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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voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
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sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
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The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
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The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
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Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
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Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it