Category Archives: Thoughts & Opinions

How Foster the People’s “Best Friend” is More Than Just a Catchy Tune

For my first post in centuries, I’m going to rant about how Foster the People addresses an issue I’ve been struggling with for a while.

In early 2014, indie/alternative band Foster the People released their second studio album, Supermodel. Much more focused than their debut album, Supermodel is a concept album that addresses common and heavy themes of negativity toward today’s consumer ideology and popular culture. Mark Foster described the album as dealing with “the ugly side of capitalism”, the theme that’s captured jarringly in their music video for the seventh track on the album, “Best Friend”.

Despite the song’s catchy, upbeat, and seemingly happy music, the lyrics tell a tragic story of substance abuse and consumption. Even then, the lyrics didn’t prepare fans for what they were presented with in the accompanying music video: a girl with monster teeth eating other girls.

The video features a supermodel that literally eats other supermodels in order to gain their attractive and enviable physical features. It starts with the protagonist—the girl who we hope to be the heroine, but who succumbs to societal pressure—passed out on a couch with a cigarette still clad between her fingers. She wakes up and begins the long and strenuous routine most girls are familiar with: applying makeup (which can take a while if you have someone to impress). The girl pops some pills (we aren’t told what kind, but I’m willing to bet they aren’t Advil) and joins fellow models to get dressed. After shooting envious looks at a flawless model, the girl heads to the bathroom and looks distressed and upset as she studies her reflection in the mirror. The flawless model walks in—perfectly placed hair contrasting beautifully with our “heroine’s” messy locks—and gets attacked. The girl eats the flawless model and gains her features. The video continues like this—the protagonist eating girls to gain their enviable legs, etc.—until she physically stretches her neck, makes her eyes massive, her waist tiny, and her cheekbones prominent. She ends up looking like an alien. The video ends with her walking the catwalk while the shocked paparazzi snap endless photos of her as she throws up a piece of clothing and passes out on the runway. The music video’s thesis is crystal clear: Society and pop culture should not be placing such unrealistic and virtually unattainable expectations on girls.

The music video plays out like a sort of horror movie—with a cast of models playing the demons and monsters. The entire time, we’re hoping that Mr. Hyde will turn back into Dr. Jekyll, yet we aren’t given that satisfaction. As a woman, I relate to the main girl. I sympathize with her because I’ve been in that situation—we all have—albeit probably (and hopefully) not to that extreme. I’ve been envious of people’s long, slim legs. I’ve been jealous of thigh gaps and perky, perfect boobs and flat tummies and long, Rapunzel-like hair—all features that modern pop culture has told me I should want and have, but why? The girl in the video is jaw-dropping to begin with, but like countless other beautiful and unique girls, she sadly succumbs to the pressure that society puts on women to achieve “the perfect body”.

The music video’s psychedelic and trippy visuals aren’t just for show; they get the point across—so strongly that the shocking and borderline horrific imagery seemingly smacks you in the face with the video’s thesis. The extreme and appalling comparison of the extent to which girls go in order to achieve a “perfect body”, with a beautiful model literally eating other girls is done so tastefully—no pun intended. The “Best Friend” music video grabs you by your shoulders and shakes you, yelling at you to open your eyes. Its unique and monstrous depiction of not only the modeling and fashion industries—but also modern society’s expectations as a whole—is empowering. It’s certainly loud enough to break through the silent and monotonous routine of impressionable girls getting bombarded by unrealistic expectations and consequently feeling less-than-enough.

After Mark Foster first listened to the album “Supermodel” in its entirety, he wrote a poem about consumption, with verses such as “…I ate it all; plastic, diamonds…” and “…but for beauty I will gladly feed my life into the mouths of rainbows.” That poem is featured on the album cover, placed so that it appears that the model is throwing it up. She’s throwing up the poem about consumption because she can’t keep it down anymore: the skewed values, the unrealistic expectations, and the metaphorical brainwash of girls that makes them feel constantly subordinate and insecure. Body image is a colossal public and social issue in today’s society, and Foster the People addresses it brilliantly. Their music video is unorthodox. It’s harsh. It’s loud. It has an extraordinary shock value to it—one that’s essential when it comes to a subject as prevalent and established in modern society as that of body image. Foster the People’s “Best Friend” video empowers women in the sense that it brings to light the absurdness of the expectations forced upon them by society, but in a way that’s indirect—without outright saying it.

In today’s society, music, and all that it encompasses—bands, genres, music videos, albums—is so influential in terms of defining yourself. Foster the People did a great job in not only depicting how nonsensical society’s standards are, but also how disastrous it can be if you lose yourself by trying to achieve those standards.

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My (tentative) Top 10 Artists

Here’s my list of my top ten artists. Other than the top three, the rest of the list will probably change within the next month. The order, that is. The bands themselves are pretty solid.

1. Queens of the Stone Age

I remember hearing “Little Sister” for the first time when I was in elementary school. The rest is history. Sweet, undying, unfaltering history.

2. Metallica

I don’t really need to explain this one, do I?

3. Coldplay

Coldplay has helped me through some rough times.They make me cry more than any other band. Don’t know if that’s bad or good, but hell, I love ’em.

4. Them Crooked Vultures

I don’t know if this is fair or not because they only have one album so far. But I mean, the band is made of QOTSA’s Josh Homme as vocals/guitar, Led Zeppelin’s bassist John Paul Jones, and Dave Grohl on drums. The album is absolutely incredible. There isn’t a song I don’t love by these guys. 

5. The Tragically Hip

Road Apples is one of my favourite albums of all time. 

6. Led Zeppelin

‘Cause, come on.

7. Black Sabbath

Refer to #6. I don’t want to say how many times I’ve listened to the entire Sabbath Bloody Sabbath album on repeat.

8. Arcade Fire

Refer to #3. They also make me cry uncontrollably. I’m seeing them in August at Rexall, so that should be interesting. 

9. Matthew Good

Also refer to #3. I’ve seen Matt Good three times and each time was absolutely unreal.

10. Our Lady Peace

‘Cause Raine Maida. Also, when Superman’s Dead is on, I lose it. Clumsy is amazing.

I had the worst time of my life making this list. I can’t commit to anything. But yeah, this is what I finally came up with. I was fighting for a spot for The Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam and Muse but in the end, it just didn’t happen. Like I said, this list will probably look different in a few months, except for the top three. Those three have always been the top three and will always be the top three, without question.

What do you think? Who’s in your top ten?

 

All Images Courtesy of Google Images.

April 5th: Sad Day for Grunge

Yesterday was not only the anniversary of the day that we lost Kurt Cobain, but also the anniversary of the day we lost legendary grunge icon Layne Staley, singer and co-founder of Alice in Chains. He was found in his apartment after dying of a drug overdose eight years to the day after Kurt Cobain killed himself. They even both died in the same town — Seattle.

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The self-destructive Alice in Chains frontman had struggled with depression and drug addiction his whole life, and it showed in his songs. He used most of Alice in Chains’ songs to describe the demons in his own life — most of them being about drug abuse, depression, and self harm. This set Alice in Chains apart from the other grunge metal bands in the ’90s, and made them one of the “Big Four” of grunge, along with Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam. Layne Staley knew the end was near for him. In his last known interview, he said, “I know I’m near death. I did crack and heroin for years. I never wanted to end my life this way. I know I have no chance. It’s too late.”

Alice in Chains has sold around 25 million worldwide, released two #1 albums and 21 top 40 singles, and has received eight Grammy nominations. Their album Dirt is one of my all-time favourites, and I was lucky enough to hear them play my favourite songs when they played Rexall last July with new lead singer, William DuVall (who’s pretty much the coolest-looking guy ever).

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William DuVall joined Alice in Chains in 2006, four years after Layne Staley’s death. And holy hell, he’s a perfect fit. I know that no one can replace Layne, but he sure does his work justice. Layne Staley’s parents went to the first live show that the band played with William DuVall, and they met him after their set, crying, hugging him, and telling him what an amazing job he did. The band released two new records with William DuVall: Black Gives Way to Blue in 2009 and The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here in 2013. Both albums still have the signature dark, troubled, grungy-metal sound that made the band as successfully as they became.

The show at Rexall was phenomenal. They did a tribute to Layne Staley, and it sounded amazing. It was eerie how well DuVall nailed the vocals, and I’m so glad that the band decided to keep their name and keep recording and touring, even though they initially didn’t think there was any chance they were going to.

Yesterday was the day in history we lost both Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley, and it’s famously said that one burned out while the other faded away. Both were extremely troubled and even more talented. After Staley’s death, tons of songs were dedicated to him, not to mention Metallica’s Death Magnetic album, which was a tribute to him and everyone who destroyed themselves in the name of rock n’ roll. Layne Staley may be gone, but his signature disturbing sound lives on with Alice in Chains and new singer, William DuVall.

“Would?”, from Dirt, released in 1992.

“Stone”, from The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, released in 2013.

 

All Images Courtesy of Google Images.

SONiC’s 9th Birthday Party with USS

So last night I had the extreme pleasure of attending the 9th birthday party of my favourite radio station, SONiC 102.9. My boyfriend miraculously won tickets and it was easily one of the funnest shows I’ve ever been to, and it wasn’t even because it was free.

The show was at Union Hall, which I’ve never been to. We got there at around 10pm. It was relatively easy to find, and when we reached the end of the lineup to get in, we were met with enthusiastic high fives from the SONiC Intern Army. That completely set the tone for the rest of the night, seeing as how everyone there was just as excited and happy to be there as I was. We quickly grabbed a beer and walked around the place before heading to the stage to watch SONiC’s own Ryan G’s band, Pale Blue Dot.

(Let me just interrupt myself to say that holy hell, Union Hall is fantastic. There are two floors and it’s set up in a way so that no matter where you are, you have a fantastic view of the stage. We showed up an hour late and this is where we were for Pale Blue Dot, while chatting with Rick Lee beforehand.)

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They were actually really great. They’ve got a fantastic Blink 182 thing going on and I recommend checking them out. When they were done their set, we grabbed more beers and had a blast watching Mitchmatic do his thing. I had no idea that it was just him, his computer and his saxophone. I saw a few people who were easily in their 60s gettin’ their groove on and it was a phenomenal sight.

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When USS finally came on around midnight, I thought Union Hall was going to break. The energy in that place was absolutely unreal. People went crazy and an hour-long friendly dance/moshpit hybrid broke out and didn’t stop. Every song they played was met with thunderous applause and cheering. After hearing Anti-Venom, Laces Out, and Yin Yang live, I’m surprised I had a voice this morning. They played their cover of Outkast’s Hey Ya!, Oasis’ Wonderwall, and ended everything with Hakuna Matata, which, I mean, come on. What better way to end a night of rockin’ out with hundreds of the friendliest people I’ve ever met?

The sound was perfect, the energy was insane to say the least, and USS sure do know how to put on an entertaining show. The moments where they let the crowd sing were overwhelmingly loud and clear. And I almost touched Human Kebab at least three times while he was crowd surfing. No big deal. But, yeah. That almost happened. And to top it all off, I got to hang out with Layne Mitchell for a bit before leaving.

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It was one of the funnest, most energetic, friendliest shows I’ve ever been to. Ever. There was never a moment where I wasn’t smiling or laughing or clapping or dancing or cheering, and everyone around was like that. The atmosphere was just indescribable. USS said they’d be coming back in the summer, and I highly highly suggest going to see them live. You won’t regret it.

 

Happy 9th birthday, SONiC! Keep on rockin’.

Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power

You may have heard that it’s Vinnie Paul’s birthday today. He was the drummer for Pantera, and now drums for band Hellyeah, which isn’t nearly as good, but it’s nice to know the dude’s still got it. He’s 50 years old today.

In celebration of Vinnie’s birthday, I’m going to rant and rave about one of the first albums I ever bought: Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power. It was released in ’92, and was one of the most influential albums of the ’90s. It’s been described as “one of the defining albums of the groove-metal genre”, and features many songs that have become the band’s most well-known and recognizable tracks.

This was the second album that displayed Pantera’s change of sound. Their first few records were more glam-metal, and were inspired by bands like Van Halen and KISS. When Phil Anselmo replaced Terry Glaze on vocals in ’87, they released their fourth studio album, Power Metal, which started moved away from their original glam-metal sound. Cowboys From Hell was released in 1990, and it was a key turning point for Pantera — their sound was now noticeably influenced by bands like Metallica, Slayer and Black Sabbath.

Here’s a little fun fact, the main reasoning behind the musical style of Vulgar Display of Power. When Metallica’s self-titled album (AKA The Black Album) came out in 1991, Pantera considered it to be a letdown to fans; Metallica had seemingly strayed from their thrash metal sound that was in their previous albums. It’s weird because that album gave us a lot of the Metallica classics like “Enter Sandman”, “Sad But True”, “Wherever I May Roam”. I can see their point though; those tracks aren’t nearly as heavy as “Damage, Inc.”, “Creeping Death” or “Motorbreath”. Pantera felt that they had an opportunity and a gap to fill, and wanted to make “the heaviest record of all time.”

Then Vulgar Display of Power came out with a picture of a dude getting punched right in the face on the cover. It’s now pretty iconic. The band told their label that they wanted the cover to be “something vulgar — like a guy getting punched in the face.”

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Nailed it.

Apparently the guy got $10 per punch, and he ended up getting punched about 30 times to get the shot just right. And then they obviously photoshopped it. Totally worth it. He’s able to wake up in the morning and say, “Hey. Good morning, world. I’m that guy getting socked in the face on the cover of one of the most influential album of the ’90s.”

The whole album is filled with heavy, gut-busting guitar riffs and hostile, angry vocals that gave Pantera their signature sound. This record introduced us to classic songs that were a big part of the soundtrack to my junior high years, like “Walk”, “Mouth for War”, “A New Level”, “Hollow” and “F*cking Hostile”. Vulgar Display of Power is just a classically heavy, no-bull, straight-to-the-angry-point album that makes you want to go around and kick things. In a good way.

Happy 50th, Vinnie Paul. You rock.

All Images Courtesy of Google Images.

Queen & Adam Lambert

Earlier this week, it was announced that Queen with Adam Lambert are doing a 19-date North American tour this summer, stopping in Edmonton on June 24th.

This isn’t the first time original Queen guitarist Brian May and original drummer Roger Taylor have teamed up with Adam Lambert. They first performed together in 2009 on American Idol, then performed at the MTV European Music Awards in 2011, then in 2012, they collaborated again for a series of shows around Europe.

Brian May said about the tour:

“This happened organically with Adam. People are going to ask whether it’s Queen without Freddie. I don’t know. We just want to go out there one more time. Adam isn’t an imitator.”

Roger Taylor added that Adam is “the most incredible frontman.” As if the world didn’t already know, Adam Lambert is a diva, and Taylor says that’s been great for them, that they need that theatrically.

To me, this trio seems to know what they’re doing. Still, people are boycotting the tour, saying that it’s “wrong” without original frontman Freddie Mercury. That it’s not Queen without him. People are bashing Adam Lambert, saying that he’s not even close to being deserving of touring with the original members. A guy on Facebook even said: “I’m not going to pay money to go watch a karaoke session.” But, is that really what this tour is going to be? People are acting as if Freddie Mercury was Queen. Yes, he was an idol. He was the face of Queen. But there were other people in the band. And the fact that those legendary rockstars are wanting to tour one more time, even with a different singer, is beyond exciting. And I think Adam Lambert has a great voice. Yeah, he’s annoying. But he can do Freddie Mercury justice. May and Taylor wouldn’t be collaborating with him if he couldn’t. Adam Lambert has said that Freddie Mercury is his idol, his hero, and that it’s been surreal to be honouring his memory. I trust the dude.

I’m not going to pass up hearing “Bohemian Rhapsody” live. I’m going to be able to tell my future rockstar kids that I saw the legendary Queen live. It wasn’t all the original members, but hell, it was closer than I thought I’d ever get. What about you guys? Are you boycotting the tour, or are you going to go rock out to “We Will Rock You” and “Fat Bottomed Girls?”

 

All Images Courtesy of Google Images.

Movie Soundtracks

Hey, the Oscars are tonight! Let’s talk about movies.

To me, the soundtrack to a movie is almost as important as the content in the movie itself. A story can be compelling, moving, thought-provoking, but the music has the ability to make a movie epic. It has the power to make it iconic and legendary.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of moving movie soundtracks is obviously Lord of the Rings. The music is iconic, timeless, and makes me cry (but we won’t talk about that). The Lord of the Rings is my favourite trilogy. The score was conducted, produced, orchestrated and composed by Howard Shore. He earned two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes for best score, with good reason; it’s made the movies iconic. Anyone who hears the simple flute for The Shire theme automatically knows what it is.

I mean, how can that not make you cry?

Another given when it comes to iconic, timeless, and instantly recognizable soundtracks is Star Wars. The Empire Strikes Back is on TV downstairs, and I can assure you the music will be stuck in my head for hours. My mom’s unknowingly whistling it while working on her computer, too. Everyone knows the Star Wars theme. I remember teaching myself Darth Vader’s theme on the piano when I was young and thought I was just the coolest person on the planet.

More of my favourites include Inception (never fails to give me chills), Pirates of the Caribbean, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and, God help me, Harry Potter. The iconic Harry Potter music makes me cry (this seems to be a reoccurring theme that I may want to get checked out) because I’ve loved Harry Potter since I was six-years-old and first picked up The Philosopher’s Stone. The music brings me back to when I first saw the movie in theatres. I finally convinced my parents to let me go see it even though it had the word “hell” in it. (I was seven, leave me alone.) The music’s able to bring me back and fill me with an overwhelming and somewhat exhausting sense of nostalgia.

Anything by Hans Zimmer and is a-okay in my books, too. That man is a genius. I have the soundtracks to The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises on my iPod. Bane’s theme, good lord. Goosebumps. I also cried at the very end of The Dark Knight Rises just because the music was so epic. Hans Zimmer made my second favourite trilogy way more epic than it would have been without the music. He’s also responsible for the award-winning scores for Gladiator, Sherlock Holmes, The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Inception.

What do you guys think? What’s your favourite movie soundtrack? 

 

All Images Courtesy of Google Images.