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Posts tagged ‘CDs’

Spring Entertainment Roundup Part 2

Here’s what I have been listening to and watching over the past few months. As always, comments are kindly welcome.

CDs

Ed Sheeran “X (Wembley Edition) The expanded edition of his hit album “X” with 8 additional songs. So you get the hits like “Sing,” “Thinking Out Loud” and “Photograph” as well as new songs like “Touch and Go” and “Lay It All on Me” (w/ the group Rudimental). Grade: A

Daughtry “Baptized” The fourth album from American Idol alumni Chris Daughtry and his band. Stylistically he hasn’t changed much since his debut, I was hoping he would mix it up some. Highlights include “Waiting for Superman” and “Long Live Rock & Roll” (where he name checks major acts from the 70’s and 80’s). Grade: B

Daughtry “Break the Spell” The third album from American Idol alumni Chris Daughtry and his band. Highlights include “Crawling Back to You,” “Outta my Head” and the title track. Grade: B

Elliott Yamin “Let’s Get to What’s Real” Elliott’s 3rd album is his most R&B album to date. It’s real music played by real musicians. He reminds me of Michael McDonald some, with his white-boy soul. Grade: B

Charles Kelly “The Driver” This is the first solo album from Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum fame. He doesn’t stray too far from the fold. I could imagine most of these on a Lady A album. Guests include: Dierks Bentley, Stevie Nicks and Miranda Lambert. Highlights include the Grammy-nominated title track and the blues-rock ballad ‘The Only One Who Gets Me.” Grade: B-

Dixie Chicks “The Essential Dixie Chicks” The country trio is finally heading back on the road this summer. So I picked up this collection to remind myself of all the great songs they have in their song catalog. It is easy to hear their influence in a lot of the young singers out there. Grade: A

Rihanna “Music of the Sun” The first album from the superstar. I needed to recover from the lousy “ANTI.” It contains the radio hit “Pon de Replay.” Lots of reggae and dancehall touches on this album. It showed she was an artist to watch. Grade: B-

Boyz II Men “Twenty” Celebrating 20 years as a group, this double album has 13 new songs as well as 8 re-recorded Boyz II Men classics. Nothing new really, but still likable. They still have their trademark harmonies. Grade: B

DVDs

The Last Five Years
Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan star in this movie musical about a young couple’s romance and dissolution over the course of the last 5 years. The interesting thing is it has very little dialog, and the story is told through the songs. His story starts at the beginning, and hers starts with the end. I thought it was very well done. Grade: A-

Sicario
Emily Blunt leads an all star cast including Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. She plays an FBI agent who gets involved with the DEA and helping with the war on drugs on the Mexico and American borders. It’s a situation where nobody seems to win. Grade: B+

A Most Violent Year
It’s 1981 in New York City. This drama stars Jessica Chastain and Oscar Issac, as a married couple who run a heating oil company in a very competitive environment. She’s the daughter of a mob boss. He is an immigrant who is trying to make his way in a tough business. The title was a little misleading… not very violent in my opinion. But a good character study about striving for the American Dream. Grade: B-

Fifty Shades of Grey
OK, I had to see it to see what the fuss was about. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan star. He’s a millionaire with a kink fetish; she’s the naïve student who falls for the wounded millionaire. It wasn’t sexy. It wasn’t romantic. It was just sort of like, why is this a phenomenon? I did like the music, but that’s about it. I can’t believe there are 2 sequels coming. Grade: D

Cake
Jennifer Aniston stars in this drama that deals with some heavy issues. She plays Claire, who is a pain pill addict who is trying to get by. One of her friends kills herself and she find herself investigating her life, while trying to put hers back together. Claire was in a horrible car wreck, where her child died, and from that she is now in chronic pain. Grade: A-

Movies

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
The sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel, brings back Henry Cavill as Superman going against Ben Affleck as Batman. Bruce Wayne has been watching what has been going on with Superman, and is not sure that he can be trusted. So Batman takes on trying to bring Superman down. But they have to come together to fight a new enemy that has been created by Lex Luther — Doomsday. Plus Wonder Woman shows up too. I hated the previous movie, “Man of Steel.” This is better, but not by much. The actors are all fine… what I have issues with is the direction and writing. Plus, why do these movies have to be so long? In the end, it’s all a big commercial for the Justice League movies. Grade: C+

Deadpool
Ryan Reynolds stars as the title character in the latest Marvel super hero movie. He’s foul mouthed, snarky and mischievous. I was not familiar with this character at all. Overall, I liked it, didn’t love it. I had a problem with the violence, and it wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be. There were some similarities to “Guardians of the Galaxy” — offbeat factor, the love of old music — but that was a much better movie in my opinion. I doubt I would see a sequel. Grade: B-

Zootopia
The latest movie from Walt Disney Animation imagines a world where all the animals get along and work at various jobs. Judy Hopps is a bunny who becomes a police officer in the city, and has to work with Nick, the fox, to solve why some of the animals in the city are missing. Featuring the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman and Shakira (who sings a few songs too). The movie is fun and colorful and like a lot of Disney cartoon works on couple of levels. I enjoyed it. Grade: B+

TV

The Passion Live
The Passion Live is the latest of TV’s live spectacles (The Wiz, Grease). This one was a bit of a mixed bag… not really a musical per se, and not all the way live either. The Passion tells the story of Jesus in the last few hours of his life. It was hosted by Tyler Perry, and filmed in and around New Orleans. The segments not on stage were filmed beforehand, only the action on the stage was filmed live. I found it interesting that they used mostly pop songs, and not religious songs for it. So you got songs from Phillip Phillps, Katy Perry and Tina Turner … sung by a group of artists like Chris Daughtry, Seal, Prince Royce and Trisha Yearwood. Some of the songs worked, others did not. And then when the story wasn’t being told, they showed a large lighted cross being carried through the streets of the city, plus interviews with people along the way. Overall, it was just an OK show. Not something I see as a yearly event like the producers would like it to be. Grade: C

Dead 7
SyFy channel brings together a bunch of has-been boy band singers for a zombie western. So you get Joey and Chris from NSync; Nick, Howie and AJ from Backstreet Boys; Jeff from 98 Degrees and Eric-Michael from O-Town. Plus Latin-pop singer Jon Secada too. I was surprised how straight it was played…. I was hoping for a campy movie like a “Sharknado”… but it played more like a very bad zombie movie that shouldn’t have been made in the first place. Stick to singing guys! At least BSB is working on a new album. Grade: D

That’s all for this time. Please sound off in the comment below. I would love to ehar 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 birthdays, anniversaries and more.

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Summer Entertainment Roundup Part 2

Part 1 covered movies. This blog will cover DVDs and CDs that I have been enjoying during the spring and early summer, read on:

DVDs

Stranger by the Lake — This independent foreign movie tells the story of a gay relationship that starts at a gay cruising beach. One guy may have seen the guy he’s interested in drown another man. With nudity and some real sex scenes too. Grade: B+

Rush — Directed by Ron Howard, this movie tells the story of 2 Formula One race car drivers in the 70’s in Europe. They pushed each other, and had a friendly competition over the years. Grade: A-

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty — An update of an old movie starring Danny Kaye. Ben Stiller stars as Walter, who has an active imagination. Sean Penn plays a pivotal role as a photographer who helps to spur on Walter’s real life journey around the world. I liked it, but not as engaging or funny as you would hope it to be. Grade: B-

Masters of Sex (Season 1) — We are catching up on this show on Netflix. Originally broadcast on Showtime, this series tells the story of Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson, as they prepare their ground-breaking sex study. Lots of skin for sure considering the subject matter and a good cast all around too. I definitely recommend it. Grade: A-

Paddington — From the makers of the Harry Potter series, comes the live action tale of the talking bear named Paddington. He created mischief for the family he moves in with. Nicole Kidman plays a villianness. Cute, but not overly so. I enjoyed it. Grade: B

Night at the Museum: Secrets of the Tomb — The third movie in the Night of the Museum trilogy. Hopefully it is the last. What started as a cute concept (things come alive in the museum after dark) has become one big excuse for special effects at this point. Good to see Robin Williams on screen again… but in this? He’s done better, and so has Ben Stiller. Mildly entertaining at best. Grade: C

Music
So I have started back with my own new music Thursdays… once upon a time I would drive to the record store and buy CDs on payday. But now, I just click a button and buy it on Amazon or ITunes, and it is downloaded to my computer.

Ed Sheeran “X” He lives up to his hype! This signer-songwriter from England has definitely made a name for himself. This album features great songs like “Don’t,” “Sing” and “Thinking Out Loud.” He is definitely a force to be reckoned with. Grade: A-

Maroon 5 “V” The LA band — led by the charismatic Adam Levine — shows no sign of letting up with their hit singles. It continues the pop sound of the last few albums. “Songs About Jane” still is their best collection; but this one has “Maps,” “Animals, “Sugar” and “Lost Stars” too. Grade: B

Britney Spears “Britney Jean” This one was a flop for Britney, undeservedly so from my perspective. I just question the singles that were released from it. Highlights include “Work Bitch,” “Perfume” and “Passenger.” The duet with her sister is nice too. Grade: B

Kylie Minogue “Kiss Me Once” She is still giving us some fun dance pop on this her 12th album. Highlights include “Into the Blue”, “I Was Going to Cancel” and “Beautiful” — her duet with Enrique Iglesias. Nothing new stylistically, but solid none the less. Grade: B

Glee “The Music Presents the Warblers” The show is over, but the music lives on. The Warblers were the competition of the McKinley High New Directions. Darren Chris is the featured lead on a number of these tracks. Includes the hit “Teenage Dream” — love hearing it as a gay love song. Grade: B+

Kelly Clarkson “Greatest Hits — Chapter 1” As the original American Idol winner, Kelly Clarkson has made quite a dent on the pop music charts over the course of her career. She is not slowing down either… features all the hits, plus a few new songs too like “Catch My Breath” and “People Like Us.” Grade: A-

The B-52’s “Nude on the Moon: the B-52’s Anthology” Coming out of Athens, Georgia in the late 70’s, early 80’s, the B-52’s were something different in pop music. This is their most comprehensive collection to date, and includes all the hits and album cuts from their years on Warner Bros. Plus a few alternate versions too. Grade: A

Darius Rucker “Southern Style” Darius’s 4th country CD doesn’t add anything new to the mix. But it is solid, if unspectacular. Grade: B-

Lady Antebellum “747” Lady A finally realized that they were becoming a bit too adult contemporary in their sound. So it is nice to see them dig into some fun uptempo numbers on this latest collection. And you get their trademark vocal harmonies too. Grade: A-

Miranda Lambert “Revolution” An earlier collection from one of the current queens of country. I loved “Platinum” but this one is starting to grow on me after a few listens. Grade: B

Sam Hunt “Montevallo” This singer-songwriter has written songs for Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban and Billy Currington. On his debut album, he writes some hit songs for himself too like “Leave the Night On” and ‘Take Your Time.” He has taken country and mixed in some hip-hop influences into his music. Grade: A-

So that’s all for now. Hope you are enjoying the summer. I would love to hear from you.

Winter Entertainment Roundup Part 2

Part 1 dealt with movie releases, part 2 will deal with TV shows, home videos and music releases. What have I been watching and listening to this winter:

Home Video

Enough Said
A cute romantic comedy that was the final movie from James Gandolfini. He stars with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. They played divorced singles looking for love in the modern world. Turns out that he (Gandolfini) is the ex-husband of one of Julia’s clients. Grade: B+

The Maze Runner
The latest movie adapted from a YA novel series. This one is about bunch of young kids trapped in a remote location, that is surrounded by a giant maze. The maze has monsters and traps in it and no one has been able to escape. For me, it was just OK, a bit of a creature feature. Grade: C+

Pride
A true story from Britain about a group of gays and lesbians who help the striking coal miners in England during the early 80’s. Very heartwarming seeing the walls break down with these 2 different groups. Plus some fun 80’s songs on the soundtrack. Grade: A-

The Past
The latest movie from director Asghar Farhadi, this emotional drama tells the story of 2 exes meeting up to dissolve their marriage, so the wife can marry a new man. The ex husband stays with his former wife and new lover, and secrets from the past come out that put their relationships in a new perspective. Subtitled. Grade: A-

How to Train Your Dragon 2
The favorite for this year’s best animated film Oscar (it lost), tells the tale of Hiccup and his dragon as they find new lands and a villain who wants to turn all dragons into soldiers in his dragon army. Of course, there are some great flying sequences and the requisite sad and tragic part too. I am sure it played better on the big screen than on home video. Grade: B-

The Sapphires
Based on a true story of 4 aboriginal girls who form a singing group that tours Vietnam to entertain the soldiers. Chris O’Dowd stars as their manager and love interest for the older sister. A nice “feel-good” movie that has some great soul songs from the 1960’s. It also sheds some light on the racism in Australia at the time. Grade: B+

Call Me Kuchu
A documentary about LGBT life in Uganda. Not an easy movie to sit through. You see how much gay people are going through there, while in the US we are getting more and more rights and visibility all the time. It is very sad and heartbreaking to see and listen to their stories. Grade: A-

CDs

Madonna “Rebel Heart”
Coming soon… on another blog.

Lady GaGa and Tony Bennett “Cheek to Cheek”
Tony and GaGa seem like they are both having a good time. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Yes, you have heard a lot of these songs before (covered by other artists), but there are a few I was not so familiar with. The songs were expertly arranged with the big band. Grade: B+

Kenny Chesney “The Big Revival”
Kenny’s back with more of his brand of country rock. The first single “American Kids” is his best song in years for me. Not much new stylistically, but still dependable. Grade: B+

Justin Timberlake “The 20/20 Experience — 2 of 2”
A definite improvement over the horrible Part 1, Justin brings us a better set of songs this time with guest including Drake and Jay Z. Highlights include the Jackson’s inspired ‘Take Back the Night” and “Not a Bad Thing” — his best song in years, and one that reminds me of his greatness. Still think the songs go on too long. Grade: B

Taylor Swift — “1989”
Her first official pop album, and it is full of hits. I always thought she was more pop than country anyway. I for one, hope she doesn’t go back. Madonna was write in singing her praises as a songwriter. She definitely writes some catchy songs. I find myself listening to this one a lot. Grade: A-

Jason Aldean — “My Kinda Party”
I’m a little late to the party with this guy. But I am interested in seeing his co-headlining tour with Kenny Chesney, so I figured I would give him a listen. Includes his duet with Kelly Clarkson on “Don’t You Wanna Stay” as well as other hits like “Dirt Road Anthem” and the title track too. His music fits with the current bro-country vibe. Grade: B

Sam Smith — “In the Lonely Hour”
He recently won 4 Grammys for this album. As an openly gay soul singer, he is sure making his mark in the world of pop music. He definitely lives up to his hype as the male Adele. Grade: A-

Nick Jonas — “Nick Jonas”
As a long-time fan of the Jonas Brothers, I have loved Nick’s voice for years. I would tell people how great he was. This is his 2nd solo effort if you count his album with the Administration. That one was very much in the vain of a John Mayer. This one he is going for a Justin Timberlake/Robin Thicke vibe. Parts of it work, like the hit first single “Jealous”. Other parts not so much for me… including the cussing. I get that he is trying to break free of the Disney label, but this album is a bit of a transition for him — as he is still finding his sound as an adult. Grade: C+

Kelly Clarkson — “Piece by Piece”
Her first pop album in years, includes the lead single “Heartbeat Song”. I am liking the album after a few listens… she has one of the best voices in the current pop scene. Stand out tracks include “Invincible” cowritten by Sia, “Run Run Run” with John Legend and “Nostalgic” (with it’s 80’s overtones). Grade: B

TV

American Idol
Season 14 is off and running. New to this season was the unveiling of the Top 24 in the first episode with all of them singing in the shadows. There are always so many talented people who try out for this show. Glad that they have cut back on the crazies in the audition episodes. Grade: B

Empire
From Lee Daniels, comes a look at the world of hip-hop music centered on one powerful family. Starring Academy Award nominees Taraji P. Henson and Terence Howard as ex spouses who are fighting for control of the company. They have three sons, and one will be picked as successor to run the company. Enough drama to fill a few shows, plus songs from Timbaland too. What I don’t like about the show is what I thought… the rap songs. And I am a bit concerned about how this show makes blacks look, as far as sterotypes. But the story of the gay son, is a story we haven’t seen before and is very refreshing. Grade: B+

My Husband’s Not Gay
A special that was a potential pilot for a series on the TLC channel. It concerns a bunch of Mormon couples in which the husbands all experience “SSA” or same-sex attraction. They talk about it like it is ADD, and something that can be handled by prayer and communication. I don’t think the guys are gay as much as bisexual. And I don’t get what’s in it for the women. I would rather live my life honestly and openly about myself. It makes organized religion look bad. Grade: C

Marvel’s Agent Carter
I really enjoyed Marvel’s Agent Carter. If you loved Hayley Atwell in “Captain America: The First Avenger” — this limited series expands on her story after WWII. It’s nice to see a sexy crime fighter kicking some butt in high heels. I like a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The pilot was great, but subsequent episodes have just been OK. Grade: B-

The Real World: Skeletons
This latest season of the reality pioneer, adds a twist like the last season did. This time the 7 strangers are in Chicago, and they all have secrets from the past that are going to come and haunt them literally. So every few days, a new “skeleton” or 2 comes to the house and moves in for a few days to wreck havoc on the particular roommate and their fellow roommates. So far, I am not liking it as much as last season when all of their exes moved in at the same time. Grade: C+

So what have you been watching and listening to this winter? 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.

Fall Entertainment Wrap Up

So what TV shows and CDs did I like this fall? Read on for my reviews.

Red Band Society
So far so good with this Fox dramedy. It is centered on a bunch of sick kids living inside a hospital. It reminds me a bit of “Glee” the early days… in that the kids are all a bunch of misfits. The show is narrated by a kid in a coma. Oscar winner Octavia Spencer plays a nurse. You would think it would be depressing, but it has been very life affirming for me. Celebrate life. Grade: B-

Black-ish
This new sitcom stars Anthony Anderson and Tracey Ellis Ross as parents navigating the world being African Americans in the modern era. With lines being blurred all the time, how do you be true to your self and hang on to your culture? That’s the question the show is asking. So far, I saw one episode , it was OK. Bottom line, it needs to find the funny, otherwise it will be a 1-season show. Grade: B-

How to Get Away with Murder
From executive producer Shonda Rhimes comes her latest drama. This one stars Oscar nominee Viola Davis as a college law professor, who also takes on cases too. She takes on some of her students as interns who help with her cases. Fun, and twisty so far, definitely one of the must-see shows of the fall. Grade: A-How to Get Away with Murder

Gotham
Otherwise known as the Batman prequel. This one focuses on 2 police officers on the Gotham Police Department, and the city full of criminals including those that will become foes of Batman, like the Penguin and Cat Woman. Bruce Wayne is just a kid here, having just lost his parents. But he is already brooding. So far, I like this show. And I am not a big comic book geek either. Grade: B+

American Horror Story: Freak Show
The latest installment of Ryan Murphy’s anthology series. This stars Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Emma Roberts, Kathy Bates and more. This follows the freaks at a circus freak show in Jupiter, Florida during the 1950’s. Needless to say murder and mayhem happen in this town. Just as strong as past installments. Grade: A-

CDs

Anthony Hamilton “Home for the Holidays” — Not the same old, same old. He brings in some new songs and some classic songs too in fun, funky arrangements. Grade: A-

Ariana Grande “My Everything” — She is definitely growing on me. Three big hits off of this so far: Problem, Break Free and Bang Bang. With more to come, she is definitely one to watch. Grade: B+

Little Big Town “Pain Killer” — Better than their last album; they still sound like a country version of Fleetwood Mac to me. And that is a good thing. Nice songs and great vocal harmonies. Grade: B+

That’s it for now. I am sure I will have another episode of this periodic column in the New Year. 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.

Music Consumption 2014

As I was driving listening to some CDs the other day, I started to think about all the changes to the music industry I have seen in my lifetime. Albums, cassettes, eight tracks, 45s, cassettes, cassette singles, CDs, CD singles, music videos, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, internet radio, satellite radio, MP3s, iTunes, Spotify and more. The way we consume music has changed forever that is for sure. And there is no going back.Music Energy (+clipping path, XXL)

Here are some of the things I was wondering as I was listening: Does anyone care about albums anymore? I love the fact that I can buy just one song from an album these days. I remember singles used to be on 45, then cassette single or CD single. Then the record companies didn’t make them available at all, and forced you to buy the whole album for one song. This is one of many issues I think where people really felt ripped off by the record companies.

But by buying one song are we missing out on listening to an album the way the artist put it together? In the old days, you had to listen to one side of an album, then flip it over to hear the other side. Sure, you could put the needle down on the one song you wanted to listen to, but more often that not you didn’t get the position of the needle right, and it would be too early or too late for the song. Cassettes also didn’t make it easy for us to listen to just one song.

When CDs came along, besides the great sound quality, we finally had an easy way to listen to our favorite tracks. You could just go to that track # or push skip to get to the song. Great albums have hits for sure, but often the non-hits are often worthy songs too. They may work in the context of the other songs, or be something a little quirky or edgy that wouldn’t work as a single. But in these days of “hit single” mentality, does anyone really listen to the rest of the songs?

Once upon a time, an album told a story — It carried the listener on a journey of highs and lows. It was meant to be consumed in its entirety. You would peruse the album cover, and look over the lyric sheets too. That’s not to say you wouldn’t have your favorite songs on it, but to me I feel it gave you a better insight into the artist themselves than just hearing the hit songs. For example, Donna Summer has a great live album called “Live and More”… yes the hits are there, but her cover song choices showed me the real Donna. I was able to get a better sense of her as a singer.

Back to my drive-time listening, I was listening to Mariah Carey’s “Rainbow” and Duran Duran’s “Pop Trash.” “Rainbow” has some hits on it, but it was good to hear the album tracks too. Duran Duran’s album to me, was one of their more experimental albums with a grungier sound. It is not a bad album at all, but it is not one of my favorites either. I remember seeing them on this tour and enjoyed the songs they performed from the “Pop Trash” album in the show.

Once upon a time, musicians were encouraged to experiment and push themselves. But do labels even want that from their artists anymore? You could make a flop album, and the label wouldn’t fire you because of it. This was because they valued you as a multi-dimensional artist who was in it for the long haul. Now, I don’t know that a record company views their artists in the same way as they did back in the 60’s and 70’s. They are more concerned for the bottom line and how many singles you can produce now. Not if you are a career artist who wants to be in the business 10-20 years from now.

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-Winter Entertainment Wrap-up

So what movies and CDs have I enjoyed the last few months? Read on…

Movies

We’re the MillersWe're the Millers
A very funny, raunchy comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis. They play the fake parents of 2 kids, who are traveling across the Mexican border into the US with a Winnebago filled with drugs. Echoes of National Lampoon’s Vacation movie for me, and that’s a good thing. Grade: B+

Battle of the Year
Josh Holloway plays an alcoholic has-been picked to coach a hip-hop B-Boy dance troupe as they prepare for battle in the “Battle of the Year” in France. If you like the “Step Up” movies,  and “America’s Best Dance Crew” then this movie is for you. Some great dance sequences, and entertaining personalities from the crew. Grade: B-

Prisoners
Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Melissa Leo lead an all-star cast in this engrossing drama. The story is very much of-this-moment… centering on the kidnapping of 2 little girls and the investigation of the crime. Jackman plays one of the dads who takes the law into his own hands and begins to torture one of the suspects. Grade: A-

Gravity
Sandra Bullock leads the cast for this movie, that centers on a scientist adrift in space and fighting to survive. Faced with incredible hardships, we will fight for our lives. The visuals are stunning, and the movie is definitely award-worthy. George Clooney also stars in a supporting role. Grade: A-

12 Years a Slave
Director Steve McQueen has bought Solomon Northup’s true story to the screen. Solomon was a free black man living in New York, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Very disturbing at times, this is a story I had never heard before. Fantastic performances all around including Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mr. Northup. Grade: A

Captain Phillips
Tom Hanks returns to form in the title role. This is the story of a freighter that is highjacked by Somali pirates off the coast of Africa. We know how the story is going to end up, but it is still filled with tension and suspense Grade: A-

Frozen
Disney’s latest animated movie, is based on a story by Hans Christen Anderson. It is the story of 2 sisters of a royal family, one of who is afflicted with special powers that cause her to freeze everything she touches. With the voice talents of Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel as the sisters, with catchy songs by the husband and wife team of Robert Lopez and Kristen-Anderson Lopez. Grade: A

Thor: The Dark World
This is the first appearance of Thor, since “The Avengers.” A lot of the time is spent on his home planet of Asgard. The movie never really took flight for me. It picks up when Loki arrives, but not much. Grade: C

The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese directs Leonardo DiCaprio in the true-life tale of Wall Street stock broker Jordan Belfort. I would subtitle this lifestyles of the rich, decadent and criminal. This guy lived the high life — sex, drugs and money. And he was a god to those he worked with. Grade: B+

CDs

Katy Perry — Prism
Katy’s first CD since ‘Teenage Dream” brings us a more reflective Katy, but without forgetting her knack of creating perfect pop gems. Highlights include: Roar, Dark Horse, and Unconditional Love. Grade: A-

Kelly Clarkson — Wrapped in Red
Kelly’s first holiday CD has something for everyone. New songs as well as Christmas classics. Some of it sounds very retro to me. Highlights include: Run Run Rudolph and My Favorite Things. Grade: B-

Keith Urban — Fuse
Keith’s music has been getting more and more pop as his career has gone on. He still is one of my favorites, even if it doesn’t match his earlier work. Highlights include: Little Bit of Everything, and We Were Us (Duet with Miranda Lambert). Grade: B

The Music of Nashville — Season 2, Vol. 1
Season 2 of the hit show has had it’s share of drama: affairs, shootings and record co. politics. We get the hit songs from the leads as well as a few of the supporting players too. Highlights include: What If I Was Willing and Trouble Is. Grade: B+

So what have you been watching and listening to this winter? 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.

Is the Album Dead?

Remember the good old days, when you would buy an album or CD and listen to it all the way through? Now with MP3s, it is easy for you to just purchase the song or songs you want, and leave the album alone. While I like this idea, I wonder if we are losing something by doing so. Do we really know an artist from 1 or 2 hit songs? Or do you have to listen to an artist’s whole album before you really get a sense for them? And what about those artists who don’t have hit singles anymore? Many artists are feeling trapped, they are selling singles, but not albums.

Just before Flo Rida released his third album, almost two million fans purchased the first single “Club Can’t Handle Me,” helping the rapper snag yet another Top 10 hit.

But in its first week out, only 11,000 people bought the 8-song EP – “Only One Flo Part 1” – making its debut measly at No. 107 on the Billboard charts. And in nearly two years, the album has only sold 62,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Flo Rida’s experience in 2010 is being repeated again and again in today’s pop scene. He’s just one of many acts who suffer from an imbalance: They have a multitude of hits, but anemic album sales.

Years ago, a hit song was usually accompanied by a gold or platinum album, and multiple hits meant multiplatinum albums. But times have changed.

“If you used to have a big single, you would sell a million albums, and if you sell a million albums and you’re a band, you can probably not have to work for a couple years. We don’t have that luxury,” said Cobra Starship’s lead singer Gaby Saporta.

Cobra Starship had a top 10 hit with the double platinum dance jam “You Make Me Feel …,” but their latest album debuted at No. 50 and has sold a mere 33,000 units.

Ne-Yo, the Grammy-winning hitmaker who has written smashes for the likes of Beyonce and Rihanna, blames the phenomenon on a lack of personality and originality from the artists.

“I feel like a lot of people are saying that the industry is moving to just being singles driven, and that’s kind of a cop out to me. So it’s like, basically that means that we sign a bunch of disposal artists, you know, as long as we get one hit that’s good? That’s B.S.,” continued Ne-Yo. Ne-Yo added that today’s music executives should be “taking the time and spending the money that it takes to make sure that you’re building icons, not fly-by-night, add water-and-stir artists.”

Tom Corson, the COO and president of RCA Records — the label home of Pitbull and Mike Posner — says that just because an artist doesn’t sell a lot of albums doesn’t make the act a failure. He said record companies determine an album’s success by an artist’s TEA, which stands for track-equivalent-albums. “You have certain artists that sell 300,000 albums, but sell 10 million tracks. That’s the equivalent of 1.3 million albums,” he explained.

Recent albums by Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake may be hits, but not because the album’s are good. There are good songs on both Mars’ “Unorthodox jukebox”  (Locked Out of Heaven, When I Was Your Man, Treasure) and Timberlake’s ‘The 20/20 Experience” (Suit & Tie, Mirrors). Both of these artists could have done better in my opinion. Mars has shown with his live appearances that he is a force to be reckoned with. Same for Timberlake. But at the end of the day, is anyone going to care about the album tracks, when they just wanted the single anyway?Justin Timberlake The 20/20 Experience

The biggest album of the last 2 years has been Adele’s “21.” With an impressive 4 hit singles off it, it was one of those albums that harkened back to the glory days when Michael Jackson had 6 Top Ten singles off of “Bad.” Both are career artists — not just someone who has a hit single or 2. Is anyone going to care about Kesha or One Direction twenty years from now? I doubt it.

I miss having the record stores around. There was an excitement when you went to those places. Wandering around, looking at the album covers. That is something today’s youth is missing out on.

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  Rock the Kilt lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Summer Entertainment Wrap-Up Too

I am a bit of an entertainment junky — movies, CDs, DVDs, etc. So what thrilled me, and what bored me this summer? Read on.

Movies

Monsters University
The prequel to Pixar’s Monsters Inc., shows us the college years of Mike and Sully as they deal with classes, tough instructors, and finding a place in the world. Not as good as the original, but I still enjoyed it. Grade: B

Man of Steel
I was hopeful for this movie, and it is an improvement over the boring last Superman movie. But it is still not a good movie. The fun factor is not there for a good superhero movie. And again, overly long. Henry Cavill is hot, but bland as Superman. Better luck next time. Grade: C

The Wolverine
Well, another summer disappointment. It is just getting old for me with this character. We know he looks great with his shirt off, and that the metal claws come out when he’s mad. Some lame story about a guy he saved, and how he wants to repay the favor to Logan.  Grade: C

Lee Daniel’s The Butler
Based on a true story, this movie tells the story of young man who became a butler to the President of the United States. It shows the changes that society went through with the civil rights movement over the years. Great performances from Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. Grade: B+poster-art-for-lee-daniels-the-butler_event_main_1042

CDs

Little Big Town — Tornado
I have been a fan of this group for years, so it is nice to see them getting the attention they deserved. Great vocals and nice songs overall, but “Pontoon” really? Cute, but forgettable song there. Grade: B

Backstreet Boys — In a World Like This
The boys 20th year brings their latest CD, with original member Kevin Richardson returning to the group. It is one of their most eclectic albums w/ dance, ballads and some acoustic folk numbers too. Those acoustic numbers are my favorites on the CD: Try and Trust Me. They should sound great on tour and show off their vocal chops. Grade: B

DVDs

Defiance
Based on true events, this movie lived up to it’s premise. A manager at a local fast food restaurant is called by someone claiming to be a policeman. They are told that one of her employees has stolen from a customer. How far can things go? You will have to rent to see. Grade: A-

Game Change
Based on the book of the same name about Sarah Palin entering the 2008 Presidential Election as John McCain’s VP Pick. Julianne Moore and Ed Harris star in this movie filmed for HBO. Great acting and story. Grade: A

So what did you like or didn’t like for summer entertainment? 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  Rock the Kilt lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Best of ‘Greatest Hits’ for the Holidays

The holiday gift giving season is upon us. Do you have something for everyone on your list? As a big music fan, I have quite a CD/MP3 collection. Greatest hits collections are great for gift giving. You get all the hits people know, plus usually a few choice album cuts too. They are great for casual fans or die hards too.

  1. Madonna “Immaculate Collection”
    Still a gold standard as far as “greatest hits” collections. She has had a few other collections, but this one is still the strongest. It is amazing how many of these songs you still hear played today: “Holiday,” “Vogue,” “Crazy for You”. If you want to go deeper, try “Celebration” her most recent and most definitive collection (available as a 1 or 2 disc collection).
  2. Journey “Greatest Hits”
    They are still popular! I really believe we have “Glee” to thank for their continued popularity. After “Don’t Stop Believin’” was featured on there, you heard a lot more of this band. They have great sing-along songs and put on a fantastic live show. Not a bad one in the bunch. If you want to go deeper, try “The Essential Journey” (available as a 2 or 3 disc collection).
  3. Blondie “The Best of Blondie”
    Another influential and overlooked group of the 70’s and 80’s. Big hits like “Rapture,” “Heart of Glass” and “The Tide is High.” Debbie Harry was the cool chick lead singer that influenced everyone from Madonna to Britney Spears. If you want to go deeper, try the anthology “The Platinum Collection.”
  4. Donna Summer “The Journey: The Very Best of Donna Summer”
    Her most recent best-of collection featuring all her essential 70’s and 80’s hits (“Love to Love You Baby” to “This Time I Know It’s For Real”) plus a few new songs too that will have you out there dancing on the floor.
  5. Duran Duran “Greatest”
    Little did people think that the Fab Five as some people called them back in the day, would have the legacy that they do. Expanding upon the earlier “Decade” collection, this is the definitive collection for them. Everything from “Girls on Film” to “Ordinary World.”
  6. Keith Urban “18 Kids”
    I’ve heard his music described as “country for people that don’t like country music.” He’s much more rock than traditional country…with pop sensibilities to his songs. You are sure to tapping your foot and singing along to such songs as “You’re My Better Half” and “Think of Me.”
  7. Michael Jackson “The Essential Michael Jackson”
    A much more comprehensive collection than “HIStory,” this CD has everything from the Jackson 5 to the Jacksons to all of his solo mega-hits. One of the biggest and most influential entertainers of our lifetime — that was taken from us too soon. His songs will live on forever.
  8. Britney Spears “Greatest Hits: My Prerogative”
    Yeah, there is another collection called “The Singles Collection” that from the looks of it, is pretty good too (don’t have it), but her first best-of collection shows what made her the star that she is. Catchy tunes that you will be singing for days from “…Baby, One More Time” to “Toxic.”
  9. ABBA “Gold”
    This group has shown some longevity as far as popularity. They never seemed that big in the US to me… always bigger in Europe or South America… but then a little show/movie called “Mamma Mia” brilliantly brought them back into the spotlight and they haven’t left. Hear the original versions of all the original ear candy songs from the 70’s and 80’s. Definitely a guilty pleasure.
  10. Earth, Wind & Fire “Greatest Hits”
    Another great group that has had a great run. Sure to be a favorite at your backyard BBQ or dinner party, these guys combined rock, funk, and R&B into a delectable combination. Featuring such classics as “Shining Star” and “Fantasy.”

These are sure to be popular stocking stuffers for everyone on your gift list. Whether you order them from Amazon or download them from iTunes… you are getting collections with tons of hits on them.

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