HYBURN8: The 2017 Winter Playlist


The weather outside is gonna get frightful, but this playlist is so delightful.

And since you need to brighten your day...let it play, let it play, let it play...


Once again, be sure to check back here for more tunes as I'll be adding more throughout the next two months.
@TheFirstEcho

#TBT: My December of 1996


Picture it: December, 1996.

I'm freezing in the back row of a van with my fellow speech-and-debate teammates in a shopping mall parking lot somewhere in Massachusetts. We've just finished (victoriously) competing at the annual Holly Speech Festival at Natick High School. We're still in our suits, blazers, and ties, and we're all exhausted. As I wait for some of my peers to come out of a nearby Starbucks, I proceed to listen to a mixtape on my Aiwa cassette tape player. It consists of "Lovefool" by The Cardigans and "Wannabe," a catchy gem from a new Britpop group called the Spice Girls.

Some of the guys talk about catching a late showing of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, a daring retelling of Shakespeare's classic starring that girl from My So-Called Life and the pretty boy who was on Growing Pains for one season. I then make a mental note to add to my Christmas wish list a VHS copy of Independence Day. (I saw it twice in theaters earlier that summer.) I think it's on sale at Nobody Beats the Wiz or Sam Goody...

I am a junior at Iona Prep, halfway through a school year that will see me soar in the category of Oral Interpretation with my poetry and prose readings of Shel Silverstein and Stephen King. (I proudly place 2nd in the state of New York the following May at a tournament in Albany.)

I am also an avid fan of Melrose Place, and I begin chatting with my friend James about the juicy storylines of the current fifth season. ("Who the hell is Taylor McBride, and how is she tied to Peter's past?" "Will Sydney ever find love?")

During this time I am also intrigued by TV promos for a new thriller from Wes Craven called Scream.


I think to myself: Drew Barrymore's starring in a horror movie now? I'll have to go check it out. And I do -- on Christmas night, with my father. We hit up the General Cinemas multiplex in the Bay Plaza shopping center in the Bronx after a festive day of unwrapping gifts and eating. Turns out I love Scream. Like, really love it. It's the best scary movie I've seen in a long time. It has the best opening scene (and twist) I've ever seen. It's smart. It features characters who are just as knowledgeable and obsessed about horror movies as I am. And it's genuinely thrilling. I become obsessed with this movie and see it again with a bunch of my friends later in the new year.

It is December of 1996. I think of how I'll have to get used to writing "1997" on my homework and essays in English class. I think about how we're three years closer to the new millennium. I wonder what will come then.

In 2016, soon to be 2017, I wonder about similar things.

@TheFirstEcho

R.I.P. Hotter in Hollywood (2007-2016)


It is with bittersweet feelings that I announce the end of an era.

With a heavy heart, I have reached the difficult decision to close the digital doors on HotterInHollywood.com, the site I've been overseeing for the past nine years. It is something that has provided me lots of opportunities and tons of great experiences, and I couldn't be more grateful for what it has given me.

For those unfamiliar with my history with HIH, it all started with the annual Hot in Hollywood benefit on which I was a steering committee member for three years. During the non-profit's second year, its founder, the incomparable Michael Medico, wanted to start a blogsite to spotlight other charities, celebrate pop culture in a fun, positive way, and showcase what celebrity alumni were up to throughout the year. I was more than happy to offer some of my views on music, TV, and movies during those first couple of months.

Then, I was absolutely honored to take over the reigns shortly after its launch. And from there, HIH took on a life of its own, becoming its own little media outlet, opening doors (and red carpets) for me in ways I couldn't have imagined. One of those doors led me to the fabulous team at Bello Mag, where I became an editor and also wrote about all things entertainment.

However, with HIH ending, not all is lost...

Since I will continue to act as Bello's Entertainment Editor-at-Large, I will be writing about local happenings, movie reviews, red carpet events, and overall pop culture goodness over at bellomag.com (as well as pursuing other exciting writing endeavors). So think of this as redirecting my pop-culture-reporting efforts to one singular site now. (And FYI, The First Echo ain't going anywhere).

That all said, thank you to those who contributed to HIH over the years, those who supported the site, and those who indulged me with a read whenever I posted some commentary on a new music video or movie trailer.

In honor of this closing chapter, let's take a quick look back at some of the awesome people, places, and things HIH covered throughout its run:


@TheFirstEcho

Obsession of the Week: Client Liaison


Picture it: Tuesday night.

I've just finished dinner and decide to watch episode 4 of the third season of the excellent, criminally underrated Please Like Me. (Seriously, get on board -- Entertainment Weekly included it on its annual Top 10 list of TV shows two years in a row.)

I pause the scene in which Josh, Arnold, and Tom take MDMA for the first time and go to a nightclub. I rewind, whip out my iPhone, and proceed to Shazam the shit out of the song they're dancing to. And I'm directed to this:


This indie electro-pop duo, like the show, hails from Australia, and I am now a convert, taking to Spotify to consume every piece of music they've put out since 2014. Everything about them is unabashedly 80s, from their production sensibilities to their wardrobe. Even their WEBSITE looks like it was designed in 1989.

Here is their most recent single, "Wild Life":


And here's "World of Our Love," a summer jam that should've made its way to the States but didn't:


You're welcome, America.

@TheFirstEcho

Help! I Suffer From Too Much Good TV!


Less than twenty years ago, when it came to TV viewing, times were simpler. My television diet consisted of regular tune-ins of favorites like Melrose Place, Friends, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Saturday Night Live.

Less than ten years ago, I would usually find myself on weekend mornings catching up on shows I've missed during the previous week. It was a time when I could easily break down the week, day by day, listing what shows I watched. I had at least one for every day of the week. TV geeks and pundits deemed those days of the DVR the "Golden Age of Television."

But now we live in Streaming Times. I am a proud cord cutter (going strong 3+ years). I am both an advertiser's nightmare and prime target. I stream and download everything at random hours. I have no set schedule. I watch whatever I want, whenever I want. And since we're also living in the era of "Peak TV," there is simply too much television to keep up with. Seriously, in 2015 alone, there was a record-breaking 409 scripted shows (comedies and dramas) that aired. Scripted. That doesn't count reality shows, game shows, talk shows, and various docuseries.

This is a glut of (mostly) good television I seriously struggle to keep up with on a weekly basis. Just how serious is it?

Consider this...

If I find myself home on a Friday night after a long week of work, I'll stay in, crack open a bottle of red, and catch up with Chelsea on Netflix and The View on Hulu (save the middle-aged woman jokes for later). Saturday mornings are usually for catching up on ABC's How to Get Away With Murder and Scandal (my new Melrose Place). On Sunday, I watch SNL from the night before. By Sunday night, it's an all-new Westworld and Insecure on HBO (or Girls, depending on the time of year -- and no, I don't watch Game of Thrones, so please get over it). Monday through Thursday is a free-for-all. If I'm not trying to catch up on The CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I'm trying to finish the previous season of FXX's You're The Worst. If I'm not trying to catch up on AMC's The Walking Dead, I'm trying to binge on the last three episodes of the everlasting Modern Family. As for the brand spankin' new broadcast network shows that I'm sampling, there's NBC's The Good Place, which I'm digging, and This is Us, which is great. Fox's Scream Queens is making it tough for me to keep up with this second round. I am trying to savor Season 3 of the fantastic, adorable, and absolutely delightful Please Like Me (formerly on Pivot) without plowing through all 10 episodes while enjoying Season 3 of TV Land's Younger. (Miriam Shor needs Emmy attention, STAT.) I started downloading SyFy's Channel Zero: Candle Cove to see what all the fuss is about among my fellow horror fanboys. I am still in awe of the last season of ABC's American Crime. I really want to get into Showtime's The Affair. I really tried to get sucked into FX's Fargo. I really want to become a fan of The Americans. I called Master of None the best TV show of 2015 (and I can't wait for Aziz's new season). I'm already considering Donald Glover's Atlanta the next Master of None. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I relate to the two main characters in Hulu's Difficult People a little too much. The third season of Transparent is still sitting in my Amazon Prime queue. The fourth season of Orange is the New Black and the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt are still sitting in my Netflix queue. The remaining Season 2 episodes of Lifetime's UnReal have found refuge on a USB drive I have put in a safe place. And let me not forget the entire second season of USA's Mr. Robot, the entire third season of A&E's Bates Motel, and the entire fourth season of BBC America's Orphan Black that have been sitting on my hard drive, waiting for me to open them and click play.


There have been a few casualties over the past few years due to all of this competition for my attention. I fell off The Vampire Diaries during its fifth season. I never finished the first season of the delicious Quantico. I never started the sixth season of American Horror Story. Empire fell off my radar. I never found out what happened to Carrie after three seasons of Homeland. And final three episodes of American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson never made it past my eyes, despite its sweep at the Emmys earlier this fall.

And then there are the classic shows that I never watched during their original runs and am currently considering bingeing: Gilmore Girls (especially now that it's being revived), The West Wing, and The Shield -- all available at my fingertips. And then there are the classic favorites I like to revisit for nostalgia purposes every so often when I can't handle new TV and feel like saying hello to old friends. (DVDs of The Golden Girls, Will & Grace, and Felicity are kept on standby in my bedroom.)

As you can see, I'm in crisis mode. And with promising new shows continuing to premiere during these last few weeks of the year, it seems like there's no relief in sight. Also, having now worked in entertainment marketing for the past three years (at my day job), I get a chance to see what's coming down the pipeline. And friends, there are lots of cool-sounding projects that will undoubtedly make a splash in an already crowded pool of small-screen titles that have already wooed millions of viewers. Drew Barrymore, Woody Allen, the Marvel TV Universe, and the holy trinity of Ryan Murphy-Susan Sarandon-Jessica Lange are poised to deliver the goods.

Networks that weren't known for original programming now boast several original series. Networks you probably have never heard of (Crackle, SeeSo, go90) are pumping out original series. Even that behemoth known as YouTube has it own original series (just take a drive down Sunset Boulevard; you can't miss the billboards). Yahoo, AT&T, DirectTV...they too are in the game.

For TV junkies like yours truly, it is absolutely overwhelming. We're constantly at risk of overdosing on all of this alluring content. And for someone whose profession partially requires watching all of these shows -- for inspiration, for research, for reference, and of course, for pure entertainment -- it is absolutely frustrating.

And I do everything in my power to consume it all. I try to designate one Sunday per month to binge like there's no tomorrow. But it's not enough. I simply cannot keep up. Life gets in the way, as it always does. Right now, I am tempted to stop writing, close my laptop, and focus on the TV shows I need to catch up on. And if I do reserve several hours to finding out what's been happening with my favorite fictitious characters, there will always be others to check up on. It never ends. It never will end. Just like cockroaches; when there's one, you know there's at least a dozen more to keep track of. Enough is enough.

I need help. And I know I'm not the only one. I know that millions of Americans are suffering through the same (first-world) problem. Those days when I preoccupied myself with five or six shows a week now seem quaint.

Yours truly under pressure,

@TheFirstEcho

Invasion of the 'Girl' Thrillers: What Do They Mean in the Era of Trump?


Call it the Gone Girl Effect.

When Gillian Flynn's blockbuster literary thriller hit shelves in 2012, little did Pop Culture realize the ramifications this would have...

My latest piece at The Huffington Post is now available for your reading pleasure (Women friends, I look forward to hearing your thoughts): HERE.

@TheFirstEcho

After the Election: A Chronicle of Thoughts From the First 24 Hours


NOVEMBER 8, 2016

5:00pm - She has to win, right?

8:20pm - I don't know if my heart palpitations are a result of the incoming projections...or the watermelon martini I had with dinner.

9:45pm - Really? This is actually happening?

10:05pm - No. Wait...no. No. No. No. No.

11:30pm - Hate did not win tonight. Fear did. Fear of progress. Fear of “otherness.” Fear of privilege being taken away. And while the shock has not worn off, when we woke up in the morning, it will not have been a bad dream. And a new fear will take hold.

11:34pm - James Carville's "worst case scenario" prediction was right. The markets are crashing. The value of the American dollar around the world is plummeting. My God.

11:37pm - We now live in Panem. (Have you seen those projected images lighting up the Empire State Building and announcing the winners?) All that's missing is the sound of cannons being fired with every victory. When do the Hunger Games begin?


NOVEMBER 9, 2016

12:03am - At the risk of sounding overdramatic, I haven't felt this way since 9/11.

7:30am - Christmas music it is. Sorry, Thanksgiving, but I need it right now. I know you'll understand. Spotify, lay it all on me.

8:05am - Half of America needs to take a collective mental health day.


9:10am - These assholes (pictured above) look like they've bullied a helpless victim or two in high school. They also look like they're no strangers to sexual assault. Committing it, that is. And yes, I'm judging books by their covers.

9:22am - There's a difference of 241,000 votes. Two hundred forty-one thousand.

9:23am - Please, someone refer Hillary to the best therapist there is. She needs it.

9:33am - Shit, I got a jury summons in the mail last night. Shit.

9:45am - I don't care if I'm late for work.

10:12am - Fuck it, I'm stopping at Carl's Jr. for a breakfast sandwich.

10:35am - We're now living in a dystopian satire. Think: Back to the Future Part II's Biff-centric alternate universe.

11:02am - I'm thinking Annie Lennox and Al Green's "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" will do the trick of alleviating the grief:


11:52am - What do I want for lunch? How can I eat more of my feelings?

12:38pm - I just need to remind myself to keep living my life.

2:41pm - I don't think I can read another thinkpiece, as brilliant as they are, about why these election results are an American tragedy.

2:43pm - I think this weekend calls for a therapeutic session of Golden Girls episodes. Hell, why not start tonight?

3:00pm - I must try to suppress the rage that's simmering. I can't feel hopeless.

3:50pm - Okay, I'll watch Hillary's concession speech, as hard as it is to do.

3:55pm - I'm actually getting a little choked up. 

4:27pm - I gotta see what the ladies of The View said about the election results.

4:44pm - Has there ever been a president who will be hated this much?

5:20pm - I refuse to address him by saying his name after the word "President." But I have to keep living my life. I will get out of this depression. Those standing on the right side of history will continue to work towards progress. Life will go on.

5:22pm - When and what is the next stage of grief?

5:25pm - I need this week to be over.