Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Selena Gomez – Stars Dance

Available on iTunes®
The highly anticipated release of Selena Gomez’s new album Stars Dance came last night, and I think it’s safe to say, with much success.
In under an hour, Stars Dance reached #1 on iTunes (across all genres) in Canada and the United States. Not too bad for her debut album as a solo artist (No, she is no longer with The Scene).
Even with many reviewers not all that happy with the album, Selena Gomez has a very strong fan base (a.k.a. The Selenators), and they absolutely love Stars Dance... at the end of the day, it is only the fans who really matter. So, I won't pick the album apart. I won't criticize every little thing, but I will give my opinion. 
Stars Dance is different than any of Selena Gomez’s previous albums... very different. The fan in me enjoys it, but the impartial writer in me... is a little disappointed.
Selena Gomez seems to be taking a chapter out of Taylor Swift’s handbook, as there is a very strong, recurring theme through almost the entire album: Loving someone... Losing someone... Then loving but trying to let go (heartache).
I’ve got no problem with this. Any and all talented artists will use their own lives and emotions in their work. Without emotion, the work would be shallow and weak... as a writer, I was always taught to “write what you know-write what you feel,” and the rest will follow. So, I don’t fault Selena for this at all. I find it adds strength and depth to the songs. Besides, it takes a very strong person to share such personal feelings with the world.
But setting this theme aside, the album, for the most part, is actually pretty well done. Stars Dance has a very prominent club feel to it. There is a bit of a pop, but mostly dance, with some techno and AutoTune mixed in... another reason I am disappointed. I adore Selena's voice and love her ballads, and unfortunately, this album has only one quasi-ballad. 
Most of the songs are upbeat and catchy and are worth the download, but there are a couple that do fall short. 
Like a Champion was just too much dance with very limited vocals. This is the song playing in a club at the end of the night after everyone is drunk or has gone home. B.E.A.T. has a strong electronic vibe with way too much AutoTune. There is really no substance to this song, just techno beats and AutoTune. It doesn’t seem to fit well with the rest of the album. This is the song that should have been saved for a remix CD.
The rest of the album is definitely worth a listen, with the majority worthy of being downloaded.
Undercover could lose some of its electro dance feel, and the transitions between its pop beat and techno beat do not work well in making the song flow smoothly, and lyrically, I found it very repetitive, but it's still worth a listen.
Forget Forever is also repetitive, but the slow club/pop beat and feel of the song seem to make the lyrics secondary. The song emotes images of Snow White and Prince Charming just being together in the Enchanted Forest... surrounded by nothing but beauty and love. It is definitely worth a listen... maybe even a download.
Birthday is a great dance song, with a highly infectious beat. Stars Dance (The title track) shows Selena's vulnerable but broad range of vocals. It's a little slower with an ethereal tone. Save the Day just kind of grows on you after a while. Write Your Name starts with a fairytale like tone and moves into an upbeat dance tempo. I enjoyed this one, mostly because it shows more of Selena's natural vocal talent. Love Will Remember is the closest you'll come to a ballad on this album. It is repetitive, but it's filled with emotion. I can only imagine how personal this song is for her.
The two bonus tracks, Nobody Does it Like You and Music Feels Better are great. Both get you ready for the dance floor and shows more of the fun side of Selena Gomez.
Come and Get It really doesn't need much said. It was the debut single off Stars Dance, flew up the charts, and simply is an amazing track. The tempo and mood changes flow effortlessly, and I honestly can't see anyone doing this song as well as Selena. Her vocals match the song perfectly.
My overall favorite track off the album, however, is Slow Down. The vocals are steady and deep. The mix of dance beats and slow pop blends very well, but it is the tone and mood of the song that ranks it the best. I can almost picture Selena as she softly grips the microphone, slowly tilts her head back, and just immerses herself completely into the song.
Even though I was a little disappointed, or maybe, I just expected something different, the album was worth the wait... and with Selena Gomez's 44,673,968 Facebook fans and 15,947,784 Twitter followers, this album, and any future albums, will do just fine. 
She is a star, and she is real.
People can relate to her, and people respect her.
A true artist.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Cory Monteith Found Dead in Vancouver Hotel

At 11:30pm (MST), on July 13, 2013, Vancouver police confirmed in an impromptu press conference that Cory Monteith (best know for his character, Finn Hudson, on Glee) was found dead in his hotel room earlier in the day.

It was confirmed by Acting Chief Doug Le Pard that “Vancouver Police received a call from the BC Ambulance Service regarding a sudden death in a room on the 21st floor of the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel,” and the deceased was “identified as 31-year-old actor Cory Monteith.”

Although cause of death has not been established, Le Pard went on to say that “all indications are that there was no foul play.”

Within minutes of the official announcement, social media exploded with shock, sadness, and prayers. Unfortunately, it also exploded with unconfirmed speculation and inappropriate, even heartless, comments regarding the circumstances surrounding his death.

While I’m not surprised at the speculations, I am appalled by some of the comments I’d seen. But, that’s not what this is about, and I choose to ignore these comments (as I hope others will), as it is inconsequential to the real story... the real tragedy.

I admit, the belief circulating that Monteith’s death was drug related does have enough facts to probably be true, but until confirmation from the Medical Examiner, one cannot say either way.

The belief of a drug related death comes from the fact that Cory Monteith had battled drug addiction for over 10 years. He entered rehab for the first time at 19 years old, after family and friends staged an intervention. Over the years, Monteith had admitted openly in many interviews that he had a substance abuse problem... and was even quoted many times as saying that he “took anything and everything.”

Most recently, he had revealed to People magazine that earlier this year he “admitted himself into rehab for substance abuse.” After his stay in rehab, Monteith seemed happy and in good spirits when he got out and even tweeted his thanks to everyone on April 26, 2013.

Monteith joined the Glee cast in 2009, and when the show took off, so did his popularity. He was extremely talented, both as an actor and as a singer, and his character soon became one of the favourites on the show.

In 2012, Monteith and his co-star Lea Michele began dating, and were still dating at the time of his untimely passing. I don’t think I can even imagine how this has affected her. She, along with his friends, his family and his fellow cast members, supported him completely and unconditionally while he battled his addiction.

A rep for Lea Michele released a statement on her behalf asking that “everyone kindly respect Lea’s privacy during this devastating time.” I only hope that people do respect and grant Lea this courtesy. While Monteith’s death was made very public, her loss and subsequent grieving needs to be (and SHOULD be) private. My heart and my prayers go out to Lea and also to his family and his friends.

To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die” 
~Thomas Cambell

If the Medical Examiner’s results (the autopsy is scheduled for Monday) show that Monteith’s death was drug related, I cringe at the subsequent news stories and comments that will follow, and I worry about the possible (yet unjustified) blame and guilt those close to him may feel.

Substance abuse and addiction is an illness, but because it’s not a ‘physical’ ailment, some people believe that not using is as easy as just choosing not to use. That’s simply not true. Like a ‘physical’ illness, one seeks treatment in order to get better; unfortunately, however, like any illness, treatment does not always produce a cure. Sometimes, the illness wins and our body pays the price. 
Losing the battle is not a sign of weakness... it is not because of something those around them did or did not do... it is not something that could’ve been changed... It is tragic. It is heartbreaking. But it is no one’s fault. And, unless you’ve experienced this first hand, you may not understand... so do not judge!

I didn’t know Cory Monteith personally. I don’t know his family or his friends... but I do understand. I can only hope and pray that those who were close to him, especially his family and Lea, know that just by loving him and supporting him, they DID do everything they could have, and they DID do everything they should have. I hope they find the strength they need to get themselves through this devastating and heartbreaking loss.

God Bless.

Cory Monteith

May 11, 1982 – July 13, 2013

Rest in Peace

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Britney Spears – Ooh la la

Browsing through my Twitter feed today, I saw a tweet about Britney Spears’ new video being released. I admit, I almost continued scrolling past the posting (I was a huge fan of 'early' Britney but not so much of 'new' Britney), until I read the part about her children being in the video. Now I was intrigued and... a little concerned. I’ve seen her videos of years past and could not imagine how two young boys would even come close to fitting in her newest video. So, I clicked the link, watched the video, and was pleasantly surprised... Britney Spears was again amazing, and her sons, Preston and Jayden, were the perfect personal touch for the video. If this is the new 'new' Britney Spears, then I am once again a huge fan.

Ooh La La, available on iTunes, is from the Smurfs 2 soundtrack and is a refreshing mix ‘early’ Britney Spears and ‘new’ Britney Spears. 
Ooh La La has a very subtle techno-like beat to it, with just the right amount of electropop and dance mixed in. I enjoyed the song and the video very much. I’m happy Britney Spears is bringing a bit of her pre toxic music back into her new music. As for the video, using her children in the video (and actually portraying her children) helps to remind people she’s grown up... she’s a mom... and she’s a normal person. Having Preston and Jayden in the video (especially the “Hi mom!”) only solidifies all that.

She looks great. The kids look happy. Music is awesome. It’s Britney B****!

Don't forget to watch for The Smurfs 2 coming to theaters July 31, 2013!