And He Kept On Preaching In The Synagogues (JAY-Z, 4:44 review)

If I owned a sports bar, clothing line, sports agency, and multi-millions in real estate and art investments, people would probably come running to hear me too.

 

JAY-Z – 4:44

released Jun 30, 2017
********** 10/10

Sean Corey Carter, bettter known by his stage name JAY-Z, which has also been written as Jay-Z, Jay Z, Jay:Z and Jaÿ-ZJay-Z, Jay Z, Jay:Z and Jaÿ-Z, is an American rapper and businessman. Or should I say, business, man? As it says directly on the album cover, this is his thirteenth studio album, and it’s probably one of this most mature efforts yet.

I mean yeah, Reasonable Doubt was groundbreaking, and The Blueprint a masterpiece, while The Black Album made us miss him, but 4:44 is his apologetic letter for being an asshole, and man does it sing with sincerity and truth. It’s personal, poetic, and poised to take the place of top hip hop record of the year, ironic given that his wife had a top charting album last year. JAY-Z is a legend, and 4:44 is his opportunity to put together an album for him. This is not a cool album, trying to keep up with current day hip hop, there are no singles here. If anything, it sounds like it was put together quickly and abruptly.

So yeah, this is and isn’t a response to Lemonade. It’s more about us getting to see JAY-Z as a fallible human. He raps about being black and racial inequalities, infidelity, his daughter, politics, his personal wealth, and a total dismissal of his ego. It’s fucking brilliant.

But it’s not for your average fan, it’s for those who appreciate his legacy and understand who he is and what he has done for the game.

Kill Jay-Z is a direct reference to the time that Solange Knowles attacked him in an elevator, and it brings up the degradation of his friendship with Kanye West. Also he apologizes for the first time officially to Beyonce, confirming that Lemonade is a true account. He later does that and more on title track 4:44, especially apologizing to all of the women in his life that he has played.

One of my favourites songs is The Stoy of O.J. and it features my favourite line of the album too. This comes when Hova raps “I’m not black, I’m OJ….OK” that sarcasm is a beautiful aftertaste to the cutting wine it was served with. But it’s not like Jay hasn’t rapped about his financial freedom before, nor the fact that black people won’t have security until they understand how Jewish people get rich off of credit. A bold statement within a real album.

Smile is another essential track about his mother Gloria Carter, who outs herself as a lesbian, but JAY-Z lovers her all the more, and encourages all of us to love who we love because life is ever-changing.

We get to see the classic dissing raps of older Jay on Caught Their Eyes and  Marcy Me, going after Prince’s Estate on the first of these two tracks, respectively. Or should I say disrespectively?

Of course the middle of the record also features Family Feud which is a gold mine of lyrics and beats from the heart. It addresses the old schools and new of hip hop, with Jay-Z proving that he has still got it, after all, on track closer, Legacy, he proves family extends to all black people. He wants to leave something meaningful behind in his business work.

Pros: Absolutely essential tracks to this record are The Story of O.J., Smile, and Family Feud. But every song has an element of sincerity to it, making this the most intimate JAY-Z album to-date.

Cons: It’s somewhat awkward to listen to Bam and Caught Their Eyes, they aren’t the most flow friendly tracks. Also that awkward hook on Moonlight about the La La Land fiasco. Seriously?

Runtime: 36 minutes

Points of Interest: Featuring appearances from his daughter Blue Ivy, his mother Gloria Carter, Frank Ocean, The-Dream, and wife Beyonce, this stripped down album has a certain vulnerability to it which we’ve never seen before.

As I mentioned before, this is not your latest and greatest clubbing hip hop record. It is chock full of thoughtful and revealing songs, and deserves the attention of an alumni of JAY-Z’s work. To say that he is the greatest rapper of all time isn’t that big of a boast – the confessional nature of this record solidifies his reputation.

theories Summarized

If it hasn’t been made clear for you just yet, JAY-Z is a business, man. Him and Diddy are almost tied for the most financial successful rappers of all time . But that’s not what this album is about. It’s a testimonial to his screwups, him owning his coldness, and settling into middle age. Hova has worked with so many different arists over the years, but I find it fitting to mention his 2004 collaboration with Linkin Park before I close this post off. RIP Chester Bennington. Jazzy will hold it down for you from here on out.

Tim!

Faithful Blue, Strong Pink (Peggy Orenstein)

I work in marketing. And as of this July I will have worked in marketing for a decade.

That’s longer than I’ve committed to pretty much anything in my life. To this point, my longest romantic relationship was eight years, and the most physical hours I’ve put into being an artist is definitely less than a decade, maybe six years if I’m being generous. And interestingly enough, I’ve worked in marketing longer than many of my active friendships. Yes, I have a few friendships that have stood the test of time, but the point is, I’ve put a lot of time into this way of life.

Secret Secret, I’ve Got A Secret

I’m gonna let you in on a secret too. I originally planned on pursuing a marketing job so that I could learn the ins and outs of the industry, and then go back to school for a masters degree in either sociology, anthropology or fine arts. Because I wanted to research, write, and lecture for a living. Spoiler: I still do.

Somewhere along the line, I got comfortable with what I was doing, and so I stuck it out. My life became automated, like a robot, for about five years. Then I decided to change gears, and really commit to this marketing thing as a career… and I’ve had different marketing related jobs every year since I made that commitment, slowly climbing the corporate ladder.

And this year I finally found something that I enjoyed enough to really want to do it for years, but I’m not going to do this forever either.

Dear readers, I’ve realized that this is a phase, one that I need to grow out of.

But that’s one of the most terrifying and fascinating things about marketing. It’s ability to convert your intentions ever-so-subtly towards something which you don’t really needs, making you believe that the desires are innate and that possession will satisfy.

These Are Not The Toys You’re Looking For

I want you to consider the idea that blue is for boys and pink is for girls is not inherent, for instance.

We are told early on (by pretty much everyone) that boys gravitate to blue and pink is what girls love. But I read an article a while back that stated that it wasn’t until the late 19th century or early 20th century that pastel colours were introduced by manufacturers for babies, and many retailers had actually decided that pink was more suitable for boys because it was a variation of red, and red conveys strength. Blue was long associated with faithfulness, purity, and the Virgin Mary, a symbol of femininity. By the 1940s many manufacturers had flipped the script and settled on pink for girls and blue for boys.

And then I read this month’s 5 L’s Of Language book – Cinderella Ate My Daughter. My girlfriend recommended it to me, and I read it on a whim, not realizing what I was getting back into.

In the book, author Peggy Orenstein takes us down a road about gender norms for girls and identifies the phenomenon of princess culture, dominated by Disney merchandise, and how it has permeated through our girls lives, in television, film, at school, in pageantry, and especially online. One section in particular focuses on the development of the colour pink into everything, and how many marketers emphasis the point of pink and blue to assure parents buy two of everything.

Something Like A Phenomenon

Orenstein has authored several books on women’s identities, sexuality, and how to function in a world conflicted with feminism and femininity. She has also written bestsellers Girls & Sex and Waiting for Daisy. She writes for the New York Times and has been honoured by The Colombia Journalism Review as one of its “40 women who changed the media business in the past 40 years.”

One of my favourite moments of the book came towards the end. I’ll share the quote with you for simplicity.

That said, pointing out inaccurate or unrealistic portrayals of women to younger grade school children-ages five to eight-does seem to be effective, when done judiciously:taking to little girls about body image and dieting, for example, can actually introduce them to disordered behavior rather than inoculating them against it. I may be taking a bit of a leap here, but to me all this indicated that if you are creeped out about the characters from Monster High, it is fine to keep them out of your house.”

Small children are tied in strongly to external signs of identity – clothing, colour, haircut, toys. But as they reach puberty, they’re drawn more strongly by internal factors, that of being accepted by their peers and are also more willing to reject traditional authority from their parents. In other words, when children are small, it’s okay for them to be tied into simple notions of gender, but you shouldn’t mask how you feel for them, and as they age, they should be given opportunities to explore boundaries, especially ones they grew up with.

It’s a rare thing for me to read a book cover to cover in less than 24 hours, but I was able to do that for Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

It contains more than enough meaningful content to sift through, and frankly Orenstein has an ability to break down complex concepts into digestible pieces and do so with a self-reflexive analysis of the minutiae, questioning herself and gaining insights along the way.

I’ve decided this book fits rather neatly into the LABEL category of The 5 L’s Of Language, and at just over 200 pages it’s something you could burn through in a week or two. Or one day if you are insane and want to read for several hours straight.

This books opens with a question about the princess phase, and then rightly closes with a demonstration of the end of the phase delivered via Orenstein’s daughter Daisy.  You see creative cuties, Daisy loves Mulan, and one day Daisy questioned the world that Mulan inhabits as featured in the Mulan sequel, Mulan II. Daisy asked her mom why the princesses in the film would sing about freedom, not realizing that it isn’t always easy to be a princess.

And that’s also why it’s called the princess phase, because kids grow out of it, as they develop critical thinking and healthy skepticism. But I guess that could just be a theory?

Tim!

Time Moves Slowly (Boyhood review)

It can be tough to overcome a traumatic childhood. We are slow to realize when things have gone wrong and can even normalize recurring behaviour that we shouldn’t. Closure can be difficult, especially when we have to remember the past and our brains can easily alter our chemistry in order to “protect” us.

That said, the human brain and soul is resilient, and when we consider matters concerning love and emotion, those tragedies of life can become lessons and turn the ugly into something far more beautiful.

 

 

 

Boyhood (2014)

Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater
Director: Richard Linklater
released on blu-ray January 6, 2015
********** 10/10

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IMDB: 7.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Audience Score 81%
The Guardian: *****/*****

 

I’ve already told you about Richard Linklater once before. He’s one of the greatest directors of all-time in my personal opinion and he has inspired my imagination in more than one instance. I had originally planned on writing about this new movie Don’t Think Twice this week, but then I found out that it wasn’t available on blu-ray, and I was super bummed. So I decided to pick up Boyhood instead, because I still hadn’t seen it, and boy am I glad that I did. I’ve yet to be disappointed by Linklater, and this movie is no exception.

I’m going to go over the plot as best I can, just to give you a taste for it, but please, please, please do me a solid dear readers, and check this movie out for yourselves. This is a unique movie in the scope of movies in that it takes place over a twelve year period inside the film and was literally filmed with the same actors over a twelve year period in oder to demonstrate the rate of change as one grows up.

Taken from Wikipedia and edited somewhat…

In 2002, eight-year-old Mason Evans, Jr. (Ellar Coltrane), and his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) live with their single mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and watch her fight with her boyfriend. In 2003, Olivia moves the family to Houston, to get a degree and better job. Mason’s father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), visits them and promises to be more involved in their lives. Mason Sr. and Olivia argue about the kids. Olivia takes Mason to class, where Mason sees her flirt with professor Bill.

In 2004, Olivia and Bill have married and blended their two families, including Bill’s children from a previous marriage. They share experiences and learn to get along. In 2005, Mason and Samantha bond with their father. Olivia continues school and is initially supportive of Bill’s strict parenting style, up until the forced cutting of Mason’s long hair. Bill becomes an abusive alcoholic. In 2006, Bill assaults Olivia and endangers the kids, Olivia leaves him and takes her kids.

In 2007, Mason Sr. learns that Samantha has a boyfriend and talks to her and Mason about contraception. He and Mason go camping at Pedernales Falls State Park. In 2008, Mason is bullied by other students at school and teased on a camping trip but starts receiving attention from girls. Olivia teaches psychology at college and moves in with Jim, a student and Bosnian/Iraq War veteran.

By 2009, 15-year-old Mason has experimented with marijuana and alcohol. Mason Sr., who has remarried and now has a baby, takes Mason and Samantha to visit his wife’s parents. In 2010, Mason is lectured by his photography teacher, who sees his potential but a lack of ambition. Mason meets Sheena, who becomes his girlfriend. After a late night, a drunk Jim confronts Mason about partying. Olivia and Jim eventually split up.

In 2011, Mason and Sheena visit Samantha at the UofT, where they share their hopes and fears about college. Samantha’s roommate discovers them asleep together in her dorm room.

In 2012, Mason breaks up with Sheena, wins the silver medal in a state photography contest, and is awarded college scholarship money. Mason Sr. gives him advice about his breakup. In 2013, as Mason prepares to leave his mother’s new apartment for college, Olivia breaks down, disillusioned by how fast life’s milestones seem to have passed by.

At Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Mason moves into his dorm room and meets his new roommate Dalton, Dalton’s girlfriend Barb, and Barb’s roommate Nicole. Mason eats a marijuana brownie given to him by Barb and the group goes hiking at Big Bend Ranch State Park. Nicole shares with Mason her belief that, rather than people seizing moments, moments seize us, to which Mason agrees.

Pros: It is amazing to think that something which is a series of footage taken over a twelve year period has the ability to tell a cohesive story and resonate so strongly what it feels like to grow up. It is ambitious and successful in its aspirations.

Cons: You may struggle to find a tight narrative, and on that account you’d be right. Overall it functions as a series of reflective experiences, it’s only in the credits that we begin to see the connections. The runtime could also potentially take you out of it.

Runtime:  2 hours 45 minutes

Points of Interest: If Richard Linklater died at any point during the shoot, Ethan Hawke would have taken over the directorial duties. The film was shot over 45 days but because it happened between May 2002 and August 2013, it works out to over 4000 days. Each year of Mason’s life gets approximately 14 minutes of screen time.

It manages to capture several intersecting ideas all at once, the moments in time from the perspective of an estranged father, the string of stepfathers and odd relationships the children and mother endure as she struggles with her responsibilities, the half-remembered experiences of a youth looking back on his life, the highlights of childhood. The time-lapse method is incredibly well served here and could easily be applied to another other member of the family if you seriously spend the time with each character.

Boyhood is experienced predominantly from the perspective of Mason Jr. but I found myself observing MJ’s relationship with his mother and how they interacted with each other quite often as the film progressed. Suffice to say, I think that is intentional on the part of Linklater, asking us to consider the effect that we have on others in our lives no just our own impact upon the world at large. But that’s just a theory.

Tim!

Third Wave Metaphor (Tove Lo, Lady Wood review)

Wiz Khalifa is something of an enigma, he jumped off the lot with Black and Yellow back in 2010, but did you know he had been generating buzz since about 2005? And ever since then he’s collaborated with a ton of other crowd disturber personalities. Did you know he has over 100 collaborative efforts?

He must have some kinda influence? And guess what, he paired up with another Swedish shit disturber to riff on the subject of influence. And she’s on the docket for a review this week too…

Tove Lo – Lady Wood
released October 28, 2016
******** 8/10

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Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson, better known by her stage name Tove Lo, is a Swedish singer and songwriter.

Lo formed the Swedish rock band Tremblebee in 2006, but when that group disbanded, she pursued a song-writing career and was able to get a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell music in 2011. By 2014 she secured an incredible arrangement with Wolf Cousins that led to a record deal with Island and Polydor. Tove Lo has now released two studio length albums, the first being Queen of the Clouds, and most recently the two-part concept album Lady Wood.

In addition to solo work, Lo was a co-writer on Hilary Duff’s Sparks and Ellie Goulding’s Love Me like You Do. She has also worked with Coldplay, Flume, Nick Jonas, Years & Years, Seven Lions, and Wiz Khalifa, among others. Lo is known rather openly for her autobiographical lyrical content and the often dark tone which moves the narrative of each song forward. She is also quite comfortable with indulging love, sex, and death wherever and whenever she can.

For instance, in anticipation of her album release, Tove Lo just released an accompanying short film called Fairy Dust which pairs with and features tracks from Lady Wood. It ‘s directed by Tim Erem and stars both actress Lina Esco an Tove Lo in various vignettes which tell a slick story with a strong third wave feminist bend to it. I can’t say too much about the explicit direction of the story (and it is explicit, too explicit for YouTube), but it is rather conceptual and definitely not something to open at work or around the kiddies.

Part I is about the movement towards sex – anticipation, indulgence, consideration, consequence.

Yeah you give me wood, give me lady wood – This is the anthem of this first half of the album. Whether it’s about the addictive nature of lust on Influence, the technical and literal of what happens to a woman’s chemistry on Lady Wood, debauchery and complexity of emotion serviced via synthesizers on True Disaster, the allure of having fun and hooking up on Cool Girl (an homage to the Gone Girl persona), and finally that feeling of love as it overtakes your sensations delivered via Vibes.

Part II is the aftermath of it all – loneliness, vulnerability, complexity, withdrawal.

It’s darker and dejected, almost like that afterglow is gone, but the energy of desire hasn’t returned just yet. Don’t talk about it, sweep it under the rug like we do, do – and such is the anthem of the second half of this album. The questioning hedonist, wondering if the consequences have been worth it, but still alone. Don’t Talk About It is an expression of lamentation, while Imaginary Friend is more of a defence mechanism against haters, Keep It Simple an update on Habits (Stay High) because she’s still struggling but older, while Flashes is straight up self-awareness minced with self-hate, and last but not least, WTF Love Is audibly shows the problems she faces, confusion about her identity and desires. She has emotions she cannot harness and yet she wants something personal.

Ultimately, you might not “like” her music, but it’s really difficult not to get on board with Tove Lo and her natural ability to produce a strong set of tracks. Lady Wood is clever, catchy, and conscious. I cannot believe I read this in The National of all places, but they’re on point. Tove Lov is making the closest thing to punk rock EDM as is possible right now. It’s dark and desperate, but her sense of counter culture is ever-present – She’s under the influence, and this is the best place in the world.

 

 

 

Let’s close this review out with a dovetail. You should probably listen to this album. But you’re an adult and you can make up your own mind. So I’ll let you think on it. But if Wiz Khalifa is into it, and he managed one of the biggest hits of all time via See You Again, then it’s time to stand up and listen. Could just be a theory though.

Tim!

Never Ever, Ever, Ever (Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping review)

The first time I watched This Is Spinal Tap, was when I was in my late teens, it was also around that time that experienced Fubar as well. I can thank my friend Nick for those movies, because he loved to watch documentaries and mockumentaries when we were growing up.

And because I already had a love affair with satire in other shapes and forms, it makes sense that I’d give this weeks movie review a thumbs up.

 

 

 

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

Cast: Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Director(s): Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
released on blu-ray September 13, 2016
******* 7/10

popstar_never_stop_never_stopping_ver2_xlg

IMDB: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%, Audience Score 68%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, and Andy Samberg are all members of the popular comedy group The Lonely Island. Known for their involvement with SNL and Samberg in particular for his acting skills, this group generally delivers topical and entertaining satire.

Popstar never deviates from that pattern or presentation, which is a testament to these gents ability. After all, the mockumentary has been done a few times before, some would say done to death. Worse still, musical mockumentaries will always have to compare themselves to This Is Spinal Tap, the quintessential piece of that cinematic format.

Which means that I don’t really need to dig into the story this time around, because we should all know how it goes.

Connor4real (Andy Samberg) is a popstar who is about to release his followup album, but he makes some bad decisions, like investing with an appliance manufacturer that only shares his tracks whenever one of their machines is used. And of course his sophomore album bombs, forcing Connor4real to do everything he can to maintain his solo career, despite major attempts from his DJ Owen (Jorme Taccone), fans, and even talk show hosts to see a reunion tour of his former group Style Boyz. You see, Style Boyz were three friends that included Connor, Owen, and the now missing writer of the group Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer). The group originally broke up when Connor and Lawrence got into a fight over a music award that had been attributed to Connor only.

We watch Connor4real spiral out of control, fighting with everything he has, except for that desire to reunite with this childhood friend. Ultimately the movie leads us to it’s inevitable reconciliation, and all is right in the world.

But in all honesty, I fell asleep in the last 15 minutes… not once, but twice. So if that isn’t an indication of a weak ending, I don’t know what is. And when I actually did force myself through it, I was indifferent.

Pros: The jokes are consistent and the material is solid for the most part, but Samberg really does hold all the star power here, and it’s what makes even the weak moments digestable.

Cons: It isn’t a perfect story by any means, but it’s one you recognize, and I think the movie suffers for it. In quite a few places it feels like you’re watching a sketch instead of a feature length movie.

Runtime: 1 hour 27 minutes

Points of Interest: In the movie Seal tells the audience he was scarred by wolves, when in real life it’s from an autoimmune disease called lupus, wolves are classified as “canis lupis.” Justin Timberlake cameos as Connors personal chef.

Maybe it’s a parody of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, maybe it’s a parody of Macklemore, and maybe it’s a parody of the state of popular music in our times, but I don’t think it really matters. We laugh at the jokes because they’re funny and we understand the punchline. After all, I never like to admit that I was wrong.

 

 

 

 

The Lonely Island make comedy music for a viral age, and some might think that this entry in their record is passable for forgettable, I’m inclined to believe that, but who’s to say that this is what we need right now? Never say never, and never stop never stopping.

I’m theoried out for the evening friends. Hit me back tomorrow with something wise and uncharacteristic.

Tim!