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Dance Music at the Grammy’s

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Dance music has come a long way in the past decade.  From music you could only hear at 5 am in NYC at clubs like Sound Factory and Crobar, to now being played out by commercialized mainstream radio.  Dance music is beats and vocals dubbed together by artists who can hear melodies where others do not.  Having said this, it is amazing to see these artists being honored, as musicians, at the Grammy awards.

The nominees for Best Dance Recording are all very talented DJ’s.  Avicii is a great DJ who brought dance music to the mainstream when Flo Rida remixed his song Levels.  Although he should be recognized for helping bring dance music to the forefront of American radio, I don’t think he deserves the Grammy this year.  The Best Dance Recording, in my opinion, belongs to Swedish House Mafia featuring John Martin, Don’t you Worry Child.  This song mixes beautiful vocals and lyrics with genius melodies and beats.  Not only can you sing along to this track but you can also get lost in its atmosphere.  Swedish House Mafia is a trio of talented DJ’s and ingenious producers.  They mix just the right amount of commercial feel to get radio air time and still keep the respect of dance music lovers around the world.

The Grammy for the Best Dance/Electronica Album hands down belongs to Kaskade Fire and Ice.  Kaskade is one of the few American DJs and producers to draw followers around the world.  In 2011 Kaskade was voted America’s Best DJ 2011 by www.djtimes.com.  The Fire and Ice album peaked at #17 on the US Charts and #1 on the US Dance Charts.  Kaskade brings together different artists and other DJs in this album and still manages to keep his authentic sound.  The album includes two discs’ (Fire and Ice) which contain the same tracks but mixed in two completely different ways.  Fire is smooth and alluring, while Ice is loud and hard.  Although the same songs, each disc feels and sounds completely unique.  Kaskade deserves this award, in my opinion, and I believe will take home the Grammy this year.  Although the other albums in this category are all great none has the originality and range of skill like Kaskade Fire and Ice.

 

D’Jango Unchained: Tarantino’s Wet Spot

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While the 90s indie boom saw many filmmakers in full boom (Paul Thomas Anderson, The Coen Brothers, Richard Linklater) there’s little argument that Tarantino was most likely the most influential one of his era, as well as the most successful one overall. In all honesty, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call Tarantino the most important American auteur since Martin Scorsese, as his sense of dialogue, extreme violence, non-linear story telling, and retrospective aesthetics practically manufactured the careers of the likes of Guy Ritchie and Martin McDonagh. Hell, had Tarantino decided to set his camera down after making Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, it would have been enough to give him iconic status. Of course, that didn’t happen though, and Tarantino has continued to make excellent genre cinema for these last two decades, which has seen his style taking both to extemes (Kill Bill) to the more subdued (Jackie Brown).

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The director’s latest, Django Unchained, is very much a cumulnation of the director’s entire body of work up to this point. Certainly a follow-up piece to his WWII film Inglorious Basterds, this new film is in essence a period piece (this time the American south before the Civil War), but one that isn’t afraid to use anachronisms for the sake of good storytelling. D’Jango Unchained is a sparkling homage to spaghetti westerns and blaxploitation cinema, as well as a splatterfest that recalls Tarantino’s love of the cheap thrills of grindhouse cinema. The film centers on the title character, a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) who teams up with a German named King Schultz (Christoph Waltz)  to begin a lucrative partnership in bounty hunting. Of course there is an end goal in mind for our hero Django, as he also plans to rescue his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from evil plantation owner Calvin Candie, and his similarly twisted house slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson).

It’s certainly a story that catches Tarantino in his element, and I honestly think he’s possibly the only filmmaker who could have given this film the much needed tongue-in-cheek quality that it has. It’s a very modern film despite it’s setting and adherence to past eras of cinema. This is most  immediately apparent in a scene where the characters are riding horse-and-buggy across a plantation field as a Rick Ross song plays in the background. It’s anachronistic, attention grabbing, and possibly brilliant film making.

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The film certainly has a higher body count than Sergio Leone could of ever dreamed of, yet for the most part us viewers can’t help but cheer at seeing Django lay waste to these white slaving bastards. Tarantino’s films have always been about kicking up things a few notches from reality, and the slave-driven America that Tarantino showcases here is nothing short of vicious. While there was never any proof towards the existence of mandingo fighting (forcing slaves to fight to the death for entertainment), he implies that the world of Django Unchained accepts it publicly. Many are likely to see this film as a gratuitous sensationalizing of slavery, but just as Tarantino climaxed Inglorious Basterds with Hitler getting his head caved in to machine gun fire, the director is merely exposing the evils of history in his playful and pulpish style.

That said, all of this would be for nothing if the acting couldn’t match Tarantino’s aloofness, but fortunately for us, wise casting has saved the day once again. Jamie Foxx certainly gives Django the right amount of coolness and badassery, but he isn’t quite the highlight of this film, as the supporting cast is just so electric! Christoph Waltz continues to show what a brilliant actor he is, as his affable slave-freer is a complete 180 from the flamboyantly insidious Nazi he played in Inglorious Basterds. Speaking of villains, both Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson are fantastic in their bad guy roles, and there’s one particular scene involving DiCaprio’s character and a hammer that truly made me cringe.

There are two facets of the film, however, that fall behind Tarantino’s usual standards. For one, this is far from the best script that Tarantino has written as it’s surprisingly linear. It doesn’t have the complex sub-plot conjunction of Inglorious Basterds, or the brilliant time-shifting narratives that have carried his best work, despite a few flashback sequences that are shot in a deliciously grainy exploitation-esque style. Most of the violence is just point and shoot also, as opposed to the more creative pummeling that could be found in his earlier work. Also, Django Unchained is a bit too long, which might be the result of Tarantino’s new editor. All of Tarantino’s previous films were edited by Sally Menke, who sadly passed away in 2009. His new editor Fred Raskin certainly knows how to cut an action sequence, but dialogue heavy scenes aren’t necessarily his forte. It pains me to say it, but there are a few talky scenes in the movie that go on a bit too long.

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Still, D’Jango Unchained is indeed worthy of the Tarantino name, and it’s not really any less messy than some of the spaghetti westerns and exploitation films it’s blatantly mimicking. Fans of the director won’t be disappointed and are even likely to see the film as his best work to date just based on aesthetics alone. Once again, don’t expect Tarantino to win any Oscars this year, but maybe that’s a good thing.

 

A Taste of Fine Country

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CARRIE BLOWN

A Taste of Fine Country
January 2013

This years country nominees truly gives a look at what this genre is, what it was and what it can be. The groups and individuals compiling the country genre all have the talent, soul and passion, but for the Grammy’s, to win, they have to stand out and have that “something special”. Although it is close, the Grammy SHOULD go to….

Carrie Underwood – Blown Away will likely take home the Grammy “Best Country Solo Performance” category. The song is epic, theatrical and emotional. The lyrics are powerful and her voice makes it magical like you’re in the middle of an Oklahoma tornado. The strings in the song, although not typical country fiddle, give it that epic sound and makes an impact on listeners senses. The other nominees are all great, but for me, they lack that “wow” factor. Dierks Bentley’s “Home” is beautiful, Eric Church’s “Springsteen” makes me think about being a teenager again, Blake Shelton’s “Over” touches the starry eyed lover in me, and the others all having parallel themes.

Eli Young Band – Even if it Breaks Your Heart should win the “Best Country Duo / Group Performance”. The song entails all the good eminence of a single AND it’s a quality track. It is immediately catchy and starts of with simple vocals and a guitar strum. The chorus makes you want to sing out loud at a bar with your friends. It is memorable and makes you want to listen to it again. Although I feel this song should win, I have a feeling it may go to Taylor Swift & The Civil Wars – Safe and Sound. This mysterious sounding song is featured in the film “Hunger Games” and demonstrates Taylor Swifts beautiful vocals. But aside from its beautiful, mysterious sound, the song seems, well, manufactured for a movie.

Carrie Underwood – Blown Away will take home “Best Country Song” for all the reasons listed above. Additionally, the people who made that magic happen, should be acknowledged as well.

Zac Brown Band – Uncaged will probably win the Grammy for “Best Album”. However, I say this with hesitance. I’ve repeatedly listened to each album, both in different mindsets and consecutively, and this was difficult. Zac Brown Band’s album was great to listen to and touches many emotions. It makes you long for someone to still love you during “Goodbye in Her Eyes,” relax on a beach during “Island Song,” and do a strip tease during “Overnight,” right before saying goodbye to your loved ones during “Day That I Die”. This album shows what the future of country can bring; classic country, a touch of rock, and even a little bit of soul. The album is genius and deserves a win. I must reiterate that the other albums are just as good in their own ways. Hunter Hayes’ Self Titled album, at first makes, it easy to say that he is the “Justin Beiber of Country” but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Regardless of your age, you can take the lyrics and easily relate them to your own life. And what is even more impressive is that he played every instrument on the album. The Time Jumpers Self Titled album is another great example of fine musicianship. All of the members are talented studio musicians who came together and made classic Western Country music. Jamey Johnsons Tribute, although a tribute, is a great album that demonstrates not only Jamey’s vocals and appreciation for Cochran, but several other well respected artists contribute to the wonderful sound. Last but not least the impressive Miranda Lambert’s – For the Record is strong; in the sense of being a strong woman with powerful vocals. She sings straight from the heart and empowers the listener. But at the end of the day, Zac Brown takes the cake with the “Fine Sampling of Country”.

Pamela Erin Gordon

Who will win Record of the Year at The Grammy’s?

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The Grammy Awards are a night that can be as unpredictable as the MTV Video Music Awards yet have a seriousness to it like the Oscars.  The annual award show is broadcast on CBS February 10th at 8pm eastern time.  So far there are a wide range of performers from Taylor Swift to Rihanna, The Black Keys to Mumford & Sons.

One of the highly coveted awards of the evening is Record of the Year, which in the past has gone to Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” and most recently Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep”.  This year’s contenders range from rock, pop, R&B and alternative.  So who should win, who will win, and who got left out in the cold?  Here are my predictions as to what will go down.

Nominees-

Taylor Swift- “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”

The Black Keys- “Lonely Boy”

Gotye featuring Kimbra- “Somebody That I Used To Know”

Kelly Clarkson- “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”

Frank Ocean- “Thinking About You”

Fun featuring Janelle Monae- “We Are Young”

Who will win-

This one really is tough because each of these songs are strong in their own fields.  Both Kelly and Fun are nominated in this and Song of the Year category, which puts them in the front of the list as ones that are nominated in both tend to win both.  That being said,  “We Are Young” will most likely be the winner as that song was gigantic and they seem to have gained quite a lot of Grammy steam since the announcement of the nominations last month.

Who should win-

I am so privy towards Frank Ocean as his freshman effort “Channel Orange” was the best album this past year, and this song was one of the many shining examples of that.  Besides Frank, Gotye’s song should win based off of just how original and whimsical it really was.  Taylor’s is a basic pop song, Kelly’s is too even though I loved it.  “Lonely Boy” is great but not Record of the Year material, and “We Are Young” doesn’t compete in my mind with Gotye and Frank.  If I HAD to choose, it would be Frank.

Who got the shaft-

There were plenty in my opinion.  Sort of shocked that Drake and Rihanna’s “Take Care” didn’t get any nominations at all as that was the best collaboration this year by far.  “The A-Team” by Ed Sheeran picked up a Song of the Year nod but I felt deserved recognition in this category as well, and even though it dominated the hip-hop categories, both “Daughters” by Nas and “Mercy” by Kanye West should’ve been strong contenders for this category.

Who is your choice to win? Sound off and let your voice be heard!

Welcome To Manhattan Digest!!

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Just wanted to welcome everyone to our new site! On this site you will find the best of everything- from music to movies, fashion to politics, there is something on here that will intrigue your thought process and something that will be memorable the day that you read it.  Any opinions and thoughts on our writings is of course welcomed as well as ideas on what you would like to see on the site! We are very excited to bring you the best that we have and are looking forward to a great 2013 with you and the rest of the Manhattan Digest community, so welcome!!!