Falling under Kelly Clarkson’s Christmas spell

Photo Credit: RCA Records

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Falling under Kelly Clarkson’s Christmas spell – The Los Angeles Loyolan.

Kelly Clarkson has turned me into my least favorite type of person: a Christmas-in-October person.

It’s all her fault. I’ve never been a big fan of the celebrity Christmas album – sure, Michael Bublé sounds great on his, and Celine Dion’s version of “O Holy Night” is still one of the best things that’s ever been recorded, but they’re the exceptions to the rule. So when I heard that my favorite Texan vocal powerhouse was releasing a holiday record, I sighed. First she did the greatest hits album, now this – is she retiring at 35 or something?

But then I listened to “Wrapped in Red,” released last Tuesday – Oct. 29, not even close to Christmas – and now I can’t get “Silent Night” out of my head. Or “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Or “White Christmas.” It’s a serious problem.

Leaping straight to Christmas right after Halloween – er, before Halloween – is a bad idea. It means you’ll burn out of holiday cheer right around Dec. 8. It means you’re ignoring Thanksgiving, the most woefully overlooked holiday. Christmas takes over a whole month anyway – why does it need any more time?

Oh, wait, Clarkson’s new song “Underneath the Tree” just came on and reminded me that Christmas needs more time because it is the best. Just thinking of a fireplace roaring as snow falls outside gives me warm, fuzzy feelings. (“But Kevin, you grew up in Austin, Texas–” Shh, snow is falling outside. It’s very important to my creative vision.) Why wouldn’t you want to play Christmas music all year long?

In the years since Clarkson won “American Idol,” I’ve also forgotten how good she is at big band-style music. It serves her so well here, as she nails even the most tangentially Christmas-related songs – who decided “My Favorite Things” was about the holidays? Quite frankly, there’s not a bad cover song on the record.

But wait, I think, waking from my snowy reverie. The most important part of a Christmas album is the original hit. And an original Christmas song hasn’t become a new standard since Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” I’ll probably get bored with Clarkson’s takes on the classic Christmas songs, right?

Wrong. Because Clarkson’s “Underneath the Tree” is a hit just waiting to happen. “4 Carats” is one of her hottest songs ever, regardless of the holiday theme. And “Winter Dreams (Brandon’s Song)” is an adorable, sweet-hearted tune for her new husband.

That’s it. I’m done resisting. I’m letting the early holiday feels wash over me. After all, if letting Kelly Clarkson make you love early Christmas music is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

CollegeFest acts revealed

Photo Credit: Liana Bandziulis

Photo Credit: Liana Bandziulis

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: CollegeFest acts revealed – Los Angeles Loyolan.

Hip hop duo Chiddy Bang will headline this year’s CollegeFest, according to a statement released on ASLMU’s Facebook page last night and confirmed by ASLMU Director of Performance Events Ashley Thompson, a senior finance major.

CollegeFest, the annual spring concert event which will be held on Sunday, March 24 at 4 p.m., will also feature two opening acts – the previously announced Joanie Payne, and indie pop band Youngblood Hawke.

ASLMU Office Manager Jason Joyce said in an interview with the Loyolan that the acts were chosen as a way for CollegeFest to appeal to a wider range of listeners. Thompson echoed this sentiment when she told the Loyolan the acts were chosen “to reach a broad segment … [and] the largest portion of LMU.”

According to Thompson, Chiddy Bang was a “student-driven” choice – though another hip hop act resoundingly supported by students, Macklemore, wasn’t available. Thompson said that ASLMU actively attempted to book Macklemore, but was unable to do so due to budget and scheduling restraints.

Chiddy Bang, a duo known for its songs “The Opposite of Adults” and “Mind Your Manners,” is the first full-fledged hip hop act to play CollegeFest in several years. Previous years featured bands like Gym Class Heroes and The Bravery, as well as house music act Steve Aoki.

When asked about potential controversy with a hip hop act, Thompson said that their contract includes a clean show clause. Thompson described Chiddy Bang’s material as “pretty clean.” The duo has also performed at other colleges, including the University of South Florida and Virginia Tech University. YouTube videos of performances at those shows, however, include profane language, indicating that LMU’s clean show clause may not be standard of college shows.

Beyond the music, Thompson said CollegeFest has been envisioned as more of a “festival” this year than in the past, with food trucks, giveaways and a beer garden planned.

Call Me Maybe - Carly Rae Jepsen

2012 pop music: 2011 redux

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: 2012 pop music: 2011 redux.

Call Me Maybe - Carly Rae Jepsen

Photo Credit: YouTube | CarlyRaeJepsenVEVO

Summer has officially ended, and the popular consensus has arrived: Frequently parodied earworm “Call Me Maybe” by Canadian artist Carly Rae Jepsen is your Song of Summer 2012. By now, you’re probably just a little tired of listening to it – which is natural for songs that you hear almost every day for a full 3½ months. But imagine how Canadians must feel – they first heard the song in September of last year.

This highlights one strange trend that emerged this year with pop music being even more behind the times than usual. Both of the most popular songs of the year – “Call Me Maybe” and Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” – were actually released in 2011, as was the highest selling album of this year, Adele’s “21.” While radio is no stranger to late-peaking hits, it is strange for the gap to be almost a full year after release.

So how did we wind up with pop music in 2012 that was nothing more than 2011 redux? With Adele’s album, we can chalk her continued successes up to being Adele, the savior of modern album sales, and write it off as an aberration. But with “Maybe” and “Somebody,” trying to explain why only leads to more questions.

Both Jepsen and Gotye are from outside the country, which might explain why their songs didn’t make it here earlier. But if that’s the case, why did they become so big anyway?

The songs aren’t exactly the electropop dance songs or ringtone hip hop we’ve come to expect of the radio, so it might have taken them longer to catch on. But if that’s the case, why did they catch on anyway?

Big pop artists like Adele, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé stayed out of the singles game this summer, choosing not to release anything to radio. Compare that to the era of monster singles like “We Found Love” and “Someone Like You” at the end of last year, and it’s easy to see that there wasn’t room for Jepsen or Gotye until this year. But this summer brought big songs from the likes of Rihanna (“Where Have You Been”), Katy Perry (“Wide Awake”) and Maroon 5 (“Payphone”), yet the two scrappy upstarts still reigned supreme.

The best explanation I can come up with is that there is no explanation – at least, no simple one. “Maybe” and “Somebody” seemed to rise to prominence independently due to the promotion from their labels and other Internet success. Whereas Jepsen had Justin Bieber and all his famous friends on her side, Gotye had Walk off the Earth’s five musicians-one guitar viral cover. The songs’ 2011 roots seemingly had nothing to do with their success – all just a coincidence. However, when you realize that the third biggest hit of the year, fun.’s “We Are Young,” was also released in September 2011, you can’t help but feel you’re missing a pattern.

Pop music is obviously cyclical, and there are always going to be transition years. I’d chalk this year up to nothing but radio programmers trying to find a new sound as the dance revival is cooling down. We’ll see more songs in the next year or so mirror the sounds that Adele, fun., Jepsen and Gotye first made popular this year.

Until then, enjoy your last remnants of summer music, including Ellie Goulding’s “Lights,” a song peaking in popularity right now that was first released in – er, 2010. Back to the drawing board.

Give It To Me

Throwback Thursday: The “Timbo” Era

Give It To Me

Photo Credit: YouTube | TimbalandVEVO

The year is 2007. Britney Spears had yet to shave her head in the midst of her breakdown. Gossip Girl was set to debut that coming fall. And music producer Timbaland was the hottest thing in pop music.

Timbaland had been riding a wave of hype for the past year or so following the smash successes of Nelly Furtado’s album Loose and Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds. That February, he released the first single off his album Shock Value: “Give It To Me.”

A beat-heavy track with guest vocals from Timberlake and Furtado, “Give It To Me” isn’t any of their personal best (especially not Timberlake’s), but in a lot of ways, it’s a perfect musical time capsule for the “Timbo” era.

Starting with “Promiscuous” in 2006, Timbaland took almost full control of the pop music scene, molding Nelly Furtado into a sexy songstress. Furtado left the “I’m Like a Bird” girl behind and embraced her identity as a desirable woman with the #1 hits “Promiscuous” and “Say It Right.” While she thrived, Timbaland also produced what many consider a pop masterpiece, Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds. Alone, these two achievements propelled Timbaland into the spotlight in a big way – his championing of OneRepublic and future hit single “Apologize” was just the icing on top.

“Give It To Me” was Timbaland’s first solo single since his weak efforts in the late 90’s – “solo” of course being a curious word when he has at least one featured artist on almost every single one of his tracks, and two in this one in particular. Timbaland and his pet projects each have one verse in the song. Furtado describes changing her artistic vibe on Loose. Timbaland describes his successes in production. Timberlake has perhaps the best verse, a kiss-off to anyone who made the “But sexy never left!” joke about his hit single “SexyBack.” “If sexy never left, then why’s everybody on my shi-i-i-t?” he sings. “Don’t hate on me just because you didn’t come up with it.”

In many ways, “Give It To Me” acts as an oral history of the Timbo era, and ironically, the era ended almost directly after the song faded from radio. Furtado has yet to enjoy a hit single or album after Loose and “Say It Right.” Even more disappointingly, Timberlake still has yet to record a follow-up to one of the most successful pop albums of all time, instead choosing to focus on his own career.

As for the hit producer himself, while Timbaland enjoyed minor success with “The Way I Are” and “Carry Out,” he became less and less the chief songwriter and producer of pop music.The man who replaced him? Interestingly, it was Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic – a project Timbaland himself fostered.

The Tedder era is another story for another Throwback Thursday. For now, enjoy reminiscing about the man and his artistic benefactors who, for a moment, ruled the world of pop.

Hipsters’ popularity defies counter-cultural roots

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Hipsters’ popularity defies counter-cultural roots – Los Angeles Loyolan.

Cartoon Credit: Ian Zell | The Los Angeles Loyolan

They wear skinny pants and TOMS shoes. They listen to underground music and embrace everything retro. They wear wayfarer glasses and consider independent artists the golden standard. These are the stereotypes surrounding hipsters in today’s popular culture.

The term “hipster” is firmly engrained in the mainstream vernacular of today. Hipsters have become so popular that advertisers are embracing the hip ideal as a marketable brand. The hipster, which was once considered an icon of the counter-cultural movement, is quickly becoming an immovable part of pop culture.

“Hipsters want to feel special and superior. That’s a huge thing, being superior,” said sophomore film production major Zoe Gieringer, who dislikes the ‘hipster’ label. “A lot of the culture is counter-mainstream. Hipsters almost have an aversion to the mainstream.”

“I think, for some people, it’s an attitude, a feeling of superiority,” sophomore film production major James Weber said of hipsters. “But I’d say that’s getting into the pretentious side of it … I would say a hipster would be someone who would wear trendy clothing, listens to independent music, is under the radar and has an eye for anything counter-culture.”

The hipster culture first came about in the 1940s as what author of the Journal of the American Musicological Society article, “The Problem with White Hipness: Race, Gender and Cultural Conceptions in Jazz Historical Discourse” Ingrid Monson describes as a “hip subculture, comprising black Americans interested in Western artistic nonconformity and white Americans captivated by urban African American styles of music, dress and speech.” The word “hipster” became popular again in the 1990s as a term for who particularly invested in independent music.

Sophomore film production major Caroline Dunaway was less clear about the definition of the word thanks to the connotations that have been attached to it.

“The problem is it depends on how you’re looking at the word,” Dunaway said. “I feel like, a lot of times today, when someone calls someone a hipster, it’s derogatory.”

Perhaps because of that negative connotation, it’s difficult to find many who will define themselves as hipsters. Junior film production major Dan Fromhart is a rare breed: someone who seems to have a grasp on hipster culture while submitting himself to the label.

“I would consider myself a hipster,” said Fromhart, “but by doing that, I don’t think I am actually considered a hipster. I can call myself a hipster just because people would consider me a hipster. The way I dress is hipster, but the way I live my life isn’t.”

Today, however, the movement seems to be centered on retro fashion as well as with independent music. The stereotype also indicates a competitive nature among hipsters to discover small artists and wear unconventional fashion trends first.

“People associate being a hipster with trying to go against the grain as well as trying to find the super cool, underground bands that no one knows about and stay ahead of everyone else in knowing about things,” Dunaway said. “So I think in that sense, that’s where the negative connotation comes from.”

As the hipster label has evolved, however, it has increasingly  become part of popular culture, something Dunaway said was a contradiction of the very ideals behind the culture.

“People truly believe in the counter-culture aspect of it, but the hipster image reigns supreme in popular culture when it comes to our generation and what it means to look cool,” Dunaway said. “Advertisers cater to the hipster demographic. When you go to a store and say, ‘I’m going to buy this, it’s so hipster and counter-culture,’ thousands of other kids are doing the exact same thing … [and] you’re actually feeding the popular hipster culture. It’s not good, it’s not bad; it’s just popular.”

The marketing of the hipster image is what has caused so many to attempt to be hipster simply as a trend or fad. It is those people who have added a negative connotation to the word: the divide between real hipsters and posers.

“There’s a conceived true hipster and a conceived wannabe hipster,” Dunaway said. “A lot of people see a real hipster persona and a buyable, wearable hipster persona. You can buy the records, you can put on the clothes, but does that make you a hipster? I don’t know.”

“People go out of their way to dress the part of a hipster and make it look like they’re part of the culture because it’s becoming more popular,” said senior business major Brian Pede. “It’s cooler to be that way and dress that way.”

At LMU, according to Gieringer and Fromhart, hipster culture is a bit more limited, with most of the emphasis placed on the music scene versus the counter-cultural aspects.

“I don’t think there’s a strong hipster culture at LMU, but because there isn’t one, the people who have even the littlest tinge of hipster to them are immediately put into that box,” Gieringer said.

Fromhart added that LMU’s hipster culture was “suppressed, but growing,” largely thanks to the school’s population of wealthy students seeking a way to rebel against their upbringing.

“In regards to music, I think [the LMU hipster scene] actually has a lot to offer that you might not realize when you first come here,” Dunaway said. “As far as the bad hipster connotation goes, I don’t want to say sometimes people try too hard, but people can try too hard.”

As the hipster image continues to evolve, it will likely fall out of the popular culture once again. However, the culture of hip will continue on and possibly return to its counter-cultural roots.

“I think it’ll absolutely continue to evolve, but I’m interested to see where it goes,” Dunaway said. “Everything is influenced by something else. We can’t keep pulling out of thin air. It seems like we’ve gone through so many cycles – I’m interested to see what it’ll be. I’m certain it’ll be something from the past, just repurposed into something just a little different. Only time will tell.”