Vanessa White on life after The Saturdays – BBC News

Image copyright Vanessa White

She made her name as the youngest member of girl band The Saturdays – but Vanessa White has ditched the squeaky clean pop of All Fired Up and What About Us for an altogether more intriguing foray into sultry and infectious R&B.

It’s two o’clock on a crisp November day and Vanessa White saunters up to the gates of Ealing Studios in west London.

The film studio has played host to Shaun Of The Dead, Bridget Jones and the entire “downstairs” set of Downton Abbey – but she’s not here to film a cameo (“Can you imagine?” she giggles).

Instead, the 27-year-old climbs the fire escape of a dilapidated high-rise building, enters a propped-open door and navigates the corridors to a small back room that’s been converted into a recording studio.

Like all such facilities, it’s painted black and littered with empty liquor bottles. The walls are haphazardly decorated with polaroids of previous occupants – including US hitmakers The Chainsmokers – and, in the corner, there’s a tiny figurine of Ariel from The Little Mermaid.

Inside, Vanessa’s producers are ready and waiting, sorting through various tracks they’re hoping she might choose for her forthcoming EP.

But first, the singer has a confession: “I’ve got a sore throat and I’m a bit hung over.”

It doesn’t seem to matter. If anything, the consensus is that a husky voice is better for the material – a sultry and sumptuous serving of downtempo R&B; all heavy breathing and soaring harmonies.

Image copyright Vanessa White

Staving off the hangover with a “nourishing” lunch box, Vanessa explains her musical state of mind to the team.

“Everything I’m doing now is so dark,” she says, cueing up a song on her phone. “Not like I-want-to-kill-myself dark, but it’s quite angry.”

One of the tracks – tentatively called Trust – is seething with vitriol.

I won’t stroke your ego,” she spits. “I’m onto you, I’m onto you. Don’t underestimate my intelligence.

The song was inspired by encounters with “snaky people” in the music industry, she explains.

Specifically, it tackles a toxic situation in her immediate team that ended up “with the lawyers” last year.

She can’t discuss the details, but says her solo career was significantly delayed as a result: The EP she’s working on today was originally due last summer.

“There were certain songs I loved that I couldn’t use any more,” she explains. “So I’ve basically had to start again, which is why it’s taken this long.

“The silver lining is it’s given me something to write about. I’m in a much better position now, mentally.

“I used to get so scared of going in the studio with people I didn’t know but now, you could put me anywhere and I’d be fine.”

Image copyright Vanessa White

Vanessa certainly takes charge in the studio. Having brought the producers up to speed, she sits cross-legged on a sofa as they scroll through a few skeleton songs, looking for “an uptempo track with a dark heart”.

One by one, Vanessa dismisses them. “That’s too light,” she says of one. “I’m not instantly drawn to it,” is her verdict on the next.

After half a dozen tracks are waved off, engineer Day Decosta brings up a simple loop built around a gooey, pulsing bass groove.

Vanessa instantly sits up, alert. “Oh, I like this.”

She starts ad-libbing vocal riffs over the top, trading ideas with co-writer Celetia Martin, a former vocalist for Groove Armada whose credits include Skepta, Conor Maynard and, yes, The Saturdays.

Within minutes, she heads to the vocal booth. “I don’t really know what I’m doing right now,” she laughs. “I’m just going to sing loads of random nonsense.”

Image copyright Vanessa White

Slowly, painstakingly, the song takes shape. Some of the improvisations stick and are pieced together into a coherent melody. Every so often, Vanessa emerges from the booth to kneel on the floor with Celetia, and the pair go back and forth over lyrics and harmonies.

When inspiration dries up, they scroll through Instagram, gossip about TV box sets, and goof off doing the Mannequin Challenge for Vanessa’s Instagram page.

Conversation eventually turns to the singer’s upcoming holiday, a “juice retreat” in Portugal, where solid food is forbidden for an entire week.

It sounds awful (although photos from the journey suggest otherwise) – but it’s apparently the standard sort of torture female pop stars endure before the promotional round of video and photo shoots begin.

“It sounds worse than what it was,” laughs the singer when we catch up four months later.

“Honestly, if you were hungry it wasn’t like they starved you. They added more to the smoothies or they’d give you a piece of fruit. It was actually fine.

“I feel like I need another one now, that’s the problem!”

Image copyright Salute The Sun Records

In any case, the 27-year-old counts dressing up and being photographed as a perk of her job… although it wasn’t always that way.

“When I was in The Sats, it actually got a bit boring having to be made up every single day,” she says. “I stopped appreciating it.

“Now I can come to the studio looking like this and it’s fine. Dressing up has become more of a treat again.”

Back at Ealing Studios, work continues late into the night – long after the BBC has left the building, having contributed precisely zero to the writing process.

The song is ultimately destined for the scrapheap, but Trust (completely overhauled and re-titled Trust Me) makes it onto Vanessa’s Chapter Two EP, which was released last Friday.

As she predicted, it set the tone for a collection of brooding neo-soul that’s surprisingly candid about anger, lust and sexuality. Fans of The Saturdays’ chirrupy chart fodder are in for quite a surprise.

“I guess people are going to question it,” she admits of her new direction. “But I feel pop is not very me at the moment.

“It took a bit of time to find a sound that was completely right for me. Now I feel like I’ve really nailed it, and it’s obvious it’s coming from me. Once people believe that, you’re half-way there.”

Image caption Born in 1989, the star was just 17 when The Saturdays formed

Certainly, the sophisticated harmonies and complex ad-libs reflect the US singers she grew up idolising – Janet, Alliyah, Brandy and Mariah – without sounding like a cheap, plastic counterfeit.

“We’ve had a problem with that in the UK in the past,” she acknowledges. “I don’t know why we haven’t really got the sounds right before – but this is what I listened to for years and years, so I guess that’s where it’s come from.”

The EP has been well-reviewed on the sort of music sites that would have given The Saturdays a wide berth. But it’s hard to see where the music fits in the current charts, crammed full of Ed Sheeran’s acoustic pop and The Chainsmokers’ emo EDM.

“To be honest with you, I’m not even thinking about that,” says the singer. “With everything that’s happened this year, including the label stuff, I’ve ended up doing this on my own – and at this point I’m preferring it, to be honest.

“I feel like I have to run with this. I’m not going to be hard on myself and expect it to be [huge] at this point.

“Whatever happens will happen.”

Image copyright Vanessa White
Image copyright Vanessa White
Image copyright Vanessa White

Vanessa White’s Chapter Two EP is out now on Salute The Sun Records.

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(CNN)Say “doomsday bunker” and most people would imagine a concrete room filled with cots and canned goods.

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    “Your father or grandfather’s bunker was not very comfortable,” says Robert Vicino, a real estate entrepreneur and CEO of Vivos, a company he founded that builds and manages high-end shelters around the world.
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    Author who wrote heartbreaking ‘dating profile’ for her husband dies

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          Rep. Jordan confronts protesters but finds no common ground

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            Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell implored his Republican colleagues last week to face protesters and address them (even though he isn’t hosting any town halls himself — opting instead for a trio of closed-door fundraisers).
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            Federal judge blocks travel ban for Virginia residents

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              “We view the (executive) order as one that ultimately undermines the national security of the United States, rather than making us safer,” officials wrote.
              “It could do long-term damage to our national security and foreign policy interest, endangering US troops in the field and disrupting counterterrorism and national security partnerships.”
              Brinkema said at last Friday’s hearing that the officials’ declaration was “clear as a bell.”
              “This is coming from people with first-hand direct knowledge” of national security issues, Brinkema added — whereas the government had failed to offer even a “scintilla of evidence” that counters it.
              Brinkema’s written decision on Monday further recounted the public comments made by then-Republican presidential candidate Trump, calling for a “complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” and more recent statements from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani that Trump wanted to find a way to implement the ban “legally.”
              “Defendants have not denied any of these statements or produced any evidence beyond the text of the (executive order) itself, to support their contention that the (executive order) was primarily motivated by national security concerns,” Brinkema explained.
              “Defendants have argued that the court may not go beyond the text of the (executive order) in assessing its purpose, or look behind its proffered national security rationale, but the Supreme Court has rejected that position,” she added.
              “The evidence in this record focuses on the president’s statements about a ‘Muslim ban’ and the link Giuliani established between those statements and the (executive order),” Brinkema wrote. “Based on that evidence, at this preliminary (stage) of the litigation, the Court finds that the Commonwealth has established a likelihood of success on the merits.”
              “I saw this unlawful, unconstitutional, and un-American ban for exactly what it is and I’m glad the Court has, too,” Virginia attorney general Mark Herring said in a statement following Brinkema’s ruling.
              The Justice Department declined to comment.

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              Illuminating facts about the UK’s art collection – BBC News

              Image copyright other

              Horses are a more popular artistic subject than dogs – that’s one of 10 illuminating facts unearthed by BBC analysis of Art UK’s digital archive, which catalogues more than 200,000 of the nation’s oil paintings.

              1. Kew’s forgotten queen is the most prolific female artist

              Media captionVictorian pioneer Marianne North ‘most prolific female artist’

              The woman with the most paintings in the collection is the Victorian botanist Marianne North.

              Born in 1830, North devoted her life to travelling the world and painting plants.

              There is a gallery at Kew Gardens in south-west London dedicated to her work.

              North had no formal training, according to the Kew website. However, she put her natural talent to “prolific” use on her travels. During an eight-month stay in Brazil, she finished more than 100 paintings. Instead of painting individual plants, her work typically showed landscapes and natural habitats. The Marianne North Gallery contains 833 paintings by the artist, showing more than 900 species of plant.

              North approached Kew and offered to build the gallery in return for her life’s work being displayed in it. It opened in 1882.

              2. The most painted monarch is Charles I

              Image copyright Art UK
              Image caption Anthony van Dyck (b. 1599) Equestrian Portrait of Charles I, The National Gallery, Art UK

              The Stuart king’s execution in 1649 enshrined his status as an object of fascination for artists. There are more than 200 paintings of Charles in the collection, about 40 more than his son, Charles II, who was restored to the monarchy in 1660.

              Andrew Ellis, director of Art UK, said: “It does not surprise me that Charles I is the monarch with the most portraits.

              “Not only was he the greatest of royal patrons and collectors of art but he was also keenly interested in how art could promote the image of kingship. Some of the portraits date from after his death including one in King’s Lynn Town Hall, which was the subject of a sonnet written for Art UK by the poet John Fuller.”

              3. The paintings in the collection reflect our obsession with the sea

              Image copyright Tate
              Image caption JMW Turner (b. 1775), Sketch for East Cowes Castle, the Regatta Beating to Windward No.2, Tate, Art UK

              Maritime trade, sailing and naval power have long captured the imagination of artists.

              We counted up the words used to describe the paintings in the collection. Boat (12th), sailing (14th), mast (16th), ship (17th), wave (18th), sea (22nd), sail (25th) and rigging (42nd) all feature in the top 50.

              Pieter van der Merwe, the general editor of the National Maritime Museum, said the emergence of the seascape as an art form in England was imported from the Netherlands in the 17th Century.

              “It’s a British taste, but where did we get the taste for maritime art? We did not invent it ourselves, we got it from the Dutch,” he said.

              4. A dog is not an artist’s best friend

              Image copyright The Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum
              Image caption George Harvey (b. 1806), Horse, The Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, Art UK

              We may be a nation of dog lovers, but there are more horses than dogs in the collection, according to the list of the most popular tags.

              The horse is the most popular animal tag (49th), followed by dog (132nd), bird (138th), cow (140th), sheep (172nd) and fish (200th).

              Pictured is the Scottish painter George Harvey’s depiction of a horse from 1836.

              5. There are more paintings of men than women

              6. A forgotten wanderer is the most prolific male artist

              John Everett’s 1,058 oil paintings form the largest collection by a male artist.

              Dorchester-born Everett, a well-connected Edwardian, was a graduate of the Slade School of Fine Art who lived his life according to his dual passions – painting and sailing.

              His life and work remained relatively unknown until art historian Gwen Yarker began researching his biography.

              The majority of his art lies in the storerooms of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, while his landscapes can be viewed at Dorset County Museum.

              Ms Yarker said Everett shunned fame, was ambivalent about exhibiting and reluctant to take the limelight.

              “Art history has not been kind to him,” she said.

              7. At least 1,800 paintings were donated to collections in lieu of tax

              Image copyright Bradford Museums and Galleries / Bridgeman Images
              Image caption Blasted Trees (blue version) by William Rothenstein (b 1872), Cartwright Hall Gallery, is one example of a painting donated in lieu of tax (Art UK)

              Works of art can be handed over instead of inheritance tax.

              Under the scheme, the government accepts the item at market value, and hands it over to a public museum or gallery.

              8. There are at least 28,000 paintings in the collection where the artist remains unknown

              Image copyright Astley Hall Museum
              Image caption It is not known who painted this image of a tiger hunt, from the Artley Hall Museum and Art Gallery, Art UK

              Andrew Ellis said: “We are aware that we are still missing key information for many of the paintings on the site. Who is the artist? Who is the sitter? Where is the landscape?

              “The Art Detective sub-site of Art UK is helping to fill in some of this missing information with the incredible help of the general public.”

              9. 1910 is slap bang in the middle (But with some caveats)

              Image copyright Bruce Castle Museum
              Image caption Beatrice Offor (b. 1864), Miss B.S, Bruce Castle Museum (Haringey Culture, Libraries and Learning), Art UK

              BBC News examined the dates of the paintings in the collection.

              The median year was 1910, meaning half of the paintings we have a creation date for came before that date, and half afterwards.

              However, we could only ascertain dates for about half of the 214,000 artworks. Some 74,000 paintings had no year at all, and another 27,000 used either date ranges or other descriptions.

              Earlier works are less likely to be dated as record-keeping was poor.

              10. The National Trust has the largest collection of oil paintings

              Andrew Ellis said: “At the other end of the scale, some 50% of the collections on the site have fewer than 10 paintings.”

              What is Art UK?

              Image copyright Museums Sheffield
              Image caption Charles-Louis-Auguste Cousin (b. 1807), A Venetian Byway, Museums Sheffield, Art UK
              • Art UK’s roots go back to 2002, when a charity, the Public Catalogue Foundation, was founded by Fred Hohler, who was determined to improve the public’s access to the art it owned.
              • The record started life as a series of hardback colour catalogues on a county-by-county basis.
              • In 2011, the BBC and Public Catalogue Foundation launched the Your Paintings website to catalogue the collection online. Five years later, this became Art UK.
              • The website was built with funding from Arts Council England, the Scottish government and a private foundation.
              • More than 200,000 oil paintings by nearly 40,000 artists are available to view online

              The data analysed relates to the artwork in Art UK’s digital archive.

              Photo credits for collage picture: City of Edinburgh Council, Penlee House Gallery and Museum, Tate, Jersey Heritage, Budleigh Salterton Town Council, Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage, Ferens Art Gallery, Manchester Art Gallery

              Reporting team: BBC England data unit: Pete Sherlock, Paul Bradshaw

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              The 100 best nonfiction books: No 53 The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (1902)

              This revolutionary work written by Henry Jamess less famous brother brought a democratising impulse to the realm of religious belief

              The United States is a society, first described in Thomas Jeffersons revolutionary words in 1776, that constantly rewrites its narrative in law, philosophy, economics and belief, as well as through poetry, drama and fiction. In moments of change, its finest writers have often found new forms of expression and ideas that both illuminate the American story and help to redefine it.

              William James, brother of the more famous Henry, was a classic American intellectual, a brilliant New Englander and renowned pragmatist a celebrity in his time who coined the phrase stream of consciousness. He responded to the cultural and social ferment of the late 19th century with the Gifford lectures, given in Edinburgh during 1900-02. When he turned these talks into a book, James, a Harvard psychologist and the author of The Principles of Psychology, placed himself at the crossroads of psychology and religion to articulate an approach to religious experience that would help liberate the American mind at the beginning of the 20th century from its puritan restrictions by advancing a pluralistic view of belief inspired by American traditions of tolerance. Like his brother, he was obsessed by the problem of expressing individual consciousness through language; this is just one of the principal themes of The Varieties of Religious Experience.

              Psychology aside, this is an odd book in many ways, especially for its unorthodox approach to the precepts of organised religion. One commentator has described it as a classic that is too psychological to have shaped most religious inquiry and too religious to have influenced much psychological research. And yet, in the words of Psychology Today, it remains the most notable of all books in the field of the psychology of religion and probably destined to be the most influential book written on religion in the 20th century.

              The James family, who were originally Scots-Irish, like many of the first Americans, exerted a powerful influence on William James in the genesis of this text. His father, Henry Snr, was not just an unorthodox Calvinist, he was also (with Emerson and Jung) a disciple of the cult mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, who was determined to find a theory which would explain how matter relates to spirit. Swedenborgs desire to understand the order and purpose of creation had led him to investigate the structure of matter and the process of creation itself: his ambition was intoxicating and his teachings inspired a democratisation of religious impulses that appealed to the unorthodox Jameses, father and son.

              The idea that all citizens were equally and independently close to God sponsored among the James family the conviction that religious experience should not become confined within the narrow prison of a denomination. The same irreverence towards categories encouraged William James to adopt a high-low style that gives his writing a fresh and populist character thats rather different from the mature style of his brother the novelist. William used his populism to suggest that any religious experience was true if the consequences of holding it were pleasing to the individual concerned. This restatement of the American pursuit of happiness gave his audiences a new appreciation of human dignity grounded in everyday reality.

              In his approach to religious experience, William James writes that he had to face a hard problem: first, to defend experience against philosophy as the real backbone of the worlds religious life; and second, to make the reader believe that [the life of religion] is mankinds most important function.

              James begins his argument with the assertion that religion answers basic human needs. From here, he separates belief from its tribal origins. Religion, he says, has become a consumer item for individuals. His only concern about religion is what it tells us about what goes on in the single private man. Then he comes up with a famous definition:

              Religion shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.

              Using potted biographies of well-known writers and thinkers, including Tolstoy and John Bunyan, William James concludes a long and fascinating exploration of the healthy mind, the sick soul, and the divided self, with closing chapters on mysticism, saintliness, atonement and conversion. Here, too, he presented an account of God as a finite being, inextricably caught up in world affairs, and linked to human activity and ambitions. He closes with a witty question: Who knows whether the faithfulness of individuals here below to their own poor over-beliefs may not actually help God in turn to be more effectively faithful to his own greater tasks?

              A signature sentence

              And the moment we renounce the absurd notion that a thing is exploded away as soon as it is classed with others, or its origin is shown; the moment we agree to stand by experimental results and inner quality, in judging of values who does not see that we are likely to ascertain the distinctive significance of religious melancholy and happiness, or of religious trances, far better by comparing them as conscientiously as we can with other varieties of melancholy, happiness, and trance, than by refusing to consider their place in any more general series, and treating them as if they were outside of natures order altogether?

              Three to compare

              William James: The Principles of Psychology (1890)
              William James: Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking (1907)
              Louis Menand: The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America (2001)

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