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Yola: From ‘house screamer’ to four-time Grammy nominee

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“It’s unreal. Surreal. I was crying intermittently for 24 hours when I found out.”

British singer Yola says her phone and Insta messages “blew up” when she realised she had four nominations for the 2020 Grammys.

Alongside Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, that’s the most of any British artist including big names like Lewis Capaldi and Ed Sheeran.

She’s up for Best New Artist with other breakout acts of the year including Lil Nas X, Lizzo and Billie Eilish.

However, despite being nominated in a new talent category, the singer says it’s been a long journey to get where she is now.

“It’s been a struggle,” she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat, backstage before her recent gig in London.

Yola describes herself as a “genre-fluid artist” who takes soul, rock ‘n’ roll, country and pop, and blends it with sounds of the 1960s and 1970s.

What emerged from that musical melting pot was Walk Through Fire – her debut album which was released in February.

“When people care about what you’re doing for yourself, it’s very validating. I had those times when I was told no-one wanted to hear me or they wanted to hear the person next to me. It hurt every time.”

Over the years, she’s gone through the highs and lows of the music industry.

‘Complete belief’

She was in the band Phantom Limb (under her full name Yolanda Quartey) but also experienced homelessness and slept on friends’ couches and mattresses.

She also had to deal with numerous people telling her she wouldn’t make it as a solo artist and to give up her dream.

To conquer it, she says took “complete belief” that she could be successful.

“I can sing a song. I can write a song. I have confidence in those two skills. If someone says they have a problem with that I can say they’re wrong – as clearly as night is night and day is day.”

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David McClister

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After Elton John said he was a fan, Yola has just released a cover of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Years before, she had a career as (what she calls) a “house screamer”, providing vocals on anthems such as Chase and Status’s Blind Faith and Duke Dumont’s Won’t Look Back.

She was a touring vocalist with Massive Attack and her samples were used on Chemical Brothers’ tracks. But that genre wasn’t her passion.

“I mean… you could wear an outfit looking like Ronald McDonald. But that doesn’t mean you want to dress like that all the time does it?”

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ALYSSE GAFKJEN

Instead, to pursue the music she wanted to make, she went to the home of country music – Nashville. It’s a city which she says is “far more influential than a lot of people are aware.”

“When you go there to work and you say you’re a musician, people look at you like you just told them you’re a doctor. It’s serious business.”

Initially, Nashville was intimidating for her because there was “a legend in every studio”.

“It took me a little while to get over the fear thing. I really wasn’t embodying that stereotype of the strong black woman. Instead, I was the terrified black woman.”

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ALYSSE GAFKJEN

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Yola and The Black Keys’ lead singer Dan Auerbach, who produced her debut album, Walk Through Fire

She’s also been nominated in the Best Americana Album category for Walk Through Fire. The album received pretty glowing reviews when it was released, with one critic at NPR calling it the work “of an artist sure to stun audiences for years to come”.

It was produced by the Black Keys’ lead singer Dan Auerbach. Opening track, Faraway Look, is also nominated for Best Americana Roots Song and Best Americana Roots Performance.

Yola says her success is down to “a lot of work and a lot of figuring out who I am,” and reckons nobody should be happy being pigeonholed.

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Yola currently lives between Nashville (pictured) and Bristol

Asked what she says to the people who doubted her: “One… You’re a muppet. Two… you’re a muppet. And three… guess what you are!”

Now she’s making it big, Yola’s had messages from some of those who said she wouldn’t get anywhere.

“Everyone’s got short term memories,” she says.

“It’s insane but it’s conditioning. They don’t realise they’re sexist. They just don’t have any female friends or work with any females. They don’t realise they have cognitive bias on issues of race. They just don’t have any friends of colour.

“You don’t realise you have these problems until you end up having to call on them in some way, or call on their support… not even to do anything, just to not be down on you for trying to live your best life.

“That’s all any of us are trying to do… live our best darned lives.”

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Walkout as Polanksi wins ‘best director’ at Césars

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Roman Polanski on stage after the preview of his film in November 2019Image copyright
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Another woman accused Polanski of rape in November

Several actresses have walked out of the César awards ceremony in Paris after Roman Polanski, who was convicted of the statutory rape of a 13 year old in 1977, won best director.

The awards – France’s equivalent of the Oscars – have been mired in controversy after Polanksi’s An Officer and a Spy received 12 nominations.

The Polish-French director fled the US after his rape conviction in the 1970s.

He has since faced other accusations of sexual assault.

Polanski, whose film won a total of three awards, did not attend the event, saying he feared for his safety.

The decision to honour Polanski at this year’s awards had angered feminist groups and led to calls for a boycott.

The César’s entire board resigned earlier this month amid the backlash.

This is not the first time the César awards have faced controversy because of Polanski. In 2017, he was picked to head the award’s jury, but later stepped down after the move sparked outrage.



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Prince Harry meets Jon Bon Jovi at Abbey Road Studios

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Prince Harry, Bon Jovi and two members of the Invictus Games Choir recreated the famous Beatles album coverImage copyright
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Prince Harry, Bon Jovi and two members of the Invictus Games Choir come together to recreate the famous Beatles album cover

Rock royalty met the Royal Family when the Duke of Sussex got behind a microphone with Jon Bon Jovi.

They met at Abbey Road Studios, where the US rocker is re-recording his song Unbroken with the Invictus Games Choir.

The prince – who will step down as a working royal at the end of March – posted a video of both men in a recording booth.

Bon Jovi said he looked forward to working with the “artist formerly known as prince”.

Both men greeted each other warmly on the steps of the world-famous London studio synonymous with the Beatles.

They were then ushered inside to the control room overlooking Studio 2 – where Fab Four recorded during the 1960s.

A video filmed during the duke’s visit showed the prince and the popstar wearing headphones.

The footage ends just as the pair are about to break into song.

Before entering the studio, the duke was heard to joke that the pair had “been gargling next door, so we’re ready to go”, according to the Press Association.

Bon Jovi said he had sent the song to Harry, who had sent a “very nice letter” in return which said he would “love to include it in something to do with the Invictus Games”.

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Livin’ on an Heir: The prince took time to smile for the cameras on the famous zebra crossing

Speaking before the recording, he said: “In light of what has come, you know, with his leaving the monarchy, as it were, I didn’t plan on any of this.

“But he said: ‘Not only am I going to come back [to England], you know, but I want to be there when you do it’.

“And to do it at Abbey Road, of course where the Beatles once were; and to do it with the “artist formerly known as Prince”, I think it’s gonna be an incredible, moving moment.”

You may also be interested in:

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The duke’s Instagram account released a mocked-up text exchange with Bon Jovi

Prince Harry founded the Invictus Games in 2014 as a way of using sport to create a positive impact on the lives of injured service personnel and veterans.

Jon Bon Jovi has a close link with the military as both his parents served in the US Marine Corps.

The charity single version of Unbroken, featuring the Invictus Games Choir, will be released in March.

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Apple Corps

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The Beatles in their iconic Abbey Road cover shot



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Paris Fashion Week: Facemasks on show amid coronavirus concern

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Models wearing facemasks at Marine Serre's Paris Fashion Week showImage copyright
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Models were seen wearing facemasks at Marine Serre’s Paris Fashion Week show

One show at Paris Fashion Week proved to be unintentionally timely as models wore a range of outfits complete with matching facemasks.

The outfits were shown earlier this week by French designer Marine Serre.

The catwalk show took place amid rising concern about the outbreak of coronavirus, which caused markets to fall around the world on Friday.

But Serre’s collection was designed before the outbreak, and she has used facemasks in her collections before.

Her previous show in September also saw models cover their faces with veils or facemasks as part of the designer’s spring/summer collection.

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Models wearing facemasks at Marine Serre’s Paris Fashion Week show in September

The masks Serre uses have previously been described by her fashion house as “anti-pollution masks”.

The 28-year-old has been praised in the fashion press for the practicality of many of her designs.

“Serre’s energy has dynamised the fashion industry,” Vogue said last year. “Her hybrid garments, each a radical cocktail of century-flitting references, utilitarian practicalities, plus a sporting streak, are never so complicated as to miss the contemporary mark.”

At her showcase this week, Serre also showed a range of outfits which went further than facemasks in obscuring models’ faces.

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In some cases, Serre’s designs covered the entirety of models’ heads

But in addition to the designs appearing as part of Paris Fashion Week shows, facemasks were also being worn by some audience members at catwalk shows.

Several people attending Dries Van Noten’s autumn/winter collection showcase this week were seen wearing facemasks.

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Guests at Dries Van Noten’s Paris show were seen wearing facemasks

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Model Kozue Akimoto wore a facemask as she attended shows at Paris Fashion Week

The entertainment industry has been significantly affected by coronavirus, with several events and tours being postponed or cancelled.

On Thursday, Green Day announced they would postpone their forthcoming Asian tour “due to the health and travel concerns with coronavirus”.

“We know it sucks, as we were looking forward to seeing you all, but hold on to your tickets we’ll be announcing the new dates very soon,” the band added in their statement.

Korean pop group BTS cancelled several live shows due to take place in April at the Olympic Stadium in Seoul amid health concerns.

“It is unavoidable that the concert must be cancelled without further delay,” said a statement, originally written in Korean, which was posted on the group’s mobile fan platform.

“Please understand that this decision was made after extensive and careful consideration.”

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PA Media

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Brit Award-winning singer Mabel cancelled a show in Italy over coronavirus concerns

South Korea has been heavily impacted by coronavirus – the country has more than 2,300 confirmed cases so far, making it the biggest outbreak outside of China.

Other artists who have cancelled tour dates in Asia include UK grime star Stormzy, R&B singer Khalid. and a-ha, who have cancelled their show in Singapore.

Earlier this week, Brit Award-winning singer Mabel cancelled a scheduled show in Milan after a wider coronavirus outbreak in Italy.

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