In Defense Of Pop Music — Pop Music Isn’t Boring, You Are

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You can learn a lot about a person from their favorite music. For example, if you look through my March ‘18 Spotify playlist, you can learn that I’ve been repressing my latest existential crisis with excessive partying. Shuffling through Marina and the Diamonds, Are You Satisfied? to Tyler, The Creators, I Ain’t Got Time! to Lorde’s, Liability, and back around to Charli XCX’s I Got It, clearly I’ve been on a rollercoaster of highs and lows this month.

A lot of that stems back to being in a creative rut. The hard part about being a visionary with absolutely no talent is feeling the need to create and put out into the universe, but not feeling confident enough to actually put out the work. It’s a cycle of feeling frustrated that I’m not expressing my creative needs, creating something to express it, hating it, throwing it out, and then going back to phase one of frustration. And instead of sitting myself down and forcing myself out of this rut, I’ve just been becoming bff’s with four lokos.

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But my current love-hate relationship with creating music isn’t the point of this post. Going back to my first statement, you can learn a lot about a person from their favorite music.

Over the past weekend I hung out with a new group of people, just to find out that they all completely despise any form of pop music. Including Lorde and Charli XCX. tragic.

I love pop music. Pop girls especially. A pop girl could breathe and I’d be like ‘okay, wig

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There Is Good Hip-Hop Out There

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As of recent, I have been seeing many individuals complain about Hip-Hop and how it is in a very bad state currently. As the genre continues to get bigger, of course there will a lack of diversity in most popular songs and can be easily shown by just looking at the Billboard Hot 100.

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Kendrick Lamar and Top Dawg Entertainment To Produce ‘Black Panther: The Album’

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2017 was easily a successful year for Top Dawg Entertainment.

With SZA’s rise to stardom with her debut album “CTRL” that as an album, showcased a woman’s growth throughout to becoming an individual that is more independent and requiring less validation from others. Many of the songs did very well on the charts and SZA is now on the forefront for the label with great potential to be a great artist. Also with legendary artist: Kendrick Lamar dropping his 4th LP: “DAMN.” that solidified the artist’s ability to delivery from all forefronts of Hip-Hop. “DAMN.” was easily his most successful album in terms of sales to date with many tracks such as DNA, LOVE, and HUMBLE charting very high on the Billboard Hot 100. The way Kendrick was able to appeal to a more mainstream audience without sacrificing his quality of music was incredible.

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A Working Spring

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Courtesy of Lost TV.

Three jobs and twenty one credit hours have kept me off of UIC Radio’s front page this semester, much to the dismay of my twelve readers (I ❤ you guys & gals). A busy spring also kept Nick V, Cheech, and me from sitting down in the same room together for about two months. When we finally found overlapping free time, we spent the better part of two hours animatedly talking about Syria, Chicago’s water, and the prison system. But between catching up and conversations eventually bleeding into politics, I managed to ask a few questions and listen to some phenomenal answers.

I wanted to interview the FreeFAM founders for a second time. Last fall, they’d impressed me with their business-minded approach to their genre. Without sacrificing individuality and independence, they seek to create a brand to support all kinds of artists. Coming from a city with a music culture that’s very “out-for-yourself,” their message is refreshing. FAM is in the name.

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Courtesy of Lost TV.

 

An obligatory catch-up is needed first, as these guys have not sat still since the last time they visited UIC Radio’s studio. They’ve been playing gigs, traveling, and working with producers like CB Mix, credited on Chance’s Coloring BookThey’re working with LRG to create clothing and Pat Banahan of Lost TV to make videos. The group just released a music video for Bless the Bottles, (my personal favorite so far) featuring the same BMW I8 King Louie and Vonmar used in their own video. They even played a show at College of DuPage, which only sounds mildly impressive until you learn COD won’t back anyone without a tax ID and business number. They even have a website. FreeFAM is officially in business.

On Tuesday, I asked Nick V and Cheech about branding. I wanted to know what audience FreeFAM would draw as a full-blown music label complete with t-shirts and dispensaries. Both brothers said “local” immediately. They don’t want to limit themselves to Chicago, but their focus is building up a platform to support all members of music production. Their circle includes engineers and videographers, animators, and even a few family members for legal counsel. The want anyone who’s drawn to an image of family, brothers, positive moves, and a platform that’s there to serve their clients. Cheech commented that “non-threatening artists” are what resonate in Chicago today.

 

Nick said he wants people with energy. “Energy to party, to help, to create.” He’s got a vision of FreeFAM as a charity and force for good in Chicago. We inevitably broke into ranting about senators and bills, but Nick had a ton to say about water quality. It was endearing and inspiring and had me walking home thinking how one could add water filters to a music label…But that’s beside the point.

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Courtesy of Lost TV.

I asked about brands that could “make or break” an artist. Lil Wayne and Cash Money were brought up, as was Future, who got in a legal battle with his manager and was forced to release two albums ahead of time so he could start making his own money. Some artists get caught promoting BS; Cheech brought up the Fyre Festival flop. But Jay-Z’s own streaming website was mentioned as a positive. “It all depends on if a brand will encourage or control you,” Nick told me. A label obviously wants a return on investment and will have to control an artist’s image if money is lost. So who’s got their label working for them? Cheech laughed at this thought and brought up Kanye. “His label has been taking so much money from his music. Someone’s been making 50% off all of his songs.”

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Photo courtesy of Lost TV.

Controlling the artist is beyond the aims of the Freedom Family. Both brothers explained respect for their artist is the only reason they’d sign someone, and there’s no need to control someone they respect. They don’t intend to cultivate a brand that interferes with music production or limits the evolution and development of an artist.

“At the end of the day, music is the most important. But music won’t be heard without branding.” Other groups have PR people to handle web pages, social media, and scheduling. But for FreeFAM, “It’s just me and Cheech,” Nick says. The work is taking a toll; Nick V’s been off social media and left with what sounds like carpal tunnel in his hands and a prescription for range-of-motion exercises. “Shouldn’t be constantly posting, anyway,” he admitted. I told him not to worry about it. “It’s always nice to hear from family.”

 

Have a Scien-tastic Day!

Note To Self

“this is an open diary. this gives my insides a voice through visuals and poetry; this is me spilled out on paper.”

Typically on this blog you’ll find album reviews and updates on everything new in the music scene, but for right now I would like to do something different and talk about a book.

Books and albums are pretty similar. They’re both a form of art, they both tell stories, and they both can be used as a mental crutch.

I’ve recently finished reading the new book, Note To Self, written by Connor Franta. Connor Franta is a YouTuber, New York Times bestselling author, entrepreneur, and a LGBTQ+ philanthropist. This is Connor’s sophomore book following his memoir, A Work In Progress.

Note To Self is a collections of poems, memories, thoughts, and essays that come from a deep and vulnerable place. Connor Franta allows readers to see the world from his perceptive as he opens up about love, heartbreak, and dealing with mental illness. Note To Self gives us an interior look into Connor’s life that cannot be seen online.

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This book is real. A lot of these pages I read with a heavy heart and truly could empathize with Connor. I found myself reading a line and thinking, ouch, that really hits close to home.”

But then there were the pages that left me feeling hopeful and inspired. They were reminders that I’m not alone with my feelings, and to always keep an open heart and an open mind.

Connor Franta wrote this book for himself (hence the title) as a way to reflect on his past few years. Through this self-reflection, Connor has opened a gateway for readers to come in and find their own meanings and to find comfort. Through the highs and the lows, this book made me feel something; it was something I could relate to and something I could find a sense of ease in.

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I highly recommend everyone picks up a copy of this book. It’s a great read, and it offers a little something for everyone. You can buy a copy of Note To Self Here.

I also had the pleasure to meet Connor Franta at the Chicago stop of his book signing. I will also be attending the Note To Self Tour in Milwaukee, which includes visuals from the book created by Connor, and a Q&A and discussion session. You can buy tickets for the tour Here.

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Troye Sivan Takes On Coachella

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The incredibly talented Australian pop star, Troye Sivan, surprised his fans with a surprise performance at the 2017 Coachella music festival.

Sivan joined DJ Martin Garrix on the Sahara Stage during his set to drop their new song together, “There For You.

This is the first piece of new music that we have gotten from Sivan since his 2015 debut album, Blue Neighbourhood, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.

Sivan has been hinting on his Twitter that a new album is in the works, and new music will be coming our way in the, hopefully, near future.

There For You” is a brilliant song with a beautiful message. It’s pop heavy and radio-ready, and while it may be a great song to bop to, the lyrics hold a lot in them.

“I got you, I promise

Let me be honest

Love is a road that goes both ways

When your tears roll down your pillow like a river

I’ll be there for you

But you gotta be there for me too”

Communication is the most important thing in any relationship. You cannot expect someone to always be there for you, if you cannot be there for them. Communication, and as stated in the song, love, goes both ways. One sided relationships are toxic and unfair and I cannot stress this enough.

There For You” is a song I feel like everyone can relate to at some point in life, and songs like this are perfect to find comfort in. Sweet and soft.

With that being said, I cannot wait to hear what Sivan has planned for his sophomore album.

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As a longtime fan of Troye Sivan (and a fan of music and talent in general,) it’s been an emotional ride watching Sivan go from posting quirky videos on YouTube, to preforming on the iconic Coachella stage.

It just goes to show that if you’re passionate about something, and you want your dream bad enough, hard work and dedication pays off, and living the life you’ve always dreamed of, is possible.

Frank Ocean Drops New Music

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This week, Frank Ocean aired the third episode of “blonded RADIO,” on his Beats 1 show. On previous episodes of “blonded RADIO,” Ocean premiered his songs, “Chanel,” and “Slide,” featuring Calvin Harris and Migos. On this most recent episode, Ocean ended the show with his newest song, “Biking” featuring Jay Z and Tyler, the Creator.

Talk about an iconic trio.

–  You can find “Biking” on SoundCloud  here  –

Tyler, The Creator, who is now back on Twitter after a brief disappearance, tweeted his lyrics to his verse on “Biking,” on Saturday afternoon. Lana Del Rey Responded with, “who else’s lyrics could these be !” and I automatically had high hopes for this song.

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I was not disappointed. I’ve always been a fan of Jay Z, an even bigger fan of Tyler, The Creator, and a disgustingly huge fan of Frank Ocean.

“Biking,” is a relatively mellow song, that for a reason I cannot explain, makes me feel the way I feel when I look at a painting by Vincent van Gogh.

Everyone interprets music in a different way, and every feeling is unique to the listener. And that’s the beauty in music.

With a slumbering sound and acoustic harmonies, “Biking” gives me a feeling of nostalgia for deep summer nights, and with summer just around the corner, this was great timing for Ocean to drop this hit.

Frank Ocean will always be one of my top favorite artists, and I strongly and whole heartily believe “Channel ORANGE,” and “Blonde,” are two of the greatest albums to have been produced of all time.

Ocean never lets us down with his music, and I can’t wait to hear what is yet to come from him.

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Halloween Horror Fest

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Halloween is just around the corner. For the average Joe it’s just a spooky holiday where you dress up in funky garbs and pass out on candy or drinks. But for all of my fellow Halloweenies, we have been prepared for the pumpkin carving, house decorating, and most importantly, the horror movie marathons.

Here are five films that are on different spectrums of spooky, but are all great in their own right!

1. Scream (1996)

“What’s your favorite scary movie?” sneers Ghostface, the franchise’s murderer. Wes Craven’s classic slasher, Scream, happens to be one of mine. The film revolves around the town of Woodsboro, California, when it suddenly becomes the hunting grounds for a serial killer who targets 90’s teen archetypes. Craven satires horror cliches in a perfectly comedic, bloody mess – but nothing is predictable about the ending.

2. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

You may know Joss Whedon of Firefly or The Avengers fame, but the comic nerd of a director has a twisted dark side too. The Cabin in the Woods also plays on horror tropes and takes a critical eye on the torture porn branch. Five college students, who all fit the bill of jock, slut, nerd, stoner, and virgin, plan a weekend getaway at a deserted cabin in the woods. That introduction alone should already set up that things don’t turn out well. It doesn’t, and how it gets that bad is what makes this film a cult favorite.

3. The Exorcist (1973)

A Halloween list cannot be complete without William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Centered on two priests exorcising a possessed 12 year old, this movie’s simple premise is iconic. Forty years ago this terrorized people so much that some movie critics said they couldn’t understand who would see this movie for pleasure. People left the premiere in either pure anxiety or extreme fear. Take caution: you probably will end up the same way if you are not a seasoned horror watcher.

4. The Babadook (2014)

Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook is another jarring fright fest. After the death of her husband, Amelia struggles to maintain her life with Sam, her son. When Sam preoccupies himself with an imaginary friend from a book called Mister Babadook, the titular creature starts to take a sinister form. Touching on a common youth experience and combining it with psychological troubles of adulthood, the film pokes a nerve at growing up. This Australian psychological horror has since become a cult favorite and the target of many fan theories.

5. Hocus Pocus (1993)

If you braved the previous scarring scare and need something light, a signature Disney film can do the trick. Being a 90’s kid, I was lucky to have Disney original movies that gave me the heebie-jeebies as I learned a lesson. Hocus Pocus follows the Sanderson Sisters’ quest to gain absolute youth by stealing children’s souls, and Max Dennison trying to prevent his sister from being the next target. The eight year old me learned about stranger danger and to never wander in creepy abandoned houses, but the twenty one year old me plays it for the nostalgia.

Now build your pillow fort, grab your sweets, turn off the lights, and get ready for those jump scares!

(Photo illustration credit: Valashard)

Take It Slow

As if my excitement for the upcoming DC Comics film, Suicide Squad, wasn’t flying off the charts already, I recently found out that one of my all-time favorite bands – Twenty One Pilots – would be featuring a brand new song for the movie’s original soundtrack.

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The featured track, titled Heathens, was “leaked” onto the deep depths of the interwebs just last week. “Heathens” has a dark melody and haunting lyrics – traits that aren’t uncharacteristic for the band. However, even for Twenty One Pilots, a band that notably writes dark-ish songs such as “Car Radio” and “Stressed Out,” the song was undeniably grim.

As soon as the song dropped, the Skeleton Clique (a nickname dubbed for the TOP fanbase) started making speculations about whether or not there would be more to the sudden release of this song than meets the eye. It turns out that they were right. The following day, news that the song will be featured on the Suicide Squad soundtrack was released, and the Clique went wild.

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A few days after the big news, an official audio of the song was uploaded as well as the music video for the single. And let me tell you – the music video is amazing. I can gush about the music video all I want, but ultimately, you’re going to have to see for yourself.

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Anyway, you know the drill. If you haven’t heard the song or watched the music video, check it out below! Whether you’re a fan of the comic, film, or band, I’m pretty darn sure you’ll like it.

-Pearl

“You Took me As Safe”: An Interview With Dumbfoundead

Just a few weeks ago, one of my favorite rappers, the LA/ Korea Town native Dumbfoundead (aka Parker), dropped a powerful single titled “Safe.” The track, which states lyrics like “The other night I watched the Oscars and the roster of the only yellow men were all statues/ We a quarter of the population there’s a room of f**kin’ one percenters laughing at you,” talks about some issues that have been very prominent in Hollywood: whitewashing and the discrimination of minorities.

I was recently able to chat with him about his inspiration to write “Safe,” what it means to be an Asian-American, and the importance of being true to your identity. Check out the interview below!

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