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#AwkwardMoments 9.12.12

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In Review: Sense8

In the 90's there have been sci fi shows that have shared many aspects with each other from the look to several narrative troupes writers look out for now. Sense8 takes many cues from those shows like the X-Files and Millennium and cranks it up pass 10 and makes it cool to be you, Man whomever you are. Created by the Wachowskis (the Matrix Trilogy) and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5) it's hard not to hard not to expect these elements to be in their show, however it's hard to expect a product like this.

Sense8 is culmination of 90's high minded ideals of everyone has the right to be themselves as well as well as modern character based set pieces that gives the faint impression that it's pandering for the social media exposure, a common practice between shows of this generation. Such set pieces range from impromptu musical performances to obscene mass sexual acts. While those scenes are well shot, directed, and are great character moments, they are small reprieves from what is for the most part a monotonous show.

The general plot of Sense8 is a group of eight people, living in eight cities, with vastly different occupations around the world are telepathically, and possibly emotionally interconnected (a tired Wachowski theme) and they go about their lives experiences personal tragedies along the way when insert generic governmental group, run by a mysterious generic white man (a tired 90's idea) called the Whispers (snore) hunts them down. The group of eight has the ability to jump into each others' lives in the moment and help them out during times of great distress. My description of the plot is snarky, but it's snark with a purpose.

The premise has some promise: It's a sci fi plot that can lend itself to natural commentary on the human experience. However the Wachowski's can't help themselves at several points in the first season but to belabor the same point they've been touting for all out of their filmography: That we are all interconnected and we all need to be sensitive to one another's struggles. It's a perfectly fine gesture but it's a gesture not best served as ham fisted as is the rest of the writing on this. For example one of the characters is an African bus driver in Nairobi whom is trying to get medicine for his mother who was ousted from her village and has AIDS, while an Indian woman is going to marry a man she does not love. It's those many bad writing moments that plague what could have been a far smarter show. Credit where credit is due the actors sell characters to the best of their abilities so they don't come off as one dimensional as they could have because the dialogue also does them no favors. What could have been a major positive of the main cast being multi-cultural from having different races, genders, and sexual orientation is let down by the repetitiveness of the dialogue, weird shifts in pacing, and general poor writing.

Overall this is a show that has spurts of absolute spectacle, which is fun, but can hit a rut of sermonizing they like indulge in. Although I do think there are some fixable infrastructure problems with the show I do at least recommend people attempt to make it past the first three episodes because they are the most... laborious to get through. It's a fun show about equality and even though it's incredibly trite and sentimental at times there is some value in this entertainment. You can watch the entire first season on NetFlix.


Sunday Musings: A Chat With a Crooner

Friday I sat down to have an interview with the incredible Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Aaron Camper. He came to our humble radio station dressed casually with his assortment of musical partners and we had some preamble talk before launching into the actual discussion. Aaron somehow
manages to be low key, yet exude a presence in the room. He maintained his 'cool customer' attitude throughout the interview even when I was listing his garden variety of accolades.

We talked about his many musically influences from Marvin Gaye to Jodeci, which in context to his music makes an acute amount of sense. Aaron Camper sonically has a distinct identity: It's a spectrum from sweet R'n'B, My Heart to R'n'B with some subtle trap elements Breaking My Heart (side-note: 'subtle trap influences' no one has ever managed that yet). In My Heart, a personal favorite, there's a flavor of Jodeci, but more notably early Michael Jackson, P.Y.T. The song, and his other released catalog has a degree of polish that is refreshing, especially from an upcoming artist. My Heart is a smooth, hyper polished, crafted piece of pop R'n'B about the whimsy of seeing a beauty across the club. A simple premise that's probably been done several times before, but compared to the songs of late that are about this, it's an uniquely classy version of it.

Due to his impressive repertoire, everyone should give his polished collection of intimate love songs a listen. From the lovelorn to the skeptics of romance will be unconsciously charmed by his mixtape Welcome to My World.

You can reach Aaron on his website:

Post Work No Groceries Playlist: An Ironic Intimate Night in for One

Every Friday comes with the satisfaction and hope that there is less responsibility for you to deal with. People do different things with their weekends. Every Friday I will be posting a playlist for certain situations or themes. You know what... Maybe you weren't feeling this week. This week dragged it's feet across the finish line and you're kind of over it. You're feeling lonely and just want to stay in. I get it, we aren't all blessed with significant others. Don't fret for this week's Post Work we will be listing several songs that will enlighten you to the fact that people in love or looking for love aren't the most part rational. It will give you solace the blessing that is being single.

Ginuwine- Pony
Dishonorable Mentions: Ginuwine- In Those Jeans and Final Warning feat. Aaliyah

Ginuwine is a particularly frustrating artist in that he releases Pony, In Those Jeans, and Final Warning in which he casts himself as a cad who objectifies women and personifies them as mere objects to be kept under his possession so he could do whatever he want (this will be a reoccurring theme in this playlist). He is a willing participant in the societal norm that allows men to stroll the streets in search of sex on their terms, while not allowing the partner a significant say in their preferences or what they would like to do in bed. Sex is a one man show to this archetype of men and
you're just a prop for his release. The frustrating part comes in when he releases songs like Differences, Love You More, and Frozen when he actually takes his partner into consideration. This is maddening for the fact that he already painted himself as a bad guy you shouldn't rely on yet releases three of the best love songs of my generation. Maybe in the grand scheme of things it's true to real life.

Danny Fernandes- Take Me Away
Dishonorable Mentions: Danny Fernandes- Let's Make A Movie

More frustration! Take Me Away is an okay EDM pop song on the surface however the problem starts (like his entire album, AutomaticLUV) when Danny Fernandes begins to sing. He isn't an inherently terrible singer, but on this song he scales up into his higher register to deliver a vocal performance the
likes of Justin Bieber or pick any One Direction member. Again a problem that can be overlooked if it weren't for the awkwardly sweet lyrics. When you sing like that and you're asking some poor girl to be your baby girl all the while asking for her to 'Take me away, To a place I've never been before' than you come off at best a dude with no game, or worst a complete virgin to many aspects of the outside world, including women and sex in general. Of course in true comedic form later in the album there is a sex tape song Let's Make a Movie where he sounds equal parts unsuave and kind of lecherous.

Nivea- Don't Mess With My Man

This song properly articulates how nauseating and territorial couples can get. Nivea, Brandon, or Brian Casey possibly has a case to be made against potential paramours but with lyrics like 'So I'm telling everybody let him be, Cause he's mine and I can't take no pigeons tryna take my baby' you
can't take any party in the situation seriously.

Christina Perri- Jar of Hearts

Normally I am down for a power ballad against cheaters everywhere. I am a fan of Before He Cheats. That's a song about a scorned lover that takes proactive action against a cheater without making the singer sound petty. Christina Perri,  bless her heart, made a similar attempt at a song yet somehow in the end looks far more childish in this mawkish slow power ballad. Her vocals sound great on the song but for next time she might want to aim for emotional complexity than just flaccid proclamations that lead nowhere.

Eamon- F*ck It (I Don't Want You Back)
Dishonorable Mention: Mike Posner- Cheated

Break ups are almost never easy. It's an emotional messy and complicated affair that takes people some time to bounce back from depending on the situation. People do get back up however and it's always great to hear a success story of a person making a recovery from a break up. What isn't palatable to the ears is listening to a man nasally wail about how much of a skank his ex was. Eamon doesn't make the situation any better for himself when he repeatedly says eff you to the ex. For any terrible behavior this mysterious ex may have done to him in the past, now he looks like a butt hurt baby that can't work through his problems. It's actually pretty sad of him. At least he was classier(?) than Mike Posner since he didn't name any names.

R. Kelly- You Remind Me of Something

As if the notion of R. Kelly being anybodies sexual fantasy isn't revolting as is, we have this song to
look back to for reference. The only way anyone anyone can find any merit to this song is to assume that women were only put here for voyeuristic pleasure and to be compared to inanimate objects, like the cars that probably clutter up R. Kelly's garage. If this seems like a gross overstatement let's all look back to the fact that he released a sex tape of him with an underage girl, who probably didn't know any better, performing lewd acts on her.

Carly Simon- That's The Way It Always Should Be

Sometimes interesting topics and/or themes doesn't translate into execution. The overall message of this song is great: Carly Simon is basically having doubts on whether or not her and her spouse should get married based on past experiences, and peer pressure from her friends. It's a fairly nuanced premise yet the execution was off It's a typical sleepy rock ballad that you would hear on insert lite FM radio station. The song pulls punches and instead of landing on any relatable emotional notes it loses it's listener at every listless second. For argument's sake this was her first released song and she does get better at executing themes and concepts like on her songs You're So Vain and Nobody Does It Better which I highly recommend you give a listen.

Robin Thicke- Blurred Lines feat. T.I. And Pharrell Williams

Let me paint you a picture. What woman, who came to the club or party to relax and enjoy
herself, wants to hear a song that basically promotes rape culture and sexual violence. That woman is hearing three men tell her I'm taking you home tonight so we can do what I WANT, and I won't be taking any of your unfounded rejections or protests you silly women love to do. It's patronizing and gross on a base level and reminds the listener that some guys can be the worst sometimes.

We're in it Togther... Mostly

With the rumors of Migos and Bobby Shmurda making a collaborative mixtape that will come to shatter the Brownsville's of the world, I began to think: What makes a good collaborative project? There's several moving parts that go into producing a phenomenal joint song or album. Some of those parts are based on chance alone. Here are some of the collaborations that have contributed great works for pop culture, and some less than successful attempts.

Better Together

Aaliyah & Timbaland/Missy Elliot

This trio has produced some of the most memorable music together. They produced ultra catchy songs like One in a Million, Try Again, Rock the Boat, and countless other high charting songs. These
songs were well known for being silky and smooth pop-R'n'B tracks with Aaliyah's vocals fitting comfortably right in.

Drake & The Weeknd

Separately these artists are very hit and miss for me in terms of quality. However when they come together to produce a song, odds are it is the best track on whatever project they are producing. Songs like Crew Love and Live For are a perfect melding of Drake's tendency to be too precious with his songwriting, and The Weeknd's tendency to over brood on his songs. When the collaboration works, they produce a song that holds a nice amount of emotional weight, yet is also conscious of it's sentiments.

Biggie & Everyone

Biggie has the natural ability to combine with any of his guest artist to produce a song that is a natural melding of both artists' sensibilities. For example F*ck You Tonight feat. R. Kelly doesn't sound like Notorious Thugs feat. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, that doesn't sound like Mo Money, Mo Problems feat. Diddy and Mase. However they all contain a certain essence that categorically make them signature Biggie songs.

Barbra Streisand & Donna Summers

I included them because I am an unabashed disco lover and this disco song, No More Tears, is pure energy. Barbra and Donna refuses the let up on the vocal onslaught even though the song has it's foot firmly pressed on the pedal.

These Also Happened...

Jay-Z and Kanye West

Watch The Throne was not a terrible overall audio experience, however a collaboration of these hip
hop titans should've produced something more than the uninspired pledge of gaudy opulence the album turned out to be.

SZA and Kendrick Lamar

The tragic thing about this collaboration is that neither performer is terrible on the song Babylon. Kendrick is spitting typical fantastic aggressive lyrics. However in the process he upstages SZA's
great understated vocals on her own song. A good collaboration calls for all of the performers to complement each other well.

2 Cellos & Naya Rivera/ Alicia Keys & Jack White

These are examples of songs that are good besides the performers attempt to sink it. I think the kids call it a 'guilty pleasure'. 2 Cellos and Naya Rivera have had a legitimately great song in the cover they did of Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal. However on their song Supermassive Black Hole the sound is unique enough to keep me hooked, but Naya's screeching on this track is a hard contrast to the powerful steady vocals she displayed on the Smooth Criminal cover.

The same goes for Alicia Keys and Jack White. Their song Another Way to Die for the movie Quantum of Solace is again unique enough to keep the listener interested but Jack's bizarre guitar strumming and their baffling vocal harmonizing doesn't help the song. I suggest giving both songs a listen because they are so unconventional that they may appeal to you.

Lil Wayne & Everyone

Lil Wayne is such an aggressive and obnoxiously loud presence on any song that it's nye impossible to find a complementing voice.

Sunday Musings: ALT R'n'B; Did the Blues Need to Get Any Sweeter?

After a casual scroll through the preset playlists on Spotify, something that gives me a good chuckle with the way their labels are both visibly calculated and ironic at the same time. On this stroll I stopped at the Alternative R'n'B playlists. I thought, I love a smooth R'n'B jam and I like experimentation of many art forms, I'll try it. What I was expecting wasn't exactly what I got, however I wasn't soured too much in the progress.

I just recently finished listening to Clarence Clarity's premiere LP No Now and under some circumstances it can be accused of being 'Alternative R'n'B'. Since it was fresh in my mind it was one of the first two artists that came to mind. The other was FKA Twigs whom is also, to me at the least, a great example of an Alternative R'n'B artist. Where Clarence Clarity trades in emotional weight for feeble derivative exclamations (still give the album a listen, feeble can be fun), FKA Twigs emotes in
spades, and believably so (who can say 'Now hold the purse for me' and still get the guy at the end of the night). The emoting FKA Twigs practices is one of the important components of the Blues, as established by the amazing Bessie Smith. Of course there are other reasons why she came to mind: Vocally she harkens back to 90's smooth pop R'n'B singers, like Aaliyah, when she hangs in her mid register. Her songs also has instrumentations that are very ethereal and new age with a slight R'n'B tinge to it, the same way late 90's R'n'b tried to predict the future. I guess what I was hoping for was an interesting take on smooth 90's R'n'B, again it's not what I got.

I start to scroll down the playlist, there are some of the usual suspects: James Blake, SZA, and The Weeknd. Then there would be one song by Beyonce or Estelle that caught me as being as un-ALT, however they didn't stand out as much as Tinashe being on there. For the sake of the article I sat
through a enough of the songs to reach a conclusion: Alternative R'n'B was as popular and not as alternative as I thought it would be. A large majority of the tracks from Blood Orange's Chamakay, A modern moody take on mid-80's, Lionel Richie, R'n'B pop stylings, to Tinashe's Aquarius, a cipher of a song not only on the playlist but on her first LP titled the same; sported minimalist instrumentals, light as feather airy vocals, and a melody you can both sway and brood to. When I listened to the Beyonce song (for comparison sake) Superpower, I realized that 'Alternative R'n'B' is a sub-genre that is being aggressively tapped by many high profile artist yet ambiguously falling in line with the rest of the songs. In Superpower Beyonce's singing is higher than normal along with an apathetic Frank Ocean, a clean minimalist beat and few live instruments played as softly as possible.

I am a big fan of R'n'B. It is an interesting intersection where pop music compositions and dramatic emotive singing meets in nice quantities. When I see a chance to twist R'n'B and produce an odd but sensual song I get excited. There were a few surprises for example, Hiatus Kaiyote's, Nakamarra that features a singer, Naomi Saalfield, who actually sings out and contorts with the melody of a jazzy
R'n'B number that isn't earth shatteringly unique but, in the synth-lite landscape that is the playlist it's refreshing. And there is Jamie Woon's Lady Luck and Ella Eyre's Deeper both with unique pop sensibilities but seem, pleasantly, out of place on the playlist. The former has a competent singer providing an interesting moody atmosphere with his vocal performance, the latter song has a nice indie pop sound with an exceptional singer keeping control of the various elements. These exceptions weren't what I was expecting and it made the experience both great and terrible at the same time. It was great because in any 'Alternative' playlist I should have my expectations both matched and completely shattered at the same time, but bad for the general playlist because it made me realize that the playlist was a big, bland, airless, and (at times) un-emotive slog. R'n'B already contained heavy pop influences; Did it need to take a turn for the weightless, toothachingly, saccharine sweet?

At that moment I asked myself; Why dilute the major part of the Blues, and R'n'B in general? Of course this doesn't go for every song toting the 'Alternative R'n'B' label, and also 'different strokes for different folks', however why allow the drama and emotions of R'n'B go to waste? I can chalk it up to it being a new age and changing preferences but with many pop culture entertainment formats upping the ante; Why didn't the smooth pop R'n'B of the 90's/00's follow the times and increase the drama in the innately dramatic genre?

Post Work, No Groceries Playlist: General Civilized Monitored Turn Up

Every Friday comes with the satisfaction of leaving your place of work, school, obligation, and/or hostile takeover, and leaves us with hope that there is less responsibility for us to deal with (never the case). People do different things with their weekends. Every Friday I will be posting a playlist for certain situations or themes so everyone is accommodated and jamming appropriately. Since this is the first week we're going to keep it simple, we will be covering the nuanced notion of 'Turning Up'.

EDM Dadaism


Express Yourself- Diplo feat. Nicky Da B             Pop That- French Montana feat. Rick Ross, Drake, Lil Wayne

These songs are brazen with only the intent to drag everyone by the hair (that they got done the previous day) and act up. The beat attacks with very little relief. 'Pop That' uses repetition to spellbind the listener so they will never forget the song. The song has to do some heavy lifting for the guest rappers, although they settle right in with the sporadic nature of the song. 'Express Yourself' is texturally denser than 'Pop That' where Diplo works Nicky's voice into the song to make it a complementing instrument.

Throwing It Back

           Thong Song- SISQO
 Rock The Party- Benzino

Some old songs are able to resonate for years. Both songs have an infectious melody and a straight forward message about the simpler things in life. SISQO ably croons and belts in the proper spots about admiring the ladies. For a song being infamous for being innately silly it is a demonstration of how technically proficient SISQO is as a singer and how he could've had a long lasting R'n'B career. 'Rock The Party' doesn't show it's age until Benzino starts to drop his verses: They aren't bad, but it pales in comparison to the beat that doesn't sound like it was made 12 years ago. The song isn't as such a showcase for Benzino as 'The Thong Song' was for SISQO, but it did redeem him a little bit.

Deep Cuts, 
Deeper Thoughts

Swimming Pools- Kendrick Lamar
All of the Lights- Kanye West

For the people that enjoy a little depth with their dance songs or enjoy deciphering deeper messages in songs. 'All of the Lights' has a lush hypnotic beat to match the name of the song. It is packed with various elements including a cello section and various uncredited vocals from high profile personalities. The latter matches the overall flashy celebrity life commentary the song commits to. 'Swimming Pools' is a club banger about the troubles of excessive drinking. Need I say more, Kendrick is just infinitely brilliant.

Obligatory Sugar

Problem- Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea
XO- Beyonce

There are pop, Top 40's songs that aren't the worst! These are for both the people who likes the linear and uncomplicated sound pop songs provide, and the indie folks who can't deny it's merits. Ariana Grande keeps her tendency to over-sing under control while providing a prominent presence in her song 'Problem'. It contains a charming sax loop and some nice trumpet play throughout the song. Iggy stays in her lane and isn't too intrusive although she borders on eye roll level with the last few lines and her ad libs. 'XO' exudes confidence from the start by having the audacity to include a snippet from the 1986 Challenger launch. It captures the best aspect of Beyonce as an artist: Being celebratory in the most earnest way possible.

The Club Can't Handle You

BBD- Azealia Banks
Ain't Got No Dough- Eve feat. Missy Elliot

It's the songs with strong proclamations of how bad you are and damn it where's everyone notepad so they can take notes of your badass-ery. 'BBD' (Bad B*tches Do It) is a very straight forward typical club banger we've heard a billion times without the vocals. Banks has the special ability to dominate a song and make her own when she uses her voice in dynamic ways. Here she lowers it a register to give a cool reserved performance that still radiates power. 'Ain't Got No Dough' is a song that empowers you to feel that you have more money and resources than these raggedy dudes out here and that you can have fun by your damn self. Eve spits fire on the verses so you can feel the sting, and Missy follows up with the assist on the chorus to make the song as catchy and listenable as it could ever dream of being.

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