Up Your GRINDSET: Student Side Hustles

Every student reaches a point in their life where their days just feel… repetitive. Ask our very own student councillors (the seemingly busiest people) and even they will agree that after all the zest of school activities die out, student life does get boring. After all, the only true constant for students is studying, right?

Soon enough you find yourself on TikTok, listening to Sugaresque talk about her busy life. Something tells you that there has to be more than just academics. Maybe it’s time you invest in yourself. But learning new hobbies takes up energy and you don’t exactly have the bandwidth to start a business either. Well, there is a sort of ‘in-between’ to those two options, and it’s none other than a side hustle

P.S. Side hustles are a trend now. 

Do you know those classmates who have another account tagged in their Instagram bio? A little something like this: 

That’s what we call a side hustle. While the traditional definition of a side hustle is a side job, for the sake of us students, we’ll be defining a side hustle as more than a hobby, less than a job. 

That said, a student side hustle can take many forms. From small businesses to review accounts or even poetry, let us take you through some side hustles started by our fellow Eunoians!

Small Businesses, Big Bucks 🤑

While side hustles aren’t full-time jobs, that certainly hasn’t stopped these intrepid entrepreneurs from making some bank from their talents! We have interviewed a few of our budding entrepreneurs located right in the heart of Eunoia. 

1. @bracelet w****s in the house

After scouring for hours on Telegram, Chu Ting found herself sliding down the rabbit hole of small crystal businesses. She finally understood that beneath the tame and seemingly uninhabited user base of Telegram, there was a thriving community of entrepreneurs! Hear more about her experience as a self-acclaimed crystal seller below.

Q1: It’s quite interesting that you chose Telegram as a platform to sell your bracelets! May we know why Telegram instead of perhaps Instagram?

Initially, when I first started my business, my cousin was the one who pitched the idea of owning a Telegram channel to me. I didn’t think much about it, because I barely use Telegram. But in hindsight, I can totally see why Telegram is a more popular option among small business owners rather than Instagram as we don’t have the required resources to promote and advertise our products. This is why it’s very important that we have platforms for interaction, and Telegram is a much more interactive platform compared to Instagram. 

The mechanisms of Telegram are also especially helpful. Say, for example, our customers view the listing products in the main channel. Now, if you were to click on the title of the main channel, it could lead you to a sort of ‘monitor icon’, where it will direct you to a separate discussion channel that is linked to the main channel. So this built-in feature allows small business owners to interact with customers and ensure that we build a connection to secure a loyal customer base! 

Q2: Do you have any interesting stories to share? 

​​I have a very close relationship with my regular buyers and I really appreciate them for constantly returning to my channel to purchase things during my launches. I’d say that my relationship with my buyers has moved beyond buyer-seller to friends! We’ve even considered meeting up in real life to go crystal shopping as a group. If you were to use Instagram and Facebook, you’d probably be afraid to meet up with strangers due to safety reasons. But in the Telegram crystal community, at least the one I’m in, everyone is extremely open. Major telegram channels would go out in person to shop for crystals, or even just hang out! So I’d say that the crystal community is an especially close-knit space, which remains a very interesting thing to me.  

Q3: Do you think your business has changed the way you organize your life?

My business has definitely changed the way I organize my life. I think, prior to the setting up of my business, I’m a person with no work-life balance. I haven’t really considered how much I want to achieve on my own out of school, and in life in general. But I can safely say that my business got me thinking about how much importance I should place on our kids and how much it actually affected my life. 

As of now, I can safely say that I have a work-life balance because I no longer treat my academics as my only source of validation. I find that starting this business has really helped me find a sense of purpose other than being a student and just purely studying and being successful in our future and whatnot. It is fulfilling, and has also taught me better time management and how I should and when I should detach myself from unnecessary responsibilities and worries. 

2. @forthememoria (Instagram)

Making use of their handy crocheting and beading skills, this group of girls decided to handcraft a variety of fashionable products that are as functional as they are adorable! We’re glad to have been able to interview one of them to find out more about their unique handmade products.

Q1: Your products are incredibly cute! (not sponsored) How do you decide on item ideas for selling?

I think our team of three came together wanting to do a business but we all had different skill sets, such as knowing how to crochet or having an interest in making beaded items. I think from there we managed to craft out our business plans and decided that we should first push out some items that were easier to make to sell as many as possible and set up a strong support base. 

We then targeted special occasions like Valentine’s Day to sell our crocheted flower bouquet and our day edition necklace. We will also just come together to brainstorm ideas on what we can make next.

Q2: When and why did you start crocheting? 

I started to learn how to crochet when I was in primary school, but never really had the patience to finish a proper project. Until Covid-19 caused the circuit breaker and I was searching for new hobbies to pass time and decided to adventure into crocheting! I remember one of the first projects I finished was a bag. I then became more passionate about crochet and made gifts for my family and friends on special occasions.

Q3: How do you juggle between your side hustle and schoolwork?

I think this was the hardest part of setting up our business but we always told our customers that products could not be delivered immediately and to give us a one-week buffer period to prepare the items. We would aim to finish schoolwork first before overloading on our business and we made sure that whenever we pushed out a new product, it would be during a period where we weren’t too caught up in our studies so that we were able to squeeze out more free time to manage the business. 

Creativity and Self-Expression 🎨

Next, put on your arts appreciation sunglasses as we gaze upon the blinding creativity of these artists!

1. @breadbestcarb (Instagram)

Meet our resident food reviewer Zhi Qi, who has as much of an appetite for culinary delights as she does describing their taste in words. With over a thousand followers on Instagram, Zhi Qi has been ready to share her love for food in succinct reviews. 

Q1: Your side-hustle is considerably unique! How did you discover your love for writing food reviews? 

To be honest, I started reviewing food on Instagram because I saw someone getting sent free food for them to advertise, so yes, I started it for mercenary reasons. But after writing up some reviews, I realized the whole process is so rewarding! From adding a place to my to-eat list to getting lost trying to find the place and taking countless pictures, I love savouring the food slowly while crafting a review in my head! 

I also feel this sense of accomplishment after finally posting my review and getting all the supportive comments. I must also say that the food community is super supportive and wholesome so that encourages me a lot to improve myself as well!

Q2: We’ve noticed that you usually review food outside EJ! Is this something tough to commit to?

Nope! A lot of people think that I should ‘take a break since it’s my A-Levels year’, which puzzles me because my reviews don’t take long to write. Writing about food comes as naturally to me as eating the food, so I have never had the problem of a lack of time. 

I do experience creative slumps occasionally though, (as of right now, I am in a slump…). When that happens, I don’t force myself out of it, instead, I’ll just come back when I’m ready. This way, my reviews won’t feel forced and insincere!

Q3: Do you see yourself doing something related to food reviews in the long run?

I’ve been considering (for a year now) doing an internship at Eatbook after A-Levels! I do watch their videos frequently and the premises of their videos always seem fun and fresh.

Q4: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to anyone running a similar side hustle?

Be genuine! It is enticing to write only good remarks about a place so as not to offend anybody. However, the point of reviewing is to allow the reader to have an objective idea of the food/place (of course, don’t make extremely vicious remarks either). Also, be concise. I realized that a majority of people who aren’t diehard foodies won’t be inclined to read a lengthy review. It’s ultimately up to you to develop your style. Lastly, don’t be too obsessed with numbers! Your follower count/likes/impressions will always fluctuate due to social media’s algorithm! But your resilience (consistent posting) WILL beat the algorithm. Really.

2. @poofy.doofus (Instagram)

Presenting a contemplative photo gallery of captured memories, Tricia crystallizes nostalgia with a pristine visual flair!

Q1: What exactly goes into creating each finished photo?

Hmm… step one is taking the picture itself. My photos usually involve me venturing out to places in SG that I don’t commonly visit or places I find more scenic (like Tiong Bahru)! Afterward comes the editing, which is simpler than it looks. I didn’t want to turn editing into a chore, so I’ve never really bothered investing in proper equipment or software like Adobe. I use an app called ‘RNI films’! It helps me create the film aesthetic in just a few minutes. Finally, I use the app ‘White border’ to literally… create a white border. I guess I do this because I want my feed to appear in a gallery format, like photos sitting on a wall ready for viewing!

Q2: From urban environments and art pieces to cats, what influences the choice of subject matter in your photos? 

I don’t have a sophisticated answer to that, unfortunately. It’s just going with my gut feel I’d say. I realize that when I take pictures, I don’t exactly have an audience in mind so I’m just trying to showcase what I find more memorable! So, the TLDR answer would be : my sporadic desire to preserve a certain memory.

Q3: When curating photographs, what is your aim for your audience and how do you achieve it?

I think that taking a picture on its own isn’t enough to convey how I felt then? (i.e. taking a picture of the sakuras doesn’t convey how deeply in love I felt when I set my eyes on them) 

So that’s where the editing comes in. I might add more warm hues, or blur the background a bit more, all to get my audience to understand exactly how I felt through a series of edited pictures. 

3. @ashleykohyuxi (Instagram). www.onyourbehalf.me/recent

As a confident poet, Ashley infuses vivid emotions into the page (screen), crafting words that sear, heal and chuckle.

Q1: It is quite interesting how you combine visual elements with your writing! How do you merge the two, creatively and practically speaking?

Practically speaking, I literally just go to Canva and find some nice aesthetic drawings and just put them there. It’s just design, there’s nothing much to it. 

As for visual imagery, I think it’s just a writer’s craft honestly. I feel like I tend to do it because it makes the poetry more accessible if people can kind of visualise what they’re reading as opposed to everything being so abstract.

Q2: Based on your experiences, what would be your advice to other aspiring writers trying to put their work out there?

The first thing would be that you need to have a very clear vision of what you’re writing. For example, if it’s something supposed to be very emotional, you need to try and make sure that you bring that across in your writing, you need to make sure that you touch people’s hearts, and you make it something that everyone can relate to.

You need to be realistic about how far the reach of your writing is going to be. Maybe it’s only going to be one or two people at the start, maybe there isn’t even going to be anybody. And if you’re trying to get published, maybe your work isn’t going to get picked up by publishers for a very long while. But I think it’s almost necessary that you have to realize all that, and you need to make sure that it doesn’t degrade your self-worth. Maybe you just haven’t met the right partner to work with, or you haven’t met the right audience yet. It’ll come. Because writing is always going to be in demand. It just depends on, from who?

Q3: Why did you decide to share your poetry?

Okay, if I’m being a hundred percent honest, it’s because of my mom. I have to admit that this whole journey, a lot of it is me being propelled by her. My drive is admittedly not as strong as hers. 

Also, it does feel good to get recognition for works you have written that are acknowledged by people. It kind of reinforces your self-perception; that you’re not too bad of a writer, that your work will get appreciated by people and that people will recognize what you’re writing for. I guess because of that I decided to keep posting. 

Another reason why I wanted to share my poetry is also that I feel like, for some of the stuff I write, some people actually can relate to it. My poetry can help people to express what they can’t feel.

Conclusion

If this article fires up your entrepreneurial and creative spirit (and if you desire an escape from the hustle and bustle of student life), then it’s time to start a side hustle and start bustling! Happen to possess a skill or talent? You can brainstorm ways to turn it into a fruitful side hustle! With that said, you don’t need any pre-existing skills, either—most of the people we’ve featured in this article aren’t pros, yet they’ve taken their projects far simply through interest and perseverance.

Of course, a side hustle isn’t the only way to brighten up your student life, but it sure is extremely meaningful and rewarding for those who want to invest themselves in it. To all side hustlers and aspiring side hustlers out there, we support your efforts!

Evolution of Horror Films Through the Decades

Written by: Katelyn Joshy (21-U1), Naja Thorup Kristofferson (22-A6), Vernice Tan (22-U1)

Designed by: Sophia Chiang (22-O1)


When one thinks of horror movies, the first thing that comes to mind would likely be something similar to the Michael Myers mask from Halloween, the Scream mask or something in the same vein. However, the world of horror and thrillers is much more varied than you would expect, finding its footing through the decades with changing societal expectations and the constant redefinition of what scary is all about.

In this article, we will be listing and reviewing 3 of the most culturally significant horror movies in chronological order, from the 1960s to the 2000s, depicting the impact they had on society, along with the impact society had on them before evaluating them as a whole

  1. Psycho (1960) by Alfred Hitchcock

The 1960s was a time full of change and shifts in culture. Prior to this film, many horror or thriller-based films revolved around elements of the supernatural or monsters. Examples include films like Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933). Psycho marked a cultural shift towards more daring and gritty topics, creating the element of horror through the familiar. 

Psycho presents the story of an office worker, Marion Crane, who is trusted by her employer to bank $40,000. She sees this as an opportunity to get away and start a new life, leaving town and heading over to her lover’s store in California. Tired after the long drive and getting caught in a storm, she gets off the main highway and pulls into the Bates Motel, run by a quiet and soft spoken man named Norman Bates.

In one of the most iconic movie scenes in history, Marion is hacked to death in the shower by a barely visible old woman. It is later understood that this old woman is supposedly Norman’s mother, however, it is later revealed that she died in a murder-suicide 10 years prior. Norman killed her and her lover out of jealousy, recreating her as an alternate personality called “Mother” that killed any woman that Norman fancied. “Mother” was simply Norman dressed in an old dress and wig, in complete delusion and with violent tendencies. 

The subject matter and graphical violence shown in this film were revolutionary for the time it was shown. In fact, it was shot in black and white simply because Hitchcock knew that it would not get past censorship if it were shot in colour. It sparked a revolution in cinema, which saw a shift from classical and fantastical to violent and gritty. A shift from where evil was seen in the form of disfigured and ghastly monsters to perfectly normal-looking people, like Norman Bates.  The film pushed the limits of the strict film censorship rules known as the Motion Picture Production Code.

 Hitchcock used the power of suggestion to skirt past the code, using black and white to show the blood going down the shower drain. Despite being known for its depiction of sex and violence, the film never shows complete nudity nor the actual slashing of the knife.

While it may seem tame to audiences of the present, it was highly shocking to those of the 60s. With a jarringly unique villain and the shocking level of violence for that time, cinema was never the same since its release.

  1. The Shining (1980) by Stanley Kubrick 

The Shining (1980) is the cinematic adaptation of the best-selling novel by renowned author Stephen King. The Shining today is a well-known horror classic, having inspired many subsequent horror movies with everything from plot to filming techniques. Society’s fascination with this movie can be seen from the countless references to it in different media, the creation of popular Halloween costumes inspired by the movie and even memes of the famous line by Jack Nicholson: “Here’s Johnny!”.

The Shining is about the stay of a family at the infamous Overlook Hotel. Jack Torrance, a struggling writer, is able to secure a job as the winter caretaker of this hotel in Colorado, and brings his wife Wendy and their son Danny with him. When they arrive at the old yet grand hotel, it is evident just how isolated it is. It also becomes clear to the viewers that Danny has telepathic abilities, also known as his “shine”, as he is able to see both past and future visions of events. This also includes the terribly gruesome counts of familicide and suicide that occurred in the past at this hotel. As time passes and Jack’s writing fails to take off, combined with the creepy supernatural powers at play at this seemingly haunted hotel, he slowly spirals into madness and eventually tries to kill his family.

While the combination of cold winter isolation, shady characters and a child with supernatural abilities at the setting of previous gruesome murders seem just the ingredients needed for the perfect horror movie concoction, the director Stanley Kubrick also went against what was normally considered integral parts of horror at the time. For example, a significant part of the movie takes place during day time and not at night where the dark would have helped to build the creepy and unsettling atmosphere that most viewers are used to when watching horror movies. The use of gore is also relatively tame compared to other movies at the time. Instead of portraying over-the-top graphic violence usually associated with horror, it still manages to capture the feeling of “horror” and unease by adopting a slow build-up of apprehension and the feeling of impending doom. This also influenced the landscape of horror movies that followed as many of them would draw inspiration from ‘The Shining.’

‘The Shining’ however is not just a story of fatal cabin fever, it encompasses much more. Early in the movie, the history of the hotel is briefly mentioned – it was built on a Native burial ground and many of the past guests that had come to stay at the hotel met harrowing ends. This can be seen from the multiple encounters with ghosts throughout the movie by the different characters. For example, the two twin girls that little Danny runs into, are the daughters of Charles Grady, a previous hotel caretaker who killed them and his wife during their stay at the hotel. 

The theme of reincarnation is also suggested throughout the movie. When Jack is having a drink at the bar, he makes small talk with the ghost butler Delbert Grady who tells Jack that he has “always been the caretaker”. Even more chilling is the final shot of what appears to be Jack inside the ballroom of the hotel in 1921, which is around 50 years prior to the timeline in the movie (1970s).

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With both aspects of horror, the real and supernatural, covered in the movie, what is the message behind it? Is it to showcase the sinister horrors humans can inflict on their own families? That we should avoid haunted places at all costs?

People have been studying this movie for decades after its release, exploring the established recurring themes of madness, the supernatural, twisted and abusive family relations etc. So did Jack simply go bonkers or was he possessed by an evil spirit of the hotel? Did the awful crimes of building on a burial ground and cruelly driving out Native Americans while doing so, doom the hotel and its visitors? I think the fact that viewers can interpret for themselves is what makes the Shining so captivating.

  1. Zodiac 

David Fincher’s 2007 film follows the true crime story of the infamous Zodiac Killing Spree (carried out by the elusive Zodiac killer) that terrorised America in the 1960s. The film has been praised to be one of the most historically accurate true crime films, getting several notable details of the actual case down. These include the eyewitness testimony by the Zodiac’s only surviving victim, Micheal Mageau and a meeting between an alleged murder suspect and the lead investigator.  

The Zodiac killer was portrayed as an attention seeker which is highly unusual. In most cases, killers tend to silently commit their crimes and fade into the background. However, the Zodiac has persistently tried to make himself known and feared in the California Bay Area since day one. From sending the San Francisco Chronicle numerous letters detailing the evidence of his murders to audaciously calling the police to report his own murders and even calling into a live broadcast; The Zodiac has spared no opportunity to bask in the “limelight”. 

The Zodiac is seen to be a menacing figure with pinpoint precision for his targets. The killer singled out San Francisco writers, Paul Avery and Robert Graysmith by calling up their home landlines and even sending death threats to their offices. The killer is extremely calculative, leaving behind zero evidence- so much so he can openly mock the police’s failed attempts to catch him, calling them the “blue pigs”. These actions drive home the narrative that the Zodiac is not your run-of-the-mill murder, but an ominous force that’s not to be trifled with. Finally, the film makes it a point to never tell the story from the perspective of the Zodiac himself, with audiences never having a face to pin on the crimes. This emphasises the maddening reality of the ever-elusive identity of the killer and the presently unsolved nature of this case. 

All in all, the Zodiac is a captivating piece that tells the tragic story of young lives lost at the hands of a cold-blooded killer. While the Zodiac mirrors similar levels of psychopathy as the killers of the first two films, some may argue this film is the most chilling one of all given it’s based on real-world events.

‘Clout Chasing’

Written by: Tan Ken Shin (22-A2)

Designed by: Alexia Teo (22-U1)


Social media is an integral part of our lives in modernity and has been ever since its exponential success stemming from the 2000s. However, malevolent social media usage has led to a detrimental ‘syndrome’ especially common amongst youths of today, ‘clout chasing’. ‘Clout chasing’ in itself is not a true word, it is a term coined by internet users that refers to actions done by people who project a superficial version of themselves to garner attention on social media to become ‘popular’. When these actions are taken to the extreme, they begin to endanger the lives of people and even threaten the peace of society.  This essay will underline how exactly clout chasing came about, why it’s a problem and steps that can be taken to mitigate such behaviour in the future. 

The Origins of Clout Chasing

After the introduction of social media platforms in the early 2000s, with the first-ever industrial titan being MySpace, earning over a million active users in 2004, the use of social media began to expand and influence the masses, becoming an increasingly crucial part of daily life. A feature of social media that would eventually lead to clout chasing was the introduction of the ‘like’ system, a household name in modern times. The ‘like’ system was first birthed in 2009 on FaceBook, where it was then called the ‘Awesome’ button. The system involves users pressing a ‘like’ button to indicate their interest in the content posted, where the larger the number of likes, the greater amount of traction this would cause. The ‘like’ button, being a way to entice users to post and interact more with the platforms, was a massive success, and was implemented in a myriad of other social media platforms such as Instagram and Youtube, where it is even called ‘upvotes’ on Reddit. 

Unfortunately, the ‘like’ system would turn out to be the catalyst for clout chasing. Due to the nature of the posts usually deciding how much traction it would get, where more ‘shocking; or ‘unnatural’ posts would gain more popularity. It is human nature to be attracted to things that shock you. Furthermore, celebrities on the internet have a massive fanbase leading to them having tremendous amounts of likes in their posts. For example, Ariana Grande’s photos from her wedding with Dalton Gomez on Instagram still stand at a whopping 26.5 million likes. 

Instagram post from Ariana Grande of her wedding with Dalton Gomez.

Therefore, in an effort to emulate the popularity of these celebrities or even just desiring attention for personal gratification, users of social media resort to performing outlandish and even dangerous acts in an effort to draw attention, where these acts are often not in character for the person in question, merely an attempt to get likes. In 2016, the phrase ‘clout chaser’ became a derogatory term used to describe people on social sites that are shallow and desperate to gain followers and become famous, and also to criticise “fake” people that pretend to be something in order to get more attention. Thus, the term ‘clout chasing’ was born. 

Why is it an issue?

This begs the question, why is clout chasing harmful? What makes it so wrong to desire attention? I believe that while it isn’t inherently bad to desire popularity and attention, the methods you take to get there are the points of contention. In the case of clout chasing, which is primarily evident in teens and youths, their still-developing brains lead to them not fully comprehending the gravity and consequences of their actions, only narrow-mindedly seeing the goal ahead of them. This means the extent they would go to to get a popular post would venture into dangerous waters, where their actions could be fatal to themselves and others. With increasing social media influence, this trend will undeniably rise in the future, leaving humanity and the next generation of society in a precarious position. 

A stellar example of this would be Timothy Wilks, a relatively young 20-year-old in Tennessee. He aspired to become a youtube sensation by pranking others in his videos. In 2021, as part of one of the pranks that he hoped to gain traction, he filmed himself invading the home of a family with a mask and butcher knife in hand, threatening to kill them. As any rational parent would do to protect the lives of their loved ones, they shot him with a gun in self-defence, killing him. This undoubtedly traumatised not only both families and relatives of the involved parties, but also the friends and fans of Timothy. This news spread like wildfire, prompting polarising opinions on who was in the right here, where eventually all blame fell on social media influence and the severity of clout chasing. 

A screenshot from a commentary video from youtube content creator penguinz0 going over the incident.

Thus, this shows just how detrimental clout chasing is when left unmoderated, leading to loss of life in this extreme circumstance despite the perpetrator actually bearing no ill intent. Thus, clout chasing is a problem and must be stopped as it threatens the peace and security of our society.

How can We Reduce this Behaviour in the Future?

It is not very well researched how exactly to prevent the influence of social media on youths that may lead to clout chasing, as in today’s ever-so-digitalized society it is extremely difficult to prevent children from gaining access to the internet. However, I believe one method to combat clout chasing would be through public education. Governments can implement curriculum changes to include education regarding internet usage, and how to properly identify harmful influences or online behaviour. For example, lessons could be taught to youth regarding clout chasing, teaching students not to fall into its rabbit hole. Currently in Singapore, the Ministry Of Education attempts to do this by introducing “Character and Citizenship Education” (CCE) into Primary and Secondary schools, which aims to imbue proper moral values and knowledge of the outside world, covering a range of topics such as relationships, internet use and street smarts, to name a few. 

Yio Chu Kang primary school showcasing their students in CCE lessons. 

However, this does not mean clout-chasing behaviour has been completely eradicated in Singapore, as cases still pop up from time to time. One of such would be the Zoo incident last year in 2021, where a 19-year-old teenage boy filmed a video on TikTok, a social media platform,  of him trespassing and backflipping into the Rhinoceros enclosure in the Singapore Zoo, which was undoubtedly extremely dangerous.

Video on Tiktok uploaded by the friends of the boy who trespassed, making light of the situation. 

Thankfully, these cases are few and far between, showing an overall success in Singapore’s efforts to adequately educate youths on the dangers of the internet. 

Conclusion 

In conclusion, I believe clout chasing to be a part of human nature to desire companionship, through attention. However, when one indulges too far into their desires, a danger is posed to not just them, but society at large too. In order to mitigate this, I believe governments should take this matter more seriously and invest more efforts into mitigating the issue, as if left to prevail, our future generations will undeniably suffer. I sincerely wish that in the future, users of the internet will be more aware of its influence and use it properly to benefit their lives, not endanger it. 

The Ethics of True Crime Entertainment

Written by: Kim Sooahn (22-A6), Alexia Teo (22-U1) 

Designed by: Rebecca Yap (22-O1)


Since before the birth of modern media, our pull towards the morbid has stood undaunted. The development of criminal justice together with the spread of the printing press in the 1600s brought forth writings centred around true crime. Back then, they often had a didactic touch and underlined various religious values. 

With the rise of broadcast and social media starting in the 60s, this phenomenon seems to be bolstered. Now, a whole media genre has cemented around it: true crime entertainment.

The roots of the true-crime entertainment scene as we know it can be traced to Truman Capote’s 1965 non-fiction novel “Cold Blood”. Its success prompted a movie adaptation to be made and displayed the profit-making ability of the genre and paved the way for the audiovisual representation of true crime. 

These days, the production of true crime entertainment has become more decentralised. Platforms like YouTube and even TikTok have served to ensure this. 

Content creators detailing gruesome incidents and events while partaking in mundane tasks like putting on makeup have become a common sight; even a source of disbelieving derision. Some big names on Youtube such as Buzzfeed have even come up with their own twist to True Crime mysteries such as the Buzzfeed Unsolved series where the hosts come up with theories to solve cold cases throughout history. Podcasts have also sprung forward, which many ironically listen to while seeking relaxation and peace. Notable Podcasts include Serial in which the hosts take a deep dive into the true crime scene for podcasts and lay the foreground for many podcasts to follow. That is not to say that big names have not boarded the true crime entertainment wave. Netflix has gotten big names like Zac Efron involved in true crime adaptations such as Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile. These adaptations that often feature sensationalism and attractive actors aimed at maximising profit tend to desensitise viewers to the true atrocity and horrors of crimes. 

Not only do content creators use true crime as a platform to gain views, but many news outlets also need the viewership hence they use these true crimes to attract more viewers and gain more attention. True crime tends to get higher viewership as the titles are seemingly more entertaining than the others. With the general public’s disdain for violence and crimes, it will garner a lot of attention thus allowing the company to gain more recognition and money. News outlets tend to show support against these true crimes and other publishers also start to follow suit. One notable example is when the New York Times published a detailed investigation into allegations of sexual harassment hence being recognised as one of the defining early movements of the #MeToo movement. After that movement, a flooding number of publishers wrote about the movement, starting a trend. 

The inundation of true crime productions has contributed to its normalisation and caused viewers and followers to treat fresh and developing crime with distance instead of empathy. This can be observed in recent court cases like Heard v Depp, which took social media by storm. Memes, inappropriate edits, and insensitive hashtags flooded the Internet even before an actual verdict was confirmed. That which should have been a semi-private and solemn proceeding was quickly transformed into an international and hotly-discussed debacle through social media. 

The overt publicising of court cases and criminal investigations even before they conclude can cause the court of public opinion to make its premature conclusion, and may inadvertently cause biases in the processes and outcomes. 

In addition, a New York Times article discusses how the consumption of true crime entertainment can make the world seem more dangerous than it actually is (especially as crime rates seem to be following a downward trend). This in turn can lead to increased anxiety and fear among the vulnerable.

For the relatives of victims, unnecessary public speculation and scrutiny into their private lives can prevent them from seeking closure. The sensationalism of true crime can make viewers and followers feel detached from the victims and those involved. For example, years after the case of a man who was strangled in a Walmart parking lot, a Netflix documentary called I Am a Killer was created based on it, despite the family and friends of the victim pleading to abandon the project which was just ignored. The documentary decidedly portrays the victim’s murderer in a sympathetic light and is set for a third season. The ethics for this documentary was completely off as the family’s consent should be at the forefront for these adaptations to happen. There are many examples like these across true crime entertainment, where the victim’s family wishes were blatantly ignored. Instead, as these cases are retold, they have to relive this horrible moment over and over again. 

There have also been cases where true crime fans take it upon themselves to play detectives for more recent cases (like kidnappings) and do their own amateur research by diving into the social media profiles of victims. By reducing tragic events to games or quests for personal enjoyment and ignoring and intruding into the privacy of victims and families, fans often pose an obstacle to the healing and recovery of relatives. 

In addition to the victim’s family being affected, the general public is quick to turn everything on the media for their gain and entertainment. This is seen from Gabby Petito’s case. She is a woman who disappeared between 27 and 30 August 2021, and was later found deceased on 19 September 2021. There were millions of speculations on what could have happened to her with hashtags trending all over social media platforms such as TikTok. The surprising thing is how quickly people turned to consuming Prtito’s case as though it was entertainment, with the case being digested through social media posts made in pastels and in trending TikTok sounds. Petito is a real person who was confirmed dead and there are millions of people who are digging into her private life to find details as if they were detectives themselves. 

On the other hand, experts often agree that a fascination with true crime is natural. It seems that the point of contention is the extent to which many true crime followers pursue their interest in cases. Although it is fine to watch and consume the genre, the average person must never forget their place as a mere viewer who lacks experience in investigative fields. As such, fans should refrain from insensitive accusations and speculations that could come up at the psychological and even legal cost to family members and victims. Behind the screen, we must never forget that there were and are real people who suffer from these crimes and we must treat these cases with due weight. 

The Rise of Reality Shifting (I MET DRACO MALFOY!!! I HAD A QUIRK!!! I WAS RICH AND SUCCESSFUL!!!)

Written by: Ashley Koh (21-A1)

Designed by: Sophia Chiang (22-O1)


Close your eyes. Breathe deeply, in and out, almost as if you’re falling asleep or meditating intently. Hold all the words you want to say in your mind, and start to construct the world you want to enter. And then, open the door. Before you, the towering halls of Hogwarts, or the volleyball courts of Haikyuu!!, or even the fields and Regency-era buildings of Bridgerton start to materialise. And to your heart’s surprise and excitement, the characters you love and cherish start to run towards you, treating you as one of them and bringing you around to sightsee. You spend 10 glorious months with them, living in this beautiful world that you never thought was possible. And then, reality comes crashing back down and you open your eyes. In the real world, only 10 minutes have passed. 

Congratulations, you just shifted realities.

The scenario described above is one that many, especially youths, have increasingly been searching for. “Shifting”, short for “reality shifting”, has become one of the most popular trends, especially in the past two years since 2020. But how on earth did it become so prevalent? What is the science behind it? And most importantly, should you hop on the bandwagon? 

What exactly is “reality shifting”? 

Based on the extract above, you still may not fully understand what is “shifting”. So let me explain it a little more clearly.

“Shifting” is grounded in the idea of the “multiverse” (yes, the same “multiverse” that so many comics talk about, albeit less flashy and dramatic). Its origins trace back to the 1st century, when philosopher Chrysippus spoke about his belief that multiple universes existed, and this was expanded upon by mathematician and University of Cape Town professor George Ellis, who similarly talked about his belief, and summarised the concept as “there is a multitude of parallel universes, in which things unfold differently and which we are not usually able to perceive or see due to our limited cosmic vision.” It is this very concept of the “multiverse”, that “shifting” derives its entire premise from. 

Thus, “shifting” is best described as the practice of shifting your consciousness from your present plane of reality (known as “Current Reality” and abbreviated to “CR) to the reality you wish to travel to (known as “Desired Reality” and abbreviated as “DR”). 

HOW IS SHIFTING DONE? 

Before we get into any debate and discussion about “shifting”, it’s important to understand (briefly) how shifting is done: 

Step 1: Script. Before shifting, it’s necessary to prepare. For many “shifters”, they write a “script” before they begin to shift. The contents of these scripts can vary from person to person, though common elements include basic parts of worldbuilding like your name, age, and various other traits in the DR (including superpowers for Marvel, Hogwarts house for Harry Potter). Another aspect of the script includes safety measures: “shifters” will make sure they add “I cannot die.” and/or “I cannot get permanently injured” as ways to ensure their safety within the DR. Some even go so far as to add non-safety-related parts, such as “I have infinite money” etc. “Scripting” seems not to be necessary, although it aids with the visualisation and worldbuilding, which are imperative to the practice. 

Step 2: This step differs for many, as it can either be “dreaming” or “awake” shifting. For those who choose to shift through dreaming, they would first fall asleep, then try to control their consciousness during the dream in order to shift, similar in premise to lucid dreaming. For those who shift while “awake”, meditation is usually employed in order to reach this same state of physical unconsciousness and mental consciousness. 

Step 3: Shift. Though it may seem a logical step to follow step 2, this step can be incredibly difficult for “shifters” to achieve, especially for beginners. Getting ready to shift does not translate automatically to shifting, again similar to lucid dreaming, but when the “shifters” do succeed, this results in “reality shifting”. 

After this quick understanding of how “reality shifting” works, let’s dive into what made shifting the phenomenon it is today. 

The Rise of Reality Shifting 

“Shifting” as a practice doesn’t seem to have a clear origin. Its roots may lay in astral projecting, lucid dreaming, and other related practices, but by itself, “shifting” is not a phenomenon with a well-defined history. 

Nonetheless, that has not stopped it from becoming massively popular among the youths, especially those who use social media platforms like Instagram and (you guessed it) Tiktok. As with many of the newest mini cultural phenomena, Tiktok has also been responsible for the rise of “shifting”. 

As of this writing, the tag “shifting” has 10.8 billion views, showing the immense popularity of this practice. Videos under this tag often have more than a million views, which is no mean feat on a platform where millions of videos are uploaded a day. Indeed, due to Tiktok, awareness about “shifting”, and with it its myriad detractors and supporters, have become much more common, and conversations about it have begun at much faster rates. 

With all the hype about it, is there any science behind it? How does it actually work? 

Actual Science? Or Just Quack? 

Many people who criticise “shifting” have pointed to the fact that there is very little science to support the practice, and that it’s purely just lucid dreaming, or even simpler, just people imagining very creatively and thoroughly. 

However, some psychology experts actually disagree with these popular assumptions. For instance, psychologist Grace Warwick dubs shifting as a ‘transliminal experience’ which is believed to arise from one’s sensitivity to unconscious psychological material. Similarly, Dr Susan Martinez-Conde notes that the dissociation that reality shifting involves is not something unfamiliar to humans. “‘Our mental self dissociates all the time, such as when we read a book or watch a movie, leaving behind our physical reality to temporarily inhabit a literary or cinematic one. This is possible thanks to the vivid imagination that humans are equipped with, and this imagination is likely what enables one to ‘shift realities’”.

Indeed, many practices that shifters employ to “shift realities” include meditative practices where the mind seemingly becomes detached from reality, and affirmations to encourage the shifter to keep shifting, as seen in popular methods like the Raven method and the Julia method. The Train and Heartbeat methods are even more intense in their manifestations, with the first being a shifter manifesting a train carrying them to their desired reality, and choosing to consciously step into their DR off the train, and the second being the shifter imagining they are lying against the chest of someone from their DR and listening to their heartbeats. 

The methods do seem very manifestation and meditation based, both of which have tangible scientifically proven results. However, “shifting” itself has not undergone any rigorous scientific inquiry as to its authenticity and ability to provide results, and has so far been seen as an interesting psychological phenomenon bearing more study. 

And what about the claim of the “multiverse” that so many “shifters” believe in? What’s the science behind that? 

In spite of the fact that there is a lot of theoretical physics supporting this theory (which the author will not go into because I am extremely bad at physics), the multiverse theory is just that: a theory, based on many laws of physics that we currently have. As tempting as it may be to believe that the multiverse actually exists, “shifters” will have to be disappointed for now. 

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly 

With all this talk about “shifting”, and the science behind it, it’s about time we head into the questions that started off this article: What’s so bad about “shifting”? And is there anything good about it? 

“Shifting” seems like a good way of escapism. For those whose CRs are not so pleasant right now, “shifting” into their favourite fictional worlds, or even worlds where they want to be in can seem like a pleasant alternative. 

And for many, it is. “Shifting” provides a temporary respite from the stresses and pains of the modern world and reality, especially in times when we are suffering many catastrophic events happening at once. It’s no coincidence that the rise of “shifting” was around the same time the COVID-19 pandemic was sweeping across the globe, with many teenagers stuck at home and no longer able to live the teenaged lives they were envisioning for themselves. For them, “shifting” became a way to temporarily forget all their troubles for a while, and go to a world where none of the traumas and hurts they were currently experiencing existed. 

However, there is an emphasis on “temporarily”. Indeed, many veteran “shifters”, as well as some psychological experts warn against “shifting” for too long and too often. “Shifting” is similar in that sense to other forms of escapism, like watching Netflix, playing video games, and even substance abuse. It can be highly addictive, especially because there is a strong attachment created between the “shifter” and the characters in their DRs, and it can be very easy to fall into the trap of simply “shifting” again and again, until it is hard to distinguish current reality from the fictional one. 

Additionally, the jarring contrast between the DR and CR can be intensely painful on a psychological level. Disappointment after coming back from the DR can quickly translate into feelings of depression and misery, further worsening the pain that the “shifter” can feel in their CR. That is the reason for those “I just came back from Hogwarts after 8 months, bring me back” crying videos that may have popped up on your For You Page. 

Furthermore, “shifters” themselves have garnered criticism from those not part of the community, with words such as “cringe” and even “cultish” levelled at them. And indeed, the sometimes excessive lengths “shifters” go to defend their community, and the practices they do can be extremely off-putting and even insulting to some. 

However, the intense criticism that “shifting” has garnered, seems to have been misdirected, and could possibly be attributed to the fact that the community is mostly made up of teenagers. Many trends that teenagers have liked have also garnered similarly negative portrayals from the outside community, and could explain the disproportionate backlash that is associated with “shifting”. 

Should You Shift? 

All in all, “shifting” is a trend that, like many others, may soon die out and be quickly replaced by others in the never-ending rinse-and-repeat cycle that so many social media platforms see themselves going through. 

Even so, should you start trying to “shift”? Frankly, it’s really up to you to decide. After all, despite all the scary claims in the previous section, “shifting” itself is a pretty harmless and even fun practice, if done in moderation. It can be similar to “roleplaying” or “lucid dreaming”, both of which are similarly enjoyable and bring little detriment to those who engage in them. 

Thus, if you’re feeling a little adventurous and want to bring a little more colour to your life and wanna try out those new manifestation techniques you’ve seen on Tiktok, go ahead! Just follow the steps above, and see you in the next world!

References: 

The Science Behind Reality Shifting | by Revathi Nair | Medium

Reality Shifting Methods: How to Shift Realities | Terravara

What is Reality Shifting? +21 Methods (Beginner Friendly) | By Subconscious Servant

What Is (And Isn’t) Scientific About The Multiverse | Forbes | Starts With A Bang

How has Rock Music changed over the decades?

Written By: Nur Khairunnisa (22-I1)

Designed By: Cheng Zhi Shan (22-U1)


Richard Wayne Penniman, more famously known as Little Richard, is one of the many undisputable founding fathers of ‘rock and roll’. He is widely known as the Architect of Rock and Roll, and he helped to turn the musical styles of rhythm and blues into rock. With Little Richard’s rising influences in the music industry, paired with the creation of the first electric guitars in the 50s, rock music had risen steadily throughout the decades, but had unfortunately fallen as societies progressed. What has caused the decline of rock music? Who contributed to the changes in rock music over the decades? We will explore more about the developments of the rock genre in this article.

A brief history of the term ‘rock n roll’

The origins of the term ‘rock n roll’ is still widely debated. The term was widely used by sailors in the 17th century to describe the rocking movement of ships. Therefore, people used the term due to the rhythmic movements of the ships resembling the rhythm of the music. On the other hand, some say the term ‘rock n roll’ does not have the same connotations as it did in the 50s and is even more different today. Rock n roll was a black slang for sex that had been coined as early as the 20s. As rock n roll was rising,  the term was simply considered as a blues and country music genre, despite causing several outrages with the name.

The 50s to 60s

Alas, rock in the 50s sounded vastly different from any decade. Big names such as Elvis Presley and Lloyd Prince were releasing hits such as Blue Suede Shoes and Lawdy Miss Clawdy. It was not until the creation of the Fender Esquire and Gibson Les Paul that the world started to see the modern classic rock. Classic bands such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Beatles started to gain popularity.  Additionally, it was also the first instance that British Rock bands were gaining mass popularity globally. More specific genres of rock were created, such as psychedelic rock (Pink Floyd). 

The 70s to 80s, aka the Golden Age of Rock

The 70s and 80s were arguably the best eras of rock music, with hard rock, progressive rock and heavy metal entering the mainstream rock music scene. Aerosmith’s hit song ‘Dream On’ and the classic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen were also released. The 70s also saw the loss of rock icon Elvis Presley. At the same time, pop was steadily rising, with the Jackson 5 becoming the biggest pop-music phenomenon of the decade.

The 80s saw a steadiness in the popularity of rock, with bands such as Guns N Roses, ACDC and Aerosmith releasing hit after hit. Guns N Roses had their debut album, ‘Appetite for Destruction’, which reached number 1 on the Billboard 200 within a year of its release. At the same time, the 80s saw a great increase in pop influence in the industry. Artists like the King of Pop, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston were dominating the pop scene. Rock n Roll became a wider umbrella for many new subgenres. This simply shows that people started having different expressions of rock music. People’s opinions and tastes were starting to change.

The 90s – The start of the decline

The 1990s saw a drastic rise in pop music. Yep, the 90s saw the rise of classic boy bands and girl groups. Backstreet Boys’ ‘I Want It That Way’ reached the number one spot in more than 25 countries. Spice Girls’ ‘Wannabe’ topped the UK Singles Chart for seven weeks and received a double Platinum certification by the British Phonographic Industry. At the same time, the rock industry was also thriving, with hit releases from Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine. However, it was very evident that pop was taking over, with the Billboard charts mostly filled with the newest pop songs. 

The 2000s and 2010s – The dominance of Pop Music

Surely not much explanation is needed in this section. Everyone is familiar with the hits of the 2000s and 2010s: Replay by Iyaz, Watcha Say by Jason Derulo, DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love by Usher, Attention by Charlie Puth, Shape of You by Ed Sheeran… you get the point. Pop music and Pop Culture truly defined the 2000s and 2010s. 

The decline of rock music in this era is definitely not just attributed to the fact that the pop genre had dominated the music industry. So, why does rock music look so different today? 

The issue of overt sexism in rock music and the rather masculine nature of rock

As an avid rock music listener, I never really realised the misogyny in the lyrics of many rock songs until I grew much older. Misogynistic lyrics are deeply rooted in many rock songs. The perception of rock music remains skewed today as a result of the lyrics behind countless songs. As time went on, society moved away from writing songs objectifying women and relationships, and especially in today’s ‘woke’ social media culture, we no longer see these issues of sexism in the lyrics of songs, as well as seeing people move away from the rock genre altogether. 

Furthermore, rock music promoted a lot of toxic masculinity. When asked to think of a rockstar, most picture a white man with long hair, with a rather masculine figure. Most times, popular rock icons promoted toxic masculinity by being promiscuous and stoic. This stereotype of an olden-day rockstar is no longer relevant in our world today. A rather popular example is pop icon Harry Styles, who constantly challenges toxic masculinity in the music industry today.

The rise of mainstream rock

And lastly, today we have the rise of mainstream rock. I believe that rock music never really died, it has just changed to fit the tastes and preferences of people today. Groups such as All Time Low, Maneskin and Arctic Monkeys make music that represents today’s rock. Genres such as pop-rock and punk-rock have also garnered more attention as of late.

Despite the controversial nature of rock music, it would truly be a shame to see the rich history and legacies of rock icons fade into the past. Rock music should still be treasured today, even though society’s music preferences have inevitably changed. Who knows? Perhaps rock n roll will eventually make its comeback.

Guns N Roses, posing for their hit debut album, Appetite for Destruction

The Grammys’ Biggest Snubs

Written By: Benedict Keng (22-U3), Brandon Ng (22-E4), Darius Chen (22-E4), Ignatius Lee (22-O5)

Design By: Eris Kek (22-I6)


The Grammy Awards are no stranger to controversy. “Music’s Biggest Night” has been giving out awards since 1959, but people are starting to question if the Recording Academy and its voting members (who decide the nominees and winners), are out of touch with current listeners or simply choose to award huge artists in order to boost the viewership of the ceremony, as recent award ceremonies have culminated in several snubs, where artists and their works have either not been awarded or not been nominated at all. Here are some of (what we think are) the Grammys’ Biggest Snubs: 

1.  The Weeknd, After Hours (63rd Annual Grammy Awards)

Abel Tesafye, better known as The Weeknd, was shut out of the 63rd Grammy Awards in 2021 after his fourth studio album, After Hours, failed to garner any nominations.  After Hours is a R&B themed record that includes synthpop and electropop influences. Lyrically, After Hours explores themes of heartbreak, escapism, loneliness, promiscuity, overindulgence, self-loathing and regret. When asked about the reason behind the album’s title, The Weeknd explained to Variety: “The main reason is these are all emotions and thoughts and feelings that I had late at night, and I’m going through all the emotions, after the club, after the fight and after a long day, it’s like these are my thoughts from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.”

After Hours was a huge success, with the album spawning three singles that topped the Billboard Hot 100, with the album itself debuting atop the Billboard 200, and staying there for four consecutive weeks. The album also had the biggest first week sales of any album in 2020 at that point in time, representing a huge commercial success. Critically, the album received a Metacritic score of 80, based on 20 reviews from different publications, indicating “generally favourable reviews”, with the album ranking near the top on major publications’ year-end album ranking lists. As such, one can argue that The Weeknd had owned 2020, yet, After Hours failed to garner a single nomination at the Grammy Awards, making for a huge disappointment for both The Weeknd, his fans and the music industry, especially since critics, rightfully so, had expected the artist to sweep major categories in the Grammy Awards. It is therefore questionable that 2020’s biggest album was not nominated at all, representing one of the Grammys’ biggest snubs and putting the Grammy’s nominating criteria in the spotlight. 

2.  Beyoncé, Lemonade-AOTY (59th Annual Grammy Awards)

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, also known as Beyoncé, was denied of Album of The Year in the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, losing out to Adele’s 25 which came as a shock to the many millions of “Beys” (nickname for Beyoncé’s fanbase) and to the music world as well. Lemonade is predominantly an R&B album, whilst encompassing a myriad of genres like reggae, blues, rock, hip hop, soul, funk, Americana, country, gospel, electronic, and trap. Straying away from themes of empowering ladies, single or taken, Lemonade delves into newfangled motifs such as black feminism and infidelity, notably her relationship with Jay-Z which remains equivocal in the album. Through tapping into these atypical topics, listeners correlate with Beyoncé on deeper levels.

Many have argued that Beyoncé’s Lemonade should have won the prestigious AOTY award, mainly because of its cultural significance, as well as it being unparalleled in its impact. Beyoncé’s’ ‘Lemonade’ also provides a different angle that we can take when approaching and delving deeper into the impacts of slavery. The main focus of ‘Lemonade’ is infidelity, which is seen by researcher Alma Carten, as the outcome of this internalised, unresolved anger and conflict between men and women that has manifested its way into black culture today.  The way that Beyoncé explores the nature of relationships in general and America’s unresolved issues of racism and police brutality, not only educates but also empowers, making ‘Lemonade’ an album that goes down in history as one of the greatest moments in musical history. Lemonade both explored the struggles of being a wife and/or mother, and while Adele’s album was just as swooping and cinematic as her fans hoped, it didn’t take the same risks with genre, or attempt an evocative narrative arc, like Lemonade did. Add on the fiery political edits of Formation, and the album’s accompanying short film, and you get a work that’s so much more substantial. Even Adele, the winner of that year’s AOTY, acknowledged the chatter and said later on of Beyoncé that: “I thought it was her year. What does she have to do to win Album Of The Year?” 

3. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly – AOTY (58th Annual Grammy Awards)

Firstly, the actual winner of AOTY went to Taylor Swift’s album 1989. 1989 saw Taylor venturing further from her country roots and into pop stardom. The album was heavily inspired by 80s synth pop and was essentially a modern reinterpretation of that sound. The album was well received by critics and general audiences alike with 1989 becoming the first platinum album in 2014 (platinum albums are albums that have sold more than 1 million copies), despite being released in October, the later half of the year. With 1.287 million copies sold in its first week, as well as spawning five or more US top-10 singles in the 2010s decade, the album was a massive hit. In terms of artistic progression, Taylor’s following albums Reputation (2017) and Lover (2019) would see her venturing further into electronic pop production with 1989 serving as the building block for her artistic growth. Personally, I think 1989 is a great album, most of the singles are great, enjoyable pop pieces with songs like ‘Blank Space’, ‘Style’ and ‘Wildest Dreams’ retaining that classic Taylor Swift magic. The deep cuts are great too, with the closer ‘Clean’ being a great palette cleanser that offers a great thematic resolution to the topics explored in the album. 

Frankly, if it was any other year, I would have been fine with 1989 winning AOTY. Unfortunately it was competing for the award in the same year as To Pimp A Butterfly (TPAB), Kendrick Lamar’s magnum opus. TPAB is an immersive, conceptual masterpiece that serves as a significant milestone in musical history. It is heralded by many as one of the best albums of the 2010s and to me, definitely deserved AOTY.

TPAB, released in 2015, is one of the most culturally important albums in the last decade, a peerless expression of the trials and tribulations of the modern black experience. TPAB is an intense amalgamation of funk, jazz, and poetry; a concept album whose concept was tied around black excellence, culture, success and more. TPAB also proved to be a massive hit with critics and general audiences alike, with first-week sales reaching 324,000 copies. The album was also streamed 9.6 million times on its first day on Spotify, setting the service’s global first-day streaming record. Though not having quite as many initial and final sales as 1989, by March 2016, it would sell 850,000 copies in the US also becoming a certified platinum album.  

Conceptually, TPAB dwarfs 1989 both in scale and messaging. 1989 seems to dabble with themes omnipresent in Taylor’s albums with ballads about love, heartbreak and more. Of course, this is a generalisation but the concepts Taylor Swift tackled at least up till this point would be a rehash of the same old ideas. To be fair, one of the strong points of Taylor Swift is her rather unique songwriting style that keeps tracks interesting even when they dip into familiar territory, however, this point seems rather insignificant when compared to TPAB. TPAB is an album unlike anything Kendrick had ever put out before. Overall, TPAB is structured with each song acting as its own unique vignette on certain black struggles with all the songs coming together to form a cohesive message about the black experience. The narrative of TPAB sees Kendrick reciting a poem at the end of almost every track. Starting the poem at the end of track 3 ‘King Kunta’, Kendrick gets a little further into the poem at the end or beginning of subsequent tracks, each time adding a few stanzas while repeating the bits of the poem he has already mentioned in previous tracks. Amazingly, whatever words he ends the poem off on would go on to dictate the theme of the song that would be about to play such as the misuse of influence on ‘These Walls’ or going back to one’s roots on ‘Momma’. At the end of the final track ‘Mortal Man’, the poem is recited in full by Kendrick to shockingly enough- legendary, deceased rapper Tupac. Kendrick would proceed to make use of excerpts from a previous Tupac interview to create a “mock conversation” with him about the state of Black people in America. Even the album name TPAB was originally meant to be called ‘to pimp a caterpillar’ which cleverly spells out “To p.a.c (tupac)”.

Musically, I would also argue that TPAB is a much more bold, adventurous album than 1989 with TPAB taking sonic risks and deviating far from anything playing at the time. With 1989, though its synth pop sound may be fresh and new in Taylor’s catalogue, when compared to the rest of the music landscape, it is hardly anything unique. There were plenty of Taylor’s pop contemporaries attempting this sound, in fact Beauty Behind The Madness by The Weeknd (also up for AOTY that year) was also a fantastic 80s synth pop inspired album. By contrast, TPAB was heavily inspired by the sound of old school hip hop. It encompasses jazz, funk and neo soul inspired sounds in its production, a far cry from the radio friendly ‘Trap beats’ dominating the radio at the time. TPAB also has a greater degree of experimentation even incorporating elements of spoken word such as in the interlude “For free” which is essentially a poem recited quickly over the backdrop of a jazz cacophony.

In terms of its impact as a whole, TPAB also takes the cake. Songs like ‘Alright’ became adopted as one of the mantras in the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest while  TPAB would also go on to be studied in schools. Famously, the album was analysed in High Tech High School in North Bergen, N.J., where teacher Brian Mooney used TPAB to draw correlations to Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye, a novel about a young African-American girl growing up post the Great Depression. With the aid of TPAB, Mooney asked his students to “reflect on the dichotomy of black culture in America — the celebration of itself and its struggle with historic oppression”. Lamar himself was “intrigued that somebody other than [himself] can articulate and break down the concepts of To Pimp a Butterfly almost better than [he] can”.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate once again that I think 1989 is a fantastic album, unfortunately TPAB is an album that outclasses it in many aspects and is a much more deserving candidate for AOTY. As RnB legend Frank Ocean himself would say in a personal Tumblr post following the 58th Grammys: “1989 getting album of the year over To Pimp A Butterfly. Hands down one of the most ‘faulty’ TV moments I’ve seen. ”

References

https://variety.com/2020/music/news/the-weeknd-after-hours-track-by-track-1234574136/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2014/11/05/taylor-swifts-1989-becomes-the-first-platinum-album-of-the-year/

https://pitchfork.com/news/59888-kendrick-lamar-visits-high-school-where-students-studied-to-pimp-a-butterfly/

https://mashable.com/article/frank-ocean-grammy-letter