[Can We Pls Talk about Tchaikovsky for a Sec]

Whilst cramming for a journalism history exam yesterday evening (aka tying the noose), I was craving some musical inspiration…something that simply could not be found in my “recently played” mishmash: a dangerously random melting pot of Bob Dylan, the Donnie Darko soundtrack, Blackstreet, and the suicide-sponsoring themes of The Cure. So I broke the self-enforced rule of no-music-outside-one’s-own-iTunes collection (as I pride myself on its 6,000+ song status) and hit the Youtube button. I was feeling pretty classical, (as we know, a feeling that the topic of muckrakers and printing developments usually evokes) so I looked up the Black Swan soundtrack, another shameful obsession. But then I was like no…….I want the REAL thing. The man himself. I switched the search bar topic to “Tchaikovsky” Swan Lake. The first result was the genuine, 2 hr 57 minute deal. And so began my audio-ballet journey into wonderland. My focus peaked after the first movement, and I was going HARD IN THE FLASHCARDS YO! Before I knew it, my memorization was clicking and my steaming hot, caffeine-packed chai was just an accessory for my concentration. No doubt–classical music, especially ballets/operas lasting over an hour, are ideal for one’s study experience. Tchaikovsky entranced my ears last night, and although he didn’t get me an A on the exam, he certainly was alive and well in my basement living room area jamming out with me. I recommend Swan Lake for enjoyment–but ONLY through headphones! I do believe that lack of proper audio equipment might have detracted from the full-stringed experience.

Basically, the purpose of this post is to express my ongoing realization that there is good in every genre. Quality in rock, alternative, post-punk, r&b, hip-hop, you name it. Each has its stereotypes, but each can break them with one single body of work or time-tested album. I really don’t like country music; in the rare occasion it invades my ears, I am caused psychological distress. I simply cannot tolerate the vapid lyricism about dirty pickup trucks, losing one’s dog, losing one’s woman, whiskey, [losing one’s whiskey?], country girls “shakin it”. BUT, at the same time, I remind myself that not ALL country music is comprised of such junk. Same thing with classical. A lot of that scratchy violin grinds my g[ears]. But then I reevaluate my judgements about the genre and try to find the beauty (and one’s view of “beauty” is always subjective in music) in at least one song or artist. Last night just happened to be P-Ilyich’s lucky night. Challenge yourself to enjoy a body of musical work that falls under an otherwise un-enjoyable genre/niche. You’ll find that music is even more beautiful. And personal.

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Journey to Fangirl-dom: A Firsthand Account of Bieber Fever

Over the course of the last few weeks, an odd malady has crept into my system. I could attribute the illness to “seasonal changes” or blame it on the progressively chilling weather– or even on the germs beginning to cling to the doors and handrails of UConn’s campus, but I’ll be blunt. It’s Bieber fever. I’ve gone from rolling my eyes and scoffing at the thuggish teen’s antics and popularity…to unashamed adoration. My jaw has remained dropped as I watch Justin Bieber totally re-mold his musical style—and I begin my ravenous downloading like a 12 year old fan-girl deep in the belieber scene. The fact is, Justin now has my undivided musical attention and I can’t get enough of these R&B-littered, Drake-style, mushy singles that the 19-year-old keep cranking out—which are all supposedly “journal” components to his “Music Mondays” set, ending in December.

The collection began October 1st, with Justin’s release of “Heartbreaker” via Twitter, a super-slow, lovesick slow jam infused with bass, mellowed-out percussion, hollow-y elect guitar accents, and a lot of whiny cries. Bieber’s spoken word, three minutes in, sends goose bumps.  Gratitude can be directed to hip-hop producers Maejor Ali, Chief Tone, and T-Minus, who built the swooning beat. Upon my first listen, I tried to hate the song. I really did; but that fact is, Justin Bieber’s vocal talent is beginning to manifest itself through much, much more mature outlets: R&B and ballads. And once these changes hit your ears—and your heart, you’ll take him a little more seriously. His vocal quality is no longer that of the high-pitched “Baby” Bieber, but its deeper, more flexible transformation provides more than compensation. And as for the singer’s recent, highly publicized bad-boy behavior—this will only seem like a weakly constructed façade that melts right off once you’ve given a listen to the soft and sensitive content of Music Mondays.

After the drop of the first M.M. success, Bieber followed suit with the angsty, romance-ridden theme on the following Monday’s track, “Hold On”, an irresistibly sweet single that has no shame in referencing Justin’s recently lost love, Selena Gomez. The bars speak for themselves; “don’t let this go to your head…but you’re the best I’ve ever had/something like a Ziploc…but a lip lock”. Thank you, Justin; I love that. The song is so keyboard-heavy and loaded with synths that the instrumental alone might knock you over—in a state of bliss, of course. The lyrics are just the decadent icing on top of the already delicious beat–just another reason for the newfound love of the previously-pop singer. “All That Matters” is the song’s twin, freshly released the week after.

R&B fits Justin great. But although the latest additions to his Music Monday collection have been totally acoustic, they work just as well. The lyrics vary little from JB’s heartbreak and somber life post-Selena, but somewhere in there is a spot guaranteed for each of us to relate. Additionally, the musical maturity is obvious; one may find him or herself more receptive to the new Justin, who seems to closely resemble a younger version of heartbreak-Drake. So do yourself a favor (guys included), and check out the Biebs’ new work—it’ll at least diminish some of your boiling disdain for the little punk. (Link below)…

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Breaking Bad in Retrospect: Characters We Loved to Hate/Hated to Love

Loved to Hate

  1. Gustavo Fring

Rinky-dink chicken joints will never be the same…so long as flashbacks of the Los Pollos Hermanos villain stay stuck in our memory. Gus is by far, still the biggest baddie of them all, having run his slave-labor meth factory and executed every morally reprehensible plan there was to retain his employees. The blow-up scene of Mr. Fring was rich to say the least, and undoubtedly among the most treasured scenes from the show.

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2. Hector Salamanca

*BEEEEEEEP-BEEP BEEP BEEP*. Who could forget the snarling, wheelchair-bound uncle of Tuco Salamanca? The nasty, once-leader of Mexico’s drug cartel took center stage in Season 2, acting as the obstacles in Walt’s steadily growing blue-meth biz. His entire family was full of monsters, especially Tuco and “The Cousins”. Although our disdain for the old man lasted the entire season and following, we must credit him for enabling Gus Fring’s explosive end.

Image3. Todd Alquist

A ginger-headed, poor man’s Matt Damon, Todd was the dirtiest of the dirty. He not only killed a child mercilessly at the close of Season 4, but without hesitation would sell anyone he knew down the river. (Except maybe his crush–drug lord-in-training Lydia). A comrade to Jesse’s neo-Nazi captors, the 20-something punk’s slimy persona and unsuspecting motives immediately made him one of the most despised, newer of characters on BB. For Todd’s final “moment”, we all owe Pinkman a round of applause.

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4. Hank/Marie Schrader

Although it may seem unfitting to include them on a list of villains, Hank and Marie were despicable in their own right. The loudmouth duo was extra fake and acted as the contrary of relatives to Skyler and Walt. Not to “speak ill of the dead” or anything, but there’s no denying most viewers’ distaste for the kleptomaniac-Marie and her highly arrogant and stubborn husband. The epitome of a douchey cop, Hank seemed disposable from the first season. After all…why couldn’t he just LET THE MAN COOK?

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Hated to Love

  1. Saul Goodman

For most of us, Saul’s character was an acquired taste. Introducing himself as a greasy yet masterfully clever attorney, he gained the trust of partners Walt and Jesse—even assigning them his go-to client protector, Mike. His staying in the know, keen awareness of the meth industry, as well as manipulation skills, impressed both us and Walt. Goodman was the ultimate secret-keeper of the operation. His motives and fallback plans to retain the innocence of those who hired him were questionable at times, but always proved purposeful. We hope he does well in Nebraska.

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2. Mike Ehrmantraut

The show’s original crime scene-cleanup guy, Mike initially rubbed most of us the wrong way. One was never sure where his loyalties lied. He was unfeeling and had traitorous tendencies; yet, somewhere in the midst of all his wiretapping, stealthy spying, and casual murders, we developed a certain affinity for the hardhearted hit man. It was only at his time of death that a softer Mike emerged, voicing his concern and love for his granddaughter.

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3. Badger & Skinny Pete

The two burnouts, and comrades of Jesse’s, earned viewers’ respect in the finale, assisting Walt in the intimidation and bribery of ex-partners Gretchen and Elliott to pass on the money to Walt’s family.

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4. Walter White

Throughout the course of the series, lung cancer-ridden Walt did some really horrid things. As his desperation to protect his meth recipes, business, and family grew, so did his acts of violence and murder. He isolated himself with every cooking session, receiving hate from his own wife and family. The lengths he went to in order to cook raised eyebrows, as did his sneakiness and patterned, lying behavior. He poisoned, killed, and plotted all under the defense of “providing”; and at times we weren’t sure whether to detest his dirty deeds or hail to Heisenberg. A true family man and more-than-qualified chemist, Walter White was the exemplary modern-day hero, a meth martyr, and will truly be missed.

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J. Cole’s “Born Sinner”

Despite vowing I would ignore any leak that sprung regarding Cole’s new album, I caved. I’ll still buy it, of course…but have no regrets about giving in to the temptation. So here goes. I had seen a couple interviews from HNHH, XXL, etc with Cole after his “Power Trip” release with Miguel, and he briefly talked about Born Sinner and his plans for it. He didn’t reveal that much, though, so I was getting hyped along with everyone else. It took FOREVER. So ready to jump on the album review, all the pushing backs of the release date were frustrating me. I was speechless upon the first listen to this…there are so many concepts at work on this new album; it’s cohesive to say the least, like a story. I won’t give away too much, though. There are some amazing collabs on it; neo-R&B singer James Fauntleroy and new classic Kendrick Lamar are two of a handful of guests on the album. The only contemporary work I can really compare it to is Kendrick’s Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City from this past October. It’s like a flowing story, time-lining Cole’s trials & triumphs, the dark and light in his life. Transformative. We see his “light at the end of the tunnel” arrive from the gloomy intro. It’s spiritual and human. Like… goosebumps during every song. Maybe even a couple tears. It offers this rawness unfound in any hip-hop albums as of late and I have no reservations about his simultaneous album release date with Kanye West on the 18th. In fact, I hope it squashes Yeezy’s sales. By a lot. 

[Highlights of the album include “Crooked Smile”, “She Knows”, “Born Sinner]

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