If my memory serves me correctly, TV Guide and/or People magazine used to have a feature series called "The Best Show You're Not Watching." Of course, it was to draw attention to exceptional programs that somehow went under the public's radar. If those plugs existed today, primetime drama Nashville would certainly fit the profile. It had critical acclaim, prestigious award nominations and successful off-shooting music/tours, but it was beleaguered by lukewarm ratings and various production obstacles. Premiering in 2012, its highest overall ranking by 2016 was 54. After consecutive years "on the bubble," it was cancelled by its originating network, ABC. It's evidently niche, but fervent "Nashie" fandom pounded the digital pavement with #BringBackNashville, until the fitting CMT came to the rescue with a pick-up. It still wasn't all quiet on the western front, though. Leading lady Connie Britton would get out of Dodge, and CMT eventually opted to axe the serial in a move from scripted broadcasts (sorry for the cheesy western sayings; I couldn't help myself). When Nashville's sixth and final season concludes this month, it will likely be to little hoorah. It's anyone's guess if it will be mentioned years from now. Maybe when Hayden Panettiere (its other prima donna) does a string of blockbusters, or Lennon Stella becomes a household name (if you don't know her yet, you will), it will finally get the interest it deserved. People can print their first "Shows We Should've Watched" piece. For now, it's up to the Nashies and I to light the candles and bid our show proper adieu.
I remember the pilot trailer like it was yesterday: seasoned country diva Rayna Jaymes (Britton) has to play industry chess to keep from being put to pasture by the latest "it" girl, Juliette Barnes (Panettiere). Political scandal, and messy familial and romantic entanglements are around the corner. The music nerd, soap-opera lover and Panettiere fan-girl in me was sold; you didn't have to tell me twice to tune in. The press swore it was a parallel to Reba McEntire and Taylor Swift; that still makes me laugh hysterically. They weren't going off anything but the stars' hair color. The vehicle was a better version of Empire (2015), before there was such a thing (ironically, Empire supporting actress Kaitlin Doubleday would join the cast in season five).The narratives were more evenly paced, grounded and detailed, including the business commentary (I especially appreciated the annotations on sexism). As for the weekly soundtrack? Oh my goodness, it was infinitely superior (beneath my commentary is a list of my favorite songs). First-rate production and thoughtful lyricism prevented it from sounding 'made for television.' The pulse of "Music City" authentically beat through, as the content was crafted by local talent (it was sung by the cast). With storytelling being country's supreme trait, the songs exquisitely accented the layered plot lines and characters. Let's delve into all of it, shall we?
Of Nashville's fictional figures, Juliette, Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten) and Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson) are my top three loves.
Juliette is completely intoxicating, with her sass, irrepressibility and how much of a living train-wreck she can be. Dissecting the complexities of her psyche can become an obsessive compulsion. She's a great example of what meets the eye isn't always the whole story. On the surface, she's a destructive narcissist, but it's not that simple. Having to survive successive traumas (ex. a manipulative mother who struggled with substance abuse, sexually predatory record executives) she developed a self-loathing and maladaptive preservation skills. She doesn't know how to identify or treat something of value (ex. her career, her caring husband) because she's hardly had that. Between her history and many nagging naysayers, you want to see her win (especially because her gloating victory laps are a thing of beauty). Roles like this can be difficult to write for. The question of how to evolve them without making them a 'bore' gets raised. A natural, built-in transition was available for Juliette, but the writers still strangely lost her in seasons five and six. She had post-partum depression, went to rehab, was inadvertently involved in her manager's death (i.e. Jeff Fordham) and was in a plane crash by the end of season four. Recovering from these events (ex. therapy, healing, PTSD, relapse) to come out a better person would've lasted to now. Instead, they had her accusing people of man-stealing, snatching songs from teenagers and accidentally joining a cult. Further, her background was unnecessarily revised to incorporate her mother, Jolene, allowing someone to rape her for money. This nullified the resolve brought by Jolene's sacrificial suicide, after she murdered Juliette's extortionist. The main 'JB' scenario I hated during the ABC run was her sleeping with Jeff. He did everything he could to control/destroy her career, and said she was "trailer trash covered in rhinestones." She'd fight someone like him tooth and nail. She'd never let him in her pants; it wasn't true to the character.
Deacon was the other tortured soul on canvas. He too sprouted from a hard knock life, and inherited his abusive father's battle with the bottle. It hindered his career and "love for the ages" relationship with Rayna for many years. Often, alcoholics are diabolized in media and their afflictions are depicted as choice-based. Much like the persona of Jack Pearson on NBC's This is Us, the portrayal of Deacon Claybourne humanized the addict. It showed crapulence for the ruling illness it is, and how it has a life of its own. To do this, clear division was made between Deacon and his demons. Inherently, he's a gentle and benevolent spirit you can't help but be enamored with. When alcoholism pulls him out of body, he's frigid and tempestuous. The tangibility of his duality is substantially in credit to Esten. His elegant, intricate and arresting work takes you inside each of his alter-ego's emotions. Him shedding a single tear will leave you bawling on the floor. I particularly enjoyed his channeling through his eyes and voice. Those piercing baby blues can be steely, just as easily as they can make you feel overcome with serenity. His vocal cadence is sonorous in a moment of decisiveness or seduction. It's swinging in a congenial exchange, hoarse and howling at a breaking point. Esten's performances are so gripping, you wonder where he's been this whole time. I tell ya', he's Hollywood's best kept secret.
Likes: Maria, Sick of Sittin', Twice, Unless It's with You
Overall: Veers from intriguing to mediocre, but hints at future artistic revitalization
These days, the average artist drops a new album every two years. This doesn't leave much room for creative growth and contemplation, especially if one is touring and promoting the entire period between. The general end result is an array of rushed and undercooked projects that won't have a lasting impact. In that respect, Christina Aguilera is one of many acts who benefitted from starting a career in the late 1990's and early 2000's. Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, it was standard for releases to be 3-4 years apart. The one occasion Aguilera deviated from this, the easily forgettable Lotus (2012) came. Now, after exceeding her usual interval by almost double, she's returned with Liberation. However, it doesn't sound like a lengthy hiatus made much of a difference this turn. When you listen to it, you may ask, "This is all after six years?"
Liberation's packaging and opening numbers make promises it can't keep. A bare-faced, wet-haired Aguilera dons the cover. The lead track is a brief, but breathtaking piano and strings instrumental. Our star chanteuse calls, "Where are you? Are you there? Remember?," as a baby laughs in the background. This segues into "Searching for Maria," an interlude where Aguilera wistfully sings the eponymous tune from The Sound of Music (a favorite of hers). Her voice echoes through to "Maria," which samples the ever-haunting 1972 Michael Jackson song of the same title. Jackson's distressed pleas to a love lost lay the stage for her to discuss losing herself. The repeat mentions of Maria are a reference to her middle name; it's how she chooses to represent her once unsullied spirit. She bewails "How was I supposed to know that it would cost my soul? And how am I supposed to face this lonely life I've created?...Was too young to know the difference...I believe my own lies...I'm facing the mirror...Why don't I see her? I just need to see ya', Maria...Don't you keep on runnin' from me." It's a very compelling first six minutes. You're prepared and eager to learn more about her feelings of displacement. Are they personally or professionally based, or both? What is she 'liberating' herself from? Will the album's conclusion be a cliffhanger, or will it reveal that she found Maria? None of these questions are answered to a significant extent. None. It's like being all packed up and ready to go to Disneyland, but your dad never arrives to pick you up.
The rock/soul, Woodstock-ish "Sick of Sittin'" implies her exasperation with an industry driven by money versus art, but the active word here is "implies." What it puts forth would be sufficient if its allusions were expounded on in future songs, but alas, they are not. Next is "Dreamers," a prelude to the single "Fall in Line" with Demi Lovato. Little girls tell what they want to be when they grow up, and assert a resolute position of strength. The duet insists to young ones they don't have to live within rigid, gender-biased paradigms. Though it has a valuable message, it isn't distinctly personal. It's also not very enthralling, despite it being dispensed by two powerhouses known for their emotive performances.
Overall: The sleepy, monotonous production drags the whole project down
I wish I could say the most disappointing thing about Toni Braxton's newest release (and first on Def Jam Recordings), Sex & Cigarettes, is that it's a very short, 8-track EP. Rather, I say with regret that I stand relieved at its brevity. It's damning liability is its narcoleptic music. Bare-bone arrangements that rely on acoustic guitars, strings and/or piano have their purpose. They're soothing and are a welcomed alternative to heavy rhythms, effects and other production clutter. The minimalism often helps in playing up emotion and creating the perception of intimacy. However, a little adornment is still needed to prevent a 'bare-bones' piece from being a snooze. There are no musical upsurges, noteworthy vocal moments or particularly etching lyrics to awaken the compositions on Braxton's album. They all plateau by the end of the first chorus. I was reminded of every TV scene I've viewed where a police officer yelled "Move on; there's nothing to see here!" On the production team are several individuals Braxton has collaborated with before, including Paul Boutin (ex. The Heat, engineering), Antonio Dixon (ex. Love, Marriage & Divorce, songwriting) and Kenneth 'Babyface' Edmonds (ex. producing and/or writing on every Toni album except Pulse).
Though it's unlikely people will be quoting or tattooing lyrics from Braxton's octet, the material is respectable. This excludes the childishly and regressively worded "FOH," the text message acronym for 'f*ck out of here.' Man, do I miss the days where I could get through an album without hearing a song that's phrased like a street or online conversation. I also miss the days of the ever-regal diva who saved the F-bombs for the house (the expletive is also unnecessarily used on "Sex and Cigarettes"). The other thing the content has going for it is that it's conceptually consistent. All the romance-related regret and misery might've been prickling, if the production wasn't so dry. Daryl Simmons, Stuart Crichton, Patrick "J.Que" Smith and singer Colbie Calliat are among those who co-wrote with Braxton. Simmons is a long-time Babyface collaborator whose robust R&B resume includes work with Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, TLC, Destiny's Child and Boyz II Men. Crichton and Smith have credits with Kylie Minogue, Delta Goodrem, Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez.
The most interesting thing about the EP is that the title track's subject matter isn't what you'd expect it to be. It's actually about a no-good cheater who's been coming to bed smelling like sex and cigarettes. It was smart to name the record after that song, because I'm sure it sparked some curiosity. Sadly, it's probable inquiring parties will quickly move on, because "there's nothing to see here."
Likes: Higher, Higher, Morning Light, Say Something, The Hard Stuff
Dislikes: Man of the Woods, Supplies
Overall: At best, it's mundane. At worst, it's southern farce that's almost insulting.
The debut promotional video for Justin Timberlake's fourth LP, Man of the Woods, shows him out and about in the elements. There are shots of snow, sun covered crops, desert landscapes, babbling brooks and crackling fires. In the voice-over, you hear buzz words like "wild West" and "earthy." JT proclaims that this "personal" record is the one most inspired by his Tennessee roots, in addition to his wife and child. The artwork has a split portrait of him before a winter forest; his apparel is part suit, part flannel/jeans. This is all to impress upon the listener that what they're about to hear will be rustic, raw and unveiling in an insightful and endearing way. In actuality, it's such a shallow, contrived and caricatured performance of 'down-home authenticity,' that it's off-putting and distancing.
Timberlake's birth state is the home of the blues (Memphis), bluegrass (Bristol) and country (Nashville). Yet, he fails so miserably to effectively employ their tools, it's as if he only has third-hand familiarity with them. Being an R&B/pop artist who hails from Memphis, you'd think blues would be the go-to framework for this album. Ain't a whiff of B.B. King anywhere. Barely any bluegrass either. Mechanisms of country are used in a sparse and decorative manner. This nearly nullifies the compliment that the genre is smoothly integrated with Timberlake's signature sound. "The Hard Stuff" and "Say Something" with Chris Stapleton is as 'Music City' as it gets. Making things worse, Timberlake uses woefully stereotypical (if not corny) imagery in the lyrics and song-titles to project 'rugged South' (ex. "Man of the Woods," "Flannel," "Living off the Land").
Heartfelt storytelling is one of the principal attributes of Tennessee music, but the writing on Man of the Woods is dispassionate, when it's not vacuous. There's a number of songs about relishing in the nourishment and comforts of companionship, but they're sketched out with generality and objectivity. Even when seemingly specific details are mentioned (ex. "Higher, Higher," "Montana"), it's hard to believe there is a singular, significant person who was a muse for this material. The composition and vocal delivery also aren't particularly emotive. "Say Something" has a spurring presentation (mostly thanks to Stapleton), but its point is unclear. Is it about hesitancy in making a statement about the world, your life, or both? Is it 'none of the above?' Thorough sincerity and sweetness is found on the previously referenced "The Hard Stuff" and "Flannel" (despite its tropes), as well as "Young Man." The former two emphasize being unyielding and reliable as a romantic partner. The first verse of the lullaby-like "Flannel" is especially dear, as Timberlake sings of emulating the pure and steadfast love of a parent. "Young Man" is a 'father's advice' dedication to his toddler son, Silas. In order to take Timberlake seriously as someone whose matured enough to give counsel, you'd have to forget the boyish sexual depictions earlier on the record (ex. "Filthy," "Man of the Woods," "Supplies"). "What you gonna' do with all that meat? Cooking up a mean serving, huh?," he asks on "Filthy." *Rolls eyes* "Supplies" is an utterly stupid song, where apocalyptic survival skills are a metaphor for his qualities as a mate. Of course, he has to prop his cojones once more: "Flew in on a 3 AM just to show up and hear your sounds; the multiple times...you ain't had it that way, I can guarantee you that...I'll be the wood when you need heat." None of the other cuts are idiotic like that one, but many are very repetitive and a few are thin in meaning.
Man of the Woods is the first JT album that isn't predominately produced by Timbaland. The Neptunes lead this charge. The music is still sleek-sexy-funky-cool, but it's disconcerting that the only new thing they brought to the table was a big dose of...flatness. On most tracks, the rhythms just loop around after a while. A couple feature Timberlake's hallmark melodic switches, which liven things up (ex. Midnight Summer Jam).
Justin Timberlake wanted to show us the softer side of his Sears with this endeavor. However, the inattention to theme, lean lyrics and cyclic production worked against him. Instead of appearing humbled, relatable and affable, he comes off as unplugged and out-of-touch. Miley Cyrus' journey back home was more convincing.
15 years ago this month, Focus Features released Deliver Us from Eva, a film about 3 guys who try to wrangle their overbearing sister-in-law (Gabrielle Union). It was funny, entertaining, and had a bomb R&B soundtrack. Union was spectacularly brilliant in the title role. Her quirky facial expressions, bodily twitches and pronounced delivery of the rapid-fire script brought the eccentric and hyper-intelligent Evangeline Dandridge to life. Eva is a no-nonsense natural born leader. She cut her teeth at this raising her younger sisters: Kareenah (Essence Atkins), Bethany (Robinne Lee) and Jacqui (Meagan Good). They all became orphans years prior. To stay afloat and start "The Dandridge Fund," Eva dropped her horse-training dreams for more practical work as a restaurant health inspector. Her siblings naturally look up to her, but they extensively hang on her every word. This is to the exasperation of their respective mates, who feel her opinions and advice block their personal desires. Kareenah's husband, Tim (Mel Jackson), has baby fever. Bethany's boyfriend, Mike (Duane Martin), wants to move in and get his hands on the fund. Jacqui's spouse, Darrell (Dartanyan Edmonds), isn't happy she spends so much time on her college studies. The men resolve to pay someone to sweep Eva off her feet. That someone is Ray (LL Cool J), a rolling-stone playboy. His fee? $5,000. His task is "not just to distract her, but make her fall hard," and get her to relocate with him. Then, he can dump her. When he ends up liking her and she passes on an out-of-state job promotion, the fellas stage his death. Ray exposes the entire scam and chases Eva until she forgives him.
I saw this movie for the first time at a teenage slumber party. It had just come out on DVD. I was the only girl who actually had admiration for Eva, and thought the four horsemen didn't deserve forgiveness. I always joke I came out of the womb a feminist. I say this because, from a young age, I'd detect ridiculous biases. I'd question 'default' attitudes, standards and archetypes. In the very least, some situations--like parts of this film's plot--just didn't sit well with me. Eva wasn't homicidal, deceitful or malicious, but she was 'evil' the males needed 'deliverance' from. If any of the characters were guilty of these things (minus homicide), it was the guys, but she was villainized over them. There's something really wrong with that, especially when one takes a closer look at what allegedly made her so bad.
Eva is purportedly so traumatizing to deal with, an ex developed a speech impediment. Said ex freaks out upon seeing her picture, and repetitively screams "B*tch!" in an open bar. A flashback to their last encounter shows her dismissing him for complaining she was uptight and then lying about it. Oh, the horror! The horror! How 'bitchy' of her. *Rolls eyes* What puts Eva at the top of her field is her precision, but she's constantly criticized for it by others. When she doesn't budge on an inspection citation, she's told she has an ice pump in her chest and is "so damn uncompromising." Later, on her first date with Ray, she repeatedly has to ask him to leave a restaurant with a faulty manager. He further diminishes her concerns and career by accusing her of overreacting and snarkily saying "You're not the FBI." She responds accordingly, but is described as "nasty" and as having an "electric fence with rabid pit-bulls" around her heart.
I have to admit that when I saw Proud Mary recently, it wasn't because I was pressed to see it. I was more excited about trying the menu at the new local dine-in theater. Come to think of it, I really gambled with my dollars; both the feature and the food could've been horrible. My meal was just okay (not that you care), but the film was better than I expected. The trailers made it seem like there wasn't much to the plot: A single mother named Mary (Taraji P. Henson) prepares to retire from being an assassin. I thought "Stuff will blow up, her last hit job will be particularly difficult, her son will briefly be in danger, and all will end well because she's just Mary." The short 88-minute runtime fed my assumptions. You know what they say about making assumptions, though...
With the exception of the awesome action sequences and Mary's change of vocation, I was mostly wrong about the storyline. For starters, Jahi Di'Allo Winston's character Danny is not her son. How she ends up in his orbit is the film's biggest twist, and its unanticipated (though, parts of their initial interaction are written clumsily). Her personal history and collaborative relationships are also a bit more complex than imagined. Alongside her are Benny (Danny Glover) and Tom (Billy Brown), who tread the line between 'ally' and 'enemy.' As usual, Glover brings his master-class skills, easily alternating between the two modes. In this role, he's most delicious when Benny is feeling nefarious. Fans who are used to watching Brown play the harmed good-guy on ABC's How to Get Away with Murder will have fun seeing a different side of the actor. As for Henson, she's as reliable and proficient as always.
The 70's style promotional artwork and music made me worry I was in for a campy, new-age take on black exploitation movies. Thankfully, the only calls to that were a black woman kicking butt and a vintage soundtrack that included the Temptations and, of course, Tina Turner. Turner's signature cover of "Proud Mary" was effectively used at the thrilling climax, and into the credits. It was a blast hearing the audience sing along and hair flip in unison.
Babak Najafi's Proud Mary is indeed compact, but it doesn't feel stuffy or rushed. The tangled webs, sturdy performances and cool stunts make it a good 88 minutes. It's not the total throwaway it appears to be.
WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS.
Overall: The storytelling is a bit rushed, but it's an entertaining and uplifting "celebration of humanity"
If you haven't heard already, Michael Gracey's The Greatest Showman is very loosely based on the life of P.T. Barnum, the legendary circus ringleader. Looking at the film's inspirational themes, and the vast liberties taken with the facts, it's clear making another biopic wasn't the intent. Instead, screenwriters Bill Condon and Jenny Bicks use the symbolism of Barnum to remind us to dream, show benevolence and focus on what matters.
We watch Gracey's Barnum from his youth as a misfit (Ellis Rubin). He copes with the bleakness of his poverty-stricken life with imagination, charm and humor. He hopes to one day show up his elitist naysayers by wowing and entertaining the world. When of age (Hugh Jackman), he marries his childhood sweetheart (Skylar Dunn; later Michelle Williams), who happily leaves her lap of luxury to be with him. "Barnum's Circus" is eventually launched, piquing both interest and protest for making stars out of outcasts. The lineup consists of performers exiled for their physical appearance. To appeal to the upper-class, P.T. recruits a more traditional act: a glamorous singer named Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson). He also enlists the help of a wealthy playwright, Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron). Phillip's budding romance with Anne Wheeler (Zendaya), a black trapeze artist, tests them both in different ways. Things also get sticky between P.T., his wife and Jenny. It all comes to a head as his obsession with raising the show's profile gets the best of him, and the performers are attacked.
As with any proper musical, the songs strike the emotional chords of the story and sharpen its tones. Holding the defiant and aspirational spirit of the characters, each track is stirring. So much so, you'll forget you're watching a movie and will clap by reflex at the end of numbers. This is particularly true with "Never Enough" and the outsider anthem "This Is Me," beautifully led by 'bearded lady' Keala Settle. "Never Enough" marks a 'make or break' instance for P.T. He's hired Jenny by word-of-mouth alone, and has promised awe to cynical crowds with her debut. I myself was prepared to be unimpressed. I thought "I'll accept this for the pivotal scene it's supposed to be, no matter how unremarkable it is." My breath was taken away right with the fictional audience. Recall the first time you heard Adele's "Someone Like You," Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," Whitney Houston's cover of "I Will Always Love You" or Mariah Carey's "Vision of Love." Those kinds of memories will flash before you. Perfect diva science was smartly applied to create the desired effect. You know the formula: sweet lyrics, stunning vocals and 'just right' structuring to where the song escalates, but never crushes its own tenderness. The chops were provided by Loren Allred, who appeared on season 3 of NBC's The Voice (it's awkwardly noticeable that Ferguson is lip-synching). I think it's unfortunate (and a little strange) that a dual actress/singer wasn't cast as Jenny. This way, the architect of such an wonderful moment was left out of the party.
Note from J.Says: This is just for giggles; don't give yourself a wedgie.
20 years ago this month, James Cameron's Titanic sailed into theaters, and boy, did it live up to its name. Everything about it was mammoth-sized. The extensive research, underwater expeditions and top-of-the-line graphics required to make the film created a budget of $200 million; the highest of its age. That was chump change compared to its history-making box office numbers of over a billion. Talk about a return on an investment. This record went unmatched for 13 years, until Cameron decided to outdo himself with 2010's Avatar. Titanic is still tied with Ben-Hur (1959) for the most Oscar wins, with 11 trophies. Though 93% of the soundtrack is orchestral score, it's one of the best-selling albums of all-time. Its lone pop tune, a little ditty by Celine Dion called "My Heart Will Go On," was likely responsible for that. Gorgeously arranged, written and performed to capture the movie's essence, it's no wonder it was immensely popular. Ironically, the popularity (and subsequent overplay) is why it's arguably lost its luster. The last thing anyone thinks about when they hear it now is its quality, but I digress. Titanic also made global celebrities out of its leads, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Their portrayals of star-crossed lovers Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater were so convincing, people "ship" them to this day. With Tumblr pages, fan-fiction forums and faux sequel trailers galore, the film's pop-culture iconicism is ever apparent.
You know the story: 17-year-old Rose is forced into an arranged engagement with the domineering (and much older) Caledon "Cal" Hockley (Billy Zane), to save her family from impending squalor. They're set to be married following their voyage on the Titanic. Rose quickly falls in love with Jack after he talks her out of committing suicide. He's a destitute sketch-artist, but he offers her fun and freedom from upper-class trappings. Just when she's decided to run away with him at ship dock, Titanic strikes an iceberg and begins to sink. The pair end up in frigid waters, and of course, Jack dies from hypothermia. It's all very sad, haha. Beforehand, Jack makes Rose vow to survive. She goes on to have a life of adventure. Amid all the distress and peril surrounding Rose, you root for her and want to see her win. However, there's something about her that most fans won't admit: she's kind of a butthole. Don't @ me or accuse me of heresy; you know I ain't lyin'. Even Jack clocked it: "Rose, you're no picnic, alright? You're a spoiled little brat..."
Don't worry, owning the truth won't taint your love. The Little Mermaid was a brat too, and an idiot for selling her voice for a prince she didn't know, but Ariel's still my girl. Simba was a disobedient chump, but he's still The Lion King. Plus, it's been 20 years; I think it's safe to be honest now. In case you're in denial, here's a list of reasons why *Andre 3000 voice* "Roses really smell like poo-ooh-ooh-ooh!:"
She Was Unnecessarily Rude as Hell
Throughout the movie, Rose makes snarky and rude remarks that are uncalled for. The most boorish of which was during a lunch with ship executives J. Bruce Ismay (Jonathan Hyde) and Thomas Andrews (Victor Garber). To Rose's irritation, her mother (Ruth; played by Frances Fisher) and Cal and were micromanaging her at the table. Instead of letting them have it, she takes her annoyance out on Ismay. When he brags about Titanic's grandiosity, she quips: "Do you know of Dr. Freud?... His ideas about the male preoccupation with size might be of particular interest to you." Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud was known for his sexuality-based theories, including those regarding penis size. Rose basically implied that Ismay had a tiny pecker. Why did she have to humiliate him like that in front of everyone? What did he ever do to her? Sure, he had is part in the sinking, but she didn't know that.
Likes: I Did Something Bad, Don't Blame Me, Dancing with Our Hands Tied, New Years Day
Dislikes: King of My Heart
Overall: A major stylistic departure, but still unequivocally Taylor.
When Taylor Swift declared that the "Old Taylor" was dead on the recent single "Look What You Made Me Do"), some feared an unwelcome change in sound was near. Swift's plain vocals and lovesick, acoustic-guitar laden country and pop made her a poster child for delightfully white-bread music. That noted, the darker, harder and dare I say it, R&B and hip-hop-influenced rhythms on the new Reputation are indeed a deviation. However, the project's careful conceptualization offsets the awkwardness that normally comes with jolting conversions.
Somewhere in the last 11 years, Swift went from being portrayed in the media as "America's Sweetheart" to "Regina George:" an untrustworthy, serial-dating Mean Girl. She tried to "Shake it Off" and scoff at this on her previous record, 1989, but her irritation has boiled to anger. She's officially had enough and is ready to war with it. She attacks her stigmas with a cocky, "bring it on" ferocity and mocks them by casually wearing her alleged persona. Take "I Did Something Bad:" after depicting herself as a cavalier player and romantic vengeance angel, she sings "They're burning all the witches, even if you aren't one. They got their pitchforks and proof, their receipts and reasons...Go ahead and light me up." Songs like "Delicate" and "Call it What You Want" show she isn't completely impervious, as she discloses her insecurities and fears regarding her public image and its ability to affect potential relationships. Moreover, she expresses her displeasure in becoming colder and more distant as a defense mechanism, following betrayals and fallouts (ex. "This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things"). Still, there's a tenor of defiance in the lyrics that's upheld by the forwardness in Swift's voice and the production's gristle. Deep thumps, throbs and rattles are a constant, even when besotted love (Swift's specialty) is the subject (ex. "King of My Heart," "Dress"). They're put up against synth warps, gunshot-like blasts, vocal echoes and whimsy to create a sinister feel. "Look's" light introduction is akin to a music-box before it twists into a predatory hunt soundtrack. Spontaneous switches in melody and beat from mashing to feathery are where "Old Taylor" rears her head (ex. "...Ready for It," "Dancing with Our Hands Tied"). Closing track "New Years Day" is the only time she's allowed to do more than just swoop in briefly. 1989 producers and songwriters Max Martin, Jack Antonoff and Shellback all returned to co-collaborate with Swift. At moments, the writing is a pinch "garden-variety" and some metaphors are repeated without apparent cause, but the dedication to the album's theme mostly sweeps this under the rug.
Listeners who were hankering for Swift to wholly depart from country, folk, and the like will adore Reputation. Pop fans who appreciated the tenderness brought in by country and folk's touch will perhaps prefer 1989. Regardless, there shouldn't be many complaints or claims that Taylor is unrecognizable on this record. The creative choices she made served to bring her point-of-view and emotions center-stage, and that's her M.O.
Rants and raves about all things entertainment industry. Includes my own movie, music and concert reviews. You can find topics under "Tags and Categories" below.