Sunday, August 12, 2012

-Written by Sharina Komen

On July 22nd Vans brought Warped Tour to Hartford, Connecticut. With big names like We The Kings, Four Year Strong and All Time Low playing, Warped Tour 2012 did not disappoint. Fans from all over Connecticut and even bordering states traveled to see their favorite bands preform throughout the day.

The day started off with Four Year Strong. The popular band had a sea of fans that spanned from the front of the stage to the merch tents. We The Kings gave a memorable show shortly after Four Year Strong turned over the stage. Although We The Kings was scheduled to go on stage early in the day, they made the best of it. Favorites like 'She Takes Me High', 'Check Yes Juliet', and  'Secret Valentine' had the crowd singing and dancing along. Before the band relinquished the stage they unveiled a new song that would coming out soon. Following the news of their new song, We The Kings announced they would be filming their performance of this song for a music video. From crowd surfing to sitting on a friends shoulders, fans did everything they could to get in the video. At Warped Tour, We The Kings set the mood of the day by giving one of the best performances.

Through out the day, the House of Marley Stage and the Tilly's Stage had a variety of talented artists. The Green gave a good show that was enjoyable for all who stopped by to listen. Their pop- reggae style was a relaxing change from the up beat music at other stages. Rapper G- Eazy gave an excellent performance that brought in a large audience. Directly to the right of the House of Marley Stage, the The Tilly's Stage had the most memorable performance of the day. Machine Gun Kelly started off with some technical difficulties, but as soon as they were fixed this rapper was everything that was expected. MGK gave this show his all from the moment he got on to second he exited the stage. This performance is the most memorable of Warped Tour 2012.

All Time Low was the perfect way to finish off a great day of music. Teenage girls crammed next to each other as much as they could in order to get to the front of the stage. Their performance of 'Dammed if I Do Ya (Dammed if I Don't)' was incredible live.

The Klean Kateen Station was a life saver for anyone who had an empty water bottle. For most of the day, the station offered free clean water to all those that needed it. In addition to free weather for most of the day, Warped Tour worked with vendors to lower the price of water bottles. These two services made a long day in the heat much more enjoyable. Warped Tour 2012 was an unforgettable experience thanks to all of the amazing performances.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Music Review: Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe"

As far as pop singles go, there's only so much variety one can expect. Since the idea behind pop is to target the undiscriminating masses to sell albums, put frankly, most artists will "crank out crude imitations of what's popular already", to quote Bill Watterson, of Calvin and Hobbes. That said, Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" can be described as your typical pop song. The lyrics are not terribly suggestive, as is often the case with pop, but it is a three-and-a-half-minute cut with a strong beat and lyrics about love, which adheres strictly to the verse-chorus-bridge formula; perfect for radio play and for dance mixes. For those whom it targets, the song is absolutely perfect. It does exactly what it was supposed to do. It would not be fair to critique it as anything other than a pop song.

Having made that clear, I'd like to look at this song from a musical perspective for a moment. Although pop artists tend to capitalize on musical trends that are already popular, that is not to say that they do nothing to be distinctive, or interesting. The single is dynamic; contrasting between softer-sung verses with a quiet beat in the background, and louder, string-backed choruses. This helps to keep the listener's attention throughout the alternating verses and choruses. On a purely technical note, the pre-choruses also add to this dynamic, with a crescendo and increasingly urgent-sounding lyrics, at which point it segues into the chorus. This is a well-written song, from the standpoint that it is unified, with a slightly distinctive sound, and will not bore a listener.

With that aside, this song's major weakness is its lyrics. They describe a situation every young person has been in; being attracted to someone and mustering up the courage to talk to them. But all the lyrics do is plainly outline this scenario. That's it. No sophistication; no clever metaphors to stick in people's heads. Nothing. Jepsen basically puts into words what every other pop song, and every person who has been in this position probably thinks: "I like you, call me, my life was bad before you came into it." That is more or less the extent of the lyrics. Even when Jepsen sings about the details of her own experience, there's very little that's creative or original, except for the very first two lines: "I threw a wish in the well; don't ask me, I'll never tell." This line caught my attention, but the rest of the verse lost it. There are some other attempts at catchy lines ("I beg, borrow and steal at first sight and it's real"). But it just doesn't seem like much thought was put into them; more so into what would rhyme with what. It's hard to substantiate this claim; it being a matter of opinion, but I will say this: The sound of the song will keep people interested, but the same cannot be said for the verse lyrics. If the songwriter were to focus on one solitary thing, it would be to improve the lyrics. To make them less literal (except for the chorus; this is fine) and more interesting. Not every line has to be a metaphor or an allegory, but if more attention were paid to them, maybe the song would attract more than just the masses. One of my favorite pop/rock songs is a U2 song by the name of "Where the Streets Have No Name". While it does have a good amount of pop appeal for radio play, the lyrics are not as straightforward as "Call Me Maybe", and, at least for me, I had to think about what Bono was talking about in it. If whoever wrote the lyrics took a less direct approach to conveying a message, Jepsen might attract a few more listeners, because they'll be drawn into trying to interpret the lyrics; maybe even bouncing different interpretations off of each other. Just an idea.

The song earns a 4 out of 5 with me. Musically and vocally, this song is sound, and perfectly marketable to any pop radio station. However, if more attention were paid to detail with respect to the lyrics, I think Jepsen could attract more listeners than she has already.

Music Review "Owl City"

Everyone has heard of Owl City's biggest hit, "fireflies". They have just released an new set of songs. Their greatest hit won the hearts of many music lovers because of its upbeat and positive vibe. Now they have created an new set of great upbeat songs. The first song makes you feel like you are watching the stars shoot above your head in a time lapse. Its techno-inspired beat has the potential to be on the top 10 music listings. Its lyrics remind me of many other popular songs, like B.O.B's airplanes. The next song "Gold" is yet again another cookie cutter form of the rest of their songs. Upbeat, techno-inspired and positive, this song will make anyone want to tap their foot or get up and dance. The next song includes a featured artist Mark Hoppus. All of the songs are quite similar and provide a upbeat and uplifting tempo. These song have not surprised me at all and are what I expected from them. I was glad to see they are still going strong and releasing new songs. I would give these songs a 4/5 because I think that they have yet to wow me as a music listener.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Music Review: "The Trouble With Girls" by Scotty McCreery

I think the best way to sum up the song "The Trouble With Girls" by Scotty McCreery would be this: it achieves its goal. For better or worse, it achieves its goal.
Let me explain what I mean. From the first ten seconds, the direction that the song will take musically is obvious to anyone who has listened to country pop before. The mellow piano backing Scotty's vocals through the first chorus, the addition of slide guitar and drums to the conclusion of the second chorus, followed by the addition of strings and amplified slide guitar through the bridge to the end of the final verse, and the quiet outro from the piano to provide closure are all representative of the country pop formula (not to mention that this song, like many others of its kind, is a slave to the verse-chorus-bridge formula).
But what must be taken into account, here, is that in doing the above, the song has achieved its purpose. Presumably, it was intended to be a country pop single, released in order to gain radio play on stations that cater to listeners with a four minute attention span. That said, "The Trouble With Girls" is perfect for either country or pop radio, so in this sense, the song is a success.
Despite the song's predictability, it still manages to keep the listener engaged with its continuous building on itself musically. The music video also succeeds in this respect. The camera periodically comes back to Scotty singing alone in a school hallway. Although this may seem redundant, it does help to create unity through repetition; just as a refrain creates unity in the song.
Considering the audience, the shots themselves in the video were well thought out. Setting a song about girls to a video that takes place in a school setting, where Scotty is shown making friends with girls in whom he may have an interest, is quite relateable to the typical listener. For lack of a better way to express it, it is easy to connect to, much in the same way that the Police's music video "Every Breath You Take" is relateable. Like McCreery's single, the Police's single was also shot in a school setting, to facilitate the connection to the lives of the listeners, although the themes are unalike.
To conclude, the song, while being somewhat original, is excellent for its designated purpose: to provide an enjoyable listen for fans of both country music and pop, who are not seeking innovation or something completely different from what they are accustomed to. The single provides this.
"The Trouble With Girls" earns a 4 out of 5 rating with me. Although it follows the formula without seeming trite or bland, because it is musically dynamic, it still falls short of distinction, because its adherence to the pop song formula is quite obvious. However, I would still recommend it to anyone who has a taste for country, pop, or both.

Music Review: All-American Rejects

The first song on the album, "Someday's Gone", is very synth-driven, like its companion on the sampler, "Beekeeper's Daughter". However, there are some key elements to this song which put it head and shoulders above the other. This is evident from the intro, which starts simply, with guitar and vocals, and becomes more complex; adding the other instruments a few bars at a time. The result is a somewhat unpredictable, more interesting, less formulaic, intro. With the chord progression not firmly established from the onset, the listener is kept guessing as to where the song is headed. This is consistent throughout the song. It might be because I had pegged the Rejects as a verse-chorus-bridge group that I found myself predicting how the song would be organized, when I started listening. I was proven wrong.
The song has some similarities with "Lazy Eye" by the Silversun Pickups, between the guitar rhythms, the heavy use of synthesizers, the lyrical patterns and the verses which are slightly lengnthened beyond what the listener expects. There were also points in the verses where the drums dropped back, or a new line began a beat sooner than what would be expected. On this last point, although this may not seem important, in reality, it is, as far as their sound is concerned. By adding those extra bars onto the end of the verse, and those less frequently used drum patterns, what they're doing is breaking out of what the listener expects. Not only do these deviations from the orthodox pop song make it a more interesting listen, they make it more enjoyable. It's because of this that this song earns a 5 out of 5 with me.
"Beekeeper's Daughter" could not be more different in this respect. Musically, the song does not deliver; at least not to the same extent as "Somebody's Gone". Again, this goes back to predictability. The song has four repeating chords in its progression, which seldom change. The verse-chorus-bridge formula is present, and anyone familiar with this formula would recognize it immediately. However, that is not to say that the whole song was unoriginal; the band brought a brass section into certain parts of the song, usually right before choruses. I know now that the reason these were my favorite parts to listen to were that I did not expect them. For the Rejects, knowing this would benefit them the most: They should not be afraid to work outside of the pop song mold; even try a more alternative approach.
I want to make it very clear that this band does very well when they break out of what's expected, musically. They have the ability, both musically, and lyrically, to do so. The sampler earns a 4 out of 5 with me, because of this. "Somebody's Gone" is clear evidence that this group has the ability to set themselves further apart from other groups. However, they should not be as concerned with adhering to the expected formula, nor should they hesitate to work in other ideas, as they did with the brass in "Beekeeper's Daughter". They already have a list of accomplishments to their name, as a group, and to put this stamp on their sounds would lengthen that list.

Celebrity E-Mail Hacker Pleads Guilty

A Florida man, named Christopher Chaney, 35, has pled guilty to nine charges related to his e-mail hacking of more than 50 celebrities, including Scarlett Johansson. As of now, he is being held in custody until his scheduled sentencing on July 23rd. His sentence could run up to 60 years for charges such as wiretapping and unauthorized access to a computer.

Mila Kunis, Christina Aguilera, and Vanessa Hudgens also had their e-mail accounts hacked by Chaney.

It seems that the degree to which these celebrities' personal lives were publicized may have played a role in their e-mail accounts being allegedly hacked by Chaney. He was able to search through publicly available information in order to obtain the answers to security questions, in order to gain access to the e-mail accounts.

Chaney has entered into a plea agreement, which could involve paying a fine as high as $2.2 million, as well as paying the victims of his hacking for damages.

U.S. District Judge S. James Otero was appalled by the behavior of Chaney, in the wake of his confession to the FBI. Otero says that Chaney continued his hacking of celebrity emails, despite having already confessed to it. Because of this behavior, Otero has deemed it necessary that Chaney be kept in custody until sentencing.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

New Found Earth?

NASA has lead the Kepler space mission through which they have located thousands of "earth-like" planets. This particular planet has been given the name Kepler-22b, which, among other newly discovered planets, sits in the "habitable zone" of the star it revolves around. The distinction of being "habitable" is based on the temperature of the planet, which is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature such as 70 degrees is a possible indicator that liquid water is present on the planet, something essential to all life. While they are not sure of the composition of the planet itself, nor its atmosphere, this is a large step in locating other planets like ours.