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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alex Turner
Alex Turner, Way Out West 2018.jpg
Turner in August 2018
Born (1986-01-06) 6 January 1986 (age 34)
Sheffield, England
Occupation
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
Musical career
Genres
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • bass
  • keyboards
  • flute
  • sitar
Years active2002–present
LabelsDomino
Associated acts

Alexander David Turner (born 6 January 1986) is an English musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer. He is best known as the frontman and principal songwriter of the rock band Arctic Monkeys, with whom he has released six albums. He has also recorded with his side project The Last Shadow Puppets and as a solo artist.

When Turner was 16, he and three friends formed Arctic Monkeys in their native Sheffield. Their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (2006), became the fastest-selling debut album in British history and was ranked at No. 30 on Rolling Stone's list of the greatest debut albums of all time.[1] The band's subsequent studio albums, Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007), Humbug (2009), Suck It and See (2011), AM (2013) and Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018), have experimented with desert rock, indie pop, R&B, and lounge music. Arctic Monkeys headlined Glastonbury Festival in both 2007 and 2013, and performed during the 2012 London Summer Olympics opening ceremony.

As the co-frontmen of The Last Shadow Puppets, Turner and Miles Kane have released two orchestral pop albums: The Age Of The Understatement (2008) and Everything You've Come To Expect (2016). Turner also provided an acoustic soundtrack for the feature film Submarine (2010), and co-wrote and co-produced Alexandra Savior's debut album Belladonna of Sadness (2017).

Turner's lyricism, ranging from kitchen sink realism to surrealist wordplay, has been widely praised. Each of his eight studio albums have topped the UK Album Chart. He has won seven Brit Awards, an Ivor Novello Award, and a Mercury Prize (having been nominated five times).

Biography

Early life

Alexander David Turner was born in Sheffield on 6 January 1986,[2][3] the only child of secondary school teachers Penny (née Druce)[4] and David Turner.[5] He was raised in Sheffield's High Green suburb.[6] He has said that his parents came from "very different backgrounds"; his mother, from Amersham, Buckinghamshire,[7] taught German and was "fascinated by language".[8] His father, a Sheffield native,[7] taught music and physics.[9] Turner's parents were both music fans and his earliest musical memories involve The Beatles[10][11] and The Beach Boys.[12] During car journeys, his mother played music by Led Zeppelin,[13] David Bowie,[14] and The Eagles.[15] His father was a fan of jazz and swing music,[14] particularly Frank Sinatra.[10] He had played the saxophone, trumpet, and piano in big bands.[11][16] Turner himself was taught some scales on the family keyboard by his father[16][17] and took professional piano lessons until he was eight years old.[18][10]

From the age of five, Turner grew up alongside neighbour Matt Helders; they attended primary school, secondary school, and college together.[19][20] At their primary school graduation ceremony, Turner and Helders joined some other friends in a mimed performance of Oasis' "Morning Glory"—Helders played the role of Liam Gallagher while Turner pretended to play the bass guitar, using a tennis racket as his instrument.[15][21] The two met Andy Nicholson in secondary school,[22] and the three friends bonded over their shared enjoyment of rappers such as Dr. Dre,[23] the Wu-Tang Clan,[15] Outkast,[15] and Roots Manuva.[15] They spent their time playing basketball, skateboarding, riding BMXs,[24] and "making crap hip-hop" beats using Turner's father's Cubase system.[25][11] Turner and his friends became interested in rock music following the breakthrough of The Strokes in 2001.[26] His father let him borrow a school guitar to learn a "couple of chords" when Turner was 15[11] and, for Christmas that year, his parents bought him an electric guitar.[27]

Turner was educated at Stocksbridge High School from 1997 to 2002. His form teacher, Mark Coleman, characterised him as a "bright" and "popular" student who excelled at sports rather than music.[28] His English and drama teacher, Simon Baker, remembered him as a clever pupil who was "quite reserved" and "a little bit different".[29] He noted that Turner had an "incredibly laid-back" approach to his studies, which worried his mother and led to criticism from other teachers.[29][30] While there were books at home,[31] Turner did not read regularly[32] and was too self-conscious to share his writing with others.[33] Nonetheless, he enjoyed English lessons.[29] Turner then attended Barnsley College from 2002 to 2004. Given the opportunity to "get away without doing maths", he largely opted out of the "substantial" subjects required for university entry.[11] He studied for A-levels in music technology and media studies, as well as AS-levels in English, photography, and psychology.[34]

2002–2004: Formation of Arctic Monkeys

At the age of 15, Turner's weekends revolved around girls and drinking cider with his friends.[35] Joe Carnall, a schoolfriend, has said Turner was "always the quiet one" in their social circle.[36] After friends began forming bands and playing live,[37] Turner, Helders, and Nicholson decided to start Arctic Monkeys in mid-2002.[35][38] According to Nicholson, Turner already had "instruments about the house" and was conversant in the basics of musicianship because of his father's job as a music teacher.[24] Helders bought a drum kit,[39] while Turner suggested that Nicholson learn bass guitar, and invited Jamie Cook, a neighbour who attended a different school, to play guitar.[24] Initially, Turner played guitar in the instrumental band; he became the frontman when two other school friends declined to sing.[40] Helders considered Turner the obvious candidate for lyricist – "I knew he had a thing for words" – and he gradually began to share songs with his bandmates.[41][42] Before playing a live show, the band rehearsed for a year in Turner's garage[39] and, later, at an unused warehouse in Wath.[20] According to Helders' mother, who drove the teenagers to and from their rehearsal space three times a week: "If they knew you were there, they would just stop so we had to sneak in."[20] Their first gig was on Friday, 13 June 2003, supporting The Sound at a local pub called The Grapes.[43] The set, which was partly recorded,[44] comprised four original songs and four cover versions of songs by The Beatles, The White Stripes, The Undertones, and The Datsuns.[45][46]

In the summer of 2003, Turner played seven gigs in York and Liverpool as a rhythm guitarist for the funk band Judan Suki, after meeting the lead singer Jon McClure on a bus.[47][48] That August, while recording a demo with Judan Suki at Sheffield's 2fly Studios, Turner asked Alan Smyth if he would produce an Arctic Monkeys demo. Smyth obliged and "thought they definitely had something special going on. I told Alex off for singing in an American voice at that first session."[49] An introduction by Smyth led to the band acquiring a management team, Geoff Barradale and Ian McAndrew.[50] They paid for Smyth and Arctic Monkeys to record numerous three-song demos in 2003 and 2004.[51] Turner was quiet and observant during studio sessions, remembered Smyth: "Whenever anyone popped in the studio, he would sit and listen to them before he would say anything."[49] At their rehearsal room in Yellow Arch Studios, Arctic Monkeys developed a reputation as particularly hard workers; the owner lent the band touring equipment while the owner's wife helped Turner with his singing.[52] Barradale drove the band around venues in Scotland, the Midlands, and the north of England to establish their reputation as a live band.[22] The band handed out free copies of the demo CDs after each show[53][54] and fans began sharing the unofficial Beneath the Boardwalk demo compilation online.[55] After finishing college in mid-2004, Turner took a year out to focus on the band[34] and deferred vague plans to attend university in Manchester.[11][56] He began working part-time as a bartender at the Sheffield music venue The Boardwalk. There, he met well-known figures including musician Richard Hawley and poet John Cooper Clarke.[57][58] By the end of 2004, Arctic Monkeys' audiences were beginning to sing along with their songs[59] and the demo of "I Bet You Look Good on The Dancefloor" was played on BBC Radio 1 by Zane Lowe.[60]

2005–2007: Rise to fame

Turner performing in Newcastle Academy, 2006
Turner performing in Newcastle Academy, 2006

Arctic Monkeys came to national attention in early 2005. They received their first mention in a national newspaper in April, with a Daily Star reporter describing them as "the most exciting band to emerge this year".[61] They self-released an EP, featuring the single "Fake Tales of San Francisco", in May[62] and commenced their first nationwide tour soon afterwards.[63] In June, in the midst of a bidding war, Arctic Monkeys signed to the independent label Domino Recording Company.[64] After initial sessions with James Ford and Mike Crossey,[65] they recorded an album in rural Lincolnshire with producer Jim Abbiss.[64] Turner began dating London-based student Johanna Bennett around this time.[66] In October, the single "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart.[67] Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, Arctic Monkeys' debut album, was released in January 2006, and debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart. Turner's lyrics, chronicling teenage nightlife in Sheffield, were widely praised.[68] Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times remarked: "Mr. Turner's lyrics are worth waiting for and often worth memorizing, too ... He has an uncanny way of evoking Northern English youth culture while neither romanticizing it nor sneering at it."[69] Musically, Alexis Petridis of The Guardian noted that the album was influenced by guitar bands "from the past five years ... Thrillingly, their music doesn't sound apologetic for not knowing the intricacies of rock history."[70]

It was the fastest-selling debut album in British music history and quickly became a cultural phenomenon.[71] Turner was hailed by British press outlets as "the voice of a generation".[69] In interview profiles, however, he was described as quiet and uncomfortable with attention.[72] The band dismissed the hype, with Cook saying their goal was "to be able to grow like The Clash. When they started, it was a very basic, punky record. Then they started to take off and move in lots of directions. That’s what we want."[73] Less than two months after the album's release, Turner declared that Sheffield-inspired songwriting was "a closed book": "We're moving on and thinking about different things."[74] Years later, Turner said that the attention during this period made him "a bit frightened or nervous":[75] "We shut a lot of people out, just to try to keep some sort of control."[76] The band turned down many promotional opportunities[77] and quickly released new material – a five-track EP Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? in April, and a stand-alone single, "Leave Before the Lights Come On", in August. That summer, the band made the decision to permanently replace Nicholson,[78] who had taken a touring break due to "fatigue",[79] with Nick O'Malley, another childhood friend.[80][81] Nicholson was informed at a band meeting, during which "Al did the speaking."[82] Turner and Nicholson stopped speaking for two years[83] but later repaired their friendship.[84][85]

Turner performing at Coachella in May 2007
Turner performing at Coachella in May 2007

Arctic Monkeys' second album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, was released in April 2007, just over a year after their debut.[86] It was produced in London by Mike Crossey and James Ford.[87] As of 2020, Ford has produced every subsequent Turner project.[88] Lyrically, the album touches on fame, love, and heartache.[89] Turner and Bennett had ended their relationship in January; she was credited as a co-writer on "Fluorescent Adolescent".[90][91] While uninterested in the songs concerning fame, Marc Hogan of Pitchfork said the album displayed Turner's "usual gift for vivid imagery" and explored "new emotional depth".[89] Petridis of The Guardian noted that the band were "pushing gently but confidently at the boundaries of their sound", with hints of "woozy psychedelia" and "piledriving metal".[92] The album was a commercial success, debuting at number one in the UK,[93] while Arctic Monkeys headlined Glastonbury Festival in the summer of 2007.[94] Also that year, Turner began to collaborate with other artists. He worked with rapper Dizzee Rascal on the Arctic Monkeys B-side "Temptation", a version of which also featured on Rascal's album Maths and English.[95] He co-wrote three songs on Reverend and The Makers' debut album The State Of Things, after briefly sharing a Sheffield flat with the frontman Jon McClure.[96] Another Sheffield singer, Richard Hawley, featured on the Arctic Monkeys' B-side "Bad Woman" and performed with the band at the Manchester Apollo, as part of a concert film directed by Richard Ayoade.[97] Turner also announced plans to form a side-project band, The Last Shadow Puppets, with Ford and Miles Kane, whom he had befriended during a tour in mid-2005.[98][99]

2008–2011: Musical experimentation

Turner performing with The Last Shadow Puppets in 2008
Turner performing with The Last Shadow Puppets in 2008

The Last Shadow Puppets' debut album, The Age of the Understatement, was released in April 2008, shortly after Turner had moved from Sheffield to east London.[100][101] Co-written by Turner and Kane, the album was recorded in the Loire Valley, France[102] and featured string arrangements by Owen Pallett.[103] Alexa Chung, dating Turner since mid-2007,[104] featured in the music video for "My Mistakes Were Made For You".[105] Hogan of Pitchfork noted that, lyrically, Turner was "moving from his anthropologically detailed Arctics brushstrokes to bold, cinematic gestures."[106] Petridis of The Guardian detected "the audible enthusiasm of an artist broadening his scope" and praised "a certain fearlessness on display".[107] During a tour with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Turner said Kane's presence gave him "somewhere to hide" on stage.[108][109] The Last Shadow Puppets gave a surprise performance at Glastonbury Festival, with both Matt Helders and Jack White making guest appearances.[110] Alison Mosshart performed with the band at the Olympia in Paris, and provided vocals for a B-side.[111][112] Also in 2008, Turner formed a covers band with Dev Hynes for a one-off show in London[113] and recorded a spoken word track "A Choice of Three" for Helders' compilation album Late Night Tales.[114]

Turner has described Arctic Monkeys' third album, Humbug, released in August 2009, as "a massive turning point" in the band's career.[115] They travelled to Joshua Tree, California to work with producer Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age; it was the band's first experience of working in a studio for extended period of time.[116] Homme has said the album's heavier sound was initiated by the band themselves, while he encouraged Turner to embrace longer guitar solos[117] and to develop his newfound "crooning" style of singing.[118] While Petridis of The Guardian found some lyrics "too oblique to connect", he was impressed by the band's "desire to progress". He described "Cornerstone" as a "dazzling display of what Turner can do: a fabulously witty, poignant evocation of lost love."[119] Joe Tangari of Pitchfork felt the album was a "legitimate expansion of the band's songwriting arsenal" and described "Cornerstone" as the highlight.[120] During a break in the UK Humbug tour, Turner joined Richard Hawley on stage at a London charity concert,[121] and played a seven-song acoustic set.[122] Homme joined Arctic Monkeys for a live performance in Pioneertown, California.[123]

While living in Brooklyn, New York, where he moved with Chung in the spring of 2009,[124] Turner wrote an acoustic soundtrack for the coming-of-age feature film Submarine (2010);[125] it was released as an EP in March 2011.[126] Director Richard Ayoade initially approached Turner to sing cover versions[127] but, instead, he recorded six original songs in London, accompanied by James Ford and Bill Ryder-Jones.[128][129] Two of the songs had already been written; Turner wrote the rest after watching dailies from the film set.[130] The songs existed within the world of the film as a mixtape made by the main character's father.[131] Paul Thompson of Pitchfork felt "Turner's keen wit and eye for detail" had created a "tender portrayal" of adolescent uncertainty.[132] Ben Walsh of The Independent said the "exquisite" soundtrack was "reminiscent" of Cat Stevens's work on Harold and Maude.[133] In 2014, the Submarine soundtrack appeared on The Times's list of 100 Soundtracks to Love.[134] Turner also co-wrote six songs for Miles Kane's debut solo album Colour of the Trap (2011) and co-wrote Kane's standalone single "First of My Kind" (2012).[135]

Turner wrote Arctic Monkeys' fourth album, Suck It and See, in New York[136] and met up with his bandmates and James Ford for recording sessions in Los Angeles. Marc Hogan of Pitchfork enjoyed the album's "chiming indie pop balladry" and "muscular glam-rock".[137] Petridis of The Guardian remarked that Turner's new lyrical style of "dense, Dylanesque wordplay is tough to get right. More often than not, he pulls it off. There are beautifully turned phrases and piercing observation."[138] Richard Hawley co-wrote and provided vocals for the B-side, "You and I", and performed the song with the band at the Olympia in Paris.[139] Turner joined Elvis Costello on stage in New York to sing "Lipstick Vogue".[140]

2012–2017: International success

By 2012, Arctic Monkeys were based in Los Angeles, with Turner and Helders sharing a house.[141] Arctic Monkeys toured the US as the support act for The Black Keys in early 2012. While they had previously opened for Oasis and Queens of the Stone Age at one-off shows, it was the band's first time to tour as a supporting act.[142] They released "R U Mine?" as a standalone single in preparation for the tour, with Turner's new girlfriend, Arielle Vandenberg, appearing in the music video. Later that year, Arctic Monkeys performed "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" and a cover of "Come Together" by The Beatles at the 2012 London Summer Olympics opening ceremony. In early 2013, Turner provided backing vocals for the Queens of the Stone Age song "If I Had a Tail"[143] and played bass guitar on "Get Right", a Miles Kane B-side.[144] Arctic Monkeys headlined Glastonbury Festival for a second time in June.[145][146]

Turner performing in Zurich in 2013
Turner performing in Zurich in 2013

AM was released in September 2013.[147][148][149] Ryan Dombal of Pitchfork said that the album, dealing with "desperate 3 a.m. thoughts", managed to modernise "T. Rex bop, Bee Gees backup vocals, Rolling Stones R&B, and Black Sabbath monster riffage".[150] Phil Mongredien of The Guardian described it as "their most coherent, most satisfying album since their debut": "Turner proves he has not lost his knack for an insightful lyric."[151] Arctic Monkeys promoted the album heavily in the US, in contrast to previous album campaigns where, according to Helders, they had refused to do radio promotion: "We couldn’t even have told you why at the time. Just stubborn teenage thinking."[13] Arctic Monkeys spent 18 months touring AM; they were joined onstage by Josh Homme in both Los Angeles and Austin.[152][153] Turner briefly reunited with Chung in the summer of 2014, having ended his two-year relationship with Vandenberg earlier that year.[154]

Columbia Records approached Turner about working with Alexandra Savior in 2014, and he co-wrote her debut album, Belladonna of Sadness, in between Arctic Monkeys' touring commitments. Turner and James Ford co-produced the album in 2015, with Turner also playing bass, guitars, keyboards, and synthesisers.[155][156][157] An additional song "Risk" was recorded with T Bone Burnett for an episode of the crime drama True Detective.[158] While Turner and Savior performed together in Los Angeles in 2016,[159] the album was not released until April 2017. In reviewing it, Hilary Hughes of Pitchfork remarked: "Turner’s musical ticks are so distinct that they’re instantly recognizable when someone else tries to dress them up as their own."[160] Savior later said the press attention surrounding Turner's involvement was overwhelming: "I'm so grateful for him, but I'm also like, 'Alright, alright!'"[157]

The Last Shadow Puppets released their second album, Everything You've Come to Expect, in April 2016. Turner, Kane and Ford were joined by Zach Dawes of Mini Mansions, with whom Turner had collaborated on the songs "Vertigo" and "I Love You All The Time" in 2015.[161][162] Owen Pallett again composed the string arrangements, this time working in the studio with the band rather than remotely.[163] According to Turner, the album featured "the most straight-up love letters" of his career, written for American model Taylor Bagley whom he dated from 2016 to 2018.[164][165] Laura Snapes of Pitchfork detected an air of "misanthropy" in the album. However, she acknowledged that Turner was "no less a gifted lyricist than ever" and described some songs as "totally gorgeous ... the structures fluid and surprising".[166] Alexis Petridis of The Guardian enjoyed Turner's "characteristically sparkling use of language" and "melodic skill". However, he felt the pair's "in-joking" during interviews and Kane's "leery" encounter with a female Spin journalist sullied the album.[167] From March until August 2016, they toured in Europe and North America.[168] Johnny Marr played guitar with the band at two shows,[169] while Turner's father David played saxophone at a Berlin show.[170]

2018 onward: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, Arctic Monkeys' sixth album, was released in May 2018.[171] After receiving a Steinway Vertegrand piano as a 30th birthday present from his manager, Turner wrote the space-themed album from the perspective of "a lounge-y character".[172][173] He recorded demos at home, alone and later with Helders,[174] and shared them with Cook in early 2017. Cook was initially taken-aback by the change in direction but was "very, very excited by what he’d come up with."[175] By mid–2017, the whole band was recording the project, produced by Turner and James Ford, in both Los Angeles and France.[173] They were joined by musicians from the bands Tame Impala, Klaxons, and Mini Mansions.[176] Upon release, Jonah Weiner of Rolling Stone characterised Tranquility Base as "a captivatingly bizarre album about the role of entertainment – the desire to escape into it, and the desire to create it – during periods of societal upheaval and crisis."[175] Alexis Petridis of The Guardian found it "quietly impressive" that the band chose to release the "thrilling, smug, clever and oddly cold album" rather than more crowd-pleasing fare.[177] Jazz Monroe of Pitchfork declared it "a delirious and artful satire directed at the foundations of modern society."[178] The album became the eighth number one album of Turner's career in the UK.[179] The band toured the album from May 2018 to April 2019.[180][181] Turner began dating French singer Louise Verneuil in mid–2018.[182]

Artistry

Influences

Turner performing at the Royal Albert Hall in 2018
Turner performing at the Royal Albert Hall in 2018

Turner was "into hip-hop in a big way" as a teenager.[15] When he first started writing lyrics, Roots Manuva's Run Come Save Me was his main influence.[183][184] He also listened to Rawkus Records and Lyricist Lounge compilations,[185] and artists such as Dr Dre,[184] Snoop Dogg,[186] OutKast, Eminem[15] and The Streets.[184][187] He has repeatedly cited Method Man as one of his favourite lyricists,[15][184][188] and has referenced the Wu-Tang Clan in his own lyrics.[189]

For Turner, The Strokes were "that one band that comes along when you are 14 or 15 years old that manages to hit you in just the right way and changes your whole perception of things."[190] He changed his style of dress and began to take an interest in guitar music.[191] He has since referenced the band in his lyrics.[191] The Vines were the first band Turner ever saw live and Craig Nicholls provided inspiration for his early stage persona.[192] Other early guitar influences included The Libertines,[193] The Coral,[194] The Hives[21] and The White Stripes.[195] In his late teens, Turner began "delving" into older music and discovered lyricists including Elvis Costello,[10] Ray Davies of The Kinks,[10][15] Jarvis Cocker of Pulp,[196] Paul Weller of The Jam,[197] and Morrissey of The Smiths.[198][199] Turner has since performed with Jack White of The White Stripes,[110] Costello[140] and Johnny Marr of The Smiths.[200]

John Cooper Clarke, whose poetry Turner first encountered at school, was a "massive" source of early inspiration.[201][29] Turner was working as a barman at The Boardwalk in Sheffield in late 2004 when Clarke appeared on stage as the opening act for The Fall.[58] The performance made a big impression on the eighteen-year-old: "He's talking 100 miles an hour, and he's really funny ... It just blew my mind."[202] He was inspired by Clarke's use of a regional accent and the early Arctic Monkeys song "From the Ritz to the Rubble" was his homage to Clarke's style ("my best shot at it, at least").[203] Later in his career, Turner requested to interview Clarke for Mojo Magazine, published two Clarke poems as part of a single's artwork[204] and used another ("I Wanna Be Yours") as the lyrical basis for a song.[205] In 2018, Arctic Monkeys invited Clarke to perform his reading of "I Wanna Be Yours" at one of their Sheffield arena shows.[206][207]

Nick Lowe,[208] Jake Thackray,[209] Nick Cave,[208] John Cale,[184] Leonard Cohen,[210] Bob Dylan[211] and Lou Reed[citation needed] are among the lyricists Turner admires. He has spoken of his respect for country music songwriters like Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt,[212] and Hank Williams.[213] He has been drawn to artists who reinvented themselves throughout their careers: "The Beatles, David Bowie… the big ones."[214][215] When forming The Last Shadow Puppets in 2007, Turner was inspired by the music of Bowie, Scott Walker, Serge Gainsbourg, David Axelrod and Ennio Morricone.[216] Songs that Turner has discussed repeatedly in interviews are Michael Chapman's "You Say",[217][218][219] Leon Russell's "A Song for You"[220][183][221] and Dion's "Only You Know", describing the latter as "one of my favourite tunes of all time".[48][222][223] In 2007, he told Q Magazine that he is a huge Beyoncé Knowles fan.[224]

Songwriting

Kate Mossman of the New Statesman described Turner as "one of the great lyricists of the 21st century", writing that his songs are "full of lovingly extended metaphors" and "mordant Morrissey-style observations".[225] Mike Laws of the Village Voice characterised him as "a writer without peer in virtually all of rock" and identified "rapid-fire prosody and facility with internal rhyme" as Turner's trademarks.[226] Simon Armitage, writing in The Guardian, said: "Of all those writing lyrics today, Turner is among the most poetic. His use of internal rhyme exists to be admired and envied ... Turner is a storyteller and scene-setter."[227] "Like all the estimable British lyricists, be it Noël Coward or Morrissey, Turner has always been willing to risk a delicious irony or witty turn of phrase, even in a sad song."[228] Kitty Empire of The Observer considers him "probably the finest lyricist of his generation."[229]

Turner's early songs chronicled teenage nightlife in England,[230] and, according to Armitage, were "of the kitchen-sink, social-realism variety."[227] Sasha Frere-Jones of the New Yorker described him as "a prodigy at both character sketches and song form."[231] Turner drew comparisons to Alan Bennett[232] and Victoria Wood.[233] As Turner has aged, Laws of the Village Voice noted: "His lyrics have shied away from making themselves amenable to easy reading. [They have become] more oblique and abstruse — more apt, too, to adopt the perspective of somebody else entirely, and so more editorially unreliable."[226] Turner himself acknowledges that, after writing "so directly" on his early songs, he went through a period of "wanting to reject that and, you know… just be the walrus for a bit."[234] He first "attempted to write lyrics that weren’t so observational" with his side-project The Last Shadow Puppets, later remarking that he had sometimes veered too far "into abstraction".[235] He considers the lyrics on 2018's Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino to be the most direct since his earliest songs: "I think that was something I was trying to get away from, and perhaps I’ve returned to it now."[236]

Turner has said his songs are preoccupied with romance,[234] loneliness, and longing.[237] Jazz Monroe of Drowned in Sound remarked: "Turner seems part of an elite club of songwriters whose best love songs are the requited ones."[238] Similarly, in reviewing 2013's AM, Mossman found the depiction of romantic partners "two-dimensional. In "Fluorescent Adolescent", or the memorably titled "Mardy Bum", he somehow managed to tell a girl's side of the story even in the act of mocking her."[225] Neil McCormick of The Telegraph noted "a particularly North of England, working-class quality of sarcastic misanthropy" in Turner's lyrics[230] while Frere-Jones of the New Yorker said Turner "manages to summon the intractable bleakness of someone three times his age".[231] Later songs have alluded to "questions of consumerism, hyper-reality, [and] accelerating technology".[239] Monroe of The Independent highlights "anti-industry sloganeering," "lyrical abstraction," "postmodern scepticism," and a "rejection of the entire rock construct" as the "through-line in Turner's work."[239]

Turner himself says that his songwriting is "absolutely not" poetry: "Poetry and the written word are harder, you've no melodies to hide behind."[53][234] After initial reluctance,[240] he began publishing his lyrics with Arctic Monkeys' fourth album.[234] In an in-depth conversation about songcraft with New York's Lane Brown, he said: "I don’t really get the ‘I wrote the whole song on the back of a cigarette packet in 20 minutes’ sort of thing ... I would keep adding or changing words forever if somebody didn't stop me."[241]

Turner has said writing melodies is the more difficult part of the songwriting process for him.[242][243] Alexis Petridis of The Guardian believes "Turner’s melodic skill sometimes gets overlooked" because he "arrived in the public consciousness words-first."[244]

Voice

In the early years of his career, Turner performed in a strong Sheffield dialect.[245] Simon Armitage remarked: "I can't think of another singer whose regional identity has been so unapologetically and naturally intoned through his singing voice."[246] By 2018's Tranquility Base Hotel, Alexis Petridis of The Guardian noted: "The Yorkshire dialect that was once his USP is now deployed sparingly, as a jolting effect."[247] One critic claimed that the tone of Turner's voice has also transformed over time, from a "fidgety whine" to "a worn-in baritone croon".[248]

Stage persona

In an otherwise positive review of a 2006 show, Richard Cromelin of the Los Angeles Times noted that Turner seemed "a little spooked by the attention" and hoped he would learn "to reach out more to the audience" in time.[21][249] In 2007, Kitty Empire of The Observer noted that he was a "reserved" presence on stage: "He chats a bit to about 15 people in the middle of the front rows, and only looks up at the balcony, once, a little apprehensively."[250] Following Arctic Monkeys' headlining appearance at Glastonbury Festival in 2007, Rosie Swash of The Guardian remarked upon Turner's "steady, wry stage presence": "Arctic Monkeys don't do ad-libbing, they don't do crowd interaction, and they don't do encores."[94] Simon Price of The Independent said Turner seemed "to freeze like a rabbit in the spotlights" during a headlining set at Reading Festival in 2009.[251]

In late 2011, Turner began to change his stage persona and style, most notably changing his hairstyle to a "rockabilly-inspired quiff".[252] Brian Hiatt of Rolling Stone noted of his "newfound showmanship" that he "puts his guitar down to strut and dance, drops to his knees for solos when he does play, [and] flirts shamelessly with the female fans".[13] In reviewing a 2013 concert, Dorian Lynskey of The Guardian said, "Turner, a shy sort for a frontman, used to seem unnerved by attention and he's coped by adopting a tongue-in-cheek persona that suggests a comic-strip version of a 50s rock star, a Blackpool Buddy Holly: all quiff and quips. It's a curious pose, entertaining but alienating in the same way as some of his more arch lyrics. [...] Turner always holds something back, which makes the band more interesting but somewhat distant."[253][254] Ben Beaumont-Thomas of The Guardian noted in 2018 that Turner ironically "played with the role" of being a rockstar but simultaneously "can't help but be a real rock star".[255]

Turner has described public speaking as almost being his "worst nightmare"[256] and does not consider himself a "born performer", stating that he "enjoy[s] the studio side of it more than touring".[257] Although an admitted "control freak" by nature,[234] he describes being a frontman as an "awkward" and "strange" experience that he does not "take too seriously".[258] He said, "I can't go out there and absolutely be myself. The situation is so fundamentally unnatural. [...] It's not a full-on, 'right, get into character' thing ... [sometimes] part of how you actually feel comes out. But I think I always feel weird about that afterwards."[259]

Discography

Solo

Arctic Monkeys

The Last Shadow Puppets

Other collaborations

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External links

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