Views on pop culture through my eyes

Posts tagged ‘maren morris’

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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Sam Hunt: Country Hip-Hop

Sam Hunt in Concert
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Greek Theatre

“15 in a 30” Tour

Special guests: Ryan Follese, Chris Janson and Maren Morris

Songs performed: Wilder, Float Your Boat, Put a Label on It, Lose a Little Sleep, Tonight Tonight (Ryan Follese); Redneck Life, Who’s Your Farmer?, Everybody, I Love This Life, Name on It, Fix a Drink, Holdin’ Her, Truck Yeah, Buy Me a Boat, Ring of Fire (Chris Janson); Sugar, Just Another Thing, How It’s Done, I Could Use a Love Song, Once, 80’s Mercedes, Rich, My Church, Second Wind/Halo (Maren Morris); Leave the Night On, House Party, Raised on It, Saturday Night, Cop Car, I Met a Girl, We Are Tonight, It’s a Great Day to Be Alive, Don’t Rock the Jukebox/Ignition/Come Over, Speakers, Body Like a Back Road, Take Your Time, Ex to See, Make You Miss Me, Break Up in a Small Town/Drinkin’ Too Much

Merchandise purchased: T-shirt

Comments: Sam Hunt headlined the Greek Theater for two nights on his “15 in a 30” Tour. It was the first headlining tour since his broke through with his debut album “Montevallo” — a critical and commercial hit in 2014-15. The crowd was definitely pumped for him, and they proved it by singing along to all of the songs that night (and not just the choruses, but the verses too).

He came on stage around 9:30 PM and played an enthusiastic and engaging 1.5 hour set. He was dressed in a loose-fitting camo shirt, cargo pants, combat boots and baseball cap. Plus he has a neatly trimmed beard too.

When I describe his music to those not familiar with him, I describe it as country hip-hop. Yes, he sings, but at other times, he is more just sing-talking, or even rapping on some numbers. Plus there are some hip-hop flourishes and scratching in the music too.

He is currently riding high with his #1 country hit “Body Like a Back Road.” There is no new album to promote at this point, as he is taking his time with an official follow-up. He did though play some songs from his acoustic mixtape “Between the Pines.” And the crowd ate them up, and gave them just as good of a reaction as the songs off of “Montevallo.”

He started the evening with “Leave the Night On” from that album. He had a very nimble and capable band behind him that was able to recreate the sound of the records. The stage had 3 large horizontal video screens on top, that played background imagery to help accentuate the songs; as well as lots of lights and smoke effects too used throughout the night.

During the middle of the concert, he took time to do an acoustic segment and talk about his influences. He grew up in Georgia. He sites country music, especially Alan Jackson (Don’t Rock the Jukebox); as well as R&B influences like (Juvenile, Usher and R. Kelly). He even sang Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)”. He talked about the power of music, and how the internet has changed everything for the music fan. He did not address the recent incidents in Virginia, but did say that he believes you choose your friends not by the color of your skin, but by the fact that you enjoy spending time with them. And that the younger generation is going to continue to break down more barriers in our society.

Sam also played a few of the songs he wrote for other artists, like Keith Urban (Cop Car), Billy Currington (We Are Tonight) and Kenny Chesney (Come on Over). He told the story of how broke he was and then he sold the song to Billy Currington. And he also said that he married the girl from the song “Cop Car” earlier this year.

He was humbled to be playing such a large venue and recalled when he played the Troubador in Hollywood just a few years ago. Sam is definitely an engaging entertainer. He roamed the stage like a hip hop artist and was bouncing around the it during the uptempo numbers. He did hit a few bum notes, but I credit that with lack of touring and not lack of talent.

The opening acts were all entertaining and got better as the night when on. First up was Ryan Follese. It turns out he is a former pop guy trying his hand at country. He was the lead singer for the pop-punk band Hot Chell Rae. And he even sang their hit “Tonight Tonight” as his final song.

Next up was Chris Janson. He put on a high-energy set that had the crowd on their feet. He is definitely of the “Bro-country” pack… as his songs about tractors, trucks and drinking proved. He is also a good harmonica player. I haven’t seen one around since the days of Blues Traveler. He also had a nice song for his wife and 4 kids. His voice was very strong — I would like to hear more from him. He included the hit he wrote for Tim McGraw — “Truck Yeah.”

And lastly was Grammy-winner — Maren Morris. I first saw her on tour with Keith Urban last fall. And she has only gotten better since then. She was wearing a sexy outfit, with a bare midriff and crop top. She performed hit songs and album cuts from her debut “Hero” (which is very good by the way). That album contains country, blues, rock and pop textures on it. She ended her set with “Second Wind” which she mixed with Beyonce’s “Halo.” She is definitely on her way to great heights.

Thanks to Sam and all of the performers for a fantastic evening at the Greek Theatre.

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.

Keith Urban: Rockin the Country

Keith Urban in Concert
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Staples Center

Ripcord Tour 2016

Special guests: Maren Morris and Brett Eldredge

Songs performed: Gone Tomorrow (Here Today), Long Hot Summer, Break on Me, Where the Blacktop Ends, Making Memories of Us, Gimme Shelter, Somewhere in My Car, Blue Ain’t Your Color, Gettin’ in the Way, You Gonna Fly, Days Go By, We Were Us (with Maren Morris), Cop Car, Sun Don’t Let Me Down (With Nile Rodgers), The Fighter, You Look Good in My Shirt, Somebody Like You (with Brett Eldredge), John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16 (Jack & Diane, No Woman, No Cry), Wasted Time, But for the Grace of God, Stupid Boy, Raise ‘Em Up

keith-urban-ripcord-2016-tour-dates-tickets-infoComments: Keith Urban brought his Ripcord World Tour to the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The tour is named after his 9th studio album of the same name. He performed 7 songs from that album, plus a lot of his hits from throughout his career.

What’s cool about Keith is what a showman he is. He’s got the rock star good looks and tattoos. He is an excellent guitar player and banjo player too.

The stage had large video screens on the back of the stage. Plus there was a small stage on the other side of the arena that they used for a few numbers also.

He pulled one girl from the audience to duet with him. She had a sign that read “I need to sing with you to pass my final.” Keith asked her what song she wanted to sing and she said the Rolling Stone’s song “Gimme Shelter” (which Keith recorded with Alicia Keys). She was really going for it, even though her voice was just OK.

Both opening acts showed up in the show too. Maren Morris dueted with him on “We Were Us”; and Brett Eldredge came out with Keith on the small stage and sang “Somebody Like You.” Keith and his band actually made their way across the floor to the small stage, shaking hands and hi-fives when they could.

Keith’s music has gotten much more pop leaning in recent years. Not that there is anything wrong with that, cause that’s what’s popular on country radio. One of the highlights of the night was the encore, when Keith came out and did 2 songs with just him and his guitar: But for the Grace of God and Stupid Boy. He should do a whole concert unplugged!

The first opening act of the evening was Maren Morris. She broke through big time this year with her hit “My Church.” She definitely has a good voice. But she hasn’t developed her stage presence yet. I am sure she will develop it with more touring.

The second opening act was Brett Eldredge. I was impressed with him. He is touring behind his 2nd album “Illinois”. The crowd seemed to dig him as much as I do. This is probably the last time he’s an opener. He’s got a nice voice and a bunch of catchy songs — so don’t be surprised to be hearing more from him.

Thanks to Keith and his band for a great evening.

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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