Pop and rock

Olivia Newton-John posts video: ‘Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated’

Olivia Newton-John has denied recent reports in US media that she had just “weeks” to live.

Appearing in a short video posted on social media, the Australian music and screen icon wished fans a happy new year, and said reports of her imminent death were off the mark.

“I just want to say that the rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated, to quote a very famous quote,” she said.

“I’m doing great and I want to wish all of you the happiest, healthiest 2019 that’s possible and thank you all for your wonderful support for me and for my Olivia Newton-John cancer wellness centre in Melbourne, Australia.”

Olivia Newton-John (@olivianj)

Happy New Year! Here’s to a wonderful 2019! Love & light, Olivia pic.twitter.com/1Nd2jIcRb1

January 3, 2019

It came after US tabloid site Radar Online had claimed the 70-year-old was “clinging on to life” amid her battle with cancer.

The site said Newton-John had been hoping she’d live long enough to see daughter Chloe Lattanzi wed fiance James Driskill in 2019.

Quoting unnamed sources, the report said Newton-John’s “bodily functions appear to be shutting down”, and quoted a “longevity expert” who said she was “almost certainly is going to die!”.

The reports in the US were picked up by a number of Australian media outlets, sparking an outpouring of grief among local fans.

It forced members of Newton-John’s family and friends to insist the rumours weren’t true.

Her niece Tottie Goldsmith, herself a singer and actor, denied the claims in a post on Instagram overnight.

“Just giving you the heads up that Livvy is in good health, so let’s leave that distressing rumour where it belongs,” she wrote.

Newton-John postponed tour dates in May 2017 after revealing a second diagnosis of breast cancer.

In September she revealed she had received a third diagnosis for cancer, saying her stage-four breast cancer had metastasised to her spine.

In an interview on Channel Seven’s Sunday Night, she said: “I’m one of millions in this fight. I shouldn’t say fight … in this journey.”

Newton-John was catapulted to global stardom in 1978 by her co-starring role with John Travolta in the musical film Grease.

She has previously spoken about her experience of surviving breast cancer and become an advocate for the importance of early detection.

Threatin: band creates fake fanbase for tour attended by no one

One of the greatest art rock pranks of all time – or a hugely expensive exercise in vanity? That’s the question some music venues across the UK are wrestling with after US-based “band” Threatin came over to Europe to play a string of gigs in well-known venues – to absolutely nobody.

Jered Threatin, the creative force behind Threatin, had an online presence that suggested an active fanbase, and that his act had toured extensively in the US. Venues also appear to have been informed that large numbers of tickets had been pre-sold, which turned out to be untrue.

Venues on the tour included The Underworld in London, Trillians in Newcastle and the Exchange in Bristol. The Underworld posted publicly to Thretin’s Facebook page, saying “What happened to the 291 advanced ticket sales your agent said you’d sold? THREE PEOPLE turned up.”

Artists who have unwittingly been drawn into the story as support acts have been boasting about being part of the experience – Bristol-based artist Sasori, who also drums with the band Kamino, said on social media that he was “feeling pretty special, not everyone gets to say they played on the same bill as Threatin at his sellout show in Bristol”.

But the band themselves made a more serious point in a Facebook post, pointing out that Bristol’s Exchange venue was “fully staffed with two bouncers on the door expecting to deal with a queue”, and that the stunt “has done nothing but fleece several UK venues out of money and time that would be far better spent on genuine artists. People like this deserve to be outed for who they are. Or aren’t.”

As people began to become aware of the story over the weekend, there was briefly a glimmer of possibility that Jered Threatin’s rock star dream might come true. People began to say they would be going to the gigs out of curiosity – but sadly for the would-be rock star, the tour has seemingly now collapsed.

Sunday night’s scheduled Threatin appearance in Belfast was cancelled at the last minute, without explanation. The evening went ahead with appearances by the two support bands who had been arranged to appear locally. The venue said that the booking had been pre-paid by Threatin, and their social media manager couldn’t help having some fun at the band’s expense, tweeting “If you purchased tickets for tonight’s Threatin show, both of you can get refunds from the point of purchase”.

Belfast Empire (@belfastEmpire)

If you purchased tickets for tonight’s Threatin show, both of you can get refunds from the point of purchase. pic.twitter.com/hR0FHHFR0L

November 11, 2018

According to another Facebook post, Threatin paid for the booking in cash at the Exchange in Bristol to reassure the venue so that the gig could continue when none of the people who bought the supposedly 180 advanced sold tickets pitched up. Reports now suggest that two of Threatin’s backing band for the live tour – the guitarist and drummer – have left the band.

Threatin’s video for “hit single” Living Is Dying

Threatin’s Facebook page has now been deleted, alongside most of the artist’s website. He had amassed around 38,000 likes on the social media platform, but the suspicion now is that they were all paid for. While his official Twitter account has now been locked and made private, a fan club Twitter account is still active, and disputing the version of events being reported in the media. “Threatin rockin’ a soundcheck before the gig” is how they have responded to one image of the band performing in front of two people.

According to other social media posts, one person was spotted buying a Threatin T-shirt because they felt sorry for the band playing to just a couple of people.

Aonia (@Aonia_Band)

Oh hey, that’s me (Mel) and my keyboardist (Tim). ‘Promoter’ sent us free tix so we came. Actually bought a T-shirt b/c I felt bad they’d come so far to play to 2 people. Didn’t know about all the fake stuff til the next day. Fab venue though. I’d never been and will come again. pic.twitter.com/kjN1SMda9O

November 11, 2018

The extent to which Threatin had faked the act’s history have gradually become apparent the more and more people have looked into it. As well as the band itself, research by Vince Neilstein at the Metal Sucks website showed that the bookings appear to have originated with a faked promotion agency, StageRight Bookings, who boast of having many acts on their roster, none of which seem to exist except Threatin.

In addition, Threatin’s music has been released by “Superlative Music Recordings”, a record label whose website claims they have existed since 1964, even at one point tredily re-branding to SMR in the 1980s before return to a fashionably retro look in the 21st century. The label doesn’t exist anywhere outside the logo appearing on Threatin products.

It’s this intense attention to detail which threatens to elevate the whole affair from the slightly tragic, to an absolute work of art. Yet, just at the moment when Jered Threatin could capitalise on this new-found interest, he has disappeared. Attempts to contact him have been futile.

The events have left a bitter taste with some though. Adam Gostick, drummer with The Unresolved who were booked to support Threatin in Birmingham told Discovered Magazine: “It really annoys me that someone is able to do this. As a band trying to get around and play gigs it’s difficult if promoters feel you have no pull. But then Threatin tours the UK and plays, and has no real following. It annoys me from a promoter point of view too, as I work with a small promotion company, so I know how hard it hits having night’s where nobody comes.”

Having parted with thousands of pounds to play to nobody in the UK, it seems though that there may be some hope for Threatin yet. With all the attention since the story broke, on Sunday someone uploaded a guitar cover version of the “hit single” Living Is Dying to YouTube, and someone else posted a vocal cover version, a sign that social media notoriety may ultimately bring the fame to Threatin that a fake tour could not.

Threatin are beginning to attract YouTube cover version videos.

Spice Girls announce reunion tour – without Victoria Beckham

When five become four (again): the Spice Girls have announced a 2019 tour without founding member Victoria Beckham.

Melanie Chisholm, Melanie Brown, Emma Bunton and Geri Horner (née Halliwell) will commence a six-date UK tour on 1 June 2019 at Manchester Etihad stadium with support from Jess Glynne.

In a video announcing the reunion, they made no mention of their missing bandmate. A press release stated that Beckham – who has often displayed a self-awareness about her lack of natural musical talent – is concentrating on her fashion label, a career that has arguably given her the greatest post-pop success of any Spice Girls member.

“Being in the Spice Girls was a hugely important part of my life and I wish my girls so much love and fun as they go back on tour,” Beckham said in a statement. “I know they will put on an amazing show and the fantastic fans past and present are going to have a wonderful time!”

Spice Girls (@spicegirls)

Breaking Spice news… Tickets on sale Saturday 10.30am ✌🏻#GirlPower #FriendshipNeverEnds pic.twitter.com/QmWrXOWLMd

November 5, 2018

Brown recently attended a Halloween party dressed as Beckham, holding up a sign that read: “No I am not going on tour.” She was joined by boyfriend Gary Madatyan dressed as David Beckham, who held a sign that said: “Please, please, please do it for the Spice Girls fans.”

It will be the second time the band has toured with a reduced membership. Horner quit the Spice Girls in May 1998 prior to the group’s first North American tour, which they completed without her. She rejoined the group in 2007 for their first reunion tour and a greatest hits collection that contained one new song, Headlines (Friendship Never Ends).

The five-piece reunited for a one-off performance at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Further reunion tours have been rumoured ever since: in February 2018, the five held a meeting and indicated that they intended to work on new projects together.

Mel B and boyfriend Gary Madatyan – dressed as Victoria and David Beckham – attend Heidi Klum’s Halloween party in New York, 31 October 2018.

Mel B and Gary Madatyan – dressed as Victoria and David Beckham – attend Heidi Klum’s Halloween party in New York, 31 October 2018. Photograph: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

In May, Brown said that all five original members had signed on to work with former manager Simon Fuller. They began working with Fuller in 1995 after firing the father-son management team of Chris and Bob Herbert that put the group together in 1994. The group fired Fuller – who co-ordinated their many lucrative commercial partnerships – in November 1997 and took control of their affairs.

The band’s members have pursued a variety of projects since going on hiatus in 2000. Each of them has released solo music: Beckham had the shortest-lived musical career while Chisholm continues to release music under her own name. Brown has been a judge on the British version of the X Factor, among other TV talent shows. Bunton is a presenter on radio station Heart London and was recently announced as host of the US version of the Great British Bake Off. Horner has written children’s books and been a judge on Australia’s Got Talent.

The news of their reunion has provoked a mixed response. “Last time they toured, it felt as if there was unfinished business to sort out, particularly as it was the full lineup,” said Popjustice editor Peter Robinson. “But after that massive tour and the release of new music a few years ago, I wonder what really remains unfinished in 2018.”

The Spice Girls at the Cannes film festival in 1997.

The Spice Girls at the Cannes film festival in 1997. Photograph: Neil Munns/PA

Robinson suggested that the best way for the group to have sustained their legacy would have been an international TV talent search to find the new Spice Girls. “I’d assume, with Simon Fuller involved, that this will be part of the rollout in the coming months.”

Broadcaster and author Miranda Sawyer suggested that the group’s ages (between 42 and 46) could be a motivation for the reunion. “They’ve hit middle age and that’s when you question the whole of your life,” said Sawyer, who wrote a book on middle age called Out of Time. “You look at your ‘legacy’ – and this happens to everyone, the Spice Girls or not – and think, what have I done with my life? And if the biggest thing you ever did was in your 20s, you may want to revisit that period.”

That, said Sawyer, was the likely reason for Beckham’s non-participation. “The biggest and most important thing in her life is her family and her career – she has absolutely moved on and is having another life.”

David Sinclair, author of the biography Wannabe: How the Spice Girls Reinvented Pop Fame, agreed that the group might want to relive former glories. “There must be a terrible feeling of loss that they were such a global phenomenon at a certain moment, but it didn’t last that long. They were in a little bubble for a few years and it really was just whipped away. There must be a very strong urge to go back and recover that.”

On the red carpet for the premiere of Spiceworld the Movie, 15 December 1997.

On the red carpet for the premiere of Spiceworld the Movie, 15 December 1997. Photograph: John Stillwell/PA

Lauren Bravo, author of the new book What Would the Spice Girls Do: How the Girl Power Generation Grew Up, said she was not surprised by their comeback. “It takes 15 or 20 years for things to come back around again: the shops are full of revived 90s trends. Nineties kids had the feeling that all the important radical pop culture had happened before we were born – we were told that everything we had was a pallid rehash of the 60s and 70s – so it is nice to look back and think, that was important.”

BBC Radio 1 presenter Clara Amfo often plays Spice Girls songs on her mid-morning weekday show and said they always receive a positive response. She welcomed the tour. “Do I think they should bring out a brand-new album and singles? I lean towards no. It’s all about celebration and nostalgia – I don’t think they’re coming for Little Mix’s wigs. They know they’re the elder stateswomen of the pop sphere.”

Many of today’s pop musicians who were children during the Spice Girls’ heyday have cited them as an influence, from Adele to British avant-garde pop star Charli XCX and Danish singer MØ. The Spice Girls’ “girl power” message has also been cited as a cornerstone of many millennials’ grounding in feminism.

“The band are relevant in the sense that girl power lives on in a generation of women who were introduced to a very basic interpretation of feminism two decades before books on the topic became the ultimate middle-class stocking filler,” said Robinson.

Kicking off their reunion tour in Vancouver, 2 December 2007.

Kicking off their reunion tour in Vancouver, 2 December 2007. Photograph: Lyle Stafford/Reuters

Sawyer acknowledged that some people are “snotty” about their conception of feminism. “I understand why, but I think if you are a young girl and someone says ‘girl power’ to you, that is very important. Their idea that your girlfriends might be more important than the boys you were meant to be attracting is still quite a fundamental point really.”

Said Bravo: “They gave us permission to be outspoken – ‘gobby’ was a word that was often flung around – and angry, and have an opinion whether or not we were considered qualified. That’s something we’re still struggling with today: who’s doing it right, who’s doing it wrong? They were criticised for being too brash, too commercial, but the fact that they were commercial and successful meant they reached a young audience, and that was their power.”

Dazed digital editor Aimee Cliff questioned whether the Spice Girls’ “Thatcher-endorsing brand of girl power” would hold up. “Their patriotism and Union Jack-waving would feel hollow and Brexit-esque. Their unrelenting optimism would be at odds with a more cynical audience, and a bleaker time for the UK in general. Relevant? Maybe not. But the bangers are forever.”

 Tickets for the tour go on sale at 10.30am on 10 November. The Spice Girls will perform at:

1 June 2019: Manchester Etihad stadium
3 June: Coventry Ricoh stadium
6 June: Sunderland Stadium of Light
8 June: Edinburgh BT Murrayfield stadium
10 June: Bristol Ashton Gate stadium
15 June: London Wembley stadium

Sinéad O’Connor converts to Islam, taking new name Shuhada’ Davitt

The singer formerly known as Sinéad O’Connor has converted to Islam, changing her name to Shuhada’.

She made the announcement on Twitter, saying her conversion was “the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian’s journey. All scripture study leads to Islam. Which makes all other scriptures redundant.”

She has since documented her new faith, writing that she was “very, very, very happy” after being given her first hijab, and expressing thanks to “all my Muslim brothers and sisters who have been so kind as to welcome me to Ummah”, meaning the Islamic community. She also posted a YouTube video of her making the Islamic call to prayer.

Shuhada’ Davitt (@MagdaDavitt77)

Happy pic.twitter.com/VkJsj2IFAi

October 23, 2018

Her full new name is Shuhada’ Davitt, using the surname she gave herself when she changed her name to Magda Davitt in 2017. She said at the time that she wanted to be “free of the patriarchal slave names. Free of the parental curses.”

Davitt has candidly documented her struggles with mental health in recent years, posting a Facebook video in August 2017 in which she admitted to suicidal thoughts. “I am one of millions … people who suffer from mental illness are the most vulnerable people on earth, we can’t take care of ourselves, you’ve got to take care of us,” she said in the video. “My entire life is revolving around not dying, and that’s not living.” In a previous update in November 2015, she said she had “taken an overdose”, and a police search was launched for her in May 2016 after she briefly went missing in Chicago, sparking fears for her wellbeing.

Earlier this week, she claimed on Twitter that a healthcare assistant working with her was fired “for spiking me with crystal meth”.

She was ordained as a priest in 1999 by the Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic church – the group are not officially affiliated with the Catholic church, who do not allow the ordination of women as priests.

She became disillusioned with Catholicism in the wake of child abuse scandals in the church, describing the Vatican as a “nest of devils” in a 2011 newspaper article. In an open letter published in August this year, she asked Pope Francis to excommunicate her, and said she had made similar previous appeals to Pope Benedict and John Paul II.

Also in August, she released her first new music in four years, a song called Milestones made with Northern Irish producer David Holmes, whom she met at a birthday party for Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan. She is preparing a new album called No Mud No Lotus, which, she says, won’t be out before October 2019.