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“Mortal Kombat” (2021) Review: An Appreciative Look

Seeing Mortal Kombat on screen is nothing new due to the franchise being a video game as well as a filmed cinematic experience back in 1995. Kids as young as 8-12 years old were playing the video games. Surprisingly though, it was because of the portrayed violence that gave the franchise its appeal to all audiences who came in contact with it.

The latest addition to the Mortal Kombat universe is the new 2021 movie directed by Simon McQuoid. The film takes audiences back to witness the endless fight between the fighters of “Outworld” and the fighters from “Earth Realm”, as the respect McQuoid had for the franchise is easily seen.

Mortal Kombat has not been seen on the big screen since the two installments back in the mid 90’s. Teenagers who played the games as kids were able to see some of their favorite characters in live action for the first time. The films at the time, though cheesy in some sense, were great with their interpretation, and none would deny having heard an unforgettable music score.

Seeing the characters in this year’s much anticipated film gave an air of mixed emotions. Maybe the making of another movie took too long? Maybe the previous movies were satisfactory enough and needed no further expansion of the universe? Still the revamped characters and some additional ones brought some fresh excitement and new possibilities never experienced before.

For those familiar with the franchise, it is a safe bet they were quoting lines from the old movies and hoping to hear them again from the actors they knew so well. The nostalgia some fans were seeking from the old films did not seem to be present, but every character gets a poster worthy epic entrance which they own with ease.

In this new film there are some martial artists among the actors, such as Joe Taslim from Sumatera, Indonesia who has won gold medals from 1997-2009 in Asian and National Championships in Judo. He has trained in Wushu, Judo and Taekwondo. 

Another martial artist in the film includes Max Huang who is part of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team and has won gold at the German Wushu Nationals in 2009. There is also Hiroyuki Sanada, of Japanese descent, who is no stranger to the action genre and has trained in Shorinji Kempo and Kyokushin Karate.

All of these true martial artists show off the skills they have honed over their fighting and acting careers and step into the shoes of some of the most iconic characters ever imagined. Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Liu Kang, Raiden, Kano, Sonia Blade and Kung Lao are some of the original fan favorites who fill the fight card, the film rounding out a few other surprise characters as well.

One wonders the difficulty it would take to perform a fatality in a live action sequence, but with the help of modern computer graphic imaging, it could be considered a FLAWLESS VICTORY! (pun intended). No film is perfect, but the expectations for a movie like this one is to honor the games as much as possible, and it delivered.      

Some complaints about the movie could be that the backstory to some of the character’s motivations are a little vague or just do not make sense in the larger scope of things. The issue is the characters are so memorable that anyone who has followed their journeys in the games have witnessed them evolve into something more than when they started.

Today’s average movie buff wants story driven drama and action, yet that is not what Mortal Kombat is about. Mortal Kombat is about just that, mortal combat between two fighters; meaning a fight to a sometimes-gruesome death, and that is exactly what the audience receives from the movie.

Difficult as it may seem to step into the roles of fighters, all the actors did their best to bring the characters some new life and even some unexpected hilarious moments. For those seeking to just sit and enjoy a modern somewhat cheesy martial arts movie with awesome fighting sequences, CGI and “R” rated brutality like the games, this is the one for you.

The Theme of Wolfwalkers

WOLFWALKERS Q&A | TIFF 2020 – https://youtu.be/rjp9BJ9Ht5c

The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey – Old Friends [Extended] (Part 2) – https://youtu.be/nn3nA-0Au9U

How To Train Your Dragon: “This is Berk” Scene 4K HD – https://youtu.be/Yk52kI87-VI

 

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Godzilla vs. King Kong Review: An Appreciative Look

Slight Spoilers Ahead


We have had “The Thrilla in Manila,” “The Rumble in the Jungle,” “The Brawl in Montreal” and now we have what I’m calling “King of Titans” in “Godzilla vs Kong”!

The fourth installment in the MonsterVerse franchise directed by Adam Wingard packs a titanically large punch (pun intended) when these two giant monsters collide to see who bows to who. Whether you are a fan of Godzilla or Kong entering this film for the first time does not matter. The film will leave you wanting more of each respected titan and will bring a new level of appreciation for them.

From the opening credits of the film the viewer can see the breakdown of the monsterverse, and each fight leading up to Godzilla and Kong facing off for the first time in the franchise. Godzilla is not new to brawling with various other monsters with unique abilities and strengths, but he soon finds out Kong is in a different class all his own.

The experience of such a monumental fight was very nostalgic for me. I can remember being 10-12 years old and loving to see monsters clash with one another. I remember not being able to decide which was my favorite of all the creatures ever imagined, but my top two were definitely Godzilla and Kong.

Before viewing the film, I admit to not having any expectations for it being more than another monster film. That quickly turned once Godzilla was on the screen. 

Even if you have seen the previous movies from the monsterverse, there is something about Godzilla that draws the kid out of you. Seeing him makes you remember his classic roar and his dragon breath and gives you the feeling that Kong will have no chance in this fight since he is known more for defeating titans.

Our favorite titans have to share screen time in this one and could not hog all the glory from the film even though they are the main event. The cast was well rounded but did not give enough of a lift to the film to make it a perfect monster movie.

The classic conspiracy theorists join together to provide some comical relief between what everyone tuned into watch. The film did have a classic villain plotting some secret scheme for the world. Although considering monsters were destroying cities with their earth-shattering fights, I cannot say I blame him for trying to find a way to overpower them and put humanity on top again.

Sadly, this is one thing in the movie I could have done without. I caught myself thinking many times through the film that I could do without the people in it. Unfortunately, that would only make it a 40-minute movie and not a full-length feature.

The story that was built around the fight was a sci-fi adventure which had holes with no explanations. I do want to be fair and say that perfect science was not the main focus and dealing with sci-fi is not always the easiest thing. Still the ideas for the origins of the titans was given a good effort.

Overall the film is worth watching due to its epic battle scenes. The movie moves from fight to fight like a boxing event. Each fight is a round on its own and you can never really tell who will win in the end. You could say you have ringside seats to one of the most action-packed fights of all time. You will find yourself cheering for both combatants and not wanting either to lose because of the heart they both show. 

63rd Annual Grammy Predictions – Who Should Win vs. Who Will Win?

At last year’s Grammy ceremony, we saw teen sensation Billie Eilish sweep the awards show stage with a collection of pop songs that fuses  relatable melancholy with grandiose visual and musical aesthetics. This years ceremony finds itself in a new predicament, one where the music industry and the major components of it, such as ceremony shows and concerts, are sidelined due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Some artists took the pandemic as a time to practice escapism, creating music that is exuberant and bright, cheery and representative of a better time than the ones we’re living through currently. Others dove into their inner psyche, and wrote music that reflected the shifting social climates of America, and the way that ur brains all struggled through a period of self-isolation.

Which of these forms of artistic exploration and expression will the Academy reward; and of the nominated categories, who are the most likely winners, and who I believe should be the likely winner? Here, we present predictions for the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards.

Pop Field

With Justin Bieber, Dua Lipa and Taylor Swift leading in nominations within this field, it’s safe to assume that this will also determine the winners for major categories. Lipa and Swift have reasonably distinguished themselves as major front-runners for the year, as both are representing contrasting sides of the pop music community and its purposes today. 

Dua Lipa represents a younger generation focused on experimentation and escapism within pop, evidenced by her nominated smash hit, “Don’t Start Now”, which features a glossy and danceable, disco-inspired sound to compliment its rather standard pop song conventions.

Taylor Swift, the well established pop icon, abandons her somewhat inconsistent reputation as the princess of country-pop to write and produce some of her most mature and nuanced music to date. With a remade version of Fearless looming in the near future it’d be hard to discredit her merits as one of America’s iconic songwriters, and the Academy has certainly been unafraid of claiming so.

Other notable nominations include teen sensation and Grammy darling, Billie Eilish, present in this field with her second top-ten Billboard hit, “Everything I Wanted”, one of the strongest popular commentaries on fame in recent memory. Also nominated for her No Time to Die Bond theme song, it feels likely that we could witness the young star claiming more Grammy fame.

Additionally, Lady Gaga finds herself underrepresented at this year’s Grammys following her most bombastic pop releases in almost a decade. She’s likely to receive recognition for her pop banger with Ariana Grande, but the rightful group that dominated the last year and represented western cultures growing interest in K-Pop would be BTS. Their first single to top both the Global Hot 100 and US Hot 100, “Dynamite” is easily the most joyous boy-band single in years, and is worthy of awarding.

Best Pop Solo Performance:

Who Should Win: “Everything I Wanted” by Billie Eilish

Who is Going to Win: “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa or “Cardigan” by Taylor Swift

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance:

Who Should Win: “Dynamite” by BTS

Who is Going to Win: “Rain on Me” by Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande

Best Pop Vocal Album:

Who Should Win: Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa

Who is Going to Win: folklore by Taylor Swift

Dance/Electronic Field

With one of the most diverse groupings in the category’s recent memory, it’s evident that the Grammy committee is dedicated to appearing as though it is changing with the times. Kaytranada is the only nominee within this category to score a nomination in the major fields, being as he’s in consideration for Best New Artist. 

Kaytranada’s BUBBA release was met to general critical acclaim and a somewhat mixed fan reception. While singles such as the nominated “10%” performed well, but most non-single tracks on this album have been considered deep cuts within the DJ’s ever-growing discography. 

This field has notoriety for awarding bigger EDM artists over smaller ones, so it’s most likely that Diplo and Flume, both previous Grammy award winners, are the frontrunners. For both artists, these tracks represent earnest creativity from both producers, and are both some of the artists best works. Despite that, Diplo’s “On My Mind” is easily the popular choice from this list, especially following its brief tenure as a TikTok meme.

The real sleeper hit in this list of nominees is Jayda G’s “Both of Us”, a slow burn house track that was produced by Jayda and producer Fred again. With an incredibly simplistic beat and understated, raw vocal performance, the track is emotional and intelligent. 

Dance and electronic spaces have notoriously underserviced black artistry and undercredited those same black women despite a heavy utilization of black aesthetics and sound. While I find it unlikely that Jayda G’s joyful romp is rewarded, it is the rightfully deserving winner.

Additionally, Arca became the fourth trans person to become a Grammy nominee, joining late friend and collaborator, SOPHIE, as the second trans woman nominated for Best Electronic Album. While SOPHIE did not win for her stunning debut, Oil of Every Pearls Un-Insides, her influence and sound can be heard on both Arca and other nominees music. 

To see Arca win this award for her most accessible album, KiCk i, which is an avant-garde fusion of pop and deconstructed club, would be monumental to left-field experimental music. 

Best Dance Recording:

Who Should Win: “Both of Us” by Jayda G

Who is Going to Win: “On My Mind” by Diplo & SIDEPIECE

Best Dance/Electronica Album:

Who Should Win: KiCk i by Arca

Who is Going to Win: Energy by Disclosure

Rock/Metal/Alternative Field

Phoebe Bridgers has certainly set the scene for herself as music’s latest critical darling, and that continues to show due to her and HAIM being the only nominees in this field to also be nominated in the major leagues. Additionally, Fiona Apple finds herself nominated only three times for her critically acclaimed record Fetch the Bolt Cutters, which undoubtedly was one of the strongest records of the last year. 

Grace Potter and Big Thief are both the indie picks on this roster. Big Thief, helmed by Adrianne Lenker, was previously nominated for their first record of 2019, UFOF. While I believe they are unlikely to be rewarded this year, “Not” is easily the most engaging and cathartic track nominated this year.

On the other hand, Grace Potter largely avoided critical reception on her latest two records despite receiving commercial success. “Daylight” is simultaneously a slow burn and heavy hitter; it may not impact a listener on their first experience, but it’s the type of song that once you’ve heard, sticks with you forever. However I think it is most likely we see previous Grammy winner Brittany Howard rewarded here for her abundantly soulful ballad, “Stay High”.

The metal category sees some noteworthy nominations as well. Poppy became the first woman to be nominated in this category as an individual artist. A win for her would push the boundaries on not only who metal music is being created for, but under what grounds of consumption. 

Additionally, both Power Trip and Code Orange have become notable critical darlings within the metal scene since their inceptions; I think it is more likely that we see a co-signing of these up-and-coming bands from the committee. 

Ice T’s band Body Count also received a nomination here, allowing a majority black band to find its space once again in what could be considered a largely white scene. A win would mean that the said standard for success is possible for people who don’t necessarily appeal to the genre’s standard demographic.

A few longtime Grammy favorites also find themselves representing the Best Alternative Album field. While rising critical darling Phoebe Bridgers stands a large chance at being rewarded for her 2020 record, Punisher, Fiona Apple, Beck, Tame Impala, and Brittany Howard all stand decent chances at taking the award. 

Tame Impala further develops his brand of psychedelic rock into pop formats, creating danceable and accessible indie tracks that are worthy of praise and enjoyment. Additionally, Brittany Howard’s soulful Jaime is a testament to her lived experiences, and what America is like for a poor, biracial lesbian. It’s worthy of praise, and the Grammy’s seem to know that. 

Best Rock Performance:

Who Should Win: “Not” by Big Thief

Who is Going to Win: “Kyoto” by Phoebe Bridgers

Best Metal Performance:

Who Should Win: “BLOODMONEY” by Poppy

Who is Going to Win: “Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Ax) – Live” by Power Trip

Best Rock Song:

Who Should Win: “Shameika” by Fiona Apple

Who is Going to Win: “Stay High” by Brittany Howard

Best Rock Album:

Who Should Win: Kiwanuka by Michael Kiwanuka

Who is Going to Win: Sound & Fury by Sturgill Simpson or The New Abnormal by The Strokes

Best Alternative Album:

Who Should Win: Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple

Who is Going to Win: Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers or Jaime by Brittany Howard

R&B Field

Following a tumultuous summer of racial turmoil and campaigns throughout the world, the R&B category sees itself most affected by these events, with numerous songs having been written and recorded in response. In contrast to Jacob Colliers avant-pop R&B fusion, and Beyoncé’s “BLACK PARADE”, most of the R&B performance nominees are somber expressions of love, pain, and struggles for power in a system that specifically disables some from obtaining such. 

While “BLACK PARADE” is easily the most popular nominee in this category, as well as being the only song also nominated in a major category, “Goat Head” is a nuanced and soulful introspection on Brittany Howard’s relationship with race and oppression, due to her parent’s interracial relationship. 

Additionally, Emily King surprises with an incredibly simplistic acoustic track that carefully straddles the lines between soulful mourning and call to action, and is worthy of praise.

The best R&B song category also finds itself in a somewhat odd place, with both somber emotional tracks such as Robert Glasper & H.E.R.’s collaboration “Better Than I Imagined” and the buoyant and groovy pop track, “Do It” from sister act Chloe x Halle. 

H.E.R. finds herself as a double nominee in this category this year, also nominated for her collaboration with Skip Marley, “Slow Down”. Both of these tracks are simple love songs that are accessible and high quality, with the former being a fun and dance worthy fusion of dancehall and modern R&B’s guitar-centric style. 

Best R&B Album finds itself in another odd predicament. The assumption to be made is that Jhené Aiko’s Chilombo is the frontrunner, seeing as it’s the only album in this category that is also nominated for Album of the Year. 

While Aiko certainly has established a reputation for developing what could be considered modern neo soul, this is not very represented in her latest record, which often puts attention grabbing hooks and sensual vibes over tracks with actual substance. 

Thundercat has previously won a Grammy for his work on Kendrick Lamar’s “These Walls”, and has been critically well received for many years. While his latest record largely explores and incorporates musical elements from his 2017 release, Drunk, It is What It Is is certainly his most accessible and enjoyable record to date, and worthy of praise. 

Additionally, Chloe x Halle had one of the most notable pop moments of the year with their Ungodly Hour record, which saw them do numerous live streamed performances and music videos. With a Chrome Edition of the record just released, the album is certain to attain the sister further Grammy buzz.

Best R&B Performance:

Who Should Win: “See Me” by Emily King

Who is Going to Win: “BLACK PARADE” by Beyoncé

Best Traditional R&B Performance:

Who Should Win: “Wonder What She Thinks of Me” by Chloe x Halle

Who is Going to Win: “Wonder What She Thinks of Me” by Chloe x Halle

Best R&B Song:

Who Should Win: “Do It” by Chloe x Halle

Who is Going to Win: “BLACK PARADE” by Beyoncé

Best Progressive R&B Album:

Who Should Win: Ungodly Hour by Chloe x Halle

Who is Going to Win: Chilombo by Jhené Aiko

Rap Field

Highlighting new artists and protest songs in a newly unprecedented manner, the Grammy committee seems dedicated to persuade American audiences that they’ve come to terms with their own issues with diversity. 

Genres like Rap/Hip-Hop and R&B have always existed to separate black artists into a position where they are “recognized” but still not considered for major awards. This is evidenced with none of this year’s Best Rap Album nominees being nominated for Album of the Year and with no Hip-Hop producers being considered for Producer of the Year.

Most of the nominated tracks spent extended periods occupying the Billboard charts. Of these songs, Roddy Ricch makes a case for himself as a standout with acclaimed single “The Box”, as well as a double nominee position on his collaboration with DaBaby’s “Rockstar”. 

While the relevancy curve has arguably not been doing Roddy any favors as of late, with white America’s “rapper-of-the-moment” constantly fluctuating, “The Box” still stands as a highlight of life pre-pandemic, and is worthy of awardship. 

On the opposing side, Best New Artist nominee, Megan thee Stallion, certainly had the most show-stopping year of her fellow rappers. With 2 number one singles, one of which is the nominated “Savage (Remix)” featuring Beyoncé, as well as a debut record that is sure to be in rotation for months to come, Megan makes a strong case for herself as an adversary in what is otherwise a male-dominated category. Megan reigning supreme would be a legendary moment for women in rap.

Additionally, DaBaby is another multi-time nominee at this year’s ceremony, including nominations in the major categories. With his level of production value and the overwhelming popularity of his multiple hits in the last year, he stands a decent chance at being crowned an upset winner in this field. 

Additionally, the committee has rewarded white rappers in the past and I would not be shocked to see “What’s Poppin’” claim awards over aforementioned artists due to the general accessibility of Jack Harlow’s brand of pop rap.

Best Rap Performance:

Who Should Win: “Savage (Remix)” by Megan thee Stallion & Beyoncé

Who is Going to Win: “Savage (Remix)” by Megan thee Stallion & Beyoncé

Best Melodic Rap Performance:

Who Should Win: “The Box” by Roddy Ricch

Who is Going to Win: “Rockstar” by DaBaby featuring Roddy Ricch

Best Rap Song:

Who Should Win: “Savage (Remix)” by Megan thee Stallion & Beyoncé

Who is Going to Win: “Rockstar” by DaBaby featuring Roddy Ricch

Best Rap Album:

Who Should Win: Alfredo by Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist

Who is Going to Win: King’s Disease by Nas or A Written Testimony by Jay Electronica

General Field

This year’s general field finds itself in an almost precarious situation. The battle seems to be coming down to Taylor Swift, who is en route to establishing herself as one of the pop greats, and Dua Lipa, who is benefitting from the high of a euphoric sophomore era. While Swift has certainly made artistic development worthy of praise, it would be a safe move to crown Swift in the present moment. 

Other nominees in the general field stand out because they did not receive many nominations in other categories. HAIM’s Women in Music Pt. III only received a best rock performance nomination despite also being in contention for Album of the Year. Women in Music, Pt. III is the most finely crafted and varied album up for the major award, however it is unlikely that the sister trio is rewarded for such.

Critical success’ such as Phoebe Bridgers and Kaytranada also find themselves on the roster for Best New Artist, despite both of their debut albums coming out over three years ago. I think this actually hurts artists like Bridgers and Kaytra because it means artists who are actually benefiting from the relevancy curve of a true debut record, such as Megan thee Stallion, stand a larger chance. 

That is not to propose the idea that Megan is an undeserving winner however. Megan winning in a major field would be the first time a female rapper has done so since Lauryn Hill, and would be a major stepping stone for both black women and rappers in the industry today. 

Megan is a clear standout of the nominees, and stands a chance at walking away this sunday as a multi-time grammy award winning artist, and certainly the most deserving best new artist of 2020.

Best New Artist:

Who Should Win: Megan thee Stallion

Who is Going to Win: Megan thee Stallion or Phoebe Bridgers

Record of the Year:

Who Should Win: “Savage (Remix)” by Megan the Stallion & Beyoncé

Who is Going to Win: “BLACK PARADE” by Beyoncé or “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa

Song of the Year:

Who Should Win: “Everything I Wanted” by Billie Eilish

Who is Going to Win: “cardigan” by Taylor Swift or “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa

Song of the Year:

Who Should Win: Women in Music, Pt. III by HAIM

Who is Going to Win: folklore by Taylor Swift or Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa

Ultimately, we’re likely to either see the crowning of a newly reigning pop diva, or the establishing of a genre-fluid pop icon who’s set to become one of the most esteemed artists of her generation. What it likely to happen is that we’ll see a Grammy ceremony like no other, deeply impacted by the political turmoil of America’s last year as well as the social struggles of artists across the globe that hope to express themselves despite limited accessibility.

Crafting With Kyla, testing out last minute valentine’s day crafts

2020: A Year in Music

 

 

To say that this year was difficult for the average college student would be the understatement of a century. Whether you were attempting to start your life at a new university, preparing to complete a graduate course digitally or perhaps you were sequestered in your dorm for too many hours to count, new music helped us battle our way through the quarantine depression. 

 

With many artists bunkered in as well, we saw many ordinary homes turned into creative spaces that were used to generate some of the best music we’ve been presented in years. Here are 20 albums that made my year as a fledgling college student easier.

20.BUBBA by Kaytranda 

Genre: Dance/Electronic & R&B

Release date: December 13, 2019

A swan song to life prior to quarantine, BUBBA is a euphoric collaborative dance album. It’s lowkey afrobeats are fit for any blood pumping experience, but within it’s dance worthy beats lies a political and social subtext that feels poignant now as it did a year prior. Rounding out at around an hour in length, the album progresses both easily and smoothly, never missing a beat as Kaytranada opens the floor to a bevy of collaborators, including Kali Uchis and Pharell Williams. The result is one of the best dance records in recent memory, and is a worthwhile listen to anybody interested in Boiler Room sets and easygoing beats.

Buy here

19. Good News by Megan Thee Stallion

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Release date: November 20, 2020

Operating within a male dominated genre that seeks to objectify and sexualize black women at any moment of success, few have truly refound their agency in the same way Megan Thee Stallion has on Good News. Her debut record is jam packed with filthy sex jams and earworm hooks that are sure to populate your TikTok for months to come. Megan feels more like a larger-than-life character than ever before, performing tracks that represent her southern and black pride in joyful ways that enable necessary conversations. It is the essential rap album of the year, and is sure to please anybody looking for an introduction to her sound.

Buy here

18. Róisín Machine by Róisín Murphy

Genre: Disco

Release date: October 2, 2020

After quarantine mandates closed down the clubs, several of pop music and electronic’s biggest heads ensured that the party continued in our homes. On Róisín Machine, Róisín Murphy provides some of her best tracks that have been in the works for over a decade. An incredibly fun nu-disco album, Murphy takes the traditional disco sounds we expect and expands onto them in ways that are danceable and entrancing, but also incredibly smart and deliberate. A perfect record for anybody yearning to get their groove on, my personal recommendation is to replace the standard tracks with their extended counterparts.

Buy here

17. Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa

Genre: Disco & Pop

Release date: March 27, 2020

When we first met Dua Lipa, she seemed like a young pop star in search of a larger identity and star power. She has always had the production power and songwriting chops, evidenced by hit “New Rules”, but prior to this year the general populace couldn’t quite make her out. Now, she welcomes us into club Future Nostalgia, where disco is new once again. Revitalizing the genre within modern pop music, Lipa crafts an album that feels timeless and quick-pact. Its short runtime allows for each track to feel substantial, and the result presents the young artist as a pop star worthy of the crown.

Buy here

16.

Lianne La Havas by Lianne La Havas

Genre: Neo-Soul & Folk

Release date: July 17, 2020

Inspired by cycles of love and the birth and rebirth of nature surrounding her, Lianne La Havas’ self-titled and self-produced third LP feels like a serene waterfall hike. Fluttered throughout with pleasant acoustic guitars, soulful jams, and emotional ballads that feel made for television’s most dramatic moments, La Havas directly opposes those same neo-soul stylings by clashing them with rock sounds. The heavier moments on this record, such as its Radiohead cover, “Weird Fishes” feel like beautiful storms within a gorgeous forest. This album is certain to please those searching for an R&B record with edge, or perhaps a folk music fan looking for something to dance to.

Buy here

15.

KiCk i by Arca

Genre: Dance/Electronic & Pop

Release date: June 26, 2020

Beyond the incredibly harsh tones and glitchy surface of KiCk i, any listener will hear the sound of self realization. An artist coming into her form, Arca feels more realized than ever before, finetuning her sound into a place that is both listenable to longterm fans seeking the bizarre sounds of her early work and new fans seeking conventional but off-the-wall electro-pop. The result is an album that features some of the singers best performances and production, and promises an even brighter future for what could become of the pioneering electronic artists sound.

 

Buy here

14.

SAWAYAMA by Rina Sawayama

Genre: Pop & Nu-Metal

Release date: April 17, 2020

Any longtime fan of Rina Sawayama will tell you that a major label debut has been a promising idea for years. It’s arrival feels like a blessing to pop fans around the world, a fun album inspired heavily by Y2K pop and nu-metal. Despite its clearly dated inspiration points, SAWAYAMA feels incredibly modern, relying heavily on modern pop stylings and fusing them with the characteristic production of collaborator, Clarence Clarity. It’s an album that’ll transport any listener into a nostalgic buzz, one that will feel especially poignant within the record’s political subtext. It’s a necessary album for anybody interested in sophisticated pop music that pushes the boundaries of its genre.

Buy here

13.

how i’m feeling now by Charli XCX

Genre: Dance/Electronic & Pop

Release date: May 15, 2020

One of the earliest popular musicians to declare publicly that she would be releasing a “quarantine album”, how i’m feeling now manages to arguably be Charli XCX’s best album to date. Fusing modern hyperpop sounds with her knack for writing impactful pop hooks and the nostalgic clubby experimentation presented in her debut, the album manages to strengthen many of the elements at play in her previous full-length. Abandoning her frequent reliance on collaborators to create a personal pop album with old and new producers, the album highlights Charli’s attention to detail and refrain, stripping her larger than life sound into a more intimate and approachable affair. A digestible album for any person in search of exuberant pop sounds.

Buy here

12.

5EPs by Dirty Projectors

Genre: Alternative/Indie

Release date: November 20, 2020

Releasing five EPs throughout the course of the year alongside his newly introduced lineup of performers, David Longstreth latest Dirty Projectors piece is an inviting and incredibly ranged piece of indie pop. Drifting by as though a breeze in a park, the album flows masterfully within each respected EP, and its result is a compilation piece that shows a band coming into full unity. There are several moments on the album about love and the power that it has over others. But its best moments are its most intelligent, subtly telling political stories in an accessible and creative manner. It is an essential indie album that jumps from genre inspiration, but is sure to please all listeners at some point.

 

Buy here

11. What’s Your Pleasure by Jessie Ware

Genre: Disco & Pop

Release date: June 26, 2020

Disco definitely found new footing this year within the pop landscape, but this was no more clear and effective than Jessie Ware’s latest effort. What’s Your Pleasure feels like an effortless display of good pop and dance music. With an emotional opener that is certain to grasp listeners, and grooves that are fluent and evocative throughout, Ware set out to do what the best escapist music does, “Will this make people want to have sex? And will this make people want to dance?”. That idea is prevalent in fun and sweat-soaked anthems throughout, an album certain to please any listener hoping to get their groove on.

Buy here

10. Shamir by Shamir

Genre: Alternative/Indie & Rock

Release date: October 2, 2020

Upon the release of his critically acclaimed debut record, Ratchet, it seemed Shamir was primed for indie fame with an already viral classic under his belt. In the years following that, he left XL Recordings and self-released four records that took inspiration from “outsider music, country & punk”. These ideas come to full fruition on the singer’s latest self-titled album, which contains the finest moments of the young artist’s career in a brief, engaging record. Featuring memorable lyrics and earworm hooks that are accompanied by a DIY-rock sound, you’ve got an essential lofi-indie rock that is certain to please any fan of the genre.

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9. WHAT WE DREW 우리가 그려왔던 by Yaeji

Genre: Dance/Electronic & K-Pop

Release date: April 2, 2020

Signing with XL Recordings, Yaeji was inspired by the support systems within her life to create her most playful and collaborative music yet. Whilst still clubby and fun throughout, WHAT WE DREW largely contrasts the moodier sounds of her previous EPs, with moments on this record coming across as bubbly and bouncy. The record, which was entirely self-produced by Yaeji, is at its best when it manages to fuse these unlikely elements into dance tracks that feel substantial and are easily danceable. Above all, WHAT WE DREW is the artist’s most diverse body of music to date and promises an exceptional full-length debut.

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8.The Angel You Don’t Know by Amaarae

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap & Afro-Pop

Release date: November 12, 2020

Amaarae is an up-and-coming Ghanian-American artist whose steadily subverting expectations with her progressive and stylish brand of afro-pop. Inspired by a multitude of stylistic genres, including southern trap and mall rock, The Angel You Don’t Know is wildly experimental and written exceptionally well also. The best tracks feel layered and sultry, combined by Amaarae distinctive whispery vocals. The end result is an incredibly enjoyable pop record that is fueled by its fun collaborations and genre-bouncing tracklist.

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7. Every Bad by Porridge Radio

Genre: Alternative/Indie & Rock

Release date: March 13, 2020

It’s always a dream when a band grows with their second record, and Every Bad is an example of this. An incredibly enrapturing rock album, Porridge Radio presents a series of truths, dreams and realities, and incredibly emotional themes that are later propelled by the band’s brash sound. At its heaviest, lead singer Dana Margolin vocals highlight a harshness to the bands songwriting, which is sometimes counteracted by the bands brighter, pop rock production pieces. While its tougher moments are cathartic and encasing, the album’s strongest elements are its dramatic builds throughout, with each song feeling large and climatic. It is an enjoyable rock record and is certain to please any fan of the genre.

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6. St. Cloud by Waxahatchee

Genre: Alternative/Indie & Folk

Release date: March 27, 2020

Amassing a decent cult following and building a reputation for herself with the indie music scene as a promising songwriter, St. Cloud feels like an exuberant highlight within the young artists building discography. Where her previous records were somber and sparse, an intimacy that highlighted her prowess as a songwriter, the ‘90s rock sound exhilarating. The result is an American folk record that fits as well into indie circuit radios as it might on a big country festival stage. Featuring some of the most stylistically bright music in the young artists career, it is a transformative album that is certain to leave any willing listener impacted by the end of its concise runtime.

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5.All the Time by Jessy Lanza

Genre: Dance/Electronic & R&B

Release date: July 24, 2020

Completely uprooting her life in her hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, Jessy Lanza prepared for a new journey as a budding popstar. Now, her most energetic record must live within the walls of a quarantined New York apartment; however that doesn’t deprive the record of its deeply effective grooves and sensations. Writing some of the smartest dance tracks in her career, Lanza pitches and plays with her vocals in fresh ways that create variance throughout the album. However, that is already easily done by the immaculately understated production that is on display by Lanza and club-pop musician, Jeremy Greenspan. Several tracks on this record depict Lanza’s resentment and emotionality towards the duo’s relationship, and when paired with glossy pop and R&B-adjacent productions, the result is sickeningly sweet and fun.

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4. Ungodly Hour by Chloe x Halle

Genre: Pop & R&B

Release date: June 12, 2020

With a Disney acting role inbound, and an incredibly underrated debut record in the foreground, the sister duo expands on almost every element on their debut record with an instant-classic R&B record. With religious imagery that is utilized effectively throughout the record, Ungodly Hour is consistent in quality and sound throughout. Having found a bouncy, club-pop lane within the modern R&B landscape, they greatly avoid the failures of their contemporaries with a non-excessive runtime and varied emotionality. Ungodly Hour promises sultry and romantic, if not downright sexy, jams and empowering anthems that are bouncy and relatable, yet subtle. Its pop hooks are catchy, and its production quality is airtight, which is further highlighted by the duo’s resiliency in live performances and shows. If anything, the greatest takeaway is that Chloe x Halle seemed primed for R&B royalty, with a backing system that is determined to see success.

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3. Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple

Genre: Alternative/Indie

Release date: April 17, 2020

What will probably go down as the critical quintessential quarantine record, Fiona Apple’s magnum opus record is incredibly expansive and nuanced. Incorporating the best elements of her phenomenal discography, Fetch the Bolt Cutters began as a conceptual album about her Venice home and grew into a political record for the times. While the sentiment “fetch the bolt cutters” is certain to feel relatable in a time of quarantining with financial insecurity and political unrest, Apple’s themes of freedom from oppression will be deeply relatable to anybody who’s felt cast aside by society. With songs written over the course of a decade and inspired by several relationships and lived experiences, the result is an almost confoundingly infectious record, with its best tracks making philosophical assertions seem effortless.

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2. Women in Music Pt. III by HAIM

Genre: Alternative/Indie & Rock

Release date: June 26, 2020

HAIM has quietly been a force within the indie-pop genre, with their debut album Days Are Gone being a deliberate take on the blown-out pop productions of the early-2010s. While this momentum may have been stifled by their second record, which leaned heavier into country and pop genre-stylings than their previous had, it was evident that the band’s inspiration points, including Joni Mitchell, Destiny’s Child, and Blondie, were resulting in groovy nostalgic pop that was occasionally overcrowded. This is a critique that is nearly totally resolved by the bands euphoric and genre-fluid third record. Mastering their production with Rostam, formerly of Vampire Weekend, the result is incredibly explorative and fully realized. No melody on this record sounds like another present here, and that is quantified by Danielle Haim’s songwriting, which is stronger than ever at effectively telling stories with simple words. Women in Music Pt. III is by far the most fun album of the year, occasionally campy, entirely sentimental, and briefly political at times throughout.

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1. Song for Our Daughter by Laura Marling

Genre: Alternative/Indie & Folk

Release date: April 10, 2020

Inspired by global chaos and political turmoil, as well as the 2009 novel Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou, British songwriter Laura Marling welcomes audiences into her northeast London home with a beautifully simplistic folk record. Written to a theoretical daughter, and more generally mothers and women as a unity, Marling writes ten straightforward, endearing and coyly political tracks that continue to demonstrate her unmatched talents as songwriter. Occasionally joined by sparse percussion, Song for Our Daughter mostly features Marling alongside her guitar, orchestrating heart wrenching ballads and serenades that pull on the strings of any romantic listener. Marling demonstrates a knowledge beyond her years, always skeptical of those around her and the love that she both must give and receive. While most of the themes on this record can be directly tied to Marlings visions and expectations of motherhood, Marling continues to touch on themes related to her livelihood as a woman operating love and romance in a world that allows men to control every aspect of their lives and fails to allow said security to women. One of the best tracks on the album, “Strange Girl” feels jubilant, intelligent, and above all fun on a folk album that is otherwise emotionally charged and generally weary. Even at the record’s most somber moments, Marlings vocals feel hopeful and enticing, and when the record ends on a joyfully aware note of appreciation and understanding, listeners feel as though they’ve come to understand Marling in a new way. It is the best folk album of the year, and album of the year because it manages to display emotionally fragility, strength and growth over a stunning and deliberate 37-minute runtime, a feat worth praising. It is the serene and insightful record that we all needed during our clamorous year, and is sure to be enjoyed by romantics and those with an appreciation for delicate lyricism.

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Animal Crossing: Just a Kids’ Game or a Modern Coping Tool?

Matt Slater / Staff Photo 

Young or old, you have probably heard of the video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Amidst the uncertainty that is global affairs in 2020, Animal Crossing’s cheery exterior and light-gameplay have been welcomed into the public light with open arms. 

But what about Animal Crossing: New Horizons has made it so successful? Could the raging popularity be accredited to individuals just searching for ways to escape their current situation, or is there a deeper benefit? 

The video-gaming industry as a whole has seen an increase in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic. With the current global atmosphere being very tense and many individuals stressed about COVID-19, whether it be work or health-related, Animal Crossing has offered a type of peaceful sanctuary. 

Animal Crossing can be used as a daily escape from the frightening reality of life. It allows individuals to take control of anxiety-provoking situations and vent any frustrations or fears they have about the real world. 

This pursuit of an outlet to funnel attention to is called escapism. Escapism has historically been given a bad rap because it is associated with relief from an unpleasant situation, but it is not always negative. 

Animal Crossing offers a video-gaming experience that is often compared to soothing meditational practices. The franchise is not dominated by heavy story-telling and the narrative guidelines can be completed at your leisure. This self-pacing mechanism offers players many choices, and with it, control. 

In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, players can decide what their character does day-to-day in real-time; whether it be tending a garden, catching fish or bugs, decorating villager’s houses, or visiting friends from around the globe. Original music, characters, and dialogue make Animal Crossing quite unique in the gaming world. 

New Horizons launched on March 20, 2020; In record time, it exceeded the lifetime sales of each previous game in the Animal Crossing franchise. Also during March, the Nintendo Switch console, which is the only platform New Horizons is offered on, saw a sales increase of 150 percent. 

Individuals like Jeremy Bailenson have worked to investigate the connections between escapism and virtual enrichment. As he explores in his book, Experience on Demand, virtual reality, and social simulators can help individuals recover from trauma. 

Traumatic events, such as global pandemics, bring a degree of uncertainty, which can lead to serious psychological repercussions. 

A 2002 study of children in psychologically traumatic situations showed that playing with toys or art materials helped rebuild emotional stability. Having the opportunity to play comes with the notion that people are beginning to put their lives back together, and life is going back to normal.

In this way, Animal Crossing: New Horizons might be the relief that our modern generation needs. 

Anyone could make the argument that COVID-19 has been a traumatic experience. Life for many around the globe has completely changed. The loss of communities such as school, work, and religious gatherings, as well as the uncertainty when communities will be able to gather again, can lead to serious mental health repercussions.

Maybe the reason New Horizons has gotten so popular is that it is tending to the psychological human need to play in order to deal with trauma. 

New Horizons is fundamentally simple. It allows for easy repetition, which can soothe nerves or anxiety. Additionally, New Horizons is open to creative expression. As a player, you are not confined to a strict rule book. Almost every aspect of the game is moldable to your artistic vision. If players don’t have a specific vision in mind, the game inspires them to create one with the tools provided. 

Finally, New Horizons lets you build and nurture new relationships and communities. It has become a new resource for individuals to connect to one another. In a time when everyone is a little lonely, thousands of players congregate online to share resources and playthrough tips.  

Animal Crossing: New Horizons may pave the way for new, innovative virtual simulators, especially if quarantine persists. It will be interesting to see how different aspects of the media industry will cope with life restrictions or if more companies try to capitalize on stay-at-home requirements. Regardless, New Horizons will be written in the history books as a smashing success.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review

Abri Wilson / Staff Illustrator

Even if you aren’t exactly a gamer, you might enjoy Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It offers a nice escape from reality, where players can explore and build their own island paradise, with the help of friendly neighbors. There’s a reason the franchise has been popular with adults and kids alike for years. There is something calming about the game, in which players can put themselves into an alternate reality and be in charge of what happens at their pace.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the latest in the popular Animal Crossing franchise from Nintendo. Available only for the Nintendo Switch, this game involves a lot of the same elements of the previous games: players arrive in a new land, find resources to use or sell, participate in events, and interact with anthropomorphic animal villagers. However, what makes this game different is that instead of arriving in a pre-built town, players have to create the town entirely from scratch, with the help of a Racoon named “Tom Nook.”

As a 13-year player of the Animal Crossing franchise, I have to say, there is definitely some significant progress from the previous games. For starters, the graphics are clearer. The villagers are finally able to move their pupils, whereas, in previous games, they would just turn their heads when walked by. Players can also see more detailed flora and fauna.

Also, the idea of building a town from scratch seemed like it would take a while. However, once players get the hang of the controls, it’s easy to navigate the island.

Abri Wilson / Staff Illustrator

Speaking of the island, players can name it themselves, as long as the name’s appropriate. Alluding to my Scandinavian heritage, I named mine “The Fjords.” Learning how to find resources is straightforward, and once players take Tom Nook’s DIY workshop, resources can be used to make furniture and tools.

A new feature that wasn’t in the previous games is gifting. Building relationships with neighboring characters unlocks an option to give them presents when players interact with them. Sometimes, they’ll even give something back.

Yet another new feature is energy. Unlike previous games, eating fruit can give players energy, which can make them strong enough to chop down trees, uproot trees (which can be replanted later), or smash apart rocks. Players can have a maximum of 10 energy at a time.

In the game, there are locations players can unlock as they progress, like the museum, airport, shops, and a campsite. After playing for a while, buildings like the general store and town hall will go through upgrades.

At the airport, players can redeem tickets earned through an in-game point system called the “Nook Miles System,” head to “Harv’s Island” to take pictures at a photo studio, or visit friends via the Nintendo Online system. Players can also send postcards from the airport.

The in-game currency, “Bells,” can be confusing. For instance, players can sell a dinosaur bone for 3,000 Bells, but a giant teddy bear costs 8,500 Bells. However, Bells are easy to earn through selling items found on your island (or other islands), or, if in a pinch, can be received through “Bell Vouchers,” which are obtained by cashing in Nook Miles.

One thing that I’m on the fence about is the Nook Miles System. Even after getting the upgrade to “Nook Miles Plus” on your in-game smartphone, it takes a while to earn enough miles to cash in for rewards. A Bell Voucher (worth 3,000 Bells each when exchanged at the general store) is 500 miles, and a Nook Miles Ticket, which can be used at the airport to find resources on uninhabited islands, is 2,000 miles.

Although, in my opinion, Bells are actually a bit more complicated. Players can sell resources, furniture, and wildlife to earn bells, but prices are high at the stores on the island. A postcard from the airport alone costs 200 Bells. So be careful about how you spend your Miles and Bells!

My favorite part of the game, however, is the museum. When you catch a new species of bug or fish, or if you find a dinosaur fossil, you can take it to Blathers, the museum curator, and he will help you display your specimen.

Abri Wilson / Staff Illustrator

If you bring him something the museum already has, he will politely reject it, but offer to teach you some interesting facts about it. Even though the museum has an entomology (bugs) wing, Blathers is afraid of bugs, so players can get some pretty funny reactions out of him when they bring him a bug. 

Now, what really makes the New Horizons museum really great, is the facelift it received compared to the previous games. The museum is very fancy, complete with a butterfly room with a fountain in the middle, a walk-through deep-sea aquarium, and amazingly detailed fossils in the fossil wing. Unfortunately, there is no art wing so far, unlike previous games. However, the museum is still a favorite for both me and my brother, Nathan (“Nate”), who has his own character in the game. 

Overall, I would give Animal Crossing: New Horizons, 88%. While some parts of the game are complicated, and there are still hiccups to get through, it is a fun game, and a great way to relax during the stay-at-home order.

 

“Tiger King”: A Must Watch

Ty Phay / Staff Illustrator

From gay, country singing, drug-addicts, to cultish tiger housing societies, the Netflix docuseries “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” shocked the world with its captivating look into the lives of the American big cat community. The most-watched Netflix show since March 20, gave a glimpse into the animal rights controversy that many Americans didn’t know existed. 

According to the documentary, twice as many tigers live in U.S. captivity than in their natural habitats. Big cat owners across the nation claimed they existed for the conservation and awareness of the animals, but directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin allowed viewers to judge the owner’s intentions.

With viewpoints from all sides of big cats captivity, ranging from caretakers to protesters, the directors captured the conflict between good and evil. This conflict drove the story of the docuseries, and added to the dramatized angle fit for national streaming. The docuseries seemed to stray from the focus of spreading awareness for big cats and focused on the characters that drive the controversy.

The protagonist and former big cat zoo owner Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as “Joe Exotic,” provided much of the surreal entertainment throughout the seven-part series. Wildlife park owner Bhagavan “Doc” Antle best described Exotic as, “A completely insane, gay, gun-toting, drug-addict fanatic.” Exotic was the perfect defining character and face of the documentary with his eccentric lifestyle and fiery personality. 

The second large scale animal owner and breeder is best known as “Doc Antle.” The director of Myrtle Beach Safari and Rare Species Fund seemed to bring together cultish intentions with the operation of his wildlife park. His act of polygamy with his park staff added to the surreal nature of the characters in the docuseries. 

In contrast, for these two big cat animal owners, animal activists have devoted their efforts to the abolishment of exotic animal parks. Animal activist and Big Cat Rescue owner Carole Baskin acted as the antagonist to the main character of Exotic. Through her opposition and controversies, mainly over the disappearance of her husband, the directors added her story to blow up the documentary. 

“Tiger King,” may not be for people of all ages due to the use of profanity, guns, and crude language, but the story told is unlike anything the world has seen. The show left its audience laughing at one minute, gasping the next, and finally shaking their head all in one episode. The seven episodes acted as the perfect getaway during the current Covid-19 pandemic that left the world stuck at home. 

The docuseries blew the mind of people around the world gaining popularity across social media. From celebrity photoshops, to Tik Tok videos, and memes, the show was popularized by people of all backgrounds. 

Directors Goode and Chaiklin masterfully put together a juicy and eye-opening docuseries showing the controversy and blinded nature of self-proclaimed animal activists. The endless energy of the back and forth banter led the characters in the series to distance themselves from the conservation of big cats in the wild. Visitors of America’s big cat parks benefit every day from the striking features of an 800-pound tiger, but it’s the animals that ultimately pay the price.

“Outbreak” Review

Photofest / Courtesy Photo
Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo in 1995’s ‘Outbreak’.

A look back at 1995’s “Outbreak”, amidst the COVID-19 quarantine.

During these quiet, yet rather suspenseful times, many people may be finding that they’re running out of things to do while sitting at home. While it is more than likely that most have had more than their fair share of TV and Netflix, one classic movie stands out in light of its relevancy to today’s events. 1995’s “Outbreak”, available to stream on Netflix, wonders, “What would happen if a deadly virus took the world by storm?” 

This virus in particular is named ‘Motaba’, where the recipients of which break out into nasty open sores. The makeup in the movie is quite realistic, as expected of a feature film; but nevertheless, if blood makes one squeamish, this may not be the film for them. 

As far as factual accuracy is concerned, Outbreak, being set mainly in the United States, uses correct medical and governmental terminology. The main protagonists associate with real organizations such as the World Health Organization and the CDC. 

The movie has a very well planned and moderate pace, rarely being too slow, yet not skimming over any important details or scenes for the sake of time. 

For those looking for comic relief in this rather dark story, there are several light jokes throughout between leading roles which helps viewers connect to the characters, making the movie all the better. Not to worry for those who find that humor ruins a good plot however, as there is still plenty of solemnness and blood to go around. 

This being said, the semi-intense graphics of the disease are not the only reason this movie is rated R. While there is no questionable or sexual content throughout the movie, the main characters swear frequently enough that one may want to reconsider before watching this movie with children. 

Overall, Outbreak is a well-orchestrated film that will capture the attention of a viewer throughout, with the perfect mix of both suspenseful and heartwarming moments. Especially considering the events that have been happening around the world recently, this movie is certainly worth a watch for anyone with a Netflix subscription.

The Weeknd’s Triumph Return with “After Hours”

Duncan Loudon / Courtesy Photo

A song-by-song review of the Weeknd’s 2020 album release, and a deep dive into the meaning of each piece

The Weeknd put out his highly anticipated explicit album titled “After hours” after a 5-year period. Surpassing over a 221 million streams on media platforms such as Spotify, it made number one on iTunes its first week, becoming the most trending topic on Twitter with the #afterhours. 

This dark cinematic piece tells a story of the Weeknd’s journey through loss, heartbreak, and heavy substance abuse, with 80s vibes and smooth transitions.

Starting off the album is his song “Alone Again”. The Weeknd uses futuristic yet hopeless sounds to help introduce the pain he is suppressing, and the façade he has been putting on for the world. Unique sounds, including twinkles, compliment each word with emotion as he says, “I don’t know if I can be alone again… Take off my disguise. I’m living someone else’s life.” 

Listeners can hear his pain building up, as it smoothly transitions into his next song, “Too late”. This song starts with a more smooth intro, with soft vocals pleading for his loved one to come and save him from himself. It comes to the conclusion of knowing their love is dead by saying “It’s way too late to save our souls, baby.” The song ends with listeners questioning what is going to happen, as if he’s leading them on a roller coaster ride of his on and off relationship with a dance beat and blaring sounds backing it.

Suspense fully flies into “Hardest To Love”. It focuses more on the pain his lover may be masking while being in love with him, trying to save the relationship but also trying to let go. “I’ve been the hardest to love. It’s hard to let me go,” the Weeknd said. “I can feel it, I can feel it.” 

This track is more heavily influenced by an 80s flow than previous tracks. Knowingly aware that he is to blame for his relationship ending, he is in disbelief; questioning why his lover is allowing herself to feel this pain when she can just let go.

The album starts slowing down as “Scared to live” starts playing with a more prominent piano sound, slower beats, and soothing vocals. The Weeknd shows his regret for not giving space to allow his lover to decide what path she wanted to take. This pushed her further away and resulted in the end of their relationship. 

Through the song, he is pleading with his lover to not lose herself in him anymore and live with the three sentences starting the song. “When I saw the signs I should of let you go, but I kept you beside me,” the Weeknd said. “If I held you back, at least I held you close. Should’ve known you were lonely.”

Ending the album with the song “Until I bleed out” brings the end of the struggle he has faced by taking substances to avoid pain, when all he wants is to erase a loved one out of his mind. Throughout the album, listeners will understand that he has reflected on the many mistakes he’s made while finding his way back to Earth and grounding himself without anyone else. 

I believe that this album exceeded expectations, and overall I was impressed. For some, the 80s sound the Weeknd went for can bring back a feeling of nostalgia. For others, this could be a new side they are seeing of The Weeknd. The Weekend was able to try something new while keeping his own original flare, making it his own.

“After Hours” is a story of a man battling back and forth on escaping and starting over with the issues in his life. Playing as if he’s the “bad guy” to these issues. 

Being an artist as popular as the Weeknd, he has to put on a different type of face for the people and for the press. But in the “After Hours”, he is on his own facing all these issues in the dark. His battle with substance abuse and losing his loved one, followed by hypnotic instruments, helps listeners feel his pain in each song. 

Be prepared to be sucked in track-by-track, and enjoy this cinematic body of music.

Expanding Your Creative Horizons

Jesus Contreras / Staff Photographer

Pierce College’s Digital Design Studio and the Maker Space provides students with new creative opportunities

Pierce College is full of useful resources and commodities put in place in order to help students succeed. Many of these outlets, such as the library and tutoring center, are widely known about, and regularly give needed aid to a multitude of students. 

However, there are some resources the college has to offer that are not quite as recognized as others, and many students would be astounded to find the tools they’re missing out on. Made available mainly for students studying design at Pierce, although any student can use equipment and software, are the tools found in both the Digital Design Studio and the Maker Space.

Located in CAS 405, right next to the classroom in the library, the Digital Design Studio looks like a normal computer lab at first glance. Look further into the creative space however, and you’ll find it to be much more.

The computers in the lab, besides featuring massive curved monitors, are equipped with a host of Adobe programs that cannot be found on most other computers on campus. Students wishing to try their hand at Photoshop or After Effects have complete eligibility to do so at any time the studio is open, which should be for the majority any weekday.

Myra Fehling / Staff Illustration
Illustration of 3D printed models from the Maker Space

This resource can, has and will save students much time and money, as these programs can be quite pricey when purchased personally, even for students. Josseline Benitez, a student who works in the STAT department said, “A lot of people do use the resources, and they want to do some side projects, which is completely fine.”

On the ground level of the Olympic building is a space filled with colorful tables, chairs, and room for almost any activity. Many students see this area as just another place to study, but this largely unrecognized area has much more potential. This is the Maker Space, an area where students can not only use equipment like a 3D printer or laser cutter to create whatever their imaginations can devise, but also a space for games and art.

Design student Diane Russel works in the Maker Space and has used its resources for many of her own projects. “I would say we’re a pretty valuable resource,” said Russel. “The tables in the front are usually pretty full, people come to study and do homework.” 

Russel notes that while the space is often packed with students, few know of and utilize the actual equipment they have available. “I wish I had known about the 3D printer when I was taking my 3D class, I think that would have been fun and would have helped me understand the spatial aspects more.”

“I would like to see more people use the Maker Space, using the 3D printer and laser cutter for projects, and to expand their knowledge of the programs, and to use the skills they have in different, hands on ways. I think that would be a great thing.” Russel noted in a recent interview.

These two useful resource centers, although widely neglected, have the potential to be much more of a help to students than they currently are, simply because of how few students know they exist. Dion Jacobs, another STAT employee and student who sees the small number of students who use these assets said, “I think if there was more word on where this stuff was at, there would be a lot more students here, and it would help them with their classes, and give them a better experience here at Pierce.”

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