Favourites of 2013

It’s that time of year, where everybody is getting ready for Christmas and the start of a new year. Meanwhile, entertainment outlets everywhere are doing their “best-of” lists to cap off the year. So to keep up with my own modified version of those traditions, I give you my favourites in music/movies/television of the past year.

MUSIC – ALBUMS

  • Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience [The Complete Experience] – My year in music was made all the better with JT releasing 2 new albums this year. Some people didn’t like them for various reasons (songs were too long, not dance-y enough, a little self-indulgent?), but this was hands down my absolute favourite album of the year. I may be biased as a JT fan, but as a music fan, I appreciate that he can take musical risks while still keeping his signature sound. It was perfection to my ears.
  • Megan Hilty, It Happens All the Time – Megan had been known as a Broadway actress before starring in the TV series Smash, and though the show ended up being not so great in its two-season run, it was very much agreed upon that Megan was the best part of it. So it came as no surprise that she managed to get an album recorded and released, filled with original songs and covers. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the album is, particularly with the music selection, as it wasn’t just showtunes. For the covers, I loved her version of Switchfoot’s “Dare You to Move” and then one of the originals “Walk Away” was actually a song that was co-written by Carrie Underwood and Ne-Yo! There is just an easy feeling when you hear the album and I just fell in love with it.
  • PJ Morton, New Orleans – I only came to know about PJ when he started playing with Maroon 5 during the Hands All Over days as an additional keyboardist/vocal to fill out their sound live. Since then, he’s continued working on his own music, while playing with the band in a bigger capacity (taking over for Jesse Carmichael on keyboard while he takes a break from music). PJ had signed to Young Money Records (Lil Wayne’s label) and this album is his first release with the label. For me, this was just a solid R&B album from beginning to end, that really had a throwback sound to it (almost a Stevie Wonder quality to it) but decidedly modern as well.
  • Sara Bareilles, The Blessed Unrest – I feel as though Sara is just one of those artists who are just so damn dependable to make good music. This is her third album and you can hear the progression in her songwriting from her first album to this one. “Brave” is just a fantastic first single that follows in the footsteps of “Love Song” and “King of Anything” being sort of a pop anthem. The rest of the album is filled with wonderful piano pop that often stretches the musicality of it (I’m not sure I made sense there). Point is: she stretches herself as an artist/musician but in a way that fits into her style and personality, so it doesn’t ever feel like she’s trying too hard to do something different.
  • Matt Nathanson, Last of the Great Pretenders – What I said about Sara being so damn dependable as an artist, certainly applies to Matt as well. That the two of them released their albums on the same day this summer was a perfectly awesome coincidence. With this album, his eighth, Matt draws up a 40-minute ode to San Francisco, with all of its eclectic influences.
  • Beyonce, BEYONCE – She surprised the entire world when she secretly released this album on iTunes. I have always respected Beyonce as an artist and have really enjoyed her songs, but can’t say that I’ve been a huge fan. So I have to give her props for everything she did with regards to this album. As a whole, I think it’s her best one yet. I liked that she took different risks with the songs and that it’s a unique sound, but still completely Beyonce. There might not be a typical radio single, but who cares? When the music’s good, that’s all that matters.

MUSIC – SONGS

  • Lorde, Royals – I admittedly was late to the party in terms of hearing this song. I had heard about it but didn’t hear the song itself until sometime in the summer. I was hooked from the first listen. There’s a dynamic about the song that was just so different from anything else.
  • Megan Hilty, Bittersweet Symphony – Season 2 of Smash was a mess but for the most part, the music was still good. For some reason though, Megan’s cover of this Verve song stuck out. I already raved about Megan and her album up top, but I just fell in love with her version of this song. It’s just SO GOOD, I can’t even explain why I love it so much. I’ve always loved this song, but how they did re-did this song with Megan singing, it almost sounds like a different song
  • Ben Hazlewood, Knock On My Window – This is a case of I’m not entirely sure why it’s one of my favourites this year; I just couldn’t stop listening to it. Ben was a contestant on the first season of The Voice Australia and this track came off of his EP that he released. The song itself is pop with a very cool groove to it…and now that I think about it, it reminds me of Maroon 5’s “One More Night.” THAT’S probably why I’m addicted to it.
  • Jay-Z ft. Justin Timberlake, Holy Grail – Jay-Z & JT were just on a roll with their collaborations this year. With all the dynamics of the song, it probably shouldn’t have worked but it did. Justin sounds very melancholy starting off the song, then the hip-hop beat kicks in, with a little Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit” sample put in, all serving as a backdrop to lyrics about the fickleness of fame. It is all kinds of awesome.
  • Glee, Make You Feel My Love + If I Die Young – I stuck it out until the end of season 4 of the show and I promised myself I wasn’t going to watch the show again (except the early episodes when it was good). Then tragedy struck with Cory Monteith’s untimely death. I was like everybody else, I wanted to see how the show would deal with such tragedy in their family, so I watched their tribute episode to him and his character. The episode itself was so emotional and it’s a wonder how any of them coped with such a loss. The two songs, sung in the episode by Lea Michele and Naya Rivera respectively, were particularly poignant and wrought with emotion that the tears were out of control just hearing them sing these songs.
  • Kelly Clarkson, My Favorite Things – I usually don’t listen to a lot of Christmas music, especially early on in the season; I usually limit it to a week or two leading up to Christmas. This year, all that changed and it’s completely Kelly Clarkson’s fault because she released a holiday album and one of my favourite songs on that album was this one. I’ve also never been a huge The Sound of Music fan, but good lord I love how Kelly jazzed up this song.

MOVIES

*This list is obviously based only on movies that I’ve been able to see this year. There’s many more movies that I haven’t gotten around to seeing or are too new (i.e. those darn Oscar-bait/contenders that just got released but are on several critics’ Best Of lists for the year).

  • Now You See Me – Fantastic word-of-mouth over the summer made my expectations high for when I did actually get around to watching it. It was a fun caper thriller featuring magic. The tone of the movie reminded me a lot of Ocean’s Eleven (with a slightly smaller cast of course) and though it wasn’t a perfect movie, it was highly enjoyable. Plus, bonus points for an original screenplay that’s not a remake/sequel/adaptation.
  • Thor: The Dark World – Getting Alan Taylor, best known these days for being a frequent director on Game of Thrones, to go behind the camera for this movie was a wise decision. Not to knock Kenneth Branagh for his work on the first film, but with this movie, you could really feel the scope of Asgard and the other realms. Add to the fact that there seemed to be a lot more going on in this movie than the first, everything just felt better and fuller, as if pressure had been lifted from having to make everything work. Bonus for me was getting to see Zachary Levi taking over for Josh Dallas as Fandral. Again, nothing against Josh, I just love Zac and seeing him on the big screen put a huge smile on my face.
  • Prisoners – First of all, look at the poster and check out the actors billed: almost all Academy Award nominees and/or winners. Not gonna lie, that alone made me go “Whoa” when I first heard about the movie. Then the trailer looked incredibly intense. Then when I finally got a chance to watch the movie, I saw for myself what all the talk was about after it premiered at TIFF this year. It’s a crime thriller that definitely borrowed influences from a bunch of different movies and the end result was just as what the trailer suggested – intense. Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal put in incredible performances in this movie. I myself am so looking forward to attending the In Conversation With Jake Gyllenhaal and Denis Villeneuve (the director of this movie, as well as Enemy, another movie starring Gyllenhaal) at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in early January, and hopefully they’ll talk about this movie
  • Gravity – Whether or not it is technically accurate doesn’t matter. Sandra Bullock gave the performance of her career here, essentially carrying the movie on her own, except for brief moments with George Clooney. The movie was exceptional in 3D, as director Alfonso Cuaron made you feel as if you were in space with Bullock. Everything was just visually stunning.
  • Philomena – I talked about this movie in my TIFF wrap-up post already, but I have to say it again, I’m really glad I was given the chance to see it. It’s not the typical movie I’d be interested in, yet after I watched it I was just so impressed by it. The fact that Steve Coogan, known mostly as a comedic actor, co-wrote the heartwarming script based on a true story, was a very welcome surprise and you also get to see a side of Dame Judi Dench you don’t normally see.
  • The Spectacular Now – I had listed this as one of the movies I was looking forward to watching in August, and boy did it ever live up to the praise. On the surface it is a love story, when Sutter (Miles Teller) the popular kid in school falls for Aimee (Shailene Woodley) the quiet girl – sounds cliche doesn’t it? On a deeper level, it’s Sutter’s coming-of-age story – how his unexpected relationship with Aimee changes him, his relationships with his family and friends, and his outlook on life. What made this movie stand out is that it’s not the Hollywood view of teenage life; this feels real with the awkwardness of dating and the anxiety of life after high school.
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – One of my most anticipated movies of the year and it did not disappoint. To some, Catching Fire (both the movie and the book) can seem like a rehash of the first movie with another Games and it serving as the bridge to the third (and fourth, for the movies). It’s not completely wrong to think that way because it’s kind of true. However, you can’t deny all the character development that occurs as we’re being set up for Mockingjay. Director Francis Lawrence also proved to be a great choice to take over for Gary Ross, as he brings a different style to the film.
  • Fruitvale Station – This movie is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a young African-American man wrongly shot in a subway station in the Bay Area on New Year’s Day 2009. The film itself follows the final 24 hours of his life and shows him as a young man wanting to do right by his family, but has to contend with his past. Surprisingly, knowing what was going to happen didn’t make the fateful scene any less shocking because we just spent time getting to know him. It’s certainly a testament to writer-director Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B. Jordan for making us sympathize with Grant’s struggles in such a way that it still does shock us when the incident occurs.

TELEVISION (NEW SHOWS)

  • Orphan Black – I was one of the idiots who didn’t watch this show when it first aired. Despite reading tweets by entertainment writers telling me to watch it, I just didn’t know what it was; I may have also mixed it up with some other show in this brain of mine. Anyways, after getting proverbially hit over the head multiple times to watch this, I binge-watched it over one weekend and was immediately hooked after the first episode (hence the binge-watch). I mean it’s sort of a sci-fi show (it deals with clones after all!), but it also has all this character drama, a hint of a thriller, which also deals with psychological/sociological ideas. Plus, Tatiana Maslany! The girl plays SEVEN different characters with such ease, you forget that it’s just her. Also, being Canadian, I was so surprised to see that this is a Canadian made/set show. I know they say it’s a little ambiguous about where the show is set, but it’s fairly obvious it’s Toronto. The funny thing about all this is that at SDCC, my cousin was all about this show trying to get the autograph signing; she didn’t get it, but I ended up trying to take pictures of Tatiana, Dylan Bruce, and Jordan Gavaris for her during the signing, not realizing I was taking pictures of people I was about to obsess over! Now I can’t wait for my next Comic-Con (be it Toronto or San Diego) so I can try harder and meet these wonderful people!
  • Sleepy Hollow – A sort-of re-imagining of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, where Ichabod Crane wakes up in present day Sleepy Hollow to fight the Headless Horseman. Sounded awesome, with a dash of ridiculous, didn’t it? – which is kind of what it ended up being. It’s a show that ended up striking just the right balance of mythology, character, drama, action, supernatural, campy fun, and humour. Executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci definitely know something about that balance, having worked on Fringe, but Len Wiseman and Ken Olin also bring a lot to the table. And the cast – regulars Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie, Orlando Jones, Katia Winter; plus recurring stars Lyndie Greenwood, John Noble, John Cho – just make everything work.
  • Almost Human – I was so excited about this show when it got picked up at Upfronts back in May because it’s from J.H. Wyman, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk, the three people who were very much responsible for my beloved Fringe. Then I saw the pilot at SDCC, which re-affirmed my excitement. It’s a futuristic take on the typical procedural and that in itself just makes things more interesting because it’s a new realm of crime and technology. Add to that, the fact that this is like a buddy-cop drama, with Karl Urban’s damaged human, Kennex, being forced to team up with Michael Ealy’s emotional and wickedly awesome robot, Dorian.
  • Trophy Wife – The name has been an issue; a case you thought ABC might have learned from when they aired Cougar Town, a show that was also MUCH more than its name suggested. At times, you can have a hard time grasping how Bradley Whitford’s Pete ended up with either of his two ex-wives – the cold and stern Diane + the carefree Jackie – or his current younger wife, Kate. That suspension of disbelief aside, it’s a really funny and cute show. The dynamics between the adults, as well as the kids, are terrific. They’re all such characters that somehow work extremely well together. And yes, Albert Tsai’s Bert almost always steals the show whenever he shows up.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine – I mentioned in my fall check-in post how this cast works phenomenally well together. It was like a well-oiled machine, right from the get-go, and I count on them for my weekly laughs. I just need other people to also watch this show.

TELEVISION (RETURNING SHOWS)

  • Nikita – I’m going to keep this short. My favourite show/obsession just ended its run as one of the most underrated series in recent memory. I’m going to miss it SO MUCH.
  • Arrow – If there’s a show that just continually tries to outdo itself, this is it. Through the second half of the first season and going into the second, the writers just know no bounds. Particularly with this second season, where it seems like DC just let them go nuts with the universe and include whatever character they want. I think it’s a real testament to everyone involved with the show that they can make people like me, who don’t know the source material, still be excited about a character reveal. They’ve just done such a great job building their version of Starling City, plus Oliver’s world and relationships, that it’s very easy to get wrapped up in what’s going on.
  • The Mindy Project – Mindy is on a roll. This rom-com + workplace comedy is non-stop laughs, not just from the leads but also by the supporting characters. I don’t know what to say about it, except that more people need to be watching it! I mean where else are you going to see Chris Messina dancing to an Aaliyah song? (Seriously, watch it for yourself. It is hilariously awesome.)
  • Suits – I love this show. There’s some legal stuff that happens on the show but that’s not important. The important thing is the relationships that occur between the characters and how they seemingly riff-off each other. That, plus the pop culture references! In all seriousness though, this is a show that is the very definition of a dramedy – a drama series that infuses a lot of humour and heart. One of the best examples from this season is how they handled what seemed like a throwaway storyline involving Louis and a cat, and gave it the same depth and weight as any other legal case.

That’s it from me. Here’s hoping for the best in 2014!

56th Grammy Award Nominations

It’s once again that time of year – awards season is upon us and music’s big night just announced their nominations for the past year. Last year’s awards and nominations weren’t that great, coming off a slightly lackluster year (for this music fan anyways). But this year bounced back with some big albums (Justin Timberlake’s return!) and some big singles. So who was nominated this year?

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

  • Sara Bareilles, The Blessed Unrest
  • Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
  • Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist
  • Taylor Swift, Red

First of all, SARA BAREILLES GOT NOMINATED!!!! You have no idea how excited I got when I heard her name get called. I was literally jumping up and down, and I’m glad no one was around to see me with all my reactions to the nominations. All I kept thinking was “Finally! FINALLY! People recognize how talented she is!” The happiness was a little short-lived after I heard Taylor Swift’s name called, and realized that Justin Timberlake wasn’t nominated for The 20/20 Experience. Really? Best selling album of the year gets no nod? How does that even remotely make sense? Regardless, Sara’s album is the only one I’ve heard in full, so I’m obviously rooting for her, even though she’s the underdog. My bet’s on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis winning though, which is truly great considering they’re technically indie artists, self-releasing their album (re: not through a big label).

RECORD OF THE YEAR

  • Daft Punk & Pharrell, Get Lucky
  • Imagine Dragons, Radioactive
  • Lorde, Royals
  • Bruno Mars, Locked Out of Heaven
  • Robin Thicke ft. T.I. & Pharrell, Blurred Lines

The only surprise from these nominations is that Justin Timberlake wasn’t nominated for “Mirrors.” I know I’m a JT fan, so I’m a little biased, but come on, “Mirrors” deserved to be nominated. All these songs, admittedly, were some of the biggest songs of the year. Actually, now that I’m looking at the list again, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis weren’t nominated either, which is interesting to me – I would’ve thought “Can’t Hold Us” would be nominated. Considering he was performing, I figured Robin Thicke would be nominated for something, but I have to admit I’m still a little surprised that he was nominated. With all the controversy associated with “Blurred Lines” (the song, the video, the MTV VMA performance…), I foolishly thought it wouldn’t get nominated. I think ideally, I’d want Lorde to win (lies, I’d still want JT to win even though he’s not even nominated), but I’d be okay with any of the other ones (except maybe “Blurred Lines”).

SONG OF THE YEAR

  • Pink ft. Nate Ruess, Just Give Me A Reason
  • Bruno Mars, Locked Out of Heaven
  • Katy Perry, Roar
  • Lorde, Royals
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Same Love

On here, it’s the third category. On the Grammy Nominations Live! concert, it was announced first, so as soon as I heard Katy Perry get nominated for “Roar” I was very upset. I kind of figured that with how this stupid world works, “Roar” was going to get nominated and Sara Bareilles’ “Brave” wasn’t (the fact that Sara got nominated for Album of the Year later on made me feel better). Not only did I get upset that “Roar” got nominated, but I also got angry real fast over the JT snub. Again, JT fan, I’m biased, whatever. To repeat, this was the first category to be announced, so seeing how JT was snubbed already, did not bode well for me for the rest of the telecast. Now if I had to choose who would win, I might go with “Same Love” because it has a great message, and this award is technically handed out to the writers of the song, so to have this song be filled with so much meaning might actually give it an edge. That’s not to say the other songs are void of meaning because that’s not true. It’s just that “Same Love” has that strong message that differentiates it from the rest.

BEST NEW ARTIST

  • James Blake
  • Kendrick Lamar
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Ed Sheeran

I definitely expected Macklemore & Ryan Lewis to be nominated, and kind of figured Kacey Musgraves and Kendrick Lamar would get nods as well. James Blake is a name I’ve read but have never listened to any of his songs, so he’s the only question mark for me. Interestingly enough, I wasn’t expecting Ed Sheeran to be nominated because I expected it to happen last year. I know per Grammy rules, if you’re a “new artist” nominated for any award the previous year and you don’t win, you are still eligible for Best New Artist in the current year. With how big “The A-Team” was last year, and with it being nominated for Song of the Year last year, I thought he was going to be nominated in this category LAST YEAR. I was ultimately disappointed when he wasn’t, but now that he is, it just seems weird. So now this year, I’m completely disappointed that Lorde wasn’t nominated in this category, because I legitimately thought she was a lock to be nominated. If she doesn’t win in any of the other categories in which she’s nominated, that means she’s nominated by default in this category next year, right? When it comes down to it, it’s a toss-up between Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Ed Sheeran. It’s been a long time since a rap act has won Best New Artist, so this might be the year things change. We’ll have to see.

BEST POP SOLO PERFORMANCE

  • Sara Bareilles, Brave
  • Lorde, Royals
  • Bruno Mars, When I Was Your Man
  • Katy Perry, Roar
  • Justin Timberlake, Mirrors

I had said prior to the nominations that it would be hilarious if both “Brave” and “Roar” were nominated in this category. And would you look at that? They both are! If it was just those two songs nominated, I would choose “Brave” in a heartbeat but there are other people nominated, one of them being Justin Timberlake for “Mirrors.” Clearly, JT is my pick to win.

BEST POP DUO/GROUP PERFORMANCE

  • Daft Punk & Pharrell, Get Lucky
  • Pink ft. Nate Ruess, Just Give Me A Reason
  • Rihanna ft. Mikky Ekko, Stay
  • Robin Thicke ft. T.I. & Pharrell, Blurred Lines
  • Justin Timberlake ft. Jay Z, Suit & Tie

Most years, the Grammy’s can stretch their definition of pop music, but this year was pretty on point. I personally would’ve put “Stay” under R&B and “Get Lucky” in the Dance category; not a huge deal that they’re in the Pop category though. “Suit & Tie” for the win.

BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM

  • Lana Del Rey, Paradise
  • Lorde, Pure Heroine
  • Bruno Mars, Unorthodox Jukebox
  • Robin Thicke, Blurred Lines
  • Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience – The Complete Experience

With Justin releasing two albums within the eligibility period and how the label packaged the albums, particularly when the second album came out, I figured that the two albums would be submitted as one for consideration. Being that it is 21 songs of awesomeness, of course I’m going with JT for the win. Interesting takeaway: none of these albums are nominated for Album of the Year, but Sara Bareilles’ album, which should’ve been included here, is nominated for the big prize.

BEST TRADITIONAL POP ALBUM

  • Tony Bennett & Various Artists, Viva Duets
  • Michael Buble, To Be Loved
  • Gloria Estefan, The Standards
  • Cee Lo Green, Cee Lo’s Magic Moment
  • Dionne Warwick, Now

I normally don’t pay attention to this category, but for one thing, Michael Buble is nominated (yay Canadian! And also, the only album of the bunch I’ve listened to). Secondly, I got caught completely off guard by seeing Cee Lo Green being nominated here. A quick Google search reminded me that this was his Christmas album.

BEST R&B SONG

  • Anthony Hamilton, Best of Me
  • Tamar Braxton, Love and War
  • PJ Morton ft. Stevie Wonder, Only One
  • Justin Timberlake, Pusher Love Girl
  • Fantasia ft. Kelly Rowland & Missy Elliot, Without You

There’s also a category called Best R&B Performance, which should not be confusing at all. Like the difference between Record & Song of the Year, the Best Song is awarded to the songwriters, but to make it easier, I list who is singing the song. I didn’t expect Justin to get nominated for “Pusher Love Girl,” let alone in this category, so I am extremely happy about it. But I am also so incredibly happy to see PJ Morton nominated for his wonderfully sweet song “Only One.” PJ, for those who don’t know, is currently playing with Maroon 5 on piano/keys and back-up vocals; he’s such an amazing talent and I love his album.

BEST SONG WRITTEN FOR VISUAL MEDIA

  • Coldplay, Atlas (from Catching Fire)
  • Jessie J, Silver Lining (from Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Adele, Skyfall (from Skyfall)
  • Colbie Caillat & Gavin DeGraw, We Both Know (from Safe Haven)
  • Lana Del Rey, Young & Beautiful (from The Great Gatsby)
  • Regina Spektor, You’ve Got Time (from Orange Is The New Black)

It’s an interesting list of nominees and though I’m excited for Colbie & Gavin’s nomination, let’s be real – Adele is totally taking this.

Some other quick thoughts:

  • Jay Z’s “Holy Grail” featuring Justin Timberlake is nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song. In the Best Rap Song category however, they are nominated against Drake’s “Started From the Bottom” and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop.” I think Jay Z & JT will take Rap/Sung, but lose to Macklemore in Rap Song.
  • Kelly Clarkson is nominated with Vince Gill for their song “Don’t Rush” in the Best Country Duo/Group Performance. I’m not usually big on country, but it’s Kelly, so I’m obviously rooting for her.
  • I’m not sure how Taylor Swift’s Red qualifies as country, but she’s still nominated for Best Country Album.
  • There’s no way Pharrell loses Producer of the Year (Non-Classical), right? Such a great year for him.
  • Justin Timberlake & Jay Z’s video for “Suit & Tie,” directed by the awesome David Fincher, is nominated for Best Music Video.

At the end of the day, Jay Z leads all nominations with 9. Justin Timberlake ended up with 7 nods, the number I thought he would end up with, but I thought he was going to get nominations in the big 3 (which instead means he SHOULD’VE ended up with 10 nominations). Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Pharrell also have 7 nominations. Any surprises? Shocking snubs?

The 56th Annual Grammy Awards air January 26th, 2014 on CBS and CityTV in Canada.

When Songs Sound Similar to One Another

I woke up yesterday morning to my local radio station promoting the fact that they’d be playing the new Katy Perry song Roar every hour, so no one would miss it. A few minutes later, they played the song, and as soon as it started, I started thinking to myself “Why does this sound familiar?” Once the chorus of Roar kicked in, I found myself singing instead “Say what you wanna say and the let the words fall out/ Honestly, I wanna see you be brave” It turned out that Katy Perry’s new song sounded eerily similar to Sara Bareilles’ Brave. I’m not the only one who noticed, since in no time at all, others made the connection. Responses to the similarities ranged from:

  • Brave >>>>> Roar (I’m part of the group who shares this opinion)
  • The similarities are minor/ I don’t see the fuss/ Can’t they just co-exist?
  • They’re two totally different songs!

What’s funny is that both songs were written by different people, who just happened to be on the same wavelength and decided to write songs that ended up being quite similar to one another. Problem is, Sara’s song has been out since April. And compared to Katy, Sara is a minor artist, so while radio stations are rushing to put Roar on repeat, Brave hasn’t been heard as much (here on Canadian radio anyways) and now is only recognized because of this “controversy.”

 

Anyways, all this talk about these two songs sounding similar to one another got me thinking about past examples, and one of my favourite memories from college. See, two of my friends and I were studying/doing homework for the one class we had together, and somehow we started talking about music (clearly not studying). At the time, Chris Brown had a song out called With You. My friend Chris and I talked about the merits of the song, and it came up that it was pretty much Beyonce’s Irreplaceable, Part 2. Our friend Ian never made the connection before and so we made him REALLY listen to With You. Within seconds, he started singing “To the left, to the left” over top of the Chris Brown song, and his look of realization was the equivalent to the How I Met Your Mother “glass shattering” when they realized each others’ annoying habits. It was kind of hilarious. Then we started going with other songs that sounded similar or had similar elements: Rihanna & Ne-Yo’s Hate That I Love You and Ne-Yo’s Sexy Love; Leona Lewis’ Angel and Jordin Sparks’ Tattoo, to name a few.

 

Also, who could forget the controversy that occurred when Beyonce released Halo and Kelly Clarkson released Already Gone. Kelly Clarkson doesn’t take s**t from anybody, so when she has an opinion about something, girl let’s it be known – and she was none too pleased with Ryan Tedder, who produced both songs. As far as releasing the songs as a single, Beyonce was first, but in the production of the song, Kelly’s was first. For me, this was the beginning of when I started to not like Tedder as much. His songs started having an element about them that sounded the same.

 

Any other songs out there, released at relatively the same time, that sound alike? Songs that sample other songs are an entirely different story. I’m talking two seemingly different songs that share similar qualities.

Pop Cultured Summer 2013 – July

Summer is usually a time reserved for sunshine, beaches, and vacations. For pop culture fans like me, it may mean the end of my regularly scheduled TV programming but the start of a batch of other summertime shows. It also means the air-conditioned movie theaters are filled with the latest blockbusters, and live music abounds at stadiums/arenas/amphitheaters everywhere. So as we continue on with what summer brings us, here’s what I’m looking forward to this month. (Also, Happy Canada Day!)

JULY

I can’t wait for what’s in store in July!! And funny thing is a lot of the things I’m looking forward to all happen within the same week. On July 16th, two of my favourite summer shows are back for their new seasons – Suits and Covert Affairs. Both shows are coming back from their respective game-changing finales that involved revelations and new relationships being made. July 14th marks the return of The Newsroom, the Aaron Sorkin drama that divided critics and audiences alike. Personally, I enjoyed the show last season and though there were some flaws, I found it nice to have some intelligent drama. We also get to enjoy the series premieres of two other shows – The Bridge, starring Diane Kruger and Demian Bachir as two police detectives working together to solve a series of murders plaguing the Texas/Mexico border; and Camp, which stars Rachel Griffiths as the head of a summer camp and the antics that abound (both premiere on July 10th).

Also on July 16th, Sara Bareilles releases her third album, The Blessed Unrest, while Matt Nathanson releases his latest, Last of the Great Pretenders. One of my favourite artists coming out of The Voice is season 2’s Tony Lucca, who having been signed to his coach Adam Levine’s 222 Records is finally releasing an EP (I know ‘finally’ gives off the sense that it’s been a really long time, though in reality it’s only been a year since season 2 aired – not going to lie I’m already starting to feel a little bit of Voice fatigue from this 2 seasons a year thing). On the concert front, I know I’ve mentioned it before but it needs to be said again – the Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z, Legends of the Summer tour kicks off in Toronto on July 17th!!! I changed/modified my travel plans for this concert, because simply put, it’s going to be AWESOME!

On the movie side of things, there aren’t a lot of “big movies” that I’m excited about. There’s Despicable Me 2 (I’ll be honest, I can’t say Despicable Me without saying “IT’S SO FLUFFY!!!”); R.I.P.D, which stars Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges as two cops protecting the living from the dead, seems interesting; and surprisingly, I’m only a little bit excited for The Wolverine, the latest movie starring Hugh Jackman’s X-Men character. The movies that I’m really interested in this month are the smaller movies. The Way, Way Back is a coming-of-age story brought to us by the Oscar-winning screenwriters of The Descendants, Nat Faxon (aka Ben Fox of the late FOX TV series, Ben and Kate) and Jim Rash (aka Dean Pelton of Community). I heard great things about Fruitvale Station, after it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival; it’s the true story of Oscar Grant, and follows his last day before he was tragically shot at the Fruitvale subway stop in the Bay Area. The other movie I’m interested in is The To Do List, which is simply due to the cast involved – Aubrey Plaza, Rachel Bilson, Scott Porter, Donald Glover, Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, Connie Britton, and Clark Gregg.

The pinnacle of July, and what ultimately got affected by JT & Jay-Z announcing their show on July 17th, is my first-time at San Diego Comic-Con! As a pop culture fan, I have spent so many years reading all the news coming out of SDCC, whether it be movie announcements or just some cool stuff having to do with my favourite TV shows, and wishing I was there taking it all in. Well this year, it’s happening! I will be getting my nerd on (no cosplay, I’m not THAT much of a nerd), hopefully getting to see some of my favourite actors/actresses, and experiencing all the craziness that is SDCC. Will I camp out for the infamous Hall H or Ballroom 20? TBD. News has been slowly trickling out as to what shows and movies will be having panels at the Con, prior to the official schedule release on July 4th, but there are some confirmations that have got me excited: new shows Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (yeah, me and everybody else is excited for this), Sleepy Hollow, and Almost Human; How I Met Your Mother (random, I know, but I still love this show damn it!), Grimm, Arrow and Nikita. The announcement of the Nikita panel is obviously bittersweet – I’m so excited to see pretty much the entire cast (Lyndie Greenwood, who plays Sonya, was the only one not listed in the press release) but it’s a reminder that it’s for the final season. [On another note, how sad is it going to be that I would have to fly out to San Diego to meet the cast, who film the show in Toronto?!] And as part of the SDCC celebrations, I’m so excited for NERDHQ, the nerd gathering run by Zac Levi and The Nerd Machine! Because it is my first time at SDCC, my objective is obviously to have lots of fun and trying to do everything I REALLY want to do/see, but I will try to make note of my experiences and blog about it here.

Pop Cultured Summer 2013 – May/June

Summer is usually a time reserved for sunshine, beaches, and vacations. For pop culture fans like me, it may mean the end of my regularly scheduled TV programming but the start of a batch of other summertime shows. It also means the air-conditioned movie theaters are filled with the latest blockbusters, and live music abounds at stadiums/arenas/amphitheaters everywhere. Summer may be well underway, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go back and talk about what’s interested me the past couple months (also, wanted to get this out before posting next month’s).

MAY

Before going forward, I figured I should go back ever so slightly. The month of May is typically known as the start of the summer movie season, and as has occurred for several years now, it started with a superhero movie. This year, we got the beginning of Marvel’s Phase Two with the release of Iron Man 3. A couple weeks later saw the Star Trek sequel, Into Darkness. I had time to go see both of those, but another movie that got released at the end of the month, that I still have yet to see is Now You See Me – I mean, magic caper thriller, an original story (meaning non-sequel/reboot/etc.) and an awesome cast to boot? What more can you ask for?

Concert-going is a big deal to me and my summer concerts actually started at the end of April, when I got the chance to see Sara Bareilles on her Brave Enough solo tour. The first time I actually saw Sara in concert was when she opened for Maroon 5 on their It Won’t Be Soon Before Long tour, and it was at that show that I got to meet her. It’s been such a long time since I had seen her live that I almost forgot how great she is, and with this tour being just her performing, it was such a great reminder. A week later, I went to check out Tyler Hilton, Teddy Geiger, and Ryan Cabrera on their joint tour and that was kind of a cool show to check out, because they actually came out during each other’s sets to play a song or two together.

On the TV front, May meant only one thing to me: the beginning of a new season of So You Think You Can Dance!! Regardless of how I felt about last season’s vast amount of changes, I love this show so much.

JUNE

Though it can sometimes be difficult to follow the cable shows, being from Canada and all, but it is those shows that make up most of my summer. One of the shows that I was really looking forward to seeing was Jeff Eastin’s (creator of White Collar) new show Graceland, starring Aaron Tveit and Daniel Sunjata, as two of the five undercover agents living under the same roof. Lucky for me though is that Bravo Canada is simulcasting the show on Thursday nights. The sixth season of True Blood recently premiered and I must admit that was only slightly excited about it. The show has had its ups and downs, with last season being not very good, so I was a little bit unsure as to whether I would want to keep watching. Under the Dome, based on the Stephen King novel about a town that mysteriously gets trapped under a dome, is one of the first shows by the major broadcast networks to adopt a cable-style season structure (that is, 13-episodes as opposed to a full 22). The final season of Dexter premieres June 30th, and though the show had a rough couple of seasons, it was back to form last season after Deb found out about Dex, and now we’re waiting to see how it all ends. Following Dexter is the series premiere of Ray Donovon starring Liev Schrieber as an L.A. professional fixer (think Scandal without the politics of DC, and the glitz of Hollywood).

Continuing on with the movie season is the recently released Man of Steel, the latest reboot in the Superman franchise. Coming from director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) and producer Christopher Nolan (do I really need to say the Dark Knight trilogy?), the movie sets Superman/Clark Kent firmly rooted in reality. This year’s big Pixar movie for the kids and the kids at heart is Monsters University, a prequel to their hit Monsters Inc. (so sadly, there will be no Boo in this one). Seth Rogen assembles an all-star comedy cast including Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, James Franco, and Craig Robinson among others for the end of the world comedy This Is The End, which also features many other celebs playing themselves (albeit a very comedic, some say deranged versions of themselves). A few years ago there was a big story about teens who stole millions from the homes of Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson, and Orlando Bloom, among others – flashforward to now where director Sofia Coppola brings the story to light in The Bling Ring, starring Emma Watson. A slight twist to the typical buddy-cop comedy is The Heat, which brings together Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.

One of the things that I was really excited about this month was seeing Shaping Sound when they came through Toronto on their tour. Shaping Sound, for those who don’t know, is a dance company founded by SYTYCD alums Travis Wall and Nick Lazzarini, along with Teddy Forance and Kyle Robinson. The company is filled with so many fantastic dancers (including other SYTYCD alums Jaimie Goodwin, Alexa Anderson, Channing Cooke, Noelle Marsh) and the show itself was just phenomenal! Amazing dancing all around and I only wish I could see it again.