Up and Coming Music Pop Culture Interviews

A conversation with ‘Wooly and The Uke’ on ‘Home’, music and being creatures of emotion

Janat Sohailbetter known by her moniker “Wooly & The Uke”-  describes herself as “someone who intentionally and subconsciously focuses on human fragility and this loop we’re all stuck in; a self-critique on it all.”

The Berlin-based Pakistani musician and audiovisual artist, known for her hauntingly beautiful vocals and deeply introspective lyrics, just released her latest single “Home” from her upcoming EP “These Days”. The single, she says, is dedicated to those who carry “multiple homes inside of them” and in particular focuses on the grief that resides within all of us.

[Image Description: Wooly and the Uke in front of a blue light with glitter over her face. Source: Shazam]
She described her songwriting process, her growth since releasing her first single “Circus” in 2017, and her thoughts on art and emotions with us on Instagram Live.

The Tempest: Musicians usually try to break through the Pop and Rock genres, but not many go for Indie because of how selective it is. What were the challenges you faced trying to break through the Indie music scene, especially in Pakistan?

Wooly: It’s difficult for all of us to know what we want because we are constantly surrounded by so many different media and so many people put forth so much work that gets so much spotlight, so it’s so hard to know if is what I want to worth it…  Many people have told me that the music I make is too artsy for them to understand. It feels really good to make such music because it’s what I feel, but there’s also a part that makes me realise that it is a small niche.

Not many people want to listen about ‘the death of this world’ and other such existential themes while driving around in their car *laughs*. I’m still learning to find that balance between what I want and making it easy enough for others to understand by communicating it well enough.

“It feels really good to make such (artsy) music because it’s what I feel, but there’s also a part that makes me realise that it is a small niche.”

The Tempest: You released Circus back in 2017, and now you’re releasing a new E.P. with the lead single already out. Do you feel that progression and change in yourself compared to then?

Wooly: I think there’s been a massive change because when I release “Circus,” I didn’t trust in my own vision and trusted what I thought others needed. While I’m still happy with it (Circus), from then to now there’s been a massive journey of discovering and trusting myself and my own vision as well. It’s a challenge we face in our society when we are conditioned so much to be humble and grounded and compliant.

I’ve also explored different kinds of music and I’m in the process of breaking out of this bias/binary and opening myself to all these other kinds of genres… There’s so much happening in the spectrum and so much other music coming out, and there’s so much to learn out of all of that; what I could implement in my own music. Experiences such as travelling and getting to collaborate with other people from all over the world change your vision a lot too.

[Image Description: Wooly and the Uke sitting on concrete stairs, wearing a floral suit and playing the ukulele. Source:]
The Tempest: Let’s talk about “Home,” your lead single from the E.P. “These Days.” You described it as an ode to those who carry grief like home inside of themselves and those who carry multiple homes inside of them. What was the process behind its creation?

Wooly: The past two years living abroad taught me that it doesn’t matter how comfortable you get somewhere, there’s always an urgency to start another chapter; a spiralling identity crisis because of where we come from and always feeling like an ‘other’ in this society. That, and constantly having to prove yourself are these two categories from which I view it all from the surface.

But if you look at the subcategories of yourself, and go deeper, there’s so much more going on in there! Your own unique talents, your personal beliefs, your identity and so many other layers make you you. And usually, when you’re unable to accept these parts of yourself, you question how other people will accept you. So you condense yourself into tiny boxes with all the different identities you show people on different occasions; these different personas are different shelters which we can call home. One that’s very different from the one we have physically.

“You condense yourself into tiny boxes with all the different identities you show people on different occasions.”

The lyrics start with “Mother, brother…” because I feel like these are two figures are the most important in life. You always feel guilty for not doing, listening or being enough for your mother and you’re scared of losing her; a mystical figure in your life. Brother is a binary male figure to who you’re constantly trying to prove yourself to. All of this while carrying yourself and trying to breathe through it all is what it’s all going for.

The Tempest: This was your directorial debut too. How did that feel?

Wooly: The words “directorial debut” also took a lot of confidence to write and adopt. But it was important to me as well. There’s always a beginning for everything, and if you have a vision for it, it’s important to go with that. I’m also in the process for it to be clear that it didn’t come across as a big-budget production with any fancy special effects, because my priority was to get that raw emotion out.

When I was writing the idea for ‘Home’, I was just sitting at night and visualised the whole thing;  all I could see was the figure in the black shelter/shroud sitting like a creature. The idea was that when we’re all going through something, especially grief, we turn into this lump or creature without realising it. We’re all creatures of emotion and it’s hard for me to see us as anything other than that. We’re constantly trying to shed things, take things, others trying to force them on or off you. I tried to portray that moment of isolation and rejection in the video.

“We’re all creatures of emotion and its hard for me to see us as anything other than that.”

The Tempest: Normally you put your own interpretations of your music in description boxes. How open are you to other interpretations, if they’ve been conveyed to you?

Wooly: It’s interesting, especially since a lot of interpretations for ‘Home’ had religious contexts to them. I feel like all art is metaphorical and it’s okay to have your own interpretations of things because it matters to you and what you think and experience. There were religious concerns that even I had with ‘Home’ because I thought about how people would mistake the cloth as a burqa, and breaking out of it would be taken as breaking out of oppression (which it isn’t, at all). Other interpretations were similar to what I had so I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing *laughs*

The Tempest: You have three other songs in your E.P. “These Days”. Will they be similar to Home, or different or somewhere in between?

The idea behind the E.P. is to have it flow like a narrative; like Pink Floyd and how their albums felt like a story progressing with a beginning and an end. Home is the intro, and the next song “Same as You” is about a very taboo topic in our society – how difficult it is to love other people who may be misunderstood in our society or not accepted. “These Days’ is an interpretation of my own thoughts of what these days have been like. Life has always been kind of shit *laughs* even if it has its good things.

I’m also in the works of releasing a pop song, in collaboration with Zahra Paracha and the really talented pianist Maham Riaz from Nescafe Basement, that I’m very excited about too!

[Image Description: Wooly and the Uke in a green shirt, with the sunlight on her face. Source: Soundcloud]
The Tempest: What can we expect from Wooly & The Uke in the future?

Wooly: Music is definitely going to continue. I’m in Pakistan for the next few months and I’m very open to collaborating with people now. I got a really nice idea from someone for a little musicians’ retreat which I’m excited about. I’m also in the process of setting up a small audio-visual production house, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time; combining all my interests into one thing. And of course, making more obscure shit with everybody else *laughs.* I just really want to end the year with my brain splattered everywhere into what I create.

The Tempest: Like a Jackson Pollock painting, all splattered over the canvas?

Wooly: That’s a really good comparison, yes.

The Tempest: Out of my own curiosity: where did the ukulele come from?

Wooly: I got the ukulele around the time of Nescafe Basement, and I love it because it’s very portable and I can play it anywhere. It’s a sneaky little instrument and I can take it everywhere.

“These Days” will be releasing soon, as an audio experience. She will be returning to Europe in a few months and will be performing more then. In the meantime, you can check out our full interview with Wooly and the Uke on our Instagram account!


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The Internet Celebrities Music Pop Culture

Rita Ora is more than a tabloid headline, and it’s time we treat her as such

Rita Ora is not just an artist and entertainer. Nor is she just the face of multiple brand campaigns. Yet the media continue to overlook her achievements, and tabloids leave out what’s of actual importance: her career triumphs.

Back in 2018, Rita Ora made Official UK Chart history with the most Top 10 singles for a British female artist, and she wasn’t even born in the UK. In the same year, Rita Ora had a crowd of 300,000 people gathered in Kosovo, celebrating 10 years of independence. That’s more than you will find at any festival main stage! Throughout her career, she has performed for former President Barack Obama, the Vatican, and at the Oscars. Now she’s reached a new milestone: becoming the 11th artist with the most gold-certified songs in the UK

Besides her musical success, Rita Ora has been lending her voice to UNICEF since 2013 and due to her work in Kosovo back in 2019, she became an official UNICEF UK Ambassador. Thanks to her speaking up and representing her roots, she has inspired a lot of young people by showing us the importance of using your voice to help others. 

Over the last decade, Rita Ora has built her own brand. From making music, appearing in several movies like Fifty Shades of Grey and Detective Pikachu and TV shows like The Masked Singer UK and the upcoming 10th season of The Voice Australia to launching her own tequila back in 2019, Rita Ora is doing it all.

Today, she is a household name, known for not just her musical talent, but her charming personality and stage presence. Remarkable, right? These are just a few of the many outstanding parts of her overall success story. Yet, media outlets still reduce Rita Ora to a headline that has less to do with her entertainment industry success and more to do with her current relationship status, bikini pictures, and social media presence.

While each of these accomplishments is something you can easily discover after a simple Google search, there is so much you will not see by just looking at what certain media outlets cover. There is more to a woman’s name than what you can read between the lines of a news article. It is neither right nor fair to base someone’s current success and status on past relationships alone, or to define a woman by her dating life.

Women have proven to be successful forces in all kinds of industries, and it is time to not just see and recognize that but to respect and value women’s contributions. What a woman brings to the table has no connection to a male companion. She embodies her own hard work and determination. 

Described by fans as a huge inspiration, Rita Ora has positively influenced so many from all around the globe. While her music has reached millions of people, what truly stands out is the powerful force behind her art. It is the artist behind the art who gives the art its meaning. Personally, Rita Ora’s music has created a safe, therapeutic space, a place of comfort.

Artists tell stories through music. They put real emotions and truth between the lines of their poetic work, and we connect to it. Rita’s music has been my heart’s band-aid and has turned my light back on many times. Even Prince once said: “Rita is a force of nature, that girl—the way she walks into a room. She’s got it.” I couldn’t agree more. Her energy is electrifying and she has made being confident look so effortless and fun.

Following someone’s journey for years goes beyond just listening to their music. Just looking at how far Rita Ora has come and knowing how hard she has worked to make a name for herself and have her voice heard, makes me proud. Watching and learning from her, I have found the courage to fight for my own career and dreams. Today, I am more aware of the power I have and what I can do with it because she showed me how.  

This is why I strongly believe that the media conversation around Rita Ora should be about the empire she has built, rather than the irrelevant tabloid headlines that just want to financially profit from her name. It is disappointing that there are people out there who believe and trust the media and cannot do their own research to see the amazing person who has made such a huge impact on so many people. Of course, this goes beyond the entertainment industry. Think about how in five to 10 years, young women will be confident enough to pursue their own careers because they saw someone like Rita Ora succeed despite so many obstacles and rejections.

The media has to start thinking about the effects their journalistic abuse towards women has and how it constantly puts their mental health at risk. The media must start respecting women for their hard work, for what they truly stand for and represent. Rita Ora is someone who’s surely paving the way for the future generation of artists.

With everything she does, she is opening doors for the women of tomorrow and leading by example when it comes to juggling it all so remarkably. Let me remind you that Rita Ora is not just an artist and how she does it all is a question I have asked myself for many years. She doesn’t stop working hard, always trying to reach higher stars. 

Rita has touched the hearts of those who have been positively influenced by her tremendous light and has made a huge impact on those who have crossed her path. She treats her fans like family, appreciates everyone who has shown support throughout the years, and the best part is she never forgets a face. She helped so many find the strength within themselves and has given me friendships I will cherish for a lifetime. It is not something to take for granted. 

Michelle Obama once said, “Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” I can proudly confirm that Rita Ora has made a difference by brightening up my life. Her impact and legacy surely are legitimate reasons why the media’s reporting on well-known women should be more respectful. This is not only necessary to protect their mental health but to assure future generations can evolve and succeed in the entertainment industry. 

As you can see, Rita is an empowering force of nature you can’t get rid of. And the Ora Wave is one you should catch if you haven’t already. 

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Editor's Picks K-pop Pop Culture

“Butter”: BTS prove no one is as smooth as they are with their newest dance-pop track

Just as they blew our minds (and world records) with “Dynamite,” the band of seven men from South Korea has just made an incredibly smooth comeback with a second all-English track “Butter”. Originally described as a “dance-pop track brimming with the smooth and charismatic charm of BTS,” the track certainly lives up to it and the aforementioned charm has melted our hearts for sure.

The music video starts off black and white with the boys wearing outfits similar to those of 80s rock legends. A beat extremely reminiscent of “Another One Bites the Dust” begins playing and Jungkook (with an EYEBROW PIERCING) starts off  with the lyrics:

Smooth like Butter

Like a Criminal Undercover

Gonna pop like trouble

Breaking into your heart like that

Taehyung (V), ever so infuriatingly cool, follows up with:

Cool shade stunner

Gonna owe it all to my mother

Hot like summer

Gonna make you sweat like that

All seven of them pose for a group mugshot that has absolutely NO RIGHT to look so amazing, with Jin very aptly describing BTS and the effect they have on us with the following:

Oh when I look in the mirror

I’ll melt your heart into 2

I got that superstar glow

[Image Description: BTS posing mug shot style in a black and white still] Source: Youtube
[Image Description: BTS posing mug shot style in a black and white still] Source: Youtube
Suddenly, the chorus bursts out full of color and subsequently fills our lives with it too. The band breaking into a series of moves that show they’ll groove their way straight into making history once again, singing:

Sidestep right left to my beat (heartbeat)

High like the moon, rock with me baby

Know that I got that heat, Let me show you ‘cause talk is cheap

Sidestep right left to my beat

Get it! Let it roll!

Only one other song has filled me up with enough glitter, serotonin and stardust to move the earth, even while I’m bleary with sleep at 8 AM my time. And that is none other than last year’s hit single “Dynamite.”

I don’t think I have enough butter puns to describe the sheer excellence of the track! And do not even get me started about SUGA’s rap. Do not. You’ll never hear the end of it.

The rest of the music video and song have equal amounts colorful, charismatic, suave, and quite possibly the best possible way to confess your love to someone.

For BTS, the object of their affections was revealed in the sweetest homage to their fanbase: forming the word ARMY with their bodies, with the lyrics “Got ARMY right behind us when we say so.”

[Image Description: BTS posing and standing in ways that form the letters ARMY] Source; Youtube
[Image Description: BTS posing and standing in ways that form the letters ARMY] Source; Youtube
If anything, BTS keep on proving that one can be a happy pill and make history side-by-side.

While everyone was trying to make sense of the chaos 2020 had brought with the pandemic, global superstars BTS gave us their album “BE” and made sure to let us know that we weren’t alone.

Dynamite” went on to become a record-breaking, Billboard-chart-topping, Grammy-nominated gargantuan that clearly outran all other competitors in the global music industry by a million miles. Their second single, “Life Goes On,” became the first non-English track to debut on top of Billboard charts.

[Image description: BTS dancing in retro outfits in front of an orange and purple background] Source: Youtube
[Image description: BTS dancing in retro outfits in front of an orange and purple background] Source: Youtube
In the hour since its release, “Butter” has racked up 20 million views already, making it the fastest video in Youtube history to get that amount of views. Let’s not forget “Dynamite” ended up breaking a world record for the fastest music video to reach 100 million views in 24 hours.

Will BTS break their own records once again with “Butter”? Will this be the song that finally gets them a long-deserving GRAMMY award after their snub earlier this year? We’ll see.
But one thing’s for sure, nothing is impossible for these seven wonderful men. With their talent, dedication, hard work, and the love they hold for their fans and passion, the universe has always conspired to work in their favor.

They’ll be performing the song at Billboard Music Awards (BBMAs) in two days’ time, so keep an eye out for that

In the meantime, I think I’m going to make pancakes and sidestep right left to the beat while I do so. Looks like the perfect food to have while watching the boys prove once again how nobody’s “butter” than them.

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Pop Culture

Little Mix was the first female group to win Best Group at the BRITs, but why did it take this long?

For the first time in the BRIT Awards’ history, a girl group wins the prize for Best British Group. Little Mix, were the ones to finally break this barrier after a decade as a group, but why did it take so long? 

Little Mix is arguably the biggest girl group of the last decade. They have sold 60 million records worldwide which makes them one of the best selling girl groups tied with Destiny’s Child and they are the 5th best selling artist in the UK based on single sales. This year marks the groups 10 year anniversary in which they’ve consistently put out music with 6 albums and 27 singles, which a feat not many girl groups have achieved. And they show no signs of stopping.

This past week they won the BRIT Award for Best British Group, a prize that has never been won by a girl group in the awards 43-year history. This is an amazing achievement, but why did it take over 40 years for a girl group to win? There have been many successful British girl groups in the past including The Spice Girls, but not even them received this recognition. And why did Little Mix have to wait 10 years into their career to win, despite being one of Britain’s most successful artists of the last decade?

One possible reason stands out: misogyny, something Little Mix has faced throughout their careers. 

 Image Description: (left to right) Jade Thirlwall, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Perrie Edwards performing at the X Factor final 2011
[Image Description: (left to right) Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jade Thirlwall and Perrie Edwards of Little Mix standing in their white gowns with their BRIT Award for Best British Group.] Via: Ken McKay/Rex Features.
Little Mix, who formed on The X Factor in 2011 and went on to be the first group to ever win the talent show and have been the only girl group to win since. They went on to release the hit song Wings, their first of many empowering anthems.

Jade Thirlwall, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards & Jesy Nelson (up until her departure in December 2020),  kept promoting girl power and empowerment over their decade long career with hit singles such as Salute, Power, Woman Like Me and their biggest single to date Shout Out to My Ex from their 4th album Glory Days.

Despite their huge success, Little Mix was ignored in all the awards time after time.

The Glory Days era saw the height of Little Mix’s success, they had a no. 1 single, their album spent five consecutive weeks at no. 1 album and were on tour with Ariana Grande and this is when they first got nominated for Best British Group at the 2017 BRIT Awards. Based on the facts it was undoubtedly that Little Mix would win, no other group nominated had a more successful year.

However, they lost to a male group whose album sales for 4 times less than Little Mix that same year. They went on to be nominated again in 2019 losing out to the same male group despite once again having a bigger year. We’ll never know why exactly Little Mix didn’t win those awards but the fact they kept losing to male groups with far less success speaks volumes.

By looking at the history of who has been nominated and won in this award category, you can help but feel there is misogyny and music snobbery in the process. Often times this category is packed with male groups. On the rare occasions where a female group such as Little Mix or The Spice Girls are nominated, they’re the only ones and do not go on to win.  This is most likely due to snobbery and misogyny towards these groups and their fanbases.

Most often than not,  girl groups or artists that have predominately young female fanbases are not taken seriously. For fans, such as myself, this is extremely frustrating. They write their music, have stellar vocals also can execute immaculate choreography, and all while serving looks! But it feels like the industry just overlooks them for male groups who do the bare minimum.

Image Description: (left to right) Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson and Jade Thirlwall of Little Mix stood against pink background
[Image Description: (left to right) Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson and Jade Thirlwall of Little Mix stood against a pink background.] Via @littlemix Instagram
The BRITs have not been the only occasion where Little Mix have experienced the downfalls of being a female in the music industry.  The group have recounted in interviews times they were told to flirt in order to get their songs played on US radio. Jade Thirlwall told ASOS magazine: “We went to a radio event in America, full of VIPs. Someone from the US label said, ‘Go and flirt with all those important men’. I was like, ‘f*k off.’ Why have I got to go in and flirt to get my song on the radio?” 

The group have also faced huge waves of backlash for their attire on stage and in music videos. Not to mention the numerous occasions they’ve scrutinised for their appearance, so much focus being on who they’re dating and false rumours of bad blood in the group. Little Mix has faced so much of what the music industry and media have to offer in terms of sexism. 

Image Description: (left to right) Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards and Jade Thirlwall of Little Mix all stood dressed in black.
[Image Description: (left to right) Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards and Jade Thirlwall of Little Mix all stood dressed in black. ] Via @littlemix Instagram
In 2021, Little Mix got nominated for the BRITs Best British Group once again, after a 2020 filled with highs and lows for the group. Their tour got cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they produced their own talent show, released their sixth studio album and said goodbye to one member, Jesy Nelson.

 After all the highs and lows, Little Mix went on to be the third time lucky and finally won the award. Their speech was heartfelt and recounts what they’ve overcome to get to this point. “It’s not easy being a female in the U.K. pop industry. We’ve seen white male dominance, misogyny, sexism, and lack of diversity. We’re proud of how we’ve stuck together, stood for our group, surrounded ourselves with strong women, and are now using our voices more than ever,” Leigh-Anne Pinnock said.

They also used their speech to reflect on their historic win. Jade Thirlwall said: “The fact that a girl band never has won this award really does speak volumes… So this award isn’t just for us. It’s for the Spice Girls, Sugababes, All Saints, Girls Aloud — all of the incredible incredible female bands, this one’s for you.”

Image Description: (left to right) Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards and Jade Thirlwall of Little Mix sitting in white gowns hugging after winning their BRIT Award for Best British Group.
[Image Description: (left to right) Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards and Jade Thirlwall of Little Mix sitting in white gowns hugging after winning their BRIT Award for Best British Group.] Via @littlemix Instagram
As a fan who has supported Little Mix from the very beginning, their speech evoked so much emotion from me. I found myself crying because I was bursting with pride and overwhelming joy. I was so proud to see them use their platform to call out the misogyny and lack of diversity of the industry. Them shouting out girl groups of the past who also deserved this award just was a beautiful example of what women supporting women should look like. 

This award felt like the recognition Little Mix deserved after a decade of hard work and determination. They have been true to themselves, ignored scrutiny and stuck together to show that girl groups aren’t hyper-sexualized silly puppets and frenemies and they have empowered their fans with music that feels genuine and authentic. 

This win feels like the world and industry are starting to see that Little Mix are more than just another girl group who are having their fleeting moment but talented artists and powerful women within the industry. The girls are here, and they’re here to stay. 

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K-pop Music Pop Culture

Mirani returns with her single “Daisy” and surprises fans with a new sound

Just as spring arrived this year, hip-hop artist Mirani gave fans a fresh single, “Daisy,” to mark the start of a new season in her career.

Though softer in sound and slower in pace than her previous singles, “Daisy” continues to showcase Mirani’s ability to pen thoughtful lyrics with roots deep in meaning and metaphor. Spring is often considered a welcome reprieve from the dark days of winter. While “Daisy” does capture this sentiment, Mirani’s lyrics also include moments in which she questions if she’s deserving of the relief spring can provide.

“Spring has been a complicated symbol for me to deal with, but I think I finally overcame this fear,” Mirani said in an exclusive interview with The Tempest.

Mirani noted she typically finds inspiration for her music in movies and TV dramas. “Writing down these emotions [felt by the characters] helps me come up with my song lyrics,” she shared. However, the emotional journey in “Daisy” is more personal. In fact, the lyrics explore a moment Mirani experienced while on the set for an advertisement. One of the staff presented her with a “beautiful flower,” which she felt she hadn’t earned yet since she had only just finished filming Show Me The Money 9.

“I felt really awkward about the situation. I found myself asking, from the force of habit, ‘Do I deserve this flower?’” Mirani recalled. “Then I realized I’m not really used to these good and ‘fragrant’ things yet, and I tried to express this thought in the song.”

For those of us trying to turn our dreams into a reality, Mirani’s experience is incredibly relatable. It’s easy to feel imposter syndrome once we start to catch even a whiff of success. It’s also easy to compare ourselves to others, to be “jealous of the flowers blooming” and to wish “spring would hurry and pass.” But just like Mirani realizes in “Daisy,” it’s okay to acknowledge when our spring has come.

I asked Mirani if she had any words of encouragement for those of us pursuing our dreams, especially those who are following in her footsteps in the music industry. She said: “I know how hard it is to create something. I believe you are the best and doing just fine no matter what, so keep going. Rooting for you!”

While Mirani’s lyrics are personal to her experience, she wanted the music video to be applicable to anyone. She worked with the director to add more fun into each shot to keep viewers curious and leave the meaning up to interpretation.

“I wanted people to watch it again and see many different factors,” Mirani told me. “I think the outcome turned out great.”

“Daisy” also offered Mirani the opportunity to work with pH-1 again. “I think my voice matches great with pH-1’s voice tone, so I was excited to collaborate with [him] once again,” she said. The two first worked together on Show Me The Money 9, creating hits like “Achoo” and “VVS,” which both peaked in the top five of the Gaon Digital Chart. “VVS” also won Hip-Hop Track of the Year at the 2021 Korean Hip-Hop Awards. A month before her latest single dropped, Mirani signed with AREA, a new label by GroovyRoom in partnership with Jay Park’s H1GHER MUSIC—an exciting continuation of her work with the producer duo that she first started on Show Me The Money 9.

When I asked why she wanted to become an artist, Mirani revealed it was her brother who first introduced her to hip-hop music. She then went on to join a hip-hop circle in college, where she discovered her passion for performing. “I really enjoyed the first moment on the stage, and I decided to be a rapper since then.” Fast forward to April of 2020, Mirani debuted independently with her single “Detective,” joining a growing number of women hip-hop artists and rappers in South Korea.

“I know there aren’t that many recognized female rappers within the scene. And I’ve been deeply thinking about how I can also be part of those influential female rappers,” Mirani expressed to me.

One way Mirani is hoping to add to the genre is by experimenting with her own sound and lyrics. “I’m thinking of working on more diverse genres and themes,” she revealed. Whether this is a hint for a possible upcoming album or her music in general, she wouldn’t say. She did, however, confirm, “This is just the beginning for me.”

This might be just the beginning for Mirani, but with each single, she’s proven to be a fresh, new voice worth keeping an ear out for. Her catchy melodies and contemplative lyrics define her style as simply her own, with “Daisy” adding another layer. As she continues to play with her sound, I can’t wait to see what she puts out next.

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Life Stories Life

Listening to Kpop helped me fall in love with music again

Growing up in Dubai, I only knew and listened to Hindi music. I wasn’t explicitly told not to listen to English language songs, but I always had a feeling it would be frowned upon as my parents never listened to any foreign music.

That all changed when I was in the seventh grade, and my sister introduced me to Coldplay. A little later, a friend recommended “Fireflies” by Owl City, and I was hooked. It helped me feel like I had my own personality, separate from my parents. Hindi movie music at the time was all about romance, which was not so relatable for me at 12-years-old (not that a million fireflies ever lit up the room as I fell asleep either, but I wanted them to).

As a result of my introduction to Owl City at what was a formative age, I started listening to indie music in high school. Of Monsters and Men was a particular favorite artist of mine at the time, as were Beirut and Radical Face. The music almost defined me in a way. For instance, none of my friends listened to the same artists I did, which helped me differentiate myself from them. The music also mentally and emotionally transported me to spaces that made me feel safe and comfortable; which notably, was a feeling I would keep chasing my whole life.

In fact, this last point can be noted when I moved to India for college. So, I desperately clung to my favorite music as it was one of the only solid familiarities in light of my newfound displacement. I was both sad in India and homesick for Dubai. Overall, going through life was just more difficult in India, and I struggled to make a country that felt like I didn’t belong truly feel like home.

My way of dealing with all the discomfort I was feeling was by listening to American music, for it helped me not feel bound to India.

What’s more, is my second semester of college was even more difficult than the first. I began to suffer from what I suspect was depression; although, I was never clinically diagnosed. A strange side effect of my being depressed was I could not listen to music at all, even elevator music would make me nauseous. This strange feat could perhaps be contributed to the link between hearing and stress, and how the latter impacts the former. And although my depression got better with time, I still could not get back to listening to my own indie music, which deeply disappointed me. Sadly, I felt as though I had lost a meaningful part of myself.

Toward the end of my second year at college, I faced more life changes that made me stop listening to music again. My parents were moving away from Dubai, wherein I used to find comfort during vacations from school. Consequently, the sense of feeling as if I didn’t belong anywhere deepened. I began to understand what it really meant to be ‘uprooted.’ These feelings combined became too much for me to handle, and it showed in what then became a familiar aversion to music. 

Later, however, a miracle happened.

I was staying at my friend’s house for a few days, and I came home one evening after a particularly bad day, almost in tears. She took one look at me and gently steered me to the kitchen to take care of some milk that was heating up on the stove. I nodded and stared at the pot, willing myself not to cry until I vaguely heard some music playing through her speakers.

A minute later, I realized my foot was tapping along to the music. I paid a little more attention to see if I could recognize the song but I couldn’t put my finger on what was playing. My friend came back into the kitchen and said “It’s K-Pop!” when she noticed my confusion and intrigue. I opened the notes app on my phone to take down the name of the song: “Second Grade” by BTS. “And this one playing now?” I asked. “Boyz With Fun! By BTS again,” my friend replied.

I proceeded to ask her for a list of songs; instead, she sat me down in front of her laptop and started playing BTS music videos. I saw five videos in a row in the time it took for her to finish doing laundry. “Who’s that?” I pointed at the screen excitedly when she came back into her bedroom. She laughed and told me their names, and though I promptly forgot, I was already well on my way to becoming a big fan.

When I went back to college, I started listening to more of their songs. The same friend introduced me to other K-Pop artists, and slowly I started discovering some of them on my own. This persistent tension I had been feeling for years while in college evaporated. And I felt like I could breathe again.

That was five years ago. From 2016 to 2018 I only listened to K-Pop, as Indian and Western music caused memories to resurface surrounding difficult times in my life. And though I returned to the Hindi music of my childhood in 2018 when I moved to London, subsequently reconnecting with my childhood memories and nostalgia. Kpop was and is still my main genre of choice today.

Is Kpop easier for me because it doesn’t carry the weight of cultural expectations? Because it doesn’t remind me of versions of myself I don’t want to remember? I still endure tough times and have bad days, but Kpop has helped me cope when I’m not feeling like myself more effectively than any other genre.

It feels good to pop my earphones in and lose myself in the beats and melodies, and even lyrics that I’m slowly starting to understand without English translations. Ultimately, I’ve found a community here. A community that is so welcoming and immediately accepting of me as I am. And perhaps this was the home I was looking for all along, for this is a culture that naturally embraces me as I embrace it right back.

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Celebrities Pop Culture

Ranking Taylor Swift’s exes based on how well they would do TikTok dances

The release of Fearless (Taylor’s Version) has brought back all the 2008 celeb romance drama (we are looking at you ‘Mr Perfectly Fine’/Joe Jonas). Taylor has since found her real-life ‘love story’ but it did take a few tries. Now, TikTok is providing the perfect opportunity to do something you’ve never known you needed to before: go back through Taylor Swift’s exes and grade them based on their (possible) dance abilities.

While some of these men are amongst Hollywood’s most eligible, others are amongst Hollywood’s most egotistical but they have all been at some point been known to have dated the singer. I will be ranking them on how well they would execute TikTok dances, based on how well they cared for Taylor. Each of these suitors will each be given A-F letter grades for their imaginary effort.

Taylor Swift has had her love life poked and prodded since she was 17, so let’s turn the mirror back to the men in her life and judge their ability to complete complicated dance moves in slow motion

John Mayer, F

[Image Description: Taylor Swift looking shaking her head in disappointment and turning back while she sings ‘Dear John’.] Via GIPHY.
The oldest of the exes first! When Taylor Swift dated John Mayer he was a spry 32 to her 19. For reference, that means John was the same age as country star Mason Ramsey when Taylor was born. For those of you who don’t know him; his songs were an anthem for college boys who were trying to get laid by playing their guitar in the dorm lounge in 2004.

Taylor wrote “Dear John” about the relationship, in which she sings “Don’t you think I was too young to be messed with?” Mayer is ranked last because TikTok teens do not mess with creepy old dudes. He did not treat Taylor with the grace she deserves, and I believe he would be as graceless in his TikTok dance execution. Plus late Gen Z is far cooler and more aware of predatory behavior than my Myspace generation. 

Jake Gyllenhall, D-

[Image Description: Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhall walking around the streets of New York. Taylor has her arm around Jake and they are holding hands while she holds up a coffee.] Via NYT.
[Image Description: Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhall walking around the streets of New York. Taylor has her arm around Jake and they are holding hands while she holds up a coffee.] Via NYT.
Oh, Jake, Jake, Jake, Jake. TikTok has already warned us of boys with J names, and you’re probably the reason. While his and Taylor’s relationship lasted a short two months, the marks he left on her and her music were significant. His bad boyfriend behavior was responsible for “We Are Never Getting Back Together” and “All Too Well”. The latter resulted in a storm of comments on his latest throwback Instagram post

I don’t think TikTok youths would accept Gyllenhall into their ranks. Also, he seems like he would only dance to sad indie music.

Joe Jonas, D+

[Image Description: Taylor Swift and Joe jones singing and dancing together in a concert] Via GIPHY.
[Image Description: Taylor Swift and Joe jones singing and dancing together in a concert] Via GIPHY.
How WAS your heart after breaking Taylor’s, Joe? (listen to Mr Perfectly Fine to understand the pun). 

Before TikTok connoisseur Joe Jonas married Sophie Turner, he dated a young Taylor Swift. The relationship was short-lived, and he ended their relationship with a 27-second VOICEMAIL. He caused Taylor to “feel so low you can’t feel nothing at all.” According to “Forever and Always”. He may be cool now, but he’s still very low on this list of exes. 

But, he’s seemed to turn over a new leaf and is now a very proud wife guy. Recently, Swift send the sweet couple a handmade blanket for their new baby, and Sophie posted on Instagram about how ‘Mr Perfectly Fine’ is “a bop”. Joe would be excellent at TikTok dances, but I really can’t forgive him for forgetting AJ’s (From Ally & AJ) birthday.  

Tom Hiddleston, B

Stephen Colbert saying "Hiddleswift!"
[Image Description: Stephen Colbert saying “Hiddleswift!” ] Via GIPHY.
Tom Hiddleston and Taylor Swift shared and brief and totally fake (according to this girl I had ECON-100 with) relationship. Due to this infallible fact about their relationship, I believe Hiddleston would be excellent at a POV dance. His dedication to his work, as exemplified by his “I <3 T.S.” shirt, will be an asset in his ability to perform TikTok dances. Perhaps even to ‘Getaway Car’? 

BUT he has a very small online presence. He was never really on Taylor’s Instagram, so while he could commit to the dances, I’m not sure he’d know what the dances are. 

Harry Styles, B+

[Image Description: Taylor Swift and Harry styles looking at each other and smiling ] Via GeoTV.
[Image Description: Taylor Swift and Harry styles looking at each other and smiling ] Via GeoTV.
Remember that time when the two most iconic teenage crushes were dating each other?

Some of these two singer’s most iconic songs have been about each other. Who could forget Harry singing ‘If you’re looking for someone to write your breakup songs about, baby I’m perfect’. And she delivered! Taylor then released her not-so-subtle song ‘Style’ where she told Harry ‘You’ve got that James Dean day-dream look in your eyes’.

Their meeting at this year’s Grammys sent us straight back to 2012, but it seems like the couple are now in good terms. However, it has been the first time they have talked to each other in almost 10 years, so a TikTok dance might take more convincing. Harry no doubt has the ability to deliver a dance, so the question now is, would he?

Taylor Lautner, A

[Image Description: Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner dressed up as king and queen and smiling.] Via GIPHY.
[Image Description: Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner dressed up as king and queen and smiling.] Via GIPHY.
Taylor and Taylor had a short-lived romantic relationship that inspired a host of memes. I was really rooting for them because I wanted them both to be Taylor Lautner-Swift. I know it would be confusing, but it would be really good for me.

Out of all of these exes, he seemed to treat her best. He inspired “Back to December”, a beautiful ballad about remorse over the end of a relationship. Taylor was just a nice dude to Taylor (see, it would be super confusing if they shared their last name). He was also Shark Boy from Shark Boy and Lava Girl, so we know he has incredible dancing abilities.

So that’s all Swifties! We have reached the end of our ranking!

If you’re wondering, we left Taylor’s high school exes out, as well as Calvin Harris because… we forgot that he existed (whops).

This has been fun and all, but let’s keep it real. The only person Taylor Swift should be doing TikTok dances with is Selena Gomez (hey, Dorothea???), who would blow all of these men out of the water. 

Now go and support Taylor by streaming and buying the re-recorded version of Fearless, aptly dubbed Taylor’s Versionwhich she owns!

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Celebrities Music Pop Culture

“You’re probably with that blonde girl”: Olivia, Sabrina, and Joshua’s PR Triangle

I’m going to blame society’s collective obsession with Olivia Rodrigo, Joshua Bassett, and Sabrina Carpenter on the fact that most of us are stuck in our homes and have nothing else to do or talk about. But surely everyone realizes it’s all a publicity stunt? 

When my friend messaged me asking if I had heard “Drivers License” (still bothers me how it’s missing an apostrophe…) I told her no. Immediately, she sent me the music video and proceeded to text me about the celebrity teen’s heartbreak. If you, by some miracle, don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the 411. Seventeen-year-old Olivia Rodrigo is heartbroken because Joshua Bassett, her HSMTMTS co-star, is now rumored to be with fellow actress-singer Sabrina Carpenter. 

Let’s fast forward to now where Olivia Rodrigo’s song is now one of the biggest hits ever. 

I have nothing against this song. It’s an enjoyable teenage breakup song, but let’s be real here: this song would not be this popular if it weren’t for the drama that surrounded it. I can never prove this, but there are hundreds of good songs about heartbreak that haven’t received even half the attention as “Drivers License”. While Olivia has a following due to High School Musical The Musical The Series, this song has reached way beyond that realm of fans.

Why? This song created a drama beyond some lyrics about random, obscure people.

The original version of the song, that Olivia sang live last year, was meant to have the word “brunette” when singing about her love’s new beau. When the official version was released this month, fans were quick to figure the “blonde” must be Sabrina Carpenter. People are accusing her of ruining Olivia’s relationship with Joshua and are unimpressed with this year’s Forbes’ 30 under 30 winner, Sabrina. 

But let’s all get one thing straight, fame is fickle. Being a successful celebrity means you just need to be talked about. There’s a reason the phrase “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” exists. And frankly, all of this was just a publicity stunt. 


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A post shared by Olivia Rodrigo (@olivia.rodrigo)

Thousands of people are still talking about “Drivers License” and Sabrina’s new single “Skin”. People have rallied behind Olivia’s heartbreak, posting memes disappointed with Sabrina’s response. However, Sabrina has recently stated that, while her song may reference Olivia, it is not solely about her. She posted on her Instagram: 


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Sabrina Carpenter (@sabrinacarpenter)

Despite the “drama” being due to a boy, few have fully discussed Joshua Bassett amid all the hate towards Sabrina (the usual double standards, because of course the girl gets all the blame). That being said, ironically, Joshua’s new release “Lie Lie Lie” is doing the worst out of all three songs.

That’s right: all three of these people happen to have new songs out all within days of each other. Due to this juicy PR stunt, Joshua’s worst is still better than it would have been without all the gossip. On top of that, Joshua has also just released a second new song today, “Only a Matter of Time“. The song is supposedly about his experience with haters on social media in 2020, but of course, people are still trying to dissect the lyrics for more references to the triangle. 

It’s too soon to know the success of “Only a Matter of Time”, but people were talking about it all over the internet in anticipation and as of right now it has more than 70,000 views on YouTube in less than 20 minutes.

His other song from last week “Lie Lie Lie” made its debut on the Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 Chart within about a week of its release. There are millions of songs in the world and I doubt this one would have made it on this list at all without the love triangle gossip. I personally would have listened to Sabrina Carpenter’s song since I follow her music, but would it have thrived so much so quickly? Would it have been #6 on the US iTunes, #4 on the US Spotify chart, #33 on the worldwide chart and have received 1,857,698 opening day streams? Probably not. And then we have the song that started it all, Olivia Rodrigo’s first debut single. “Drivers License” has broken records and is currently #1 on Billboard’s Top 100.   

I won’t say the song doesn’t deserve to be on top charts, but her marketing team knew that pushing the narrative of Olivia’s ex and his new girl would be a great way to get the song on everyone’s playlist. Sabrina and Joshua obviously didn’t mind because their songs also benefit from the attention, despite it being pretty negative. 

All of this to say, the internet and fans may just be a little too invested in drama that isn’t as big as we think because this tweet sums up the reality: 

Nearly a year of quarantine has truly done a number on us.

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Music Life

“Born This Way” by Lady Gaga taught me to love myself and others

The iconic album Born This Way by Lady Gaga is regarded as one of her best bodies of work by fans and critics alike, nine years after its release. The album still resonates with listeners because it boldly experimented with the confines of pop music and dared listeners to take chances while living unapologetically. The album’s blend of genres illustrates the multifaceted identities of its intended audience, expertly blending pop, glam rock, heavy metal, country, and techno all into one coherent body of art. Born This Way particularly speaks to marginalized people and challenges the constraints placed on those who don’t fit in an oppressive, white supremacist, patriarchal society.  

Born This Way was released at the start of a new decade, in an ever-changing social and political climate. It feels like there is symbolism in the album being released at the beginning of the 2010’s with me having also just begun my teenage years. My body’s changing, my mind is evolving and the world around me is pushing for more equality, representation, and freedom. 

I was 13-years-old when the album came out, starting my awkward teenage years and just finishing seventh grade. Like most people coming into adolescence, I was an extremely insecure, self-conscious, and anxious individual. Learning how to love myself was proving difficult in a world that made it hard for young black girls to do so. There were times I felt becoming truly confident was hopeless. However, the power of art prevailed because in May of 2011, Lady Gaga released her second studio album titled Born This Way. The album is an anthem of self-love and acceptance that I desperately needed at the time. It greatly helped me learn to unapologetically love every facet of myself, even the parts I didn’t yet understand. 

The album takes a note from its own book and experimented with its marketing, song releases, and visuals. Around the time of its release, aspects of Born This Way were misunderstood by music critics, including but not limited to the album cover which displays Lady Gaga as the head of a motorcycle. Critics mocked the imagery, ignoring Gaga’s illustration and commentary of being made into a machine by oppressive industry standards.

Controversy also surrounded the second song on the album and one of the album’s awaited singles titled, “Born This Way” (named after the album). Among other criticisms, the song stirred controversy at the time for its reference of trans individuals on a mainstream song from a mainstream artist. Consequently, critics attempted to project their internalized prejudice onto a body of work that existed freely and challenged others to do the same, contradicting the entire purpose of the album. 

Admittedly, at 13 I wasn’t entirely knowledgeable about gender identity or expression. However, that didn’t stop me from resonating with the message of the song. When I listen to Born This Way, even now, I feel free from marginalization; for 4 minutes and 20 seconds, I simply feel unfiltered, uninterrupted fun. I especially remember the announcement for the song. Lady Gaga stood on the stage at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, dressed in her now legendary meat gown, belting “I’m beautiful in my way ‘cause God makes no mistakes. I’m on the right track, baby I was born this way.” Unbeknownst to 12-year-old me at the time, this moment would change my life forever. 

In a 2016 article for Dazed, Jake Hall analyzed Born This Way’s impact years after its release. Regarding what the album meant for Lady Gaga as an artist while also being a pivotal pop-culture moment he states, “[Born This Way] was the moment that [Gaga] stopped being branded an artificial pop behemoth and started to become the searingly honest, sometimes over-emotional human being that we now know well.” From 2000 to 2009, pop music was very traditional in the sense that female pop artists had to conform to society’s hyper-feminine, heteronormative expectations of women. At the start of the 2010s, Lady Gaga deliberately sought to not just challenge those oppressive norms but obliterate them.

At the 2011 VMAs, Lady Gaga performed another album single from Born This Way titled, “Yoü and I.” During her performance, she played the role of Jo Calderone, acting as the male love interest in her own song, which further defied the expectations of what was expected from women in pop. These subtle normalizations of gender identity and expression as well as uplifting messages of finding perfection in uniqueness and marginalized identity helped me begin to slowly understand the world outside of myself.

At 13, I didn’t have it all figured out right away. I was still struggling with finding my confidence, but Born This Way laid the foundation for me to become the outspoken, open-minded, risk-taker I now am at 22-years-old. There’s a reason this album still resonates with fans almost a decade later. An album that encourages others to confidently become the best, most honest version of themselves without permission will never get old.

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USA Editor's Picks World News Coronavirus The World

21 wholesome and heartwarming things that happened this year

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been quite the year. I’m talking garbage trash fire kind of year. Amidst the devastating news, exposed issues, and various crises, we could all do with a dose of positivity. So I’ve gathered a number of heartwarming, wholesome, good news that’s happened this year.

1. Tattletales from Tanqueray


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2.A post shared by Humans of New York (@humansofny)

Brandon Stanton, the founder of Humans of New York, caused quite a stir when he shared Tanqueray’s story, where she talks about her experience as a stripper in the sixties.  After their initial meeting, Tanqueray (real name Stephanie) shared her life story with Stanton, who planned to turn her tale into a podcast. But when Stephanie’s health worsened, he shared her stories over a 32-post series named “Tattletales from Tanqueray”, to raise money for her care and trust. Let me tell you; her story has some TEA. Between wayward presidents, lost loves, and flirty celebrities, her intriguing tales delve into the intricacies of New York City’s nightclub scene. Fans rallied around her stories and raised 2.65 million dollars for her trust. Although the fundraising campaign is over, I encourage you to read her story; it’s truly remarkable. 

2. Tabitha Brown serving us wholesome content

Amid the chaos that was 2020, Tabitha Brown has been blessing our feeds with her online presence documenting her journey on a plant-based diet. From her quirky Tik Toks to her uplifting videos, Brown’s mission to spread love and light has certainly been one of the brighter parts of the year. We stan a joyful queen, and that’s our business.

3. Goats about town

As lockdown has kept many indoors, some animals have taken the opportunity to explore the undisturbed outdoors. In the town of Llandudno, Wales, the goats have taken it upon themselves to roam the streets. Want to see more of the frolicking fuzzies? Check out this thread.

4. A legend playing this uplifting song…

Yo-Yo Ma, the legendary cellist, released a new album with British pianist Kathryn Scott, titled ‘Songs of Comfort and Hope’. The album was inspired by the cellist’s quarantine performances; using the hashtag #SongsofComfort, he tweeted clips of himself playing a collection of popular songs and new tunes in a bid to uplift people during anxious times. With his uplifting tunes, Ma reached millions of people. I don’t know about you, but watching these musicians peacefully do their thing certainly puts a smile on my face.

5. Dancing in the streets

The Dance Theater of Harlem went viral earlier this year when they posted a video, showing beautiful ballerinas leaping through the streets of New York. Created for Harlem Week and the African American Day parade, the choreography features eight of the company members. Five minutes of perfection, if you ask me.

6. … and around the city

Likewise, a violinist and a ballerina decided to take advantage of Amsterdam’s empty streets. They collaborated to make a beautiful video to spread hope to others through their art. So beautiful.

7. An adorable stowaway

A saw-whet owl is being held by a worker wearing a lime green hoodie
[A saw-whet owl is being held by a worker wearing a lime green hoodie], via Reuters
When workers were transporting the Rockefeller City Christmas Tree for its annual stint, they found a stowaway— a saw-whet owl. The feathered friend, now named Rockefeller, was taken to a wildlife shelter and has now been released into the wild. After the dismal comments about the state of this year’s tree, this little cutie certainly brightened things up.

8. Senior Socials

An old man and woman standing together in front of green foliage
[An old man and woman standing together in front of green foliage]
Since lockdown began, many seniors have found themselves unable to connect with friends and family. To combat this social isolation, various programs have been started to connect seniors with volunteers on the phone. For many seniors, these calls have been a ray of light in their lonely communities. Just imagine all the wholesome conversations being had!

9. A lonely elephant is lonely no more

Kaavan the elephant's trunk, touching the trunk of another elephant
[Kaavan the elephant’s trunk, touching the trunk of another elephant], via Four Paws
Kaavan, also known as the world’s loneliest elephant, has finally made a new friend. After decades spent living alone in poor conditions, the elephant was transported to Cambodia’s wildlife sanctuary, where he’ll spend the rest of his days roaming around in a freer space, with other elephants to keep him company.

10. A new take on album art

Residents of Sydmar Care Home found some creative ways to have fun during the lockdown. Their activities manager, Robert Speker organized an activity where the residents posed for photos to recreate classic album covers. Each picture even had a personal touch for the resident, and the caretakers too part as well. The fun pictures went viral, to an overwhelmingly positive response from people. From Adele to Bowie, these seniors sure know how to have a good time.

11. Reindeer contemplating nature

If you’re struggling with deciding whether to focus on the beautiful sky or the beautiful reindeer, I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone.

12. Dwayne Wade’s reaction to a proposal


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A post shared by SportsCenter (@sportscenter)

This couple in the middle of an adorable engagement got quite the surprise when an unsuspecting guest strolled by— former NBA superstar Dwayne Wade. After walking by, he joined in on some of their photos and congratulated them on social media.  Dwayne Wade’s reaction is the literal definition of wholesome.

13. These students planning a sweet surprise

@vizzywapduring these tough times it’s important to show extra appreciation! #fyp #foryoupage #zoom #dontletthisflop #college #covid #professor #thankyou♬ original sound – James Blake

The pandemic has certainly had an impact on education, with many schools opting for virtual programs. Teachers have been a large part of helping students adapt to the new learning modes. So after a semester of teaching students virtually, this class planned a sweet way to thank their teacher. Because not all heroes wear capes.

14. Time Magazine named its first ‘Kid of the Year’

Gutanjali Rao wearing a lab coat and sitting on a white cube
[Gutanjali Rao wearing a lab coat and sitting on a white cube], via Sharif Hamza for TIME
In a partnership with Nickolodeon, Time Magazine awarded its first prize from a pool of 5000 young leaders and changemakers. The winner, Gitanjali Rao, is a fifteen-year-old scientist and inventor whose work spans from combatting cyberbullying to detecting water pollution. She hopes to create a global community of young creators who will change the world. This young queen is certainly going places!

15. Italians making the best of lockdown

Earlier this year, when Italy went on lockdown, its citizens still found a way to connect joyfully with each other—through music. Neighbors turned their balconies and rooftops into concert venues, serenading others with ballads or belting out songs together. All over the country, people used the power of music to lift spirits and stay connected.

16. The first IVF cheetah cubs were born

A cheetah cub
[A cheetah cub], via Grahm S. Jones.
These cheetahs aren’t only special because they’re so adorable. They are also the first cubs successfully born via IVF. This is seen as a breakthrough for the scientific community, especially because this is the third attempt, but first success. Cheetahs have been classified as a vulnerable species, but due to habitat destruction, hunting, and other conflicts, they are nearing endangerment. This development could potentially pave the way to help the cheetah population.

17. A sweet chain reaction

The back of a car with bright tail lights going through a drive-trhu
[The back of a car with bright tail lights going through a drive-thru, via Erik Mclean on Pexels
Earlier this week, a customer at a Dairy Queen drive-through decided to pay for the customer behind him. This kind act sparked a chain of giving, where over 900 cars chose to pay for the customers behind them. People found out about what was happening and started visiting that particularly Dairy Queen just to keep the chain going.

18. The adventures of Sapphire the fairy

This heartwarming thread by photographer Kelly Victoria went viral, and for good reason. On a stroll one day, Kelly came across a fairy garden set up by a four-year-old wanting to spread some cheer. So Kelly wrote the little girl a letter, pretending to be a fairy named Sapphire. And thus began a regular correspondence that boomed into a magical friendship. This wholesome interaction is truly definitely the stuff of fairytales.

19. Good vibes

@420doggface208Morning vibe #420souljahz #ec #feelinggood #h2o #cloud9 #happyhippie #worldpeace #king #peaceup #merch #tacos #waterislife #high #morning #710 #cloud9♬ Dreams (2004 Remaster) – Fleetwood Mac

Tik Tok star Nathan Apodaca, aka Doggface, started a wave on the Internet when he posted this clip of his commute to work after his car broke down. The video went viral, starting a trend where others grabbed their skateboards and a bottle of Ocean Spray Cranberry juice. It even caught the attention of Ocean Spray’s CEO and Fleetwood Mac’s co-founder. But the good vibes didn’t stop there. Ocean Spray provided Apodaca with a new truck, filled with cranberry juice. And after fans discovered he was living in an RV, they pooled enough donations for him to put a down payment on a house.

20. This generous artist

Many artists have been negatively impacted by this year’s pandemic, which has caused a lot of independent artists to lose their income. So one artist decided to do something about it. NYC-based painter Guy Stanley Philoche spent 65,000 dollars buying over 150 works of art from friends and strangers. Artists supporting artists—we love to see it.

21. And finally, a great way to start the morning

Multi-instrumentalist Acoustic Trench and his trusty sidekick Maple have been responsible for a lot of YouTube’s most wholesome videos. In this one, he plays the kalimba while his adorable pup wanders through a field. These vibes are on point.

2020 has certainly been a challenging year, but through it, there have been some uplifting moments of kindness; between strangers and friends alike. Through the turbulent times, I hope we can all find reasons to smile.


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The Pandemic Feel-Good Love + Sex Love Music

I’ve loved music more than any of my exes

Let me set the scene: I’m 16, realizing that I think very differently than my family. The typical Asian narrative of the duties of the daughters doesn’t sit right in my mouth but I’m not old enough or independent enough to question it.

But the thing is, is I’m not subtle, it’s not in my nature, which leads to arguments, screaming, and words that have remained etched in me for the past six years.

Alone is a five-letter word that creates an expanse of nothingness and that is all I had.

My friends, albeit were great but they were white, they couldn’t understand it on the level that I needed them to. I did have staff members that I could trust but they couldn’t be with me all of the time.

One of my friends introduced me to All Time Low and from then on, the expanse began to shrink. The loud riffs and lyrics made me feel full, I didn’t feel alone anymore it felt that someone was there and listening.

So, I became obsessed with music, there wasn’t a day I wasn’t wearing headphones, or humming to myself. It gave me an out that allowed me, for the first time, to just stop and think. The louder the music, the more I could think.

Growing up in Manchester, I always knew the importance of music. I spent most of my time in record shops. This meant that I was introduced to all types of music from people who took the scared Muslim girl in.

Even now, when I came back home after University, my music family was still there. Music has always given me the comfort I struggled to find in my relationships.

So, when I started dating, that’s what I was looking for. That level of peace and belonging I’d only ever really found in my headphones or at a very sweaty gig!

I haven’t found it. I’ve been with people I’ve deeply cared about but I’ve never felt like I completely belonged. There was always something I felt like I had to change about myself; be less of who I am and that isn’t wholly healthy.

That vulnerability, that ‘take me as I am’ is difficult to find, but I’d always found it in music.

Honestly, I struggle to put into words why I love music, even thinking about it puts tears in my eyes. Pure and simple, it saved a very lost person and gave her the strength to take on the world.

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