Holiday Gift Guide — Music Edition

Merry Blogmas!!! The holiday season is finally upon us, which means two things — stress and more stress. Although the holidays evoke immense feelings of excitement, anticipation and joy, the thoughts of  holiday cooking, festive parties and buying the perfect presents, are enough to make someone wish it was January.

Since I’m a teenager, and happen to know what teenagers want as presents this holiday season, I thought I would conjure up a list of gifts that will fit any budget to help ease the pain of the gift giving process this year. But there’s one catch to this gift guide… All gifts are based on music, since that’s where my passion and expertise falls.

               7 MAGICAL GIFTS FOR MUSIC LOVERS:

  1. Record Player ($50 – $110)

Yes, a record player. I know what you’re thinking, why on earth would I buy someone a record player? It’s 2017! Well, you know what they say, everything comes back in style. Record players made a comeback around 2014 and they’re here to stay. Hipsters will claim “everything sounds better on vinyl”, and I can’t disagree with that statement. Common places to purchase record players include Urban Outfitters, Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon, or any local music shop.

2. Vinyl’s ($10 – $50)

You can’t have a record player without vinyl’s. Surprisingly, vinyl’s can be found almost anywhere, but you need to watch out for stores like Urban Outfitters and Barnes and Noble who tend to be on the pricier side of the spectrum (I’ve seen them sell vinyl’s for $45 a pop). A cheaper alternative is Amazon. I have ordered many vinyl’s from Amazon, they have a diverse selection and the lowest prices I have found so far.

3. Wireless Headphones ($10 – $200)

With the new iPhone’s gearing up to be one of the most popular gifts this year, wireless headphones are essential. Ever since the release of the iPhone 7, there has been one key feature that is missing from the device, a headphone jack. Now, Apple does sell headphones that you can insert through the charging port of the device, but this makes it impossible to charge your phone and listen to music at the same time. Wireless headphones have also proved themselves to be more efficient and less of a hassle than regular headphones, which are bound to end up in a knot by the end of the day. If you’re looking to buy Apple’s wireless earbuds (AirPods), you are looking at $159.00 in expenses, not including tax. If you don’t care for Apple headphones, or feel like buying a cheaper alternative, Office Depot, Amazon and Best Buy sell wireless headphones for as little as $10. But with any type of electronics, you get what you pay for. If you are looking for long lasting, high quality headphones, I would recommend the AirPods or Beats wireless headphones which come in a range of colors and styles.

4. Rolling Stone Subscription (Holiday Special, $29.95)

Rolling Stone is a magazine that majority of people, especially people fond of music, are aware of. Each edition has music content and many include features on musical artists. This is a great gift for someone because it’s a 1 year subscription. Which means the person you are gifting this too will receive a present once a month for a whole year! You will truly hold the title of “the gift that keeps on giving”.

5. iTunes Gift Card ($10 & up)

Although most people have strayed away from buying individual songs from iTunes and now use Spotify or Apple Music, iTunes gift cards can act as payment methods for the monthly subscription rate for many streaming services!

6. Concert Tickets

Concert tickets will range in price depending on the popularity of the artist you’re seeing, and the venue you’re attending. Giving someone an experience as a gift instead of a physical item is a memory that will last a lifetime!

7. Books on Music

If the person you’re buying a gift for likes to read, this is a unique gift they will love! Barnes and Noble has a large selection of music books, ranging from music history, to books on specific musicians and even books on what to listen to! Gifting someone a book on music puts a personal twist on a gift you know they will love!

That’s all I have for now, but I will be sure to post an updated list of any more thoughts that come to mind! Happy Holidays!

– Carly

“Let Me Go” – Hailee Steinfeld

     How do I put this nicely… Hailee Steinfeld is someone who I have never had much musical respect for. It’s nothing against her personally, I tend to enjoy her interviews on the red carpet and like her personality, but her songs are just too juvenile, and plainly, not good. But, with the release of her new single “Let Me Go” with Alesso ft. Florida Georgia Line & watt, my opinion on her music has been altered.

       Maybe it’s because there’s other established artists featured on this track, or maybe she just got something right, but there’s nothing too bad that I can say about “Let Me Go”! I’ve listened to it a few times, and every time, I like it more; which is VERY strange considering this is Hailee Steinfeld, and I usually change the station when she comes on.

     I’ll admit that I generally do like the beats behind Hailee’s music, it’s usally the lyrics that make me cringe. But the beats behind this track are so fun and uplifting (we can thank Alesso for that), and it makes the whole track. 

     As for the lyrics, I haven’t paid much attention to them, and I haven’t looked them up because I want to like this song, but at first listen they’re not terribly cheesy.  I also love the fact that Florida Georgia Line appears on this song, I genuinely like them and I think they bring this song to a level it couldn’t have reached without them. Their voices compliment each other nicely, and it resulted in a chorus that makes me want to dance! 

     The only critique I have for this song is that it gives off a summer vibe. This is the kind of song you would listen to at a pool party, not driving on winding roads with leaves changing colors. This track probably would of done better if it was released in June. But nonetheless, it’s still a bop.

     I have come to the conclusion that “Let Me Go” is the exception for Hailee Steinfeld. It’s the one song from her (so far) that I won’t laugh at, and as of now, I won’t be changing the station when it comes on (until it’s inevitably overplayed). I look forward to hearing more from Steinfeld, maybe she’s found her niche in electro pop!


“Too Good At Goodbyes” – Sam Smith

     After almost two years of silence, Sam Smith is back with another soulful single. Smith released “Too Good At Goodbyes”, the first track off his upcoming sophomore album, on September 8th. Smith is known for his lifting sound, big choirs, and his beautiful, but heartbreaking lyrics. I have yet to meet someone who denies his talent. 

     Sam gained an immense fan base and a large amount of support from other artists, upon the release of his first single “Lay Me Down.” He followed up “Lay Me Down” with the iconic singles “Stay With Me” (a song that will never outgrow the radio), and “I’m Not The Only One”. From that point on, Smith proved himself a musical force to be reckoned with, and made a home for his music at the top of the charts.

      Now, three years have passed since his first album In The Lonely Hour, and he has released the very first single of his highly anticipated, second album. I wasn’t sure what to expect before listening to “Too Good At Goodbyes”; was it going to be similar to his other music, or was it going to be something completely foreign? 

     Well, he fused the two together and created a Sam Smith 2.0 sound. He still has his signature choir on the chorus, big bridges, and expressive sound, but he also sings in a hushed voice which brings a more intimate sound to the song. Sam even adds finger snapping and a piano tune that builds throughout the song, which makes this track all the more unique. 

      As for the content of the song, Sam gives insight on his love life and what he’s like in a relationship. One of the reasons he took a hiatus was to focus on his love life (which clearly wasn’t successful based off the lyrics). He speaks about being closed off in his relationships, out of fear of being hurt, and how he appears to be “cold and heartless”, but that’s the only way he knows how to protect his soul. By listening to this song, it is very apparent that Sam being “Too Good At Goodbyes” is most likely his downfall when it comes to his love.

     Sam Smith is no amateur when it comes to making heartbreak sound beautiful, and this song is no exception. I have too much excitement for his upcoming album (said to be released before Christmas), and have high expectations for Mr.Smith. You can expect a full album review once it’s released, my ears can’t wait to listen!


Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” Music Video: Decoded

Over the past 24 hours, the number one trending subject across all social media platforms has been Taylor Swifts “Look What You Made Me Do”, music video. Swift released the song a few days ago, and it didn’t receive the best reviews, (it personally reminds me of the song Prince Charming sings at the end of Shrek 2, “too sexy for my shirt”). Being her first single post-hiatus, I was disappointed in the song she chose to make her comeback with; but once she dropped the music video for the song, my opinion was permanently changed.

If you’re someone who is interested in pop-culture or social media, then you are probably aware of Taylor Swift’s decline in popularity over the past two years. She has been on the receiving end of shady comments, personal attacks, and straight-up insults about her body, friends, love life and just about everything else; she even has her own personal diss track on Katy Perry’s most recent album.

Since Swift has been absent from the public eye over the past year, she hasn’t defended herself against any of the petty allegations that have been thrown her way. That is, until the debut of her music video “Look What You Made Me Do”. The whole video is filled with (not so) hidden responses to the biggest “scandals” she’s been involved in, and if you’re one of the 63 million people (so far) who have viewed the video, and have questions, I’m here to break it down and decode it for you.

So here is Taylor Swifts’ “Look What You Made Me Do” video: decoded, scene by scene.

The opening scene is a zombified version of Taylor in her music videos for “Out Of The Woods”. She’s pictured in a grave yard filled with tomb stones, one reading Nils Sioberg, A.K.A. the pseudonym she used when writing the single “This Is What You Came For”, for her ex Calvin Harris (the song that lit the fuse of drama between them).

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Next up, we have the bathtub scene. Swift is laying in a tub filled with jewels, diamonds, and one single dollar bill. Although many people are connecting the bathtub of jewelry to Kim Kardashian’s Paris robbery, I don’t believe that she is cruel enough or risky enough to shade someone over a traumatic event like a robbery. I believe it’s tied into the dollar bill sitting on top of the jewels (representing the single dollar she won in her sexual assault case against DJ, David Mueller), as a reminder that yes, she is rich, but not rich enough to spare someone from the court room.

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The bathtub scene is followed by one of the most iconic scenes: the snakes. Swift has been dubbed “a snake” by too many people to count, due to the “sweet persona” she always has. She is sitting on a golden throne (in the most stunning outfit) while snakes are crawling everywhere. She even has a snake pour her tea (because what else do you drink when you’re throwing shade?). As if the scene couldn’t get any shadier, enscribed into the arm of the golden throne is “Et Tu Brute”, a reference to the Betrayal of Julius Caesar. Referring to herself as Julius and her “friends” who stabbed her in the back, as Brutus.

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The next moment in the video, is the car scene. This part is backed by two different theory’s, one being stronger than the other. The first theory is that Swift is alluding to Katy Perry’s music video “Waking Up In Vegas”, with the similar shots and camera angles inside the car. She also adopts Katy Perry’s new look with the bleached bob, but the part that basically confirms she is shading Katy Perry, is when she holds up a Grammy (something Katy has yet to receive). The second theory about this scene, is that she is alluding to her own song “Red”, where she is driving a red Maserati “down a dead end street”: but in this case, the Masaratti is gold. Still a viable theory, but there’s more evidence backing the Katy Perry version.

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The next part of the video is more tricky to uncover. Swift is pictured in a vault, with a cat mask on, swinging a baseball bat while people in the background are robbing the vault (also in cat masks). This could symbolize Katy Perry’s fandom “Katy Cats”, and be Swift’s response to them attacking her. Or it could simply be her making fun of herself being a cat lady.

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Another jaw dropping part: Swift standing on a stage looking down on mannequins that are meant to symbolize her “squad”. Swift is known for having a tight knit group of friends (her squad), who all look similar: tall, beautiful, models. Swift looking down at her manequin squad is her firing back on the theory that she’s only friends with people who look physically flawless.

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The next major dig is one that Swift is notorious for, bashing her ex’s. Taylor is followed by eight men (representing her eight high profile relationships) all in the recognizable “I heart TS” tank top that ex Tom Hiddleston wore last July 4th.

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The following scene is more on the eerie side. Swift is standing on top of a pile. This pile is her past selves from different music videos, award shows and red carpets trying to reach the top where the “new Taylor” is standing. She then answers the phone where someone asks for the “old Taylor” and she responds, “she’s dead”. This is Swift reinstating that her past is in the past and she is a new person.

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The final scene is my favorite one, it’s also the most symbolic. All of her past selves are pictured once again, but this time they are lined up and criticizing each other with comments that have been made by others. For example, Swift is pictured the same way she was years ago in her “You Belong With Me” music video, looking surprised, while her other self, dressed in the same outfit as her “Shake It Off” video, tells her in a sarcastic tone that she “can’t always be so surprised”. She keeps throwing digs at herself, including the time where Kim Kardashian West “exposed” her on Snapchat. She is dressed like Kim, taking selfies (of course), saying she has receipts and is going to edit them; insinuating that the audio of Taylor Swift in Kim’s famous Snapchat exposing video was edited. She ends the music video in the same outfit she wore at the 2009 VMA’s where Kanye West interrupted her on stage (still cringing over that moment), saying she wants to be excluded from the narrative she never chose to be a part of, the same thing she replied in response to Kimye exposing her on Snapchat.

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This Music Video was fully loaded for only being four minutes long, and after decoding it, I think Taylor deserves the title “Queen Snake”; she definitely knows how to make a jaw dropping comeback and I will continue to applaud her for this masterpiece.

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Rainbow – Kesha

When I think of Kesha, I think of my pre-teen self, singing lyrics that were way to mature for me, with my friends at lunch and Aftercare. I still remember hearing “Tik Tok” on the radio for the first time and thinking it was the BEST song to ever hit the music industry. Later she released her first album Animal and branded her self as the messy girl who sings iconic party anthems that are too catchy to not have on replay (We R Who We R, Take It Off, Your Love Is My Drug)… But after three studio albums she disappeared.  Kesha surprisingly came back to the public eye after filing a law suit against her producer, Dr. Luke. She had a very public lawsuit against him and sued for sexual assault, battery, abuse and unfortunately the list continues. The lawsuit prevented her from releasing new music and making creative content, until this summer when she was finally able to release her comeback single “Praying”.

Prior to “Praying”, I had no idea Kesha was capable of producing anything that wasn’t meant for the club, she proved me wrong in the best way. “Praying” is a power ballad in the purest form, complete with the strongest vocals I have ever heard from Kesha and the most intense, but beautiful beat. She couldn’t have set the bar higher for her upcoming album, Rainbow.

Rainbow, was released last week, and it lived up to every expectation. Her new sound is mature and diverse and nothing like her past albums. She took a few different musical approaches when writing her songs, as there is not one specific style that can describe the album. She covered everything from rock, pop, country (with a Dolly Parton collaboration), and even included a few playful songs that are essential to any Kesha album. This album is a true musical adventure.

The tracks that standout to me (besides the obvious one, “Praying”), are “Bastards”, “Woman”, “Learn To Let Go”, and “Boots”. “Bastards” is the introductory song and it’s surprisingly motivational, despite the title. She sings about keeping your head high and to not let people degrade you or get you down. She displays impressive vocals while keeping a calm and soothing tone, and it’s one of the songs that has impressed me the most. I also love the song “Woman”; it’s an empowerment track that sparks the feministic flame inside your soul. The voiceovers of Kesha laughing and talking over the track is what makes it so perfect. Feminism is considered a “touchy subject” in todays society, but Kesha balanced it out with light hearted lyrics and turned it into a bop that can’t be passed up.

Rainbow has proven Kesha to be a musical force that is power housing through the industry. She is no longer someone you can shove into a box labelled “don’t open within 100 feet of children, contains bad influence!” I can officially call myself a real fan of Kesha and be proud while saying it. I can’t wait to support her on the rest of her musical endeavors.

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A July 4th Party Playlist!!!

July 4th, a special date that evokes feelings of happiness, pride, and the overwhelming urge to celebrate our beautiful country, America! The only way to truly celebrate the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave is to throw (or attend) a giant July 4th bash! While most party throwers are racing to the store to buy stock in hot dogs and beer (because it doesn’t get more American than hot dogs and beer), raiding the firework tent on the street corner, or making the last minute effort to find a patriotic shirt in their size at Old Navy (WHICH NEVER HAPPENS, YOU WILL NEVER FIND THE RIGHT SIZE), they often forget about the most important part of the party, the music!!!!

Obviously, friends and family are needed to make a party a party, but once the food runs out, the only thing that will keep your party going is a rocking patriotic playlist. So while you are stressing over the lack of decorations you have, I thought I would ease your stress and create the perfect playlist to keep your guests of all ages singing, dancing, and most importantly, AT YOUR PARTY!!!

Here are 10 iconic jams to turn your Independence Day into IndepenDANCE Day:

1) “Firework” – Katy Perry

This song does not need an explanation as to why it appears on this list. The title is literally “Firework”.

2) “Born In The U.S.A.” – Bruce Springsteen

An American classic, this song should be mandatory to listen to on July 4th.

3) “Party In The U.S.A.” – Miley Cyrus

The song behind majority of the July 4th captions you will see on your Instagram feed.

4) “Sweet Home Alabama”- Lynyrd Skynyrd

This song also does not need an explanation as to why it is on this list. It screams America.

5) “Surfin’ U.S.A.” – The Beach Boys

If you’re lucky enough to find a spot on the beach during July 4th, this song should be on repeat.

6) “Made In The U.S.A.”- Demi Lovato

This song is just pure fun and deserves to be played at any party.

7) “Sweet Caroline”- Neil Diamond

A song where everyone throws their fists in the air during the chorus? Check.

8) “American Woman”- The Guess Who

Classic.

9) “Kids In America” – Kim Wilde

No matter what your age is, you should be singing along to this song.

10) “Don’t Stop Believin'” – Journey

Although this song doesn’t scream “America”, this is a song that you can’t not sing, it’s basically an involuntary function your body does whenever this song comes on.

 

So here’s your complete 10 track list that will keep your July 4th party going strong until it’s July 5th (or until it’s no longer an appropriate time to keep setting off fireworks), enjoy!!!

EVOLVE – Imagine Dragons

  Imagine Dragons, an American rock band from Las Vegas Nevada, released their junior album EVOLVE a few days ago. The name “Evolve” is very fitting for this album based on its singles that were released earlier this year. Previously, they have released singles such as “On Top Of The World”, “I Bet My Life”, and their most well-known single, “Radioactive”, which have all consisted of the same pop-rock vibes. In contrast, their most popular single off their new album is a track called “Believer”, which is a very strong and powerful track, and is a good representation of the evolution from their past singles.

Strong, powerful, and aggressive lyrics and beats seem to be a recurring theme on this album. Even tracks that had more emotional lyrics were accompanied by intense beats. Majority of the songs on the 11 track album are hard hitting, upbeat, bops that make you want to head-bang and punch something in a non-violent, passionate way: a special feeling that only certain musicians can provide you with.

Although many of the tracks are fierce, there are also a few groovy and calmer tracks off the album. “I’ll Make It Up To You” and “Dancing In The Dark” are tracks that capture the albums more gentle essence, and provide the album with good musical balance.

After listening to each track repeatedly, EVOLVE has proven itself as a solid album with both aggressive and groovy tracks, and is yet another success for Imagine Dragons.

 

Standout Track- “I’ll Make It Up To You”