Views on pop culture through my eyes

Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

Summer-Fall Reviews Part 1

It’s that time again for some more entertainment reviews. This blog features TV shows and music reviews. Read on for what I have been enjoying (or not) this past summer.

TV

13 Reasons Why
Netflix bring you the story of Hannah Baker — a teenager who commits suicide. The story is told in 13 parts. She left behind 13 cassette tapes that give her 13 reasons why she did it. This is one of the best shows I have seen this year. It is one of the most realistic portrayals of high school that I have ever seen. The whole cast is fantastic, especially the 2 main leads. Yes, it deals with some heavy topics: bullying, sexual assault, slut shaming, amongst other topics. It is definitely a show that doesn’t shy away from things. I highly recommend it. You will be moved. Grade: A

Boy Band
ABC wants in the boy band business. The architects (coaches) are OK. Timbaland is the one whose praise I would want the most. Some of the guys were not good enough in the Top 30 and I was surprised they made it as far as they did. It will be interesting if a hit band comes from this show. I am a bit of a boy band aficionado having loved New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, NSync, 98 Degrees and more. The winners are now crowned, so we’ll see what happens. Grade: B-

World of Dance
The latest dance reality show just concluded it’s inaugural season. It is hosted by Jenna Dewan-Tattum and judged by Ne-Yo, Jennifer Lopez and Derek Hough. One of the cool things is there is a wide variety of dancers and styles, all in a battle for a $1 million dollar prize. You have large groups competing against soloists; duos and trios competing against solo kid dancers too. The public does not get to vote at all, which I found interesting. The show was renewed for a second season. Grade: B

CDs

Katy Perry — Witness
“Witness” is Katy’s 4th full length album and her first since “Prism” in 2013. The first single “Chained to the Rhythm” hinted at a new direction for her — something she called “Purposeful Pop.” Well, the single underperformed for her, and what we get is Katy’s least successful album (so far). It’s not a miss for her, but not her best by a long shot. The stand–out song for me is “Swish Swish” — It sounds like a hit. Lots of attitude and catchy lyrics. And some of the ballads are catching on with me like “Save as Draft” and “Miss You More.” No power anthems like previous releases. I wanted more, and I didn’t get it. Grade: C+

Lady Antebellum — Heart Break
Their first album since the band took a hiatus and some down time for solo projects and families. Their trademark vocal harmonies and hit songwriting are still here. They try on a bit of funk for the hit “You Look Good.” Not as good as “747” but still a solid country-pop album for them. Grade: B

Michelle Branch — Everything Comes and Goes
I loved this woman since her early 2000’s breakthrough and her work with Santana and the Wreckers too. So this has a country-rock feel to it similar to what she did with the Wreckers. Sort of mellow compared to her earlier stuff. Grade: B+

Mary J. Blige — Strength of a Woman
Mary is an artist that always tells it like it is. On her latest, she talks about her divorce, saying to her ex “There’s a special place in hell for you” on the song “Set Me Free.” Ouch! The album is solid, if a bit on the mellow side. There is one full-on dance song “Find the Love.” And her duet with Prince Charlez (“Smile”) is very nice too. Grade: B+

The Time — Ice Cream Castles
I knew I was going to see this group in concert this past summer, so I bought this album. It contains their 2 biggest hits featured in the movie “Purple Rain” — “The Bird” and “Jungle Love.” It’s pretty slim, only 6 tracks total, and one is basically an extended comedy skit called “Chili Sauce.” The rest are just OK. Grade: C

Big & Rich — Hillbilly Jedi
The country-rock duo delivers a solid set. It recalls some of their earlier work. They may have treaded water some on this, but it is still likable. Special guests include Bon Jovi and Cowboy Troy. Grade: B-

New Kids on the Block — Thankful
This EP was released in advance of their summer tour with Paula Abdul and Boyz II Men. Uptempo for the most part, it includes “Still Sounds Good” which is built around a sample of Nena’s “99 Luftballons.” Their vocals still sound good. Grade: B

Brett Eldredge — Brett Eldredge
The 4th studio album from Brett features the lead single “Something I’m Good At.” I like that one, but there are better songs on the rest of the album like “Super Hero” and “Crystal Clear.” Not sure this is the big breakthrough he was hoping for with this album. But overall, I enjoyed it. Grade: B

Maren Morris — Hero
She won a Grammy earlier this year for “My Church.” The rest of the album is just as good as that one. Country, blues, pop and soul are all featured on this album. She has really won me over on this one. I can’t stop listening to it! I highly recommend it! Other hits on here include “80’s Mercedes,” “Rich” and “I Could Use a Love Song.” Grade: A

Rascal Flatts — Back to Us
They are one of the most dependable acts out there. I can’t say I have ever heard a bad album from them. A solid mix of uptempo songs and ballads. Lauren Alaina (from American Idol) duets with them on 1 song. Grade: B

Sam Hunt — Between the Pines: Acoustic Mixtape
I have to say I hesitated to get this one. But after seeing his fantastic concert this past summer, I had to pick it up. It was released to the public after his breakthrough debut “Montevallo.” So this was recorded before that one, and features a lot of the same songs but in slightly different arrangements. The ones that are NOT on “Montevallo” are the most interesting songs here like “I Met a Girl” and “Saturday Night” (where he even full-on raps). Plus he covers a few of the songs he wrote for other artists like Kenny Chesney and Billy Currington. You can tell he was destined for bigger and better things. Grade: B+

That’s all for now. Be sure to look for a fall edition coming soon. As always, comments are kindly welcomed.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

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Suggestions for American Idol

Now that it has been announced that American Idol is returning to TV, it got me thinking about what needs to be done to keep the show going. After a 15-season run on Fox, the show is coming to ABC for the 2017-18 TV season. That was a short break! The last episode aired on Fox on April 7, 2016. When it went off the air, and Ryan Seacrest said goodbye “for now” — I was predicting that it would be back in 5 years. So it is definitely coming back sooner than I thought it would. But it is a successful format, and it was still a Top 20 show, even if wasn’t making the headlines or the stars it once was.

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One of my suggestions was going to be to put the emphasis back on the contestants. You have to remember that when the show first came on, Paula Abdul was the only famous judge. And she was considered a has-been at that point. But ABC has already announced that Katy Perry has been hired as one of the judges, so much for that! I heard they wanted former contestants like Jennifer Hudson and Kelly Clarkson to be on the panel, but they are signed to The Voice as mentors. Chris Daughtry is one of the rumored judges also, but has not been confirmed yet. Ryan Seacrest is also confirmed to be coming back as host.

So here are my suggestions for the 16th season of American Idol:

  1. Get rid of the delusional contestants. It is one thing to have a good singer who blows the audition because of nerves. Or to be a good singer, but pick the wrong song to sing. It is another to have someone who has no talent take up valuable screen time like William Hung.
  2. Bring back the theme weeks of the early years. When you think back to the early years, years 1-4, the singers had to be versatile in a number of different styles and genres. Yes, it takes you out of your comfort zone. But for me, this really shows who the great singers are. Think of Kelly Clarkson doing Bette Midler or Carrie Underwood doing Heart. Those were star-making moments of the show.
  3. Connect the singers with some top songwriters. I want them to be able to write their own songs. If they could have Diane Warren or Justin Tranter give the contestants some help with songwriting that would be awesome. Imagine if the winner actually gets to sing his/her own coronation song. That would be great.
  4. Contestants can only go forward to Hollywood Week if it is a unanimous decision amongst the judges. None of this, 2 out of 3 saying yes and the person going through. There is a strong reason why that 1 person said No… and viewers at home probably agree with it.
  5. Be able to vote easily for up to 5 days after the original broadcast. Last time they let you vote on Google, which was cool. Plus voting by text and phone too. But most people watch shows at different times now. So those people should be able to vote on the results also.
  6. Bring back the results shows! I guess I was only one of the people that liked them. But I like the big group numbers and the duos and trios too. Half an hour would be fine.
  7. Get rid of the Ford commercials. You know those commercials that look like music videos with the contestants in them — but they are just ads for cars? I can’t say I would miss them.
  8. Bring back the Wild Card round. That was the round that brought Clay Aiken back to the competition after being cut. Someone good might have slipped through the cracks, and you would be giving them another chance to shine.
  9. Make sharing easy for each of the contestant’s performances. They should have a share button for Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, etc. The number of times a contestant is liked and shared should be counted in the contestant’s total for the week.

So those are my recommendations. What do think American Idol 2.0 is going to be like? I would love to hear your thoughts.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Pentatonix Celebrates the 4th

Pentatonix in Concert
Monday, July 3, 2017
Hollywood Bowl

Pentatonix-Bowl

July 4th Fireworks Spectacular with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Thomas Wilkins conductor

Special guest: US Air Force Band of the Golden West

Songs performed: Sing, Can’t Help Fallin’ in Love, Imagine, Take on Me, Hallelujah, Coldest Winter, Daft Punk, Michael Jackson medley, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Bohemian Rhapsody

Comments: Pentatonix, the a capella phenomenon, headlined 3 concerts at the Hollywood Bowl for their July 4th Fireworks Spectacular. I first became familiar with the group on the show “The Sing-Off” back in 2011. This was a reality competition for a capella singing groups. They won that season and have gone on to win 3 Grammys and sell out shows around the world.

I first saw the group in concert when they opened for Kelly Clarkson on her “Piece by Piece” tour in 2015. They also performed with her during the show also. They won the crowd over then, I knew they were on their way to being headliners.

The first part of the evening was just the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra under the conduction of Thomas Wilkins. They played a few numbers including “Yoda’s Theme” from “Star Wars” as well as the yearly salute to all the military branches. This the time when service members are encouraged to stand up and be acknowledged when their theme is played.

After a brief intermission, the Orchestra was joined by Pentatonix. Normally Pentatonix do all their shows with just them creating all the sounds. So it was a little different for them and for us — but in a good way. They did do the second song of the night, a capella — just to show the crowd what they can do. Their sound is so full, because they imitate the sounds of instruments with their vocals.

The show started with their original song “Sing” off their self-titled album. But the majority of the show was their interpretations of songs by other artists including those featured on their latest EP — “PTX, Vol. IV — Classics.”

That EP has their take on songs from Elvis, a-ha, the Andrew Sisters, John Lennon, Queen and more. They also performed their medleys of songs from Daft Punk and Michael Jackson as well. One of the more memorable numbers was a pop-operatic number sung entirely in Italian. We also got to hear Avi’s awesome bass vocals. Too bad he is leaving the group after this tour.

After “Take on Me,” the group exited the stage to make way for the fireworks. So the Orchestra was joined by the Air Force Band of the Golden West in a medley of patriotic tunes as fireworks exploded over the Bowl.

The group did come back after the fireworks for the finale of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It was a rousing finale to another fun summer concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Thanks to Scott, Mitch, Kirstin, Avi and Kevin for an awesome show. I look forward to hearing more from you.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Summer Reviews Part 2

So what CDs and DVDs am I enjoying this summer? Read on…

Music

Jason Mraz — Yes!
Jason continues to mine the adult contemporary terrain of “I’m Yours.” Honestly, I have heard it about 5 times through, and nothing is sticking to me. What happened to the guy who did fun up-tempo songs like “The Remedy”? Time to mix it up, Jason. Grade: D

Ed Sheeran — + (plus)
I fell in love with him on his second album. So now it is time that I checked out his debut album. You have the hits: The A Team and Lego House. Plus a good collection of tunes that show he is someone to watch out for. Interestingly, radio just played the folk songs, while he has some nice uptempo/hip-hop inspired ones. Grade: B+

Celine Dion — Loved Me Back to Life
Celine’s most recent pop album and her first since “Taking Chances.” It is definitely growing on me. You have pop, uptempo songs, ballads and a few cover songs. Special guests include Ne-Yo and Stevie Wonder. She’s been better, but I still like it. Grade: B-

Mary J. Blige — The London Sessions
Mary J. went to London to record this album which pairs her with Sam Smith, Disclosure and more. So you have some dance textures on here. An interesting diversion, but I liked the previous album “My Life II” much more. Grade: B

Pentatonix — PTX, Vol. IV: Classics
The latest EP from the a capella 5-some has them covering songs by Queen, a-ha, Dolly Parton (who guests on here) and more. It is still amazing that they can create such full arrangements with just their voices. Grade: A-

Beauty and the Beast — Soundtrack
The soundtrack to the latest Disney smash movie includes all your favorites from the film including “Be Our Guest,” “Belle,” “Gaston” and the title track. Includes bonus songs from Celine Dion, Ariana Grande & John Legend and Josh Groban. Grade: A-

Kelsea Ballerini — The First Time
The debut album from the up and coming country/pop singer. Features the hit songs: “Love Me Like You Mean It” and “Peter Pan.” She reminds me a bit of Taylor Swift. She’s definitely someone to watch out for. She is on the road with Lady Antebellum this summer: Grade: A-

Brett Eldredge — Bring You Back
I became a fan of this man on his second album “Illinois.” This is his first one. The vocals are what stand out for me, even if the songs are not as strong as what he has on his second album. I definitely sensed potential, even if it was not all there. Grade: B-

Blondie — Blondie 4(0)Ever: Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux/Ghosts of Download
Ground-breaking new-wave group Blondie is back for their 40th anniversary. The first half is re-recorded versions of their biggest hits. The second half is all-new songs. Honestly I wish I just could have bought the 2nd half, since I have several greatest hits collections from them already. The new versions bring nothing new to the equation. The second half has Blondie trying on dance and latin textures. Includes their take on Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax.” Grade: B-

Josh Turner — Deep South
The deep-voiced singer country singer is back with an all-new collection. Highlights include the title track and “All About You.” He has a few beach inspired tunes on this. Not too much different from his other albums. It is a solid collection. Grade: B

Natasha Bedingfield — Strip Me
I was a fan of this singer’s first 2 albums, and am finally getting around to this one. It came out 7 years ago, and it bombed. It shouldn’t have. She has dance, rock, ballads, and alternative music on here. Plus there are some unplugged versions and videos on the deluxe version. Still hoping she comes out with a new album. Grade: A-

Videos

Sing Street
What a pleasant surprise this movie is! A teenage boy falls for an older woman and makes up a lie about being in a band and needing an actress for his music video. This romantic comedy set in Ireland in the 80’s has a great soundtrack, so you get Duran Duran and Hall & Oates. Plus the band that he starts with a few other misfits from school, ends up being pretty good with some catchy songs of their own. You’ll enjoy yourself. Grade: A-

Sully
Ton Hanks stars as the title character “Sully” Sullenberg who landed an airliner on the Hudson river. It is based on Sullenberg’s autobiography and directed by Clint Eastwood. Did he know what he was doing? Did he make the right choice? How did he handle being labeled a hero? Aaron Eckhart costars as the copilot. Grade: B

Southside with You
Otherwise known as the Michelle and Barack Obama date movie. This is the story of the first date between Michelle and Barack Obama in the southside of Chicago. They went to an art museum, and then to a rally at a black church. You could see the sparks flying between them. Grade: B+

Denial
The true story of a Holocaust denier taking a writer to court in England for slander. She was someone who called him out for what he was doing. Yet he had the nerve to try and sue her for slander. Could she prove that the Holocaust really existed? Or would she let the whole Jewish race down? Starring Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall. Grade: A-

Miss Peregine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Tim Burton directs this dark fantasy film based on book by Ransom Riggs. Eva Green stars as the title character. Jake is a teenager who travels to Wales to investigate the school that his grandfather went to. It is the school mentioned in the title. So you have a floating girl, a boy with bees, masked twins, and an invisible boy among others. The movie reminded me of other ones. You take parts of X-Men, Harry Potter and other fantasy films and you have this one. But I still enjoyed myself. Grade: B

Suicide Squad
The 3rd movie in Warner Brother’s DC Universe, brings together a bunch of villians who are tasked with saving the world because no one else can. So you have Dead Shot, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc and a number of other villians you have never heard of. You have the Joker too, but his story line is pretty much about him getting back with Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Again, I think special effects over shadowed the story in this one. It is a pretty forgettable movie. Grade: D

So that’s my take. If you agree or disagree with any of my comments, I would love to hear from you.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Best Music TV Shows of all Time

As a fan of both music and television, it is not always easy to come up with a winning formula that benefits both mediums. You have had so many reality singing competitions, and a few fabulous duds like “Cop Rock.” But here is my list of the shows that got it right:

Reality Shows

American Bandstand (1952–1989)
Dick Clark was the host for most of the run and is credited with it’s success. You had acts of the day performing, plus good looking young people dancing to the songs too. Who didn’t want to be there?

Soul Train (1971–2006)
Don Cornelius was the host that most people are familiar with (1971–1993). This show focused mostly on soul and R&B performers but disco, jazz, funk and hip hop made their way on it too. Who didn’t want to strut their stuff in the Soul Train Line?

American Idol (2002–2016)
The greatest singing competition show that ever existed in my opinion. It has changed the face of popular entertainment forever, and brought singers and performers we are still enjoying today. They just announced this week it is coming back for the 2017-2018 season on ABC.

Solid Gold (1980–1988)
Dionne Warwick and Marilyn McCoo are the hosts that I remember the most. If you grew up in the 80’s you remember this show fondly. It had a dance troupe, the Solid Gold Dancers, who would dance to the Top Ten tunes of the week. It was tacky, but it was fun.

Dramas

Nashville (2012–current)
This series focuses on the performers, song-writers and music industry people in Music City. The two main stars are Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere. It is basically a good old fashioned soap opera with music. Not a musical, but a drama. There have been concert specials of the stars showcasing their very real musical chops.

Smash (2012–2013)
This behind the scenes look at the making of a Broadway musical never really found it’s way to great success. But those that watched it loved it for what it was: a celebration of Broadway — it’s music and stars. Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty starred as the 2 women who wanted to play Marilyn Monroe in a musical entitled “Bombshell.” Along the way, there was plenty of drama and some great numbers as well as some ridiculous story lines too.

Glee (2009-2015)
This fun show followed the students in a Glee Club at McKinley High School. These kids were all misfits in their own ways… but they found power and success in the music. The early seasons were very successful and they were able to spin off a series of successful albums, singles and concert tours too. Some of the numbers were sung in character, while others were performance numbers. They also created some great mash-ups, where they took 2 or more songs and smashed them together into one great medley.

Empire (2015–current)
This show is Fox’s current hit drama about the going’s on in the world of hip-hop. It follows the Lyon family, ex’s Cookie and Lucious, and their 3 sons Jamal, Andre and Hakeem. Lucious is hip-hop royalty and 2 of his sons are performers, while the third is behind the scenes. The music is executive produced by Timbaland. The soundtrack from Season 1 debuted on the charts at #1, beating out Madonna’s last album.

Special Mention

So You Think You Can Dance (2005–current)
OK, so it is not a music show per se, but a dance show. But music is a big part of the routines, and I have discovered plenty of new music by watching this show. Plus they have had performances by up and coming musical acts too.

So have I missed any? I would love to hear from you.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

 

Spring Reviews Part 2

Welcome back to the blog. It’s time again for my reviews of different entertainment options. Part 1 concentrated on music. Part 2 includes movies, DVDs and TV shows. What have I been watching recently? Read on.

Movies

Hidden Figures
This is the untold story of the women who were behind the NASA astronauts launch into space. It follows 3 African American women who were human computers. They were good at math, and were instrumental in the success of the space program. It is a very inspiring story. Go see it. Grade: A

Elle
Isabelle Huppert plays the title character. She won a Golden Globe for it (plus got nominated for an Oscar). She is good, but the movie itself is not that great. A schlocky tale of a woman who is raped by someone she knows, and acts almost as if nothing happened. Plus trying to figure out who raped her when she isn’t dealing with her job, her family, her ex and current lover. In French, with subtitles. Grade: C+

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage
Vin Diesel returns as the title character in this action sequel. Xander is a secret agent, who favors extreme sports and unconventional methods of working. The movie has plenty of action: car chases, shoot outs, brawls, even motorcycles on the water. Not much difference between this and the Fast and Furious franchise at this point. So you get a multicultural cast, exotic locales, and sex appeal. I enjoyed it for what it was. A good popcorn movie. Grade: B-

Loving
“Loving” is the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, who challenged the laws against interracial marriage in VA. Interesting and moving story with good performances. Grade: A-

Fences
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis star in this film adaptation of the August Wilson play. It concerns a working class garbage man who is married with children. He is not an easy man to love or get along with. He treats those around him at arm’s length. The performances are great, even if at times it feels like a filmed play (which it is). Grade: A-

Hacksaw Ridge
Mel Gibson directs and Andrew Garfield stars in this true-life tale of Desmond Doss. He is a conscientious objector during WWII, and serves as a medic during the battle at Hacksaw Ridge. He wants to serve, but will not carry a gun. The first half has Desmond in training and falling in love, the second part is on the battlefield where he saved 75 men. The movie is nominated for best actor, director and picture. It’s an old-fashioned war movie, that reminds us that hero’s come in all types of shapes and sizes. Grade: B+

Jackie
Natalie Portman stars as first lady Jackie Kennedy in this biopic. It follows Jackie during the week after her husband is assassinated. How do you compose yourself after experiencing something so tragic and so public? How do you move forward? I am surprised that this did not get a Best Picture nomination. Her performance may earn her the Best Actress award. Go see it. Grade: A

DVDs

The Purge: Election Year
The third movie in the “Purge” series. It fairs better than the second one, but it is still not as good as the first one. It concerns protecting a presidential candidate who wants to get rid of the annual Purge (the night where all crime including murder is legal). Grade: C+

The Lobster
Colin Farrell stars in this very strange, and at times, disturbing movie. In the not so distant future, everyone must be mated. If you are without a mate, you are turned into an animal. The title comes from the animal that Farrell’s character picks to turn into. At first, he is in some sort of government facility. Then he escapes and ends up in the woods. The first part of the movie I liked, the second half just got very weird and violent. Grade: C

Captain Fantastic
Viggo Mortensen (in his Oscar-nominated performance) stars as a father who is raising his brood of 6 kids off the grid in the Pacific Northwest. The family has to go out into the real world after a family tragedy. This movie raises a number of questions: what constitutes family? What is the best way to raise your kids? There are a few comedic moments in this movie. It becomes a bit of a road trip/fish out of water tale as the family leaves the forest for the city. I enjoyed it. Grade: A-

Ghostbusters
Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig headline the cast of this all-female reboot. The cast is game, too bad they spent more on special effects than they did on jokes. The script and the director definitely let the ladies down. Includes guest appearances from the original stars too. Grade: C

Mechanic Resurrection
Jason Statham returns as the hitman for hire. Jessica Alba costars as his love interest. Jason must get back in the game and perform 3 hits before he can get out of the business and get his life back. Pretty forgettable movie, though I did like the one scene with the pool on the high-rise. Grade: C-

 

TV

Beaches
Another unnecessary remake. I liked it, but the original was better. The original movie has a special place in my heart. It was the movie Rasheed and I saw on our 2nd date. I even have a VHS copy of it. Grade: C+

Riverdale
I enjoyed “Riverdale” on the CW last week. An update of the Archie comics, the show played like a mix of 90210, Gossip Girl and a bit of Twin Peaks. It will be interesting to see how the season progresses. Grade: B+

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. Please sound off in the comments, if you disagree or agree with my take on things.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

KiltMan’s Year End Top Tens for 2016

What did I enjoy most in 2016, as far as entertainment? There was a lot of good work in all fields of entertainment. I admit, I am not a critic. I am more of a fan. I will not bore you with explanations about my choices. I will tell you, that I saw most of the movies at the theater. I also own all the albums. The singles I chose include those purchased as well as those I heard (but didn’t purchase). As always, comments are kindly welcomed.intro

Albums

  1. This is What the Truth Feels Like — Gwen Stefani
  2. Wanderlust — Little Big Town
  3. Purpose — Justin Beiber
  4. Lemonade — Beyoncé
  5. Illinois — Brett Eldredge
  6. Ripcord — Keith Urban
  7. Storyteller — Carrie Underwood
  8. Dangerous Woman — Ariana Grande
  9. In the Now — Barry Gibb
  10. Cosmic Hallelujah — Kenny Chesney

Singles

  1. Love Yourself — Justin Beiber
  2. I Took a Pill in Ibiza — Mike Posner
  3. Into You — Ariana Grande
  4. Don’t Let Me Down — The Chainsmokers Featuring Daya
  5. This Is What You Came For — Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna
  6. Cheap Thrills — Sia featuring Sean Paul
  7. Let It Go — James Bay
  8. One of Those Days — Little Big Town
  9. Send My Love (To Your New Lover) — Adele
  10. Setting the World on Fire — Kenny Chesney featuring Pink

TV Shows

  1. Grey’s Anatomy
  2. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  3. American Horror Story: Roanoke
  4. Gotham
  5. How to Get Away with Murder
  6. Modern Family
  7. Orange is the New Black
  8. Project Runway
  9. American Idol
  10. Nashville

Movies

  1. Hell or High Water
  2. La La Land
  3. Manchester by the Sea
  4. Captain America: Civil War
  5. The Jungle Book
  6. The Edge of Seventeen
  7. Moana
  8. Fences
  9. Lion
  10. 13th

DVDs (or Streaming)

  1. 99 Homes
  2. Concussion
  3. Two Days, One Night
  4. Kylie Minogue — Kiss Me Once: Live at Sse Hydro
  5. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  6. The Last Five Years
  7. Trumbo
  8. Carol
  9. The Gift
  10. Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids

Concerts

  1. Dixie Chicks — MMXVI Tour
  2. Gwen Stefani — “This is What the Truth Feels Like” Tour
  3. Diana Ross — “In the Name of Love” Tour
  4. Keith Urban — “Ripcord” Tour
  5. Chicago — Tour 2016
  6. Boyz II Men and En Vogue — Tour 2016
  7. Smooth Summer Jazz w/ George Benson and Average White Band
  8. Daryl Hall and John Oates — Tour 2016
  9. Rihanna — “ANTI” Tour
  10. Jason Moran — Fats Waller Dance Party

I hope you enjoyed my year-end Top Tens blog. Please sound off in the comments. I would love to hear from you. Thanks for reading.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Fall Entertainment Roundup Part 2

Thanks for coming back. Part 2 features my reviews of CDs and TV shows. As always, comments are kindly welcomed.

CDs

Dierks Bentley “Black” Dierks is back for his 8th album. Special guests include Maren Morris and Elle King. Stylistically he is not presenting anything new for me, but it is still a solid record. “Somewhere on Beach” covers similar territory to “Drunk on a Plane.” The duet with Elle King “Different for Girls” is a bit of a sequel to Beyonce’s “If I Was a Boy” if you ask me. I hope it’s the second single. Grade: B-

Beyoncé “Lemonade” Queen Bey’s new project premiered as an HBO special, and an exclusive on Tidal. It is her follow-up her self-titled project. Again, we have a visual album and a music album. Stylistically it is her most diverse project yet: rock, reggae, country, gospel, R&B, ballads and more. She attacks the rumors of Jay-Z’s infidelity head-on. Ultimately it is story of female empowerment, especially black women. She is a force to be reckoned with. Grade: A

Kelly Clarkson “Piece by Piece Remixed” Her record company released this to capitalize on her triumphant return to American Idol in it’s final season. She sang a stripped down version of “Piece by Piece” which ended up going viral, and it instantly made it’s way onto the pop charts. You get new versions of 10 of the 16 songs off her last studio album. Grade: B+

Daughtry “It’s Not Over… the Hits So Far” Only the third American Idol alumni to warrant a greatest hits album, Chris Daughtry and company offer up only 2 new tracks on this collection (Torches and Go Down). It is still a great career overview, even if most of the songs are from the first 2 albums (the band has 4). Grade: B

Brett Eldredge “Illinois” This is his second album. I decided to take a chance on him since he is opening for Keith Urban on his tour this year. He’s got a nice voice, and I instantly liked some of the songs. Will see where he goes with his career. Grade: B

Ariana Grande “Dangerous Woman” Ariana’s 3rd album is just as good as her previous one “My Everything.” Contains the hit title track as well as “Into You.” And I am beginning to get a sense of her as a woman and an artist… something I wasn’t sure about last time. Grade: A-

Nick Jonas “Nick Jonas X2” Nick’s breakthrough solo project has been re-issued in a special deluxe edition with 7 additional songs. So you get the hits from the original like “Chains” and “Jealous;” plus remixes of those 2, and a couple of new songs too like “Levels” and “Good Thing” (with Sage the Gemini). His pop-R&B sound is finally starting to grow on me. Grade: B

Miranda Lambert “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” I am just catching up on this girl. And I have enjoyed every one of her releases. This is her 2nd album and includes the hit “Gunpowder and Lead.” So you get fiery uptempo songs with a ttitude and tender ballads too. Grade: B+

Little Big Town “Wanderlust” One of the year’s biggest surprises for pop music fans. This is the country group’s collaboration with Pharrell Williams, who co-wrote and produced the album for them. You get their trademark vocals, but the tracks are pop tunes for the most part. Danceable, fun, and definitely hook filled. I loved it the moment I heard it. Includes the fantastic first single “One of Those Days” — which is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Grade: A

Rascal Flatts “Changed” Rascal Flatts has never been much of a ground-breaker with their career. The country trio has a successful formula that they don’t mess with. So you get the big ballads, some good party tunes and nice vocals and harmonies. They have been consistently good through their whole career. Grade: B+

Blake Shelton “If I’m Honest” I am a fan of Blake, but this one is not doing much for me so far. “She’s Got a Way with Words” and the duet with girlfriend Gwen Stefani are the stand-outs for me. The rest is just OK. Hopefully it will grow on me. Grade: C

Sugarland “The Incredible Machine” This was the 4th (and so far last) album from the country duo. It contains the hits “Stuck on You” and “Tonight.” I hope that they get back together again to make some new music. Grade: B-

Keith Urban “Ripcord” Keith’s latest CD, has a few things in common with his last one “Fuse.” Is it country? If it is, it is very pop-oriented country. He has guest stars like Nile Rodgers, Carrie Underwood and Pitbull even on this album. I would love for Keith to try pop fully for one record, like Taylor Swift’s “1989.” That would be interesting. I believe Keith’s pop leanings, whereas with Tim McGraw it didn’t fit for me. Grade: B-

Jimmy Wayne “Sara Smile”
I first came to know this singer when he opened for Wynonna Judd on one of her tours. This is his 3rd album featuring the title track — a remake of a Hall & Oates song. They are featured on the song too. He’s got a nice voice, but some of the material is not up to par. Grade: C

 

TV

Animal Kingdom
Based on the Australian film of the same name, this TNT series follows the exploits of a crime family: a mother and her sons and grandson. The location has been moved from Australia to Southern California’s beaches. The cast is lead by Ellen Barkin and Scott Speedman. Everyone is good looking, and there is a decent amount of male flash on display. Sex, drugs, bad behavior — so far I am enjoying it. Grade: B+

Mad Men (Part 2 of Season 7)
I have been a big fan of this show through the years. I missed the last season, because I didn’t have a TV for a good portion of last year. So now I am finally catching up with it on Netflix. I have to say this last season was a bit of a disappointment to me. It was all over the place. So much of the stories occurred away from the ad agency. And they tried to give everyone a decent ending except Betty it seems. Grade: C

Greatest Hits
Billed as a special event limited summer series, this show brings back hitmakers of the past (like Rock Springfield and Backstreet Boys) singing their greatest hits as well as current hitmakers (Pitbull, Meghan Trainor) too. Each episode covers a 5-year period like 1980-1985; 1990-1995 etc. The show is hosted by Arsenio Hall and Kelsea Ballerini. This shows reminds me of “Hit Me Baby One More Time” a summer show from summer’s past that brought back old hitmakers to prime time. It was good to see some of the stars on here, even if they aren’t as good as they used to be. I hope they bring it back next summer. Grade: B

Do you agree with my reviews? Please sound off in the comments. I would love to know what you are watching and listening to.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Best Albums/Singles by American Idol Alumni

There is no doubt that American Idol will be missed. But thankfully, it brought us some great singers who have had some excellent albums and singles over the years. Here are my Top Ten favorite albums and singles from American Idol alumni.

Albums

  1. Kelly Clarkson — Breakaway
  2. Daughtry — Daughtry
  3. Carrie Underwood — Some Hearts
  4. Elliott Yamin — Elliott Yamin
  5. Carrie Underwood — Blown Away
  6. Blake Lewis — Audio Day Dream
  7. Jordin Sparks — Battlefield
  8. Kimberley Locke — Based on a True Story
  9. Kelly Clarkson — Stronger
  10. Dreamgirls Soundtrack

Honorable Mention

Daughtry — Leave This Town
David Cook — David Cook

Best Singles by AI Alumni

  1. Kelly Clarkson — Since U Been Gone
  2. Adam Lambert — Whataya Want from Me
  3. Carrie Underwood — Before He Cheats
  4. Kelly Clarkson — Miss Independent
  5. Carrie Underwood — Last Name
  6. Daughtry — Home
  7. Fantasia — I Believe
  8. Jordin Spark — No Air (w/ Chris Brown)
  9. Kimberley Locke — 8th World Wonder
  10. Clay Aiken — Invisible
  11. Elliott Yamin — Wait for You
  12. Phillip Phillips — Home

 Best Overlooked Idol Tracks

  1. Blake Lewis — Gots to Get Her
  2. David Cook — Time of Your Life/Paper Heart
  3. Adam Lambert — No Boundaries
  4. Kris Allen — Live Like We’re Dying
  5. Kimberley Locke — Change
  6. Mandisa — True Beauty
  7. Katharine McPhee — Home
  8. Josh Gracin — I Want to Live
  9. Bo Bice — Inside You Heaven
  10. Jennifer Hudson — You Pulled Me Through
  11. Scotty McCreery — Walk in the Country

Idols have touched us on screens big and small…. Movies and TV. Plus on Broadway too.

One of the things I loved about this show was that it took a nobody and made them a star. It presented you with regular people that were striving for their dreams — and that is something that everyone can relate to.

So that’s my list. Be sure to check out the songs and albums from some of my favorite American Idols. I am sure we will be enjoying their music for many years to come.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for birthdays, anniversaries and more.

Who Will Be the Final American Idol?

One of my all-time favorite shows — American Idol — is coming to an end this season, after 15 seasons. The show debuted back in June 2002 on the Fox Network. It soon became a cultural phenomenon and launched the careers of superstars such as Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson, Daughtry and more. It changed the face of television and shook up the music industry too. So who is going to be the final American Idol? Read on for my picks from 8 to 1:download

8. Lee Jean. This kid is so out of his element. He wants to be the black Ed Sheeran, and he doesn’t have a chance.

7. Avalon Young. The tom-boy girl with the soulful voice. She is not very consistent of a performer.

6. MacKenzie Bourg. Cute, nerdy white boy who plays guitar. He seems very sincere… but ultimately very forgettable. They have had too many of this type already on this show.

5. Tristan McIntosh. She wants to be a black woman in country. More talent than Lee, but she is so young and doesn’t have control of her voice or a clear idea of who she is as an artist.

4. Sonika Vaid. She’s got looks and a voice — this girl is a real contender. But I don’t know she is sure of her of her musical path yet.

3. Dalton Rapattoni. The cute guy with the guyliner — He looks like the lost member of 5 Seconds of Summer. He’s shown quite a wide variety in his song choices.

2. Trent Harmon. He’s cute, and a bit quirky too. But he’s got a distinctive voice and that should take him far.

  1. La’Porsha Renae. The big girl with the big voice. This girl literally could blow all the other contestants away, and she does week in, week out. I think we have found our next superstar.

So those are my predictions. I have predicted most of the seasons correctly. I really hope that her album is great and she has a long career. The next big question is — how long till the re-boot? I am predicting that it will happen in the next 5-10 years.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for birthdays, anniversaries and more.

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