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Showing posts from 2020

Foxes' "Friends in the Corner": An Anthem for Pandemic Ennui

"Everybody's looking like they need someone..." And so goes the chorus in "Friends in the Corner," the latest single from Foxes, the British singer-songwriter responsible for (in my opinion) the best pop song of 2015. Anyway, after surviving our first Summer of COVID (I say "first" because, given recent developments, it looks like a widespread vaccine won't be avail until late 2021), we have an anthem that taps into the many conflicting emotions that many of us have been dealing with during these past six months. This gorgeous, mid-tempo track was originally written in remembrance of a loved one, but given the way 2020 keeps rolling out the punches (RIP R.B.G.), the lyrics have taken on a devastating double meaning, diving deep into themes of nostalgia, longing, and overall melancholy. And when you're done watching the heartbreaking video, check out the beautiful acoustic version.@TheFirstEcho

FADE: The 2020 Fall Playlist

We all need a little distraction to help us ride out the rest of the year...and this collection of tunes is designed to do just that. Take a cue from Katy Perry and "Cry About It Later." Take a late-night drive while you blare Miley Cyrus and cruise into that "Midnight Sky." Let your spirit soar like "1000 Doves." And while you're at it, allow yourself to get "Lost In Yesterday" as Tame Impala does.

Take a deep breath. And press play:


Goodbye Glendon Avenue

After more than thirteen years, twelve holiday cocktail parties, seven roommates, and one burglary, I have finally left the 90024 and everything else the westside has to offer. Last weekend I became an eastsider -- kind of. There's a one-bedroom with new hardwood floors and kitchen appliances with my name on it, smack dab at the border of Hollywood and Los Feliz. 
The move is definitely bittersweet and has been a long time coming. The memories made on Glendon Avenue are too many to count, so I won't bore you with never-ending paragraphs of sentimental moments. However, after spending a majority of my LA life here, leaving Apartment 103 (during a pandemic AND the year I turned 40, no less) carries the emotional weight that usually comes with the end of a monumental chapter. So perhaps a Top 10 list of the most memorable moments will be appropriate (whenever I have the time to come up with one).
From here on out, my view of the city will be altered and renewed, literally and figur…

Adventures in Entertainment Journalism: The Curious Case of the Celebrity Roundtable

[*Also published on Medium]

Back in 2011, I made the wise decision to quit my comfy full-time job at a reputable production company to pursue more freelance opportunities as a writer. I have italicized the word "wise" to clearly emphasize my sarcasm because, in hindsight, it was a poorly informed decision that led to inevitable worry and depression brought on by unemployment. 2012 was not a very good year for me, emotionally and financially, but ironically, it was a great year for brushing shoulders with a crap-ton of celebrities.

My idea to live off gigs writing TV commercial pitches and treatments for directors while paying rent that would require me to book at least two assignments a week was, to the dismay of my 31-year-old ass, naive at best. To occupy my time in between lulls, I managed and wrote the now-defunct blog Hotter in Hollywood (see: its VERY dated trailer) while turning to other small, independent entertainment websites and publications to write movie review…

#TBT: The Golden Girls Receive a Confederacy Lesson from Don Cheadle

Now that Hulu has dropped "Mixed Blessings," the 1988 episode of The Golden Girls featuring an interracial marriage between Dorothy's son and an older black woman that some people argue contains a blackface joke (or not), it's time to bring a little more positive attention to a 1992 episode of The Golden Palace, the short-lived spinoff that featured three-fourths of the girls buying a fledgling Miami Beach hotel and employing a small crew of co-stars. (It's also considered the unofficial eighth season of the iconic, original sitcom.)

This particular episode, titled "Camp Town Races Aren't Nearly as Much Fun as They Used To Be," originally aired in 1992, and I can't help but think this was written as a result of the social unrest brought on by the aftermath of the Rodney King police brutality case earlier that year. However, it is eerily, devastatingly relevant in 2020.

Here, when the Daughters of the Traditional South are set to arrive at the h…

Everything I Learned About L.A. I Learned From 'Melrose Place'

It's been eighteen years since I booked a one-way ticket to L.A. after graduating from college. It's been eighteen years since I left my native New York as the umpteenth, hopeful, naive twentysomething who was looking to pursue a successful career in the entertainment industry.

Up until that point in my life, Los Angeles, to me, was the fascinating jewel crown of the West Coast, a glimmering city full of beautiful people and fabulous places where beautiful people mingled with each other and, yes, slept with other beautiful people. This impression was mostly informed by a steady and possibly unhealthy diet of Aaron Spelling dramas (Beverly Hills, 90210, Models Inc., Malibu Shores, Pacific PalisadesTitans) throughout my formative years. But none had affected me as much as the 90s pop culture phenom that was Melrose Place.

Now, for the random GenZ-er who may be reading this, Melrose Place was a nighttime soap that ran from 1992 to 1999 for a head-spinning total of 230 episodes…

Revisit "Prom Night" with The Midnight's New Nostalgic Single

I was admittedly late to the party when I came across The Midnight back in 2018 and first listened to "Los Angeles," their gorgeous anthem for the City of Angels that I tend to play on repeat should I find myself on a late-night drive down Santa Monica Boulevard. (I regrettably missed their stop in L.A. during last year's North America tour as well.) That said, the track is essential listening for anyone who wishes to channel their inner Andrew McCarthy or Jami Gertz circa Less Than Zero.

Now, the synthwave duo (a.k.a. Tim McEwan and Tyler Lyle) have a new album on the neon horizon (Monsters, July 10). And after releasing "Deep Blue" and "Dance With Somebody," two singles with enough saxophone bridges to transport you back to the late 80s, they have dropped "Prom Night," a track packed with plenty of smooth vocals and nostalgic vibes that should have music supervisors of future teen rom-coms on Netflix scrambling to license.

And if you coul…

The Summer of Synth: An Escapist Playlist

Bonus Summer Playlist Alert!
This compilation may sound like a mixtape from 1987, but it's really a collection of songs from 21st century synthwave artists you need add to your digital library...especially those of you who'd like to temporarily escape the horrors of 2020 and be whisked away to a neon-tinged time filled with euphoric soundscapes an an occasional saxophone riff. 
Kicking things off is FM-84's "Running in the Night," an epic track from 2016 that is elevated by emotional vocals from UK singer Ollie Wride. Since discovering it late last year, the highly repeatable single has become one of my all-time favorite songs, perfect for nighttime drives and everywhere else. Other highlights include "Lightyears," a recent drop from Dream Fiend featuring September 87 (check out the awesomely retro sci-fi music vid) and "Sunset" from duo The Midnight, a synthwave staple.

Black Voices Heard: 4 Song Recommendations

Four songs (and artists) I can’t recommend enough:

1. “Forever Tonight” by Kelechi: An 80s-inspired track designed to inspire anyone who thought love was “just a fairy tale.” Favorite lyric: “kiss me like we’re out of time.” This one continues to be on heavy rotation ever since I added it to last year's Fall Playlist.

2. “The Worst In Me” by KAYTRANADA feat. Tinashe: The Haitian-Canadian DJ provides a well-deserved four-on-the-floor groove for the R&B singer.

3. “Be Me” by VINCINT: A sparkling, uplifting anthem just in time for Pride season.

4. “Boys!” by Bronze Avery: A silky-smooth, synth-laden summer jam produced for poolside lounging.


#ShareBlackStories: 4 Book Recommendations

I cannot recommend these books enough:

Hunger by Roxane Gay: a raw memoir about the culture critic’s painful childhood which led to an experience living in a body she calls “wildly undisciplined.”

This Is Kind of An Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender: The non-binary author dedicates this story about a Seattle teen who falls in love with his childhood best friend to “#QPOC everywhere.”

Dinner for Two by Mike Gayle: A 30something music journalist loses his job and becomes an advice columnist for a teen magazine where he receives a letter from the teen daughter he never knew he had.

Becoming by Michelle Obama: The former First Lady beautifully details her life before and after becoming a part of a historic and groundbreaking chapter in American politics.


Songs of the Month: June 2020

Usually, around this time of year, I find a song that will end up being prominently featured on my summer playlist, a current poolside bop that makes me feel alive. One of those tracks that will dominate the season, forever associated with life between May and August.

However, the Summer of 2020 – hell, the entire year – is unlike any I've ever experienced in my life thus far. It's proving to be the most challenging, stressful, and emotionally draining, and there are no words right now to articulate how I'm dealing with what is going on in the world as I write this. Therefore, I'm traveling back in time to revisit one of my all-time favorite songs, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," by Tears for Fears, taken from their iconic album Songs From The Big Chair (and from the opening credits of one of my favorite British films). Thirty-five years after its release, it still hits all the right marks and could very well be a theme song for these gut-wrenching time…

I Miss So Much

I miss hugs.

I miss sitting in a crowded restaurant, enjoying a delicious dinner and several glasses of wine with several friends, grateful for having made a reservation ahead of time.

I miss going to the movies at least once a week, smelling that popcorn as soon as I enter the theater lobby, my Pavlovian response kicking in.

I miss hosting an impromptu movie night at home, having several friends gather in my living room, passing around a giant bowl of popcorn.

I miss game nights that didn't require our phones or clicking on a link and huddling over my laptop.

I miss attending a live performance by an artist I love and respect.

I miss boarding a plane at least twice a year and the subsequent excitement and joy of flying off to a destination to unwind and escape demands of my job.

I miss ordering some guilty pleasure food at a mall food court.

View this post on Instagram

I miss this. All of it. A post shared by H I K O (@thefirstecho) on May 19, 2020 at 3:25pm PDT

America is a Cocky, Unruly Teenager

I recently revisited Can't Hardly Wait, the seminal 90s teen comedy about the various members of the Class of '98 coming together for a giant house party, one last hurrah before they all go on their separate paths. The movie has a special VIP section roped off within the chambers of my heart because I too am a member of the Class of '98. Watching it in the theater back in June of that year was the first time I had watched characters my own age go through something I was concurrently experiencing.

Like most mainstream teen movies, Can't Hardly Wait features an array of stock characters, most notably the pompous jock, the socially anxious nerd, and a posse of popular pretty girls. There is wild and reckless behavior, fueled by the requisite drugs and alcohol, along with an inevitable reckoning and several lessons learned by everyone. Like most mainstream teen movies, its characters are focused on the here-and-now, uncertain about their future, yet full of naive hope. An…

Kimberly Shaw Blew Up 'Melrose Place' 25 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. It was a delicious convergence of storylines that cemented the prime-time soap's legendary status in pop culture.

After two seasons of being betrayed, bothered, and bitchslapped, Dr. Kimberly Shaw (the marvelously wicked Marcia Cross, nearly a decade before she became one of the Desperate Housewives) had plenty of reasons to hate just about everyone who resided at the titular poolside apartment complex. She hated Michael for driving drunk and getting her into the car accident that ruined her life. She hated Matt for helping Michael hide damning evidence against him and for literally snatching her wig. She hated Sydney, Michael's former sister-in-law, for sleeping with him. She hated Jane, Michael's ex-wife, after Kimberly's plan to frame her for Michael's hit-and-run backfired. She hated Amanda for nearl…

BURNT: The 2020 Summer Playlist

Before we all start brainstorming nicknames for the Summer of 2020 (Coronasummer, Summer of COVID...), let's take a moment to appreciate and be thankful for what we already have. And one of those things is the gift of music, songs we can blare during these next few months to help us lift our spirits and keep our asses moving.
Seriously, there are some tracks here ("Rain on Me," "Hallucinate") that'll make you long for the days of dancing in a crowd on a hot summer night. Others will surely conjure up images of backyard barbecues, pool parties, and outdoor concerts (R.I.P. Hollywood Bowl's 2020 Season.) So go ahead, press play, and make sure to revisit this playlist as I'll be adding more goodness to it over the next month. 
Because every summer, no matter how shitty things are, deserves a spectacular soundtrack.

How to Get Away with the Most Inclusive Casting on Network TV

When it premiered in the fall of 2014, How to Get Away with Murder followed in the footsteps of uber-producer Shonda Rhimes's other buzz-worthy drama, Scandal, by putting an African-American woman front and center as the lead of a primetime drama on a broadcast television network. And not only was she black; she was a woman of certain age (nearing 50) and black. It's both sad and frustrating to see how those seemingly simple traits were considered groundbreaking just six years ago, a time when the other majors were still picking up pilots centered around (mostly) white male doctors, cops, and lawyers.
But after a first season that proved to be as refreshingly compelling as any cable drama and earned star Viola Davis a well-deserved and historic Emmy, the drama about law professor Annalise Keating and her students getting embroiled in countless murder plots...went even further. Not only was Annalise middle-aged and black, she was also bisexual. (We saw her sleep with her white…

Music Therapy: Words of Wisdom from the Spice Girls

Sometimes you need some late-90s disco accompanied by flutes and frog ribbits to help you temporarily forget the dire state of the world. And "Never Give Up On The Good Times" from the Spice Girls is that retro jam we all need. It's all there in the song's title, a seven-word slice of advice that carries so much hope.

And if this track from their 1997 sophomore album, Spiceworld, doesn't lift your spirits or make you want to hop on the bed with a feather boa...then please take your soulless self somewhere else.


That Time Raven-Symoné and I Kicked Some Game Show Butt

In case you missed my performance on 25 Words of Less back in November, the entire episode is now available on the game show's YouTube channel. Feel free to watch me and several celebs compete in some wordplay. (And you know I love me some words.)

Semi-spoiler alert: I made it to the final round, but did I win the grand prize? Click to find out:


Current Mood: The 1994 Opening Credits from Part 2 of Stephen King's 'The Stand'

For one week in May of 1994 millions of Americans, including 14-year-old me, were glued to their TVs to watch the ABC miniseries adaptation of Stephen's King's doomsday epic The Stand (back when broadcast networks invested in miniseries). Throughout four nights, we witnessed a fictitious "superflu" wipe out most of the world's population and leave behind a band of survivors who either fell in line with The Good (Ruby Dee's nurturing Mother Abigail) or The Evil (Jamey Sheridan's sinister Randall Flagg).

As eerie and morbid as it would be to watch this six-hour teleplay today (I own the DVD set), I find myself drawn to one particular sequence twenty-six years later...

The below clip is taken from the opening of Part Two of the miniseries. It features the characters Frannie and Harold, respectively played by 80s icon Molly Ringwald and short-lived 90s icon Corin Nemec. The childhood friends console each other while coming to terms with the end of the world …

Mother Earth's To-Do List

...and something tells me she has more up her sleeve.

Cheeky girl.


World Wide Width: Confessions of a Fat-Footed 12-Year-Old

I've been blessed with what my mother refers to as "pork chop feet."

It's neither a sizable trust fund, an antique jewelry box, nor a collection of vintage hardcover novels that I have inherited from both my mother and my father. No, what has been passed down to me is the inconvenient genetic anomaly that is...wide feet.

Below is a picture of a Brannock device, a tool with which I was quite familiar every time my mother would take me to the mall to buy new shoes for the school year. Placing my foot on the cold metal, a sweaty middle-aged salesman would usually comment on how wide my foot was and that I've grown another inch!

"You don't say, Captain Obvious," I wanted to reply. "How about you go to the back room and fetch me some shoes before you go back home to your loveless marriage?"

Having wide feet was, and still is, a pain in the ass. It was especially frustrating back then because I was relegated to certain brands of sneakers or -- …

Song of the Month: May 2020

All you have to know about the latest single from The 1975, "If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)" is that, when you listen to it, you can't help but picture yourself cruising down Santa Monica Boulevard in a neon convertible with Andrew McCarthy and Jami Gertz during the summer of 1987...

Or is that just me?

Oh, and three more words: Killer. Sax. Solo.

And make sure to catch the live music video that premiered a few days ago here.
Needless to say, this is getting an early slot on my upcoming summer playlist.