America: Now What?

Maybe you’re reading this just as confused, angered and frightened as I am of America’s 2016 election results. Maybe you’re just the opposite. Either way, here we are. If you’re a frightened African-American, you might identify w/exactly what I’ve been fearing for months now. Or perhaps you’re a frightened of your LBGT rights being taken away, or the potential Muslim ban, or what will happen with immigration and healthcare, or a host of other legitimate concerns.

Maybe you’ve been part of the social media wave of “we need to love each other and unite now more than ever” from 3am into the morning. Or maybe you said online “we need to respect whoever the winner is” having not respected President Obama’s accomplishments for the past 8 years. Maybe you’re baffled that we went from our first black President to one being elected after a KKK endorsement. Maybe you’re a minority who never felt that America really valued you as a person due to countless evidences of discrimination, murders, racism, and the like (the reason why many older black adults aren’t as surprised about what’s happened). Or maybe you’ve felt that although you’re in the majority in this country, you’ve been pushed aside and ignored until now. Either way, all – a major change is coming.

To the point: what now? As a young, black male, I’m not looking forward to facing the fears now grappling our country. Half of our country has proven what they want, and that they don’t value those different from them, and that is beyond shameful. As much as I could rant about the fear that many of us are facing, I have to do the best I can to be the difference by just doing what God put me here to do. Nothing will change that. I am a choral director, a musician, and a friend. I need to continue making art and share this with my singers, standing as tall as possible. I need to encourage them to use our artwork to both unity us and provide solace for our audiences. I’ve always taught my choirs about the importance our music can have in dark times. I am a firm believer in this, and this will be the best time to uphold that belief. Music has always been a powerful tool, and it will always be my greatest method for unification – no matter how different, we are all people standing together to make one song in our own way.

I encourage all of you, wherever you stand in what’s happening in America – find YOUR solace. Find YOUR song. Find YOUR choir – whatever that is to you. My method of unity might look different than yours, but the love that will come from it may be all we have soon.

(Finally, please do not act on emotion today. If you regularly suffer from depression or anxiety, and you are genuinely concerned after the election results, talk to a loved one or a professional immediately. Seriously.)

Your friend,
-BB2

I need you.jpg

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Get On Up: Leaves You Wanting More

"A groove is something you feel."

“A groove is something you feel.”

Get On Up (2014)

SUMMARY
This movie shows a close look at the life of James Brown, showing the challenges he faced starting as a poor child with erratic parents and racial profiling of the 1940s South. He eventually hooked up with other friends to start a singing group and was soon discovered by producers who wanted to take him to the next level. Of course, going to the next level when your ideas are very different from anyone else’s, battling segregation, and dealing with personal scars from the past are never easy, but it is the inevitable situation when rising to stardom in this era. Get On Up uses much of what Brown encountered to show that you can face the challenges at any cost to achieve your destiny.

WHAT WORKS

  1. Chadwick Boseman – This quickly rising actor truly captures the essence of James Brown. It’s so much more than an accurate impersonation – he really embodies the man’s actions, thoughts, style and spirit! He’s tremendous while replicating the onstage performances, he is consistently charismatic, and he portrays the attitude (good and bad) that Brown had with his bandmates, employees & family behind the scenes. He really brought Brown to life in my opinion; he made me side with Brown when he would overcome something, and likewise get annoyed with him for being big-headed. Not much else I can say except, just a great, great performance. I expect to see at least a good Oscar nomination in some months.
  2. Nelsan Ellis – Ellis plays Brown’s best friend and bandmate Bobby Byrd, and man was he good. I decided that Byrd was my favorite person in the entire movie. From the moment he met James Brown, and throughout every crazy/groundbreaking idea and questionable moment when he should have left him for good (as some did), Bobby remained not just his reliable right-hand man, but a true friend. He advised him as a friend does when necessary, kept it real with him, and also understood that James was the kind of person meant to be in front, sharing his strong influence with the world. There’s a very well-done scene where he shares the latter with Craig Robinson’s character, and you can tell he captured the spirit of not only Bobby while saying this, but a good friend who supports the efforts of someone who is taking off in a seemingly bigger way than they may be.

    "Negro, what makes you think I'm leaving too? I've been here this long!"

    “Negro, what makes you think I’m leaving too? I’ve been here this long!”JB & Bobby

  3. Actors – This film has several good performances by tremendous talent, whether they are familiar faces or not. Dan Aykroyd as Brown’s longtime manager does a great job; Octavia Spencer is always stellar; her The Help partner in crime, Viola Davis is as heartwarming as ever; I thought Jill Scott, playing one of Brown’s wives, did a fantastic job as well. Oh, and it was awesome seeing Craig Robinson in something like this! And look, there’s Keith Robinson! The boy who played little James Brown (Jordan Scott) did a WONDERFUL job as well! My personal favorite, though: Brandon Smith as young Little Richard. He may. To look much like him, but I had so much fun watching this guy embody Little Richard just as he was starting to take off in his music. There’s a scene where he advises James Brown on how to start launching a career in the music world that is really great to watch, just based on the accurate performances, and the chemistry/interaction behind these row staples of music in their prime. (Plus, Little Richard is just a delight. Whoooo!)

    "Yo mama is a no-account fool. But you ain't. You're gonna be all right. You got that spirit in you."

    “Yo mama is a no-account fool. But you ain’t. You’re gonna be okay. You got that spirit in you.”

  4. Soundtrack – They were wise to stick with original James Brown recordings up throughout the film. It really does give it the authentic feel it needs to come from the different points in history. Plus, I mean, come on…it’s James Brown music! Win-win situation automatically. James Brown’s music will definitely live on forever, and this movie helps to keep it that way.
  5. History/Impact – It was really great to see how James Brown and his crew responded to different national/worldwide points in history, and the impact they were able to have on these events. I personally wasn’t aware of the concert they still fought to have after Martin Luther King Jr.’s shooting to promote positive African-American representation, for example. We also witness a Battle Royale event during Brown’s childhood, and I confess to being less aware that this took place during the 1940s, as it looked reminiscent of slave cock fights held during private parties in the 1800s. Of course it’s hard to look at the lifespan of someone without at least acknowledging some of the historical events they lived through, but showing them here in relation to Brown was good historical awareness for people like me. (For the most part…)

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

  1. Timeline– This is sadly never consistent, and I tried my best to remain open-minded to it. The timeline goes ALL over the place,  literally jumping around – it starts in a 1988 scene that doesn’t set a good tone for the movie, nor does it make sense at the time (and doesn’t make complete sense when it returns there towards the end of the film). Next it jumps back and forth from the 60s to his childhood until eventually we sort of settle chronologically, with several dips back to his childhood. I know we’re typically used to chronological biopics with the occasional flashbacks, so at first I tried to open my mind to a different turn for this movie. However it was so all over the place in the first half hour that it made it much more difficult to adjust to and understand.
  2. First Person vs. Narrative – The film has a good few random moments  that go from a steady narrative to James Brown looking at the camera, talking to YOU. He even winks once that I remember. One of these turns into a big rant about how the music business works. Now, this threw me off each and every time. If you want to have someone narrate their biopic, fine – but do it the entire time (like Kevin Hart will probably do for his 2064 biopic). The randomness of this made me feel like I had just switched over to Everybody Hates Chris or something.
  3. Fact vs. Fiction – Like most Hollywood biopics, this movie has it’s fair share of fabricated stories. Because this movie gets you potentially so invested in James Brown’s story in a passionate way, this makes you all the more upset when you discover what was changed (for any reason). After you see this movie, I encourage you to research what actually occurred vs. what the movie tells you. It’s not that bad or exaggerated as a whole by any means; but I will say you’ll be disappointed by one or two things. (On the positive, it’s always good when biopics like this are well done enough to make you curious to research about the reality of what you just saw.)
  4. What is not Emphasized – I almost labeled this section “What’s glossed over” or “what’s left out”, until a good point was made to me after talking about the film. Many have left saying that major parts of Brown’s life were either left out or entirely glossed over (his drug addiction especially). On one hand, maybe this isn’t what the movie needed to be emphasized if it wanted to simply show that James Brown had to overcome a lot to get to a new level. On the other hand, these things are important and would have provided clarity on some of the hazy facts & timeline confusions in the movie as well.

CONCLUSION:
It definitely feels like James Brown is the one telling this story – and I mean that in a way to account for everything I mentioned above. In terms of quality, the movie looks and sounds fantastic, from the phenomenal music and passionate acting to the make-up crew. I was excited for this movie as soon as I saw the first trailer, and I’m still glad I saw it, and that it was made. I do wish the timeline was done in a more consistent fashion, and I’d love to wish that certain facts weren’t thrown to the wayside for dramatic movie effect, but we all know how this works in Hollywood. Despite that, I still say give this movie a watch! It’s a great look at the times, the business, memorable people in stellar performances, and of course, music that has played a very influential part on our culture. It set out to show that James Brown overcame struggles rooting back to his childhood to get to a highly acclaimed spot in music, and it did just that.

BLACKOMETER: 7/10

Let me know what you think!
Stay funky,
-BB2

Music Monday: Great is Thy Faithfulness

Hello all, and welcome to another segment of #MusicMonday! In this segment, we’ll talk about favorite songs, artists & genres and their role in music in order to keep great music alive. Today we’re talking about a well known hymn that has lived on for almost a century and gotten many believers through many a challenge:

Great is Thy Faithfulness started as a poem written by Thomas O. Chisholm in 1923 based on his own experience with God’s faithfulness. He sent it to William Runyan, who set the poem to music and had it published by the Hope Publishing company, and it later became popular among churches via hymnals & such. The refrain goes:

“Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!”

To me, there is no truer statement to sum up this entire song than the 3rd line of this refrain. There are just things that we cannot do on our own, whether we want to face up to it or not. When times get extremely challenging in our lives and push us to a wall where we can’t face it on our own, it’s that trust in God & His provisions that get us through. Yesterday morning at my church for the sermon, we sung a few hymns (starting with this one) and then had brief discussions in small groups based on some follow up questions such as “Where have you seen God’s faithfulness in your life? How do you know He’s faithful?” For me personally, I can definitely say that God has placed certain people in my life at my rough moments. Whether it was my family understanding and supporting me when I needed it; or even being around loving church members & coworkers who don’t necessarily know something’s going on but they create the positive environment I needed to be in; or someone who I meet and can almost instantly relate to when going into new territory; or even someone who did or said something small but extremely kind that made me stop and put my issues in perspective & they didn’t even realize it – these are all the kinds of people God will place around me at just the right time for the right reasons, because He knows it’s what I need during my rough spell to stay encouraged and get through life’s bumps in the road.

How often do we sing these songs (or any songs) and not take a step back to really think about the meaning of them, or their impact? It’s so easy to pop a song on in the car and just have it as background noise because you’ve heard it so many times. But it’s so important to know what you’re putting into your ears, because whether you realize it or not, this is what will go into your soul. With songs as powerful as Great is Thy Faithfulness, it’s overwhelming to think about just how faithful God has been in my life…let alone the lives of every other person in so many ways! Some of us should be dead right now, or extremely ill, or destitute, or very discouraged from a lack of success, the list goes on. But no matter what our position in life is right now, no matter how much money we do or don’t have, the bottom line is, if you are sitting here reading this, God still has us on this Earth for some reason, and He continues to make provisions for us every day here and there to keep us on the journey He’s laid out for us. The question then becomes, what will we do about it?

Thanks for reading today, and I hope you enjoyed this glorious hymn as well as any others that might impact your life in a special way! Please feel free to share a hymn or song that means a lot to you, and let’s keep meaningful music of all kinds continuing to live on and touch lives.

Have a great week, and sing on my brethren!
BB2

PS: Singer in the video is the great gospel artist, Fred Hammond, performing some years ago on TBN.

BB2 Monthly Assessment: June (+THANKS to my readers)

This year, I started doing a monthly assessment of myself. It is what it sounds like: at the end of each month, I take a look at things about myself, how I’ve progressed in life over the past 30 days, and where I need to go from here. If life is truly a journey, it’s important to look at the car you’re driving, where you’re about to head off to, how you’re getting there, why you’re going, and what you’ll do when you get there. That sounds like a lot…but it is all important. Usually I talk about major emotional or psychological moments I had within the past month that made me really think about why I operate the way I do. Being a month away from hitting 25 now, I think today is a good time to recognize where things are going.

(Secret about me: pictures of pathways are my favorite. So...representative of life.)

(Secret about me: pictures of pathways are my favorite. So…representative of life.)

Okay. So once this summer is over, school will be back in session and I’ll go back to my Masters degree work in choral conducting. I was thankfully given an assistantship with our choral dept. to serve as director of one choir, asst. director of the chorale, and general gopher for the choral dept. head. Soooo I’ll be pretty busy, but doing things I want to do. I also want to work in adding my vocal performance masters, and I think that’ll begin in the winter (but I am picking voice lessons this semester again). I’m very excited about all of this! Right now, my ultimate career goal is to be able to teach choir at the university level. For all I know, at this young age, that could change given major turns and circumstances in future years. However, for now I know that this is where my passions lie.

Dad always taught us growing up, “Pick something so good that you can wake up every morning excited to go to work because you get to do your thing. And the fact that you get paid for it is just a plus.” I’ve kept this with me all my life and allowed it to influence the choices I make with where I want to end up. When I wasn’t enjoying my journey at different points, I could tell when it was time to shift gears, get off the highway, and find a new road. Or a new car. And I think now I’ve been on the correct path – here’s to hoping I keep myself there from now on.
*******
Now on another note, I’d like to shift gears, because while writing this…to be honest, a completely different set of thoughts just took over. To everyone who’s been reading things on my site: a sincere thank you. I’ve only been blogging since February, but I started this as not just a movie-reviewing venue just-for-fun, but mainly as a catharsis at a very important time in my life. I wrote about my thoughts on life and how I’ve been developing in recent months to help sort my thoughts out in a healthy way, and I was able to relate to many others out there who were doing the same. This helped me immeasurably; and to top it off, others were able to relate to me as well. I wasn’t doing it to get a ton of internet acclaim (I even felt bad about days in a row where I didn’t have time to blog), but as time went on and different posts & movie reviews started getting tons of hits, I was just taken aback. Not to be all “hey look at me, I got mad followers” or anything like that. I’m just grateful that my expressions, thoughts and ultimately artwork can be used in a positive light to anyone who reads it. To my fellow bloggers, many of your works have brought me joy and positivity as well just by you doing your thing.

To everybody: don’t be afraid to be yourself!

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-BB2

Does “Pitch Perfect” Deserve a Sequel?

Can we handle another pitch-slapping?

Can we handle another pitch-slapping?

Pitch Perfect (2012) is without a doubt one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. It’s also a very important movie – too often, singing solo and in groups (especially a capella) has been portrayed as easy, or in same vein as a Glee type of experience intermixed with unnecessary drama. However, Pitch Perfect shows not only a movie which incorporates humor that will get your attention (for better or worse), it also gives us genuine musical execution! These actors are not doing the fake Hollywood thing where someone else is singing for most of them – all of them, whether at the forefront soloing or just in the ensemble, had to endure an ‘a capalla boot camp’ in which they rigorously learned the songs, how to harmonize, how to capture an authentic sound within each group, and extensive choreography. Combined with a familiar, yet risk-taking story and memorable characters, Pitch Perfect gave us something very important indeed: a movie with effort, laughs, and heart.

That being said, does this movie merit the upcoming sequel that Elizabeth Banks is spearheading to be released in 2015? Should we leave well-enough alone? Is it too soon? Or is this timing just right while the iron is hot? Well, let’s take a look at what makes Pitch Perfect either great enough to warrant this sequel, or reasons why we should let it be.

**What Makes Pitch Perfect Great**

  1. The Music – Now, I know just a few people who said this movie isn’t their cup of tea, and that’s just because the “edgy” humor used by college students in the movie. That’s subjectively fine. However, the quality of the music in this movie is objectively undeniable. Nothing about this is phoned in, and the work put in here restores the hope in a positive image of a capella music being fantastic, fun, and a disciplined art form at the same time (my favorite part). Christophe Beck did the score for the film, and it just kills. The actors, no matter how much or how little experience they had singing before put a lot of great work in what Beck and other music staff gave them, and it really shines. Adam Devine (Bumper) even stated what he felt nowhere near qualified as a singer before filming; but with all he learned in the process, he was now “an a capella whiz kid!” And look at him there, charming his way into your heart as the lead singer at the start of the movie!
  2. Music Upgrade: The covers of popular songs from the last two decades are the BEST renditions of some of these songs, putting the originals to shame just because of their great combo of creativity, effort, arrangement & talent. (FloRida’s Right Round, Rihanna’s Don’t Stop the Music, Miley Cyrus’ Party in the U.S.A….they even have a bonus feature on the DVD there of cast members & fans singing Nicki Minaj’s Starships that kicks butt)
  3. Characters – These guys make you laugh. They make you think. They might make you cry. They make this story beyond great. Here are my standouts:
    1. Beca – Her journey to getting over herself and letting her guard down while getting out of her comfort zone with these girls works as the chief plot. We’ve seen this character before, but get a different edge with Beca as an aspiring DJ.

      "If we want to win, we have to try some new things!"

      “If we want to win, we have to try some new things!”

    2. Aubrey takes the entire film to get past herself as well, but for different reasons – she feels all the pressure of taking the lead and doesn’t want to screw anything up while she’s in charge, so why not just stick to tradition since it works? The only problem is their new Bellas group is very different, which ruins Aubrey’s plans immediately. But like Beca, when she finally opens up, it opens the door for her to finally be the comfortable person she’s been hiding underneath.
      pp lady dancing
    3. Chloe, the goofy buy loyal redhead is so much fun. Nodes has never been such fun a life-traumatizing saga. And that shower scene? Who else could make that funny?
    4. Jesse: What I love about this guy is that when you meet him, you think he’ll be the goofy guy who somehow turns into the “male romantic lead” and you don’t know why. But he’s so much more than that! He has a heart. He genuinely cares about Beca and getting her to stop being so rocky until it really does test his limits. He’s got great pipes and loves using them for good. He’s not really like the other competitive Treblemakers – he just wants to sing & have a good time. He’s a problem solver. He’s enough to keep various plot points going in the story, as well as provide some great times & songs along the way.

      "I'm one of those a capella boys and you're one of those a capella girls and we're gonna have aca-children. It's inevitable."

      “I’m one of those a capella boys and you’re one of those a capella girls and we’re gonna have aca-children. It’s inevitable.”

    5. Benji – I was so happy when this guy finally got his break at the end of the movie. I mean, we might have seen it coming…but who cares? It was very well-played, well-deserved, and well done.
    6. John & Gail – John Higgins & Elizabeth kill as the announcers & I always laugh at their lines. I’m partially curious as to what kind of music “The Menstrual Cycles” performed.
    7. Fat Amy – She singlehandedly became the most quoted character from the movie & turned into a huge phenomenon, but here’s what is truly good about Fat Amy: she is the prime example of the Bellas’ future from the time we meet her. She is nothing like the stuck-up, snooty, nasty-teeth (seriously! Look!) Bellas we met at the start of the movie. She’s not trying to be the best musician in the group, but darn it, she’s gonna give it her all every step of the way, even when it’s uncomfortable. She’s also not afraid of kicking at that line of rules over a little bit with actions and words. She’s definitely the most memorable, but if Beca is the leader of the new class of Bellas, Fat Amy is totally the embodiment of what we can expect from them – fresh, confident, different, and open-minded in all the right ways. Oh, and a hot mess.
  4. Chemistry – This cast has a tremendous chemistry on and off-set, and boy, does it show. Part of that comes from the time they had to spend in boot camp learning the songs & choreography. If you check out the behind-the-scenes stuff on this, that time really helped bond the cast and crew. When they accomplished different songs and did a show-and-tell for each other, they were SO PROUD of themselves and each other, and it truly was a group effort in which they were highly supportive of each other. THIS is what Hollywood needs to show more and more of – a cast of people who are not only talented, but can show this kind of a work ethic and support of each other behind and in front of the camera. It made the film that much stronger when they got behind the camera, Rebel Wilson started improvising, and everyone could easily work with it in the story.

    "Might not get tomorrow - let's do it tonight!"

    “Might not get tomorrow – let’s do it tonight!”

  5. Story – What’s great about this story is that it takes what has been done before and gives it different angles and twists. I can tell that a lot of creativity went into planning the twists of this story with the characters and it’s anything but one-dimensional. This leads me to my most important point:
  6. Effort – Most of the negative comments any movie critic/reviewer has to say about aspects of a film not working likely stem from a lack of effort on someone’s part. However, it’s hard to find an area of Pitch Perfect in which something wasn’t worked on very hard AND it worked! Even if a joke wasn’t for you, it wasn’t just a dumb throwaway line – it was genuinely thought-through comedy. Every single note executed in the songs, even the bits in the Riff Off that go by so quickly, are crafted to perfection. The crew who mixed the Bellas & Treblemakers sound in the studios made the quality given top-notch, getting it to sound even closer to the ideal emulated sounds in each song. Every angle of the story and the character development made it seem much more realistic/relatable, even when it was incorporating something as ridiculous as someone meeting you in the shower to harmonize, while still remaining very charming. All the extra a capella groups that cameo in the movie are good as well! One was even a real group that travelled across the country to sing Final Countdown in the movie. My point: this movie is the perfect example of something you can do for fun that still make a point, and be a blast, and feature good music, AND leave such a positive impact, because they worked very hard into knowing what would work. Plenty of experimental shock-value stuff (how long was the projectile vomitting again?), but balanced with charm and care, the effort is what drives every angle of this film.

So having said all that…does Pitch Perfect warrant a sequel this time?

In my opinion, I think it’s okay to do this. I won’t say it’s totally necessary. It would have been just fine and understandable to leave things in the good spot where we left Jessi, Beca and friends. They’ve all proved that they can build a great story, characters and legit music with strong effort as the driving force. I’m a fan of not making a sequel unless the characters have another genuine story to tell. And based on where we left these guys…I wouldn’t be surprised if they did! I don’t know what the angle is this time around, but I’m sure there could be plenty for Beca to show us as the leader of a new crew of Bellas heading in a different direction. There are plenty of avenues to head in and TONS of music they can capture, whether covers of popular songs or original music. Maybe there’s new perils Jesse has to endure this time and Beca has to be the support for him. Maybe the Bellas meet their match with another strong female a capella group. Maybe Benji strikes a record deal and gives Bumper & his “sports sandals” fame a run for his money. Maybe Fat Amy gets to actually do some mermaid dancing during the opening number of the movie. I don’t know – whatever the case, I cautiously anticipate this sequel the same way I anticipated Anchorman 2 – I look forward to it because of what they were able to accomplish the first time, but I hope they concentrate on their strengths rather than trying to simply “go bigger” the second time.

Is that fair?

Don’t get nodes singing along with the new trailer when it comes out, though. 🙂

Yours in horizontal running,

-BB2

P.S. These guys deserve their own sequel. Or Album. Or miniseries. ANYTHING!

Why Talk About Artwork?

earth without art

By artwork, I’m referring to music, theater, dance, visual art, movies, television, writing, video, public speaking – various things we may consider to be both artistic as well as entertainment (and perhaps informative). These are things that we allow to be an important part of our aesthetic lives and have some sort of an influence upon us in different ways. Key word here = different. We also wrestle with the issue so often of those who can go to a movie or hear a song and just enjoy it because they like it, vs. those who are assessing or analyzing the artwork to figure out what makes it tick and, ultimately, if it works.

For example: you like a movie because you find it funny, and you’ll watch it just to get a few laughs with which to relax. I think it’s mediocre at best, bringing up the lack of plot, terrible character development, and has a quality that makes me wonder if it was written/directed by monkeys. Who were high. You chastise me for not just “enjoying it just for laughs” which, to be honest, I laugh at many things, but will admit when something doesn’t quite hold up or make sense. My reasons for saying the movie doesn’t work may be subjective, but many are also going to be based on FACTS.

The fact is that there are always multiple, multiple things that go into creating artwork. To make a song, you need to organize a melody, which means you need to organize the pitches you’ll use in it. If this is a vocal song or even a rap, you need to organize what words you’ll be using, and why, as this should be the [hopefully well-thought out] message, and therefore heart, of your song. Handel’s Messiah, my favorite…well, anything, is a massive, 2+ hour oratorio for chorus & orchestra that is held in the highest regards for how musically beautiful it is, as well as how inspiring it is. But the most impressive thing about it is that Handel wrote that whole thing under pressure in just 24 days. In addition to being under pressure by King George to complete this for his job with the church, it was made easier by how inspired he was by the Biblical text he was writing about. He had something to say, and used many musical techniques famous during the 1700s to highlight this. (This is a whole ‘nother conversation.)

Compare that, now, to modern hip-hop music. Most people either love it or condemn it, saying it’s not music. Let me sum it up this way: Some people get so plugged into the beats & the fame around the rap artist, that they miss the heart of what’s really going on in the music, IF there is any heart to be found. Some of those songs are just hype party songs to get the crowd excited, and since there’s a market for that in clubs & such, and they aren’t particularly harmful to people using their heads, I don’t see too much of a problem with something that is just for fun. However, sometimes these do go too far with their messages and promote the wrong ideas (I’m sure I don’t have to go into this) and they get away with it because no one is paying attention to their lyrics behind a loud beat. But the biggest crime is music like this that gives all hip-hop a bad name. There were, and still are, hip-hop artists, who had a sound/beats that the crowds loved while still being very smart about promoting strong messages. Tupac is definitely one of the world’s best examples of this in hip-hop, using his music as a venue in which to share well-thought and important messages/views with his audiences.

***This is one of the marks of quality artwork – pull them in with the entertainment aspect, and give them something to leave thinking about. Not imposing a thought…just giving them something valid to consider in some way.***

The biggest thing all artwork needs, no matter what kind it is: EFFORT. Did you actually care about what you put out there for the world to see? What was the reason? Every dancer is trying to share something with you. Every musical has a story to tell. Every comedian is using jokes to share their experiences and thoughts with you, putting it in humor to capture your attention in a different way. I’m sure we’ve seen movies or heard songs that make us wonder why the creators of it weren’t aware of how AWFUL it was…but nothing it worth than art that had no reason to exist, as no one can relate with it. If you didn’t care about creating this, why should I care about watching it???

My best example of this is the long lost 45-min. children’s Christmas special The Christmas Tree. All I’m going to say is…look it up.

My favorite long-time internet movie critic to watch is the Nostalgia Critic. He made the best case for this that I think says it best (specifically to movies but all it applies to all artwork). I encourage you to watch that below.

That was a lot to say, and Lord knows I could go on about this topic plenty more. But what do you think? Are there times we should just let a joke be a joke, whether it’s our humor or not? Or does thinking about what makes it work help us to understand better why we like it, and therefore be aware of our tastes?

I’d love to hear other thoughts on this. Thanks for reading…and I assure you, a lot of thought went into this writing. Writing is an art form too, you know?

-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