes a huge opportunity. It’s branding at it’s best. And partnerships fused together in a creative and appealing way. Whether or not we want, or can afford any of it – you can bet that plenty of trend junkies will be ready to pounce on this.

And as for Coca-Cola’s part? It’s a super smart move and a progression on some of the other sustainability initiatives they’ve rolled out overseas. Increasing brand affinity is always going to be high on the agenda, so where it may be harder for them to improve on health credentials, they can make a big difference in this area. And brands are increasingly expected to up the CSR stakes. There is a lot more opportunity out there though. It feels like we’re only scratching the surface of brand partnerships for both the new, the exciting and the greater good. When we think about the vast opportunities across the internet of things as it evolves to impact our health, lifestyle, relationships, we start to think about where else these kind of partnerships could take us.

As for Will.I.Am? It’s the perfect sideline. He gets to indulge his creative flair, have some fun, make a lot of money and at the same time, be a key force in channeling a strong positive message to a generation of millennials; who are far more receptive to this kind of marketing. It appeals to their own entrepreneurial nature. And he speaks a language they understand. We’re no longer marketing to the naive. This is a thirsty demographic who demand new ways of looking at things – they expect brands to be forward thinking. After all, they are.

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