Obsessed // 2017

Happy December! Originally, I was going to make this post an in-depth review of my favorite albums from this year, but then I started thinking about all of the other great media that gave me inspiration, motivation, and hope in a year that was far too full of dark moments. While it’s far too easy to dwell on those times that we felt defeated, I figured it would be fun to share all of the great pieces of art, moments of brightness, and other doses of positivity that were shared in 2017…in my opinion, that is. And because I feel the need to tell anyone who will listen why I love the things that I love, these categories seemed like a great way to round things up this year.

Album

I originally had about six albums chosen for this and I narrowed it down to two and I refuse to make any more cuts. I REFUSE!!! (But I’ll include honorable mentions because I’m weak: Reputation by Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa by Dua Lipa, About U by MUNA, and What If Nothing by Walk the Moon). I’m notoriously bad at picking favorites, but this was definitely the most difficult category for me to decide, so it’s gonna be a tie between *drum roll* Betty Who’s The Valley and SUPERFRUIT’s Future Friends. This year was clearly all about my obsession with synthpop. In fact, I didn’t realize I had a favorite genre until I was considering which of the albums from this year I loved the most. But as you can see, both of the masterpieces I chose as my top favorites are composed with similar styles. I’m obviously not a music expert so I don’t know all of the technical language to describe them. And yet, I can understand what I find so special about each of these works. These albums are both so fresh and vulnerable and bright and run the gamut when it comes to emotions. Falling in love? Check. Just ended a relationship? Check. Need to help your best friend get over a break up? Need an upbeat self love anthem you can sing in your mirror on your bad days? Need a romantic ballad you can sing in the shower even though you’ve never been in love before? These. Albums. Deliver. It. All. You’ll want to dance around to the catchy jams and text all your friends how much you love them and be proud of all that you’ve accomplished…and the epic vocals are just a plus.

Song

While I’m still not so patiently waiting for a new full length album from one of my pop queens, the single “Cut To the FeelingCarly Rae Jepsen released this year did not disappoint. I’d say it was just enough to hold me over for a little longer. (An emphasis on the little, I hope). I’m always a big fan of fun pop jams, but this year, I found myself craving the taste of lighthearted and feel-good songs more than ever…for obvious reasons. Truth is, I don’t think I’ve met a Carly Rae Jepsen song I didn’t like. I firmly believe she is far beyond her years when it comes to talent; her ability to put on an sonically cohesive and satisfying album that gives you tastes of 80s pop that can be blended into the pop we hear on the radio today feels effortless. And frankly, the rest of y’all have slept on her post “Call Me Maybe” career for far too long. I’m putting it out there now: let 2018 be the year the pop world fully appreciates the genius that Carly bae truly is.

Book

I have been talking about The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas to anyone who will listen all year. I even have a previous blog post completely dedicated to why I love this book, so I don’t need to go into detail here. But I will say that this book is not exclusively for folks who read young adult literature. I truly believe it’s required reading for anyone who enjoys a good story that leaves you thinking long after you read the last page. The story captures the narrative of the Black Lives Matter movement in such a moving first hand experience that I can’t imagine the reader not being affected by Angie Thomas’s words. Plus, it’s being made into a movie and the cast is bomb. So make sure to read the book before you head to the theater.

Network TV Show

I started watching The Bold Type against my usual reservations when it comes to brand new series. I usually wait a few season for the show to gain traction before I start watching, but I’m so glad I made an exception for this show. It airs on Freeform, which isn’t often the best selling point, but this show exceeds expectations in so many ways. The show centers around three 20-something women living in New York, working for a magazine themed around women’s empowerment. Plus their boss is an equally badass woman who gives them both guidance and freedom to explore the possibilities of their careers. I know this may sound like a cookie cutter example of a show that’s exploiting the current wave of feminism women are passionately getting involved in right now, and in all honesty, that might be their intention. I don’t blame them. My goal is not to figure out whether or not their intention to share these stories are playing off these cultural clues simply for success – that’s likely the goal of every entertainment outlet. But lucky for us, sometimes the result of this intention is a brilliant representation of thoughts, ideas, and movements that we’ve been lacking on our screens. I really think that’s where The Bold Type truly earns its success. I dare you to watch this show and not be inspired to take down the very next person who tries to steer you further from your goals.

Streaming TV Show

I don’t watch many streaming shows, mostly because there’s too many to choose from and I get overwhelmed very easily. But this year, I couldn’t help but drive right in to One Day at a Time as soon as it was released. I’m much more likely to gravitate toward half hour comedies, shows with diversity, and stories I can relate to. With this show, you’re guaranteed a stellar three for three. First of all, anything that highlights the brilliance of Rita Moreno is an automatic win for any living breathing human. The cast is then rounded out with a group of actors that beautifully and authentically bring the Alvarez family to life. Along with the laughs, the show delivers so many relatable storylines; they represent this family with genuine care and attention while also keeping it fun and entertaining. You can see the truth without getting wrapped up in painful drama. You instantly fall in love with this family, their traditions, their ambitions, and their complicated yet rewarding relationships to their own personal identities and to each other. Also, I am painfully and wholeheartedly the white Elena Alvarez.

Broadway

When I first heard about Come From Away, it was described to me as a 9/11 musical. Which, let’s be real, does not sound like a good idea at all. Sure, you can make successful musicals about sad things (see: literally all of my favorite musicals), but this was something I didn’t quite understand the intention behind. But when I learned that this wasn’t simply a musical about 9/11, but a musical that explores the days following the event from the perspective of a group of rerouted travels in Canada, my skepticism eased and I was a lot more open to the idea of seeing it. I knew it would still be an emotional ride, but as I already said, I sort of have a thing for musicals that make you feel and the feelings and cry all the tears. One of my favorite things about theater is that it’s both entertaining and evocative right in front of your eyes. You have an experience that is so immediate and so vicarious that it can be overwhelming in the best way possible. And this couldn’t hold truer with Come From Away. Not only is the story told beautifully through captivating songs, an incredibly talented ensemble, and even some laughs, but the message of the show is something we all need to hear, see, and believe, especially at this moment in time. It makes it even more powerful that the show is based on a true story. This production allows us to explore the ways we respond to tragedy, the power of selfless kindness, and the proof that at our very core, we’re capable of unconditional love and care for one another, family and strangers alike.

And because I love to hear from *~my fans~* here are some suggested fun favorites from 2017.

Favorite Meme – “First of all…” Some faves:

5a8Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 7.56.36 AMScreen Shot 2017-12-22 at 7.58.47 AMScreen Shot 2017-12-22 at 7.59.46 AMScreen Shot 2017-12-22 at 8.01.31 AM

Favorite Baby Animal GIF – I believe in you, little pup.

Favorite Internet doggies – Bagel and Chanel moved into the Gardens this year and I love them so much!!!!

Favorite Vacation – Not only was Disney incredible, but specifically, the Food & Wine Festival is what dreams are made of

Favorite Viral VideoThe only way to walk into a room

Let me know what some of your favorites were from this year! Thanks for reading, friends. See ya in 2018.

Advertisements

DNCE, Tyler Glenn, and Jane the Virgin

Happy Wednesday! Here’s a little roundup of what I’ve been loving lately 🙂

DNCE

BE STILL MY JONAS BROTHERS HEART!!!! I thought I was completely satisfied with the Jonas brilliance when Nick released Last Year Was Complicated…but DNCE took it to an entirely new level for me. Basically, this group lives up to their name. I dare you to listen to this debut album without immediately feeling the need to dance around. I joked with a lot of my friends that every song on this album passes Tom Haverford’s “is it a banger” test, and while that’s totally accurate, the best part about this album is how unique it is. When DNCE came out with their first song “Cake by the Ocean”, I was instantly intrigued. Their sound, their look, their entire vibe was something new to the pop scene. Of course, as comes with the pop territory, DNCE’s songs venture into the repetitive constructs of radio tunes we love to sing along to, but I think their approach and the group’s overall style is a way for them to combat the predictability a lot of pop artists face today. This album achieves cohesion while also giving you a taste of everything from dancey, upbeat tunes to slower jams with thoughtful lyrics. They have a funky sound that weaves its way through the entire tracklist, thanks to the work of notable songwriters like Justin Tranter and Mattman & Robin. Basically, these dudes are geniuses and their work definitely shines through with DNCE.

Also, I would give anything to be their bass player. JinJoo can hit me up anytime.

Excommunication

Some of yall may be familiar with Tyler Glenn from the group Neon Trees (“Animal”, “Everybody Talks”). Excommunication – largely written by Tyler Glenn himself along with Tim Pagnotta – is his first solo album, and let’s just say, if you didn’t know who he was before listening to it, you’re about to find out some really deep stuff. I vaguely remember the media circulating around him when he came out a few years ago, but other than that, I went into listening to this album with the sole thought of really digging Neon Trees and interested to hear what Tyler’s own sound would be like. As I listened to the tracks, the theme of religion was hard to miss. The titles of the songs like “G.D.M.M.L. GRLS” (God Didn’t Make Me Like Girls), “Gods + Monsters”, “First Vision”, and finally, “Devil” set you up for very profound stories, and I was intrigued to dig deeper into the album. A simple Google search helped me connect all of the dots: the album’s title is a nod to Tyler’s Mormon family and the anti-gay policies of the religion.

Radio.com’s piece about Excommunication set a completely new tone for the album as I gave it another listen. I paid special attention to the order of the track list and was completely taken by both the profound stories from Tyler’s personal journey and the well-matched sounds mixed on each song. When you listen, you can physically feel how much of himself is poured into this album. The style is still very much his own, with electro-pop, rock vibes, but adding in lyrics like “I found myself when I lost my faith” and the exploration of truly understanding what you believe in really drives home this compilation of songs. I haven’t experienced many albums recently that are theme-driven and specifically focused on the different phases of an ongoing story, so listening to Excommunication felt like something totally brand new in the modern pop-rock genre. I really can’t stop listening to it.

Jane the Virgin

I know, I know, this review is WAY overdue. It’s widely known that getting me to start a new television show is nearly impossible, so the fact that I not only caught up with Jane but also continued watching it is a very big deal.

Not surprisingly, the ability for TV shows to skillfully feature what are considered difficult issues is always impressive to me. Jane has been achieving this from the beginning of the first season, tactfully and efficiently discussing the topics of religion, abortion, and immigration. The show is structured from telenovela storytelling, which is known to be overly saturated with drama, romance, and suspense – all of the qualities people tend to love most about current TV dramas. But Jane offers so much more. There are three generations of women of color as the main characters, one of which is an immigrant who solely speaks Spanish, and they are suddenly surrounded by scandal. The writers of this show make very thoughtful decisions about how these women navigate the obstacles they face. Their decisions are very much based around family values and relationships, rather than being dictated by the guys they are dating. The writers craft a plot in which the characters are fully immersed in real life struggles – grad school, conflicting feelings about significant others, and early parenting – while still maintaining the thrill of cleverly planned unsolved mysteries. Not to mention, the fact that it’s narrated like a classic telenovela gives just the right amount of structure and humor. Each season, the writers unfold more and more about the lives of these characters, leaving the audience constantly engrossed in their stories. Now on its third season, Jane somehow manages to be a totally unpredictable show with a completely predictable structure. So long as the writers continue to stir up this seemly perfect magic formula for storytelling, I’ll keep watching.

 

What music/show/entertainment has you hooked right now? I’d love to hear!

Bo Burnham, Waitress, #GirlLove, and The Fosters

Hi friends!!!! It’s definitely been a while! Right now I’m trying to get back into the routine of writing on a somewhat regular basis, so I figured I’d do something simple. So many thoughts are floating around in my head about fun stuff I’ve been wanting to share, so I decided to put it all in one post. These are some of the the things I’ve been really digging lately, dudes!

Make Happy—Bo Burnham

I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve watched Bo Burnham’s Netflix special what. So obviously, when I heard his new show (filmed right near my old stomping grounds in Westchester!) was being released on Netflix, I knew to expect something great. And what’s funny is while I really enjoyed the show, Bo Burnham is not the type of person I could imagine giving a shit about a review from a 22-year-old with a blog. But at the same time, his show is so powerful in a really interesting way that I can’t help but comment on it, so I’ll ask for a moment of indulgence. Whenever people discuss the trouble in comedy with “being PC” or worrying about offending people, I always point their attention to Bo. Along with other favorite comedians of mine like Grace Helbig and Aziz Ansari, Bo is a prime example of how you don’t have to be offensive to be funny. It’s a crazy concept that seems impossible to people these days, but watching shows like Make Happy restore my faith in the world of comedy. Mind you, there are a lot of dumb jokes about farts and masturbating, but aren’t we all secretly 12-year-old boys when it comes to what makes us laugh? Maybe that’s just me…oh, well. Bo’s style of comedy combines a series of bits with a lot of song mixed in, which I think really adds to his ability to capture an audience. Music and comedy—is there a better combination? He discusses the familiar and targeted lyrics that are found in country songs, the generic shift that is happening in hip-hop, and the fact that you should not be relying on upbeat, pop anthems to make your troubles go away. So many obvious themes that we all know to be true put into silly songs and paired with amazing delivery. My personal favorite is (obviously) “Straight White Male”. And that one lyric about your dick not being a gift…brilliant shit. The number one theme I take away from Bo’s show is a strong commentary on performance. This commentary does not focus on the fact that Bo is on stage entertaining an audience, but rather the way this gets translated into our everyday lives. Throughout the show, Bo takes time to remind the audience to think about their actions in a number of different ways. By having a thoughtful conversation with the audience about where we choose to focus our attention, Bo gets us to think about performance in a way that is maybe a little meta, but absolutely intriguing and worth an hour of your time.

Waitress

With an amazing cast of talented actors, a moving and authentic storyline, and music by Sara Bareilles (I still can’t spell her name without the help from Google—thanks for lookin’ out, pal), Waitress has been getting a lot of praise lately, and it is definitely all warranted. After seeing the show about a month ago, I still haven’t taken the cast album off repeat. I have always been a big fan of Sara Bareilles’s songwriting, and the translation of her music to the stage with this particular story makes for a great theater experience. The basis of the show surrounds a small town diner with employees who don’t exactly love the way their life is going, especially the main character, Jenna, who is expecting a baby with her manipulating (to put it kindly) husband. Though this is a storyline we’re all familiar with, the cast does a fantastic job bringing a new life to the plot, characters, and message. While I was fairly sure of how the show was going to end, that didn’t leave me uninterested. Far from it, actually. There are so many intricate details attributed to every character that you feel yourself transported to Joe’s Pie Diner with them, rooting for Jenna and her friends so they can live their dreams, no matter the circumstances. I’ve never been great at reviewing theater, mostly because of my firm belief that everyone experiences the story in their own personal way. Just from the soundtrack alone, I am so moved by this work. From Christopher Fitzgerald’s show-stealing “Never Getting Rid of Me” to Jessie Mueller’s emotional solo “She Used To Be Mine”, each of these actors deliver such fresh and captivating performances that I am left wanting more. I am looking forward to seeing this show again, as I am confident it will be running for some time. If anyone is looking for a buddy to accompany them to this masterpiece, just holler. Ya girl is always down to spend some money on quality theater 😉

#GirlLove—Lilly Singh

Amidst all of the drama going on in the media lately, Lilly Singh is an absolute breath of fresh air. She has been one of my favorite content creators for a while—her videos are incredibly genuine and you can always tell the hard work she puts into her passions. Recently, Lilly started encouraging the use of the hashtag #GirlLove on Twitter to emphasize the importance of women supporting each other in a society that so often forces us to be in competition with each other. “Girl-on-girl hate is such a huge issue,” Lilly writes in the description of her first #GirlLove video. “It’s about time we got rid of this lame trend and came together to build women up.” Since this first video was posted, Lilly has worked to raise money for the Malala Fund in honor of educating women around the world, participated with other YouTubers on a #GirlLove panel at Vidcon 2016, and just recently announced a new web series that is dedicated to delivering this powerful message. I’m sure it’s a surprise to nobody that I’m a big fan of this campaign, but it’s not only the feminist in me that loves Lilly’s mission. I always get inspired by the people with platforms like Lilly’s (almost 10 million subscribers…YEAH, SHE’S THAT GOOD) using their voices in order to make a change. Sometimes YouTube gets a bad reputation for people making silly videos and making money off of it—which definitely happens. And while these videos are definitely entertaining, they also have the power to create a platform for people to contribute to the problems we all face everyday. Lilly’s dedication to spreading the message of #GirlLove is so important, especially in a time when we all seem to be so caught up in the drama of people’s lives who we don’t even know. So with this post, I’m shooting some extra #GirlLove to Lilly Singh. You’re killing the game and I can’t wait to see the big moves you make in the future.

The Fosters

I’m not sure there are many people left on this planet who haven’t heard my pitch for jumping on board with Freeform’s incomparable The Fosters, but for the four of you, here’s my rant. Some people may be turned off by the network previously known as ABC Family, afraid of dealing with uninteresting, teen-driven plots for audiences who are fans of shows like Pretty Little Liars, but I beg anyone who appreciates quality storytelling to put those fears aside for the sake of The Fosters. I truly believe this show has some of the best writers on TV right now. The stories they are telling are interesting and complex, but something I really appreciate from these writers is the way they can address topical issues in such a beautiful way without messing with the natural plot. Aside from the fact the very structure of the show is built off diversity and offering multiple perspectives, the audience has the opportunity to take these perspectives to the next level in a very easy way. We see stories about survivors of sexual abuse, long-lasting race issues among families, violence and bullying in schools; while these are topics often portrayed on TV, I feel that we are so used to seeing the same outcome—some kid gets in trouble, or maybe the consequences are prolonged for drama, but eventually there is a happy ending. But The Fosters does an amazing job of delivering some harsh realities. Sometimes there isn’t proper closure and sometimes justice isn’t always achieved by those who truly deserve it. But wrapped up in these harsh realities is a family structure that works toward accepting that what really makes these difficult moments in life worth getting through are the people around you. Listen, I’m not the most dedicated TV watcher. When shows start drifting away from what initially drew me to them in the first place, I tend to lose interest and eventually stop watching. And the more I watched The Fosters, the more I worried this was going to happen. There was so much quality content that I kept thinking “When is this going to start sucking? Can this show really continue being this good?” Thankfully, it did. Of course there are certain plot lines that I’m not crazy about and there are those occasional episodes that don’t excite me as much as others, but overall, it’s definitely a show that continue to love season after season. Every episode, I can’t help but notice how wonderfully certain topics were executed, or how long I am left thinking about conversations that were being portrayed. The Fosters gives quality attention to real life issues, offers real life solutions, and makes us really consider our positions in what we see reflected in our own lives.