September 29, 2016

SNEAK PEEK: 'Slasher Movie Girl'

PREFACE: Some of you may have heard me talk about the horror novel I am currently writing. So I thought I'd share the first chapter of this book-in-progress, Slasher Movie Girl, not only to generate interest but to hold myself accountable. Because I want to see this thing through and make sure it gets finished. Because the next time someone asks me, "How's your book coming along?" I want to answer honestly with a promising status update. Because, frankly, I want to get this bloody thing published, read by the masses, and optioned for a big-screen adaptation (naturally).

What is Slasher Movie Girl about? I wish I could give you the elevator pitch, but since I'm releasing a tiny portion of this into the world, I'm afraid that's all I can do for now. (Can't give it ALL away now can I?) Besides, hopefully this excerpt does a good job setting things up. And if all goes well, perhaps I'll release more and see if anyone else gives a damn...or if my agent resurfaces and takes the bait.

Thank you for your time. Hope you enjoy.

Chapter 1

When the bloody blade of a machete is protruding from your chest, there are two things that quickly cross your mind.

The first one is pure, unadulterated disbelief. The shock of being turned into a human shish-kebab comes instantly. You think to yourself, How the hell did this happen? Is this some kind of trick? One moment you’re gathering firewood in the middle of the woods, because you were the only one who volunteered for the task, and the next, you’re the helpless victim of some maniacal, masked killer who’s been stalking you ever since you stepped outside your friend’s cabin to face the deep, dark woods all by yourself. Never in a million years did you think that you would be on the receiving end of some deformed, psychotic hillbilly’s rage. After all, what are the odds? (Apparently, taking a trip to the site of a twenty-year-old bloodbath increases those odds – greatly – but more on that later.)

The second thing that runs through your mind is utter disappointment. A machete that has been driven through your torso means that you’ll never get to enjoy the rest of the weekend getaway you and your friends had been planning for months. You’ll never get to make out with someone while under the influence of four tequila shots. Scratch that; you’ll never get to explore the possibility of making out with someone while under the influence of several tequila shots. You’ll never get to finish that trashy mystery novel that’s been sitting on your nightstand for months (but you’re pretty sure it was the promiscuous, money-hungry mistress who did it because, let’s face it, it’s always the money-hungry mistress). And most importantly, you’ll never get to graduate from college, which means you’ll never get to feel the excitement of moving out of your childhood home, taking the plunge into an unstable job market, and finding ways to pay off student loans that will haunt you until middle age.

Those were the thoughts that ran through my mind when I became the first victim of an urban legend that appeared to be very, very true.

I, Heather Farnsworth, lover of slasher movies and connoisseur of all things horror, someone who considers herself extremely well-versed in scenarios like these, became the hapless young girl who gets butchered shortly after the movie’s opening credits, the beginning of a body count that would rise until the designated heroine defeated the near-indestructible villain. I couldn’t believe my luck.

When I left the cabin to grab some firewood, I grabbed a flashlight for the brief walk to the shed behind the house. I also grabbed my sweatshirt because it was unseasonably chilly for May. Sure, I was tipsy, but my judgment was still intact. Those shots of tequila were taking their time taking over my bloodstream. My plan at the time was to go back into the cabin with some firewood and get a cute boy to sit next to me by the roaring fire where I would work up enough liquid courage to unabashedly flirt with him. This flirting would then lead to some snuggling. (When you tell boys you’re cold, they are obligated to do everything they can to warm you up.) This snuggling would then lead to a simple kiss on the cheek, thanking him for such chivalry. This simple kiss would then lead to a more involved kiss on the mouth. And by “more involved,” I clearly mean “some tongue action.” 

The cute boy in question was Adam Kozlowski. I always thought of him as an intellectual loner, but he was clearly social and capable enough to come on this weekend getaway to the woods with eight other people. See, I’m a sucker for a cute guy in glasses, and Adam had these thick, black-rimmed spectacles that perfectly framed his big, brown puppy dog eyes. He didn’t believe in contact lenses because he couldn’t stand sticking a finger in his eyes. (He shared this tidbit with me when we partnered up for a sociology class project last semester.) And he didn’t wear them ironically. He wasn’t one of those douchebags who picked up a pair of lens-free frames from Urban Outfitters as an accessory simply because “the nerdy look” was in fashion. Adam had an actual prescription for his 20/80 vision. He also had a thing for Ray Bradbury novels; he had a paperback in hand whenever I saw him walking around campus. What made him more attractive was the fact that he didn’t realize just how attractive he was, and when a guy is clueless about how hot he looks, that just makes him hotter. He never did that peacock strut most guys at school usually do when they try to bring attention to themselves. Adam didn’t have veiny, pumped-up Zac Efron arms or a washboard stomach that he flashed while wiping his forehead with the bottom of his T-shirt, another narcissistic move most guys on campus tried whenever the weather warmed up. (We get it, you workout.) Adam was not a schlub though. I caught him a couple of times jogging past the student union, so I knew he was somewhat health-conscious and took care of himself in a reasonable manner that didn’t require a Crossfit membership. He wasn’t a label whore either. I never caught him wearing any shirts emblazoned with some obnoxious brand logo or pun-laden phrases with some kind of stupid, visual punch line. His wardrobe was non-descript, timeless, unassuming.

I admit: sometimes I fantasized about ripping those clothes off him.

I always imagined that he would be a good kisser, too. Attentive. Sensual. But now I will never find out. I will never know how his lips would feel brushed up against mine. I would never get to smell his neck as he ran his fingers through my hair. I would never find out if his scent was a mix of sandalwood, coffee, and musty paperback novels, a mix I concocted in my head because of the amount of time he spent at The Nook, a local café that doubled as used bookshop (he worked there part-time). I would never get to tell him how good he looks in that gray, slim-fit Henley shirt I’ve seen him wear on occasions.

All because some psycho bastard rammed a highly unsanitary-looking machete blade through my chest.

I never had any time to put up a fight. It happened so suddenly. And that sucks. It sucks hard. Had I known some creepy, hulking figure was sneaking up behind me I would have run like the wind, screaming my head off. There was no proverbial snapping of a twig or rustling foliage to alert me of an intruder’s presence. I didn’t even get to shout out into the darkness, “Okay guys, who’s out there? If this is some kind of joke, it isn’t funny!” I just stood there with my basket of firewood, and then BAM, I’m skewered meat. I immediately dropped my basket, clumps of wooden logs falling to ground.

No one was going to warm themselves by a roaring fire anytime soon.

Here is where I ask myself, “Why me?” Why did I have to be the first one to fall prey to some deformed, backwoods hillbilly? I know every trick in the slasher movie handbook. I even own a copy of How To Survive A Horror Movie – it would make a great coffee table book for the nicely furnished living room I was going to have in the apartment I would have rented after college. After all, I always saw myself as the perfect Final Girl, the last survivor of a bloody massacre in any given scary movie. Think Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) in Scream, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Laurie Strode (the inimitable Jamie Lee Curtis) in the granddaddy of all slasher flicks, Halloween. I was never a cheerleader. My grades were a priority. My boobs weren’t particularly bouncy (and inch below average, by pervert standards). And I never had a boyfriend.

That’s right, world. Yours truly died a virgin.

Talk about tragic, right?

I thought I’d lose my virginity by the time I was 20. Not too young to be reckless, but not too old to be embarrassing. I thought it would be with a guy like Adam Kozlowski, someone gentle and understanding. Maybe a guy who was in the same virgin boat as I was. (We’d both fumble our way through it together.) But the situation just never presented itself. And to be honest, sex wasn’t on my mind as much as it was among the girls who lived in my dorm during my freshman year. True, I fantasized about ripping Adam’s clothes off his body like some kind of overacting, hypersexual soap opera diva. But I didn’t make it out to be some mission I needed to accomplish after graduating from high school. And even if there were girls from my class who did lose it during high school, I never heard them obsess about it afterwards. Sure, sex wasn’t this big mystery for them anymore, but unlike the boys, you never got the impression that they wanted it every minute of every day of every week.

I enjoyed other things in life…like tearing through Stephen King’s Dark Tower series in one summer, bingeing on Game of Thrones (my Daenerys costume killed at last year’s Halloween ball), and attending the bi-annual Friday the 13th marathon at the Kensington Theater, an old moviehouse known for its midnight screenings of cult films and old-school concession stand with student-friendly prices. In other words, in addition to my schoolwork and other stuff that “mattered,” I focused my attention on geeky shit. I didn’t worry myself with a countdown to the moment some boy would take my Big V. I wasn’t going to contribute to any sexual statistics. It would not happen in one of those clichéd, collegiate scenarios in which I’d attend a kegger, get wasted, and hook up with some equally wasted guy on his stained futon under a Star Wars poster in a room illuminated by strings of Christmas lights and neon beer signs.

I like to think my life was far above the shenanigans displayed in most 90s teen movies. There were no pledges to hook up with someone by the end of spring break. (I spent the second week of March writing Walking Dead fanfic that I later submitted to a nerd mag that published similarly themed short stories.) I wasn’t in need of a makeover nor was I the object of some “guy bet.” I didn’t have to take off my glasses and shake my hair out of a ponytail to catch the eye of the star quarterback. And I certainly didn’t attend any wild house parties that featured a colorful array of stock characters with a Top 40-friendly soundtrack.

And now, here I was, a dead body with a gaping wound. When I fell to the ground, the already dark woods went completely black. When I came to, I thought the entire incident was a dream, some kind of bizarre hallucination, but I was now staring at my own lifeless body. It was a weird shift in perspective. So this is what an out-of-body experience is like. It was like looking into a strange mirror, only I didn’t have control of my reflection. I was just a crumpled heap of clothes. My sweatshirt was ruined. My ass didn’t look as huge as I thought it was. Bending down to get a closer look at my face, I saw the shocked expression on my face, which was now frozen and losing more color by the second. I then realized that I was pretty cute for a chick twenty pounds overweight. Too bad I couldn’t come back from my current state and carry on with my weekend with this new outlook. It would have been a much-needed boost of confidence.

A brief wave of sadness washed over me, but it was soon replaced with frustration brought on by a sense of overwhelming powerlessness. Maybe if I willed myself to get up, I could hop back in my body and stumble back to the cabin to warn the others. Maybe I wasn’t really dead. After all, where was the proverbial white light? Wasn’t this supposed to be the moment where I was led to the pearly gates of Heaven? I waited for what seemed like a solid ten minutes, and nothing happened. All I heard was the wind in the trees, a few crickets, and a silence that was as heavy as it was unsettling. My killer was nowhere in sight.

Perhaps I wasn’t greeted by a saintly figure in a white suit, recruited and dispatched here to check me into Heaven, because I didn’t really believe in that gloriously carefree utopia up in the clouds.

My relationship with religion is a funny thing. I was baptized and raised as a Catholic, but over the years, my view became more agnostic. Years and years of Catholic school instilled in me a vast knowledge of pain and suffering endured by groups of people in a time and place that supposedly existed eons before anything else in history. There were lots of melancholy songs sung by choirs at lots of Sunday Masses attended, and my classmates were taught to obey the Law of God – or else. But that fear never worked on me. I didn’t have to study the Holy Bible to know that being good to others was a basic rule every human being should follow in order to live a beautiful life.

Reincarnation was always a concept that fascinated me. I believed in the idea of the soul being rebooted, just like any beloved movie franchise from the 80s or 90s. Same basic essence, sensibility, and core instincts, but guided by a new director with a new cast of characters.

So where was my rebirth? Why was I stuck here in these woods with my former shell of a self? How long would this – for lack of a better word – purgatory last? If this was the waiting room for Heaven or whatever New Life I was about to enter, then I wanted to make a complaint to the Powers That Be. Was there a customer service representative I could speak to?

“Hi, I’d like to suggest creating some kind of clear signage and more comfortable accommodations for those of us waiting to move on from this plane of existence. K, thanks.”

Is this what that dead chick in The Lovely Bones went through after she was murdered? I read the book and saw that disappointing film adaptation starring Mark Wahlberg. I wish Peter Jackson were here to direct my own personal experience with the afterlife. It could use some beautiful visuals and dynamic cinematography right about now.

“Hello?” I shouted into the darkness.


“Can anyone hear me?”

Somewhere nearby an owl hooted.

“Thanks, Mr. Owl.”

If animals could hear me, maybe I could get them to cooperate and deliver a message to my friends!

As if, I thought to myself. Last time I checked, I wasn’t trapped in a Disney movie. And it didn’t seem like I possessed any supernatural abilities. When I bent down to pick up a rock, my hand passed through it, just like all of those movies in which a dead person has to adjust to his or her ghostly form. I couldn’t grab any physical objects.

I was a hologram.

“This is just great,” I said to myself. “I’m a ghost with nowhere to go.”


September 27, 2016

Pop Culture Rant of the Week: Thank You Donald Trump

Hi Donald.

I just wanted to take this time to offer my thanks after watching your first presidential debate. (As expected, you acted like a 7-year-old throwing a tantrum while trying to convince his mom to stay up past his bedtime.)

Thank you for creating one big shitstorm of a campaign that has derailed the Republican party. Thank you for bringing crazy, bigoted Americans out of the woodwork so we can truly see whose narrow-mindedness is preventing progress and keeping our culture trapped in a time warp. Thank you for being so repugnant, so bigoted, so generally godawful, you allow us to clearly see Hillary Clinton as a shining example of what a U.S. president should be, regardless of any faults of her own.

You have crafted such a glaring contrast of an image, it would take the densest idiot in America to not see through you and your antics. And unfortunately, there are a lot of dense idiots out there who still don't see through you and continue to hang on your every word that drips with demagoguery.

Normally I don't get too political here on the interwebs, especially on social media. Usually I'm the guy who's easily tickled by a just-released pop track or movie trailer and likes to express my strong opinion on the state of cinema. Right now I could play Switzerland, take the neutral route, and encourage people to just vote -- no matter where you stand -- because everyone has the power to shape the future of our country and blah, blah, blah. But after careful consideration, after months and months of hearing such hateful rhetoric, after witnessing the daily vitriol that plays out on news feeds, and after realizing that getting older makes me less tolerant for all kinds of bullshit and ignorance...I emphatically say, "Fuck that." I am getting political. (Wow, I'm adulting hard right now.)

You could say I've reached a breaking point.

That said, if you continue to support Donald Trump, I'm about to force your hand into clicking that Unfriend button on Facebook. And I could care less, because we probably shouldn't have been "friends" in the first place.

If you continue to support Donald Trump, you are, simply put, a disgusting human being. And I don't think you're disgusting simply because you're a member of an opposing political party. I find you disgusting because of your lack of decency, common sense, and overall compassion.

In a way, I feel sorry for you as well. I'm sorry that you're so easily swayed by scare tactics and overblown, unsubstantiated statements that spew out of the mouth of an egomaniacal reality TV figure with misogynistic tendencies. I'm sorry that you can't educate yourself and open your eyes to the strings that keep pulling you towards a dangerous ideology that threatens the fabric of American life. I'm sorry that you're trapped in your shithole of a town and can't find anyone else to love you but your second cousin, which doesn't count because she's only your second cousin, amiright?

I'm sorry that you don't even know the definition of a "demagogue."

Because I try to see things from all sides, I will take a brief moment to acknowledge your anger and rage at the government. I get why you're rooting for a shady millionaire with no experience in public service. To you, he's a great alternative to the usual, untrustworthy stiffs that inhabit the highest office in the land. He's a radical choice, possibly someone who will get shit done.

But guess what? All signs point to the contrary. And you keep putting up your blinders, shutting out the frightful statistics, studies, and stories that indicate how wrong of a candidate Trump is. You're the ostrich with its head planted firmly in the ground. You're the petulant child who covers his ears with his hands yelling "No, no, no!"

Frankly, you're the reason why a lot of bad things happen in this country.

And Donald, you're egging these folks on. It's an unbelievable ability to have, you know, considering how far up your own ass your head is.

Mr. Trump, you're the new definition of hubris. (I'm surprised Wikipedia and haven't uploaded your headshot to their respective pages for the word.) You too are guilty of putting up blinders, and it's most likely because of the sheer amount of pride you possess. In your mind you can do no wrong, and denial has become your BFF. Your false sense of self is abominable. I pity the psychiatrist who will one day be tasked with diagnosing you with whatever mental ailment befalls you. Actually, scratch that. I will celebrate the psychiatrist who will finally unearth the source of your douchebaggery, unmasking you as a person responsible for leaving a shit stain across this great nation of ours. And I say "great" because it is a great nation. There's no need to make it "great again."

In fact, by repeating your slogan ad nauseum, you're emphasizing all things negative about America. Not only are you a well-known fat-shamer, body-shamer, and class-shamer, you're also a country-shamer. You're implying that America is a terrible place to live. And it's been scientifically proven that shaming doesn't improve anything, especially when no clear-cut resolutions are offered by the shamer. It only makes things worse. (I for one would not like to see Back to the Future Part II's alternate universe become a reality.)

You should've looked that up before picking a phrase to fit on those caps and posters.

But thanks again for being you. Because those of us who are voting for your opponent can only grow stronger while you dig a deeper hole for yourself.


For some really brilliant insight as to why our current political climate is what it is, read Andrew Sullivan's New York Magazine piece titled "America Has Never Been So Ripe for Tyranny" here.

September 26, 2016

Karen Walker Hasn't Aged a Day: The 'Will & Grace' Reunion

Will & Grace is currently trending on Twitter as if it were 2000 all over again (granted, if Twitter existed back then).

Just as the sitcom's series finale predicted a decade ago, the character of Karen Walker (played by Emmy winner Megan Mullally, right) hasn't aged a day.

What the hell is going on? What are they planning?

Follow Sean Hayes on Twitter to check out the teasers he and his castmates have been dropping since this weekend.

And here it is: @TheFirstEcho

September 23, 2016

Backstreet Boys Headed to Vegas: Aging 'TRL' Fans Rejoice

Now that Britney, J.Lo, and Backstreet Boys all have headlining residencies in Las Vegas, all of us who came of age during the late 90s can now feel officially old AF.

Check out the announcement HERE.


RUNAGROUND's "Chase You Down" is My New Stalker Theme Song

There really isn't much to it.

The entire song is structured around a repetitive chorus that's accompanied by a driving beat. And I love it.

It's an irresistible slice of seduction from the 29-year-old electro-pop producer-singer-songwriter who made a splash on YouTube a few years back. Also? Bonus points for the lyrical shout out to "liquid courage."

September 20, 2016

Imani Williams's "Don't Need No Money" is the Anti-Materialism Anthem This Generation Needs

She may not "need no money," but pray tell, who's paying for all of those wardrobe changes in this video? Not to mention that sweet vintage convertible in the background...

Anyway, despite the double negative in the title that is driving my inner grammar Nazi crazy, this collab with Sigala and Blonde is the kind of pop fluff we could use during another week of depressing headlines. Listen and love:


September 18, 2016

My Life as a Shondaland Drama: 19 Lessons Learned While Living in L.A.

I have often thought of my life in Los Angeles as a primetime drama, peppered with twists and turns, building up a loyal following over the years.

That said, this past summer I wrapped up what is considered my 14th season. (With a 15th season renewal! Woo hoo!) The current cast of characters of this show is definitely not the same as the one that was introduced to viewers in the first season (back when I arrived wide-eyed and full of hope in 2002). Over the years, there were special guest stars. There were characters who appeared as regulars but were quickly written off. There were beloved figures who departed suddenly, leaving viewers (and me) devastated. And there were the few constants who, to this day, remain as part of the ever-evolving storyline that is my life. 

I'm like Meredith Grey, and the city of Los Angeles is my Seattle Grace. How's that for a Shondaland metaphor? True, I've never been implicated in a murder...or fallen for an elected official...or witnessed a loved one perish in a plane crash. But I am still hanging in there as the protagonist in the long-running serial that is my life. Everything selfishly revolving around me.

I have lived in L.A. long enough to see people come and go in waves. Within four months, I knew four individuals who left L.A. to pursue other endeavors earlier this year. Eight years (or seasons) ago, I witnessed another exodus: five people within two months, flying off into the sunset to star in their own spin-off vehicles.

And they keep coming and going. Sometimes I wish there was a loud, Hunger Games-style horn or gong that could be heard across the city each week, announcing in the sky the departure of those who no longer call L.A. home and heralding the arrival of their replacements -- fresh blood for the taking.

With that in mind, I like to think I'm a survivor of Los Angeles, a city known for chewing up and spitting out its population on a daily basis. And having honed in on such survival skills, I've become more aware of certain things.

Here are just a few personal observations I've made on the City of Angels after giving 14 years of my life to its boulevards, valleys, and beaches...

1. I can rock a parking space like no one's business.

2. Don't waste your time on those who don't wish to spend their time with you.

3. Avocado toast gives me life.

4. YouTubers are the new ingenues.

5. Publicists are the new pimps.

6. Enjoy and appreciate that cute, new coffee bar while it lasts because it will most likely be turned into an underwear boutique by this time next year. OR: If one of your favorite L.A. staples has been around for years/decades, most likely it will be shut down to make way for new apartments for the city's increasing population (again with the newbies moving here in droves each year). That said, an early R.I.P. to Amoeba Records in Hollywood.

7. Hearing from someone you haven't seen in years usually means they want something from you.

8. The Grove will always be a last resort when selecting a place to see a movie.

9. Instagram models with wholesome Midwestern backgrounds will inevitably end up gyrating their hips on boxes at FUBAR on Santa Monica Boulevard.

9. Carpooling is a great plan rarely executed.

10. When a friend captions a photo with #actorslife, it is completely acceptable to roll your eyes.

11. Based on the number of invites you'll get to someone's a.) stand-up show b.) improv show c.) gallery exhibit d.) independent movie premiere e.) self-help recruitment session or f.) fundraiser party, don't feel pressured to attend every single one of them. Keep a quota. Like one or two a year.

12. That friend who knows Joseph Gordon-Levitt's assistant's not a connection.

13. That TV pilot you wrote in your 20s...could use some retooling. Actually, not some. A LOT.

14. The longer you live in L.A. the less inclined you are to visiting annoyingly crowded areas (i.e. tourist traps like Hollywood & Highland, Santa Monica Pier, and again, The Grove). If you must play tour guide for out-of-towners, let them navigate those places on their own and save your time for showing them all the places you personally enjoy.

15. It's okay to rage with jealousy once in a while. It's healthy. Especially when a friend-of-a-friend you met 13 years ago (and meant to keep in touch with) goes on to become a writer-producer for one of the TV's biggest sitcoms...or when that underclassman from college goes on to become the creator/showrunner of a serialized thriller you could've created yourself...or when everyone's buying condos and houses while you've been holed up in the same apartment for a decade.

16. It's okay to go solo to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Because chances are you will bump into three or more people you know there.

17. Griffith Park and Runyon Canyon are great during the first 10 years. Then, it's time to move on to greener (and less crowded) places to get your cardio on. Like a foreign country.

18. There's a very fine line between calling in favors and emotional blackmail. Secrets can be a currency in this town. Make sure to save up on a few; you never know when you'll want to cash in. (So I've been told...)

19. No one reads your blog -- unless you're exposing those aforementioned secrets.


September 15, 2016

Obsession of the Week: The Fitness Marshall

People have been making fitness videos since the dawn of Jane Fonda, but there's one instructor on YouTube who's been helping folks burn calories for the past 2 years with fun dance moves set to some of Top 40's biggest hits.

Meet The Fitness Marshall (real name: Caleb Marshall) who brings an undeniably fun attitude (and sass) to a number of hip-hop-inspired dance lessons for all shapes and sizes (a huge plus and welcome inclusion, especially after years and years of seeing the same sculpted bodies in similar videos). And thanks to his retorts and side comments during each dance, you'll burn double the calories by laughing and moving at the same time.

Whether he's shaking some ass to Meghan Trainor (wait for that breakout moment at 1:01)...

Or educating us on "sexy serious face" during Ariana Grande's "Into You"...

...he's inspiring my lazy ass to start my mornings off right with some much-needed movement.


September 09, 2016

9 Britney Spears Songs That Should've Been Singles

With the arrival of Glory, her ninth studio album, Britney Spears has extended her discography with more pop fodder fans can chew on. (If you ask me, it's her best and most cohesive collection since 2003's In The Zone.) And on this new album are a bunch of hits-in-waiting, but will they ever be added to Top 40 radio rotation? We have yet to see. (If you ask me again, my picks for her next singles are "Clumsy," "What You Need," and "Hard To Forget Ya.")

Forget your standard retrospective of Brit's hits. Here are nine less familiar tracks from the past 16 years that deserved to be thrust into the spotlight and released as official singles. These are the gems most people will never have the pleasure of knowing. That's why I'm breaking them down for you right here, right now...

1. "Before the Goodbye" (2001, unreleased) - Produced by "godfather of electronica" BT (the guy responsible for 'NSYNC's "Pop"), this potential Top 40 track was a Calvin Harris-esque dance floor jam before anyone knew who Calvin Harris was. Just wait for that beat to drop at 1:40.

2. "Cinderella" (from 2001's Britney) - A close relative of 2000's "Stronger," this underrated piece was Brit's anthem, telling the world that she had no interest in being a princess anymore. The chorus is pure pop magic.

3. "Can't Make You Love Me" (from 2000's Oops...I Did It Again) - A quintessential Max Martin production from the turn of the century with a singalong chorus that works on all levels:

4. "Breathe on Me" (from 2003's In The Zone) - The early aughts were a time when Spears began experimenting with new sounds, much like the mellow electronic vibes she gave off here, accompanied by lyrics that make you sweat just by listening to them:

5. "Brave New Girl" (from 2003's In The Zone) - This go-go girl power track would've been a perfect companion piece or follow-up to megahit "Toxic," but sadly the record label shuffled this to the back of her fourth album.

6. "What You See Is What You Get" (from 2000's Oops...I Did It Again) - More Max Martin marvelousness:

7. "Scary" (2011, unreleased) - This Japanese import never made it to the American tracklist of Femme Fatale, and it's a shame, because we could've used a hypnotherapy call-to-action in pop.

8. "Alien" (from 2013's Britney Jean) - The critical and commercial dud that was her eighth album at least offered this debatably redeemable track. It's weird af, but still listenable.

9. "Shadow" (from 2003's In The Zone) - This electro power ballad is delicious treacle that sounds like it came from a straight-to-DVD, pre-Twilight vampire romance.


September 06, 2016

THE COOLDOWN: The 2016 Fall Playlist

Labor Day is over. Done. Finito. And sadly, so is summer.

And while some of you will be bracing for the onslaught of pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING, I have gone ahead and prepped a playlist that shall get you through the next three foliage-filled months.

Once again, keep coming back as I'll be adding more tunes to this goodness.


And thanks to @nicotortorella on Instagram for the cool image that inspired the above cover.


Catfights, Cleavage and Carrie-Anne Moss: 'Models Inc.' Turns 25

In the early 90s, as anyone familiar with the oeuvre of uber-producer Aaron Spelling knows, the successful  Beverly Hills, 90210 begat ...