‘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.

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


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.

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.
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

The ultimate graphic novel recommendations





“The New Ghost” by Robert Hunter

Hues of blue plaster across every page, creating a captivating story that ripples through readers’ hearts

“5,000 km per second”  by Manuele Fior

Italian cartoonist Fior brilliantly uses watercolor to illustrate five chapters of building and crushing in relationships.




“On a Sunbeam” by Tillie Walden 

“On a Sunbeam” revolves around Grace as she beats back past and present from when she attends an all-girl boarding school in space and five years in the future. Her story is incredibly captivating and she creates fictional worlds that are so immersive. Walden’s architecture and use of colors are beyond words.

“On a Sunbeam” is free-to-red at onasunbeam.com and will still be up when it is published by First Second books in fall 2018.

How to be Happy by Eleanor Davis

Incredibly heartfelt. “How to be Happy” is a collection of short, bizarre short stories, engulfing readers and transferring them into a different world. Davis explores each human life inside out with soft colors and warm artwork, cueing peace into hearts.




“Check please!”  by Ngozi Ukazu (webcomic that can be read online)

This one is a hidden gem. Each character is likeable and every chapter is packed with college humor.  “Check please!” is a comic in the format of a vlog from a gay college student on the hockey team.

The entirety can be read online at checkpleasecomic.com and will be soon published by First Second books in fall 2018.

“Ghost World” by Daniel Clowes

This is one of the few books where the movie adaptation was better, but the comic still does not disappoint. Dry humor is filled to the brim – think Aubrey Plaza – and the characters are pure wack.

The film adaption for “Ghost World” was released in 2001

“Demon” series by Jason Shiga

Mind-boggling. Shiga never fails to stun readers with his math-driven books and still add hilarious lines from characters. The “Demon” series is completed with 4 volumes, each filled with on-the-edge craziness and unsettling jokes.




“My Friend Dahmer” by Derf Backderf

Backderf, former “friends” with Jeffrey Dahmer, recollects his high school experience in 1977 with Dahmer. He remembers the odd, yet funny, gestures Dahmer kept making to mimic his drug-addict mother and his alcoholism kicking in already at age 16. Extremely chilling, “My Friend Dahmer” is sure to leave a twisted feeling in readers.

The film adaption of “My Friend Dahmer” was released just recently, in November 2017.

“Maus” by Art Spiegelman

“Maus” illustrates the horrid treatments Jewish people had faced during the Holocaust by using mice as characters. Sick-to-the-stomach dark and frightening, Spiegelman manages to leaves readers in silence.





“This One Summer” by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

“This One Summer” explores two friends who spend their everlong summer with each other at the small beach town of Awago. The enriching purple hues creates nostalgia and comfort to the never-ending summer filled with boredom, sleepy nights, and feverish love.

“Blue is the Warmest Color” by Julie Maroh

Clementine meets a girl with the brightest blue hair at a bar and finds herself falling head over heels. “Blue is the Warmest Color” follows Clementine and Emma, whose friendship weave into innocent love.

“Blue is the Warmest Color” was adapted into French film in 2013

“Spinning” by Tillie Walden

“Spinning” is a memoir of Tillie Walden when she was a figure skater for over a decade. She conceals being lesbian and hides her true desire to be accepted for who she is. In the competitive, backstabbing bubble of figure skating, Walden faces bullying and sexual harassment in her early years, but finds strength amongst frustration.

(“Check Please!” and “On a Sunbeam” also includes LGBTQ content!)




“Relish: My life in the kitchen” by Lucy Knisley

Lucy Knisley recall her relationships with food and particularly the junk food she was forbidden to eat from her parents. Filled with mouthwatering food on every page and warm stories on each page, “Relish: My life in the kitchen” is worth the read.

“The Lagoon” by Lilli Carre

A family is lured into a familiar song, sang by the Creature from the lagoon. The story about family history intertwined with simplistic, yet beautiful art makes this book one of the best ones yet



Honorable mentions: books that should still be recognized

In Real Life, Level Up, 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank, Do It

One Acts highlights

School plays, particularly when left to the hands of inexperienced students, are prone to disaster. The theater department’s annual One Acts, a compilation of single sketches that are each directed by a different student, could very easily fall into this humiliating trap. Fortunately, this years didn’t.  

The collection of performances viewed on Jan. 13 were all organized, successful productions absent of any noticeable disasters. From this pleasant assortment of shows were some noticeable standouts, such as “We Only Care about the Babies,” directed and written by Senior Ron Barzilay, and “The Variations on the Death of Trotsky,” directed by Senior Michael Wallerius.

Of the six productions directed for this year’s One Acts, Barzilay was the only student to write his. Both creating and directing a play is a daunting task; one that would assumedly have the forgivable mistakes of a novice. Yet Barzilay’s show has the caliber, character and wit of one made by a professional playwright. When watching it, I honestly forgot that it was a simple high school production.

A genuinely educational story on the practices and lives of Orthodox Jews, it’s elevated by mature humor, an endearingly light-hearted outlook and sensitive handling of turbulent issues. This already impressive creation is further improved by its four actors, who play their well-casted roles with sincerity and good comedic timing.

Similarly to Barzilay, Wallerius’ play “The Variations on the Death of Trotsky” focuses on a group of people with ties to world history and foreign cultures. But instead of centering on an intensely traditional Jewish family, it focuses on the famous Soviet politician, Leon Trotsky, his wife and the multiple deaths he sustains.

Despite other acts having plots set in more modern times, rather than in the 1940s, “The Variations on the Death of Trotsky” is still a relatable, humorous and surprisingly poignant story. It’s unexpectedly surreal setting where a man can learn about his own demise the day after it happens is established through the creative use of sound, lighting and a fortune-telling encyclopedia.

Furthermore, the acting in this play is well-done too. Both leads nail their Russian accents, all while skillfully switching between the darkly comedic and genuinely mournful tones of the plot.

Overall, this year’s One Acts were a pleasant watch. The other plays, directed by Rylee Anderson and Allison Russell,  had clever or humorous plots of their own, such as “The Last Man on Earth,” directed by Lavender Payne, which features a desperate dweeb pursuing his crush in apocalyptic times, or the melodramatic high-school sweethearts depicted in “Oh Chad,” directed by Karen Rivera.

Oscar Predictions of 2018

The 90th annual Academy Awards are coming up on March 4. For some, it’s another Hollywood gimmick to reel in viewers, and for others, it’s a show worth devoting their Sunday to.

Either way, 2017 started off with a bang, thanks to popular movies like “Get Out” and “Split,” and ended on a strong note with films like “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “The Shape of Water” and “The Greatest Showman.” Over summer and autumn, blockbusters like “Dunkirk” and “It” raked in high box office revenues.

An alarming number of these films received awards and recognition from fans and critics. A few of these films will leave a mark in cinema history and many will stay close to our hearts.

Here are Oscar-winning predictions for fifteen categories, from “Best Picture” to “Best Original Screenplay.”


Best Picture:

  • Most likely — Lady Bird
  • Should be — Lady Bird

“Lady Bird” is a grungy, yet humor-induced coming-of-age film that captures the audience’s attention, with heart and soul poured into each character.


Best Director:

  • Most likely — Guillermo del Toro (Shape of Water)
  • Should be — Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)

Guillermo del Toro, the director of “Crimson Peak,” gained attention with “Shape of Water” in 2017 and won the Golden Globe for Best Director, but Christopher Nolan created a stellar film that left me in awe, with his beautiful screenplay that divides the story between land, sea and air.


Best Actor in a Leading Role:

  • Most likely — Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)
  • Should be — Bruce Willis (Split)

Gary Oldman leaves a powerful impression with his role as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour,” but Bruce Willis has to get credit. He reveals 24 distinct personalities through the character of David Dunn in “Split!”


Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

  • Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Should be — Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes)

Woody Harrelson provides remarkable tension in the film as Chief Bill Willoughby, but my favorite was Steve Carell, who portrayed a sexist joker as Bobby Riggs in “Battle of the Sexes,” doing a phenomenal job integrating humor into the film.


Best Actress in a Leading Role:

  • Most likely — Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)
  • Should be — Jennifer Lawrence (Mother!)

Saoirse Ronan won hearts this year in her role as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson and gained significant recognition from her fruitful expressions. Jennifer Lawrence, however, had a killer, raw performance in “Mother!” that brought me to tears and left me with goosebumps.


Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

  • Most likely — Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
  • Should be — Sarah Silverman (Battle of the Sexes)

Allison Janney nailed her role as LaVona Golden, an abusive skating mom who tears her daughter’s world apart, but Sarah Silverman’s role as a heavy-smoking manager cues laughter at the best times throughout the film.


Best Animated Feature:

  • Most likely — Coco
  • Should be — Coco

“Coco” accurately depicts Mexican heritage and culture, while kindling the importance of “familia” and “amor” with gorgeous animation by the one and only Walt Disney Animation Studios. “Mary and the Witch’s Flower” and “A Silent Voice” were runners-up, both produced by Japanese animation studios, but they lack the visual details “Coco” manages to implement.


Best Cinematography:

  • Most likely — Dunkirk
  • Should be — Dunkirk

“Dunkirk” is impactful. It is visually stunning and jaw-dropping, even though practically the only colors present in the film are hues of blue and brown.


Best Film Editing:

  • Most likely — Baby Driver
  • Should be — Baby Driver

The majority of the actions and movements in “Baby Driver” are aligned with the soundtrack. Walking, gun shooting, tapping … all of it.


Best Costume Design:

  • Most likely — Beauty and the Beast
  • Should be — The Beguiled

Belle’s vivid yellow dress is sure to win judge’s hearts, but “The Beguiled” is filled with marvelous cream-colored lace dresses.


Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

  • Most likely — Wonder
  • Should be — The Mummy

“Wonder” accurately creates face deformity on ten year old August only using makeup. However, “The Mummy” introduces unique makeup techniques, utilizing black symbols and yellow double-iris contacts, that may change Hollywood standards.


Best Original Score:

  • Most likely — Hans Zimmer (Dunkirk)
  • Should be — Hans Zimmer (Dunkirk)

Hans Zimmer, the composer for big films like “The Lion King (1995)” and “Interstellar,” nails creating a dramatic score for “Dunkirk,” using a thrilling string orchestra.


Best Original Song:

  • Most likely — “This is Me” (The Greatest Showman)
  • Should be — “Remember Me” (Coco)

Though “The Greatest Showman” was entirely an impressionable musical, “Remember Me” in “Coco” infuses major scenes with warmth and heart.


Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • Most likely — Call Me By Your Name
  • Should be — My Friend Dahmer

“Call Me By Your Name,” an adaption of the novel written by Andre Aciman, is finished with magnificent cinematography and a beautiful screenplay, but “My Friend Dahmer,” adapted from the graphic novel written by Derk Backderf, wins it all with the character’s eerie movements.


Best Original Screenplay:

  • Most likely — Shape of Water
  • Should be — Get Out

“Shape of Water” redefines “beauty and the beast” romance, but “Get Out” creatively tackles racial inequality within the film by incorporating horror and hilarity into the screenplay.

‘The Post’ lacks depth and candid perspective

Photo by 20th Century Fox
Documentation of the Pentagon Papers revealing the unscrupulousness of the Vietnam War, Steven Spielberg tackles overwhelming themes of feminism, morality and holding government in contempt.

“The Post” is everything that we have seen in Steven Spielberg’s previous works, however the film lacks a consistent theme.

This film depicts when New York Times first got ahold of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, assessments that would reveal an entire lineage of presidents that knew the war was a lost cause.

The Washington Post, a small local newspaper, led by publisher Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), would get ahold of the same documents and be faced with the difficult choice to publish them or not.

Spielberg attempts to integrate a feminist theme into the film, by showing that Graham, publisher by inheritance and not choice, found empowerment through her decision to publish the Pentagon Papers at the risk of going to jail.

However, the weaknesses in this argument can be found through Spielberg’s determination to stick to historical fact. Instead of stretching how Graham used her executive power elsewhere, he advertised the fact that her only real contribution to releasing the Pentagon Papers was saying the word. It was unclear whether she was motivated by upholding freedom of the press, or she was simply rebelling against her oppressive, but knowledgeable board.

In the very scenes where Graham expresses how oppressed she feels as a woman in a man’s world, the dialogue is lengthy and unnatural. Spielberg tried to dive into the female perspective, but failed because he is not a female director.

Through this failed theme, he also aims to present the importance of freedom of the press, which although displayed abundantly, is overshadowed by the abrupt ending right after the Supreme Court ruling denounced barring the press with the Espionage Act.

Another significant theme that was expected about such an obscure war as Vietnam, was the morality of the politics being executed at the time.

With the opening scene of the Vietnamese war zone, that was all too similar to “Saving Private Ryan,” the audience only gets a glimpse at the lives being put in jeopardy and ultimately served as the purpose for the Pentagon Papers being released in the first place.

To add insult to injury, the veteran cast did little to improve the realism of the film. Streep and Hanks had a very awkward dynamic that fails to mirror Graham and Bradlee’s real-life relationship. This inaccuracy is shown in Spielberg creating a power balance between the two characters in the movie, when in actuality, Bradlee clearly had more authority than Graham. With its preachy morals and agonizing two-hour run time, “The Post” is nothing more than a typical Spielberg movie.

The newest addition to the boba community

Surprise surprise, another shop was added to the chain of bubble tea establishments around the Silicon Valley.

Mr. Green Bubble, a restaurant specializing in boba tea, held their soft opening on Dec. 1 in their location of the Westmoor Village Shopping Center.

The interior of the cafe has a trendy environment with a light atmosphere. The store is overall completed with an aesthetically pleasing layout,  clean looking decor, a clear space to the order line and plenty of seating options including two comfortable large swinging chairs open to all customers.

Additionally, the products of Mr. Green Bubble extend to larger categories than bubble tea. Their menu offers a variety of ice cream, coffee, smoothies and other snacks, enabling the chain to appeal to more people.

Customers are given the option to modify the sweetness and ice level of any tea. This small ability to customize my drink gave me a sense of control and reassurance of the product I was purchasing.

The overall customer service was adequate, as employees were polite and offered me multiple samples.

This cafe is a must for a hangout with friends, family or just a quick boba tea run.

‘War & Leisure’ wins the battle

M iguel, R&B/soul artist, has been under the radar since he released his last album, “Wildheart.” However, his newest work might propel him into the stardom he’s always deserved.

Not only has Miguel resurrected the true meaning of R&B/soul music in “War & Leisure,” he has rejuvenated the genre as a whole.

The newer, fresher, more original sound that shines in his eclectic music, through modern production and soulful vocals fills the gap in R&B music right now. His unique melodies and  ad-libs reveal his one-of-a-kind artistry.

Although, he blends rock, hip-hop and electronic sounds, there is the hint of familiarity in Miguel’s music attributable to R&B.

The versatility that Miguel has shown in this album leads the listener through a range of contagious emotions. I was already snapping my fingers and dancing to the smooth beat of “Pineapple Skies” not even two tracks in.

In the ninth track, “Caramelo Duro,” Miguel showed off his spanish singing skills in a collaboration with up and coming Colombian artist Kali Uchis. The funky beat and sexy vocals had me moving my hips as well.

In addition to the groovy songs on the album, there were also more laid-back tracks such as “Come Through and Chill,” featuring J.Cole and Salaam Remi. The subtle sample vocals in the background complimented his effortless singing in the chorus in a way that cleared my mind and filled the room with a vibe that only Miguel can convey.

This album is exactly what has been missing in the R&B/soul genre. The way in which Miguel’s voice blended in with the tracks in this record was enough for me to channel the emotions he was singing with.

The endless experimentation in his music reveals the  uniqueness to his sound that is unparalleled right now. He pushes the R&B boundaries, but never loses the genre’s vibe.

Miguel is bringing a whole new energy to his music that makes it more than enjoyable. It is the simplistic lyrics, effortless vocals and intricate production that will have people playing this album on repeat.

Tove Lo’s new album loses characteristic grit

P erhaps most known for the explicit hit single “Habits (Stay High),” Swedish pop phenomenon Tove Lo is back with her third album, “Blue Lips,” which offers a new dimension to her previously raw and gritty tune.

“Habits (Stay High),” with its surge in popularity, was forever etched into Lo’s musical identity, and this is both a blessing and a curse.

“Habits (Stay High)” focuses on tropes we hear so often in music — sex and drugs and all that jazz. But somehow, through both Lo’s songwriting mastery and notes belted out full of raw emotion, these vulgar topics become a sophisticated, and more important, immensely powerful melancholy. An anthem almost, for the lost and heartbroken.

Much of Lo’s songs derives from her personal experiences — the same can be said of “Blue Lips.” Compared to her previous songs, “Blue Lips” gave a more pop-esque vibe to it, with a special focus on the beat — multidimensional groves powered with Lo’s haunting melody making a majority of the songs optimal dance songs.

In all honesty,while I will forever appreciate Lo’s lyrical genius, that is distinct from the overall composition of the 14 songs in “Blue Lips.”

Her newest album is reminiscent of many pop songs populated on the radio, and dare I say, decreased the original grit and sophistication Lo’s previous works have offered. In a way, they were forgettable — the beats were fresh, her voice is hauntingly beautiful, but nothing grabbed me. I would not replay a majority of the songs in the mornings when I got ready for school.

That being said, I applaud Lo on her dimensionality — her album features songs like “PITCH BLACK” and “LIGHT BEAMS”, lyric-less beats which complement as well give much depth to the album.

Songs to commend would definitely  have to be “9th of October” and “Romantics” — the beauty in these songs lies therein of the lyrics, truly poetry in motion.

For any shying away from perhaps the reoccurring explicit content featured in Lo’s music, I urge that you focus less on the subject matter, and more on message.

All in all, “Blue Lips” did not etch into my heart, but provided for a nice escape with its richly layered melodies and beats.

‘Justice League’ heroically fails

G oing into “Justice League,” I set my bar lower than I’ve ever set any of my previous movie expectations.

Beforehand, I certainly felt that at least “Justice League” couldn’t reach as low as “Batman vs Superman.” Thankfully I was right. It was definitely more watchable, which is assuming your standards are just plainly watchable. If not, there are plenty of reasons why this film crashed before it even lifted off.

Let’s start with the most simple component an action movie must have: special effects. Overall, the movie had standard slow motion sequences and cliche fight scenes on a roof, things that are basically required for a superhero movie. The problem is how those scenes looked aesthetically. Gotham City was very obviously created with a green screen and Themyscira, the island of the Amazon women, looked completely different than it did in “Wonder Woman.” It didn’t help that the majority of the dialogue was masked by loud and typical superhero music.

Another major detail that “Justice League” couldn’t seem to get right was the plot. Scenes lacked transitions and there was no explanation to the characters’ thought processes and decisions. The antagonist, Steppenwolf, seemed out of place and I didn’t even know his name until I left the theater since the abundance of different accents in the whole movie masked the pronunciation of his name.

Speaking of the characters, the introductions were lengthy and unoriginal. Three new characters had to be explained within the movie, which is technically doable since Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” had done the same with Spider Man and the Black Panther. However, it took until the end of the first major fight for me to catch on to the origin of the new characters.

This movie does have positive attributes though. Gal Gadot’s depiction of Wonder Woman was consistent with her first movie, a fierce and powerful woman in the midst of a male cast. Her scenes  almost embody the same passion that Patty Jenkins gave Wonder Woman. Newcomer Ezra Miller brings a new feeling of brightness in the midst of dark scenes. Miller mirrors Barry Allen’s awkwardness and unintentional humor, making the it one of the only times the audience laughed.

Perhaps director Zack Snyder was aiming for a dark and cryptic vibe intentionally. Unfortunately, the movie only provided a feeling of “cool,” rather than “wow” or even “interesting.” If they were going for that, then congratulations, it worked.

Personally, this movie wasn’t worth my attention of two hours and a $13 ticket. Though there were times where I found myself entranced by the slow motion and laughing at Miller’s performance as the Flash, I realized I was more confused than anything.

Spend your holidays watching something that is more thought provoking and, frankly, interesting, because if you’re looking for these things, “Justice League” is not the way to go.