Todrick Hall's 'Straight Outta Oz' Might Be This Year's 'Lemonade' (VIDEO)


Viral superstar-turned-Broadway performer-turned-R&B-pop dynamo Todrick Hall just released his full-length, debut album (and accompanying visual album, below), Straight Outta Oz...

...and it. Is. Magnificent.

The deluxe 22-track collection is an outstanding musical autobiography accentuated by a mesmerizing Wizard of Oz motif that works to resonating and gorgeous effect, chronicling his life from its oppressive beginnings, through his years of self-discovery, to his rise to fame as an undeniably gifted singer-songwriter-dancer.


From the gate-busting open that is "No Place Like Home" to the grandmotherly memories remembered in the choir-backed "Proud" and the daddy lessons learned in "Over the Rainbow," (check out Wayne Brady in a dramatic role) Todrick looks back on his childhood with both melancholy and reserve.

Then, it's on to the adolescent years: The uplifting "Black & White" takes us back to the 90s (with a little homage to Britney's "Baby One More Time" video). This is a time in our young hero's life when he is told to reel in his big dreams and limit his possibilities, but he ain't having it. "Color," with vocals from James Armstrong Johnson, reflects on his first relationship with a boy, an interracial romance that later leaves him heartbroken in the next act of this saga.


And as for that next act? It absolutely soars as Todrick breaks free from his roots and moves to Hollywood, where he tries to stay connected to his past ("Little People"), gets wooed by the flashiness of "Oz Angeles" ("Expensive"), and mends his broken heart ("If I Had a Heart"). Finally, we watch (and hear) our star explode onto the scene with a brand new attitude ("Lyin' to Myself"), navigate a gauntlet of manipulative characters ("Papi," "Green,"), and quickly learn how to grow a backbone, stay true to himself, and even demonstrate some social awareness ("Wrong Bitch," "Water Guns") while traveling down that "yellow brick boulevard." All of it culminates in the show-stopping finale, "Low," an anthem featuring RuPaul, who practically comes off as Todrick's fairy godmother/mentor, and a fierce army of reimagined characters from The Wizard of Oz.

And all throughout, the cameos are plentiful: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tracie Thoms, Raven-Symone, Tamar Braxton, Amber Riley, and a bevy of drag queens -- to name a few.

Straight Outta Oz is an astounding pop achievement, packed with a variety of visual stylings that brilliantly blend fantasy with coming-of-age poignancy, sex appeal, and social commentary. No doubt this ambitious production carries the influence of Beyonce's panache and penchant for bold theatrics. (We're all still recovering from last year's epic Lemonade.) However, what we're witnessing here aren't the musings of a diva scorned. It's the birth of a powerful artist who has long been gestating and planning to unleash his brilliance on the world.

Todrick Hall has finally arrived.

Watch this amazing 71-minute opus here:


@TheFirstEcho

REVIEW: 'The Belko Experiment'


The Belko Experiment, from director Greg McLean and writer-producer James Gunn, is a bloody-good exercise (emphasis on bloody) in human savagery. Yes, it’s an awesome Office Space-meets-Battle Royale mashup, as the posters would indicate, but it’s also somewhat of a disturbing revelation...

My latest review for ScreenPicks is now available over here.

In Honor of International Women's Day...


This summer, two sets of gal pals will be getting down and dirty. While one involves the untimely, coked-up death of a stripper, the other features a whole lotta urine raining down on New Orleans revelers.

First up: Rough Night, from the broads behind Broad City.


And then, there's Girls Trip:


I shall be buying tickets to both R-rated romps thankyouveddymuch.

@TheFirstEcho


Gerard Butler's 'Geostorm' is the Kind of Crappy Disaster Flick I Love (TRAILER)


Gerard Butler in a disaster flick? All I want to know is: how come did this didn't happen sooner? (And no, we're not counting Gods of Egypt.)

The trailer for Geostorm (all other hybrid titles were apparently taken by straight-to-DVD titles like Stonehenge Apocalypse and Icetastrophe) has everything I live for in a film about global catastrophe:

a. Overly CGI-ed mass destruction.
b. A cast of international folks looking up at the sky in fear.
c. Our hero (Butler) dramatically turning to look at a large monitor in a control room.
d. A chillingly ironic cover of a classic song. (Here, it's "What a Wonderful World.")
e. And this: "From the producer of Independence Day."

Grabbing my popcorn now...

Bounce: The 2017 Spring Playlist


The thaw begins.

Chase the winter doldrums away with this new, handpicked set of tunes, my soundtrack for the next three jam-packed months (birthday in Vegas, Easter in Florida, and May in South America).

@TheFirstEcho

Jeff Sessions & Donald Trump's Favorite Song


I can just imagine the current POTUS and that 70-year-old Southern weasel we now call the Attorney General getting down to this Robbie Williams jam during Oval Office afterhours.

The song, from the British singer's fantastic The Heavy Entertainment Show, was released as a single back in the fall, and it couldn't be any timelier.

@TheFirstEcho

Quintessential L.A.


This morning I was at the gym and drinking a protein shake while reading a script on my phone, spying on an Instagram model two machines over, and looking up to watch a live police chase on TV.

Los Angeles is like, "Dude, this is way too L.A., even for me."