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Movie Review: Raw Spice- The Unofficial Story of The Making of The Spice Girls

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Raw Spice, Spice GirlsSummary: This film shows how the Spice Girls were formed in 1994 and the months leading up to their first performance in front of industry writers and producers.

My Review: One of the best things about this film is that it lives up to its title. The girls are never seen with their trademark looks, but you can catch glimpses of what would become each girl’s trademark personality. You also see them as performers in training as well as regular young women.

Another positive aspect of the film is that you slowly see the girls come together as a group. You see them trying to figure out what their vocal ranges are, learning to harmonize,  dance, and live together. In fact, the most candid parts of the film are when they are at their house, because you see them let loose a little more.

A downside of the film is that it only covers a year or so of The Spice Girls’ journey. Once they do make their debut in front of the music industry people, you are left wondering what happens afterwards. The film should have shown how they got signed to a record label and how they recorded their first album Spice.

Overall, the film was interesting to watch, but it could have been better. However, I do recommend this to any old and new Spice Girl fans.

Watch the film on Hulu here.

 

Written by Serena Zola

June 2, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Album Review: Is There Anybody Out There? by A Great Big World

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A Great Big World, Is There Anybody Out There?

Source: iTunes

Unless you’re an indie pop listener, chances are that you never heard of the duo A Great Big World before they released the duet-version of “Say Something”. The version featuring soulful pop singer Christina  Aguilera has been an international hit. Now, A Great Big World’s Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino have released their debut album “Is There Anybody Out There?”

One of the best things about the album are its lyrics. They are simple, but also upbeat,  honest, and empowering. “I’m learning anything’s possible now” the duo sings on the opening track “Rockstar.” “And change will come/it’s on its way/ just close your eyes/and let it rain” sings Ian Axel on “You’ll Be Okay.” A particularly notable track is the LGBTQ  anthem “Everyone is Gay”.

In addition to the lyrics, the vocals are great. Ian Axel has a good range that is capable singing some high notes, low notes, and soulful notes. In his case, his best track is the apparently live recording of “Shorty Don’t Wait” which has a blue-eyed soul vibe. Also, his solo version of “Say Something” is worth a listen as well.

As for Chad Vaccarino, he is someone not to be underestimated. While he is usually the secondary singer for most of the tracks, he is given a solo spot on the track, “I Don’t Wanna Love Somebody Else.” Here Vaccarino’s vocals show that he has just as much soul  as Ian Axel. With the poignant and sad lyrics added to the mix, you have a track that deserves just as much attention as the duet and solo versions of “Say Something”.

Furthermore, the production is a pleasant surprise. Although there is a pop sound to most of the record, there are elements of other genres too. “Land of Opportunity” has pop and a classy jazz sound while “Shorty Don’t Wait” has a gospel choir in it. Furthermore, the track “Cheer Up” features the calliope (the music you hear at a carnival).

Overall, this is a fantastic debut album. If you like piano pop singer Sara Bareilles, then give these guys a listen.

Written by Serena Zola

January 24, 2014 at 5:06 PM

Live Performance Spotlight: Pink “Glitter in The Air” 2010 Grammys

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Welcome to a new category I’ve created called LPMV Spotlights! This category will highlight live performances and music videos from the past and present in various music genres. For this category’s first post, I’m spotlighting Pink’s performance of “Glitter in the Air” from the 2010 Grammy awards.

Before I go any further, I want to ask that those who have already seen this performance to not spoil what happens in the comments. This also applies to people viewing the performance for the first time. I want everyone who hasn’t seen this performance to be just as surprised and awed as the people in the audience were.

As a huge Pink fan, this is my favorite performance of hers. She proves she has talent and artistry by doing something beautiful and moving. Not to mention, she puts certain singers to shame by singing live while doing what she does in this performance.

For skeptics, here are a couple of facts that prove Pink is singing live (as she always does). When she sings the lyrics, “Have you ever fed a lover with just your hand?” at the start of the performance, she smiles. You can hear that smile in her voice at the word “hand.” Another thing is that unlike in the studio version, the acoustic guitar is more prominent in this performance. The guitar notes you hear while no one is singing for a few moments are not on the studio version.

Written by Serena Zola

August 22, 2013 at 8:10 PM

Album Review: Don’t Look Down by Skylar Grey

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Skylar Grey, Don't Look Down

Source: Wikipedia
Warning: Explicit Content

A few years ago, a singer named Holly Brook decided to come out with a better sound after collaborating with others. After a personal retreat to a cabin in the woods, that girl is now back as Skylar Grey.

One of the best things about this album are Skylar Grey’s vocals. She has a soft, silvery voice that can be entertainingly scary or sweet. They shine the best on songs without heavy instrumentation.  In this case, they are  “Final Warning”, “Wear Me Out”,”and “White Suburban”.

A decent thing about the album is its content. While most of the songs are about love, some aren’t typical. For instance, “Final Warning” is a song about a love turned deadly.  “Shit Man” is about an unexpected pregnancy between a young couple. Furthermore, “Sunshine” and “Religion” are two good songs of hope.

Despite these gems, the main subject of love is tiring after a while. In fact, it makes Grey appear more generic than she actually is. If the album had included certain tracks that had not made the album, the lyrics would have been more impressive.

When it comes to the most unattractive feature of the album, it is the heavy instrumentation mentioned earlier. While it is understood that Grey is going for a hip hop and pop sound, some of the hip-hop instrumentation and possible auto-tuning diminishes the quality of songs like “Pulse” and “Religion”.

Overall, the album wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible either. I recommend the album for people who like hip-hop or pop music.

Related Post: Musician Spotlight: Skylar Grey (AKA Holly Brook)-Updated 7/27/2013

Written by Serena Zola

July 27, 2013 at 11:38 AM

Musician Spotlight: Adam Lambert

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

Back in December, I was watching some “best of” program on VH1. Then, the commercials come on. I was going to change the channel when I see Adam Lambert going from mike to mike singing a few notes. The very last mike is sparkly and suits Adam’s taste. He looks at it in approval and then proceeds to blow my mind by hitting one of the biggest notes I’ve ever heard.

As it turns out, the commercial was promoting the tribute show VH1 Divas and Lambert because he was hosting it that year. I decided to check out the show to see what Adam was like and to see how he performed. However, I managed to forget about the show and ended up watching the last half of the re-airing on tv and certain performances online. I thought Adam was a funny host and a charismatic  performer.

Soon, I was looking up Adam’s music. His first album, For Your Entertainmentdidn’t impress me much. With the exception of the songs “Strut” and “Aftermath”, it felt like the album lived up to its name by being standard entertainment with very little passion. However, the two songs still made me want to hear more from Adam.

It wasn’t until recently that I checked out his latest album TrespassingThis time, I enjoyed listening to most of it. It reflects more of Lambert, lyrically and vocally.  My personal favorite tracks are “Trespassing”, “Broken English”, “Underneath”, and “Nirvana”.  Not to mention, the album cover and title is a clever metaphor for the album’s purpose. It crosses lines by going back and forth  from conformity to individuality, sanity to insanity, outside to inside.

Last but certainly not least, his live performances are amazing. He is one of those performers who sound even better live than on the album. While he sounds great on both his uptempo and slow songs, it is his slower songs that are a special treat. Adam Lambert’s run on American Idol foreshadowed what was to come in the future. Without a doubt, Adam Lambert is one of the most original and talented performers I’ve ever encountered.

Here is Adam Lambert performing his song “Underneath”

Written by Serena Zola

May 24, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Musician Spotlight: Skylar Grey (AKA Holly Brook)

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In 2006, Holly Brook released her debut album Like Blood, Like Honey. Seven years later, Holly Brook is back as Skylar Grey and has released three singles from her upcoming 2013 album Don’t Look Down.

This past weekend, my cousin introduced me to Skylar Grey by saying she had a beautiful voice. I immediately went to YouTube and looked her up and clicked on the music video for the song “Invisible”, which was the second single released from Don’t Look Down.

The first thing I thought after I saw the video was, “My cousin was right, this girl can sing.” The second was, “Did I just hear pop vocals and lyrics supported by a hip-hop beat? How cool!” I went back to the original YouTube page that I searched Skylar Grey on to look at the music video underneath called “C’mon Let Me Ride”. It was hilarious and reminiscent of P!nk’s “Stupid Girls” music video (though not in a copycat way). I thought “Who is this deep yet cheeky woman?”  and immediately googled Skylar Grey.

Upon doing this and viewing her discography, I listened to Like Blood, Like Honey via YouTube and wasn’t too impressed. The vocals were great, but the music and lyrics was too depressing. If you are a Tori Amos fan, then you will like the album.

Moving back to Don’t Look Down,  I saw the music video for the first released single “Dance Without You” and was creeped out in a good way. To me, the song and the music video represented Skylar Grey’s transition. She has gone from being just another Tori Amos via Holly Brook to finding her own sound as Skylar Grey.

Impressed by the songs and videos from Don’t Look Down, I wanted more of Skylar Grey. Looking at her discography on her wiki page, I realized I had overlooked the EPs. After doing some research and realizing that the ones released in 2005 and 2010 were Holly Brook work, I checked out The Buried Sessions of Skylar Grey on YouTube.

It is this EP that truly represents Skylar Grey’s potential. As it turns out, she co-wrote the choruses to two hip-hop hits (“Love the Way You Lie” and “Coming Home”) and wrote two beautiful original demos, These demos appear on Buried Sessions . Finally, “Words”, the final track on the EP  is a lovely original song by Skylar.

To sum things up, the released songs and music videos from Don’t Look Down and the EP The Buried Sessions of Skylar Grey have made me a Skylar Grey fan. Looking forward to the rest of Don’t Look Down and more awesomeness.

UPDATE (7/27/2013): When I originally typed this,  the demo of “Love the Way You Lie” was on The Buried Sessions of Skylar Grey. Since then, it has been removed from the EP and is no longer available for purchase.

Here is the demo version of “Love the Way You Lie” performed live in a hotel room

 

Written by Serena Zola

January 29, 2013 at 12:18 PM

Op Ed: How Pop Music Can Be More Unique

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A few weeks ago, I read an article on the Huffington Post entitled “Pop Music Too Loud And All The Same: Official“. I don’t know about the too loud part, but I’ve thought most pop music sounded all the same since high school.

Anyway, the article got me thinking about how pop music can be more unique:

1. Don’t be Cookie Cutter; Be You

One of the reasons Pink is my favorite pop musician is that I admire her for having the courage to find her own sound and tell people she was going to do her music her way. And what better way to do it than with the song “Don’t Let Me Get Me”? A song with a similar message is Avril Lavinge’s “Nobody’s Fool”, which is from her debut album Let Go. Like Pink, Avril Lavinge has left her own mark in the music industry with this song and many others.

2.  Use love, sex, and relationship lyrics sparingly

Ok, I know these things make the world go round. However, as human beings, we have other emotions and things we experience. It wouldn’t hurt if more pop musicians wrote about the world around them. Even Michael Jackson, for all his dance songs, literally wrote about the world in  songs like “Earth Song”.

3. Don’t be afraid to go deep

Sometimes, the most powerful songs end up being inspired by personal experiences. Take the song “I’m Ok” by Christina Aguilera. Any fan (or person willing do some research) will know that this song is based on Christina’s childhood. While it might not be as famous as the song “Beautiful”, it is still a song worth acknowledging.

4. Make a creative music video

While the song may be fine by itself, a great music video can bring it to life. If you don’t like the song, then maybe the music video will make you appreciate it a little. A recent example is for Pink’s new song “Blow Me (One Last Kiss).” I don’t like the song due to my personal taste, but the music video made me feel better about it.

LINKS:

Don’t Let Me Get Me- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_t9AA3Z4PE

Nobody’s Fool-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9X6pKjgjfko

Earth Song- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sg5EkHF5tg&hd=1

I’m Ok-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quAFmNvk_Zs

Blow Me One Last Kiss-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jNlIGDRkvQ

Written by Serena Zola

August 12, 2012 at 6:00 PM

The Music Boxes

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Many people young and old have been complaining about the sad state of today’s music. While I do agree that some of today’s music isn’t great, I think music still shines with artistic brilliance today. Why? Because I have gone beyond one genre, one time period, and one country to find music that I love.

When some people think of crappy music today, they think of either pop or rap. Most people don’t realize that pop and rap have sub-genres that they may find enjoyable because they think that a music genre has just one sound.  For example, pop can have a rhythm and blues sound as seen here:

 

Furthermore, pop can have a rock sound.

 

Also, rap can have a rock sound:

 

It is these songs that bring me to my next point: time period. These songs are old, but some people who have never heard them may like them anyway. If that’s the case, then why just focus on listening to the latest music? If it’s because everyone seems to be doing it, then why follow the crowd? Be an individual and listen to whatever music you want. You never know what you’ll discover on your own. You might find you like music from before you were born, something like this:

 

The previous song has another important point: it came from a British rock band. Most people today seem to think that just because we live in America, we have to listen to American music all the time.We only call American music “American” because we are in America. Actually, we all come from many different ethnic backgrounds. These differences are something that should be celebrated in music and beyond. Fortunately, there are some musicians that have already been doing this:

 

We need to keep an open mind when listening to music. Just because we live in a certain time period,  a certain country, or prefer a certain sound, doesn’t mean there isn’t more to what we hear.

Written by Serena Zola

November 13, 2011 at 12:36 PM

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