Adele, Beyonce and … John Oliver?

North Korea launched a ballistic missile on Sunday in what some officials said was an attempt to challenge Donald Trump’s policy towards the nation. Iran demonstrated its might on Friday in a dramatic parade to celebrate the anniversary of the country’s revolution and diplomatic break from the United States.

But none of that matters because …

QUEEN BEY.

Last night’s 59th Grammy Awards exhibited its usual glitz and glam as the nation’s most recognizable pop stars joined together to celebrate all the music that dominated radio waves in 2016. Plus Sturgill Simpson.

And while I’m increasingly convinced that Grammy officials choose nominees by getting drunk and googling “Top Musicians 2016,” I will admit that the show did provide a nice distraction from the usual doom and gloom news surrounding our current administration and the world’s response to it (see: first paragraph).

chance-the-rapper

Because the Grammys are so largely watched and even serve as many people’s refresher course to today’s music scene, it does fortunately provide some deserving artists with the necessary platform into national, if not global consciousness.

Artists like Chance the Rapper.

I’m admittedly ignorant towards hip-hop because it simply just doesn’t appeal to me, but Chance the Rapper won me over during his ESPYs tribute to Muhammad Ali last summer. I learned that, despite his stage name, Chance the Rapper is as much a singer as he is a rapper. But most of all, he is a lyricist.

Chance won two major Grammy Awards and showcased his abilities in an energetic, soulful show-capping performance. The average music listener knew who he was, but now everyone witnessed his talent.

Other than that, we watched Adele boldly stop her live tribute to George Michael to start over after a dysfunctional start.

Beyonce

We saw the members of Twenty One Pilots remove their pants before walking on stage to accept an award, and then share an endearing story about how they pledged years ago while watching the Grammys to go pants-less if they ever ended up winning anything.

We saw CBS severely overestimate the universality of the lyrics of “Sweet Caroline” in a Carpool Karaoke sketch that fell flat.

And we saw Beyonce do … something. While I like to think of myself as verbally creative and imaginative, I’m severely lacking an artistic gene, and thus any symbolism behind 21-pilotsBeyonce’s performance completely went over my head. But it was visually stimulating, and she sounded great.

So, in conclusion, Beyonce’s the queen, we’re all inferior, she probably should’ve won Album of the Year over Adele, and I’ll leave it at that.

At this point, I think it’s safe to assume that Adele and Taylor Swift will spend the next 20 years alternating who wins the most Grammy Awards annually. Next year, it’s all T-Swizzle.

But the evening couldn’t be completely devoid of politics. Around the same time the Grammys neared its end, HBO saw the welcome return of John Oliver and his brilliant show Last Week Tonight.

His segment, focusing on Donald Trump’s clear disconnect from reality, is a must-watch for any American. It’s been extremely evident to see how much Trump lies, but John Oliver has a way of condensing a topic to make it so bright-as-day that you can’t possibly deny it. It’s the 30-minute release that Trump opponents have been waiting for, and it’s objectively insightful.

I guess that means if Beyonce is the queen for music lovers, than John Oliver is the king for us political nerds?

My life clearly needs more excitement.

Perhaps I’ll go to work tomorrow pantsless, Twenty One Pilots style.

That’s it. I’ve decided. I’m doing it.

And by pantsless, I mean wearing corduroy pants and an argyle sweater.

Bad Boy 4 Life.

Filming songs at a concert

It’s way past time I chimed in on a topic that is becoming more prevalent — and somewhat controversial — in today’s digital age: filming songs at a live concert.

And this is something in which I feel like my opinion actually holds some serious weight, given how many concerts I attend.

The reason I bring this up now is because it became sort of a big deal recently when Adele publicly scolded a fan from the stage for filming her during one of her concerts.

Now, on the surface, this sounds pretty low of Adele. She’s a major celebrity; why is she taking it to this one fan who is just trying to enjoy herself and take some footage so she can have a piece of the show to take home with her?

Recording.jpgBut then you listen to Adele scold the fan in her sarcastic yet playful English accent, telling her “this isn’t a DVD, it’s a real show… I’m not doubting you’re a fan, I’m sure you are, but I’m here for real,” and hearing her say that makes you want to side with Adele.

And she does have a point. With cell phones evolving so rapidly the last decade that they now include high-definition cameras and camcorders, it’s understandably tempting to whip it out and film anything that interests you.

(Also — note the irony of somebody filming Adele while she’s telling off another person for filming her.)

By doing so, however, it does feel like too many of us have forgotten how to live in the moment. Remember when you enjoyed things before the cell phone era, and just let it resonate and soak in? Yes, the moment would then pass undocumented, but you experienced every second of it to the fullest.

And now, by going through your phone and trying to take a movie during such times, you’re detaching yourself from the moment.

But at the same time, does that also mean we shouldn’t film anything ever? It’s nice to Adele yelling.jpghave living memories stored in your cell phone.

So what’s the balance? I’ll tell you.

Whenever I see a show, I like to film a one-minute clip of one song. Not the whole song, just one single minute. Because I like going back later and watching it. Sometimes I even post it on social media to show people how excellent this band or singer sounds live, in order to convert them.

I have no desire to use it for commercial use, which is obviously one of the artist’s fears when they see people filming them.

Filming an entire song is excessive. Filming multiple songs is just nonsensical. But I see nothing wrong with allowing yourself sixty seconds to record a permanent memory.

Then when you’re finished, put the phone away and enjoy the show.

Also, how much must it have sucked to actually be that fan that Adele yelled at in front of tens of thousands of people? I probably would have started crying.

And then if she broke into a rendition of “Someone Like You” immediately after … forget it. I would have been a wreck.

Bearing that in mind, I’m making a note to myself right now.

If I ever go see Adele live, leave my cell phone at home.

The Weinblog’s top albums of 2015

As the year winds down, the Weinblog continues to reflect on all that the year had to offer.

One of those things was music. Plenty of new releases made their way from the studio to our ear drums this year, and some were better than others.

This is the second straight year I’ve ranked what I thought were the best albums of the year, and after doing some serious listening over the recent weeks, I’ve narrowed it to 12.

And despite receiving my praise yesterday, you will not find Justin Bieber on this list.

Enjoy.

12.
Gypsy Heart
Colbie Caillat

Gypsy Heart

I debated what to put in the last spot for quite a while, and then decided that If I didn’t go with Colbie Caillat’s Gypsy Heart, I’d regret it for the rest of my life. OK, that’s maybe an exaggeration. But the songs on this album (particularly in the top half) are just so pure, so empowering and so well-intentioned that I thought I’d be remiss not to acknowledge it in era where musicians tends to forget that they have the unique ability to inspire young people with their words. There’s no tricks here. No over-the-top hooks. Just Colbie singing from her heart.

11.
Kintsugi
Death Cab for Cutie

Kintsugi.jpg

Ben Gibbard has a unique ability to slow the tempo and invoke emotion with his voice without ever becoming too tedious. Kintsugi is further evidence of that. I can’t help but listen to Death Cab for Cutie and feel a sense of longing, or nostalgia … for what, I don’t know. But it’s there. Indeed, Kintusgi may even have an added flair of somberness tinged in since it’s the first release since Gibbard’s and Zooey Deschanel’s marriage fell apart. The album is bookended by its best tracks, “No Room in Frame” and “Binary Sea.”

10.
Payola
Desaparecidos

Payola

Right out of the gate, Payola smacks you in the face with its heavy riffs, smash-mouth lyrics and aggressive attitude, and it maintains that edge throughout. The punk rock band, headed by Conor Oberst, just seemed like they were on a mission with this album, as they touch on many socioeconomic issues in their songs. But the result is a powerfully raw, angry and restless album that makes for a very lively and enjoyable listen.

9.
Dark Bird is Home
The Tallest Man on Earth

Dark Bird is Home.jpg

Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson, known by his stage name The Tallest Man on Earth, is known for his raw and simple delivery. He’s just a man and his guitar, singing about life. But with Dark Bird is Home, Matsson adds a jingly, instrumental accompaniment that perfectly suits his voice and adds more depth to the tracks. The whole thing is just very pleasurable to listen to on many levels.

8.
What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress
Sara Bareilles

Sara_Bareilles,_What's_Inside_–_Songs_from_Waitress_(2015)

Underrated as one of the best singer-songwriters of our generation, Bareilles sticks to her roots, singing about romance and relationships, but this time does it in a more theatrical way. Which is fine, as it shows us another element of her amazing talent. The theatrical feel makes perfect sense, as the songs were written by Bareilles as a score to a musical, which she decided to translate into a full-length album. The whole album is really good, but hits its stride at the end with tracks nine through 11, namely “You Matter To me,” “She Used to Be Mine” and “Everything Changes.”

7.
Wilder Mind
Mumford & Sons

Wilder Mid

As a devoted Mumford & Sons fan ever since I first heard “Little Lion Man” on the radio in 2009, I was admittedly apprehensive when I learned the band was changing course, ditching the banjo for its forthcoming release and replacing it with the electric guitar. By doing so, they were essentially abandoning their folk roots, which is what made them who they are. Even after the first couple listens of Wilder Mind, I was still dubious — with the exception of “The Wolf,” which I liked from the get-go. But after stepping away for a couple of months and returning to the album with a fresh ear, there’s no doubt in my mind that this is awesome. It’s different, for sure, but at the heart of each track is still the same old Mumford & Sons. For the most part, the tracks are a little less explosive and more refined, but the band still displays their subtle brilliance to begin a track slowly and build to a dramatic climax, best exemplified in the track “Only Love.”

6.
What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
The Decemberists

What a Terrible World, What a Wonderful World

I’ve always loved The Decemberists, but seeing them live in Newport, Rhode Island this summer made me a fan for life. They are just such a cheerful, energetic bunch on stage. And they’re also very good at making music. What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World is a continuation of the band’s great catalog, an indie-rock serenade that you can’t possibly listen to without feeling your mood brighten. It’s endlessly hopeful and charming, and ends with a bang, with “A Beginning Song,” which may be my favorite Decemberists track ever.

5.
Pageant Material
Kacey Musgraves

Pageant Material

There’s something so incredibly appealing in what Kacey Musgraves does. She possesses the furthest thing from powerhouse vocals, but has the unique ability to tell a story in every one of her songs. Her straightforward delivery really helps you pick up the lyrics, and you find that they are actually really funny and poignant, but at the same time, flow perfectly within the song without seeming too forced. I don’t know any other artist today that can match her ability to create songs that are so simple, yet so multi-layered. Just take a listen to the album’s title track “Pageant Material,” and really try to hear what she’s saying if you want to fully grasp Kacey’s brilliance. It’s a great follow-up to the Grammy-winning Same Trailer, Different Park, but with a little more sass and humor embedded within.

4.
I Love You, Honeybear
Father John Misty

I Love You, Honeybear.jpg

I Love You, Honeybear is really an achievement in indie rock singer-songwriting, which I’m not sure was really a genre until Joshua Tillman, a.k.a. Father John Misty, made it his own with this release. There’s really nothing else like this in music today, and it’s a perfect example of how experimenting with music and lyrics can be a win-win for all. It’s not at all conventional, and will at times challenge your musical palate, but that’s a good thing.

3.
The Firewatcher’s Daughter
Brandi Carlile

Brandi_Carlile,_The_Firewatcher's_Daughter

It’s about time this woman deserved her due. As far as vocal ability, Brandi Carlile is up there with almost anyone else in the music industry today. Her voice has so much depth and range that it almost works against her in the sense that it leaves her without a genre. She’s a hybrid of country, folk, rock and alternative. But whatever it is — it’s awesome. With The Firewatcher’s Daughter, Carlile really channeled all of her life inspiration into a beautiful anthology in an extremely mature fashion. There’s up-tempo rock mixed with slow ballads, all heavily imbued with emotion, and each of which showcase the extraordinary talents of Brandi Carlile.

2.
25
Adele

25

Quite simply, nobody else in the world can do what Adele does. Her voice is second to none, and thus, 25 could not be recorded by anybody else.  I went into this album weary of praising it just because it’s Adele, and because critics will tell me I should, but it didn’t take long for me to appreciate it. The second single, “When We Were Young,” is an extremely powerful and emotive song, rich with feelings of nostalgia, that could go down as her biggest hit yet. The whole album is a tour de force driven by Adele’s bluesy and soulful voice, which is very refreshing in today’s bubblegum pop-driven contemporary music industry

1.
Carrie & Lowell
Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan_Stevens_-_Carrie_&_Lowell.jpg

There’s just something so soulfully haunting when it comes to Sufjan Stevens that it’s almost hard to listen to his music over and over again. But with Carrie & Lowell, Stevens created a much more accessible album that could not be more blissful or soothing. His almost whisper-like quality of singing puts the listener into a surreal, dreamlike state of mind. It’s absolutely criminal that the album was ignored by the Grammys this year, but in the grand scheme of things, the most important thing about music is the impact that it has on people, and I think the acclaim that the album has received speaks for itself. It’s chilling in so many ways, but never becomes depressing, and may even leave you with a small feeling of hope. And that, my friends, is why it’s the best album of 2015.

It’s time we realize we’ll be telling our grandkids about Adele

It’s pretty common practice for kids, teenagers and young adults to ask their elders questions about the time period they lived in.

And it’s a smart idea. If you want to know about history, get it straight from the people who lived it. After all, they won’t be around forever.

Each generation has its own distinct cultural identity. It’s one thing to read about it in books, view pictures on the Internet or to see it in movies, but nothing beats a simple conversation between you and somebody else who was part of the generation that you want to learn more about.

Many times those conversations revolve around music. Just look at how much music has changed, even from the ’90s until now. It’s so drastic that it makes the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s seem like bygone eras.

Adele.jpgBut we forget that some of the bands often considered the greatest of all time hail from that era.

There’s few people who haven’t asked their parents or grandparents what it was like to be young when the Beatles were in their heyday. Or Bob Dylan. Or the Rolling Stones.

Those are names that transcend music. They’re icons.

And it makes you wonder — what musical icons will we be telling our grandchildren about? Or in my case, what musician will I be mumbling about to anyone who will listen when I’m old and homeless on a New York City sidewalk?

Well, one definitive answer occurred to me when I I was watching NBC last night. And no, I’m not talking about The Voice. At least, I hope that Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani won’t be the Frank Sinatra and Janis Joplin of our time.

I’m talking about what aired after The Voice — Adele, live in New York City.

Jimmy Fallon introduced the 27-year-old at Radio City Music Hall as a “once in a generation artist.” He’s right.

Even if you’re not a fan of the soul, bluesy genre that Adele’s music fits into, there’s really no denying that she has a voice that is unmatched by any other artist of today. To borrow a cliche, it truly is show-stopping.

But what’s most amazing is how effortlessly she sings. We know she has the pipes, but she doesn’t even seem to reach down for something extra to hit her highest notes. It’s commonplace for her.

Adele hitting an impossibly high note is as ordinary as Meghan Trainor singing as if she just swallowed a particularly robust bullfrog.

She sings about heartbreak. She sounds about regret. About love. And about being young. In a way, she’s documenting what it’s like to feel and be alive right now, in 2015.

Watching her on Monday night confirmed to me that she is beyond a singer, but a figure. Every song warranted a lengthy standing ovation.

Even her name sounds like the stuff legends are made of. Adele.

If you still don’t listen to her, you might as well jump on the bandwagon now. Because she’ll likely be the subject of the second conversation you’ll have with your grandkids about living in the 2010s.

Right after: “What was it like to read The Weinblog?”

 

Enough sadness. It’s time to focus on the fun in life again!

Alright, time to get some positive vibes back in here. It’s been a very gloomy last few days, and though we should never forget the victims of last Friday’s attacks in Paris, we need to remember that it’s important to continue on with our lives in good spirits.

So let’s get to some fun stuff. What’s in the news?

Charlie Sheen has AIDS.

Oh, come on. This is really the top nonpolitical story in the U.S. right now? Charlie couldn’t wait like a week when the rest of the world calmed down to announce this?

Charlie Sheen AidsActually, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Charlie Sheen does not have AIDS. He did, however, tell Matt Lauer on the “Today Show” Tuesday that he’s not only HIV positive, but that he’s had the virus for four years, and that he’s paid millions of dollars to people to keep it private.

As cruel as it may sound, this might be the least surprising news ever. In fact, at the rate that he was consuming drugs and alcohol and engaging in sex with porn stars and prostitutes during his infamous 2011 partying binge, he’s pretty fortunate that testing HIV positive is all that ended up happening to him.

But he said all the right things on Tuesday, and maybe he can turn this challenging life episode into an opportunity to help others who have once struggled with drugs and addiction.

Perhaps Charlie intentionally waited until now to publicize this knowing that it would be vastly overshadowed by news in Paris. If so, it was a brilliant move on his part.

Other famous people should take note. If you have a dark secret you’ve kept hidden throughout your life, reveal it now while the world is distracted by international tragedy. Because no one will care. Even gossip blogs have shown a modicum of restraint lately out of respect to the Paris victims.

Benedict Cumberbatch, now is the time to tell people about your underground baby seal harpooning business. And Emily Blunt, you can finally share with the world that you’re an ardent follower of the Church of Scientology.

These are how rumors start.

Seriously though, I refuse to log off WordPress tonight without talking about something happy.

What’s Justin Bieber up to these days? That guy is always making a fool of himself. He’s the go-to man for unintentional comedy.

So, let’s see, top Google search for his name says: “Justin Bieber writes about friend who died in Paris attacks.” Shit. No. That’s not how that was supposed to go.

It’s OK though. Shake it off. And let’s stick with music. It’s the one thing we have always been able to rely on throughout history to distract us from reality.

What’s atop the Billboard Hot 100 right now? It’s been a while since I’ve checked.

Ah, Adele is back. That’s nice. Some song called “Hello.” I’m sure this is an energetic, upbeat song that will provide instant joy.

Time to go listen!