Monday, July 21, 2014

Jam of the Week: "No One Else Like You" by Adam Levine

Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine has said many times that he will never go solo... But he sure doesn't miss an opportunity to lend his vocals in projects apart from the band. The latest example is Begin Again, a music-based drama film in which Adam has his big screen debut.

While I won't tolerate his acting career, Adam's contributions to the soundtrack are bona fide jams. Just listen to "No One Else Like You" and tell me you disagree. It will make you nostalgic for the pre-"Moves Like Jagger" Maroon 5 of yesteryear.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Things Tommy Loves and Hates #17

Thing I Love #17: French Fries

If I even have to explain this to you, you can move on because no reader of mine dislikes French fries.

Thing I Hate #17: When People Like Their Own Instagrams

Nobody is immune to the crippling anxiety of waiting for your Instagram likes to turnover into a two-digit number, but that does not mean you should give yourself a boost by liking your own post. Obviously if you posted it, you like it. You do not need to actually heart it to prove the point.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Jam of the Week: "Just Askin'" by Iggy Azalea

"Just Askin'" is by far my favorite track off of Iggy Azalea's debut album. As such, I've been waiting for a quiet week to bestow upon it the prestigious title of Jam of the Week.

The song is directed at a former lover who moved onto a new woman. Iggy questions what went wrong in the relationship, insisting that she's moved on too and isn't bitter, but she's "just asking."

The voicemails alone are reason enough to love the song, but it's a nice change of pace from "Work", "Fancy", and whatever Iggy songs you may already know.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Britney Spears Without Autotune: What People Don't Understand

History always seems destined to repeat itself. After Britney Spears recovered from her infamous breakdown and returned to pop music prominence with 2008's Circus, the public had so much good will for her. You would think we would have learned from our mistakes and not revert back to the same microscopic judgment that helped push her over the edge in the first place.

But that isn't so. These days, the media and general public look for any reason to knock Britney down again. The latest incident is a leaked version of her track, "Alien", reportedly without any autotune. The track leaked on July 2 and the Britney fandom was all abuzz, but it took the media almost a week to pick up on it. I won't even bother discounting these "news sources" for being untimely as fuck.

But I will take the opportunity to explain why these so-called raw vocals aren't the proof that Britney sucks at singing that everybody thinks it is.

1. It's not the track without autotune

People assume that this track is the very take Britney recorded in the studio that was then digitally altered and put on her record. That isn't so. Britney, like every other artist, records multiple takes of the song. The one in question, according to producer William Orbit, is the warm-up take, one that "a generous singer will put something down the mic to help the engineer get their systems warmed up and at the right level."

In short, this "take" is Britney warming up her own vocals while helping the producer warm up his equipment. She sings it a cappella (the backing track you hear was added later by whoever leaked it). It's not meant to be used as a take, much less heard by the public. So this isn't the "Alien" you hear on Britney Jean without autotune. It's literally the very first time Britney is singing the song, for the sole sake of feeling it out.

2. It's not that bad

Given that the public can afford to be unforgiving, everybody is acting like these vocals are the worst things to have ever fallen on human ears. But if you really listen to it, especially if you keep in mind that it's a warm-up track with what Orbit calls "a multitude of vocalisations," you can surely hear for yourself that it's not even bad. Sure, it might make you yearn for the final product, but any singer's warm-up tracks aren't going to be something you'll want to write home about.

3. Britney's not a vocalist, she's a performer

Most people might excuse this point without giving it a chance, but here it goes. Britney does not claim, nor has she ever claimed, to be a vocalist. She never set out to be Whitney Houston, though she has always admired her. She is an entertainer and a performer, one whose talent exists not in powerhouse vocals but in her pure star power and ability to put on a show. That said, I can point you to countless examples of recordings and live performances that prove that Britney does have an unexpectedly decent singing voice.

4. If you don't like autotune, well...

If you're one of those music purists who reject any and all signs of digital enhancement, then you can pretty much count out any songs recorded after 2000. All singers, no matter their talent and no matter their genre, use autotune. It's the industry standard, and it's obviously used to varying degrees, but everybody needs help correcting the occasional pitch or smoothing out a vocal here and there. It's the equivalent of putting an Instagram filter on a photo.

After all this controversy, Billboard reported that sales and shares of "Alien" skyrocketed. So thank you, Britney bashers! We might get that third single after all!

Now, please enjoy "Alien" as it's meant to be heard.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Jam of the Week: "Restart" by Sam Smith

Sam Smith is making quite the splash recently. He's featured on a gazillion songs, like Naughty Boy's "La La La" and Disclosure's "Latch", and his own song "Stay With Me" is blowing up the radio. Some are calling him the male Adele. In all honesty, his debut album feels monotonous and depressing.

BUT "Restart" is a fun little beacon of life. It has a groovy 70s disco vibe set to lyrics about hitting refresh after a breakup... So his fave theme of heartbreak transcends, but at least it's presented in a refreshing manner.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

20 Things You Didn't Know About Mean Girls

  1. Mean Girls is based on the nonfiction book Queen Bees and Wannabes, which helps teenage girls navigate the clique-based high school hierarchy. Tina Fey primarily based the script on her own experiences; Janice Ian is Tina Fey. The character was named after the openly gay singer of the same name, whose song "At Seventeen" was one of the first Saturday Night Live performances and can be heard in the film.
  2. Damian was named after Tina's close from, TV Guide writer Damian Holbrook, and Glen Coco was also named for a friend of Tina's.
  3. The original name of the film was Homeschooled.
  4. The script was originally extremely R-rated. Director Mark Waters remarked that Regina dropped "more F-bombs than Joe Pesci in Goodfellas."
  5. Mark's brother is Daniel Waters, the screenwriter of Heathers, which is totally the darker, 80s version of Mean Girls. The brothers recently teamed up for Vampire Academy, which is like Mean Girls with vampires, but was apparently really shitty.
  6. Lindsay Lohan was originally cast as Regina George, but after the success of Freaky Friday, Paramount worried her fans wouldn't accept her as the villain. Rachel McAdams, who originally read for Cady but was considered "too old," was then cast as Regina.
  7. Amanda Seyfried read for the role of Regina, before being cast as Karen. Rajiv Surendra read for Damian before landing the role of mathlete Kevin G, which was originally written for an Asian actor.
  8. James Franco was originally considered for the role of Aaron Samuels. Jonathon Bennett was cast, partially because he could make Lindsay blush on camera, and partially because Tina thought he looked like her SNL costar Jimmy Fallon.
  9. Lizzy Caplan was cast as Janice because of her ability to show raw emotion. Tina originally wanted a Kelly Osborne-esque actress to play the character, and considered Lizzy too pretty.
  10. Rumors of Scarlett Johansson auditioning for Karen were shot down by Mark. Ashley Tisdale, however, did. She would later cite Rachel's characterization of Regina as her inspiration for playing Sharpay in High School Musical.
  11. Paramount dragged their feet in casting Amy Poehler and Tim Meadows as Regina's mom and Principal Duvall, respectively, as they did not want it to become a "Saturday Night Live movie."
  12. Amy wrote Kevin G's rap.
  13. Lindsay missed the first few days of filming because she had overdosed pink eye.
  14. Because she was a minor, Lindsay could only film about 9 hours a day, and so Mark took as many shortcuts as possible. The four-way phone call scene was filmed at 48 frames per second (slow motion) with synced sound. The footage of whoever is talking in the scene is played at the standard 24 frames per second, while the other girls are discretely shown in slow motion.
  15. Initially, the film was denied the rights to Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" for Damian's talent show performance. Danial Franzese, who played the character, fought for the rights, because he wanted to recite the spoken lyric, "Don't look at me." Songwriter Linda Perry eventually relented and gave them the rights, as the character was gay, and that's the type of audience the song was written for.
  16. Rachel wore a blonde wig for filming, which you can totally tell. Still, Regina's flawless.
  17. The original script had Miss Norbury confiscating ecstasy from Kevin G and putting it in her desk, which gets her into even more trouble when the burn book accuses her of selling drugs.
  18. The song Cady is excited to actually recognize at the end of the film is "Built This Way" by Samantha Ronson, Linday's future girlfriend.
  19. Rachel prepared for her performance as Regina by listening to Courtney Love CDs and also drew inspiration from Alec Baldwin's role in Glengarry Glen Ross.
  20. A Broadway musical based on the film is in the works. And if the Heathers musical is any indication, it won't be good.