October 30, 2017
It was the highly anticipated album known for transforming a sugary-sweet pop princess into a feisty, cornrowed, assless chaps-wearing wild child.
Stripped, Christina Aguilera's sophomoric follow-up to her self-titled debut, was released this week in 2002. From the lead single and its grimy music video ("Dirrty" -- cue the STD jokes!) to the provocative black-and-white cover, it flaunted its ambition from the get-go. It was the then-21-year-old singer's attempt to break out from the teen pop mold that had its grip on her at the turn of the 21st century. The introductory track made the message abundantly clear: "Sorry you can't define me/ Sorry I break the mold/ Sorry that I speak my mind/ Sorry don't do what I'm told." Behold "Xtina" and her bold, new sounds!
Some critics were quick to dismiss the disc, calling it a kind of schizophrenic mess as it jumped from hip-hop-flavored dance anthems (the aforementioned single, which still gets club play today) to rock-tinged foot stompers ("Fighter") to inspirational ballads ("Beautiful," "Soar," "The Voice Within"). What other artist her age (remember, 21) had the gall to experiment with such range at the time?
Back then, she was damned if she stayed predictable, and she was damned if she moved away from formulaic fodder. And now, in hindsight, we're glad she took the risk, showed off those piercings, and layered on the "hooker" makeup.
For more on this special pop anniversary, check out my latest at Huffington Post HERE.
October 17, 2017
If you've ever fantasized about being in your own personal Blade Runner or Tron adventure, then I highly recommend listening to the supersonic sounds of Scandroid, "the modern Synthwave project from Detroit-based artist/producer Klayton Celldweller."
His first self-titled album (below) is clearly a musical love letter to 80s New Wave and includes a cover of Tears for Fears's "Shout" (at 16:04) that will tide you over until his second album, Monochrome, drops on October 27.
Also worth trying out is Scandroid's rendition of Michael Jackson's "Thriller," which would normally seem blasphemous, but this cover surprisingly works and is screaming for some rotations at Halloween parties everywhere:
Oh, and did I mention his remake of the Star Wars theme?
Forgive me in advance for the obnoxious travel photos and stories I will inevitably post on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter next month.
I am fortunate enough to have been invited to cover and write about the 2017 Los Cabos International Film Festival down in Mexico while staying at Secrets Puerto Los Cabos Golf and Spa Resort. I am anticipating four days of food, films, festivities, and overall decadence that will undoubtedly add a few pounds -- just in time for the holidays. Great.
Although...it would be nice to have a suntan in time for Thanksgiving...
Since I'm a TV junkie who's a sucker for nostalgia, I was invited to be a guest on Very Special Television, a podcast that discusses "a very special episode" of a sitcom from the 80s or 90s.
However, due to the recent trend of #MeToo on social media, I realize the sensitive topic discussed within this episode (which was recorded over a week ago) eerily aligns with recent Weinstein-stained headlines. The timing of this episode's release is odd, to say the least.
Since I was the guest, I got to choose the episode. It comes from one of my all-time favorite sitcoms, Roseanne, which dealt with abuse in a way I had never seen on television at the time. It stuck with me as a kid, and 24 years later, it still resonates and holds up as a brilliant piece of television.
Give it a listen, and if you like (despite the bad jokes at the top), subscribe to these guys on iTunes or Soundcloud:
October 09, 2017
As I settle into old age ("old" by Los Angeles standards) there are few things that'll make me squeal like a girl being serenaded by Shawn Mendes during her sweet sixteen.
First, there's the trailer for Crooked House. It stars a bunch of veteran actors (Glenn Close, is there no scene you haven't chewed up?), but most notably, it features Gillian Anderson in a dramatic Cleopatra wig trying not to look suspicious while a hottie detective investigates a creepy family in the British countryside. Throw in the words "based on Agatha Christie's most twisted tale" and a title card that basically says, "adapted by the bloke who gave us Downton Abbey," and you have Anglophile catnip. In other words, I. AM. IN.
And then there's the return of The X-Files in which Anderson's Scully, after 25 long years, finally gets up close and personal with some extraterrestrial baddies, kicks ass, takes names, and proceeds to kick more ass -- all accompanied by a nifty cover of The Cranberries' "Zombie."
I was lukewarm on the previous round of this reboot, but I am more cautiously optimistic for these next installments.
October 02, 2017
When someone says "prayers aren't enough" during a horrific tragedy like this, please don't construe this as an attack on religion.
Of course, thinking about the victims and their families -- having that moment of sympathy -- is natural. It's human. You can certainly keep them in your thoughts, and if you refer to those thoughts as "prayers," then so be it. But then take a moment to realize that won't be enough. Because a "prayer" is a conditioned, Puritanical response that was created hundreds of years ago to deal with horror in this country.
At this point, in this nightmarish day and age, we should be smarter, more sophisticated, to know that a prayer does not hold the same weight as taking action. A prayer does not get a bill signed or a law passed. A prayer does not stop more bullets from being fired. A prayer does not create physical, tangible change for the better. (And, I realize, neither do self-indulgent online rants like this one.)
Responsible action does.
Next up: ask yourself why this country has such a long, drawn-out, unhealthy, codependent love affair with guns.
Is it because a bunch of men said it was our "right" hundreds of years ago, sealing the deal on a piece of parchment that was written to protect our ancestors from invaders?
Is it because that law has been ingrained into our minds -- embedded in our culture -- so much that it has transformed into a warped and dangerous sense of entitlement?
Is it because we have a government that has devolved to the point where it ultimately doesn't care about the physical and mental well-being of its citizens, therefore leading to more people taking matters into their own hands, therefore leading to more people suffering at the hands of those who react violently, victims themselves of a corrupt power?
Is it because we constantly seek thrills on the big screen, month after month, year after year, numbing ourselves while watching an indestructible hero blast bad guys with an obscene arsenal, igniting our own fantasies in which we blow away our enemies?
Is it because we don't know how to process negative feelings because we've created a culture that has failed to teach us how to properly process them, and as a result, has trapped us in a vicious cycle?
Is it because we've reached the point of no return?
Ask yourself all of this. And then ask it again. Because we know the opportunity to ask these questions will sadly present itself again.
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