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Musician Spotlight: Joan Jett

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

Most people know Joan Jett for her cover of The Arrows “I Love Rock n’ Roll” with her band The Blackhearts. When I heard this song a few years ago, I thought it was awesome. Yet, I didn’t want to hear more of her music for a few reasons.  At the time, I wasn’t too open to old music. I also pegged Joan Jett as a butch rocker who only wrote music that said “I’m a woman, I’m rebellious, hear me roar!” after checking out the album I Love Rock n Roll.  As it turns out, this 80’s rocker is so much more than what she appears to be.

One of the best things about her is her vocals. She has a soothing yet aggressive voice. The soothing vocals are best seen in  slower songs like “Love Hurts”, and “Crimson and Clover”. Of course, her aggressive vocals are seen in more up-tempo songs like “Bad Reputation” and “Victims of Circumstance”.

Another thing I enjoy about her is how passionately she performs live. She’s not kidding around when she says she loves rock n roll. Whether she is playing her own songs or a cover, she puts her heart and soul into doing it. One of my favorite live performances is her performing Sly and The Family Stone’s ‘Everyday People”. I love the jam session her and another guitarist has almost three minutes in.

Last but not least, her songwriting. It is rare that I have a favorite album by anybody. Whenever I do choose one, it is something that I appreciate as a fan and as a critic. In this case, it is Joan Jett’s 1994 album Pure and Simple.  Joan Jett might not have the most complex lyrics, but some of them are very meaningful and touching.

On this particular album, Joan Jett has less of the tough girl stuff and more vulnerable and empowering material. My personal favorite songs are “Activity Grrrl” , “Go Home”, and “Brighter Day”. In “Activity Grrl” Joan Jett tells of an everyday girl trying to make a difference by empowering herself and others. With the lyrics and rare music video for “Go Home”,  she tackles rape  and violence against women. With “Brighter Day”, Jett discusses social issues and the fight for hope.

Links and a video:

Everyday People” Live- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEizmNjyuMo

“Activity Grrrl”Audio- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqAiHUvFoiI

“Brighter Day”Audio- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYYOsP6OoIo

“Go Home” Music Video

Written by Serena Zola

May 12, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Movie Review: The Runaways (DVD)

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Movie Rating: R

Inspired by the memoir of former Runaway band member Cherie Currie, The Runaways chronicles the rise and fall of the 70s all-girl rock band The Runaways and stars Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart. Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) is a teen who idolizes David Bowie and has family problems. Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) is a tough girl who admires Suzi Quatro and dreams of starting an all-girl rock band. With the help of the greedy and eager music producer Kim Fowley, the two meet, form The Runaways with a few other girls, and embark on a rock n’ roll journey filled with sex, drugs, and music.

One of the great things about this film is the acting of Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart. When it came to looking and acting the part of their real-life counterparts, both women nailed it. Of the two, Kristen Stewart was the one who stood out to me the most. She looks and sounds so much like the teenage Joan Jett, it’s creepy.

Besides the acting, a surprising pleasure was the singing and performing. Instead of lip-syncing to the original recordings of The Runaways, Stewart and Fanning sing the songs themselves. While Kristen Stewart is no Joan Jett, her masculine vocals come  pretty close to passing for the real thing. As for Dakota Fanning, her sultry vocals on songs like “Cherry Bomb” and “California Paradise” are sexy and really enjoyable.

Finally, the world around The Runaways was well displayed. The sex and drug use may make the film rated R, but they are appropriate for the time period and the rock n’ roll lifestyle The Runaways lived. Also, the soundtrack, which features songs by 70’s musicians like David Bowie and Suzi Quatro, did a great job of creating ambiance for the time period.  Furthermore, scenes that showed how women weren’t respected as rock n’ roll musicians made me root for the band and enjoy certain Runaway songs more.

Overall, this was a pretty good film. It feels a bit rushed toward the end, but that’s the only flaw. I recommend this film to any music fan young and old.

Here is Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart in a promotional clip for the film performing “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways

Written by Serena Zola

February 14, 2013 at 11:04 AM

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