Views on pop culture through my eyes

Posts tagged ‘music’

Christmas Album Wish List

Are you ready for Christmas music? As a music fan, I enjoy buying new Christmas music every year from my favorite artists. Over the years, I have amassed quite a collection of Christmas albums — everything from Amy Grant and Cyndi Lauper to En Vogue and Kenny Chesney. This year brings new seasonal music from Fantasia, Gwen Stefani and Sia. It seems like every artist records a Christmas album (or at least a song) over the course of their career. Here are the artists I hope to hear Christmas music from in the near future:

 

Superstars

  • Madonna. She only did “Santa Baby” on the “A Very Special Christmas” album. Image if she brought her song craft to some Christmas originals. I would love it, but I have serious doubts she will ever do it.
  • Bruce Springsteen. He has a Christmas song too, but no album as of yet. I can’t think of any rock Christmas albums. A mix of old and new would be music to many Boss lovers.
  • Diana Ross. Sure, she did an album with the Supremes, and even a solo Christmas album in 1994 — but it was never released in America. Isn’t time it came out here, or she recorded new takes on Christmas classics. She could call on her children to help her out.
  • Janet Jackson. Wouldn’t you love to hear what Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Janet would do with a batch of holiday tunes? I am sure we would be dancing around the Christmas tree!

 

Current Pop Stars

  • Rihanna. She is one of the most consistent hit-makers of the last decade. She always find ways to surprise her fans with her music. I would love to see this happen.
  • Lady GaGa. Yeah, she isn’t as popular as she used to be — but she can still sing as evidenced by this year’s Super Bowl. She could do an album of very traditional songs with Tony Bennett, or a dance-pop Christmas album. I would be interested in both.

 

Country

  • Dierks Bentley. Hunky county star Dierks could do a bluegrass Christmas album or a modern country pop album. He would shine on the CMA Christmas special I am sure.
  • Carrie Underwood. Vocal powerhouse Carrie Underwood would be sure to be a bestseller, if she ever releases a holiday album. I am sure there would be a few spiritual songs on there. Another one that I could see being a #1 album.
  • Little Big Town. This group, that I describe as a country version of Fleetwood Mac, is known for their trademark vocal harmonies. A good mix of traditional songs plus a few new tunes too would be a winning formula.

 

Divas

  • Taylor Dayne. Taylor has one of the most distinctive voices of the 80-90’s. I could see her putting her own spin on some Christmas favorites. “Tell It to my Heart, Santa” could be a good title for one song.
  • Jill Scott. I heard she was great at the Hollywood Bowl this past summer. A soulful holiday celebration, with a few gospel tinged numbers would be great.
  • Angie Stone. Another big-voiced R&B diva. She has worked with Josh Groban in the past, and Justin Timberlake is a fan too. Imagine a Christmas duets album, that would be something different in the market.
  • Jennifer Lopez. Can you think of a Latin pop Christmas album? Neither can I. Just imagine all the guest stars she could pull in for the accompanying TV special… Pitbull, Enrique, Marc Anthony, Lin-Manual, and more.
  • Britney Spears. She’s only done 1 Christmas song in the past. How about a Christmas album to tie us over till her next all-new pop album? I would love to hear her take on holiday classics, and a few choice new tunes too.

 

80’s

  • The Human League. The ground-breaking new-wave group could bring something new to the table for sure. I would definitely be up for this.
  • Bon Jovi. Jon and the crew would definitely rock the holiday. Again, a mix of new and old songs would be just right. Maybe even call in former duet partner, Jennifer Nettles.
  • Belinda Carlisle. The voice of the 80’s girl band, The Go-Go’s. Plus she had a decent solo career too. Songs about Christmas in L.A., or maybe songs with some hippie-dippy vibes.
  • Duran Duran. Another big 80’s band. They could call in Mark Ronson or Nile Rodgers (both of whom they worked with before) to produce the album for them. I would love to hear them take on some original songs.

 

Boy Bands

  • Backstreet Boys. NSync did a holiday album back in the day, surprisingly BSB did not. It is never too late. Call up Max Martin and get this one going. I am sure it would sell well for them.
  • One Direction. With the members all enjoying varying degrees of solo success, it may be awhile before we get to this album. But they are good singers, and would definitely bring something different to the table.

And that’s my list! Did I miss anyone? Did I leave out one of your favorites? Please sound off in the comments below. 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.

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Happy 6th Anniversary Kilt Man!

IMG_0944Thanks for being a part of this journey for me. I have been writing this blog for 6 years now. In that time, I have written 253 blog posts. They have been seen all around the world, from the United Kingdom to France — all the way to Ecuador. In total, over 50 different countries have visited my blog. That is definitely something to celebrate.

The past year has been an interesting one for me. I have experienced incredible highs — like getting married to my partner. And experienced some lows too having lost my Mom this past year. Then add on all the craziness in the world with all the violence, poverty, and the era of a reality TV president. Life can be overwhelming sometimes. I hope my writing shows that I love life, and want to inspire people to live their lives openly and honestly.

So here are a few of the highlights from the last year. Hard to believe it is almost a year since the massacre in Orlando. The world seems crazier than ever at this point. LGBT rights are still under fire from people who would love to get rid of all of us, and take back marriage equality. So I am glad to see there is a #Resist March happening in early June across the country.

Real men still wear Speedos. I am happy to see a new company called Sluggers out of Australia making some waves in America. I had to ask the question “Are You a Speedo Guy?”. It is time that guys have some option other than boring board shorts.

I got to go to some fun concerts in the past year. I hope I was able to share that joy with my readers. Everything from the triumphant returns of the Dixie Chicks and Gwen Stefani to Boyz II Men and Keith Urban. Plus I even wondered what shows from the past I would have gone to also.

Family played a big part in the past year too. My Dad celebrated his 90th birthday and had a big party in his honor. We also paid tribute to my Mom who passed away after a long illness last fall. I think both of my parents for all their love and support through the years.

I asked the question “Can we be objective” when it comes to arts and entertainment? So much of what we like or don’t like is influenced by our past experiences. I have often said I liked something only because I liked a person’s previous movie, album, etc.

Those are just a few of the highlights for the past year. Thanks for reading. I look forward to many more years of the “Kilt Man” blog.

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.

Concerts I Am Looking Forward to in 2017

As a life-long live music fan, I always look forward to which of my favorite music stars will be coming in concert soon. Have I seen them a few times before, or are they someone I will be seeing for the first time? Do they have a long catalog of hits, or are they just starting out? Here’s who I look forward to seeing on stage in 2017:

Ariana Grande
She’s had a few successful years with “My Everything” and “Dangerous Woman.” She has the vocal chops for sure, and her personality is starting to show more. Plus she kills it every time I see her perform on TV.

Lady GaGa
It’s time to get back to her day job. After a few detours (Cheek to Cheek with Tony Bennett and American Horror Story: Hotel), she is back with her new album “Joanne.” I have seen her first 2 tours, it will be fun to see her again. She is definitely one talented, multi-faceted woman. Plus she is headlining the Super Bowl half-time show this year.

Bruno Mars
After a break of a few years, Bruno is back with “24 K Magic.” So far the single is just OK to me, but he always kills it with his live performances. And he has a decent amount of hits too, so even if the new songs suck, we’ll get “Uptown Funk.”

Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
Mr. and Mrs. McGraw head back out for a big arena tour in 2017. Tim has continued to record and tour regularly. Faith hasn’t done much since her album “Fireflies” in 2005. Not sure the reason why, but I welcome her back. I saw them on an earlier version of the “Soul to Soul” tour and it was a great show.

Alicia Keys
She will be touring in support of her new album “Here.” I previously saw her on the “Diary of Alicia Keys” and “As I Am” tours. I started to watch “The Voice” again because of her and Miley. She has such a wonderful spirit and I love her energy. And she gives her all to the performance. The album is just OK, but I still love her.

Sting
The veteran artist is back with his first rock album (“57th & 9th”) in a long time. He’s been making the rounds with appearances on everything from “The Voice” to the “American Music Awards.” With more and more singers dying young these days, I say catch him while you can.

Justin Beiber
He is still riding high off his album “Purpose” and it’s string of hit singles. Plus he got some big love in the form of some Grammy nominations this year in major categories. Plus from what I have seen he really puts himself out there in his shows. Catch him on his stadium tour this summer.

New Kids on the Block
Their chart-topping days are long behind them, but they can still fill arenas. They have found a successful formula and are sticking to it. They put themselves as the headliners on a bill with a couple of other retro acts, and the tickets keep selling. This year’s The Total Package Tour includes Paula Abdul and Boyz II Men.

Ed Sheeran
No tour has been announced yet for him, but if there is one I am sure it is going to be huge. He just released two new singles from his upcoming album “Divide” and they both debuted into the Top Ten (one even went to #1). I have seen clips of his concerts online, and he is an amazing performer. I would definitely go to see him.

Lionel Richie and Mariah Carey
The two superstars are teaming up for Lionel’s “All the Hits” Tour. This show is playing on my birthday at the Hollywood Bowl, so I already have my ticket. Mariah needs to redeem herself after the New Year’s Eve fiasco. I haven’t seen Lionel since he opened for Tina Turner on her farewell tour. It should be fun.

So that’s my concert wish list for 2017. Did I mention your favorite? Who do you want to see live and in person at your local concert venue? Sound off in the comments below.

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.

Soulful Sounds of En Vogue/Boyz II Men

Boyz II Men/En Vogue in Concert
Friday, July 8, 2016
Greek Theatre

Special guest: H-Town

Songs performed: Knockin’ Da Boots (H-Town); My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It), Whatta Man, Giving Him Something He Can Feel, Deju Vu, Don’t Let Go (Love), Medley: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Got to be Real, Bad Girls, Best of My Love, I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Respect, Lady Marmalade, Tell Me Something Good, Proud Mary, Free Your Mind, Hold On (En Vogue); Motownphilly, On Bended Knee, Water Runs Dry, Uhh Ahh, Four Seasons of Loneliness; Medley: Thinking Out Loud, Let’s Get It On, Smells Like Teen Spirit; I’ll Make Love to You, A Song for Mama, End of the Road, Motownphilly (Reprise) (Boyz II Men)

1459193391-Boyz-II-Men-En-Vogue-ticketsComments: Two R&B/pop vocal groups from the 1990’s are co-headlining a summer tour this year: Boyz II Men and En Vogue. Both started with 4 singers each, and now have 3 singers each. Their heydays may be behind them, but both acts showed that they have the hits and the vocals to still put on a great show.

The opening act was H-Town named after the city they were from: Houston, TX. They had a few minor hits on the R&B charts back in the 90’s, including a #1 song called “Knockin’ Da Boots.” One of the founding members died back in 2003, so the other 2 members have carried on without him. Their music was all pretty much bump and grind R&B. They even spilled water on their torsos and crotches, like it should be sexy or something. But it came off as more pathetic. At least they threw some teddy bears into the crowd and handed out some roses too. Their act pretty much sucked. And Shazam has a good voice too — too bad it’s on this material.

Next up was En Vogue, the all-female vocal trio. The group features founding members Terry Ellis and Cindy Herron-Braggs plus Rhona Bennett. Surprisingly the group never had a #1 single on the pop chart. But they had a couple of big #2 songs, and they started and ended their set with them. I was a big fan of this group back in the day. I got to see the original 4 on their “Funky Divas” tour, and then saw them as a trio as part of the Colors of Christmas concert.

The ladies are all in their 40’s and 50’s now, but they all looked good and sounded good. Wearing all black dresses, they sang their way through their hits, plus sang their new song “Déjà Vu” which they described as breezy R&B. They also did a big diva medley of the women/songs that inspired them: everyone from Diana Ross and the Supremes to Donna Summer to the Emotions and Tina Turner. I would have loved for them to sing more of the album cuts from their albums — but that didn’t happen. But the crowd was on their feet for most of their set — singing and dancing along.

Up next were Boyz II Men hailing from Philadelphia, PA. The group features founding members Wanya Morris, Nathan Morris and Shawn Stockman. The crowd was definitely excited to see them and I was glad to see them received so well. The 25 years they have been together have done them well. They are consummate showmen. They were dressed all in white, and still had the harmonies and vocals that made them famous.

They started and ended the show with their breakthrough hit “Motownphilly.” From there it was one big hit after the other — “End of the Road,” “Water Runs Dry,” I’ll Make Love to You” and more. Plus they had a covers section of their set also, but it seemed much more loose than the En Vogue one. They covered everyone from Ed Sheeran to Marvin Gaye to Nirvana. Nathan played guitar, while Shawn played bass during this segment.

Wanya was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars” this past year where he reached the Top 4. He relayed how much has changed in 25 years — you can gain a few pounds and lose your hair. Shawn said he loved the fact that he could sleep in his own bed that night, since he calls Los Angeles home.

The difference I see between the 2 headliners is that Boyz II Men never really went away, whereas with En Vogue there have been stops and starts with fighting over the name, breaks for family time, and years of not recording or touring. En Vogue has 5 albums to Boyz II Men’s 11. The Boyz didn’t sing any new songs in their set, unlike En Vogue who sang 1.

I was disappointed that they didn’t do any songs together. “One Sweet Day” would have been the perfect vehicle for them both — with En Vogue taking on the Mariah Carey vocals.

Overall, I had a great time. It was good to see real singers who didn’t need any special effects (other than fantastic vocals) to win over the audience. Thanks to everyone for a great evening out.

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 Speedos lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

 

 

 

Chicago: Still Rockin’

Chicago in Concert
Sunday, July 3, 2016
Hollywood Bowl

July 4th Fireworks Spectacular
With the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra
Thomas Wilkins, Conductor

Special guest: U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West

Songs performed: Introduction, Questions 67 & 68, Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon, Make Me Smile, So Much to Say So Much to Give, Anxiety’s Moment, West Virginia Fantasies, Colour My World, To Be Free, Call on Me, Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?, Hard Habit to Break, You’re the Inspiration, Beginnings, Just You n’ Me, Hard to Say I’m Sorry/ Get Away, Saturday in the Park, Feeling Stronger Every Day, 25 or 6 to 4

chicago-950Comments: Chicago, the rock and roll band with horns, played to 3 sold-out shows for the July 4th weekend at the world famous Hollywood Bowl. They were backed by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra under the conduction of Thomas Wilkins.

Chicago is coming off a great year for them. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year, along with a performance at the Grammy Awards.

This was the 6th time that I had seen the band live, the last time being 2007. And their last album was in 2014.

So what kind of show do you get from a legacy group like Chicago? You get great musicians and singers giving it their all, and having a good time up on stage.

The evening started with the Orchestra running through some patriotic standards, along with special guest the U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West. They did the traditional salute to the different branches of the military, in which audience members who served are encouraged to stand up.

After a short break, Chicago came on with the Orchestra. They ran through some early album cuts that spotlighted what fantastic musicians they are. Then the hits started coming.

So you got “Colour My World,” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?, “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” You’re the Inspiration,” “Hard Habit to Break” and of course “Saturday in the Park.” Robert Lamm has turned into the star of the group from my perspective. I was disappointed that Jason Scheff is not touring with them this time around. His vocals were covered by Jeff Coffey who did a respectable job.

After “Feeling Stronger Every Day,” the band exited the stage for the Orchestra to play more patriotic music as the fireworks were launched. They bought out the conductor for the military band who was very dramatic with his conducting style and plus he took a moment to salute during the performance too.

Chicago came back for the encore of “25 or 6 to 4.” This band still impresses me after all this time. They have been smart about bringing in some younger members to help them fill out their sound. And unlike Heart, another legacy act I saw last year at the Bowl, they are not known for indulgent cover songs. They stick to their impressive song catalog, and there is a lot to choose from. I am sure I will be seeing them again in the future.

Thanks to the band for another fun show at one of my favorite venues. Long live Chicago!

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 Speedos lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Happy 5th Anniversary Kilt Man!

This month marks the 5th anniversary of this blog. There have been 226 blogs written over the last 5 years. That is an incredible accomplishment if I do say so myself! In honor of this momentous occasion I will look back on some of the highlights from the past year.Dan-5Year

I celebrated my love of all things entertainment with quarterly recaps of what I am watching and listening to. See Summer Entertainment Roundup Part 2, Entertainment Roundup 2016 Part 1 and 2, plus Spring Entertainment Roundup Part 1 and 2. Don’t worry, I am already working on one for Summer 2016.

I attended some high-profile concert tours and invited you to experience them through my eyes. See reviews of Madonna, Kelly Clarkson, Janet Jackson, the B-52s and more. Plus check out my Facebook page for A View from the Cheap Seats for more photos and reviews of live music shows through the years.

I voiced my frustrations about not having a TV (Living Without TV), and what songs are played on radio these days (Radio Playlists [Stagnation]). As well as weighed in on gun control too (All Lives Matter). I also complained about the frustrations of collecting all the music of one particular artist (Complete Collections).

I gave my predictions on who would win at the Oscars and on the final season of American Idol. I also celebrated all the fantastic albums/songs by American Idols through the years.

I highlighted the hunky actors and singers that I would to see in kilts in Guys I Want to See in a Kilt Part 3. Surprisingly I didn’t write any more on kilts this year, or on Speedos for that matter. Look for new blogs coming on those topics in the coming months.

Thanks for being a part of my incredible journey on this blog. I look forward to sharing my thoughts, feelings and interests with you for many years to come. Please sound off in the comments if you have any topic suggestions. 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 Speedos lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

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.

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.

Complete Collections

As a music fan, I have noticed something with a lot of my favorite artists: they seem to be releasing more versions of songs that I already own. What I mean by this is: another greatest hits collection, or another live album. How about some new stuff?2371339

I am a creative person, I get it. It is not always easy to be creative and come up with new material. Maybe, you have writer’s block and don’t feel you can come up with something as good as you did in your heyday. But as someone who likes to have complete collections for an artist, it can be frustrating to keep up with these re-issues and re-packagings and such.

Another factor is the fact that artists make their money from live performances these days and not their records. So a new collection can serve as a reminder of an artist’s legacy as well as be an overview for those new to their career.

Another factor for me is having music on a bunch of different formats still and in different locations in my house. I have vinyl albums, 45s, cassettes, CDs, and then MP3s too. I converted a bunch of my vinyl albums and cassettes to MP3, but then my record player stopped working. And the speakers for the stereo gave out also. And then I don’t have enough space on my computer to store all the MP3s now. I will need a few back-up drives just to store everything.

So where do you draw the line? Do you buy the “new” release or just stick with what you already have? For me, I am looking at the situation a few different ways. For example, I will look at the outputs of the B-52’s, Pat Benatar, Blondie, and Olivia Newton-John — artists I have loved since the late 70’s, early 80’s.

I just got the B-52’s anthology “Nude on the Moon: The B-52’s Anthology.” It is their most comprehensive collection. I have all of their studio albums, and a previous greatest hits set too. But it is nice to have all the songs together in one collection. It has a few extras: alternate takes or live versions of some songs. Now I see they have 3 live albums, do they need 3? I am probably going to buy one since I am going to their show in September. I’ll pass on the other 2.

Pat Benatar has a new collection called “35th Anniversary Tour (Live)”. Now she includes her husband and guitarist Neil Giraldo in all the credits. I have 3 live albums from her already. Not sure I need this one too. Still love her.

Blondie celebrated 40 years last year with the release of “Blondie 4(0)Ever/Ghosts of Download.” One album was a CD of remixed and re-recorded greatest hits along with one disc of new material. I already have 4 previous collections from them, and if I had my way I would pass on the “new” greatest hits collection. But it is bundled with the new album, so I have to get both! Oh well!

Olivia Newton-John had a great run in the 70’s and 80’s. Now she still records but most of it is sort of mellow and boring to me. So I have passed on some of her recent studio albums. But now I see she has a 2-CD collection from her Las Vegas show. Yeah, yet another live album. But I am considering getting it, as it looks to be a good souvenir of a veteran artist.

Another thing I have noticed is the ability to release one-off songs at will — with songs being put on ITunes when they are released. They may be soundtrack songs, songs where the artist is featured on another person’s song, or just random songs that don’t fit on an album. An artist doesn’t have to put out a full album anymore… just release songs when they are finished. Do you get all of these songs too? You probably didn’t know they existed in most cases! I love Wynonna Judd, she has about 5 of these songs… Lady Antebellum: 5; Kelly Clarkson: 2; Rihanna: 8… and so on.

So now you can see what I am talking about. And don’t forget when an artist dies, or when they change labels either. The record company will release new collections whenever they want to. I realize I can’t keep up with everything, and I am not going to try. And then don’t forget Christmas albums or cover albums either, all artists seem to do those too sometime in their careers.

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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