Before They Were Cool

Most of you have probably heard the term, “I liked ______ before he/she/it/they were cool,” at least once. It becomes a point of pride for some folks, when something underrated suddenly explodes in popularity, and they can claim that they have been a fan since the start, or nearly the start. Or, they can lord it over everyone else’s heads in order to feel superior, but let’s hope most prefer the former course of action.

For example, people who read A Game of Thrones back when the first book was released can make this statement, as opposed to those of us who jumped on that bandwagon thanks to the HBO show. That’s a claim I certainly can’t make… mostly because I was 4 years old when the first book came out, but also because I only read them because I wanted to watch the show.

I actually only have one claim like this – that I can think of at the moment, anyway. I was a fan of the band fun. before they really hit it big in the mainstream with “Some Nights,” back when they released songs like, “Be Calm,” and “Light a Roman Candle With Me,” the latter of which is still one of my favorite tracks. When folks were just discovering them thanks to “We Are Young,” I could proudly (and obnoxiously) say that I knew them before they were cool. Though I suppose anyone who listened to The Format can probably claim the same. It remains a small point of pride for me whenever one of their songs come on the radio.

So… does anyone else have something, or someone, that they liked “before it was cool”? Because if so, I would LOVE to hear it!!!

 

Current Tunes #5

AKMU – How People Move
Since my trek to the Blackpink concert earlier this month, my interest in K-pop has reignited a bit. I only just discovered this brother-sister duo, and I am obsessed with them. They have such a unique style and sound that is incredibly pleasant to listen to. This particular song, an upbeat, jazzy number, is easily my favorite. If you are intrigued by the intimidating world of K-pop, but aren’t a fan of “standard” pop music in general, AKMU might be the best place to start.

Blackpink – As if It’s Your Last
Aaaand speaking of K-pop, I’ve been on a Blackpink kick ever since attending their concert at the Prudential Center. This song is my hands-down favorite. It gives me “magical girl” vibes, if that makes any sense – it’s kind of like a classic anime opening, with a more modern twist in the rapping parts.

Chloe x Halle – Wolf at Your Door
This selection comes from the album “For the Throne,” which features songs inspired by Game of Thrones. It’s my favorite song on the album, mixing R&B with lyrics reminiscent of favorite characters and scenes from the series. I love the sound of this one the most, though I do have a few of the other tracks from the album on my recent playlist as well. If you’re mourning the end of the show, give this song – and the rest of the album – a listen.

Raleigh Ritchie – Time in a Tree
Aaaand speaking of Game of Thrones, Grey Worm – or Jacob Anderson, also known as Raleigh Ritchie – is a recording artist! I’ve liked a lot of his previous work, and his lyrics always convey a powerful message to make the listener think. In this song, I especially like the refrain, but also “I get wound up, from the ground up / And I don’t know why / Turn the sound up, drown the noise out / Swallow, don’t cry / Got an anxious heart, and it’s stone made / Can’t take paper or heartbreak.” He’s great – if you haven’t listened to him before, give this song a listen!

A Perfect Circle – So Long, and Thanks for All The Fish
Who doesn’t love a topical rock song that references what is afflicting society during this day and age? I sure do. And this one is super catchy. Worth listening to just for the lyrics.

Utada Hikaru – Don’t Think Twice
This song serves as the English theme for the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts III, released this past January for the PS4. The predecessors of this song – Simple and Clean, and Sanctuary, the themes for Kingdom Hearts I and IIrespectively – pop up in my playlists now and again, but this one is a new addition that is frequently played. It might mean more to me as a fan of the series, because it makes me think of the game when I listen to it…. but also Utada is queen.

Zac Efron and Zendaya – Rewrite the Stars
I am not on the The Greatest Showman bandwagon. Haven’t seen it, and don’t plan to – though I love all of the actors in it. But I gotta say, the soundtrack is a banger. I’ve only recently listened to the soundtrack in depth, and I adore this song the most. Gotta love the whole “star-crossed lovers, but we can’t be together because society hates it” angle. It works, and this song sounds beautiful and has a crazy good replay factor. Also, I love Zendaya.

(My Game of Thrones season 8 post will be on Monday!)

Never Forget

Everyone has things that they will never forget. And I mean never. They become so ingrained they can be conjured from the depths of your brain at any moment. For me, it’s mostly music/songs that I listened to so frequently I will never forget the lyrics, no matter how much time passes.

For example, I remember almost all of the songs from the original Pokemon series. The theme song is forever emblazoned in my memory, as are such hit tracks as Double Trouble, Together 4ever, Pokemon World, and Viridian City. I used to be able to fully recite the Pokerap as well, but I no longer remember the order of the segments. I can still do most of the parts, though. I also remember the entirety of Lugia’s song from the tragically underrated Pokemon the Movie 2000. That movie is fire, though I’m more of a Ho-oh girl myself…

The Spongebob Squarepants theme is forever branded in my memory, as I’m sure it is for many folks in my generation. However, I also know several of the insert songs by heart because I had the CD and it used to be on repeat. I was obsessed with Spongebob and continue to watch the occasional episode, and I still find the jokes hilarious. As such, I can quote many, many lines from the show, and often do. “Who you callin’ pinhead?” is a favorite, which confuses many people when I drop it into casual conversation, and I’m also partial to “The inner machinations of my mind are an enigma,” and “The walls will ooze green slime?!?!?! Oh wait, they always do that…” and, “But don’t geniuses live in a lamp?” Patrick Star is a quote goldmine, y’all.

Veggie Tales theme song? I’ve got it in the brain bank. That, and Barbara Manatee, Where is My Hairbrush, The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything, and the Water Buffalo Song. This is because in my youth, I helped babysit at church every Thursday night during choir practice, and the only VHS tapes we had in the nursery area were Veggie Tales. So I have seen them many, many, many times. Too many, one might say. And though I haven’t watched Veggie Tales in over a decade, most of the songs shall remain in my memory forever… Oh, Barabara Manatee… you are the one for me!!!! Ugh. If you don’t know what Veggie Tales is, I highly recommend you google it.

I used to know all the words to every opening and ending theme of the anime Inuyasha, which are in Japanese. I used to listen to the CD’s over and over and over, though I haven’t listened to them in years – they were the first CD’s I imported from Japan, way back in 7th grade, when my anime obsession really took root. If pressed, I probably can still do a couple of them in a very off-key manner – at least the ones by Do As Infinity, who I still listen to, or Every Little Thing. I used to put in the DVD’s of the movies just to listen to the opening and ending themes. I can’t speak much Japanese, but I can sing it!

All the songs to Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and Les Mis? I’ve got em. You don’t want to hear me sing them, though. Cats might actually be a bit rusty, so I should probably put the soundtrack on repeat…

So, anyone else experience this? A song or a poem that, even as years go by, you will never, ever forget?

Guilty

When the well of inspiration runs dry, there are a few methods that I utilize to get myself back on track. I have mentioned a few in previous posts, but I must admit, I have one trick that also counts as a “guilty pleasure” of sorts…

When I get stuck, and the creative juices simply won’t flow, I turn to someone named Taylor. Of course, I mean Taylor Swift. And not “Look What You Made Me Do,” T-Swift. I mean old-school, with a few 1989 selections sprinkled in thereAs someone who is more of an indie/folk/punk/rock person, who also dabbles in film/video game OSTs and Asian pop music, Taylor Swift is not someone you would expect to find on my playlist. It doesn’t jive with the image I project, let’s say.

But there’s something about her old music that gets me. “Enchanted” is probably my all-time favorite, but I’m also partial to “Red” and “Forever and Always.” The lyrics are simple, but strong and thoughtful. The melodies are catchy and assist in carrying the message of each song. They’re good songs. And for some reason, they connect with my psyche enough to give me a boost when I need inspiration.

When my standard lineup of MCR, Mumford & Sons, Bear’s Den, First Aid Kit, Aurora, etc, fails, I turn to my friend Taylor. Even though this method fits the description of a “guilty pleasure,” who am I to care? As long as it works, old-school T-Swift shall remain a beacon of motivation in my iTunes.

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Film Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

Dir: Ol Parker
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Dominic Cooper, Stellan Skarsgård, Colin Firth, Andy Garcia, Cher, Meryl Streep, etc.
Runtime: 1hr54min
Rating: PG-13
Spoiler level: Some small tidbits, but nothing major.

Ten years ago, Mamma Mia! hit theaters. I went to see it with a high school friend and my mom, and was blown away by how fun it was. Now, the theater we saw it in has been remodeled, and our lives have changed significantly over the last decade – but on Sunday, that same friend, my mother, and I all met up for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. And, yet again, I emerged from the theater humming an ABBA tune and quelling the urge to dance all the way to my car.

Mamma_Mia!_Here_We_Go_Again.png

Acting as both a sequel and a prequel to 2008’s Mamma Mia!, Here We Go Again is a rom/com musical that follows Sophie (Seyfried) as she attempts to embark on a new chapter in her life, which somewhat mirrors her mother Donna’s (James) journey to Greece back in 1979.

Following in the first film’s joyful, if occasionally silly footsteps, Mamma Mia! Here We Go again is a charming summer romp with plenty of heart and laughter. Amidst the jaunty song and dance numbers, it also offers a surprisingly meaningful message about love and family. Sure, it’s a sequel no one asked for – but let’s be real, here. This film has Cher, and ABBA music. What more could you want?

First, you can’t talk about this film without mentioning the music. Particular highlights for me include “Waterloo,” “Andante, Andante,” “Angeleyes,” “Fernando,” “My Love, My Life,” and, of course, the staples from the original film, “Mamma Mia!” “Dancing Queen,” and “Super Trouper.” I shall forever maintain that there are two types of people in this world – those who love ABBA, and liars. Each number in this film is performed with tangible enthusiasm, and the actors/singers/dancers seem like they’re having a blast and putting their all into it. “Dancing Queen” is a notable mention just for Firth, Brosnan, and Skarsgård. And for those of you wondering… no, Brosnan doesn’t get a solo number this time around, per se. But he does sing a small, acapella reprise of “S.O.S,” and I’m pleased to say it is genuinely touching.

It’s impressive how well ABBA’s music naturally weaves into the situations of the characters… with the minor infraction of Cher and Garcia singing “Fernando” near the end. It’s a wee bit shoehorned in, though there are some clues leading up to it, so it isn’t entirely unexpected. But it’s forgivable because Cher. It’s also worth noting that a lot of the instrumental motifs in the film are throwbacks and tributes to the original film/musical and other ABBA songs, like “Slipping Through My Fingers.”

Told through both the lens of present day and flashbacks to ’79, each part of the film receives the appropriate amount of attention, and focus shifts seamlessly between the timelines. The transitions in this film are immaculate, which aids the film’s intention to “mirror” Sophie’s experiences and feelings with those of her mother, and keeps the plot at a respectable pace. Viewers get to see Donna’s initial meetings with Bill, Harry, and Sam, and how she ended up staying in Greece, giving a visual history to the premise of the first film, and also how Sophie is trying to honor her mother by making the grand opening of the Hotel Bella Donna a success while also juggling her relationship with Sky. The scenery is gorgeous, the costumes are perfect, and there’s a satisfying amount of laughs to complement what turns out to be an earnest and heartfelt message about the relationship between mother and daughter, and finding one’s way in the world when a storm threatens your path.

And, brief spoiler alert, Meryl has very little screen time in this. I was initially disappointed with the fate of her character – but when she does appear onscreen, it’s worth it. As in, I teared up. I’m listening to the soundtrack as I write this and getting emotional again!

The cast must have had a ton of fun filming this – especially the returning faces. Everyone seems to be having a great time, no one phones it in, and the onscreen chemistry is like actual friends reuniting after a long time apart. The finale performance of “Super Trouper,” is the perfect example of this, and I couldn’t stop smiling through the whole thing. The new faces also do an excellent job of channeling their older counterparts – especially Hugh Skinner as young Harry, Jessica Keenan Wynn as young Tanya, and, of course, Lily James as young Donna. James is both sweet and sassy as Young Donna, and her stellar performance carries the ’79 timeline. Basically, everyone in this film is a delight, plain and simple – and fun pretty much oozes off the screen.

The plot may get a little silly at times, and the film timeline is seriously wack, but this isn’t a movie aiming to garner a shelf full of top-tier awards. For what it is, and what it’s trying to do, it’s a total and absolute jam, and well worth the price of admission. Here We Go Again might not have been a necessary sequel, but it’s also not a shameless cash grab – it’s a great time, with a great cast, and great music, the perfect recipe for an entertaining summer flick.

Overall rating: 8/10

Current Tunes #4

Judah and the LionSuit and Jacket
One of my local radio stations has recently gone from mainstream pop to alternative and indie rock, and this great song is one discovery I’ve made thus far. The whole theme of not “trading my youth for no suit and jacket” while still grappling with matters of identity and purpose is an evocative one, and this song also has a really great tune and strength behind it. It gets stuck in my head a lot recently, but I don’t even mind.

EchosGold
Echos has a subtle electric sound meshed with ethereal vocals, which offers an interesting listening experience. It makes me think of fantasy and fairy-tales – two of my favorite things! To me, it sounds like a song that’s about looking for answers, whether in someone else, in ourselves, or in a new home. And it’s super catchy!

Cold War KidsFirst
This song has an “anthem” sort of sound to it – it makes it feel like the sort of song you would sing before embarking on a long march, or engaging in battle, or resolving to accomplish some long sought-after goal. It also has visually-inspiring and poetic lyrics, such as “heavy as a feather when you hit the dirt,” which summons such a powerful mental image. I’m only upset that I didn’t discover this song sooner!

Luke Sital-SinghDark
This is a quieter, semi-depressing song with a beautiful sound, even though the lyrics lean in the direction of “sad.” Sometimes, though, it’s good to listen to music that isn’t necessarily “happy” in a traditonal sense. And if you’re going to listen to sad music, it should at least sound lovely and perhaps provide some sort of comfort, and this song absolutely does.

BastilleWorld Gone Mad
I’ve loved Bastille since the release of “Pompeii”, which I still listen to whenever it comes on the radio, and this song is one of my new faves. These days, it does feel like we live in a “world gone mad,” but music like this – so beautiful and packed with passion and meaning – gives me hope that creativity can still flourish in spite of sorrow or misfortune.

AuroraHalf The World Away
She has such a lovely and compelling sound, I’ve added a ton of her music to my current playlist and this track is a standout. Her lyrics are so evocative and she utilizes unique word choices, such as “I’m still scratching around in the same old hole, my body feels young but my mind is very old.” In a world of music that is inundated with generic pop (nothing wrong with mainstream pop, I’m just saying) Aurora presents a fresh voice that I’m eager to hear more of in the future.

Beth CrowleyEyes Wide Open
I just love, love, love her music. Literally every single song – it makes me want to read the books she writes her songs about if I haven’t already. She does a marvelous job of capturing what certain characters seem to be feeling, or how certain relationships and events are portrayed, and gives new layers to existing stories. Even if I haven’t read the books she’s singing about, I usually find a way to connect her songs to something I’ve read or experienced. This one has a nice edge to it and a great melody. If you love YA books, check out her Youtube channel and give her music a listen!

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

The Middle

Recently, the mid-twenties doldrums have been bogging me down. I feel as though I am not where I need to be, but I lack the courage and confidence to get myself there. But those thoughts of “Get it together!” get drowned out by fear of failure and doubt in my abilities, a dark cloud consuming every spot of brightness I try and scrounge up.

But sometimes, the perfect song comes on the radio at the perfect time. This week, it was Jimmy Eat World’s anthem The Middle, which goes:

Hey, don’t write yourself off yet,
It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on.
Just try your best,
Try everything you can,
And don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away.
It just takes some time,
Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride,
Everything, everything will be just fine,
Everything, everything will be all right…

This song came on as I was driving home after a difficult day, and I heard it three more times over the course of the week. And it just… made me feel better each time I heard it. Like being stuck in the middle isn’t the worst fate, or even something to be distraught over, because it doesn’t have to be permanent. There is a way out, a lantern to guide your path, no matter how rough or dark a road seems, and it might just take some time until everything is all right. Cliche or not, I think that message rings true.

I think, sometimes, the universe knows what we need to hear, and we need to take it to heart – especially if we hear the same message four times in one week. Or, maybe the local radio stations lack variety, because they also played “Eye of the Tiger” three times this week…or maybe, the message I was meant to receive this week is dual-layered.

It’s okay to be stuck in the middle, but you must have the eye of the tiger to stand up to the challenge of climbing out, and everything will be all right.

…Or something like that, perhaps.

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.