Music
Photo by Rankin

You probably want to know what I’m listening to.

Run the Jewels

At the moment, I’m listening to Run the Jewels. I was always a big fan of Legend Has It because after they used it in the promo for Black Panther, like everybody in the audience, I said, “What is that tune?”

Killer Mike and El-P are transgressive and naughty and scary and sexy, but oh my God, can they make beats! And when they want to talk about something important, as witnessed by Killer Mike’s devastating testimony in Atlanta, Georgia during the Minnesota riots, they can really make their points in no uncertain terms.

There’s a track called Ju$t on their fourth album, which has a chorus which goes, “Look at all these slave masters posin’ on yo’ dollar.” It’s extraordinary. It’s the hook, and it’s only one of many, many very hooky things that they do.

Robert Palmer

I’m listening to a Robert Palmer album called Drive.

I’m a big fan of Robert Palmer, and I’m a big fan of blue-eyed soul. This album really, really rocks like a mo-fo. It’s great.

I met Robert Palmer when he came on OTT. I was slightly sad to meet him in those circumstances because the show was really shambolic and rambling and all over the place. But we had a really good time.

It was at the time of Some Guys Have All the Luck, and he came on in a leather jacket looking really cool. I think we’d opened the show with footage of a woman streaking during a snooker match. I could see him walking around backstage thinking to himself, “What have I let myself in for?”

Little Fires Everywhere

I’m listening to the original soundtrack of Little Fires Everywhere. It’s a Netflix/Hulu original series, with Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon, and I’m watching it at the moment.

Like a lot of these cable shows, it’s got a curated soundtrack. It’s really, really lovely. I have listened to it a lot. There’s a track called Build It Up by Ingrid Michaelson, which is really, really good. There’s also a pretty neat version of In the Air Tonight by Judith Hill.

I listen to soundtracks a lot when I’m writing because it’s like you’re in a movie, and it’s easier to imagine scenes happening in your head.

Classical Music

At the moment, I listen to a lot of classical music and a lot of ambient music.

I’m listening to George Walker’s orchestral works. He was a black composer. There’s a piece of his I love called Lyric for Strings, which is six minutes 15 seconds long.

We did a documentary called Unsung Heroes of Classical Music, where we highlighted Lyrical Strings. The series emphasises that there are a lot of black and mixed-race composers and musicians who have just been marginalised by the mainstream.

We know the superstars of classical music are Verdi and Mozart and Beethoven and all those guys. They’re in the centre space. But there are all these other people like George Bridgetower, Samuel Coleridge Taylor, Florence Price and George Walker, black composers who have done beautiful work.

But they have never really been given a space in the centre that they deserve because whoever writes history is the victor, and the marginalised never get to write history.

I was doing this bit of filming about George Walker and I was watching the Chineke! Orchestra at the Proms playing Lyric for Strings, and I was in tears because it’s so beautiful.

There’s also something called Hymns of Spirit by Beautiful Chorus, which is really transcendentally lovely.

Other Stuff

John Coltrane. He’s brilliant.

One of my favourite things of all recently has been listening to Rock’n’Roll Doctor, which is a tribute album by everybody to Lowell George, who was the leader of Little Feat. There’s some really good stuff on it.

I’m also a recent fan of Alabama Shakes. I didn’t really know them, but I’ve been listening to their albums, Boys & Girls and Sound & Color.

I’ve been listening as well to the Brittany Howard album, Jaime, which is beautiful. Oh, and there’s a band called The Shires. I have only just started listening to them, but they’re fantastic. Perfect harmonies.

There’s a guy called Sampha, too. I’ve been listening to him. He has written a song called (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano. I think he should get out more, but it’s a good song title.

A lot of Steely Dan, a lot of Joan Armatrading, a lot of Billie Eilish, a lot of Tame Impala, and a lot of Lewis Capaldi. He is a brilliant talent.

What else? I download quite a lot of singles because I tend not to listen to whole albums very much anymore. I don’t know why.

There’s a band called Untold, who did a song called Gonna Work Out Fine that I like.

There’s also a guy called Dexter Story who I’m listening to a lot.

Then there’s all the people I always listen to: Stevie Wonder, Parliament, Funkadelic, Robert Johnson, Michael Jackson, Bacharach and David, Blondie, Talking Heads, Chic, Bowie’s Young Americans.

I also love Elbow. I was privileged to be on the Zoe Ball show on Radio 2 promoting my book tour. Elbow did that thing where they all come into the studio and sit a foot away from you. Then they sung three songs live and it was one of the best moments of my life. It was up there with watching the Brothers Johnson live at Birmingham Town Hall and Earth, Wind and Fire live at Wembley Arena.

So I’m listening to all that stuff and more.