A Summer Jam For 2015 That Sounds Like 1995


Since we're on the subject of all things 1995 (see my previous post), I'd like to direct your attention to Tinie Tempah and Jess Glynne's "Not Letting Go."

This throwback jam has all the right moves and is giving me some major flashbacks. Just wait for Glynne's glorious chorus at :49.

@TheFirstEcho


Dr. Kimberly Shaw Blew Up 'Melrose Place' 20 Years Ago


On May 22, 1995, Fox's Melrose Place ended its third season with one of the biggest cliffhangers of the decade -- and one of the most memorable in TV history.

After a year of being betrayed, bothered, and bitchslapped, Dr. Kimberly Shaw (the marvelously wicked Marcia Cross) had plenty of reasons to hate just about everyone who lived at that titular poolside apartment complex. So what's a gal haunted by visions of a demon named Henry (who turned out to be her mother's rapist whom she killed in self-defense as a little girl) to do?

Strategically plant four firebombs around the apartment complex and set 'em off of course!

I had been near the end of my freshman year of high school, and my summer plans were up in the air. I was too old for camp, and I was just one year shy of being legally employable. So what's a boy obsessed with horror novels and Aaron Spelling primetime soaps to do? Help out at my aunt and uncle's ballroom dance shop, read a ton of paperback thrillers at their beach club bungalow, and speculate over the fate of these fictional characters.

Granted, the bombs didn't go off until the September premiere (due to the sensitivity surrounding the real-life Oklahoma City bombing), but here's what went down 20 years ago:


I know what you're thinking: why does that detonator look like something for a remote-controlled toy car?

Did Melrose jump the shark with this blatant ratings stunt? Sure. But did it make for an OMG-worthy TV moment during a pre-hashtag-trending era? You bet your ass it did.

#MelroseFinale #KrazyKimberly

@TheFirstEcho


POOLSIDE: The 2015 Summer Playlist, Vol. 1


Before I jet off to the Outerbanks and Crystal Coast of North Carolina for the next four days, I leave you with the soundtrack that's helping me kick off what I hope will be another amazing and memorable summer.

For a summer mix, I have to admit it's particularly dude-heavy. Years & Years, Erik Hassle, Brandon Flowers, and Jukebox The Ghost are just some of the gents kicking off this playlist. (Sorry, pop divas, you've been shuffled to the bottom this time around.)

Get it HERE. And enjoy.

@TheFirstEcho


How Pop Music Created The Entitled Generation


All around the world, pretty girls
Jump the line to the front,
Do what we like, get what we want,
We're just so pretty!
- "Pretty Girls" by Britney Spears & Iggy Azalea

Britney and Iggy's highly anticipated single, a wannabe summer anthem if there ever was one, finally leaked after weeks of speculation and build-up throughout the music blogosphere. The behind-the-scenes photos of the music video promised a fun romp with both pop starlets, surrounded by hot guys, flaunting some 80s-inspired fashions. The collaboration seemed like a match made in pop heaven -- a chart-topping rapstress who enjoyed a successful 2014 and pop's (arguably) reigning princess, who could enjoy some success on the charts while she hits the home stretch of her Las Vegas residency.

I'll just say it now: "Pretty Girls" is...okay. On the surface, it seems to mimic the sparkly-rebellious nature of a Charli XCX or Icona Pop jam. Brit sounds "pretty" good, and Iggy does her requisite wordsmithing in between, but if you listen carefully to its let's-party-and-have-a-good-time sensibility, you might hear something else. Read between the lyrics, and you get an indication of the current state of pop music...and its listeners. These two female artists are representing a generation that has been raised to believe they can have it all (especially if they bare their midriffs and pout their lips).

Fifth Harmony wants you to know they're "Worth It."

Call me an aging fogey who's too critical of Top 40 these days, but this new jam made me realize something: Could the superficial messages behind some of today's biggest hits be reinforcing a generation's beliefs and values to be equally superficial? You hear about older generations complaining about "today's generation" being too spoiled or -- the new word du jour -- "entitled." But is a luxe lifestyle, more than ever, being overtly glorified in pop culture, particularly in pop music?

Give me to me, I'm worth it.
Baby, I'm worth it.
Uh huh, I'm worth it.
Gimme gimme, I'm worth it.
- "Worth It" by Fifth Harmony feat. Kid Ink

Of course, this could be a matter of "Which came first: the chicken or the egg": Did the youth of America always feel entitled, and their music just started reflecting their tastes? Or is it the other way around? I can't help feeling it's the latter.

Entitlement is more prevalent in American pop culture for a number of reasons. Thanks to technology, and to put it simply, we're used to receiving things faster. YouTube musicians are thrust into the spotlight (usually on Ellen) after just one video goes viral. Someone makes an Internet splash, and they're immediately catapulted into everyone's news feed. Order a book on Amazon, and you can get it the same day! Therefore, we expect more things to happen more quickly. We expect more stuff to come to us more quickly. We expect everything now, and this includes everything from a well-paying job after college to the overall glory of success, wealth and happiness. I'm sure a psychology major could write a thesis and further discuss the origins of entitlement. And granted, a child's upbringing is also a definite factor -- the values and morals instilled at an early age -- but we're talking about outside forces that can shape a person's outlook on life here.

Songs about flaunting one's riches, enjoying life, and demanding only the best have been around for some time. Sheila E's "Glamorous Life" from 1984 was arguably the first anthem of its kind, a product of the Reaganomics-fueled 80s, a time when everyone believed in sparing no expense.


Then, the following year, a little song called "Material Girl" by Madonna hit the airwaves, perfectly encapsulating the unapologetic philosophy of demanding wealth and excess. ("The boy with the cold hard cash is always Mr. Right.") And let's not forget the countless music videos that paraded around pimped-out cars, various bling, and a never-ending supply of scantily clad women (and very little men) throughout the late 90s and early aughts. The messages were blatant: "Look at our fabulous lives. You could have this too. Don't you want to be like us?" One glaring omission: The question that asks, "How does one achieve all of that wealth?"


Those were just music videos. The amount of singles with lyrics celebrating superficiality over the past decade has been, frankly, a little sickening. Going back to 2006, Fergie's "Glamorous" unabashedly embraced a luxe lifestyle. Naturally, the music video for this ode to "floss" had no problem rubbing bottle service and private jets in our faces. MGMT sang about marrying models and bingeing on cocaine and heroin in 2008's "Time to Pretend" (albeit ironically; it was one my top tracks of the year.) And according to Mashable, "much of the criticism surrounding Jay-Z's new record Magna Carta Holy Grail pointed to Jay-Z's insistence on continuing to rap about his wealth. This was exacerbated by the controversial Samsung deal that earned him $5 million and RIAA's platinum certification" before the record even hit shelves. (I mean, the dude even dedicated one track to fashion mogul Tom Ford.)

Unlike Madonna's "Material Girl," today's hits aren't entirely indicative of a society experiencing a booming economy in which everyone can splurge on luxury items. Sure, we might be slowly bouncing back from the financial nightmare that was the 2008 Recession, but the gap between the rich and the poor is wider than ever. Economic inequality has never been bigger. So why are more and more popular songs celebrating such high-end lifestyles? Is this supposed to be some kind of aspirational ploy? Are these songs designed to help encourage Americans to spend more and help the economy? To enjoy all the riches possible -- without really earning it? I guess that would explain the shameless product-placement-filled lyrics that attempt to rhyme words with expensive labels like Grey Goose, Louis Vuitton, Cristal, and Prada.

Look at Pitbull, the current King of The Party Track. His latest single with Ne-Yo, "Time of Our Lives," is basically all about treating yourself because you deserve it. Sample lyric:

I knew my rent was gon be late about a week ago.
I worked my ass off but I still can't pay it though.
But I got just enough to get off in this club.
Have me a good time before my time is up.

Don't get me wrong: I'm fine with a feel-good track to help you get pumped for the weekend, and I'm all for a song that inspires you to seek out the best things in life. (God knows I've pushed a few here on this blog.) Pop music, for the most part, is inherently full of fluff designed to brighten your day. But it's the increasingly aggressive push of these messages that is starting to become worrisome. The "feel-good" messaging behind most of these songs is arguably a disguise for what it really is: a rallying cry, a call-to-action for young people everywhere to demand whatever they want. Because they "deserve it." Because they're "worth it."

But are they really?

@TheFirstEcho


Humble Brag: My First Commercial


Time for some humble bragging.

Fandango just launched its new campaign earlier today, and one of the spots, starring Kat Graham from The Vampire Diaries, was written by yours truly. It is titled "Hashtag." For obvious reasons.

Take a look:

@TheFirstEcho


Song of the Month: May 2015


Erik Hassle is tickling my fancy these days and easing me into summer with his feel-good, electro-pop single "No Words." And the video is just as delightful.

I wish my favorite artists would just randomly appear in my apartment while I'm making breakfast. Well, now that I think of it, I'd probably have the same reaction as these girls here:

@TheFirstEcho


#TBT: That Time My Great Aunt Accused Me of Attempted Murder


In the summer of 1993, my mother's aunt (my great-aunt) Anna treated us to a trip to Disney World.

We sort of knew what we were getting ourselves into. Aunt Anna, after all, often gave the impression of being a crotchety wench when it came to just about anything. (Her birthday was on Halloween - analyze that however you like.) But...this was a free trip to Disney World. Tolerating her for a week was a price we were willing to pay. And we certainly did.

Most of the trip was spent pushing her around in a wheelchair in each theme park we visited, even though she was perfectly agile for her age. But having a wheelchair-bound guest with us had its perks. My mom and I enjoyed bypassing the long lines at each attraction by using the special entrance for handicapped patrons.

By the end of the trip, my mother and I were ready to ditch the old woman in the Florida Everglades and let the alligators have their way with her, but needless to say, we all returned home safe and (relatively) sound.

I had kept track of all the intolerable things she was guilty of doing (and saying). I jotted down on hotel stationery a very extensive list of these "Aunt Anna-isms." And here they are, copied for your reading pleasure:

1. She thinks aliens built Disney World.

2. She complained that the screen was broken in the 3D theater.

3. She taught told us how to peel shrimp.

4. "It's not the money, but..." was uttered frequently every time the subject was brought up.

5. Five times she told me to check the gas in our rental car - in one day.

6. "You know, they're all illegal aliens."

7. "There's nothing wrong with my hearing."

8. "No one speaks English here!"

9. "Don't leave me in the rain!"

10. "I'm sure you said Aisle 130." (it was Aisle 104.)

11. "You're ungrateful, and you tried to kill me!"

12. Upon seeing signs for an upcoming Jurassic Park exhibit: "You know, scientists are raising a real dinosaur."

13. "This sandwich is too thick."

14. "This bowl of soup is too big."

15. On the dinner inside Cinderella's Castle: "That was rotten."

16. She insisted on buying raincoats and proceeded to throw hers in the trash after it stopped raining.

17. She wanted to be pushed in her wheelchair to the handicapped toilet stall, despite the fact that she wasn't handicapped.

18. She asked the same question several times despite our repeated answers.

19. She hardly walked a single step, yet she complained about how she didn't want to be wheeled around.

20. She walked over to a cashier after seeing us purchase souvenirs and asked her how much we spent.

21. "I brought an extra thousand dollars to spend on you, but I wouldn't buy you a thing. I never knew you were like this."

22. "I turn off my ears."

23. We constantly asked her, "Are you okay?" To which she answered, "Yes." She would then later complain that she was not okay.

24. "This pizza crust is raw!"

25. "You're vain."

26. Upon checking out of our hotel, after starting an argument: "Aren't you going to carry my bags? You did when we got here."

27. "Aren't we gonna check in our bags?" she asked...after we checked in our bags.

28. She asked if my dad was going to pick us from the airport - in Florida - even though he didn't come with us on the trip.

29. She accused us of charging a soda to the hotel room she paid for.

30. She repeatedly asked me if my foot was okay.

Aunt Anna was like the second American grandparent I never had. When I moved into my first dorm room as a freshman at Boston University, she moved into her first room at a nursing home on Shore Road in New Rochelle. The parallels were uncanny. While I was applying for my meal card in a dining hall, my mom helped her sort out her meal plan in her new home. Shortly thereafter, she left this earth. She is buried in a cemetery near Tarrytown, New York in a plot she had picked out a few years before her passing. Carved on her gravestone is her date of birth, but her date of death has yet to be added because my mom, to this day, keeps forgetting to notify the cemetery people to update the headstone.

So, it looks like Aunt Anna shall live forever.

@TheFirstEcho


CLEAN: The 2015 Spring Playlist, Vol. 2


April is off to a good start.

Check out my latest and greatest HERE.

@TheFirstEcho