Favourites of 2014

Another year is coming to an end and with that, a list of my favourites in movies, music, and TV. Again, not a “Year-End Best of” list by any means, just things that I loved this past year. Also, due to time constraints, this really is just a list of my favourites – I wish I had the time to fully explain everything but alas, December just flew by me.

ALBUMS

  1. Begin Again soundtrack
  2. Kris Allen, Horizons
  3. The Script, No Sound Without Silence
  4. Colbie Caillat, Gypsy Heart
  5. Jason Mraz, Yes!
  6. Lady Antebellum, 747
  7. Pentatonix, PTX Vol. 3
  8. Nikki Yanofsky, Little Secret
  9. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
  10. Maroon 5, V

SONGS

Obviously I loved songs from my favourite albums above, but here are the other stuff that I couldn’t stop listening to this year.

  1. Tyler Hilton, One More Song
  2. Nick Jonas, Jealous
  3. Jessie J, Masterpiece
  4. Michael Jackson ft. Justin Timberlake, Love Never Felt So Good
  5. Sam Smith, Like I Can

MOVIES

As always, there are still SO many movies that got released this year, that I have yet to get a chance to see. But of what I did manage to see this year, these are absolutely my favourites.

  1. Begin Again
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy
  4. Snowpiercer
  5. Nightcrawler

NEW TV SHOWS

There were some REALLY good new shows that came out this year.

  1. The Flash
  2. Jane the Virgin
  3. The Affair
  4. You’re the Worst
  5. How to Get Away With Murder

RETURNING TV SHOWS

And of the returning shows, these continued strong all year.

  1. Arrow
  2. Brooklyn Nine Nine
  3. Agents of SHIELD
  4. The Mindy Project
  5. Sleepy Hollow

SHOWS THAT WERE CANCELLED

These are some of the shows that got cancelled this year, which very much hurt.

  1. Selfie
  2. Enlisted
  3. Trophy Wife
  4. Witches of East End
  5. The Tomorrow People
Advertisements

Music Monday: My Year in Concerts

As a music fan, I’ve always loved going to concerts. There’s just something about hearing music live that just makes me so happy and feels like everything is right in the world, if only for a couple hours. So for this Music Monday, I thought I’d feature the concerts I went to this year.

1. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience Tour

JT 2020 Tour

I wrote about my thoughts on this tour back when I saw it, but let me repeat – my dancer’s heart loved every single minute of it.

2. Lady AntebellumTake Me Downtown Tour

Lady Antebellum Take Me Downtown Tour

I’m very limited in my tastes when it comes to country music. Country pop I can deal with to an extent; I can’t handle real southern country twang. When I first heard Lady Antebellum, it was when they released ‘Need You Now’ and I remember thinking these guys are really cool and sound really great. I quickly became a fan, to say the least. After missing out on their Own the Night tour (which I’m still kinda bummed about because I absolutely LOVED that album), I had to make sure I got to see them the next time they were in town, which was for this tour. Though to be honest, I felt really out of place at the concert. Being a minority and a generally awkward person, I’m typically used to feeling out of place. For some reason, I felt VERY odd being one of few Asians at a country music concert (and not wearing plaid – believe me, there was A LOT of plaid). My being-out-of-place aside, Lady A are wonderful live and it was a great concert overall.

3. Gavin DeGraw

Gavin DeGraw

For years, a friend and I had complained about Gavin not doing a show in Toronto. Lucky us this year, he did 2 separate shows. This first show he did was a solo show in support of his Make A Move album. I remember still being sick/jet-lagged from my trip, but I still had so much fun seeing Gavin perform. His opening acts were Rozzi Crane (signed to Adam Levine’s label) and Parachute (a pop-rock band I’ve followed for some time now), both of whom were really solid.

4. Justin Nozuka

Justin Nozuka

It had been years since I’d last seen Justin Nozuka in concert and when I found out he was releasing a new album and coming back to Toronto, I jumped right on it. Personally, I don’t really like the new album; it’s a little too mellow for my tastes. And most of the concert was comprised of the new material so I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more of the old stuff. I still cherished him performing ‘After Tonight’ midway through the show; it was quite a pick-me-up that got everybody grooving and singing along. I just wish there was a little more of it.

5. Michael Buble – To Be Loved Tour

Michael Buble To Be Loved Tour

I love seeing Michael Buble in concert. I always say this but when you go see him, you get a little bit of a comedy show as well. It’s his natural sense of humour and self-deprecation. Once again, he brought out Naturally 7 (a very cool acapella group) as his opening act, and who later returned to do a couple songs acapella with Michael. And one of my favourites parts of the show was actually when Michael performed part of a song by himself, with no accompaniment and no mic – a feat all in itself considering he was playing in a huge arena.

6. Matt Nathanson & Gavin DeGraw

Matt Nathanson Gavin DeGraw

 

I always love seeing Matt Nathanson in concert (this was my 5th time seeing him) and add to that, getting to see Gavin for a second time within 3 months? Yeah, it was a no brainer. Despite the fact that the show was at the Sound Academy, a venue in Toronto I have associated with bad memories. Even so, I had to go see this double headlining tour of two of my favourites. My friend and I actually got lucky and received a VIP upgrade when we got there, allowing us to go to the second floor of the club. But after about 20 minutes upstairs, we made our way back down to stand with the masses; it just felt weird standing up top and what’s the point of VIP if you don’t even get to meet the artists? Regardless of that, it was a fantastic show!

7. Tyler Hilton

Tyler Hilton

It wasn’t that long ago that my friends and I complained about Tyler never playing a show in Toronto, despite the fact that he was constantly in the area (his now fiancĂ©, Megan Park, is from London, Ontario). Since seeing him in 2012 for the first time, this was show number 5. I remember Tyler was actually battling a bit of a cold and kinda losing his voice, but he powered through his (albeit shortened) set. AND to make up for the fact that he didn’t do as long a set as he normally does, he agreed to do a meet and greet, taking pictures with fans.

8. Jason Mraz and Raining Jane

Jason Mraz & Raining Jane

For his new album Yes!, Jason Mraz worked exclusively with a wonderfully talented female band, Raining Jane. It was more a collaborative album than a simple Jason Mraz album. That being said, the two took the album on the road, and I got the chance to see them at the historic Massey Hall. Massey Hall is a venue that is known for its amazing acoustics and ended up being a fantastic place for Jason and Jane.

9. Kris Allen and Boyce Avenue

Kris AllenTechnically, it was Boyce Avenue’s show, with Kris Allen supporting, but I was there to go see Kris since I had yet to see him live in concert. Plus, I wasn’t going to say no to a $30 concert ticket. Kris’ set was a short 45 minutes but he managed to squeeze quite a number of songs from all three albums, plus a couple cover songs (Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ and Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’). ‘Monster’, a song from his 2nd album, is one of my favourites from Kris, but man, to hear it live? Kris and his band took it to another level. I even went so far as to compare it to hearing Maroon 5 perform ‘Sweetest Goodbye’ (my absolute favourite M5 song) live. Pure perfection. As for Boyce Avenue, I was familiar with their cover songs but not their original material. Honestly, I thought their originals were a little blah, and I actually got a little bored hearing them perform. Talented guys, just not into them.

10. Justin TimberlakeThe 20/20 Experience Tour (again!)

JT 20/20 TourIt only seemed appropriate that I end my concert year the same way I started it – seeing JT. The guy never ceases to amaze me and I always have SO much fun at his shows. I feel like I’m just gushing at this point, but what can I say, I’m a dancer at heart and loved singing/dancing along.

With 10 concerts, I feel like that’s the most shows I’ve ever been to in a year, and that’s not even including theatre shows, plus TIFF and SDCC. At this point, concert-going is like my life, so I can’t even keep track anymore. Here’s to another fun-filled, musical year in 2015!

5 Fandom Friday: Favourite Christmas Movies

fandom.5.friday

Christmas music is one thing. Christmas movies? I don’t know, I was never really into it. That’s not to say there aren’t any Christmas (-y) movies that I’ve watched and loved over the years. So in continuation with The Nerdy Girlie and Super Space Chick’s 5 Fandom Friday link-up, I give you my favourite (almost by default) Christmas movies.

1. HOME ALONE/HOME ALONE 2: LOST IN NEW YORK

This is what I grew up on. The original Home Alone movies starring Macauley Caulkin were pretty much staples in my house for years. I mean, what’s not to love? The essence of Christmas (being with family) is there, with a solid dash of funny antics. “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal!” CLASSIC.

2. LOVE ACTUALLY

ALL THE ACTORS! Look, there have been so many movies that have come out since Love Actually that try to trick us into watching because of the sheer number of actors they managed to get in that movie. Unfortunately, movies like He’s Just Not That Into You, Valentine’s Day, and New Year’s Eve have all failed to replicate the success of Love Actually. Why? Because LA actually makes you care about the characters, and not just the actors playing them. Also, Christmas is a special holiday that far surpasses the “importance” of Valentine’s and NYE. Oh, and as if it needed to be said, the Brits just knew what they were doing.

3. SERENDIPITY

I’ll admit: this is one of those movies that just so happen to take place during Christmas (and for only a small but critical portion of the movie) and not necessarily a Christmas movie. But I don’t care, I love this movie and I’m including it. John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale are our romantic leads who meet cute while Christmas shopping. They’re both with someone else at the time they meet, but feel a deep connection and decide to leave it up to fate to see if they end up together. It’s all cute and romantic, and of all the rom-coms, I blame it for my unrealistic beliefs about love.

4. ELF

I’m not typically a Will Ferrell fan, but he was at his best here, exemplifying a different kind of man-child in Buddy the Elf. There’s just so much to be said about a movie that really captures the spirit and joy of Christmas, without being overtly sentimental.

5. THE FAMILY STONE

Bringing your significant other home to visit your family – what could go wrong? Well, for Sarah Jessica Parker’s Meredith, your boyfriend’s family doesn’t really like you. The movie walks the line between drama and comedy, and it’s got a great cast (including Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson, Rachel McAdams, Dermot Mulroney, Luke Wilson) that elevates the material from more than just your typical family dramedy.

BONUS TV: The O.C. Chrismukkah episodes

So many shows do Christmas/holiday-themed episodes, but I have a certain affection for The O.C.’s holiday episodes. Sure, all four were wrought with a lot of drama. However, Josh Schwartz and company, via Seth Cohen introduced us all to the wonderful mixed holiday that is Chrismukkah – “8 days of presents, followed by one day of many presents.” Also, all the episodes taught us to never underestimate the power of a Chrismukkah miracle.

57th Grammy Award Nominations

Last Friday (Dec. 5th), the nominations for the 57th Grammy Awards were announced. In an attempt to change things up, the Grammys announced nominations for a handful of categories on the CBS Morning Show, which was then followed by random announcements throughout the day by various artists on Twitter, a more-or-less complete nomination list by mid-afternoon, and topped off by the Album of the Year announcement on their A Very Grammy Christmas special. Yeah, it was really weird. I appreciate the effort but I would rather them have stuck to one way of announcing nominees; the nomination concert followed by the posting of the entire list seemed to have worked well in recent years.

Anyways, here are my thoughts on the big category nominees, as well as a select number of other categories.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

  • Beck, Morning Phase
  • Beyonce, Beyonce
  • Ed Sheeran, X
  • Pharrell Williams, GIRL
  • Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour

I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that I’ve actually listened to the majority of the albums nominated in this category. Last year, the only album nominated that I had heard in full was Sara Bareilles’ The Blessed Unrest, which was a surprise nominee. This year, the only album I haven’t heard is Beck. To be honest, I was a little surprised to see Pharrell nominated in this category, not to say that GIRL was a bad album (it’s really solid, actually) but when I think “Album of the Year” I think an album that made a huge impact in the past year. By that logic, I think Beyonce might be the frontrunner, though don’t count out the ongoing momentum Sam Smith is enjoying right now. It’s possible that Sam Smith might sweep up all the wins.

RECORD OF THE YEAR

  • Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX, Fancy
  • Sia, Chandelier
  • Sam Smith, Stay With Me (Darkchild Version)
  • Taylor Swift, Shake It Off
  • Meghan Trainor, All About That Bass

Like AOTY, I feel that this category encompasses the biggest songs of the year, that made the biggest impact. So it was no surprise to see Fancy, Chandelier, and Stay With Me nominated in the category. (Though it is curious to see that Stay With Me is nominated here and elsewhere with the Darkchild version.) I suppose I expected Shake It Off to get nominated because Taylor Swift is a popular choice these days, even if I personally find her and the song annoying. I absolutely don’t understand the appeal of All About That Bass; such an overrated and overplayed song. As far as snubs go, I’m quite surprised that Beyonce & Jay-Z’s Drunk in Love wasn’t nominated or even Ed Sheeran’s Sing.

SONG OF THE YEAR

  • Sia, Chandelier
  • Sam Smith, Stay With Me (Darkchild Version)
  • Taylor Swift, Shake It Off
  • Meghan Trainor, All About That Bass
  • Hozier, Take Me to Church

It should be noted/remembered that this category is awarded to the songwriters, to differentiate from ROTY, and I’ve listed the track’s artist just to make things easier (some songs can have a handful or more songwriters who all worked on it, meaning it can get pretty lengthy). Despite the differences, we have an almost identical nominee list to ROTY, with Hozier taking over Iggy Azalea’s spot. While ROTY typically takes the more popular route, I like to think that SOTY is where the Grammys can really make some offbeat choices in their nominations. Yeah, it can sometimes take a lot of people to craft the perfect pop song, but how about recognizing songs with substance and stands for something? As much as I love Sam Smith and Stay With Me, I want Chandelier to win here. Not only is it a fantastic song, but it would be such a big win for Sia who has written so many great songs for other artists over the years, that this would almost be like an all-encompassing win for her.

BEST NEW ARTIST

  • Bastille
  • Brandy Clark
  • HAIM
  • Iggy Azalea
  • Sam Smith

I’ve heard of all these people! There’s not a single “Who?!” in the bunch (though Brandy Clark is almost that nominee). I’m honestly trying to think of what other “new” artists (as defined by the weird Grammy rules) came out in the past year who could’ve been recognized and I’m kind of drawing a blank. Regardless, I’m fairly certain it’s going to be Sam Smith for the win.

BEST POP SOLO PERFORMANCE

  • John Legend, All of Me (Live)
  • Sia, Chandelier
  • Sam Smith, Stay With Me (Darkchild Version)
  • Taylor Swift, Shake It Off
  • Pharrell Williams, Happy (Live)

Honestly, I kind of don’t like the idea of a live version of a song being nominated. By all accounts, All of Me and Happy could’ve been nominated last year, but the Grammys probably pulled the “it’s eligible this year because it became popular within this eligibility period” despite the fact that the songs got released LAST summer. To that end, there could’ve been so many other performances to consider. Where’s Ed Sheeran’s Sing? Colbie Caillat’s Try? Jason Mraz’s Love Someone? Lorde’s Team? Justin Timberlake’s Not a Bad Thing? And don’t even get me started on songs/performances that aren’t big enough to be recognized by the Grammys (of which there are MANY).

BEST POP DUO/GROUP PERFORMANCE

  • Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX, Fancy
  • Coldplay, A Sky Full of Stars
  • A Great Big World ft. Christina Aguilera, Say Something
  • Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj, Bang Bang
  • Katy Perry ft. Juicy J, Dark Horse

As always, what qualifies as pop in this category confuses me, though this year is a little bit more cohesive than most. You can argue that this is pop in the most general of terms, in that it means “popular.” I mean I would’ve put Fancy in the Rap/Sung Collaboration category, and I’m not sure how A Sky Full of Stars is more or less pop than Paramore’s Ain’t It Fun (which was nominated in the Best Rock Song category). Considering Maroon 5 performed in the Grammy Christmas special, I was expecting them to at least get a nod here for Maps, but I guess not. And I was thinking about this the other day, but The Script still aren’t big enough to get any Grammy recognition? Because I would’ve liked to see them nominated here for Superheroes. Actually, you know what song I’m surprised didn’t get a nod? Michael Jackson featuring Justin Timberlake, Love Never Felt So Good.

BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM

  • Coldplay, Ghost Stories
  • Miley Cyrus, Bangerz
  • Ariana Grande, My Everything
  • Katy Perry, Prism
  • Ed Sheeran, X
  • Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour

Really? Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande and Katy Perry all got nods? And again, even though I’m happy they did get nominated, I wouldn’t have pegged Ghost Stories as a pop album. I definitely think Colbie Caillat and Jason Mraz deserved nods for their albums Gypsy Heart and Yes!, respectively. I’ve made it known how I feel about Maroon 5’s venture into mainstream pop, but I’m surprised that V didn’t get nominated. I mean, Overexposed got nominated and that was a weaker album in my opinion (though Hands All Over didn’t get nominated either, which again, was a completely underrated album and deserved more love than it got)

BEST COMPILATION SOUNDTRACK

  • American Hustle
  • Frozen
  • Get On Up: The James Brown Story
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Awesome Mix Vol. 1
  • The Wolf of Wall Street

I have but one complaint: WHERE IS THE NOMINATION FOR MY BEGIN AGAIN?! That soundtrack is perfection!

BEST SONG WRITTEN FOR VISUAL MEDIA

  • Tegan and Sara ft. The Lonely Island, Everything Is Awesome!!! (The Lego Movie)
  • Ed Sheeran, I See Fire (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug)
  • Glen Campbell, I’m Not Gonna Miss You (Glen Campbell, I’ll Be Me)
  • Idina Menzel, Let It Go (Frozen)
  • Scarlett Johansson & Joaquin Phoenix, The Moon Song (Her)

One egregious snub: WHERE IS MY LOST STARS?! Come on now! How am I supposed to have faith that it’ll get nominated for the Oscar, if it doesn’t get nominated for a Grammy?!

Other Notables:

  • With her nominations this year, Beyonce became the most nominated female singer in Grammy history, beating previous record holder Dolly Parton.
  • Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) nominated for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Album.
  • James Franco is now a Grammy nominee. He’s nominated in the Best Spoken Word Album category.
  • Pentatonix have officially hit the big time! The group is nominated for Best Arrangement, Instrumental or Acapella for their Daft Punk Medley found on PTX, Vol. 2.
  • Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ and Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ will duke it out in the Best Music Video category.

At the end of it all, Beyonce and Sam Smith lead all nominations with 6 each. The Grammy Awards will air on CBS, February 8th, 2015.

5 Fandom Friday: My Favourite Holiday Songs

fandom.5.friday

For a couple months now, The Nerdy Girlie and SuperSpaceChick have put together a link-up, 5 Fandom Friday, each week with a different theme. I’ve been neglecting it but no more – starting December right with my first 5 Fandom Friday post! Now, I admittedly can sometimes be a grump about Christmas-related things. Some people will listen to Christmas music as early as November 1st; I, on the other hand, consider two weeks before Christmas to be an acceptable time-frame, but that’s just me. Anyways, that being said, I give you my 5 favourite holiday pop songs, and just because I feel like cheating a little bit, my 5 favourite classic holiday songs!

HOLIDAY POP SONGS

  1. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays (NSYNC) – I’m sorry, but as far as original Christmas songs goes, it does not get any better than this song. I’m a little biased because I love NSYNC, but tell me this song doesn’t instantly put a smile on your face and get you excited for the holidays! Or how about that hilarious music video? (Oh the 90s…)
  2. All I Want for Christmas is You (Mariah Carey) – An original song that became a classic. Who doesn’t love this song?
  3. Last Christmas (Wham) – It’s kind of a sad Christmas song, wrapped in an upbeat pop tune, but I love it nonetheless. For some reason, this is one of the first Christmas songs I ever knew (I call it a mix of my sister being a George Michael fan, plus hearing a cover of it by one of my favourite Vietnamese singers – my influences as a kid are so varied, you don’t even know).
  4. Christmas Time (Christina Aguilera) – “There’ll be family, and Christmas cheer/Peace and good will to all man/ Everybody is home for Christmas/It’s Christmas time.” A perfectly solid pop/R&B song that sums up Christmas.
  5. My Favorite Things (Kelly Clarkson) – Was this song always considered a holiday song? I don’t really know, but it is now! Of course only Kelly Clarkson could get me to listen to Christmas songs early when she released her holiday album “Wrapped in Red” last year, and I instantly fell in love with her jazz-y version of this song.

 

TRADITIONAL HOLIDAY SONGS

No explanations necessary. I just love these songs.*

  1. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  2. Silent Night
  3. The Christmas Song
  4. White Christmas
  5. O Holy Night – *Though for what it’s worth, I LOVE NSYNC’s acapella version of this song.