Music Monday: What Goes In Must Come Out!

Hello, and happy Monday friends! It’s been months since I’ve written one of these. Typically I pick a song, artist or album to discuss, heralding whatever musical artistry there is to be enjoyed and appreciated. This time, however, I want to show how music taught me a little lesson this week – and just how powerful it can be.

Have you ever heard the phrase “what goes in must come out?” I always associated this with food, or even work ethic with the sister statement “you get out of it what you put into it!” Well this past Saturday morning, I prepared a very short Spotify “hype” playlist just to give myself some extra upbeat songs to get me ready for the long workday ahead. I’ve become more open-minded to some hip-hop and even trap music artists in recent years (many of them really are artistic & have legitimate things to say in their music!). So what did I put on as I worked out and got ready for work?

This is ONLY one example, and I know what you might be thinking. And you’re right. And no, there is NO point to this song, no substance, no artistic quality, plenty of language, the list goes on. This song exists JUST to be a trap song – something to get you hype in the club. That’s it! And if that’s what you’re looking for, this might have you ready to yell “you GUESSED it!!!!…..WOO! You was RIGHT!!!” So yes, this song exists solely to get you straight turnt. (OG Maco didn’t make much money on anything else, so I guess we’ll let him have this.)

Now the thing is: this and the other songs I blasted that morning sent me to work PUMPED. And I mean PUMPED, as in I had way too much energy. I did the best I could to contain it for the sake of being professional at work, but I had such a rush from the music! It was as if I had an edge of danger in me. Not because it was this dark, evil scary music or anything – I was just way too hyped and could have yelled YOU GUESSED IT!! GRRRAH!! GRRRAH!! at a person at any given moment.

Fast forward to Sunday morning. I had another long work day ahead, and wasn’t feeling my best physically. This time, I put my gospel playlist on, including:

Gospel of course has always been my first musical love, as I’ve talked about on my site before. No matter what contrast in style the Gospel artist is using, there is always a comfort in the messages. I wasn’t even trying to get anything out of it, but as I was driving between church services, I realized that I was in a much different state of mind. I was calm, I was in a good mood, and not feeling my physical best didn’t matter all of a sudden. James Hall and his choir singing about joy, love and hope replaced the AAAAAAAAAAH sensation that I had day before. That translated into an overall controlled, calm and near-peaceful day.

My point? Music is powerful, and what you listen to can directly affect you. I can handle a trap song or whatever once in a while just for fun (or a pointless song to make fun of, like anyone else) – but I overloaded myself on getting hype. The gospel music was calming, artistic and existing to make a point (praising God). I’m not saying you should drop what you’re doing to listen to what worked for me Sunday, or that all trap music is bad. Country, rock or soul might be it for you! What I am saying: just watch what you put into yourself. How we think and act is going to be representative of the various things we put in ourselves or surround ourselves with. And with music being such a powerful entity, we’re prone to be affected before we realized it. I could do a whole ‘nother piece about music and its’ affect on us, but for now: just be aware of what’s going in, so you only get the best coming out.

Happy Music Monday! Now go listen to some good music!!!

-BB2

P.S.: OG Maco’s music video is worth a good laugh.

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Joyful Noise: A Movie that Missed the Point

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Joyful Noise (2012)

Queen Latifah & Dolly Parton in a movie together about singing. What could go wrong? (Good question.)

SUMMARY:

Queen Latifah & Dolly Parton both sing in a church choir together – a pretty good one – who is known for coming out successfully in church choir competitions. They are led by Parton’s father, who passes away suddenly, but the church elects Latifah as the new leader instead of Parton. Of course, Dolly Parton isn’t super pleased that she wasn’t chosen, and makes this pretty clear, spawning an odd little feud with Latifah. Meanwhile, Latifah has to deal with her two children Keke Palmer (who wants to be a breakup star but struggles to deal with her MIA father) & song w/a mental illness. Parton’s grandson shows up as the oddball trouble-making who shakes things up, and gets close to Keke Palmer, despite her mother’s strict ‘be home when the streetlights come on and praise the Lord’ rules. Throughout the movie, Latifah has to deal with the choir wanting her to not be so stubborn with her overly-traditional ways, and this even includes dealing with some family issues.

WHAT’S… okay.

  1. Music – The songs are nice. Not memorable, but everyone does a good job musically. The singers can sing. That’s a good start. The music is done by Mervyn Warren, by the way – a great musician/producer who’s knows what he’s doing (he was even in Take 6 for some years at their start). That helps. Parton’s song reflecting on her father is nice, but forgettable.
  2. My Old Friend Courtney – Oh look, it’s Courtney B. Vance! Preaching yet again. Haven’t seen him since Preacher’s Wife. Ha. How fun.
  3. Walter – At first, I didn’t think I’d like Latifah’s son, Walter, in this movie, who is dealing with life as a teen with asperger syndrome. But I do like what this character brings to the movie – he was well-written, brought a lot of realistic struggle (yet heart) to the story, and should have been the only major subplot. The best part of the movie is his scene w/Latifah where he questions why God made him like this. That scene is touching, to the movie’s credit – followed by her singing Fix Me, Jesus.
  4. THERE’S the Queen – It takes a long time (somewhat understandably) to see the Queen Latifah we’re used to. After an hour of maintaining her ‘holier-than-thou’ routine, she finally starts playing the dozens on Parton when she confronts her at work, which gave me the personality I recognize and enjoy. Sometime later, after what seems like an eternity of Keke Palmer snapping and complaining and calling her mother out of her name, Latifah FINALLY smacks Palmer. Now I don’t say that in a “wooo violence!” kind of way. Let’s just say Palmer’s character was terribly annoying when she got to her angry teenager part of her development. That slap scene was long-awaited and 30 minutes too late.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK:

  1. Pop Songs in Church – I don’t get it? Okay, here’s the deal. A gospel choir appearing behind a Michael Jackson song, for example, on one of his concerts is a fantastic feature that kicks things up a notch. I am a fan of what this adds. But a church choir, of any genre, singing secular/pop songs in church is not what they are for when it comes to the Sunday morning gig. The church choir’s main purpose is to use music as a ministry tool for God’s messages. Man in the Mirror is a great song, but it’s not a message people come to hear about God’s Word. I’m not against non-traditional styles in a church by any means, but it has to be used for reasons that make sense and do the job of attracting people to listen because of the sound, but leave with the message. Sadly, that isn’t paid attention to here. (See more in my final point.)
  2. The Random Subplot – so two of the choir members randomly (and I mean, randomly) hook up in front of the church, and their lovemaking literally kills the man. Then we cut to his funeral and they try to play it off as a dark joke. This comes remains a subplot later on, but everything I just described happens within 60 seconds – it’s really quick. WHAT’S THE POINT?! Most random, stupid thing ever. It’s not funny, and it’s totally worthless. Them hooking up so suddenly might have been funny on its’ own without the abrupt death joke. Now the joke is whenever men get with this woman, they “tap it and die.” Great. Next.
  3. Kirk Franklin – Kirk Franklin is a fantastic, amazing gospel artist who’s been around since the 90s, and he’s one of the biggest voices in gospel music. He’s also appeared in movies/TV acting as something similar to what he does in real life, because he’s a pretty game guy. In this movie, he cameos as the leader of the dynamic choir who keeps beating Latifah’s choir. I love seeing him here, but it seriously feels like they could have used anybody, and therefore wasted his time. Here’s my theory: They saw Kirk performing somewhere, showed up with cameras, lied to him about what they were really doing, shot the movie around him, and then announced him as another character. Kirk saw it and said “I could be mad and sue…but hopefully someone will see my song and get a the ministry out of it that I intended.” Which is nice. Then he watched the rest of the movie and was like “…oh. They said I cheated. That ain’t cool.”
  4. Dragging – There are plenty of scenes & moments that do drag. And when they drag, they drag pretty hard. A song or two definitely do this (There’s NO reason why we have to watch a full song by their competition in the finals). And then, after a few predictable scenes you saw coming, someone cusses just to ‘throw you off.’ Okay.
  5. Olivia – Keke Palmer did a fine job acting in this movie, and has already proven herself as an actress. I also am pretty much convinced that the chemistry between her and Latifah & Parton was good. HOWEVER. I HATE HER CHARACTER. When she learns the truth about her father leaving, she starts moping & doping around, acting disrespectfully bitter, and it’s not just hard to watch – it’s dreadfully annoying. I wish this role was played by an actress I didn’t care about so I didn’t feel as bad since I like Keke Palmer. I wonder what the Love Don’t Cost a Thing chick is up to…
  6. The Finals Song – Okay. Remember in Drumline (not saying it’s a good movie, just hear me out), Orlando Jones’ character was extremely pro-traditional style and Nick Cannon’s character was extremely new style? In the end, they both had to learn to meet in the middle in some way, which resulted in a better payoff. This is the better way to go for movies like that. I’m not a fan of movies that bring in this kind of story and end with conforming completely to one style, and I’ll tell you why. The movie basically said “Yeah, the traditional way of music making/praising God is great, but screw that, we want to win and capture people’s attention, so let’s go TOTALLY new!” Here are the problems with that:
    1. There is NO Middle Ground. They don’t even try to meet halfway. They basically condone the older style (from which the influence came) as the less popular idea. This movie is clearly going for what’s popular, and that’s pop music w/choreography.
    2. The Message of Ministry Gets Lost. A church choir singing over beats of a more modern is not the end of the world, and it can be used to get a younger audience to listen. But there has to be more to it than that. This music is supposed to be about something – in this case, God’s message, or people praising Him. This was tossed aside during the finals song for an ‘exciting, hip sound’. So what’s the takeaway? Not what we started with.
    3. The Song Has NO Substance. It really…really feels like this song was only put here to out-do something like the competition scene of Sister Act 2. Latifah starts it off by saying “can we take God higher?” but then the song has no substance in terms of being about anything. It’s just a bunch of people singing loudly, bright lights, snappy dance moves, and a lot of excited people on stage because they’re singing and dancing like they’re in Glee. My point? This is now no longer using music as an expression of something, but rather using it as a gimmick. This misses the point entirely.

Queen Latifah’s Top 3 Momma Metaphors:

  1. There’s always free cheese in the mousetrap. But trust me, the mice ain’t happy.
  2. You’re a fault zone! Anyone who gets too close to you is gonna have rocks falling on them too!
  3. When someone doesn’t fit into a box, you don’t try to shove them in w/everybody else. You build a bigger box!

CONCLUSION:

This movie goes from decent to okay to kind of slow & predictable to terribly insulting to art. Everyone looks like they were having a nice time, the music itself was given actual effort by the performers, and I did enjoy the Walter stuff, which really was the best material. (Why couldn’t we just get a movie based around him?) But the biggest issue really is the value placed on the music and its’ purpose. By the end, no one in this movie, even the pastor, shows that they care about why they’re singing, just that they want to win by any means necessary; even if it means conforming to a style that wouldn’t be bad if they remembered to include some actual substance/message. And the people who DID care about more than winning are eventually won over. Sadly, this movie doesn’t make a Joyful Noise – it just makes NOISE.

BLACKOMETER: 4/10

Let me know what you think!

-BB2

Healing Music

We all have our music that we not only enjoy, but that we connect with and use to uplift our spirits. Gospel music was my first real love in music, and while it’s extremely hard to pick favorites, I’ve found special refuge in Tye Tribbett’s newest album Greater Than over the past year. The album is just glowing with many gospel musical nuances that capture you immediately, but the focus is always the messages that relate to you even faster. In much of the album, Tye & his choir sing about God turning around the darkest of situations in our lives for the better. I listened to Beauty for Ashes today while going about my day, and…well, just listen. I’ll let it speak for itself. It really helped me through some difficult times. (Really, really pay attention to his lyrics though…)

And just for fun (and because I like these songs so darn much), here are two other favorites from that album. But really, just listen to the entire album. All 12 songs may speak to you in a way you needed.

So what songs do you listen to for refuge in tough times? Or just because you enjoy them? Who knows, maybe I’ll enjoy what you listen to as well!

Hope you enjoy the afore-posted music. (“Afore-posted, is that a thing? It is now. Ha.)

-BB2