From Here to Bruno Mars

 

Male pop stars are a strange breed. Generally, they start out making sappy, sweet pop music about girls or love in the abstract. After a few years of this, however, there comes a time when all pop stars have to grow up. This can spell disaster: the transition from fresh-faced adolescent singer to post-puberty 20s singer has seen many a star relegated to the “where are they now” section of a tabloid magazine or VH1 program.

In recent years, one artist has not only avoided the usual pitfalls but continues to evolve his look and sound to stay on top of the charts. I’m talking, of course, about Bruno Mars.

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Charting the rise of the extended hip-hop album

The last few years have been pretty great for hip-hop: Frank Ocean’s Blonde was a smash success in 2016 and 2017 saw stellar releases from Kendrick, Jay-Z and Tyler, The Creator.

However, in addition to some stand-out successes, the last few years have brought about a wholly troubling trend: the hour-plus-long album.

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Radio Edits: A Love Letter

Everyone remembers the first time they heard a swear in a song. For some people, it was Rob Tyner commanding MC5 to “kick out the jams, motherfuckers.” For others, it was Axel Rose telling his detractors to “fuck off” on Appetite for Destruction. I have distinct memories of Eminem yelling all manner of swear words into the microphone on his third studio album The Eminem Show. However, more fond than that memory is my recollection of his radio edit for “My Name Is.”

In the explicit version of “My Name Is,” Eminem jumps all over the place with lyrics about smacking Pamela Anderson (referred to as Pamela Lee), smoking pounds of pot and dreaming about murdering his father. The radio edit, however, sees Eminem rapping about kissing a pair of silicone lips, hitting himself in the head repeatedly, and taking out an ad in a pornographic magazine.

What’s amazing about this is that none of what he changes does anything to alter the song’s original meaning. Granted, “My Name Is” is essentially just about how nuts and out there Eminem is, but it’s a true show of lyrical ability and creativity to be able to make two versions of the same song, much less a cohesive “clean” version for the radio.

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Retro Review: Tom Hanks is “Big”

– This is the first installment of a potential “Retro Review” series, in which I get to watch movies I’ve never seen and talk about them while everyone that reads this laughs at the “classic” movies I’ve never seen. –

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Childhood Terror: Afraid of the Dark, Afraid of the Light

Welcome back, dear readers.

Consider this a continuation in the series of spooky, scary stories I’ve written in the last few months. Tonight, we focus on the one nearly universal fear: darkness.

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Living here in Khaled-Town: how DJ Khaled shared (and over-shared) his life with us

If you’re even remotely involved with social media right now, specifically Snapchat, you’ve probably seen DJ Khaled in some fashion.

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Why Hip Hop is angry over Slim Jesus and why it shouldn’t matter

Of the newer sub-genres of hip hop, none has been more prolific and recognizable than Drill Music.

Drill is a trap-influenced style of hip hop out of Chicago that focuses on lyrics glorifying guns and gang violence, as well as the sale and use of drugs. The genre saw a significant rise in popularity after the success of the Chief Keef track “Don’t Like.”

Released in spring 2012, the Kanye-backed track had a huge buzz almost instantaneously. Keef’s rambunctious shouted chorus coupled with a sizable bump was instantly recognizable, and he went on to put out a series of tracks in this same style.

Not content to just listen to Keef, the public wanted more, leading to pockets of success for fellow Chicago artists like Fredo Santana. More recently, the buzz behind drill music has died down to some extent, going back to the Chicago-based scene that existed pre-Keef.

Enter Slim Jesus and his song “Drill Time.”

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