Posts Tagged ‘Lady Gaga’

A Star Is Born (2018)

April 22, 2019

I used to really love to sing when I was much younger. Although, “used to” is not exactly an accurate term to use here. I still love to sing but mostly on my own in my car or in the shower just because the music I am listening to moves me. Sometimes I will sing from memory when I am nervous or high strung. But I used to sing in front of people. For years I was in the chorus at school and I only slightly let the fact that I was placed in with the sopranos bother me. I was the only guy in the soprano section but I just soldiered on. Nobody teased me but ingrained gender bias is a difficult psychological obstacle for a young boy. Later, I joined the church choir and I was tentatively put in with the baritones. In order to secure that position, I started purposefully singing an octave lower so I was not moved to sing with the girls. Finally, the director had it and told me if I was not going to sing correctly, I should not sing. She told me this at a performance at a senior center. During the performance, I just stood there with my mouth closed. That was my last day in the church choir.

Still, even if I had soured on singing in a group, I still sometimes toyed with the idea of public singing. Now, I have not really ever told anybody this before but at some point, I had fantasies of being a singer for a rock band. I really love the energy and rhythm of rock and roll and I often cannot help but sing along to it. Now, I entertained these fantasies knowing full well that I do not have an amazing voice or the inclination to practice that skill. I also had (have) crippling stage fright that would have made being the frontman of a band either impossible or incredibly unenjoyable. Even so, I would listen to my albums and close my eyes and sing along. The only thing encouraging me is the observation that went around my childhood home since I can remember. I believe it was my mother who pointed out that there were a lot of rock and roll singers who did not have the best voices or trained musical talent. What made them great was that they poured their entire heart into singing and succeeded from pure charm and energy. It was encouraging at the time but I am happy where I ended up.

A quick note here: I have not seen the other versions of this movie yet so I have nothing to compare this movie to. Of course, the point of this movie is the music. From the jump, I loved the bluesy rock and country that Bradley Cooper plays. I am a sucker for riffing guitars and chugging bass and he does a good job of that performance I was talking about above. He might not be the most polished but he is putting his whole heart into the performance. In other scenes, he gives more of a refined performance so that you really believe that he is a professional musician. Lady Gaga is, of course, a great singer. She is a proven commodity in the recording industry and her growth from her beginnings really shows here. She sings big musical show numbers and intimate ballads with the same talent. She also sings some songs in her usual pop style. Her rendition of La Vie En Rose (a personal favorite song of mine) was especially mindblowing. There is definitely a gap in their talent levels but it was not nearly as wide as I thought it would be. In addition, all of the music is sung live which definitely gives it more of a dynamic and energetic feel. The music is co-written by Willie Nelson’s son Lukas Nelson.

I was completely surprised at how good of an actress Lady Gaga was. I had seen a bit of her in American Horror Story: Hotel but she spent much of the time looking gorgeous and aloof. Granted, I did not see a whole lot but she did not get much of a chance to really act. She immediately impressed me in this. She definitely proved to me (and obviously audiences and professional critics) that she has what it takes to play in the big leagues of Hollywood. Bradley Cooper has grown as an actor and he continues to be able to transform himself in each role. In some of my favorite movies, he is a gay man, a space raccoon, and an FBI agent. In this movie, he plays a character that I am very familiar with. He is a troubled asshole who is super charismatic. Sam Elliott is, of course, a great actor as well. He is great at playing that gruff, grumpy guy you cannot help but like. There were also surprising performances from Greg Grunberg, Dave Chapelle, and Andrew Dice Clay of all people.

Overall, I thought this was a really good movie. These sorts of dramas are not really my cup of tea but everybody puts in endearing performances. While it is not a happy movie, it is a movie about seeking hope and redemption. When you are dealing with alcoholics and addicts, hope and redemption are rare. You do not always get a happy ending but they are definitely worth fighting for. This is not a happy movie but it is definitely a ride worth taking. There is also a fantastic soundtrack full of some great songs. The genres of country, rock, and pop are all well-represented. If nothing else, check out the soundtrack for a total of 19 songs.

My Music Collection 4

November 11, 2014

“Pop Music”


A mantra that I’ve had lately is “There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure” which I got from somewhere on the internet.  Though I guess I would alter it to “There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure (within reason)”.  The term guilty pleasure is used by people as an out so they can like something that society has decided they shouldn’t.  A housewife might state that Soap Operas are there guilty pleasure.  No, that’s not your “guilty pleasure”.  That is your pleasure.  If you enjoy something, don’t be guilty about it.  There’s plenty of stuff that I love that I used to feel weird about liking.  Then I would admit that I liked them “ironically” but that wasn’t true either.

When I worked for a political campaign in the summer of 2011, I spent a lot of days working outside in the hot sun putting up huge 4X8 foot political signs.  The work was difficult and everyday I would feel horrible, probably bordering on heat exhaustion no matter how much water and Gatorade I drank.  We drove around in a giant black pick up truck with the candidate’s name plastered all over it.  So what do you do when you’re riding around in a pick up truck and trying to psych yourself up to jump back into the heat for physical labor?  Listen to music.  What music did we up listening to the most?  Top 40 pop music.  Here I am, fan of rock and metal and we’re singing along to the radio playing Top 40 hits.

I happen to like a lot of pop music because most of it has a fast, energizing beat and and the lyrics and tone are upbeat.  When I’m angry or psyching myself up I like to listen to heavy metal.  When I’m sad or tired I like to listen to friggin’ Katy Perry.  So here’s a short list of some of the bubblegum in my collection

Katy Perry (ft. Juicy J) – Dark Horse

Really I like practically any Katy Perry song but this is my favorite.  She has a clear, innocent voice infused with energy.  I first heard her during that fateful summer when she came out with California Gurls which was so infectious that I couldn’t help but love it.  Eventually she had me singing along and had made a fan for life.  Her music is supremely confident and a lot of it speaks to being confident in your own life.  I’m not reading too much into her songs either.  Listen to Firework or Roar sometime and tell me she isn’t about positive self-image.

Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe

Teenage me would kick my ass for including this song on the list.  When I was a teenager, loving anything mainstream was an automatic Judge Dredd-style death sentence.  I clung to the old school classic rock, metal and even classical music rather than listen to whatever everybody else was listening to.  This song is bouncy and fun and playful and it’s actually fun to sing along to.  Screw you, Past!Steven.  You were a fool.

Selena Gomez & The Scene – Naturally

This song actually helped get me through some tough Depression alone in West Virginia as I tried to come down from a few horrible weeks at work.  The song has a driving beat and by the end of the weekend I knew the lyrics of this one.   For an ex-Disney star, Selena Gomez has a pretty put together act (even if she is dating the worst thing to happen to music in a while).  Like most pop acts, her stuff is heavily produced but comes with a driving, upbeat energy that feels honest.  It may not be, it may be wholly manufactured but, again, who cares?

Ke$ha – Blow

Early on after Ke$ha first appeared on the scene I heard a lot of people trying to downplay her or discount her music because of perceived sexual promiscuity.  All of that is just flowery language for her looking and acting like a skank.  I don’t care.  No matter how much she is responsible for her music, it is fun and super upbeat.  I like pretty much all of her songs but I especially love Blow because it practically talks about an underground rave revolution movement.

Britney Spears (ft. Nicki Minaj & Ke$ha) – Till The World Ends (remix)

I honestly think that Britney Spears didn’t really get good until after her breakdown and comeback.  I don’t know if I’m seeing things but there’s a darker edge to her music and more transparency and less playfulness.  In her early career it seemed she was trading on the whole school girl thing and skirting around sex but now that she’s older she can be honest and straight to the point.  Anyway, I like her music.  It’s heavily produced and auto-tuned but who cares as long as I like it.  I respect it as a former audio engineer.  Anyway, this one is my favorite because of the combination with awesome rapper Nicki Minaj and Ke$ha.

Lady Gaga (ft. Beyonce) – Telephone

Like Ke$ha, Lady Gaga seems to live in her own reality. However, unlike the Rave Revolution Universe that Ke$ha lives in, Lady Gaga lives in a weird world where art school continues into the real world.  Being weird and quirky is a driving force and nobody is better at it than Lady Gaga.  I remember Telephone in particular as being the gateway into being a Lady Gaga fan.  The music video was very controversial at the time so I decided to check it out.  The music video is not really all that controversial at all but it is definitely weird.  Behind or beyond all of that weirdness, the music is really good.

Miley Cyrus – Party in the USA

Miley Cyrus is acting on a similar impulse as Lady Gaga.  I don’t know if she’s more subtle about it or less subtle but people actually believed that she had lost her mind more recently.  The more I think of it, the less I think she actually lost anything.  She gained a level in performance is all.  She decided that the best way to get her brand out was to completely change her image.  As far as I’m concerned she succeeded and her music advanced in the process.  Party in the USA is the song that even people who don’t like her might admit liking but I think some of her new stuff is actually pretty interesting as well.  It’s obviously not just me, her records are selling.

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