Monday, April 30, 2012

Z for...Zombies, Okay?

Quick Update: Almost there. Last A-Z post, here we go!

Song Stuck In My Head: "No More" by Three Days Grace. Actually, every song by Three Days Grace I'd always thought of this band as my protagonist's theme band, and actually did pretty well with the WIP this weekend, so maybe a Three Days Grace marathon every week now?

As you all know, Zombies are amazing creatures. Right in there between vampires, element dragons, and phoenixes. While this is not the first time I’ve covered the pure awesomeness of fictional monsters, I decided for “Z” day, to revisit zombies.

In the midst of the OoohVampire-OoohLookWerewolf-OoohNowI’mAnAngel-NowLOVEme craze (which is still going on, thanks Johnny Depp & Dark Shadows) zombies did get lost. After all, they aren’t rational or romantic. No, typically they’re all Monster. Whether they’re weak creatures in video games or movie critters with blood dripping from their mouths, zombies are the most badass of them all. No logic. No emotion.

To celebrate their badassery, in fact, let’s have another…PICTURE DAY! (claps and screams from make-believe audience). Yep, random zombie pictures. Not scary ones of course. They're pretty low-key. Now: Let’s go.



Well…did we do it? Did we finish A-Z blogging? Did we finish strong?

To all my new and old followers I say thank you for riding this out with me and…


Flesh Out Your YA Characters

Quick Update:  Have no way to obtain the next two books in the series I've been re-reading. This makes me sad. But hey, second to last A-Z post! And technically post #101 (even though Blogger counts published and unpublished posts, so maybe that doesn't count).

Song Stuck In My Head: "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Green Day as covered by Vitamin String Quarter. That's right, an orchestra song.

On SSF, we try to merge the world of pop culture and YA writing into one. As always, music is one of the more enjoyable ways to go about doing this. And while this isn’t the first time I’ve created a playlist for YA writing, this is the first to help with characterization. We do see a variety of “types” in YA, after all. We also see characters that don't have a type, and are pretty awesome...except they're missing, well, something.

Need more darkness to your character? You don’t need to make a character Goth or wear a spiked collar to make them a little shadowy inside. If your character is a little shallow or light-minded, and shouldn’t be, then try THE INDECENT. They’re an up-and-coming band from New York with a pure grunge sound. Listen to the girl singer for one second, and you’ll feel and understand teen angst, hurt, pain. But it won’t come off as over-the-top or corny.

Choice songs: “25 Steps”, “Her Screwed Up Songs”, “Lucky Ones”

Also check out… White Lie’s “Death”, Green Day’s “Brain Stew/Jaded”, Halestorm’s “Familiar Taste of Poison”, Sound garden’s “Black Hole Sun”.

Need more oddness to your character? You’re not asking to have a character so quirky Zooey Deschanel will be envious. You just need something unique or off-the-wall about your character that’ll make him/her more real or memorable. FOSTER THE PEOPLE will always be your best bet. Their mix of dark/thoughtful lyrics and poppy/catchy music makes them very odd indeed.

Choice songs: “Pumped Up Kicks”, “Call It What You Want”, “Don’t Stop”

Also check out…Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta”, Liz Phair’s “Extraordinary”, Weezer’s “Pork & Beans”, Silverchair’s “Freak”.

Need more sentimentality to your character? Maybe he’s a tough guy or girl who needs some redeeming qualities or emotions. Look no further than THREE DAYS GRACE. Though they may sound hard rock and look dark, Three Days Grace is one of the most emotionally charged bands out there today. Adam Gontier, the lead singer, manages to sound vulnerable and tough. They're my go-to band for my own WIP.

Choice songs: “Never Too Late”, “Running Away”, “Home”. Also check out Adam’s solo cover of “Wicked Game”.

Also check out… P!nk’s “Sober”, Stone Temple Pilot’s “Sour Girl”, Paramore’s “Brick By Boring Brick”, Katy Perry’s “Lost”.

Need more badassery to your character? Maybe they’re a weakling and need a stronger shell. Maybe you need more of fighter. You need music with spunk and the nerve to punch back, to spit in your face. There’s going to be no one better than JOAN JETT AND THE BLACKHEARTS for that. Joan Jett may be a little old-school, but there is nothing but timeless about her unapologetic, throaty, slack-jawed rock ‘tude. And that’s what you need with a badass character. Someone who won’t say sorry or take names. They just go with the flow.

Choice songs: “Bad Reputation”, “I Want You”, “Activity Grrrl”. Her version of "Cherry Bomb" is pretty snarky too.

Also check out…Alanis Morisette’s “You Oughta Know”, Foo Fighter’s “The Pretender”, Hole’s “Violet”, Korn’s “Counting On Me”.

Need more morals/dreams & hopes to your character? What, your character does have aspirations and goals and motivation, right? No? Well, if you need to inject some Little Person with Big Dreams into your story, why not try out American Idol numero uno, Kelly Clarkson? She was the first to go from Nobody to Superstar, and has the songs and story to prove it.

Choice songs: “Breakaway”, “How I Feel”, “Miss Independent” (okay, so in that last one her dreams get overshadowed with love, but hey, CONFLICT! Booyah).

Also check out…Stacie Orrico’s “There’s Gotta Be More (to Life)”, Shinedown’s “Second Chance”, KT Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See”, My Chemical Romance’s “Bulletproof Heart”.

Just need more depth to your character? If it’s just that they’re not complex enough or don’t have enough secrets, then you need some complex music. Music that has a lot of history, grudges, memories, and hurt in it. This time, we’ll go back to the 90’s, to the beloved NIRVANA. We don’t all understand what Kurt Cobain was singing about. Heck, we’re not even sure how he died thanks to conspiracy theorists. But we do know there was a lot of emotions going through his head, thanks to the complicated and mixed sound of Nirvana’s songs.

Choice Songs: “In Bloom”, “All Apologies”, “Something In the Way”. His last song, "You Know You're Right", is a little layered too.

Also check out…Airborne Toxic Event’s “Sometime Around Midnight”, No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak”, Hellyeah’s “You Wouldn’t Know”, Lady Gaga’s “Speechless”, the Killer's "Mr. Brightside".

Well…what about you? Do you have any go-to songs for characters? Is there a character type you have trouble with? Tell us. And I’ll see you soon for the LAST POST OF THE A-Z BLOGGING CHALLENGE AH! We made it here together! I have so many people to thank...


Queen Extravaganza

Quick Update: Really catching up now. Hey, so remember "Q?"

Song Stuck In My Head: “Black Shoes” by the Films. It’s Sims 2, but is amazing.

So about a week ago, I was out of mind with frustration and insomnia (okay, still am, but not the point) and declared no “Q” post because there was absolutely nothing I can think of that started with Q but was cool.
Well, A-Z blogging is almost up, so I surrender. And thankfully, last week's results show of American Idol introduced to me the QUEEN EXTRAVAGANZA.

Who are they? Apparently the two remaining members of the original Queen had searched for the ultimate Queen cover band, one that captured the essence and spirit and most of all talent of the band, and most of all, a band to tour with. Queen Extravaganza's winners seems to fit the description a little too perfectly. They put together a group of performers that somehow, together, do Queen justice in so many ways. Let me tell you why this is probably the first cover band that is worth the money.

The Singer: A broad, strong-looking man who goes from the piano to his feet, Marc Martel (who got to perform his audion on Ellen) has the dramatic voice of Freddy Mercury. He also has the gift of vulnerability and charisma. But his voice! It sounds so realistic; we could have Mercury's ghost here.

The Guitarist: A long-haired, young thing, their guitarist Tristan Avakian started out unimpressive and forgettable. Then he started playing his own little solos, playing guitar behind his back, and making snide/snarky faces. Oh yeah. We got a rebel here. The other guitarist, Brian Gresh, isn't too bad either.

The Bassist: Francois-Olivier Doyon, who did a backflip. While playing. All I need to say.

The Drummer: Okay, I don't remember their drummer, Tyler Warren, but only because around the end of the performance, Queen's own guitarist and drummer burst on stage and joined them. Cool, right?

While the performance might not have been picture-perfect (there was a lot of flashy lights. And back-up singers) seeing the Queen Extravaganza tribute band perform was a very fresh moment on the results show, where we get to see an actual band release its inner queen, inner monster, was what made it all worth it. This is truly a band to check out, despite them being a cover band.

Don't believe me? Listen for yourself. Then go to the Queen Extravaganza's website here and learn more about them, about the contest, and even their tour dates! Woot!


The Modern Xylophone (and Other Instruments)

Quick Update: Fourth ever band concert last Saturday. My strings class is still all horribly out of tune. We rocked. Oh, and X for Xylophone...

Song Stuck In My Head: "Colors of the Wind", the Pochohantas song. That, and Aretha Franklin. Don't ask.

Thanks to the recent success of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" (which I've blogged how many times now? Okay, sorry) I've been thinking a lot about the xylophone. In my head it's always been a part of my childhood. That little kid instrument that made tingling noises, had colorful keys, was delicate, and extremely easy to play. Yet sometimes, all it takes is some proper usage, and you get a song like Gotye's.

Love Gotye. Love him so much.

Not that Gotye is the first to ever feature the xylophone - also known as the Glockenspiel. I mean, have you ever heard a Frank Zappa song? Anyhow, since today is our "X" post...let's talk about all the other not as recognized instruments out there.

Harmonica. The bluesy mouth organ with 'tude and emotion. Obviously Bob Dylan's song featured some of the best harmonica moments. There's some more modern or well-known ones that have harmonica too.Black Rebel Motorcyle Club's "Complicated Situation". Or maybe Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks" (love that song). Green Day's "Minority". or Black Sabbath's "The Wizard". It's more present than we think.

Harp. Maybe a strumming harp makes you think of pretty angels. But the gentle, delicate instrument happens to be HUGE and very noticeable. Florence + the Machine, everyone's favorite loud girl, has the harp here and there. I think the best use of it is in Depeche Mode's "Halo" remix, which adds a haunting and not sweet tone to it. There's also many beautifully done harp covers out there on Youtube (how they could afford a harp, who knows. They're lucky is all I know).

Kazoo. After seeing an acoustic performance with one, I realized that kazoos aren't just the instruments that sound suspiciously like ducks. You can hear them in Eric Clapton songs (San Francisco Bay) or Rolling Stones songs (Cool, Calm, and Collected). And yes, even the aforementioned Frank Zappa has some kazoo here and there. (Hungry Freaks). Or even Weird Al Yancovich's cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit (well, okay, not cover).

There's tons of instruments out there. Bagpipes. Or recorders. Sometimes, even non-instruments can do a lot in a song. Glasses and spoons. Jingling of keys. Everything and anything.

What are some of your favorite instruments out there? The atypical instruments?

Later. Actually, no soon. Three posts in one day again - last day of A-Z after all!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W for Writer's Wonderland

Quick Update: Getting there with my posts at least. Almost caught up! Now I just need to do "Q" post that I skipped.

Song Stuck In My Head: "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division. Quite a haunting tune.

Right now, being a writer isn’t easy. With my junior year almost up and everyone in journalism class checking out and my classes having homework every DAY (gah!), sometimes I just need to escape. To have time to write and look at pictures of mental hospitals (for research…I have a YA/urban fantasy story that takes place in a ward, you know).

So, in a very odd post, I’m going to explore a fantastical land where ALL writers could live and be at peace. Feel free to add your own details: I’ll add them as they get up.

In Writer’s Wonderland….

Caffeine is the top food group. Energy drinks and sodas and coffee. They’ll be so important to our diet that they’ll be our rivers and lakes, like the chocolate river in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Your drinks will be bottled at Dr. Pepper Falls or the Starbucks Ocean. Or maybe we get injected with it like medicine.

Pens/Pencils/Flash Drives/Glasses/etc. never get lost. Nothing gets misplaced. If you set something down, it reappears a minute later before you even realize.

Writing is a respected career. When you go to reunions or just have a normal talk among peers, no “Oh, so what are you going to do with your life” sort of question will distress you anymore. Saying you’re a writer or freelancer will be the equivalent of saying you’re a heart surgeon or lawyer. 

Oops-check. We have a spell check, even a somewhat useful grammar check, but it’s not nearly enough. You said the wrong name. You actually did spell the word wrong, but you misspelled it until it became another existing word, so no spell check to help you now.

Carpal Tunnel doesn’t need surgery to be cured. Nope. You can take a tiny pill or vitamin, and it’ll be gone in a sitch. Not even that - it’ll be a cutesy, gummy pill that dissolves in your mouth, no pain whatsoever. In ten seconds, the pain in your wrist will be gone! Wow!


"V" for "Versus" on Idol

Quick Update: Sleepy. So sleepy. Oh, and hello new followers! Don't think I didn't notice you.

Song Stuck In My Head: “S and M" by Rihanna. So, a couple kids blasted this song during a club yesterday…with our 70-something year old advisor RIGHT THERE. Thankfully, I don’t think she listened to the lyrics, but still….

With American Idol being the top singing competition on TV, you can expect that there will be a lot of conflict and heat. Between contestants. Between judges. Between fans. But it seems like the show has a lot of odd clashes going on right now that weren’t intended by the producers. Let’s discuss.

Randy Jackson vs. both J-Lo and Steven. This past season or two, with no Simon Cowell to be rational, Randy Jackson has had to go from “Dawg!” to “Dude…”. Meaning, with Steven Tyler usually finding some crazy way to say how good someone sang or J-Lo fangirling over every song, he has to be the rational and honest critic. The bad cop. 

In a dramatic turn of events last night, that turned around because J-Lo has slowly been getting more critical - and Randy gets to defend the people again. It’s all very confusing, we know. But it’s good to see some judge conflict here and then.

Hollie Cavanagh vs. Musical Genres. All contestants have found their niche by now. Skylar: country sass. Phillip: artsy bluesy rock. Elise: power pop/rock. Joshua: rock and soul. And Jessica: big-voiced diva.

But it seems there aren’t really any open spots for little, blonde, and blue-eyed Hollie Cavanagh. She’s adorable and sings strongly, but has no exact genre to her. She might be any given high school’s best singer, but on a reality show like this that just doesn’t cut it.

Joshua Ledet vs. the Fans (Not His, Everyone Else’s). Mr. “Fantasia” has really proved himself to be more than a simple soul singer. He’s a performer above anything else, and hit his stride last night with his funky take on “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and insane ballad “Ready For Love".

Unfortunately, the boy’s fan base isn’t nearly as big as his talent and he has ended up in the bottom three a few times. Though Phillip Phillips is still my ultimate fave, I’d like to see Joshua make it a little farther than the Top 6. He’s that talented.

Elise Testone vs. Herself. I love Elise. I love how she mixes the roughness of Janis Joplin and Alanis Morisette in with a bubbly Colbie Caillet attitude and diva flair. The judges love it. Her fans, though there might not be that many, love it. But Elise? She doesn’t always seems sure. Every critique from the judges seems to hit her like a slap. Every wrong move or wrong note freaks her out for half the song. She’s beyond talented and knows what she’s doing, but nerves can get the best of us.

Phillip Phillips vs. the World. Everyone followed a very unspoken formula for last night, since the goal was to sing one Queen song and then sing one song of their own choice. Everyone had a spicy, loud/yelled, and pumped up Queen tune. And then everyone slowed down and had a dramatic, tear-filled ballad.

But never Phillip, who walks at his own pace. His queen song, “Fat Bottomed Girls”, was a fun rock moment in the middle of the wrong concert. And then he took an inventive take on Dave Matthews, who’s he compared to about every week, taking such a huge risk that he nearly gave Jennifer Lopez a heart attack.

Phillip Phillips never follows the other contestants or the show’s standards. As Randy put it, he’s already a true, matured artist who seems to have outgrown the overproduction and dramatics of Idol. And hey, he hasn’t even been in risk of elimination yet, not even on bad weeks. Coincidence?


Ups and Downs of: Obama On Jimmy Fallon

Quick Update: Lovin’ my GSA Club right now, as we completed some badass sock puppets. Not lovin’ journalism. My co-editor is our only senior, and with graduation only five weeks away has completely checked out. Which is bad, because there’s a couple kids who model after him. Gah.

Song Stuck In My Head: “Where’d You Go?” by Fort Minor. Really pretty song, and I almost forgot about it.

So, this Tuesday night, the President of the friggin’ United States took the time to appear on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Not that this is way out of the ordinary - Mitt Romney, even Ron Paul, have made appearances on Jay Leno and co., and first lady Michelle Obama had recently visited Jimmy Fallon and got in a sack race with him.

Of course, President Obama appearing after that huge Secret Service oops and in the midst of the Republican debates, where Romney is already preparing his hate ads, is a pretty big deal.

The interesting thing about this is that politics is going more pop culture. Appealing to the “young people” who don’t vote by invading their territory. Smart move? Not-so-smart? Let’s do this pros and cons style…the UPS AND DOWNS OF OBAMA ON JIMMY FALLON!

Up…Obama kept his cool, talking smoothly as always, making subtle jokes, talking about everything to his college experiences to how he feels about Romney, and calmly explaining himself - doing exactly what a Republican candidate wouldn’t do. (Fun fact: my history class JUST discussed how image and charisma affect a president’s likeability. Like with John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon).

Down…Fallon basically fangirls his way through the five-part interview, frantic and excited that the President is in his interview chair. But hey, Jimmy’s like that with a lot of his major guests, that’s why I love them.

Up…Mr. President took time to explain a couple of the bills going through congress right now, what they were all about, what exactly they were trying to pass, their deadline, etc. Mostly he discussed student loans, and how if they didn’t act now tuitions would increase in fall. Again. Speaking as a future college-goer…ouch.

Down…this will probably be the only time anyone knows what the heck is going on behind congress’s doors, because no one watches or understands that 24/7 coverage of their meetings. Why can’t we have someone rationally and informally explain politics to us every week? Wouldn’t that make us more informed citizens

Up…in very Jimmy-esque fashion (or Brian Williams fashion, because he does this whenever he’s on the show), Jimmy & the Roots house band sing a slow jam while Obama talks about the student loan bill. Mostly it’s Jimmy saying “Ah yeah”, but it counts.

Down…pleeeease don’t tell me this means Mitt Romney will start (trying to) sing again too. It’s politics. Not Presidential Idol.

Up…as one of the fan’s questions sent in by a tweet, a Tweeter named “Bobo” to be exact, Jimmy Fallon asks Obama if he’s going to legalize pot or what.

Down…Bobo? Really? Because we were clearly going to take that seriously.

Up…a lot of the comments, on Youtube at least, are of citizens who talk about how much they respect (or re-respect) our president, how his ideas are still good, how this proves he can withstand the upcoming campaign. Even citizens who aren’t his biggest fan took advantage of the comments section to intelligently tell Americans to not give up on Ron Paul just yet, that this can still be a great presidential race.

Down…those beautifully written comments usually get drowned out by the less intelligent ones. Very unintelligent ones.

Okay. All for today. Got some blogs to catch up on, so…


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Television Celebrates Television

Quick Update: So for the first time in my life, A in every class - except one. Of course, that “one” is a D. Curse you, Chemistry….But, neverthless, time to catch up with blogs. "T" for "TV"!

Song Stuck In My Head: Beginning of the End by Nine Inch Nails. Having a small NIN renaissance.

So…Fox’s 25th Anniversary Special aired last Sunday. Yep. I watched on it.

Based on how it was advertised, it was a little unclear what to expect. The event was preluded by the nostalgia-heavy first episodes of Married…With Children and the Simpsons, before going into two hours of clips, montages, interviews, and Ryan Seacrest (who’s apparently our only go-to host nowadays).

All considering, the special wasn’t too shabby. It traveled to 1987 and back, brushing over some, spotlighting some. Every type of show was featured, comedies and sports to teen soaps and dating shows. Being part of Generation Syndication, as in the generation that relies on the CW or Netflix to see classic TV shows, I was almost shocked on how many shows originated on everyone’s favorite self-deprecating network. The show was both an educational and entertaining experience for me.

The special had one clear from the start - honoring Fox as the underdog; the weird and risky network with ten failures for every hit; the obnoxious and outrageous little kid in TV who was still fun and heartfelt when it counted.
This was shown at the end of the Simpson's pilot. :)

And believe it not, the angle was well-executed. Hugh Laurie talked about how the unconventional character of Dr. House lasted eight seasons on Fox, but would have only lasted eight weeks elsewhere, or at least been asked to shave or change his profession to cop or something. Or Married’s cast talking about how they prided on being different from every other family sitcom until then, how people connected with the flaws and not the fake perfection.

Fox also showcased its redeeming qualities. For instance, how much of an impact In Living Color had on black comedy, but comedy in general, helping along the careers of the Wayans Brothers and Jim Carrey and so on. Or how cartoons had been kids-only territory, certainly not a night of “Animation Domination” or its own universe on Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim”. Even how American Idol’s losers were winners, remembering Chris Daughtry’s elimination, Jennifer Hudson’s final song, and Adam Lambert hugging the winner, Kris Allen.

And the best part of the show, by far? You know those montages at the Oscars that highlight moments that tell you what the movie is all about, then take a moment and focus on a single scene, that stand-out scene, etc? Well, take that, now times it by about hundred or so.

 Between scenes, they'd go to the "banquet tables" where the Simpson's, Bob's Burgers, American Dad, 
Family Guy, and Cleveland Show cast all hang out and discuss the show so far. 
Zoeey Deschanel even guested as a cartoon character.

Even someone who didn’t grow up with the shows could bask in the awesomeness. The Family Guy FCC episode. Jack Bauer’s trial. That 70’s show pot smoking friends in the basement. Joe Millionare’s big reveal. Kurt Hummel coming out on on Glee. NASCAR’s many, many crashes. Skully and Mulder finally admitting their feelings for each other amid all the alien hunting. Malcolm in the Middle’s Dewey caught smoking, or just older brother Reese discovering a new color when he mixed blue and yellow: Blellow!

It was a very neat two hours. Here is a link to watch it if you haven't yet or are interested. You might need Flash Player or something, but don't ask me, I'm on a public computer.

Okay, to survive the rest of Wednesday....

Monday, April 23, 2012

Let's Discuss Sock Puppets

Quick Update: “S” for Sock Puppets. Duh.

Song Stuck In My Head:  "U Got It Bad", American Idol contestant Phillip Phillip's cover of an...Usher song? That's right.

So, my school’s GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) Club is currently working on an amazing anti-bullying program designed for elementary school kids. And guess what: it’s going to be a puppet show! Woot! We bought the socks, some of the supplies, and made the characters. Now we just need to make those puppets.
And what have I realized? I’ve never made or played with a sock puppet before. Cruel, right? So I can do "research" and blog, why not have a fun anti-blog day again to make up for Saturday's "S" post? Release the sock puppet pictures!

Have a good week everybody! Maybe see you later...or tomorrow... :)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rock on American Idol?

Quick Update: Today’s Letter R post is brought to you by the words “Rant” and “Rock”. Oh by the way, no Q post because I officially hate that letter. Maybe I'll try it later.

Song Stuck In My Head: “Jar of Hearts” by Christina Perri now.

So it’s finally happened. As of last night, American idol has cut ones of its “rock” contestants. Colton, who sang Paramore and Lady Gaga in a very pop/rock fashion and gained a colossal female fan base, was eliminated during his first time even at risk of elimination. Was Colton really “rock”? Or was he mainstream/pop like a few other winners of the show before him? Because with or without him, AI has been having its most “rock” season so far.

Not that American Idol could ever really pull off rock. The original version of the show IS called “Pop Idol”. The whole point is to produce mainstream, pop singers. However, if they can be pop/(insert-other-genre-here) then even better. Mostly it’s pop/country, like Carrie Underwood or last year’s crooner Scotty McCreery. Or pop/soul, like Fantasia and Reuben Studdard. Or just pop/indie rock, like Kris Allen or David Cook.

However, sometimes AI, and other talent reality shows, play a mean trick: they have a Token Rock Kid. A rough-voiced singer, or two singers at most, who can rock the house, get a lot of fans, but never really…win. Last year we had James Durbin, who since placing in the top five has enjoyed a comfortable niche as a hard rock/post-punk singer. On the first season of the X Factor, there was Josh Kratchik, the lovable rock teddy bear, who came in second. 

The point of the Token Rock Kid is bring a diversity and illusion of actual rock music to the show. Which would be okay, if one of them actually won. Not a cutesy indie rock singer, but a legit rock singer.

Now that we’re in the Top 6 on Idol though, we do have a few rock singers still in the mix. The clear best: Phillip Phillips, the guitar-carrying blues kinda a guy who gets so into his songs that he gets crazy, rock star eyes. And the judges (and audience) know it. Most would think Phillip Phillips wouldn’t belong on a show like AI. After all, the Voice has more his crowd. But then you see him preform, and see how important image and stage presence is to his act. So being on AI has helped him in its own way.

Phillip isn’t alone though. Hanging on the bottom rung of the AI ladder right now is Elise, a singing veteran who went to college for vocal performance and has been in bands and opened for a few well-known figures. She sings with a rough, throaty wildness, and has been compared to Janis Joplin a few times. While Elise is easy to like and clearly talented, it’s her clear insecurity and nerve issues that have yet to give her the fan base she deserves. But she is still a clear rock singer. She almost reminds me of last year’s third place Idol - soul/jazz singer Haley Reinhart.

The other remaining contestants seem to be verging on rock. Young, diva singer Jessica Sanchez adds growls and screams to her performances. Skylar’s spunky and mean country singing has led to her being the country’s next “country/rock” singer. Soul singer, or Mantasia, Joshua has started to add a stage show to his beautiful singing.

In a way, American Idol is trying to get less pop, and more genre-heavy. Hey, if that means more guitar solos, fine by me.

So have you been watching AI? Who’s your favorite on the show right now?


Rec of the WeeK: The Pretty Reckless "Hit Me Like a Man" EP

Quick Update: On my "P" for "Pretty Reckless" post, which is the only semiprofessional record reviw I've written so far. Getting there, I guess. Oh, and hello new followers E. Regina and Martin A!

Song Stuck In My Head: "Don't Trust Me" by 3oh!3. Remember 3oh!3?

Their fans may be Tumbling teenage girls, but that’s no longer an excuse. THE PRETTY RECKLESS have racked up enough qualifications to make it onto everyone’s playlist. Their pop-tinted grunge debut “Light Me Up” is over with. They’ve toured with Evanescence, Guns N’ Roses, and 30 Seconds to Mars. Cigarette-toting front woman Taylor Momsen is finally legal. And now their second EP, HIT ME LIKE A MAN, is out. TPR are upgrading from a novelty to a force one fan at a time.

From a distance, TPR don’t look their name. Most of the group consists of tough, dark-haired brooders. Then they’re fronted by a young, platinum blonde C lister - model/actress Momsen of Gossip Girl fame. With her smoky eyes, lingerie-esque wardrobe, and occasional tabloid controversy, she’s basically America’s 18-year old crazy sister who ran off with a rock band and who we don’t talk about.

Those who dare to look past the not-so-enticing surface of TPR discover their true merit. Sure, they’re not all fun rave songs, comeback rock heroes, or loveably Indie. Gosh, they don’t even try to hide the bubblegum appeal of their singer, or the clear grunge/70’s influence on them. Why should they?

Nope, TPR are just your average group of misfits who grew up to songs where the singer was a dark yet beloved angel, the lyrics told stories, and the guitar sang the entire song - not just a solo. Misfits who see nothing wrong with the continuing Yesterday’s brand of music. It’s an awkward transition - Vevo’s Ask: Reply video interview with Momsen is enough evidence of that.

But once you hear TPR, it’s a lot easier to look at them. While “Hit Me Like a Man” has only three new tracks, but it’s more than enough.

First the title mix. While “Hit Me Like a Man” the song might not be the most stand-out of TPR’s musical archive, it does have a riff full of enough thrash roots, bass stomping, and pumped up badassery to carry it along. I particularly enjoyed hearing the growth injected into Momsen’s voice, after the two years spent promoting “Light Me Up”.

Don’t go into Hit Me Like a Man expecting controversial lyrics though - despite the title that inspired the EP’s name, it’s about the balance of testosterone and estrogen in a relationship not a statement about abuse. “Hit me like a man…but love me like a woman.” It still does so with spicy, smoldering ‘tude. (However, if you are a fan of the controversial, might I suggest TPR’s “Goin’ Down”, the tale of a girl who kills her cheating beau then confesses and seduces a priest?)

We end with “Cold Blooded”, which tastes like two scoops of bluesy, coffee-house rock with extra throaty vocal syrup. Not quite a ballad, Cold Blooded echoes everything you loved about the twentieth century rock scene in the form of duet between Momsen and guitarist/co-founder Ben Phillips (whose rock n’ roll pipes can only be described as WowzaTheManCanSing).

Not that this is a romantic duet in any way. In fact, I imagine a fuming couple who have no way to actually express their discontent. Instead, they sit on opposite sides of a door, strumming guitars, singing their hurt away. But the splotchy rhythm section of bassist Mark Damon and drummer Jamie Perkins deserve an ovation too - they are, after all, who keep the Blues heavy in this tune.

That said, Cold Blooded could get a tad repetitive after a few listens. And the ending - Momsen and Phillips saying “can’t trust a cold-blooded woman/man” at the same time so their words blend - borders on corny. But in the long run, you’ll remember the atmosphere of this song, not the gimmicks.

In-between the live recordings of previous songs (Light Me Up’s gloomy “Make Me Wanna Die” and hyperactive “Since You’re Gone”) we get “Under the Water”. I knew this was going to be my favorite after I spent about twenty minutes simply replaying the beginning. It’s not just quiet to loud: It’s dead to alive. Young and bruised to matured and recovering.

You don’t even need to read the lyrics. Vocally, the dynamics tell the story with every light-hearted or emotionless syllable. There’s definitely the vibe of a teen girl’s angst-ridden diary throughout this dark, guttural tune. No only does it work, but the youthfulness, the naivety or fall from grace so to speak, keeps it afloat. When Momsen’s warnings of “don’t let the water drag you down” turn to a scream, it’s hard not to care.

Admittedly the guitar and base don’t do great strides, acting more as mellow backdrops than stand-outs. I am however in love with explosive, arena-worthy drumming. Kudos to whoever’s idea it was to throw that in. Minor details, worthy results.

How much will TPR’s next full release be like this? Who knows. With the band about to start a tour with Marilyn Manson, they could take a whole new direction. For now, it’s time for the modern rock genre to give the kids a second glance…don’t let appearances fool you.