The musings of a feminist pop culture fanatic

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Starkid Presents The Apocalyptour (Or A Love Letter to Fandom)

So, here’s the thing: I fricking love Starkid. For those of you who actually know me, this is as obvious as saying the sky is blue or the Pope’s hat looks funny. If you have no idea what Starkid is, you’re not alone. About half the people I tell about them have never heard of them, which makes me sad because they’re just so fantastic. In a nutshell, they’re a musical theater company. They’re also Internet sensations, ridiculously talented, and the most adorable group of friends ever. Although Darren Criss is undeniably the most well-known of the Starkids, the names Joey Richter, Dylan Saunders, Lauren Lopez, Jaime Lyn Beatty, Brian Rosenthal, Jim Povolo, Brian Holden, Meredith Stepien, and Joe Walker will one day be just as well known. There are a number of other Starkids who are just as talented and will be just as famous, but I’m too lazy to list out every single one of them and went with just those who were on the tour.

Starkid has a sometimes terrifyingly devoted fanbase. For instance, this is the second time I’ve seen them in concert and both times, my best friend Caity and I spent the night before slaving away making cookies for them (this time, with Dani’s help as well, yay!) and figuring out exactly what the perfect gift bag would be for them. This time, we also brought them some barbecue sauce (since they probably didn’t get a chance to explore much of KC), a six-pack of Boulevard Wheat Beer (which was totally fine because everyone involved in the exchange is over the age of 21, except Dani, who never even touched the beer), and some coloring books and Mad Libs for the long bus rides. Some people (my parents, coworkers, friends, fiance, etc.) think we’re crazy and oddly attached to these people that we don’t really know at all. That may be true, but to most Starkid fans, we feel like we know them. They don’t know us, but we certainly know them (which isn’t as creepy as that sounds).

For me, Starkid is the key part of my self-care. When I can’t deal with the world and the shit that goes on in it, I turn on a Starkid show or listen to an album and am instantly cheered up. Their shows (A Very Potter Musical, Me and My Dick, A Very Potter Sequel, Starship, and Holy Musical B@man) have these beautiful messages of friendship, love, and acceptance. Yes, a musical about a boy’s relationship with his penis is actually incredibly touching when Starkid does it. Pretty much all of them put themselves out on Twitter and are gracious enough to allow the fans glimpses into their lives. When everything else might be going wrong, Starkid is always there to remind me that there is something right in the world.

So, all this being said brings us up to the day of the concert. Caity, Dani, and I prepared our gift bag to bring to them. Caity and I made matching T-shirts (the front side read “Somebody’s Buddy,” and the back said “Flying in the Friendship Ship KC Apocalyptour 2012”). We spent the whole day counting down the number of hours to the concert, while I kept texting Caity at work to remind her how close it was. Finally, we hopped in the car and drove downtown. After stopping at Quik Trip to try to remedy an unfortunate carbonated water explosion and screaming at my GPS as it seemed to take me all over the sketchy parts of KC, we finally made it there.

Caity and I were fortunate enough to have Golden Idol tickets (meaning we got to go in early and have a meet and greet with the Starkids), thanks to a graduation present from my parents. I wish I could remember the exact words we actually said to them, but it all went so fast and I was so flustered by trying to keep my cool that I didn’t really get a chance to take it all in. Brian Holden was nice enough to also sign Caity’s little sister’s Superman shirt and I know I talked to Charlene Kaye for a quick minute about how much I love her new album and how I listen to it nearly every day on my way to work.

Then we headed into the theater. For those of you who have never been to the Uptown Theater, it has a very interesting decor inside. There are all these weird, half-naked statues up where the balconies are. There’s faux candlelight and a really huge disco ball. As Meredith apparently described it, it has a very Hogwarts feel to it.

The concert started with Charlene Kaye, who while not necessarily a member of Team Starkid (in that she doesn’t act in their productions), is a close friend of theirs and often does concerts with them. I first heard Charlene when she recorded a duet with Darren called “Dress and Tie.” From there, I started listening to her other music and I completely fell in love with it. Her newly-released “Animal Love” is one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time. During her set, Charlene primarily played music from that album, although she also brought out Dylan to sing “Dress and Tie” with her and sang Magnolia Wine from her album “Things I Will Need in the Past.” The highlight of the set, though, was undeniably “A Million Years.” Charlene asked for silence while she sang it and the crowd complied. Once the song got started, it was so beautiful that I hardly even breathed during the song. The crew turned on a disco ball (which Charlene described as the “biggest disco ball [she] had ever seen”) and the room was bathed in the soft lighting from it. The song, which is all about finding your soulmate, nearly brought me to tears (and definitely made Caity cry a little bit). I found a video of a performance of it from another stop on the tour, where the audience also stayed quiet to allow her to sing. The video does allow you to hear the song, but hearing it live was even more hauntingly beautiful.

After a short break, Starkid finally came out to the deafening screams of all the fangirls (as well as the fanboys). The basic premise of the show was that the Mayan Apocalypse was coming and Starkid could only save the world by putting on an amazing show to please the Mayan deities. If the Mayan deities weren’t pleased, then at least the crowd in Kansas City was having the time of their lives. They performed songs from all of their shows. As much as I love the Potter musicals, it was really nice to hear some of their other music. The greatest part of the show, though, was the interesting mash-ups they did. They would combine songs from several different shows and it worked so well together.

For me, the best was the mash-up of “Dark, Sad, Lonely Knight” from “Holy Musical B@man” and “Not Alone” from “A Very Potter Musical.” Caity and I keep singing to each other the part of “Dark, Sad, Lonely Knight” where it goes “I wanna be somebody’s buddy, somebody who can be my buddy back” and that was the inspiration for our shirts. So, we grabbed each other’s hand during that song and sang it to each other. Then when they launched into “Not Alone” right after that, I just about started crying. “Not Alone” was my bridge into the Starkid fandom. Even though I knew who they were, I didn’t really become a fan of theirs until after I got hooked on Darren’s character on “Glee.” Around then, I was having a really hard time and Starkid became my source of light and hope. “Not Alone” is my most played song on iTunes and I don’t even know how many times I listened to it when I was first getting hooked on Starkid. There was one night in particular that I think I listened to it on repeat for two or three hours while I just sat in my room and cried. That song became my anthem and to hear it right after this other song that I’ve come to associate so much with my best friend just about moved me to tears.

I don’t want to spoil the other mash-ups because they still have several stops left on the tour and I know I enjoyed the concert even more because I didn’t know what was coming. After the concert, Charlene was nice enough to draw something on my tote bag of hers that I bought. So now, about 24 hours after the concert, I am still insanely sore from standing up and dancing for so long. I got my voice fully back after screaming so much. I’m drained of energy from the emotions of the concert and the whirlwind trip to KC and back to Columbia. And I have a kickass tote with an awesome picture of a giraffe, as well as an autographed picture of all the Starkids on the tour. Basically, it was one of the best nights of my life and the best concert I have ever seen. Now, I just anxiously wait for my next opportunity to see them, whenever that might be.

 

“Don’t You (Forget About Me),” David Cook (3/25)

EW Description: “The American Idol champ takes a shot at The Breakfast Club’s most memorable song. His hard-driving cover is now the tune Idol plays to say farewell to the contestants who come up short.”

This post isn’t so much going to be about the song as it is about my love for David Cook. I don’t really know what I can say about this song other than that it’s amazing. Even though it’s one of the most memorable songs from The Breakfast Club, I don’t think about the movie at all when I’m listening to David Cook’s version. Like he did so many times when he sang on Idol, he took an extremely popular song and made it his own. It’s one of his greatest talents and he’s amazing at reimagining songs. My all-time favorite performance of his will probably always be “Always Be My Baby.”

I am so happy to see all the success David Cook has had since he won American Idol in 2008. I can never forget what year he won because every time I drive home from school, I’m greeted with the “Welcome to Blue Springs, Home of David Cook American Idol 2008” sign on either side of I-70 going into my hometown. Cook went to my rival high school, but I feel connected to him because we are from the same town. His elementary school was where I went for gifted class once a week when I was in fifth grade.

Since he’s several years older than me, I never knew of him when he still lived in Blue Springs. I think I was in 6th grade when he was a senior, or something like that. No, David Cook didn’t exist to me until he made it to Idol when I was a senior in high school. That’s when Cookmania hit the town. Local businesses had signs up for him. One of the frozen custard stores (not the one I worked at, so the bad one in town) had a concrete called the David Cookie. When he came back for his hometown concert, my high school let us out half an hour early so we could get across town for it. Blue Springs loves David Cook. He will always be our hometown treasure.

Lots of my friends think the hero worship for him is a bit ridiculous and I agree, to an extent. I think the signs they put up on I-70 less than six months after he won were a bit premature. I have a theory that they had those signs in storage somewhere and were just waiting for someone from Blue Springs to get famous and write their name on them.

But the point is, he’s the first person from Blue Springs to really make it big. It’s not like we’re some podunk town. We’re in the Kansas City metro area and have somewhere between 50-60,000 people. We’ve had some minor celebrities, but no one that was known all across the country. And I don’t care if you don’t watch American Idol, it’s impossible not to know who won it or even came in second place. You might not remember them a couple years down the road, but at one point, you could cite the winner of that particular season.

David Cook gives me hope, as cheesy as that is. I don’t have dreams of becoming a famous rock star or an award-winning actress, but my goal was always to get out of Blue Springs. There’s nothing wrong with the town. It’s an extremely pleasant place to live and I wouldn’t trade growing up there for the world, but I never wanted to spend my whole life there. I want to travel and get a PhD and help people. They don’t seem like big dreams, necessarily, but they’re what I’ve got. David Cook showed me and everyone else living in Blue Springs at the height of Cookapalooza that it is possible to get out of Blue Springs and achieve anything we want.

So ends this cheesy post, but it’s what I wanted to say. And seriously, check out this song. It’s awesome. I embedded it below.

Taylor Swift’s “Back to December” video (1/28)

EW Description: “The singer’s stark, lovely new spot from her smash album Speak Now finds her bereft on a bleak winter’s day, working through her melancholy over the love she let go.”

I said in an early review of Swift’s Speak Now album that this is one of the few songs on it that doesn’t make me want to claw out my eardrums. Well, now every time I turn on the radio, this song is playing. I’m starting to change my mind. I honestly have no clue why this video is a must-see because there is truly nothing special about it.

It’s a very run-of-the-mill, average music video. Maybe I’m spoiled by the epicness of Lady Gaga’s music videos, but this just doesn’t wow me. It’s basically just Swift looking sad, writing music, taking a bath, and wandering around in the snow. I mean, it’s not a bad video by any means, but it’s nowhere near as good as people might make it out to be.

I think that’s my biggest problem with Taylor Swift. I absolutely adored her when her debut album came out. I listened to it constantly and I still like to go back and listen to some songs on it. “Picture to Burn” is one of my favorite songs to yell along with when I’m really pissed off at the world. There is no denying that Swift has talent. She’s a very good songwriter. However, all of her songs tend to sound the same. “Back to December” is one of her more unique songs, which is why I didn’t instantly hate it. She is not the greatest thing to happen to pop music, though. I have great respect for her as a songwriter and a performer, but I can think of at least ten artists who are better songwriters and don’t get nearly the attention that Swift does.

If you really like Taylor Swift, you’ll like this video. If you’re kind of sick of her like I am, you’re not missing out on anything if you choose not to watch it. Trust me.

#9 “Castle Walls,” T.I. (12/17)

EW Description: “A mournful new track by the recently imprisoned hip-hop star features some vocal assistance from Christina Aguilera. T.I. pulls back the curtain on a seemingly enviable life and exposes its ugly truth.”

When I first started to listen to this song, it made me think of Good Charlotte’s “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” From the first verse, it really sounds like a rich person whining, but as the song goes on, the message is a lot deeper than that. T.I. is talking about how all the money, awards, and other material things don’t really mean anything if your children are failures or you are singing about things that don’t matter. One of the lines is especially poignant: “Why should the verses I have laid be more important to me than the persons I have raised.” I really appreciate that thought because I feel like it’s something that falls by the wayside a lot. So many people think that they and their families will be perfectly fine as long as they’re rich and have lots of materialistic things, but these families are often the ones with the biggest problems.

That’s not to say this song is perfect. One of the lines seems extremely homophobic. When he’s listing off all the possibilities of how he could go wrong with his children, he mentions one of his daughters becoming a stripper and one of them “ain’t straight.” To me, it sounds like he’s saying he’s a failure as a parent if his children aren’t heterosexual, which I find incredibly problematic. It’s also possible I’m misinterpreting the line, but that’s what I feel is the likely scenario. Please feel free to correct me if you are more familiar with rap lyrics and different slang terms because that’s not exactly my area of expertise. He also mentions how he didn’t “snitch” when he got arrested and the whole “stop snitching” message is something I also find disturbing. I get the pride issues involved with it and how people are supposed to protect their friends and family, but much of the mentality behind that movement is not something with which I agree.

I love that T.I. is rapping about something so close to him emotionally and it is a very good song, overall. The Christina Aguilera part is so catchy and I will probably fall asleep singing it to myself. It’s got a really great beat and the majority of the lines are really interesting. It’s much better than singing about shooting people or fucking hoes.

I put a video with the song below, so let me know what you think about it.

#9 “Runaway”, Kanye West (10/1)

EW Description: “He topped off his Taylor Swift apology tour with a sweeping cut that eviscerates (and celebrates?) douchebaggery everywhere. If this is Kanye contrite, then we think he should be sorry more often.”

Here’s the thing. Kanye West is a total asshole. But he knows he’s an asshole and he’s okay with it. I’m totally fine with that. As long as a person knows he or she is an asshole and just accepts that, it’s cool with me. It’s when they think they’re nice and are blind to the fact that they are complete and total jackasses that I start to have a problem with them.

Kanye West embraces his assholishness wholeheartedly. It’s part of his personality. Honestly, it’s what makes him so lovable. No matter how many times he screws up, we will always forgive because he’s an asshole and it’s just what he does. This song is basically his anthem.

The entire song is celebrating the fact that Kanye is such an asshole, but there is also a lot of pain in it because you can tell he knows he screws up a lot of shit. The “runaway” part of the song where he gets the title is when he’s warning people to “runaway as fast as you can” because we’ve been “putting up with [his] shit just way too long.”

Kanye, as long as you keep making quality music, we’ll always forgive you. This song isn’t my favorite that he’s done, but I love the spirit of it and the fact that it’s so self-aware. It’s not something I would listen to on repeat, but I appreciate that he recorded it. Definitely check it out if you haven’t yet done so.

#2 Speak Now, Taylor Swift (11/5)

EW Description: “The singer’s third album showcases a candid, evocative blend of spite, sorrow, and love, with songs (possibly) aimed at VMA interrupter Kanye West, ex-boyfriend Taylor Lautner, and – is that John Mayer? Working through serious heartbreak has rarely sounded this great.”

Okay, I’m really doing my best to go into this with an open mind. Taylor Swift and I have a very complicated relationship. When she first came out with “Tim McGraw,” I thought she was a sweet, talented singer-songwriter who had the potential to become a very big country star. Well, clearly, she’s become a huge star, but in my opinion, she’s turned into a teenybopper shadow of her former self.

My all-time favorite song of hers is “Picture to Burn,” from her first album. It’s the one I feel is the strongest example of feminism that she’s ever recorded. I love the message that it’s not a big deal if some guy breaks up with you, just burn his picture and move on with your life. However, since then, she’s just recorded variations of “Teardrops on My Guitar” and “Love Story.” Her lyrics have become extremely problematic, particularly in the song “Fifteen,” where she almost flatout says a girl is nothing to a boy if she has lost her virginity. But, I really am going to try to listen to this album with an open mind. Here we go.

Mine: While this song is completely overplayed on the radio and I change the station every time it comes on in my car, it’s not entirely bad. When I actually listen to the lyrics, it does promote a healthy relationship. There’s equality between them, both are referred to at one point or another as belonging to the other. While I don’t believe people are property and can belong to someone else, at least they’re on equal ground. However, the tune reminds me so much of Love Story.

Sparks Fly: It’s a sweet song about how attracted she is to some random guy. There’s just nothing particularly original about it. It’s definitely not something I would remember.

Back to December: Rumor has it that she wrote this song about Taylor Lautner, which brings me to my other big problem with Taylor Swift. Every song she writes is now about some celebrity guy that she fell in love with and then broke her heart. Considering how often she is linked to some random celebrity, I doubt she’s actually loved every single one of them. Her credibility is completely shot. However, this song is probably the best of the album at this point and actually sounds like something I haven’t heard from her before. I might go back and listen to it again.

Speak Now: This is probably the closest I’ve come to hearing her have the same spunk I loved on her first album. There’s no talk of how she’s nothing without this guy, which is refreshing. It still embodies one of the biggest cliches, though, with the talk of breaking up a wedding at the “speak now or forever hold your peace” part.

Dear John: Her voice sounds better on this song than on any other song on the album. It’s more authentic than any song she’s written about breaking up with someone. You can actually hear the hurt in her voice and how she felt like she was betrayed. I think this is probably the strongest song on the album.  However, I believe a better song about John Mayer would have been “I Can’t Believe I Dated That Walking STD.”

Mean: Coming off Dear John, I had high hopes for the rest of the album, but this song is terrible. I appreciate the sentiment of it and am all for telling off bullies, but this is so annoying. Seriously, you can’t find a better word than mean? It sounds like you’re one step away from calling this person a poopoo head. I never want to hear this song again, which of course means it will probably be her next single.

The Story of Us: This has a really great beat and is very catchy. That’s really all I have to say about this song. It doesn’t blow me away like Dear John did. It doesn’t make me cringe like Mean did. It’s just kind of meh.

Never Grow Up: This is probably my second favorite song on the album. It sounds like a song a 20-year-old should be singing. It’s not some crap about high school heartbreak. It’s about growing up and how fucking terrifying the world is. As a 20-year-old, I completely relate to this song. I love it.

Enchanted: This is another really great song about how taken away you can get when you first meet someone. Sometimes, you just meet someone and they completely enthrall you. While it does get a bit repetitive, it does capture that feeling of crush at first sight.

Better Than Revenge: I love the spunkiness in this song. This reminds me a lot of Avril Lavigne and I mean that in the best possible way. This is just really catchy and I could see myself blaring this when I’m in a slightly pissed off mood.

Innocent: This is the Kanye West song, but it’s not what I was picturing at all. It’s a completely different take on the situation and is almost like she’s pitying him because he was so out of control the night of the VMAs. Very interesting.

Haunted: This actually sounds really different from her other songs. It’s amazing how adding different rhythms and instruments can make a song original. Probably one of the strongest songs on the album. I really like it.

Last Kiss: This is another song about Joe Jonas, but it’s not bad. It captures the spirit of that first heartbreak and how incredibly painful and confusing it can be. Not my favorite song on the album, but it’s pretty good.

Long Live: A strong finish to the album. Original tune, good lyrics. I like it.

Okay, so this wasn’t nearly as awful as I was expecting. I actually found some songs I really like and there was only one song that truly made me cringe. I just wish her producers and managers would pick better songs to release as her singles. Mine is not a very strong song. I would have picked either Back to December or Dear John because it’s something different from her. They probably wouldn’t play as well with the Disney Channel crowd, but I don’t necessarily believe that’s a bad thing. Overall, this album isn’t as strong as her first, but it’s much better than Fearless was.

 

 

2 for 1 Special! #1 “Raise Your Glass,” Pink (10/22, 10/29) AND #6 Katy Perry’s “Firework” video (11/12)

After a long week of tests and papers, it’s time for some party music. Here we go. Let’s start with Pink.

EW Description: “Though her greatest-hits collection isn’t due until Nov. 16, the rocker offers us an excellent first round with her raucous new single. The album may be looking back at past triumphs, but this song has got us looking forward to her future ones.”

I have always loved Pink. “Don’t Let Me Get Me” was pretty much my anthem throughout middle school. I’ve seen her evolve from slightly emo-ish punk rock star to total badass punk pop superstar. And I’ve loved every step along the way.

Throughout the years, her music has become a little more Top 40-friendly than it probably would have been seven years ago. Although there is more of a dance-y pop feel to her music, she’s still a full-on badass and I adore her. With “Raise Your Glass,” a song that at first just seems like it’s about getting drunk and having fun, Pink parlays a much deeper message. Basically, that message is “Fuck it all. Just be yourself and have fun.” It’s a message all of us need to hear every now and then.

Also, anyone that will dress up as Rosie the Riveter and a nerdy high school girl in the same video is pretty much awesome. Add that to showing scenes of her laying naked in bed with religious officials from every background and it’s pretty much amazing.

Moving on to the less badass, but still pretty awesome Katy Perry.

EW Description: “Yes, this clip shows sparks flying out of the singer’s boobs. But it’s all part of her let-your-light-shine ballad’s genuinely affecting message of self-love, tolerance, and acceptance.”

Here’s the thing. I know Katy Perry’s songs aren’t that great. They’re overly poppy and generally have no real substance, but they’re just so damn addictive. When I first went to watch this video, I was expecting another song exactly like “Teenage Dream” and “I Kissed a Girl,” but I was pleasantly surprised. This song has actual meaning!

The main hook of the song is “Baby, you’re a firework/Come on, show ’em what you’re worth.” Where her other songs have just been about partying and young love, this song is all about showing the world that you are awesome. We need more songs like this from female pop artists.

EW also mentions the sparks flying out of Katy Perry’s boobs. From the way I read the description, I was expecting a copycat of the whipped cream bra from her “Teenage Dream” video, but the sparks in “Firework” are a metaphor for literally showing the world your power. And sparks fly out of every character’s chest. The overweight teenage girl who is afraid to swim in front of her friends, the little girl with cancer, the young boy who is fed up with the domestic violence between his parents, the young gay man at a party who is afraid to go up to the guy he likes, the street magician who is getting mugged. Everybody has a light to show the world.

It’s great when there are songs like “Raise Your Glass” and “Firework,” because they aren’t the typical cheesy “love yourself” songs. As much as I love songs like Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” it is a tad on the over-the-top, cheesy side. These songs are great because they make people want to get up and dance, but it’s to a song with a positive message. So many pop songs are just about partying and getting drunk. It’s nice when one comes along with an actual message.