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Showing posts from 2020

SHIVER: The 2021 Winter Playlist

Four out of four Santas agree: once you've grown tired of hearing Mariah Carey belt out holiday tunes for the umpteenth time, plug into this playlist that will help you embrace the frigid temps (and the frosty new year). New singles from Ava Max, Troye Sivan, Roosevelt, and Britney Spears featuring Backstreet Boys (what is this, 2000?) should keep you warm enough for the next couple of months... @TheFirstEcho

The 2020 Review: 10 Great Songs of the Year

Given the kind of year it was, it makes sense that my favorite songs of 2020 all share a certain retro vibe that transported me back to certain eras from the past forty years. These are the men and women who produced earworms, crafted lyrics, and gave good vocals to help me (and some of you) get through our national crisis... 1. "Midnight Sky" by Miley Cyrus - Here's the thing: Miley is well aware of your Stevie Nicks comments, and yet she went ahead and delivered this glorious slice of rebellion that she admits is inspired by the Fleetwood Mac queen. The result is an irresistible 21st-century homage to "Edge of Seventeen" that manages to do what so few songs in 2020 could: get better with every listen. And if it wasn't exactly your rhinestone-studded cup of tea, she "don't need to be loved by you." 2. "If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)" by The 1975 - The group's best track from Notes on a Conditional Form is a synth-and-s

A Requiem for 2020

As I start to write this, news from Kentucky has come in, announcing the devastating verdict in the trial for the killing of Breonna Taylor. It is yet another soul-crushing development that has become characteristically and dreadfully de rigueur for 2020. It arrives just days after the untimely death of American pioneer Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Her passing spreads across social media with countless sad emojis populating people's posts and comments about the outstanding legacy of the Supreme Court Justice, a real-life superhero. That announcement comes just weeks after the death of Chadwick Boseman, a man who portrayed a fictional superhero and represented so much to so many. Meanwhile, the air quality in Southern California has finally improved after a week of the worst conditions I have experienced in the two decades I've lived in Los Angeles. While a sizable portion of the country is on fire, another is drowning in floods caused by back-to-back hurricanes. All Halloween activitie

Hallmark Channel Presents: A Christmas in Quarantine

This holiday season, marketing exec Maggie Whitewoman returns to her hometown to spend Christmas with her family. But first, to keep her loved ones safe, she'll have to spend a week in quarantine, renting out a cozy lodge owned by handsome carpenter (and widower) Ben Blandlyhot. Soon, when Maggie can't take any more Zoom meetings for work, she finds herself helping Ben make festive face masks for the townspeople - just in time for the annual Christmas Eve Festival - and finds that love can blossom even in isolation. But will Maggie give up a career (and a hard-earned Master's degree) to move back to a town where the most ethnic thing about it is an Italian restaurant owned by an Irish ex-pat from the Bronx? Starring That Actress from That 90s Teen Show Who Can't Get Cast in Anything Else and That Former Soap Hunk Who's Really a Closeted Conservative, it's... A Christmas in Quarantine . Then, stay tuned for A Very Covid Christmas : When Susan Goodchristian catche

#TBT: JJ, Can You Hear Me?

Your early 20s are for being obnoxiously ambitious enough to get a friend to design your cover letter and resume for television writer-producer-director extraordinaire JJ Abrams. Little did I know that, one year later, I would “accidentally” cut him in line at the sushi bar inside the afterparty for the premiere of Star Wars: Episode III . @TheFirstEcho

I Am No Longer Proud To Be An American

Regardless of the official election results and what happens over the next several days, I can legitimately say that I am no longer proud to be an American.  And no, these aren’t the overdramatic words of a “liberal snowflake.” These are the words of a rational, fact-driven, empathetic U.S. citizen who has seen millions and millions vote (again) for a destructive, corrupt "leader." It is more than disappointing. It is soul-crushing. It represents the further erosion of the word that supposedly describes these States - "united." It is the extinction of morals. Many pundits and think pieces will attempt to explain and dissect the results of this election, but for me, it won’t matter anymore. I’ve done the reading. I’ve listened to dissenting sides. Yet I still cannot be proud to live in a country where the actions of countless people continue to support racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, treason, and blatant disrespect for the Constitution. I can no longer be p

So...I'm an Emmy Winner Now

Some good (albeit delayed) news during what has been a rather terrible year: The award-winning team at Known (formerly Stun Creative, where I've worked as a copywriter and creative manager for the past seven years) has added another accolade to its already trophy-heavy shelf: a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Daytime Promotional Announcement - Topical.  The promo we produced was for the Jeopardy! All-Star Games, and our director, Joel Lava , put together this little announcement video to celebrate our victory: And yes, this means I get my own personal statue with my name engraved on it . But now, a dilemma: where do I put her? #BabysFirstEmmy. @TheFirstEcho

Review: 'Dramarama'

  Back in 2003, Todd Graff’s Camp was a hilarious look at a particular species of high schooler, one that rarely receives fair representation in movies: the theater geek. The indie darling, which featured a literal scene-stealing Anna Kendrick , was a joyous celebration of teens who’d rather play Sondheim than sports and make vintage pop culture references that would fly over the heads of their non-musical peers.  Seventeen years later, writer-director Jonathan Wysocki continues that celebration — this time, adding a touch of 90s nostalgia — with the funny, tender, and heartwarming Dramarama . However, rather than putting present-day theater geeks in their element, Wysocki places his teens off-stage at a murder-mystery-themed slumber party in the California suburbs of 1994 (starting off in period costumes based on literary figures no less). And instead of obsessing over sex like characters in most hormonal teen romps, these friends partake in antics like quoting Tennessee Williams in

'Schitt's Creek' Now Shares an Honor with 'The Golden Girls'

After watching last night's enjoyable "Pandemmys," I realized that Schitt's Creek now shares the same honor as three other Best Comedy winners (two of which are my all-time faves - just saying). The highly-acclaimed show now joins Will & Grace , The Golden Girls , and All in the Family as the fourth comedy series in TV history in which each one of its four principal cast members has won a primetime Emmy. And Schitt's also makes history by becoming the first-ever comedy series to sweep all four major acting categories in one single year. In a word, wow. @TheFirstEcho

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: @TheFirstEcho

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 fi

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 mo

#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

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 Palisades ,  Titans ) 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 to

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.

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. @TheFirstEcho

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. @TheFirstEcho

#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. @TheFirstEcho

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

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

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 nai