‘On My Block’ sheds light on teens of color in LA

On My Block” is refreshingly connected to not only teens of color, but communities of color.

The 10 episode Netflix Original is the latest coming-of-age comedy set in East L.A. that follows five young teens as they transition from the safety of middle school to the ever-changing dynamic of high school.

As a whole, the show attempts to bring light to several societal issues, from the prevalence and reality of gangs, family pressure, relationships, immigration laws, racism and discrimination. Through its genuine characters and hilarious one-liners, “On My Block” succeeds at opening its viewers’ eyes.

Photo courtesy of Netflix.

To tackle gang culture, Cesar, a protagonist (Diego Tinoco), is drawn into a gang, the Santos, by his brother and is expected to rise in power. Cesar struggles to adhere to familial pressure, connect with his brother and maintain his relationship with his friends.

The reality of gangs is further addressed with Cesar acing his classes and being on a path to success academically juxtaposed against the demands made by his brother, the gang leader, to be more involved. Despite his friends trying to get him out of the Santos, a feeling of lost potential permeates the show.

One of the first messages of the show is that to survive high school, one needs to stick with their friends. With Monse and Cesar beginning to see each other romantically, this becomes exceedingly difficult as they struggle to keep their relationship a secret from the Ruby, Jamal and Olivia in fear of it ruining the group dynamic.

While Monse’s actress, Sierra Capri, is arguably the weakest of the five with her headstrong personality often coming across as annoying, she introduces several important themes. Monse and Olivia are strong female characters who constantly battle being surrounded by teenage boys and being objectified by gang members.

Olivia is the newest member of the group and learns to adjust to her new life without her parents. After their deportation, she is left alone in the states and ends up living with Ruby, the anxious, talkative and adorable friend who is enamored by her very existence.

That leaves Jamal, who is the running joke of the show for always being forgotten. No one ever seems to believe in Jamal, especially when it comes to the RollerWorld conspiracy. The premise is that thousands of dollars were buried somewhere in the neighborhood by the Santos’ founders, and Jamal believes that finding the money will be the answer to getting Cesar out of the gang.

Ultimately, the show succeeds because everything is incredibly thought out. My favorite one-liners include “You can’t declare yourself woke. Someone needs to tell you.” and “You lose the tone when you use the phone.” With the quirky characters, the sick soundtrack (peep “Devil’s Whisper” by Raury) and each intro being specific to the episode’s themes, “On My Block” is a blockbuster.

‘Isle of Dogs’ is an endearing and well-made film

The movie features both stunning visuals and off-beat humor. Photo courtesy to IMDB.

Director Wes Anderson’s most recent movie, “Isle of Dogs,” is a success similar to his previous films, which include “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Moonrise Kingdom.”

The plot of the movie is set in the future, where a rampant “canine flu” in Japan forces all dogs of the nation to be quarantined on an island. A young boy named Atari ventures to this place in hopes of finding his beloved pet, Spots. As he searches for his furry friend and evades authorities, he’s assisted by five other anthropomorphic dogs: Chief, Rex, Boss, Duke and King.

“Isle of Dogs” carries the distinctive style that all of Anderson’s past films have: meticulously symmetrical compositions, distinct color palettes and an awesome soundtrack. As usual, it’s made with extreme technical proficiency, featuring creative and frequently stunning animation.

The dry and darkly humorous dialogue regularly seen in Anderson’s work is also featured. However, I found “Isle of Dogs” to be considerably funnier than his other films.

Maybe this is because of the story’s focus on dogs or just the talent of the actors themselves, but the innocently awkward conversations and endearingly naive nature of characters made the film far more comedic and pleasant to watch.  

I will admit that Anderson’s films can be a bit jarring at times. His casual and apathetic handling of dreary subjects can be easily misinterpreted as insensitive, rather than an attempt at humor. “Isle of Dogs” focuses on subjects that are less dark than those featured in Anderson’s previous films, such as death, suicide and parental neglect. It is a much more light-hearted and pleasant film.

As funny and beautifully animated as “Isle of Dogs” is, it does have some flaws. The main one being is that the storyline is unpredictable, and not always in a good way. Subplots become more crucial than expected, plot twists have surprisingly little impact and impractical solutions are used to solve serious problems.

It’s not a movie to see if you’re really focused on the plot. This sounds a bit strange, as most movies are watched for their story, specifically. But Anderson’s films are intentionally made to be more than that; instead having numerous little details that eventually make a wonderful final product.

So if you enjoy lovable characters, amusingly eccentric dialogue and exquisite visuals, then this is definitely a movie for you.

The 'Old' Weeknd is back

The enigmatic R&B singer Abel Tesfaye, or more popularly known as The Weeknd, is notorious for

The mysterious R&B singer produces new album that resembles the dark, sensual sound of his older albums Trilogy and Beauty Behind the Madness. Photo courtesy of iTunes.

producing songs that have an alluring, soft and sensual sound. His songs carry an abundance of references to sex, drugs and other NSFW topics.

He’s also popular for showing a reserved and mysterious side in Hollywood by seldom revealing his true feelings and the trade-mark somber facial expression.

Even his start in the music industry remains a mysterious story as his career began by posting three songs to his YouTube channel under the title “xoxxxoooxo”.

In the span of two weeks, one of those songs, “What You Need”, was given the title “Best New Track” on an indie-music review site called Pitchfork (Business Insider).

Since then, The Weeknd has gained more attention with performances at Coachella, winning several Grammy-awards and creating hit-songs that top the charts.

On Mar. 29, The Weeknd released his newest album titled “My Dear Melancholy”.

I knew instantly by the title that this album would mimic his ‘original’ sound from previous albums like “Trilogy”, “House of Balloons”, and “Beauty Behind the Madness”. I also knew that he always released songs that had a somber, raw sound, especially when he talked about relationships, I knew this would fulfill my expectations.

Well, I was wrong. This album exceeded my expectations. If I were

The sound of this album is so raw and the passion in his voice is so intense that you will literally feel your heart ripped out of your chest over a relationship that you probably never even had. You’ll feel emotions and sensations that you didn’t even know you could feel. I mean, he literally had me thinking about that boy in second-grade who chose to partner up with another girl instead of me on a group project (I still think about you, come back please).

I was initially disappointed when I found out that there were only six songs on this album because I needed my soul to be content but some fans have speculated that there will be a total of fourteen songs on the album since it is an EP. However, these rumors have yet to be proven.

There is not one song on this album that I do not love, which is typically unusual for me even when it comes to The Weeknd. My personal favorite songs are Call Out My Name, which is rumored to be about his relationship with Selena Gomez as one of the lines is, “I almost cut a piece of myself for your life,” as she had been looking for a kidney donor last year, Privilege, and Try Me.

You really have to listen to the message that the artist is trying to convey through their music and the influences behind those messages before you can make a judgment. Although The Weeknd’s music may seem superficial with the sex and drug-references, there really is a deeper meaning to him as well as his music.

I highly recommend this album if you are a fan of his old sound or if you’re simply into music that tugs at your emotions. This album will make you feel alive. It will reach down into the depths of your soul and pull at the strings of your heart in the best way possible.

Cardi B does it for the culture

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Cardi B makes her way to top spot of the rap game with the release of her debut album “Invasion of Privacy.” Photo courtesy of iTunes.

ess than a year after her rise to rap stardom with single, “Bodak Yellow,” Cardi B, the Bronx MC, released her debut album,  “Invasion of Privacy.”

When she announced her album release date my excitement and anticipation for the album was unbearable.

I remember listening to the first two singles “Bodak Yellow” and “Bartier Cardi” featuring 21 savage. Both of these singles were filled with an unapologetic attitude, hard-hitting lyrics and simple yet catchy production.

I built up a lot of hype surrounding her debut album and let’s just say the results were not disappointing.

The first track I listened to, which she released a week before, was “Be Careful,” where she raps about being in an unfaithful relationship and warning her partner to start taking her feelings into consideration.

The storytelling and vulnerability that Cardi showcases was a pleasant surprise. I think it was a smart choice to release this song before the album because people tend to always expect the attitude-filled, intimidating raps whereas this song had a different vibe that many women could relate to if they are going through any sort if strain in a relationship with a significant other.

In this track she also shows off her vocals, which were not unique, but still something new.

Cardi showcased her capability to present raw emotions through music in multiple tracks.

“Thru Your Phone,” was another more sentimental track talking about infidelity in a relationship.

Her other solo songs were also well constructed lyrically and production wise, such as the first track off the album, “Get Up 10.”

Cardi raps about her struggle of going from rags to riches over a mellow, simple beat that matches her aggressive, emotion filled tone.

Cardi’s ability to lyrically present situations in her life with a message to relate to her listeners is what makes her music so likeable and real.

To contrast to the more emotional songs, she still stays true to her aggressive, gangster like beats and raps that she came into the industry with.

Songs like “Money Bag” and “Bickenhead” are uplifting tracks that listeners can get down to and hype each other up.

From YG to SZA the album features some of the most well known rappers and r&b artists.

My least favorite collaboration was “Drip” featuring Migos, which just sounded like another Migos song with no lyricism or underlying message. Cardi still delivered on her part however she was overshadowed by the production and other three members of Migos.

The other collabs did redeem this disappointing track however, such as “She Bad” featuring YG,  “I Do” featuring SZA, “Best Life” featuring Chance the Rapper and “Ring” featuring Kehlani. Kehlani and SZA were perfect compliments to the album with their unique vocals and delivery.

Cardi also stays true to her latin roots through “I like it” featuring Bad Bunny and J Balvin who are some of the most popular latin music artist at the moment. The afro-caribbean beat and spanish lyrics had me dancing all throughout my living room.  

Cardi’s versatility throughout this album has landed her the top spot amongst female rappers. She came into the game with a carefree vibe and it shines through her latest piece of work.

She is not worried about what everyone else is doing  nor should she be because she is setting the tone with her music.

She has a distinct sound that sets her apart from other mainstream female rappers. She does not go out of her way to try impress instead she goes into the studio, raps about what she wants to while staying true to her character and the simplicity behind it all is what makes it work so well.

 

'Heathers'-esque teen murder flick will trump others alike

Photo courtesy of Focus Features.

Fresh into the film industry, Cory Finley has already written and directed his first cinematic work with “Thoroughbreds.” It is a brilliant work of thriller that swept the audience off its feet with meaty writing and enigmatic characters.

“Thoroughbreds” depicts sick behavior from two teenage girls, Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Olivia Cooke), who reunite from their childhood friendship. When Lily explains her frustration toward her stepfather, Amanda brings forward a ploy —  to kill him.

Inspiration from murderous classics like “Pulp Fiction” and “Perfect Blue” are present throughout. Even the most anticipated murder scene isn’t shown, and that’s fine, because “Thoroughbreds” isn’t about a great murder plan. It’s more of an extended metaphor for satisfying greed and questioning meaning in one meek life.

Lily is a full-on bourgeois who has been granted with every object she could ever wish for, and the next bullet point on her wish list is her stepdad dead. But Lily can’t get her hands dirty …

Amanda, on one hand, finds solace in expressing zero emotions, even when killing her prized horse. Lily, however, carries all the emotions Amanda lacks, whether it’s fear, wrath or nervousness. The abrasive contrast between the two creates a drip of eeriness and an oddly favorable relationship.

Both actors ace their provided roles and accentuate the characters’ personalities. Taylor-Joy is known for her notorious role in “The Witch” and Cooke will be one of the starring actors in “Ready Player One.”

The minimalistic soundtrack fits seamlessly with every scene. Although the majority of the film is percussive and more tribally rhythmic than melodic, the last scene features an acoustic guitar that is played so lovingly and with so much care.

The screenplay, laced with dark humor and weirdly lovable characters, is worth every penny spent. Cold, gashful and sinfully fun, “Thoroughbreds” is sure to be a classic for murder and thriller fans.

Choir performance inspired by Vivaldi

On Feb. 1, choir and band joined together to skillfully perform Antonio Vivaldi’s hymn “Gloria.”

“Every year we perform a ‘Major Work,’” choir teacher Jeff Morton said. “The ‘Gloria’ is over a half of an hour long and has 12 movements, some soft and beautiful, others loud and powerful.”

I found the performance to be wonderful. I’m not classically trained in singing and have little knowledge on the expectations required for “Gloria,” so my opinion isn’t that of an expert. But as an observer, the choir sounded lovely and the orchestra was amazing.

I did not notice any off-key singers or poorly tuned instruments throughout the entire show. The violinists showed particular skill, mastering their parts and consistently being on point.

The composer behind this famous piece is Antonio Vivaldi, an 18th century composer who is well known as one of the most renowned figures in European classical music.

Despite Vivaldi’s interest in music, he sought religious training and was ordained a priest in 1703. However, Vivaldi may have joined priesthood not out of religious devotion, but because of the free schooling and access to music it provided.

“[During the Baroque period] almost all music was somehow financially made possible because of the Catholic church,” Morton said.

According to biography.com, by the age of 25, Vivaldi became master of violin at Ospedale della Pietà (Devout Hospital of Mercy) in Venice.

According to baroquemusic.com, the Ospedale housed the love children of noblemen and their various mistresses. As a result, it received large donations from “anonymous” fathers.

I don’t recall if the Gloria was sung by the orphanage youth. The orphanage was all girls, so at least some other forces would be needed to sing the male parts,” Morton said.

Like many of Vivaldi’s other pieces, the “Gloria” is a religious text.

The first line ‘Glory to God in the Highest’ set the tone as a praise and thanks giving song,” Morton said. “Other lines include prayer for peace on earth and lifting out our sins and trials to that which is greater than us.”

The hottest local spots for hot chocolate enthusiasts

I t’s not uncommon for students to travel off campus during lunch to grab a cup of coffee, most likely in hopes of the caffeine fueling them for the rest of the day.

But then again, there’s alway the teens that despise the bitter taste of coffee, the ones that can go without that energy boost from the beverage.

Hot chocolate is an extremely popular go-to drink among people of all ages. Here are the top local shops selling the popular go-to caffeine free drink:

Starbucks

Starbucks is the most popular out of all of the hot chocolate locations. Their specialty drink contains a dark chocolate taste, and is on the less richer side. However, the sweetness levels are made up for by the whipped cream topping the drink.

Rating: 3/5


Philz Coffee

Although it is not pasted on the menu, if you ask your barista at Philz to make you a hot chocolate, they won’t think twice. This beverage is definitely unique in comparison to the others. You can modify the sweetness and creaminess levels similar to the other items they sell. The hot chocolate itself is rich, thick and foamy.

Rating: 5/5


In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out burger recently began selling hot chocolate as the newest addition to their menu. This originally became a topic of discussion as it was the first new item added to their menu in over a decade. The fast-food chain’s Ghirardelli hot cocoa is sweet and simple. The beverage was moreover topped with mini marshmallows, which was nice touch to the experience.

Rating: 4/5


Peet’s Coffee

The hot chocolate sold at Peet’s is similar in taste to the drink sold at Starbucks. Although it is slightly sweeter, it still possesses the lack of richness. However, it is additionally topped with whipped cream, which is a subtle but comforting addition to the drink.

Rating: 3.5/5

Winchester: Spook or Spoof?

W ith the exception of Helen Mirren’s tasteful performance, the Spierig brothers’ “Winchester” is  another movie to be added to the list of cliché horror films.

Based on true events, the movie is set in the 1900s in the dark and unusual San Jose mansion of Sarah Winchester, the widow of a gun manufacturer.

Troubled doctor Eric Price is sent to the mansion to assess Sarah’s mental state in order to determine if she is fit to run the company. To the doctor’s dismay, Sarah’s continuous building and plans for additions to the house is an attempt to appease the spirits and ghosts who have been killed by Winchester guns.

At the same time as the doctor’s arrival, an unknown spirit is present and more powerful than ever, refusing to leave until it gets the revenge it seeks.

“Winchester” had so much potential, but its execution was typical and dull.

The jump scares consisted of random ghosts popping up, which is seen countlessly in the horror genre and resulted in a loss of authenticity and mood in the film.

The arbitrary details to the house such as a finger suddenly appearing from a wall, roller skates, shaking cabinets and single mother all caused the plot to occur with no rising action or climax. It was all just a tangle of events.

The setting was an aspect the directors could have taken advantage of in order to induce more thrill. However, the only thing reminding me that this story was set in the 1900s was a couple of the costumes and one or two hairstyles.

There was no “wow factor” that made this movie one to remember, as it only included  stereotypical components.

Mirren was one of the very few elements that uplifted “Winchester.” She delivered a convincing performance of a possessed and yet still intelligent and charismatic character.

Overall, “Winchester” lacked originality and thrill, and was not worth the line nor the ticket.

‘Not a bad thing’ to experiment?

W hen Justin Timberlake released “The 20/20 Experience” five years ago after great anticipation from fans, the album opened with 968,000 sales and went on to become 2013’s top seller, according to Billboard.

For his latest release, “Man of the Woods,” which mingles country vibes with his distinctive and signature pop and funk, Timberlake once again has kept his fans waiting. This album marks Timberlake’s fourth Billboard No.1 album and is the best-selling album in the U.S. since Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” in December 2017, according to Billboard.

Advertised as a return to the singer’s Tennessee roots, “Man of the Woods” was released close to Timberlake’s performance at the Super Bowl halftime show, reminding us of his role in Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction in 2004.

During the halftime show, Timberlake donned a suit emblazoned with images of a wooded landscape and a bandana to match the theme of his album. Despite dancing more than he sang, his tribute to Prince and Super Bowl selfie with now internet-famous Ryan McKenna redeemed the underwhelming affair.

As for the album itself, Timberlake’s return to his roots feels incomplete, as standout songs like “Supplies” and “Filthy” gyrate persuasively around bombastic, sexual R&B. “Midnight Summer Jam” has the appealing, yet busy feel that Timberlake has mastered throughout the years, with heavy influence from Timbaland.

However, songs that actually stick to his proclaimed country theme fail, perhaps intentionally, to combine the rural with an edgy, digital aesthetic. “Flannel” is disappointingly flat, sounding almost like a lullaby. “Montana” lacks originality and resonates strongly with mainstream pop. Moreover, “Hers,” recorded with Jessica Biel, feels like it is trying too hard to be poignant.

Many tracks commence similarly, with excerpts of soundbites and a string instrument strumming in the background. While this may manifest his attempt at retrieving his roots, the songs lack the carefree, soulful tone that often comes with country music.

On another note, the songs “Higher Higher” and “Morning Light,” featuring Alicia Keys are my personal favorites, as they bring a semblance of authenticity back to Timberlake’s reputation.

Nonetheless, Timberlake clearly is still making headlines, currently with three songs in the top 20 Billboard songs chart: “Say Something” featuring Chris Stapleton, “Man of the Woods,” and his 2016 hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”

Timberlake will kick off his world tour in Toronto in March, stopping by San Jose on Apr. 24-25 where he can hopefully “bring his sexy back.”

‘Black Panther’ soundtrack lives up to same hype as film

Not only does Marvel’s upcoming film “Black Panther” host an incredible cast, but the movie’s soundtrack brings musical icon Kendrick Lamar to the list of creatives working on the highly anticipated movie.

Lamar announced his role in producing and curating the soundtrack on Jan. 4, when he dropped “All the Stars,” a collaboration with SZA, which is a featured song on the album. The entirety of the soundtrack was released on Feb. 9.

Kendrick Lamar shows his raw genius in producing the “Black Panther” soundtrack.

The album presents songs from and inspired by the “Black Panther” film, which is to hit theaters on Feb. 16. The movie has created a wave of hype, as it is anticipated to be a fresh blend of superhero action and social commentary. More tickets were sold in advance than any previous superhero film, according to CNN.

A large part of the excitement surrounding “Black Panther” is the fact that it is the first Marvel film directed by a black person and one of the only blockbuster superhero movies with a predominantly African-American cast. The movie shines a light on African culture, something often ignored in Hollywood, especially in action features.
Lamar’s album reflects this same culture from the movie. Not only does the soundtrack host some of the most prominent black artists of the industry, such as The Weeknd, Khalid, SZA, Anderson Paak and Travis Scott, but the sounds and lyrics of the album offer a range of perspectives that emphasize the values of the film.

There is a huge spectrum of variety in the soundtrack. Each featured artist is allowed to express their own style under the theme of the film, with songs ranging from the pop-inspired R&B in “The Ways” to the intense hip-hop of “X.”

Lamar keeps the album cohesive in subtle nods to his own style heard in every song. His ability to tie such a broad range of songs together into a united format shows his musical prowess. His choice to allow participating musicians such freedom in expression strengthens the message of the album through diversity.

Due to the expanse of style, it is unlikely that one person will love every single song on the soundtrack. Personally, I disliked “King’s Dead” because I am not a fan of trap rap. However, I adored the reggae-rap style of “Seasons.” These are matters of taste, and despite mixed opinions on certain songs, the album as a united work is a genuine masterpiece.

“Black Panther” is already set to break records and set new expectations as a superhero movie, and in this same manner, Lamar’s accompanying album expands possibilities for what a film soundtrack can be.

Same genre, same culture, same upward trajectory for Migos

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lmost a year after their sophomore album, “Culture,” debuted to much acclaim, Migos, the Georgia-based hip-hop trio, released their latest album, “Culture II.”

Becoming the subject of speculation inside of the rap community, the project was first teased in June 2017, with a handful of singles being released this past December and January.

Southern hip-hop had never been my favorite subgenre of rap; most trap music, save for that of Gucci Mane, seemed one-dimensional and uninspired to me. However, “Culture,” specifically songs like “T-Shirt” and “Bad and Boujee,” opened my ears to the region.

Migos’ third full-length album marks a continuation of the group’s success. Photo courtesy of Quality Control Music, Motown and Capitol Records.

The distinctive voices and styles of Quavo, Takeoff and Offset — the three members of Migos — blended with the darker aura of a trap beat sounded fresh and intuitive, qualities southern rap previously lacked.

Thus, my expectations for “Culture II” were not merely high, but overinflated. I was almost disappointed that the first track, “Higher We Go,” was largely a generic trap song, with little lyrical substance (unless you consider lyrics about illegal substances substance).

During my initial listen, many of the songs fell short of my expectations in the same manner: more mindless drivel about drugs and cars, and more repetitive and uninspired hooks.

However, a few tracks stood out, namely the December single “Stir Fry,” with its active, pop-like beat, allusions to southern food and cooking and a hook by Quavo.

I finished listening entirely unimpressed, but gave a couple sections of the album a second try. Remarkably, I wasn’t nearly as disappointed the second time around, with adjusted expectations and more clarity on the direction of the music.

Migos hasn’t done anything revolutionary or groundbreaking, nor have they created a masterpiece that will eventually be used as a time capsule for trap music. Nonetheless, “Culture II” has its appeals, both to those with more refined ears for rap and newer listeners who are getting their first taste of the genre.

The first few songs, including the January single “Superstars” and “Walk It Talk It,” are largely similar to the rest of Migos’ discography, with one member singing the hook and rapping a verse and the other two rotating in for a few bars of their own. Quavo leads the two tracks, and while his hooks and lyricism aren’t exactly ingenius, the more unique beats on the two tracks compliment his tangy southern accent well. The features on the first few tracks, being Drake and 21 Savage, both blend well with Migos, but neither was particularly spectacular.

However, the highlights of the album are in the middle, being “CC,” “Stir Fry” and “Too Much Jewelry.” Gucci Mane makes an appearance on the first of those; his unique voice lends itself well to the more traditional trap beat. “Too Much Jewelry” features veteran producer Zaytoven on the beat, with Takeoff rapping the majority of both the hook and verses.

The latter portion of the album, while nothing special, is equally as solid as the first part. The premier single of the album, “MotorSport,” features a pair of female vocalists in Nicki Minaj and Cardi B. The project’s third-to-last track, “Made Men,” is another standout, with a relaxed, upbeat vibe, not dissimilar to that of R&B-influenced hip-hop.

The question surrounding the album is not whether the various standouts make it a success, but rather whether the remaining generic, uninspired filler tracks drag the album down.

Migos, one of the most prolific acts in hip-hop, needs to focus less on proving themselves to everybody, but rather show the industry whether or not they will take trap music in a new direction.

In a way, “Culture II” does that, probably exactly in the manner Migos wants it to. The album oozes Atlanta vibes and conveys the feelings and emotions of a hustler in a way only rap could. In a a genre where the best music follows a strict formula, the group does a solid job of stepping in a new direction while staying true to their culture.

A maniacal fall out of flavor

W hen I was in middle school, Fall Out Boy played constantly on the radio, making it almost impossible not to hear one song a day. I was more than okay with that. Songs like “Centuries” and “Uma Thurman” filled my earbuds and I loved listening to rock music, which contrasted my usual Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus songs.

As the years went by, Fall Out Boy faded from my playlists and I forgot about them. Then came “Mania.”
Before Fall Out Boy’s new album was released on Jan. 19, I had high expectations for Fall Out Boy’s new album. I expected an alternative vibe which was the reason they appealed to so many fans and what had made me listen to them all those years ago. Imagine my distaste when I found the album was nothing I thought it would be.

Fall Out Boy’s new album dissatisfies fans with new album with the only appealing song being “Champions.”

In their new album, Fall Out Boy blindly follows the new norm of giving an electronic background to their songs instead of using classic rock instruments. For example, in the first single of the album, “Young and Menace,” there was an extremely long interlude showing off the electronic backbone of the song. The large instrumental portion seemed overly long, and I found myself bored waiting for the vocals to appear. Overall, it didn’t fit the style that rock music normally portrays.

Instrumental is not the only problem in “Mania.” “Heaven’s Gate,” a song that focuses on a religiously sinful type of love, tried to mimic a soulful vibe like Hozier’s “Take Me to Church,” but falls short of the 2014 single. This was partly due to lead singer Patrick Stump’s voice, which gave no depth to the song, and therefore, no soul.

The songs melted into each other as I was listening, creating a whirlwind of unmemorable and identical tunes. “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” and “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T” have the same snapping beat, and “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” is not actually about the popular tea drink.

The only great song to come out of this album is the second single: “Champions.” “Champions” is the closest song to the original rock that Fall Out Boy is known for, and it delivers on all the aspects the band became famous for.

In the song, Stump sings, “If I can live through this, I can do anything,” inspiring listeners to keep on going and find where their strength comes from. The song mirrors the same hard hitting, inspirational energy Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” gave. “Champions” goes back to Fall Out Boy’s alternative roots rather than displaying the electronic music present in all the other songs, and delivers a perfect message for this day and age.

As someone who was way too excited for Fall Out Boy’s new music, I would suggest listening to the previously released singles before deciding to purchase the full length album. It’ll give a small sample to the album and then one can decide for themselves whether or not “Mania” is worth it.

  • Artist: Fall Out Boy
  • Release date: Jan. 19
  • Genre: Alternative
  • Price: $11.99
  • Stars: 3.5