Thursday, December 26, 2013

Best of 2013: Music Top 5

Everyone has different taste in music. I like to consider myself pretty open to any genre of music. I am not a Top Radio purest or a hipster who only likes bands with names like Quiet Wombats or Wind and Dust. I'm pretty sure those aren't real bands, but they sounded like some underground acoustic creation. Anyway, here is my breakdown of my favorite songs (in no particular order), including radio hits and more.

1) Mirrors - Justin Timberlake

I included the shortened version because ain't nobody got time for that long version. Many people heard this song occupy their favorite radio stations late spring and well through summer. After a while many became tired of this song. However this never came true for myself. Maybe it is because I started listening to the song before it was on the radio or the fact that I chose to listen to the song on repeat. Whatever the case, I never became weary of the great beat behind the music or nailing the harmonies during the chorus. "Vacancy that sat in my he-art" was the ultimate fulfillment when singing harmony. Regardless of whether you liked the song or not, it was everywhere and was an amazing song after a long hiatus from Justin. Therefore, it is on my list.

2) Love Somebody - Maroon 5

This song is my jam. When I need to cheer up, this is my go to song. "Love Somebody" was also on the radio, yet somehow was not as overplayed as "Mirrors". There are so many elements that make this song a treasure. The song itself has an awesome driving rhythm that just makes you want to dance. And the beat only gets better when the chorus kicks in. To add to the amazing song the video is pretty inventive. The use of blue paint and computers created a very cool effect.

3) Ed Sheeran - Lego House

This song is actually two years old, but it was released in the US in February of 2013. After the popularity of "A-Team", "Lego House" was the second single released off of his album "+". This song is simple and lovely. Ed Sheeran has a unique style and this song captures a vulnerability that is very refreshing.

4) Ho Hey (Cover) - Lennon & Maisy

Some of you may recognize the sister duo Lennon & Maisy either from their acapella cover of Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend" or from the hit TV show Nashville. These sisters proved their talent again with their phenomenal harmonies in their cover of "Ho Hey". In my opinion this cover is better than the original. Their tight harmonies are very impressive, especially coming from such a young duo. If you haven't heard it yet, you need to push play right now.

5) Say Something - A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera

This song came out as a free download on iTunes back in October. Then A Great Big World teamed up with Christina Aguilera to reboot the song and suddenly the song catapulted into a top hit. I love the broken down vibe and simplicity including Christina's less poppy vocals. The song has such a chilling feel and definitely deserves the attention it is receiving.

This year had such a wide range in music and there are so many more wonderful songs, but these five songs I felt provided variety and were some of my favorites.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

TV Thursdays: So You Think You Can Dance

WARNING: This post is very long and I apologize. But there have been 10 seasons and this is one of my favorite shows.

I have watched this show live since it first aired way back in 2005. Yes the show is that old. Some of you may not remember the days of Lauren Sanchez hosting, or the wonderful days where the general public was blessed by not having Mary Murphy as a permanent judge every week. Yes, there was a glorious time when we did not have to hear her shrill screaming every week. But this show has kept me interested throughout its run.

For those of you who haven't seen the show, this show is a reality show similar to American Idol but instead of singing it's dancing. Dancers compete each week, performing different styles and trying to avoid elimination. And it is nothing like Dancing With the Stars. It is a million times better and all of the contestants are actual dancers, not celebrities.

I will break down elements of the show to hopefully make this post easier to follow.

BEST ROUTINES (no particular order):

1) Allison & Robert - Fix You

2) Season 2 Top 10 - Ramalama

3) Cheslie & Mark - Bleeding Love

4) Kayla & Kupono - Addiction

5) Lacey & Danny - Samba (Hip, Hip, Chin, Chin)

6) Neil & Sabra - Board Room (Sweet Dreams)

7) Season 9 Top 20 - Office

8) Melanie & Marko - Turn to Stone

9) Season 10 Top 10 - Rocking Chairs

10) Neil & Kent - Backstab (How It Ends)

1) Allison Holker
She is the best contestant to ever be on the show. The judges know it and America should have voted for her to win. Every performance she does is fantastic and as an All- Star she always catches my eye.
2) Travis Wall
3) Neil Haskell
4) Melanie Moore
5) Pasha Kovalev

1) Joshua Allen
2) Billy Bell
3) Aaron Turner
4) Benji Schwimmer
5) Lacey Schwimmer
6) Ade Obayomi
7) Alex Wong

Seasons 3 is by far the best season. Season 2 was pretty good as well. The earlier seasons were nice for a few reasons. They actually picked styles out of a hat and showed their reactions. This meant that dances were random and not hand selected to help contestants that the producers wanted to keep. Recently it is obvious that there is no chance is which style of dance each contestant is assigned to perform from week to week. Also, the judges didn't used to carry contestants all the way to the finale by saving them. After Top 10 America used to choose who was eliminated with no exceptions. Now the judges basically get to choose who they want in the finale, which undermines the audience vote. In summary, the earlier seasons were better.

Here are my thoughts on who won each season and who I believe should have won.

Season 1
Actual Winner: Nick Lazzarini
Should Have Won: Nick Lazzarini

It was the first season and America actually had good taste and understood that he was the most versatile and most talented.

Season 2
Actual Winner: Benji Schwimmer
Should Have Won: Allison Holker

Benji was an entertainer and got the votes for his personality. He was definitely not the best dancer especially when you consider that he never had to dance contemporary. The prize for that season was a spot to dance in the Celine Dion concert and he couldn't dance contemporary. Allison was good in every style and got off because America thought she was safe. Everyone was shocked when she was eliminated. Some people argue that Travis Wall should have won, especially because he made it to the finals. However, in an interview he even admitted that Allison should have won.

Season 3
Actual Winner: Sabra Johnson
Should Have Won: Pasha Kovalev

I did really enjoy Neil Haskell in this season, but I think Pasha should have won. I think that Sabra was a good dancer, but something about her personality bugged me a lot. Pasha had such a lovely personality and always showed through the routines. He was very adaptable and was one of the nicest contestants.

Season 4
Actual Winner: Joshua Allen
Should Have Won: Katee Shean

Cheslie Hightower was my favorite, but Katee definitely deserved to win. I think the producers realized that as well when they awarded her a prize for being the top female dancer even though that prize had never existed or been mentioned before.

Season 5
Actual Winner: Jeanine Mason
Should Have Won: Jeanine Mason

She was the best and her last solo solidified that fact.

Season 6
Actual Winner: Russell Ferguson
Should Have Won: Kathryn McCormick

He was a krumper and was not that talented. Kathryn was beautiful and aced every style.

Season 7
Actual Winner: Lauren Froderman
Should Have Won: ???

I'm trying to remember. I think that I was fine with her winning.

Season 8
Actual Winner: Melanie Moore
Should Have Won: Melanie Moore

She was an early favorite and sailed through the competition, killing every routine.

Season 9
Actual Winner: Eliana Girard
Should Have Won: Eliana Girard

She deserved to win.

Season 10
Actual Winner: TBD
Should Have Won: Paul Karmiryan

I was really upset when he got kicked off. Clearly he was the most versatile on the show. He was amazing in every style and he was so likable. America does not understand good dancing.

Congratulations to those of you who made it through my entire post. I thoroughly enjoy this show and how it gives the general public a glimpse into the dance world. The show has produced many fantastic pieces, and even though the show goes through rough patches of uninspiring dances, an amazing dance still comes around every so often. In fact, I thought nearly every dance in the Top 8 this season was very well executed and performed. The dances were really entertaining.

SYTYCD is about to finish its 10th season and it is still managing to find wonderful dancers who know how to captivate an audience.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

85th Oscars Breakdown

I know I haven't written in forever, but I felt like sharing my thoughts and predictions for the 85th Academy Awards. I'll break it down by category and let you know why. Here it goes:

Best Picture
Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty

Will Win: Argo
Could Win: Lincoln
Should Win: Argo
Snub: The Impossible

Argo gained a lot of momentum from winning both the Golden Globes and the SAG Award. Lincoln was a front runner for a long time, especially in the early fall. Back in the 90's I would have easily given the award to Lincoln. It is a historical piece and the script is genius. However, Argo has the perfect balance of drama and suspense, all while retelling a true story. I sat on the edge of my seat not knowing what would happen next. Argo deserves to win and probably will, but Lincoln has a chance of slipping in as the winner at the last minute. The Impossible was in my opinion one of the best movies of the year and yet it failed to grab a nomination. The story is emotional from start to finish, the scenery and effects are impressive, and the acting was phenomenal. If nothing else, The Impossible should have at least picked up a nomination.

Best Actor
Bradley Cooper, Daniel Day-Lewis, Hugh Jackman, Jaoquin Phoenix, Denzel Washington

Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Could Win: No one else has a chance of winning
Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal of Lincoln is enthralling. He made smart choices in the way to chose to become the 16th president. Day-Lewis' mannerisms are not cartoonish or forced, but seem rather natural and just enough to capture the essence of Lincoln. His performance is so believable that it overshadows all of the other nominees.

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Emanuelle Rivera, Quvenzhane Wallis, Naomi Watts

Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence
Could Win: Jessica Chastain, Emanuelle Rivera
Should Win: Naomi Watts

I think that The Academy likes talented young actresses. I thought that Jennifer Lawrence's performance in Silver Linings Playbook was okay, but I was not blown away. And yet, everyone is raving about her performance. Her track towards gold has further seemed assured by her wins at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards. Jessica Chastain however could sneak in for the win. Just before the slew of awards shows. Jessica Chastain appeared to be the favorite. Her performance in Zero Dark Thirty was strong and real. Emanuelle Rivera could also come in and steal the prize from her younger competitors. At 86 on Oscar night, she is the oldest nominee in history. She could pull the sentimental vote and surprise everyone. However, I still believe that Naomi Watts deserves the award. Her performance in The Impossible is extremely emotional and demanded my attention from the first five minutes of the film. Strangely enough, the critics declared her the front runner long before nominations were announced. I guess it doesn't help that The Impossible came out early for the Oscar season.

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Robert DeNiro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones, Christoph Waltz

Will Win: Robert DeNiro
Could Win: Tommy Lee Jones
Should Win: Christoph Waltz

Somehow Robert DeNiro has been getting late buzz. His performance as a superstitious sports fan in Silver Linings Playbook is emotional, but I did not recognize it as one of his best performances. Still late predictions are all putting him slightly above his main competitor Tommy Lee Jones. Jones did a great job in Lincoln, and played a strong and likable abolitionist in Lincoln. Still I love Christoph Waltz and believe that his over the top character in Django Unchained was the best of the group.

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Sally Field, Anne Hathaway, Helen Hunt, Jacki Weaver

Will Win: Anne Hathaway
Could Win: Sally Field (but the chances are extremely slim)
Should Win: Anne Hathaway

All praise goes to Anne Hathaway. Had it been a different year, Sally Field could have picked up a third Oscar, giving her a perfect record for winning every time she was nominated for an Academy Award. But Anne Hathaway's performance as Fontaine got the attention of audiences and moved them to tears even in the preview for Les Miserables. That song sealed the deal for her to come out victorious as the Best Supporting Actress.

Other Categories (My Predictions)
Animated Feature Film: Brave
Cinematography: Life of Pi
Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Directing: Steven Spielberg (Snub: Ben Affleck)
Film Editing: Argo
Foreign Language Film: Amour
Makeup and Hairstyling: Les Miserables
Music (Score): Life of Pi
Music (Song): "Skyfall" by Adele
Production Design: Lincoln
Short Film (Animated): Adam and Dog (Paperman should win)
Sound Editing: Skyfall
Sound Mixing: Les Miserables
Visual Effects: Life of Pi
Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Lincoln
Writing (Original Screenplay): Amour