Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Top Ten Worst Hit Songs of 2016

Greetings Pups,

I apologize yet again, but I really have nothing to say as an introduction. I am just...exhausted of this year. Let's just get this over with.

#10. "Like I'm Gonna Lose You" Meghan Trainor featuring John Legend - As much as I like a good, soothing love song, one must remember the difference between soothing and boring. Sadly, whether these two people were trying to do so or not, they went with the latter.

#9. "Just Like Fire" Pink - BOR-ING! Again! What is up with Pink lately? I mean, I've never been an actual fan of hers, but at least I would give her credit when she put out a decent song. Can't do that this time.

#8. "On My Mind" Ellie Goulding - Remember that excellent song, "Don't" by Ed Sheeran? Well, it's counterpart, which this song most assuredly is, has nothing in common with it. "Don't" was unique; this song is generic. Oh, and she tried to complain about a double standard, where only women get defined by who they date because they write songs about them. She even talked to Taylor about it. Of course, she did. First of all...What? No. It happens to guys, too. It happened with "Don't". Second, if you are a songwriter who only writes about who you date, it's hard to know how else to define you. Funny thing, Ellie doesn't do that. It was one time and one song. She'll live and so will Ed. Moving on.

#7. "Sit Still, Look Pretty" Daya - I heard a review of this song wherein someone said that it picks up where Daya's song "Hideaway" left off. OR the messages of these two songs completely contradict each other. Whatever! Seriously, the first song is lamenting about where all the good guys have gone, and this song is putting forth an "I don't need a man" attitude by insulting guys in general. Listen, there's nothing wrong with saying that you don't need a man, but do so because you're strong in yourself and you don't need to be defined by a relationship. Yeah, maybe those good guys are just hiding away from you, Daya. Also, don't EVER call her pretty, whilst NEVER forgetting that she is. Eye roll.

#6. "Gold" Kiiara - In 1983, the group Spandau Ballet released a song called "Gold"? It was and still is...incredible! This travesty is not and never will be. In fact, I hesitate to even call it a song. To me, it's just noise. I mean, to the Grinch it would be the worst thing ever. But maybe I just don't get it. And I don't think I want to get it. So...good times?

#5. "Me Too" Meghan Trainor - Oh, look, her again. So, Ms. Trainor, do me a favor? Go out and ask 50 random people what they hate most about celebrities. I bet most if not all of them would say that what they hate most is the self-absorption and arrogance. So, why did you have to perform a song proving those people right? And I don't even care if this was supposed to be "tongue in cheek", which is a usual excuse. You are not better than me or anyone, Meghan Trainor, simply because you are famous.

#4. "One Call Away" Charlie Puth - Weak, weak, weak. Oh, Charlie Puth. I do not want you to be "one call away". I want you to go away. But credit where it's due, this wasn't as bad as what you put out last year. Not by much, though. Try harder.

#3. "Treat You Better" Shawn Mendes - So, what do I hate a lot? Oh, yeah. Fake nice guys. You know what I mean by that. The guys who whine and moan because they're (allegedly) such nice guys, but girls never want to be with them, when in actuality, they're just as bad as the bad boys. Maybe even worse, since they seem more manipulative. Look, I'm not saying that there aren't legit nice guys out there. There are. But the lyrics in this song do not describe one of them.

#2. "Work From Home" Fifth Harmony featuring Ty Dolla Sign - I do not understand the appeal of this group. And the appeal of this song, I understand even less. First of all, I'm pretty the music rips of Daniel Bedingfield of all people, because...reasons. Second, the lyrics are atrocious. Oh, and here's a question. Do you know how many times they say the word "Work" in this song? 94!!! Dang! At least when Rihanna repeated that word in her song, she changed her inflection a little. In this song, it is so monotonous. For real, the sound of a drill would be more lively. I just can't with this anymore.

#1. "No" Meghan Trainor - Congratulations, Meghan Trainor! You have hit the trifecta of suck this year! You know what? I don't even have the energy to talk about the awful message in this song. Or the fact that the music is yet another rip off, this time from an old Justin Timberlake song. So, I am just going to say two things. Yes, some guys are awful and should be avoided at all costs, but not ALL of them are, nor do they all have the same intentions when they say "Hi" to you. Also, ladies, YOU can empower YOURSELVES, and you don't need crap songs like this to tell you the wrong way to do so. And this song is just...NO!

Well, that's that for 2016.

So, can I say something about the music industry? I know that things are different these days. I know that labels aren't necessarily as powerful as they once were, as many people can get super famous from You Tube and by controlling their own careers. But if you're someone who works at a label, or maybe you own your own small one, and you have to sift through tons of music from unknown artists who may or may not be the next big thing, for the love of God, SIFT!!! For real. Sift through and listen to every last note until you find something new and original. We need that so much right now. I know it's easy to put out more of the same, but we need someone who will take a risk on an artist who has something new to say. It will be worth it. I don't want 2017 to be more of the same. I don't think anyone does.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top Ten Best Hit Songs of 2016

Greetings Pups,

I would like to apologize in advance for this blog post. It will be one of the most phoned in things I've ever done. Seriously, I will not be writing much about these. But it's not exactly my fault. It's that I had to pick songs to be the best in a year that, musically, left me feeling...whatever. Don't get me a wrong. A couple of the songs on this list, I do legit like, but a lot of them are just ones I don't hate. That is depressing.

So, the rules once again for these lists of mine are that the song must appear on Billboard's Hot 100 Year End chart and it cannot have been on any other of my lists. Okay, let's do this.

#10. "Into the Night" The Weeknd - So, I'm not exactly a fan of this Weeknd guy, but there's something kind of nostalgic feeling about this song. It's a fun one to listen to, and sometimes that is all you need.

#9. "What Do You Mean?" Justin Beiber - Yeah, this is how desperate I am. I am putting a Beiber song on the Best list. Okay, to be fair, some of his stuff has gotten better lately. He's kind of like an actual artist now. And this song isn't too bad. Now if he can just stay out of trouble, perhaps, he will evolve even more.

#8."Ex's and Oh's" Elle King - I think technically this song came out last year, but it was still on this year's chart, so I'm including it. I think I get a kick out of this because it sounds different from most things we're hearing these days. And, all things considered, that's a good thing.

#7. "Roses" The Chainsmokers featuring Rozes- Not much of a fan of the whole club music genre, if that's even what it's really called, but I do like the sound of this one. And I can't believe the "Selfie" guys are progressing a bit. Didn't see that coming.

#6. "This is What You Came For" Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna - Again, this whole EDM thing is not really my scene. But I do like Rihanna sometimes, and Calvin Harris is pretty good at what he does. Despite it being a bit repetitive in places, I'll still give this one a thumbs up for everything else.

#5. "Can't Stop the Feeling" Justin Timberlake - This is fun song. Nothing too heavy. Certainly nothing groundbreaking. Just a cute, little pop song...from the Troll movie. I think I can handle that.

#4. "Heathens" Twenty-One Pilots - I don't know who these guys are, but I got a kick out of their style and this song. And whilst I wasn't exactly a fan of the Suicide Squad movie, this was a good match for the soundtrack. Fit the tone of it quite well.

#3. "When We Were Young" Adele - Nothing like some Adele giving us a song about reminiscing where she sings the crap out of it. Yeah, she's pretty much always good, and this latest album of hers proves that she's probably not planning to change that.

#2. "Lost Boy" Ruth B - I love a good literary reference in a song, and this one covers that. But when I read a little into this song, I heard it was about a very serious subject. So, I'm giving it and the writer credit for having the guts to go deeper when it comes to lyrical content. And this young lady has a lovely voice, as well, so I hope she sticks around for a while.

#1. "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)" Adele - Well, this might be a first. I'm pretty sure Miss Adele was the artist behind my Number One song last year as well. I suppose that just proves that she is still one of our most treasured people in the music industry, as she continues to put out good songs. Anyway, this was an interesting tune coming from Adele, a bit different, but still very catchy. I like this one a lot, and I wouldn't mind if she kept going in this direction.

Well, those are the "Best" of the year, in my opinion. Again, sorry I wasn't jumping up and down over too many of these, but I just couldn't be. Anyway, here's hoping that my "Worst Of" list tomorrow will be more entertaining.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Magnificent Seven (2016) - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

So, I've never been super into Westerns, and I tend to be super NOT into remakes. Therefore, you may already be making guesses when it comes to how I feel about this. Now my biggest complaint with remakes is that most of them are completely unnecessary. I usually don't see the point, which is why when I first heard of this film, I was hesitant. But maybe something made me change my mind. Let's find out as we discuss The Magnificent Seven.

This 2016 film. directed by Antoine Fuqua, is a remake of the 1960 film of the same name. As I said, I was not sure about this, but after I got word on the cast, I started to think that, perhaps, there might be something to this venture. And all things considered, knowing what the original was about, I figured they might be able to update some things properly. I'll get into all that later, but first, let's talk plot. And I guess, a few spoilers will be there, but probably nothing you don't know already, or nothing that didn't happen in the first ten minutes or so.

Honestly, the plot is rather simple when you think about it. There's a bad guy villain named Bartholomew Bogue, played by Peter Sarsgaard, who wants to take over this mining town where a lot of good people live. And he will have it by any means necessary, even the worst you can think of. After losing her husband in an attack, Emma Cullen, played by Haley Bennett, seeks out anyone who can help the town defend themselves, alongside her friend, Teddy Q, played by Luke Grimes.

Eventually, a group of men is assembled to assist the town. You'll never guess how many! And these fine men are as follows: Sam Chisolm, played by Denzel Washington, a warrant officer from Kansas and also the leader; Josh Faraday, played by Chris Pratt, a gambler who likes to blow stuff up; Billy Rocks, played by Lee Byung-hun, the man with the knife moves, a lot of them; Vasquez, played by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, an outlaw on the run, as they tend to be; Red Harvest, played by Martin Sensmeier, a Comanche warrior; Goodnight Robicheaux (LOVE that name, BTW!) played by Ethan Hawke, a Civil War vet who is a fantastic shot; and my personal favorite, Jack Horne, played Vincent D'Onofrio, an excellent tracker who also happens to be religious. You can tell by the way he quotes scriptures whilst going into battle. It's a thing we do. Good times. Oh, and yes, you read that correctly. Ethan Hawke and Vincent D'Onofrio have teamed up again for their 47th film together! Okay, it hasn't been that many, but I won't be happy until they hit 50!

So, as you can see, we have an amazing cast here, and like I said, it was why I decided to give this remake a chance. When it came to our "Seven", I was not disappointed at all, mostly because they had incredible chemistry with each other. I think it was wise on the part of whomever did this casting to get actors who have got some history with each other, as well as being great actors in their own right. It added to the onscreen comradery. And while chemistry matters in any film, it is certainly important in a film like this. So is a good villain and Sarsgaard did not disappoint there either. I totes wanted to punch him, so thumbs up where that's concerned.

Now let's talk about our female lead and how she and her character were probably the best update for this film. See, when it comes to writing updated female characters, there is a right way to do it and a wrong way. The wrong way pertains to when I hear people say that we need more women in film, but when they describe what they want, some (not all!) respond with attributes befitting to what we call a "Mary Sue". You know, some woman who is good at everything and loved by everyone, whose flaws aren't even really flaws, and who is ultimately some kind of unrealistic superwoman. No thank you! Fortunately, though, this film did it the right way. Emma Cullen is an active player in the story, as much as anyone else. She is a strong woman, but she is also a real woman. A real person. You can see what she is feeling all the time and what she is feeling is grief, fear, uncertainty, even weakness, and that is okay. It is okay, because, even though she feels all these things, she knows how to put them aside when it comes time for her to fight. Or if need be, to use them in that moment. She is a balanced and well-rounded character. She represents what everyone should be. Vulnerable when necessary and courageous when necessary. All of us can be all of these things, so long as we know when to be them. Excellent job with this character.

Okay, I've rambled enough. Do I recommend this film? Yeah, I do. I admit that, aside from a darker tone and the aforementioned character development, there aren't a ton of changes from the 1960 version. Still, maybe that was what was so appealing about it. It hearkened back to those old timey Westerns. And what with the great acting and the fact, overall, this movie is very entertaining, I say give it a shot. Get it? Shot! Anywho, I would say if you're into those enjoyable Westerns of yesteryear, with a tad more violence, this might be one for your movie night.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Author: The JT LeRoy Story - Documentary Review

Greetings Pups,

If there is one thing I value in the work of an artist, it is their authenticity. No matter what they are creating, it has to be rooted in some kind of truth. If it isn't, the fraud can be easily detected. The problem is that few people are concerned with authenticity anymore, or they choose to see it coming from the wrong angle. I thought about this a lot as I watched the documentary I will be reviewing today, Author: The JT LeRoy Story.

This 2016 film tells the story of - surprise - JT LeRoy. But the real story is who exactly is JT LeRoy? I suppose, despite what is revealed in the trailer and what has been revealed in real life, I should say "Spoiler Alert", but most people already know what happened with this situation. Still, if you don't and you want to find out by way of this film, there is your warning.

So, a while back, a writer by the name of JT LeRoy burst on to the literary scene with his debut novel, Sarah, which told the brutally detailed story of a prostitute and her son. People were praising the book all over the place, as they did with all the subsequent work from this author. But there was such a level of secrecy from him, until finally he revealed himself, albeit reluctantly, to the world. All of this led to his having quite a prominent fan base full of celebrities and his becoming a celebrity in his own right. In fact, one might venture to say that the fame aspect of JT LeRoy slowly but surely became more important than the writing. And as a writer, this did not set well with me.

Now as we all know, the more famous someone becomes, the more the public wants and, in come cases, demands to know about them. But if someone in the spotlight tries to hide things, they usually are found out. Well, as it happens, this famous person had kind of a big secret. Again, spoilers, I guess. Turns out, the person who everyone knew as JT LeRoy in the flesh was not JT LeRoy. Technically speaking, he never even existed, though to say that seems a bit cruel and untrue once you know the whole story. The true author is a woman named Laura Albert, who was part of JT LeRoy's entourage and adopted family of sorts, while her sister-in-law was acting as the writer in public. Albert had taken on the persona years earlier whilst seeking help from a doctor, because being herself was far too difficult as she talked about the horrible things she had been through. The doctor encouraged her to write, something she credits with saving her life. I can relate. Then, one thing led to another and we got a phenomenon. And one very fascinating story.

I really found this documentary very compelling, even though I knew most of the things about the incident already. And since I did, the film maker would have to find a way to keep me interested. That happened through the way it was shot. First, there was quite a bit of voice over, done by Laura Albert (I assume) in the voice she used when she posed as JT, and it was heard over some cool visual artwork. Second, since several of the phone conversations that JT had with people were recorded, they added those in with the sounds of an old tape recorder, making it seem as though we were getting some underground info that we weren't supposed to be hearing. Lastly, I liked the way they filmed Laura Albert's interview. Normally, when you watch a "talking head" in a documentary, they're looking off to the side, at the interviewer, but here, she is looking straight at the camera, at the audience, at us. Ultimately, what this is being presented as is something of a full on confession. She is here to tell the story and she is telling it directly to us.

If there is any fault I find in this thing, it's one that others have noticed as well. I kind of wish they delved deeper into the reactions from people who were in the JT LeRoy circle and who felt very deceived and betrayed after everything was revealed. They did tackle it a bit, but they could have done more, if for no other reason than to more seriously show the consequences of doing something like this. On the other hand, while I am hardcore not a fan of lying, I don't see Laura Albert as someone like Stephen Glass or James Frey, who intentionally set out to deceive the public for personal gain. She was just trying to recover from her past by any means necessary, and those means got out of her control. And to be fair, as she says, the books always said fiction, and she's not the first person to use a pseudonym. While I don't want to call why she did what she did an excuse, it is certainly a reason, and a pretty valid one. In the end, it's a tough situation to figure out.

Also, this film truly does give a fascinating look at how we see fame and how enamored we are with it. Seriously, why was it not enough that these books were good? Why did there have to be a celebrity figure attached to them to give them credibility? I'd like to think that artists, especially writers, share enough about themselves through their work. Why do we have to know so much more? I don't know, but this film can certainly make us think about that.

So, as a person who like films about writers and documentary, I found this to be a very well made film. It was great to hear, not only the story of the author, but how the idea of fame tied in to the whole thing. Perhaps, it will teach us all that, when we find a good book to read, the writer has done their job, and we should demand no more from them. Not even themselves.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Monday, December 12, 2016

Peace, Love & Misunderstanding - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

Is it considered a coming of age story if members of three generations of a family are kinda doing that at the same time? Because I think that's what happens in this movie. And all things considered, I guess it can be called a family film. So, let's talk about Peace, Love & Misunderstanding.

Peace, Love & Misunderstanding is a 2012 film about a lawyer, Diane, played by Catherine Keener, who is divorced from her husband, Mark, played by Kyle MacLachlan. She must have heard about that Showgirls thing. Anyway, she decides to leave Manhattan with her two kids, Zoe and Jake, played by Elizabeth Olsen and Nat Wolff, respectively. They go upstate to Woodstock, where Diane's mother, Grace, lives. Grace is played by Jane Fonda and she is a total hippie. Yes, a postmodern hippie living in Woodstock, where, according to this film, 90% of the town hasn't changed since 1969. I'll let you calm down from that shock. Good? Okay, let's move on.

As Diane is a woman who is a bit uptight and Grace can be easily called a free spirit, they tend to clash a bit and always have, and so much of the plot centers around the tension between them. But it's okay though, because we have quite a bit of romance going on in this film as well. Pretty much every family member gets close to a potential S.O. here. Zoe hesitantly finds herself attracted to a young butcher, Cole, played by Chace Crawford, despite the fact that they don't always get along. Cole is enamored with a young girl who works at a local coffee shop, Tara, played by Marissa O'Donnell. And even stuffy Diane catches the eye of a handsome local named Jude, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and maybe starts to think that loosening up might not be so bad. But with all these feelings and emotions running rampant, the real question is will the decades long estrangement of the family come to an end and allow them to move forward with each other.

So, the best word I can use to describe this film is "easy". You can just sit back and relax and watch it, and nothing is really going to get your heart rate up too high. Now, whether that's good or bad is going to depend on the viewer and their taste or mood. Personally, I kind of enjoyed this movie. It's full of people who I like and it's so laid back that it is something I can watch when I am also wanting to feel laid back. And a lot of that feeling comes from the lovely atmosphere created by the surroundings of Woodstock. The film makers really captured something there, and I give that aspect a thumbs up. Again, I suppose that whatever can be called positives and negatives exist only based on the audience. If you want something mellow with a decent script and some good acting, especially from the "always a delight" Elizabeth Olsen, then this might be one to add to your list.

Thus, do I recommend this movie? Well, I liked it and I'm never wrong, so yeah. Seriously, though, it's not breaking any cinematic ground here, but who says that every film has to do that? Some movies are just there when you need them for whatever you happen to need them for. If you want a relaxing night of watching something that might be labeled a "chick flick" but actually goes a bit deeper, I say give this one a chance.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Top Ten Amy Grant Songs

Greetings Pups,

It is amazing that it has taken me this long to make this particular list. I mean, you may not know this, but I would consider Amy Grant to be my favorite female singer. She has been there for my entire life and was one of the few good memories I have where my childhood is concerned. So, I have always seen her as a source of comfort for me, and she was one of the reasons why I fell in love with music. Well, it was really her and Jem and the Holograms, but that's a discussion for another day. To be honest, Amy Grant has had an immense effect on my life.

So, I have, on a few occasions, used my writing as a way of thanking her for all she has done to make my life a bit better, and thus, I thought I could do that today by sharing my favorite songs by her. Trust, this was a difficult list to make. I love so much of her music, but quite a few songs hold a very special place in my heart for many reasons. Here are the ones that I hold the closest.

#10. "That's What Love Is For" - I once had a friend who thought that Heart In Motion was Amy's first album. I suggested we see other people after that. Anyway, quite a few songs from this album did very well and pushed Amy right into the mainstream, even more than she already had been. But being a hopeless romantic, I guess, of course, I had to pick the power ballad love song as my favorite. I am so predictable.

#9. "El Shaddai" - I know that when people say that a song sounds beautiful, they tend to be talking about the music half. But this song has some exquisitely sounding words in it, and most of them are in another language, as you can tell from the title. Yes, all those names that we can call God certainly have a lovely ring to them.

#8. "Saved By Love" - Is it just me, or do we not have nearly enough songs about the love that one feels for their family? Of course, we have a million songs about romantic love, which is easily the most fleeting. But when it comes to the more, hopefully, strong and lasting love between family members, we are lacking. Thank God for songs like this. Also, I may have named one of my books after a lyric in this song. Just like I did with a lyric from my Number One song. I am not a thief. I hope.

#7. "Lead Me On" - I hate to use the word "epic" as it has been so overused in recent years, but I just have to do it in this case. This song is rather epic. From the bigness of the music production to the strength of the message, this might be considered something of a masterpiece for Amy. Well, considering how long her career has lasted, it was bound to happen some time.

#6. "Everywhere I Go" - The synth sound can really go either way with me, to be honest. And as this song comes from an album released smack dab in the middle of the 80's, I am not surprised to find it here. But there is just something about this song that always makes me smile. Maybe it is just the joyful sound of it all. Or maybe it's because my mother was never the biggest fan of it. Oh, I am so bad.

#5. "Thy Word" - Every now and then, a song from the Contemporary Christian Music genre trickles down into the songs that people sing during worship services at church, or even school, as it happened in my case. This is one of those songs. Now, whilst I think it is beautiful, I also think it should be sung by one person at a time. Maybe because of my own personal "group sing" experiences, where everyone always messes up the note on the "to the end" line. Just saying. But whatever. This song is still brilliant.

#4. "Doubly Good To You" - Time for me to get a little sad here. This wonderful song was written by one of Amy's good friends, Rich Mullins. He is kind of a legend in the world of Christian music, and he is responsible for my favorite album of all time. Sadly, for us anyway, he passed away nearly twenty years ago. But he did leave a vast legacy of great music, including this incredible love song.

#3. "The Prodigal" - Spoilers, this may have been inspired by a certain parable. However, due to the lyrical content, I think it can be used to express the longing for anyone you love to return. There's something so bittersweet about it, yet there is some hope lying in there. As always.

#2. "All I Ever Have To Be" - So for a very long time, this was actually my favorite song by Amy. Obviously, that changed, but I still love it dearly. Something in those lyrics about doubting yourself and what have to give the world, but being reminded that you are made by God and that He has a plan in mind. It is such a comfort. Always has been and always will be.

#1. "After the Fire" - I remember seeing Amy on the Oprah show singing this song to her mother and her sisters a long time ago. It was rather emotional, in the best way. One thing I have always said about Amy is that she puts intricate beauty into simple things, and this song is, in fact, a simple one. At least, it seems that way. But in the ease of the notes and the words, she tells a story that can travel far and last a lifetime. It will for me, of that I am sure.

And there are my favorite songs by my favorite singer. I could go on and on about what an impact that Amy Grant has made on my life, even more than I already have, but even for a writer like myself, there will never be enough words. So, the most I can ever really say to her that could sum it all up is "Thank You".

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer