News Chris Hadfield has agreed to take on the role of cultural ambassador for Ireland

Chris Hadfield, the singing astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station, has taken on a role as cultural ambassador for Ireland.

Christmas Day 2013 was all about the battle for the other most worthy yuletide delivery: the alternative Christmas message.

Snowden v Bowie v … Kate Nash? The battle of the alternative Christmas message

While Channel 4 located the alabaster NSA whistleblower, several other household names came out of the tinsel

Review: "Lou reed: The life", By Mick Wall

A new biography of Lou Reed captures his creativity and turbulence but feels rushed

Lone parent for a week – how hard can it be?

Because my wife is off in Austria having her colon cleansed, I have been Mr Mum for the week. To my amazement, I realised that this is the first time I have looked after both my kids without Stacey for more than a day. This was quite shocking to me, but it was my kids who pointed it out. They were clearly concerned about the week ahead and how I would fare as sole carer. How hard could it be, I wondered? Wake up, make breakfast, drop them off at school, mess about all day, pick them up from school, make supper, and send them to bed. If only I'd known.

Video: Tracks from the Playlist

Watch the videos below to take in one of the tracks from this week's Playlist.

Into the woods: Radiohead's in-house artist captures Britain's hidden forest walks

Stanley Donwood was in the studio with Radiohead when he was inspired to paint holloways, the "cathedrals of nature"

The Bonus Track: Chas & Dave documentary, Laura White post-X Factor and Lorde (not Lordi)

A sideways look at the world of music

Charlotte Church: 'James Murphy would be handy to have around...'

Fantasy band: Charlotte Church

'James Murphy would be handy to have around...'

Video: Andy Gill's Mercury Music Prize

Watch the videos below to take in tracks from some of the 12 artists that Andy Gill believes should be recognised on the Mercury Music Prize shortlist.

Festival No.6 asks... Everything Everything

We spoke to Everything Everything's Jeremy Pritchard ahead of his band's appearance at Festival No. 6.

Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live

Music review: Franz Ferdinand deliver polished dance-rock, but don't exactly shake things up

"Lick your cigarette and then kiss me," yelps Alex Kapranos on the ripe "No You Girls". The trim frontman (and part-time food writer) sports a short-sleeved gold shirt, trademark pointy shoes and is looking considerably younger than his 41 years.

The cover of Lady Gaga's new single 'Applause'

First look: Lady Gaga's 'Applause' video

The first single from Lady Gaga's Artpop album was leaked last week in what the singer declared a "pop emergency". What followed was a rush-release of the track, "Applause", last Tuesday, and now the video has finally been revealed.

Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album

Caught in the net: A hint of what's to come from Drake

Drake (pictured) continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album – his third – Nothing Was The Same, out on 16 September; yet another major hip hop record in year of big-name rap releases. Recently the Canadian hip hop/R&B star put out the second single from the track from his new effort, available already on iTunes and other usual digital outlets – as well as streaming on Soundcloud at snd.sc/13i6Noh. With production duties from Majid Jordan (reportedly a somewhat mysterious Canadian duo), “Hold On, We're Going Home”, veers more towards the R&B side rather than the rap side, with Drake singing quietly over layers of downbeat and downtempo house-like soundcapes. A seductive number that bears repeating.

Video: Stars and their covers albums

Watch the videos below to take in tracks from a number of music stars recent albums of covers.

Album: Samuel Purdey, Musically Adrift (Tummy Touch)

Interesting one this. Originally released in the 1990s, Musically Adrift is the work of Barney Hurley and Gavin Dodds, a session drummer and guitarist with links to Jamiroquai and the Acid Jazz label.

One minute with: Catherine O'Flynn, novelist

Where are you now and what can you see?

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Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
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Minoan Crete and Santorini
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Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

Hanging with the Hoff

Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

Hipsters of Arabia

Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

The cult of Roger Federer

What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

Malaysian munchies

With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
10 best festival beauty

Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

A Different League

Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

Steve Bunce on Boxing

Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf