Category Archives: Music

Same Hypocrite, Different Day

One of the jobs of the President of the United States is to be the “consoler in chief” when a national tragedy strikes.

As we all are aware, there were two mass shootings on Saturday. Yesterday, you know who spoke to the country.

He sounded Presidential, but in reality, he was the same hypocrite on a different day.

He talked about ending racism, white supremacy and unifying the country. But his words are sound and fury signifying nothing.

He talked about the mental health of the accused gunmen, which personally offended me. To say that the accused in both shootings are mentally ill, without knowing all of the facts is derogatory to all of us who have the unwanted friend that is mental illness.

He also talked about how violent video games contributed to real life violence. This has been proven wrong time and again. And yet, politicians will use that an excuse for the lack of real reform of gun laws.

Just after the Columbine massacre, some were saying that the music of Marilyn Manson was to blame for the shooting. I wish those in the leadership positions, whether in a religious role or a political role, would put on their big boy/big girl pants and take a real look at what caused the accused to kill innocent people.

Those of us who are of a certain age and older remember the dark days after 9/11. Then President George W. Bush stood on top of the rubble with his arm around a first responder and addressed the nation. Putting aside partisan politics, he also spoke of unity and coming together. That speech felt authentic. Yesterday’s speech was not.

May the memory of those murdered be a blessing and may we finally enact sensible gun legislation so we never have another weekend like we just had.

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Filed under Mental Health, Music, National News, Politics, Thoughts On....

Law & Order: SVU Character Review: Odafin “Fin” Tutuola

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

There has always been the debate on whether it is better to see the world in black and white or color. On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Odafin “Fin” Tutuola (played by actor and musician Ice-T), sees his world and his job as black and white. That view came from his early upbringing on the streets of New York City. As a young boy, he watched as the city rioted after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and saw his mother killed by one of his father’s business rivals.

As a cop first in narcotics and then in special victims, Fin sees the world as black and white. If the accused is guilty, then he or she deserves whatever punishment they receive. This point of view often led him to clash with his colleagues, who saw the shades of grey in the cases they were assigned. Outside of work, Fin sought to keep his private life and his job separate. But he eventually opened up to his partners, who became as close as family.

To sum it up: Sometimes a character is defined by his or her point of view. Fin sees his world and his job as black and white. Which is fine, because that works for the character. But there is also more to him than just a cut and dry perspective on the law. He has a big heart for those who he cares about and is willing to do what it takes to get the job done.

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Filed under Character Review, Feminism, History, Music, New York City, Television

Thoughts On the 40th anniversary of The Muppet Movie

There are certain movies that no matter how old you get, they instantly take you back to childhood.

One of those films is The Muppet Movie. This year is the film’s 40th anniversary.

Kermit the Frog (voiced by the late Jim Henson) is happily living in his swamp, dreaming of the day when he is a star in Hollywood. While playing on his banjo and singing his signature song “Rainbow Connection“, an agent approaches Kermit about pursuing a career in show business. Intrigued by the idea, he leaves his swamp and heads to Los Angeles.

On route to California, Kermit meets his soon to be best friends: Miss Piggy (voiced by Frank Oz), Fozzie Bear (also voiced by Frank Oz) and The Great Gonzo (Dave Goelz). He also meets Doc Hopper (the late Charles Durning), who will do anything to convince Kermit to be the spokes-frog for his Frog Legs chain restaurant.

This movie has humor, heart, nostalgia and of course, one of greatest final numbers of any movie musical.

I think it says something that decades after a film is released, it is remembered as fondly as The Muppet Movie is. It has entertained four decades of young audiences; I hope that it entertains young audiences for decades to come.

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New Randy Rainbow Video-Suckers

Politics can be perceived as a game of favorites. The question that I often ask, is even though we agree with a particular politician, are we bold enough to stand up when we disagree with them?

We all know that you know is if nothing else, a slick salesman who knows what to say and how to say it to seal the deal. There is a certain similarity between sales and politics. The difference, however, is that politics has real world and possibly long term consequences while a bad sale is normally just that.

Randy Rainbow’s latest video is entitled SUCKERS – Randy Rainbow Song Parody. Spoofing the Jonas Brothers song, Sucker, this video perfectly illustrates how blinded you know who’s followers are.

In watching this video, it makes me question if this experiment that is the American democracy will exist in the future. A country in which one person rules without question is not a democracy. My fear that there are too many people who for whatever reason are blinded by pretty sales pitch instead of seeing him for the huckster salesman that he is.

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Yesterday Movie Review

Many movies start off with the premise of “what if” and go on from there. It is up to the screenwriter(s) to make the “what if” narrative feel new and alive instead of boring and predictable.

In the new film, Yesterday, Jack (Himesh Patel) is a singer-songwriter who just can’t get a break. One of his only fans is his long time bestie and manager Ellie (Lily James). Though he yearns to be a professional musician, he earns his bread by working at a local big box store. Then there is blackout all over the world and Jack is hit by a bus.

When he wakes up, he discovers that The Beatles have been erased from music history. Taking advantage of his knowledge, Jack starts to see his music career become a reality. But at what cost to his conscious and his relationship with Ellie?

Yesterday is charming, engaging and insightful. The music is obviously catchy. Jack’s arc over the course of the film is both cinematic and down to earth. I also appreciated the color blind casting of Patel in the lead role. As both actor and singer, Patel brings a level of reality to this performance in this otherwise out there world that his character inhabits.

I absolutely recommend it.

Yesterday is presently in theaters.

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Wild Rose Movie Review

We all have dreams. But often times, dreams clash with the real world, especially when our responsibilities come knocking.

In the new movie, Wild Rose, Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley) has just been released from prison. Her dream is to become a country music star. But the bubble of the dream is quickly burst. Her mother, Marion (Julie Walters) has been taking care of her grandchildren during her daughter’s incarceration and insists that Rose-Lynn be the parent her kids need her to be.

To bring in income, Rose-Lynn is hired by Susannah (Sophie Okonedo) as a cleaning lady. Susannah discover’s Rose-Lynn’s talent and encourages her to go for the dream. But while Rose-Lynn is chasing her dream, she must also take care of her kids.

Can she do both or must her dream be sacrificed for her children?

This movie is brilliant. The narrative speaks to all us who have dreams, but must also face the reality of our responsibilities. As the title character, Buckley is flawed, human, but also very real. As her mother, Walters just wants what is best for her daughter and grandchildren, even if that means putting aside the dream for reality. As Susannah, Okonedo is the character who encourages Rose-Lynn to go for it. If only those of us with dreams had someone like that in our corner.

In addition to acting, Buckley is doing her own singing, adding another level of reality to her performance. I knew her from her previous roles as a good actress, but it was her singing that blew me away.

I recommend it.

Wild Rose is presently in theaters.

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Thoughts On the new Madonna Music Video

I’ve often spoken about the Columbine shooting and the unnecessary loss of young life twenty years ago. Back then, it was front page news for weeks on end.

These days, mass shootings in the United States are just another blip on list of daily news headlines. The headline may last a week at best on the front page before it slowly fades from the nation’s consciousness.

Earlier this week, Madonna released her new music video. Entitled God Control, the video tells the story of a fictional shooting in an New York City nightclub similar to the massacre at the nightclub in Orlando three years ago.

I will warn you that the video does contain graphic imagery.

There is enormous power in celebrity. In using her voice and her music, Madonna speaks of the heartache and grief that gun violence creates. We need sensible gun control laws. There has to be a way to respect the 2nd Amendment and responsible gun owners while protecting innocent people.

My hope (though it often springs eternal) is that one of these days, sensible gun laws will be the law of the land. Until then, we will continue to grieve for those who are killed simply because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Can You Still Be a Fan and Be Honest About an Artist’s Moral Failings?

On June 25th, 2009, Michael Jackson departed this earth. Known as the “King of Pop”, Jackson was and still is one of the most influential musicians of the past fifty years. He is one of the few artists whose music transcends genres and breaks barriers. One would have to have lived under a rock to not know about Jackson and his music.

His music and his image as a performer is burned into our cultural memory. We have danced to his music, sung karaoke (some of us better than others) and dressed up as Jackson for Halloween.

While Jackson is revered for his art, his moral failings are another story. Accusations of sexual abusing minors and pedophilia followed him for years, even after his passing. Earlier this year, the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland blew the door wide open about the allegations that up to that point, had not been clearly confirmed or denied.

Is there an easy answer to this question? I wish that there was. No one is perfect, we all make mistakes and have faults. However, there is a difference between having faults and molesting young children. One is natural, the other is just plain illegal.

Readers, what do you think? Can we still appreciate Jackson’s music while condemning his moral failings?

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Rocketman Movie Review

A good biopic more than tells the story of the film’s subject. It reveals their humanity.

The new film Rocketman tells story of legendary musician Elton John (Taron Egerton).

Born Reggie Dwight in 1947, his early years were not exactly sunshine and roses. His parents, Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Stanley (Steven Mackintosh) don’t have an easy relationship. The ruptures in their marriage extend to the relationship with their son. Stanley is cold and demanding. Sheila is slightly more maternal, but I wouldn’t describe her as the ideal mother. The only person who genuinely loves and supports the future rock star is his grandmother Ivy (Gemma Jones).

As a young man, Reggie starts to build a career as a musician. That career becomes a reality when he meets Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). But as often happens, success gets to Elton’s head. While his career thrives, so does his relationship with John Reid (Richard Madden). Adding to all of this is his growing addiction to alcohol and drugs.

This movie is interesting, especially in the sub-genre of music biopics. The narrative can be described as musical-like, with the songs driving the narrative. Instead of lip syncing to pre-recorded songs sung by the real life Elton John, Egerton does his own singing and is surprisingly good.

What strikes me is that the narrative underneath the music is the story of a man who is fighting lifelong demons of mental health and self esteem. His story, regardless of one’s sexuality, is a reminder that one can overcome one’s demons and live a full life.

I recommend it.

Rocketman is presently in theaters.

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Songland Review

Getting your big break in the entertainment industry requires luck, hard work and being in the right place at the right time. Or, perhaps auditioning on television for millions of viewers.

Last night, Songland premiered on NBC. The premise of the show is as follows: four unknown songwriters audition with their songs in front of three respected producers/songwriters and one guest musician or band who will record the winning song. Ryan Tedder, Ester Dean and Shane McAnally are the producers/songwriters who provide guidance to the hopefuls. The guest musician last night was John Legend.

After three of the four songs are chosen, the producers will work on the song with the song writers. After the song has been refined, the song writers will then perform the updated song. One song and one songwriter is chosen as the winner.

I really like this show. Unlike other competition reality show where the focus is getting into the entertainment industry, Songland feels authentic. As a viewer I was genuinely rooting for the contestants and on the edge of my seat for the entire episode.

I recommend it.

Songland airs on NBC on Monday nights at 10PM.

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