Connect with us


The Grand Tour: Jeremy Clarkson show confronts climate change



James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard HammondImage copyright
Amazon Studios

Image caption

L-R: James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond

Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May are heading off the road and into the water for their latest special – The Grand Tour presents Seamen.

The trio are seen sailing along the Mekong river and through the treacherous conditions of monsoon season in Vietnam and Cambodia in the 90-minute film.

As you can imagine, the first obstacle at the show’s press launch is trying to get past the title.

“The Grand Tour presents Seamen,” repeats Clarkson with added emphasis. “Which, at our age, is quite an achievement.”

The switch from seatbelts to sails is just one of several changes being made to The Grand Tour’s format this time around. Here are seven other things to expect.

1. The live studio audience has gone

Image copyright
Amazon Studios

Image caption

The tent visited Johannesburg during The Grand Tour’s first season

Having completed an initial three-season deal with Amazon, the trio is returning with a set of standalone adventure specials instead of a traditional series – Seamen being the first.

As a result, the show has done away with its huge travelling tent. Like Top Gear before it, The Grand Tour would weave various segments together with studio links which featured a live audience and celebrity guests.

“That had run its course,” Clarkson tells BBC News. “We’d done studios for 17 years, and reviewing cars and talking to somebody from Cash In The Attic about their first car we felt was perhaps something we didn’t need to do anymore.

“And then we could use the money we had spent on that on rather more elaborate plots.”

2. They’ve learned from Amazon’s streaming data

“The other thing,” executive producer Andy Wilman adds on the subject of studios, “is Amazon know to the nano-second what viewers like and don’t like.

“And it’s clear that, even though the other shows are popular, the specials rise above. So we thought ‘that fits where we want to go’.”

Clarkson makes clear that Amazon don’t interfere editorially with the show.

“But we can ask them, ‘did that work?’ And they’ll go ‘no’, because they can see how many people turn off when James May talks, and how many more people watch when I talk. So that’s very useful to us.”

Image copyright
Amazon Studios

Image caption

Clarkson has previously had a blasé attitude towards climate change

3. Clarkson explicitly acknowledges climate change

The trio’s ringleader has previously had a blasé attitude to climate change and environmental campaigners dumped manure on his lawn in 2009 as part of a protest.

So perhaps the most startling thing about Seamen is hearing him acknowledge it directly.

“Climate change was very definitely rammed down our throats in Cambodia,” Clarkson says of filming this special, which sees the rivers considerably shallower than they should be.

“You can say that the Chinese have dammed the rivers and caused the problem, but it also wasn’t raining, and it should’ve been bucketing down all the time. And all the fisherman say ‘the climate is changing’. So you can’t sit there and say, ‘there’s no such thing as climate change’.

Image caption

Greta Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic on a carbon-fibre yacht in August

“Now, if I wanted to, I could run around the world on carbon fibre yachts, shouting and yelling and wailing,” he adds – a clear reference to the actions of the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

“Or, you can just acknowledge it, and then behind the scenes start working on how we address this problem. But we don’t offer any solutions, we’re not scientists, only scientists can come up with solutions. Politicians can’t. Weird Swedes can’t. Only scientists can.

“We just go, ‘look, there’s hardly any water in this lake, look at all these poor starving fishermen. That’s the fact, now let’s get on with making the TV show’.”

4. The team doesn’t feel restrained by its broadcaster

After the show’s third series was released, Jack Seale of The Guardian said it showed the trio were “skidding further into irrelevance”.

Indeed, part of their popularity on Top Gear was down to the fact much of what they said and did was fairly close-to-the-bone for a BBC platform. Now that they have carte blanche from Amazon, misbehaving arguably doesn’t feel quite as fun.

Wilman pushes back on this idea slightly and points out the BBC mostly stuck by them during their tenure. “When you think of the number of times we hit the headlines at Top Gear, that could only happen if the BBC were happy with what we were doing,” he says.

Image copyright
Amazon Studios

“The BBC always allowed us to do whatever we liked. Until [Danny] Cohen arrived,” adds Clarkson, referring to the BBC’s former director of television who, among other things, objected to Clarkson naming his black dog after the Chelsea footballer Didier Drogba.

“Make no mistake, the BBC is a fantastic and fabulous organisation, and it does allow an enormous amount of creative freedom… and Amazon are exactly the same. They might occasionally go ‘well actually’ but only in the same way the BBC would.”

5. This is their most dangerous Grand Tour adventure yet

Seamen must have been a nightmare for the health and safety department, as the trio is seen battling seriously dangerous conditions.

James May had to be rescued at one point when his boat was hit by crashing waves in the South China Sea. “Four fisherman in that area on that day were killed,” Clarkson explains.

“I think it’s the dodgiest we’ve been in since that night in Argentina,” adds Wilman, referring to the time the team faced angry protests and were pelted with rocks by locals who thought their car’s number plate was a deliberate reference to the Falklands war.

“I’d put it second to that, in terms of, ‘we have no control over what’s gonna happen next’.”

Image copyright
Amazon Studios

Image caption

Richard Hammond, seen here before the monsoon, struggles to cope with the torrential rain

6. Direct viewer feedback has replaced ratings

In line with most streaming services, Amazon Prime doesn’t tell anybody how many people are watching their shows – not even the stars.

“I get it from their point of view,” Wilman says. “You can’t compare to a seven-day live figure or a big overnight boost. So we could be racking up millions over time, but it’s never going to be in a defined window.

“So why would they put themselves out on the line and say ‘it got this many’ when a terrestrial show got that many? At first it was like, ‘Oh please, I’d love to know what we’re getting’, but I’m relaxed now.”

Clarkson says they’ve been able to monitor the show’s popularity anecdotally. “We were filming in Madagascar, and everybody was saying, ‘Oh Grand Tour! Grand Tour!’ so you know in Madagascar they’re all watching it,” he says. “And when we were in France, they were all saying ‘Grand Tour’. Otherwise you’d be saying, ‘Who’s watching this?’ but they obviously are.”

7. There’s no bad blood with Top Gear

Image caption

Top Gear’s new trio: Chris Harris, Paddy McGuinness and Freddie Flintoff

Since the last series aired, Top Gear has hired new presenters Paddy McGuinness and Andrew Flintoff, who have proved popular with viewers.

Clarkson says: “I’ve never seen [Top Gear], not since I left. If you give a baby up for adoption, you don’t go and peer through the window. And it’s been taken away, they’re doing what they’re doing with it. I wish them the very best of luck, but I don’t want to see what they’re doing.”

Instead, Clarkson says he’d like to continue with The Grand Tour for “as long as I continue to function as a human being”.

Where would they like to go next?

“I think there’s only six or seven countries I haven’t been to now,” Clarkson says, “and Zimbabwe is one I’d really like to go to. The BBC were banned from it so we could never go. Iran was another one, the BBC was banned so we couldn’t go to either of those two.

“Even Ski Sunday wasn’t allowed to film in Iran,” he adds.

“And they’ve got a great theme tune,” points out James May. “And they still weren’t allowed.”

The Grand Tour presents: Seamen is available on Amazon Prime Video from Friday 13 December.

Source link


Ed Sheeran named ‘artist of the decade’




Ed SheeranImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You was the UK’s biggest single of the 2010s

Ed Sheeran has been named the UK’s artist of the decade by the Official Charts Company.

Sheeran achieved the milestone after a combined run of 12 number one singles and albums between 2010 and 2019 – more than any other artist.

He’s also had the most weeks (79) at number one in both the album and singles charts in this period.

Shape Of You was the biggest hit of the 2010s, spending 14 weeks at number one and selling more than 4.5m copies.

Sheeran thanked his followers for his success.

“Thank you to everyone who’s supported me over the past 10 years, especially my amazing fans. Here’s to the next 10!”

  • Spotify reveals decade’s most-streamed songs
  • YouTube reveals 2019’s most-watched music videos

Shape Of You is one of three Sheeran singles in the top five end-of-the-decade list. Thinking Out Loud is at number three while Perfect is at number five.

Overall, Sheeran has spent 38 weeks at number one in the singles chart and sold 53.8m tracks. His songs have also been streamed 4.6 billion times in the UK alone.

In the albums chart, X is at number three followed by Divide at number four.

Top 10 singles of the decade

Martin Talbot, chief executive of the Official Charts Company, said Sheeran had “truly dominated” the decade.

“At the start of the decade, he was a little known, albeit highly-rated, young 18-year-old lad from Suffolk – but his catalogue of achievements since then are genuinely remarkable. Today, he is firmly established among the highest level of global music superstars,” Talbot added.

The star’s latest accolade comes a week after Spotify named him the UK’s most-streamed artist of the 2010s. Globally, only Drake achieved more plays.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Adele has the top two albums of the decade

The remainder of the top 10 biggest singles is dominated by male artists. They include Mark Ronson ft Bruno Mars at number two for Uptown Funk and Justin Bieber at number nine for Sorry.

Female singers only appear as featured artists – with Kyla cited for her collaboration with Drake on the track One Dance, and Jess Glynne for singing Clean Bandit’s Rather Be.

In the album charts, however, it’s Adele who comes out top, holding both the first and second positions with 21 and 25 respectively.

Top 10 albums of the decade

Her second album 21, released in 2011, has sold 5.17 million copies. It debuted at number one and spent 23 weeks at the top of the albums chart.

Her follow up 25 spent 13 weeks at the top and became the UK’s fastest-selling album to date, selling 800,307 copies in its first chart week in November 2015. And Adele’s debut album 19 from 2008 is the UK’s 13th biggest record of the 2010s.

The only other woman in the top 10 albums is Emeli Sande who comes in at eight for Our Version Of Events.

With the chart company’s data spanning an entire decade of sales, older releases tend to dominate the countdown.

The most recent album in the top 100 is the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman, which was released in December 2017.

Image copyright
Atlantic Records

Image caption

Sheeran received a plaque in recognition of his chart domination

Follow us on Facebook, or on Twitter. If you have a story suggestion email

Source link

Continue Reading


Liam Payne on alcohol: ‘My family were very worried’




Liam PayneImage copyright
Jason Hetherington

Image caption

“It was very erratic behaviour on my part – I was partying too hard,” says Liam Payne

In the offices of Liam Payne’s management company, just north of Soho in central London, there’s a bottle of Bacardi inscribed with his name.

It was sent as a gift, after the singer immortalised the drink in his hit single Strip That Down. According to the lyrics, which he co-wrote with Ed Sheeran, he mixes it with Coke and “sips it lightly”.

There’s just one small snag, says Payne: “I don’t think I’ve ever drunk Bacardi”.

“When I was younger, I went straight in on the whisky,” the star says. “I tend to pick my poison early, then I stick with it until it bores me.”

In fact, shortly after Strip That Down was released in 2017, Payne gave up drinking altogether after his lifestyle became “a cause for concern”.

“There were a couple of very dark years of me going through extreme peril with different mental health things,” says the 26-year-old. “I just didn’t know where I was going to end up.”

‘Reset button’

His drinking started to get out of hand while he was on tour with One Direction – the hotel mini-bar becoming a source of solace as he came down from the adrenalin high of playing for 80,000 screaming fans.

But even when the band went on hiatus, the habit continued. “It was very erratic behaviour on my part – I was partying too hard,” says the star, who’d always been cast as the “sensible” member of 1D.

“It was a tough little time. My family were very worried.”

Eventually, there came a point “where I realised I needed to hit the reset button and take a break,” he says.

“I was coming off the back-end of a break-up, so I was dealing with all sorts of emotions that I hadn’t dealt with in a long time because I was always covering them up – heartbreak, nerves, all sorts of things.

“I’d gotten too used to this rhythm of life; of using alcohol and different things to mask my feelings, or get me through. So I just needed to prove to myself that [drinking] wasn’t the issue for me.”

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The star dated Cheryl Cole from 2016 to 2018, during which time they had a son, Bear Payne

He doesn’t say it explicitly, but the switch to sobriety coincided with the birth of his first son, Bear, with fellow pop star Cheryl Cole in early 2017.

The star had always wanted to be a father, but says he struggled to adapt to his new role.

“I’d built it up in my head so much that by the time Bear was born, it was impossible for me to ever match the feeling I thought I’d feel – which is crazy,” he says.

His solution was to become a cook. “Thinking logically, I was going, ‘Right, if I’m feeding her and she feeds him, then I’m taking care of the family’. Because that’s what dads do.”

‘Success gets the better of you’

After months of rumours, Cheryl and Liam confirmed their split in July 2018, but they continue to share the responsibility of raising their son, who turns three in March.

It means he has to jet “in and out of the country as much as possible”, but he seems content to divide his time between super-stardom and domesticity.

Is that why it took two years to translate the success of Strip That Down into a debut album?

Actually, no. It was that song’s phenomenal, and unexpected, performance (it’s still the biggest-selling solo song by any of the former One Directioners) that threw Payne’s plans into disarray.

“Strip That Down was such an amazing thing to happen – but sometimes success gets the better of you,” he says.

“It took the best part of nine months to get to number one in America – and for that whole period, people wouldn’t put any other songs on the radio. So it was a really weird time. We got stuck with one song for so long that it really prolonged the process of making the album”.

It was especially strange for someone who was used to writing and recording entire albums in six weeks or less.

“Writing for One Direction was a different process because you knew what the kids wanted,” says the star, who co-wrote about 50% of the band’s last two albums.

“I love those songs – don’t get me wrong – but I knew why I was writing them and I knew what I was writing them for.”

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

One Direction were the most successful act to emerge from X Factor, despite coming third in the competition

Ultimately, Payne realised that getting more time to work on his debut album was “a luxury” and he allowed himself to “sit back and enjoy the process for once”.

Recording sessions took place around the world, with A-listers like Ed Sheeran, Ryan Tedder and Charlie Puth. In total, the album credits a staggering 72 composers – and Payne likens the writing process to “speed dating”.

“Sometimes it was difficult because I’d get one or two days in the studio with someone that I don’t know and I didn’t really want to share an awful lot of private stuff with them,” he says. “It’s almost like the first day of school every day.”

His experiences in One Direction helped him be more assertive during sessions; and he turns out to be a studio geek, marvelling at piano sound on Selena Gomez’s Lose You To Love Me, (“they’ve recorded it so close, you can hear the hammer hitting the strings”) and the textural painting in Billie Eilish’s Everything I Wanted (“when she sings ‘I’m underwater‘and they tweak her vocal so it sounds like she’s disappearing, it’s like Disneyland”).

But as the album came together, he gravitated towards the albums he grew up with – Usher’s 8701, Justin Timberlake’s Justified and Chris Brown’s self-titled debut – shaping his solo career around a sleek, efficient brand of R&B.

There’s a thread of sadness running through the album – “Heart meet break, lips meet drink / Rock meet bottom, to the bottom I sink,” he sings at one point – informed by his recurring bouts of depression, and his high-profile split from Cheryl.

“I’m an absolute expert on heartbreak, it would seem,” he says. “I think, for me, it was easier to write from a sad place, because the feelings were a little bit more raw. Happiness is hard to fathom, I think.”

‘My sexuality is not your fetish’

But it’s one of the album’s more explicit songs that generated headlines – and for all the wrong reasons.

Both Ways is a late-night slow jam that details a sexual encounter with two women. “My girl, she like it both ways,” Payne sings over a ringing trap beat. “She like the way it all taste / Couple more, we’ll call it foreplay / No, no, I don’t discriminate.”

Within hours of its release last week, the track was being criticised for reinforcing harmful stereotypes that bisexual women’s sexualities exist for the gratification of men – a fetishisation that can have violent, real-world consequences.

“I’m sick and tired of people thinking my sexuality is made for threesomes,” one person wrote in a tweet, adding: “Bisexual women are NOT for your sexual fantasies.” Another Twitter user simply declared: “My sexuality is not your fetish.”

So far, Payne hasn’t responded – but when we spoke last month, before the furore erupted, he said Both Ways was his “favourite song” on the record.

In his explanation, the lyrics are about being open to new experiences and different sexualities, as we emerge into a new “world of ‘love is love’ and people becoming much more understanding about the way love is – and rightly so”.

Payne indicated that the song had originated with one of his co-writers, adding: “I don’t know who in the studio had actually been in this situation, because I certainly haven’t, but it was an interesting song to write.”

Whether or not he addresses the criticism, the song is a blot on his copybook; and a rare mis-step for a singer who’s always strived to be on the right side of public opinion.

For a self-confessed perfectionist, its bound to sting; but several times during our discussion, Payne says he’s trying to learn from his mistakes, rather than punish himself for making them in the first place.

“My life is super-complicated,” he says. “I’ve got a two-and-a-half year old son, an ex-missus and all sorts of different things kicking off, so I have to drill these messages into my head.”

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The star says he’s planning his first solo tour for 2020

All things considered, would he prefer not to have auditioned for the X Factor all those years ago?

“I wouldn’t change it,” he says decisively. “I know it’s where I’m supposed to be in the world now.

“I was very confused about fame when it all happened; and learning to be a person outside of your job was difficult. But now I feel like I get it. I’m a lucky boy.”

Liam Payne’s debut album, LP1, is out now on Capitol Records.

Follow us on Facebook, or on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts. If you have a story suggestion email

Source link

Continue Reading


Peter Handke receives Nobel Literature prize




Peter Handke at the Nobel Prize ceremonyImage copyright

Image caption

Peter Handke was applauded by the attendees at Tuesday’s ceremony in Stockholm

Austrian author Peter Handke has received his Nobel prize for Literature at a ceremony in Sweden.

The choice of Handke was controversial because of his support for the Serbian side in the 1990s Yugoslav war.

The ambassadors of countries including Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo and Turkey boycotted the ceremony in protest.

Olga Tokarczuk, who is considered the leading Polish novelist of her generation, also collected her belated 2018 literature prize.

Handke, 76, was recognised for “an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience”, the Academy said when the award was announced in October.

But a 58,000-strong petition called for the award to be revoked.

And as dignitaries arrived in limousines for the awards ceremony, about a dozen protesters waved placards with slogans such as “No Nobel for Fake News”, reported Reuters news agency.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Olga Tokarczuk, pictured with Peter Handke, received the literature prize for 2018

“The problem with Handke is his refusal to admit genocide on the Bosnian population in the 1990s,” said Adnan Mahmutović, one of the organisers of Tuesday’s demonstration in Stockholm.

“As a serious, established writer who has a lot of clout in European literature, Handke has been used in the narrative of genocide denial in the Balkans,” said Mahmutovic, who fled to Sweden as a refugee from the war in Bosnia in 1993.

Protest resignation

The choice of Handke came as the Academy struggled to recover from a sexual assault scandal that resulted in the 2018 prize being postponed and awarded this year to Polish author Olga Tokarczuk while Handke was named the recipient for 2019.

The assault controversy involved the husband of a former member, the poet and writer Katarina Frostenson.

French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, who ran a cultural project with funding from the Swedish Academy, was accused by 18 women of sexual assault.

Several of the alleged incidents reportedly happened in properties belonging to the Academy. Mr Arnault denies the allegations.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The Nobel Literature Prize winner receives a medal, a diploma and £740,000 in prize money

One external member of the Nobel literature committee resigned earlier this month over the choice of Handke.

Gun-Britt Sundstrom said the choice of Handke had been interpreted as if literature stood above politics and she did not agree.

Another external committee member, Kristoffer Leandoer, said he had left because Academy reforms following the sexual assault scandal were taking too long.

In a 1996 book, Handke cast doubt on the Bosnia Serb massacre of men and boys at Srebrenica and accused Bosnian Muslims of staging attacks.

In a TV interview in 1999, he compared Serbia’s fate to that of Jews during the Holocaust – although he later apologised for that “slip of the tongue”. In 2006, he spoke at the funeral of Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic, who was accused of genocide and other war crimes.

However, the Academy quoted a 2006 article in which Handke said the Srebrenica massacre was the worst crime against humanity in Europe since Word War Two.

‘It’s literature’

At a press conference in Stockholm on Friday, Handke avoided questions on the Balkan wars.

“I like literature, not opinions,” he said.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Alfred Nobel Museum in Stockholm holds the records for the Nobel Prize and its winners

But in an interview with German weekly Die Zeit in late November, Handke defended his writings.

“Not one word I have written about Yugoslavia can be denounced, not a single one. It’s literature,” he said.

He said that at the time “reporting about Serbia was monotone and one-sided,” Handke told Die Zeit.

‘Deserving winner’

One Nobel Committee for Literature member, Henrik Peterson, has argued that Handke is “radically unpolitical” in his writing, and his support for the Serbs has been misunderstood.

Mr Petersen is not the only committee member to defend Handke.

Rebecka Kärde said she didn’t want to “apologise for the hair-raising things that Handke has undoubtedly said and done”.

But she continued: “The Nobel committee must read the texts on Yugoslavia among another 70 works written over a period of 50 years. Which we did.”

They concluded that the author of books including Repetition, My Year in the No-Man’s-Bay and Die Obstdiebin “absolutely deserves a Nobel Prize”.

She added: “When we give the award to Handke, we argue that the task of literature is other than to confirm and reproduce what society’s central view believes is morally right.”

Handke himself reacted angrily to the response to his win, telling journalists: “No-one who comes to me says that he has read any of my works, that he knows what I have written. It’s just questions like how does the world react, reactions to reactions.”

He said he would never speak to the media again, according to Austrian broadcaster ORF.

In 2014 Handke called for the Nobel Literature Prize to be abolished, saying it conferred a “false canonisation” on the laureate.

Follow us on Facebook, or on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts. If you have a story suggestion email

Source link

Continue Reading