Movie Diary

Wednesday, August 24, 2016
























a) Kubo And The Two Strings
I've taken my 6-year-old son to the movies a few times now, and he'd been asking to see Kubo for months, ever since the first commercial he saw, so we went opening weekend. It was pretty fun with a lot of inventive visuals, the stop motion animation looked incredible on the big screen. It's a little disappointing that you still get things like a movie about ancient Japan made by white people with white actors voicing most of the main characters, but as far as the cast went, it was fine, Matthew McConaughey was good as the comic relief (he has another animated movie, Sing, coming out in December, so while the McConaissance is over, the AniMcConaissance has just begun).

I'm a fan of Adam McKay's comedies, so I was kind of rooting for him to knock it out of the park with his first 'serious' movie, and I suppose you can say that he did with all those Oscar noms. But man, I really thought this movie was strained and obnoxious with all its condescending attempts to make the 'complicated' subject matter more accessible. All the breaking the fourth wall, all the goofy tangents, they just felt annoying and eager to please. Also, a person who in real life was named Jamie Mai was portrayed in the movie as Jamie Shipley, so now I'm kind of wondering if my own last name was used to white wash a role that could've gone to an Asian actor.

I had so much fun tweeting about "the Zac Efron dubstep movie" last year that it seemed only fair to actually watch the thing. It was about as awkward as I expected, but kind of functionally bland, like if Magic Mike was entirely about Alex Pettyfer and Cody Horn.

This is one of those movies where the bad guys (Topher Grace, Walton Goggins, and Bill Pullman) are so much more fun to watch than the good guys (Jesse Eisenberg and Kirsten Stewart) that it just feels like you wanna see a different version of the movie where you root for the other side, or just see the boring stoner protagonists less.

e) Tangerine
This movie is so different from anything else I've ever seen, shot entirely on iPhones with transgender characters played by actual transgender women instead of Jared Leto or whatever, that it's hard not to root for it, and it's really a charmingly filthy, unruly comedy, at times it brought to mind John Waters. And letting the score kind of enhance the cinematic feel of the movie really made the way it was shot work better than I ever expected, it made me want to make a movie with a smart phone.

I kind of feel bad for Reese Witherspoon that she played uptight and humorless so well in early films like Election that that's just the type of character she plays now. But this movie does well in setting her up as a foil for Sofia Vergara, it's not a great comedy but it has its moments.

This was definitely one of the more memorably horror movies I've seen in a while, I'm still working out how I feel about it. I liked the way it kind of took the horror trope where whoever has sex is the next to die and made it literal and built a whole premise around that. But it was really the camera movement, and the way the entire movie was shot to build on the characters' feeling of paranoia, that I thought was the best thing about it.

h) Match
I love Patrick Stewart and I'm always looking for the offbeat non-Star Trek non-"Family Guy" things he's done, and this movie is a really good, substantial role for his talents. I could tell it was based on a play before I looked up that it was, the entire thing is basically three actors, him and Matthew Lillard and Carla Gugino, talking and arguing in two or three settings. Like many dialogue-driven movies, it kind of goes around in circles and strips everything of subtext to verbalize every character's every emotion, and the 'twist' was not a surprise at all, but I still liked the way the story unspooled, it was well done.

This was a pretty good sci-fi thriller with a bit of a global warming angle, although of course most of the middle of the movie kind of cast aside the environmental aspect to just turn into one of those movies where people stuck in a terrible situation turn on each other and one of them unexpectedly becomes the villain. It was good, though, and I liked the ending. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016





















My latest playlist for The Dowsers is a collection of my favorite London On Da Track-produced songs by No, My Name Is Jeffery (formerly Young Thug).

Monthly Report: August 2016 Singles

Monday, August 22, 2016

























1. Kungs Vs. Cookin' On 3 Burners - "This Girl"
The artist credit on this song reflects the weird EDM pop era Frankenstein backstory of the track. The Australian retro soul group Cookin' On 3 Burners formed in 1997 and released the original "This Girl" in 2009, which French producer Kungs gave the hip tropical house treatment in 2016 with chart success all over the world. It's only just now really climbing the charts in America, I kinda wish it'd been on the radio all summer. Here's the Spotify playlist of my favorite 2016 singles that I update every month.

2. Zara Larsson - "Lush Life"
Another extremely summery song that even has the word "summer" in the chorus that's only just now getting U.S. radio traction despite having been big across Europe for months. I guess Zara Larsson's label wanted her first American hit, the great "Never Forget You," to run its course, but back when that song was blowing up I checked out "Lush Life" and had been patiently waiting for it to get a push here.

3. Maren Morris - "80's Mercedes"
One of the first things I did after I heard Maren Morris's great breakthrough radio hit "Church" earlier this year was check out her 2015 self-titled EP and fall in love with "80's Mercedes," so I was pretty overjoyed when the song was included on her album Hero and confirmed as its second single. It's just a perfect song, those thundering piano chords and big sweeping slide guitar lines and that singalong chorus, it may end up being my most listened to song this year.

4. DJ Khaled f/ Drake - "For Free"
One of the things that I find notable about the huge success of Views is that it's the first time a Drake album hasn't really contained any hit rap songs -- the 4 biggest tracks from the album so far are all ones where he sings, and the biggest rappity rap song, "Pop Style," is not remotely a radio hit on the level of songs from previous albums like "Headlines" and "The Language." So in that context, "For Free" is the big Drake rap song of the year, and it's really one of my favorite things he's done in a while, partly because he takes himself so much more lightly here than he does on Views -- it's just a silly little 2-minute Drake song that's padded out to 3 minutes with DJ Khaled talking shit while the beat rides out. It's about as obnoxious as any recent Drake song, "stomach on flat flat" and all, and after he finishes a song about his dick with "it's the real thing, can you feel the force yet?" I feel like dude thinks he's some kind of Fuck Jedi with a lightsaber between his legs. But the production is a real breath of fresh air, it's a fun song. It also reminds me of the time that my brother and I listened to our aunt's satellite radio as teenagers and heard Akinyele's "Fuck Me For Free" and thought it was the most hilarious song we'd ever heard.

5. Young M.A. - "OOOUUU"
Young M.A. seems kind of like Bobby Shmurda's successor right now, using the same flow on a song that's insanely catchy despite not featuring a proper chorus, for a rare breakout hit from a young New York rapper. It's also just interesting to hear a queer rap hit on the radio, even if there's kind of some weird novelty value to a woman saying stuff like "I ride for my guys, that's the bro code" and "she make me weak when she deep throat." But Young M.A. is a star, I'm rooting for her, and I'm already mad that French Montana is trying to ride this song's wave.

6. Rihanna - "Sex With Me"
This song would be funny no matter who did it, but it's especially surreal to hear sung by one of the era's most prominent sex symbols. At one point she says "sex with me is amazing, with her it'll feel alright," like she's half-heartedly consoling everyone who has to settle for sex with people who aren't Rihanna, it's kind of messed up and hilarious. Great catchy song, though, this tweet kind of sums up its appeal well. I'm glad it got promoted to radio despite just being a bonus track on Anti.

7. Ariana Grande - "Into You"
I like how the chorus of this song is very nearly the title of Fall Out Boy's "A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More 'Touch Me.'" The skronky distorted basslines on this and the Justin Timberlake single are really my favorite new wrinkle in the Max Martin sound.

8. Usher - "Crash"
When R&B and pop radio started heading in opposite directions at the turn of the decade, Usher was one of the first artists to successfully adapt to it and release different singles for different radio formats. But I feel like that practice started to strain a couple years ago, when he had a couple songs that were huge on R&B radio, but he tried to cater to pop radio with a "Blurred Lines" knockoff with Pharrell, and when that didn't work Usher just shelved the album and started over from scratch. So the second attempt at Usher's 8th album, Flawed, has two singles out now, and once again the R&B radio single, "No Limit," is doing much better than the pop single, "Crash." They're both good, but "Crash" has really grown on me lately, just a lovely melody with a light touch that doesn't beat you over the head with the hook, might really just be too subtle for Top 40.

9. DNCE - "Toothbrush"
The best song called "Toothbrush," which also uses a toothbrush at a partner's place as a signifier of increased intimacy, is a Brad Paisley deep cut, but this one is pretty good too. I never thought I'd be rooting for Joe above other Jonases, but these DNCE singles are really fun and Nick's last album was a total drag.

10. Silversun Pickups - "Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)"
I have mixed feelings about Silversun Pickups, they're kind of the most tastefully '90s indie-sounding band on rock radio the last decade or so, but they don't really have much in the way of great songs or any real distinctive identity. They occasionally make a song I dig, though, this is one of their best. And I was amused recently to get up early to drive to work at 5am and was listening to the local alt-rock station DC101, and they messed up and played two songs at the same time, so Hoobastank's "Crawling In The Dark" and this song were just playing over each other in total chaos for 3 minutes.

Worst Single of the Month: Beck - "Wow"
Beck's single last year that never ended up being followed by an album, "Dreams," was really good, and did a good job of reuniting him with former backing band member Greg Kurstin after Kurstin had become a huge top 40 producer. But this song is like the flipside of that, the worst possible combination of Beck's voice and Kurstin's production, just incredibly annoying.

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 75: Monica

Saturday, August 20, 2016
















Over the past week or two, my favorite Monica single, "So Gone," has experienced something of a second life with the hashtag #SoGoneChallenge trending on Twitter, popularized by Chance The Brown, with Monica herself and the song's writer, Missy Elliott, eventually offering their own spin on the viral craze. So I decided to finish my Monica deep album cuts playlist, which had been on my to-do list for this series ever since I kicked it off with her "The Boy Is Mine" duet partner Brandy.

Monica Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Woman In Me (Interlude)
2. I Wrote This Song
3. Miss Thang
4. Gone Be Fine featuring Outkast
5. Catch Me
6. Doin' Me Right
7. Code Red featuring Missy Elliott and Laiyah
8. Get It Off featuring Dirtbag
9. If You Were My Man
10. Gotta Move On
11. Ring Da Bell
12. Skate
13. Raw featuring Swizz Beatz
14. Deep
15. Take Him Back
16. That's My Man
17. Get Down
18. 'Cross The Room
19. Ain't Gonna Cry No More
20. Time To Move On

Tracks 1, 3, 12 and 17 from Miss Thang (1995)
Tracks 4, 11, 15 and 18 from The Boy Is Mine (1998)
Tracks 2 and 19 from All Eyez On Me (2002)
Tracks 2, 8, 16 and 19 from After The Storm (2003)
Tracks 6, 10 and 13 from The Makings Of Me (2006)
Track 9 from Still Standing (2010)
Tracks 5 and 20 from New Life (2012)
Tracks 7 and 14 from Code Red (2015)

I had the biggest crush on Monica when I laid eyes on her in the "The Boy Is Mine" video as a 16-year-old, and I still do, really, I just adore her voice. I feel like it's kind of been forgotten just how big a star she was back then -- The Boy Is Mine had three singles go to #1 on the Hot 100, something that only happens to a handful of albums every decade, and has only been done recently by Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. Even with Brandy having the assist on the first and biggest of those songs, that's a pretty big accomplishment, and she's had a pretty consistent career outside of that record. Even The Makings Of Me, the album where she kind of lost the plot and had Dem Franchize Boyz on the lead single, impressed me with its deep cuts. And her last album, Code Red, released last December, really had some jams on it, I wish it had done better commercially.

Monica recorded the album All Eyez On Me in 2002, but the pressure was on to follow up the biggest album of her career, and things weren't quite right. The title track underperformed on the charts, and then her label released the album in Japan so far ahead of the U.S. release date that widespread bootlegging of the album in America motivated them to reboot the entire project. So Monica went back into the studio and recorded some new songs into the project, including "So Gone" and other Missy Elliott collaborations, and After The Storm was released 7 months after All Eyes On Me debacle.

Missy Elliott has worked on every Monica album since After The Storm, and since she's a deep cuts MVP, I decided to do what I did with the Fantasia playlist and include a block of Monica's Missy collaborations on tracks 6 to 10. But this playlist is full of great work from writers and producers including Dallas Austin, Tim & Bob, Rodney Jerkins, Jazze Pha, Swizz Beatz, Pop & Oak, Polow Da Don and Danja. At a time when it feels like there are fewer and fewer R&B singers that are great with ballads and with uptempo tracks, it's great to hear Monica embrace such a variety of sounds on her albums with few bum notes.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas

Friday, August 19, 2016



















@myyyngo asked me to appear on the 3rd episode of his new podcast, and I think we ended up with a pretty great conversation, I really got to run my mouth. Check it out on iTunes.

Thursday, August 18, 2016
















I wrote a piece for Complex about Young Thug's announced name change to No, My Name Is Jeffery and the history of rappers changing their names.

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 74: Nas

Wednesday, August 17, 2016



















Nas has an interesting legacy. It's not controversial to propose him as perhaps the greatest MC of all time, or that Illmatic is hip hop's greatest album, but it'd be hard to make the case for him having the best overall catalog or career. And it was often his biggest singles from the multiplatinum albums of his glitzy Nas Escobar era that made him into a huge mainstream star that dented his rep. And while every album he releases gets pushback simply for not being Illmatic, he's retained and refined a lot of the skill that made him special to begin with, and we still get periodic reminders like DJ Khaled's recent "Nas Album Done," which was a warning shot from the 11th solo album we'll hopefully be hearing soon. So in the mean time, here's a look back at the 10 previous albums, flawed but often great as they are.

Nas Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist): 

1. One Time 4 Your Mind
2. Life's A Bitch featuring AZ and Olu Dara
3. Represent
4. N.Y. State Of Mind
5. Take It In Blood
6. I Gave You Power
7. Affirmative Action featuring Cormega, AZ and Foxy Brown
8. Favor For A Favor featuring Scarface
9. We Will Survive
10. Project Windows featuring Ronald Isley
11. You're Da Man
12. Rewind
13. Revolutionary Warfare featuring Lake
14. Last Real N**** Alive
15. Warrior Song featuring Alicia Keys
16. Disciple
17. Getting Married
18. Let There Be Light featuring Tre Williams
19. Queens Get The Money
20. A Queens Story

Tracks 1, 2, 3 and 4 from Illmatic (1994)
Tracks 4, 6 and 7 from It Was Written (1996)
Tracks 8 and 9 from I Am... (1999)
Track 10 from Nastradamus (1999)
Tracks 11 and 12 from Stillmatic (2001)
Tracks 13, 14 and 15 from God's Son (2002)
Tracks 16 and 17 from Street's Disciple (2004)
Track 18 from Hip Hop Is Dead (2006)
Track 19 from Untitled (2008)
Track 20 from Life Is Good (2012)

I took a long time coming around to Nas. I was 12 when Illmatic came out and it never showed up on my limited radar of whatever rap videos were played on MTV Jams or The Box. So he seemed to kind of pop out of nowhere with It Was Written debuting at #1 on the charts, but even then he struck me as one of the least interesting mainstream rap figures of the era, and even if I could tell that he was talented all the glitzy Nas Escobar era singles turned me off.

I was always a pretty big Jay-Z fan, and my sophomore year (2001/2002) college roommate preferred Nas, so we really got into the spirit of the whole beef and argued about it, even though I did enjoy some of the songs he'd play off Stillmatic, and by the next year I was catching up on Illmatic and the other early albums and really liking God's Son, which is still one of my favorite later Nas albums. People still argue about the beef 15 years later and who had the better record, but I think it's telling that "Takeover" has done way more to inform criticisms of Nas than "Ether" has informed criticisms of Jay, particularly his lack of consistency in the years following Illmatic.

I do think it's interesting, though, that Jay got in a good jab at Nas's contradictory impulses of style vs. substance in 2002 ("Is it 'Oochie Wally Wally' or is it 'One Mic'? Is it 'Black Girl Lost' or shorty owe you for ice?"). But a mere year later, Jay had begun his transparent pivot into a conflicted would-be conscious rapper, the "Che Guevara with bling on" who wanted to rhyme like Common. But the fact is, Kanye and that era of Jay helped us get to the fairly "woke" state of mainstream rap that we're into today, but there were a few years when Nas was out there risking his sales to talk about some shit that was considered deeply unfashionable, and I don't feel like he gets much credit for that now. It's interesting to think how some of his records would've been received if they came out today. Untitled wouldn't be called Untitled.

The fact is, Nas will never make an album as good as Illmatic, but I don't think he's ever really made a bad one. He's kind of the king of 3 1/2 star albums that have a couple of ill-conceived tracks like "Dr. Knockboot" or "Zone Out" holding things back. Even when he did take a pretty awful deep cut, "Braveheart Party," off of later pressings of Stillmatic, it wasn't enough to make it a masterpiece. I have a soft spot for one of his least revered albums, Street's Disciple, which in typical messy double album fashion could be boiled down to a pretty potent single disc. I played "Getting Married" at my wedding reception!

One of the popular knocks against later Nas is that he has a bad ear for beats, but I think that's been a bit blown out of proportion. The Trackmasters era has aged badly, but guys like Salaam Remi and L.E.S. did great work on his mid-period albums, and people have mostly ignored that just to complain that he hasn't done as much with DJ Premier. But really I found myself more intrigued by Nas's instincts as a lyricist -- the same conceptual ambition that gave us songs like "I Gave You Power" and "Rewind" also gave us cringe-inducing songs like "Who Killed It?" and "The Makings Of A Perfect Bitch." But I'm glad he's had the freedom to indulge all of his best and worst ideas and let it all shake out. He's Nas, we can make jokes but he'll always be one of the greats.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


















Since Rae Sremmurd's new album is out, I made a playlist for The Dowsers of Swae and Jxmmi's best features and collaborations, together and apart.

TV Diary

Monday, August 15, 2016























a) "The Get Down"
One of the first things my wife did when we met was convince me that Moulin Rouge!, which I was very skeptical about, was actually great, so I have a soft spot for Baz Luhrmann's audacious, ridiculous movies. Of course, it was hard not to be skeptical about this Australian weirdo making a Netflix series about the birth of hip hop, especially after it went over budget and they ended up only releasing half the season initially. But it's a pretty fascinating, ambitious show. Luhrmann's movies are so full of music and emotion and camera movement and histrionics that they never totally settle into a rhythm most movies, and I was afraid while watching the delirious overstuffed opening episode that the show would become exhausting. But 3 episodes in, I feel like it's in a groove and I'm kind of on board with the over-the-top mythical treatment of the subject matter -- I mean, a TV show about aspiring DJs, with a scene where they put on a Lyn Collins record and try to cue up the "Think" break, that's just beautiful to me. But there are things I don't love about it, particularly the awkward framing device of an actor awkwardly lip syncing to Nas's voice.

b) "The Night Of"
I'm 4 episodes into this, and I've gotten the impression that the last couple episodes I'm not caught up on have been pretty divisive. I have very mixed feelings about the show, though -- it's really beautifully written and directed and acted, and the presence of Richard Price and Michael K. Williams has led a lot of people to say it's like "The Wire," although that's not quite right. It's a lot more polished and cinematic, with one central story and not a web of different stories with different characters, and more space for very actorly performances. And I don't say that as a criticism -- John Turturro is one of my favorite actors, and it's great to see him get such a perfect TV vehicle for a funny, strange, complex performance that only he can deliver. But I've already been frustrated by the show at times, particularly in the first episode, where it felt like the babe in the woods protagonist Naz made an almost ludicrous amount of textbook mistakes in a completely contrived and bizarre situation just to set up the next 7 episodes of plot.

c) "The A Word"
I've watched a couple episods of this BBC show about a family realizing that their son is autistic. The story is handled well enough, albeit with broad strokes, but it's really an ensemble drama about all the characters, and it ultimately ends up being yet another piece of media that empathizes less with the autistic person than with the people around him who are seemingly burdened by them, so I dunno, it doesn't sit well with me. Also it's weird that Christopher Eccleston plays the grandpa and he only seems like 10 years older than the parents, it took me a while to figure out who he was supposed to be in the family. I'm looking forward to an American network adapting this show and it being worse than "The Slap."

d) "Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace"
This is one of those kuh-razy non-animated Adult Swim shows, they all kind of blend together for me now. I watched the first episode of this and I didn't really understand what was going on but I'm pretty sure it wasn't funny or subversive or whatever.

e) "Jeff Ross presents Roast Battle"
The most fun I've had at my teleprompting job lately was a couple months ago when The Kennedy Center hosted a comedy festival, and they held a roast for James Carville. Bob Saget hosted and some of the big Comedy Central roast regulars like Jeff Ross and Jim Norton were there, and I don't think they usually use prompters but they were all game to get their scripts typed out and given to us to scroll. And it was really fun to have guys like Jeff Ross, who was a pretty nice dude in person, come by all day and basically take a hilarious dirty joke and make it funnier and filthier and give us the revised version. Comedy Central is forever trying to turn Ross and the celebrity roasts into some kind of ongoing series, and this one as a competitive tournament is kind of a good idea. But a lot of the comedians they had in competition just weren't that good, so like a lot of reality shows, I kind of lost patience in the early rounds. One thing I do remember, though, is that that douchebag from "The League" who lied about being in the WTC towers on 9/11 tried to play off of it for self-deprecating laughs on "Roast Battle," it was really uncomfortable.

f) "BrainDead"
raved about this show when it first started up, and since then it's really cemented its place as my favorite new show this summer. It's almost a shame that it's on CBS, where nobody is looking for something this odd and funny, I feel like it'd find an audience more easily on The CW or SyFy or Showtime or Hulu. I worked with a guy recently who has a Nielsen meter, and I told him to watch "BrainDead" because I'm so sure it's gonna get canceled, but for now I'm just savoring how good it is. Tony Shalhoub has had some hilarious scenery-chewing moments, and Johnny Ray Gill and Nikki M. James really helped fill out the cast when they came in on the 3rd episode, but generally the whole show has done a great job of maintaining a balance between a ridiculous satirical premise about space bugs controlling the government and a real human-scale story that understands Washington, D.C. better than the average stuffy political drama.

g) "Wrecked"
This show was a decent little summer distraction that never really lived up to the premise's potential but was funnier than I expected. I was disappointed that Eliza Coupe was in the first episode and then wasn't a series regular, but the payoff of her character's return in the last two episodes of the season was worth it.

h) "Feed The Beast"
This show didn't start out very promising with its boilerplate cable drama premise of two friends with a tragic history starting a business while trying to pay off violent criminals. And it really just got worse from there, with Jim Sturgess's character becoming more and more detestable with each episode and David Schwimmer just becoming a bigger simp to the point that you're not rooting for anyone, except maybe the other characters to get away from them. The season finale ended with a stupid cliffhanger with major characters left in mortal danger, and I hope AMC just cancels the show and nobody even gets upset, it was that lousy and emotionally manipulative.

i) "Preacher"
Other than "BrainDead," this was probably my favorite new show of the summer. I thought at first that it might lean a little too hard on the comically surreal stuff and get puerile and obnoxious like other Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg productions. But a lot of the big weird violent setpieces were just pulled off with a lot of wit and verve and the cast has the charisma to pull it off, particularly Ruth Negga as Tulip O'Hare, one of TV's best new characters in recent memory. I've been meaning to go back and watch the director's cut of the pilot, because it took a couple episodes for me to really appreciate this show.

j) "Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll"
This show is still generally mired in Denis Leary's usual caustic mediocrity, but I dunno, it's kind of grown on me in the second season, which feels a little less like a disjointed adventure-of-the-week "Entourage" type show this time around.

k) "UnReal"
"UnReal" was easily one of the best new shows of 2015, and I have to admit, the second season was a bit of a letdown. A lot of people would use stronger language than that, primarily because of the seemingly contrived, cynical way they provided a Black Lives Matter moment by introducing some black characters this season, and then having one of them get shot by a police officer halfway through the season. The later episodes in the season kind of recovered and got back to what the show does best dealing with media deception and soapy plot twists, but when that character showed up again in the season finale, as if nothing happened and was just annoyed to be still in the place where he got shot, it kind of underlined how that storyline felt kind of botched and tacked-on.

l) "Dark Matter" 
I enjoyed this show last year, glad SyFy renewed it, but it's a bit less entertaining than the show they air the same night, "Killjoys," and the story is a little more involved and hard to follow, so it's very casual viewing for me.

m) "The Nightly Show" 
So the news just came down today that Comedy Central has canceled "The Nightly Show," and the last episode will air this Thursday. And I gotta say, I'm more pissed than I've been about a show being canceled than I have been in a while, particularly because I didn't expect it at all, and because it's been consistently better and more essential than "The Daily Show" over the past year. Larry Wilmore spent an entire week dedicating entire episodes to the Baltimore uprising last year, and his coverage had more humanity and insight than any "real" news program I saw covering the story. I often tuned out for the hit-and-miss panel portion of the second half of the show, but it was always refreshing to turn it on and see a perspective that wasn't really being aired on national television anywhere else. Even when they tried a little too hard with stuff like 100 emoji's, the effort to say something was appreciated.

n) "Suits" 
One of my biggest TV pet peeves is shows that constantly invoke the threat of something happening even though that happening would essentially break the premise so that there would be no show, whether that's the death of a character or something more specific. And "Suits" has always teetered on the bring of Mike being found out as a fraud and going to jail, and now that the show's far along enough that it wouldn't necessarily break the show but it's kind of ridiculous how long it took, they've finally put Mike in jail. And I'm glad, it's kinda gotten the story out of a holding pattern it had been in for a while and I'm interested to see how they play it out, even if the result is Mike being free and practicing law in an even more implausible situation than the one he was in before.

o) "MADtv"
"MADtv" ran for so long as an undignified generic brand "SNL," 15 whole seasons, that I thought it would never end, and when it finally did, I thought it would never come back. But for some reason "The CW" has tried to revive it, with a new cast but trading heavily on the memory of the original show. Will Sasso and Nicole Sullivan turn up as distinguished alumni, and the first episode had a 'classic sketch' clip to play up the fact that Key and Peele got their start there. That just kind of underlined, though, that "MADtv" has always had talented performers that go on to do good things, but "MADtv" itself has cheesy substandard writing that makes it terrible unfunny. I saw a few people in the new cast that I look forward to having real careers someday.

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 73: Pitbull

Wednesday, August 10, 2016



















Pitbull has sold over 70 million singles, but he's never had a platinum album and his total album sales are just a few million. He's releasing his 10th full-length album, Climate Change, next week and has in recent years become perhaps the most popular rapper in the world across all regions and demographics. But only a couple of his albums have gone gold in the U.S., and his biggest seller was his debut, before his ascent to pop stardom. Although Flo Rida and a few other acts have occupied the same intersection of rap and dance music, Pitbull's career is, in many ways, a completely unique phenomenon.

When Pitbull debuted over a decade ago, he was one of the several southern hip hop acts signed to TVT Records when Lil Jon's success had briefly made it into one of the biggest indie labels of all time. And Pitbull rode that wave well -- he was more talented than the average crunk rapper, and his Cuban background gave him crossover potential at a time when reggaeton was blowing up and the hip hop world was kind of holding the Latin rap explosion at arm's length and keeping bilingual rappers besides Pitbull out of urban radio. But after TVT imploded, he was free to go to a major label, and hitched a ride on the EDM explosion and became the Pitbull we know today.

Pitbull Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist): 

1. 305 Anthem featuring Lil Jon
2. Hustler's Withdrawal
3. Dirty featuring Bun B
4. Melting Pot featuring Trick Daddy
5. Hurry Up And Wait
6. Oh No He Didn't featuring Cubo
7. Come See Me
8. Raindrops
9. Hey You Girl
10. Fuego
11. Dukey Love featuring Fabo of D4L and Trick Daddy
12. Candyman featuring Twista
13. Juice Box
14. Dope Ball (Interlude)
15. Give Them What They Ask For
16. Orgullo
17. Where Do We Go featuring Jamie Foxx
18. Drinks For You (Ladies Anthem) featuring Jennifer Lopez
19. Everybody Fucks featuring Akon and David Rush
20. That High featuring Kelly Rowland
21. Ah Leke featuring Sean Paul
22. El Party featuring Micha

Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 from M.I.A.M.I. (Money Is A Major Issue) (2004)
Track 6 from Money Is Still A Major Issue (2005)
Tracks 7, 8, 9 and 10 from El Mariel (2006)
Tracks 11 and 12 from The Boatlift (2007)
Tracks 13, 14 and 15 from Pitbull Starring in Rebelution (2009)
Track 16 from Armando (2010)
Track 17 from Planet Pit (2011)
Tracks 18 and 19 from Global Warming (2012)
Track 20 from Meltdown EP (2013)
Track 21 from Globalization (2014)
Track 22 from Dale (2015)

This playlist is roughly divided into two halves. First there's the TVT era, when Pitbull worked with producers like Lil Jon, Mr. Collipark, and DJ Toomp, and stole the spotlight on DJ Khaled and Ying Yang Twins hits. And then there's the J Records/RCA era, where he rode a series of uptempo collaborations with J.Lo, Ne-Yo and other singers to massive fame. I think there's a lot of people who would enjoy one half of the playlist but not the other. But I think his whole career has featured a lot of variety, and his two Spanish language albums, Armando and Dale, certainly go a way towards fleshing out his sound.

I'm partial to the early years of Pitbull, before he started heavily catering to Top 40 radio, but I think he's remained a pretty talented rapper all through that. He's kept occasionally rapping over midtempo beats that showcase his more traditional MC skills on album tracks now and again, including touching personal tracks about his family like "Raindrops." And he's pretty amazing versatile when you think about the sheer variety of beats he's rapped over, from crunk to reggaeton to dancehall to Baltimore club (including DJ Montay's great Bmore pastiche "Juice Box" and Pitbull's several DJ Class collaborations, including "Drinks For You").

And even out of Pitbull's more shameless pop rap, there's been some entertaining curveballs. "Hey You Girl" makes great use of a "Rock Lobster" guitar loop, and "Everybody Fucks" is perhaps the only chorus sung by Akon that's more ridiculous than The Lonely Island's "I Just Had Sex." He may not have fulfilled whatever promise I thought he had in 2004 as southern rap's next Ludacris or whatever, but he's managed to leave a pretty huge mark on popular music, and I think it's a shame that the public sees him as a simple or one-dimensional artist given the content of a lot of his lyrics and the variety of his music.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart

Tuesday, August 09, 2016



















I wrote about 10 college who became successful musicians for Complex.

Movie Diary

Monday, August 08, 2016
























a) Room
My wife and I both pretty much wept during this movie. Our oldest son's only a little older than Jacob Tremblay's character, which made it all a little more real for us, but just knowing that things like this have happened in real life just drives home how heartbreaking the story is. Brie Larson definitely deserved her Oscar, Tremblay probably should've gotten a nomination, too, I haven't seen many performances of that caliber from a kid that young. And it just got a lot of things right, in terms of the performances and how far to play out the story, what to show and what not to show.

This is a horror flick about some guys who decide to rob a woman's house while she's at her brother's funeral, except she has extreme agoraphobia and is unable to leave the house, so she's still in the house when they get there and it becomes a Panic Room-style cat and mouse home invasion thing. I thought the story had potential, and Beth Riesgraf gives a pretty commanding performance, but I also feel like the use of agoraphobia as a narrative device wound up being really contrived and exaggerated, and the story had probably more twists than it needed. 

I watched this for the same reason I recently watched The Walk, because I wanted to feel schadenfreude about an American actor trying to play a non-American character and winding up with an infamously bad accent. It's a shame, though, I was initially excited about the idea that a big movie about CTE with a major star would open up the conversation about what the hell is going on in the NFL but it kinda seemed like this movie had no real impact. It's not terrible outside of Will Smith's accent but it is kind of bland, I think the only thing I'll remember from it is Albert Brooks saying "I don't care. I'm tired. My balls are low."

d) Everest
I kinda put this movie on in the background one day when I was writing, sad story but I didn't really pay it much attention.

I think Guy Ritchie is on some very fundamental level just an incompetent filmmaker who has no sense of how to pace a film or make people behave like people. It was less of an issue with his Sherlock Holmes movies, because he didn't write those screenplays, and there was a strong cast to drive things forward. But The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, two of the most unconvincing placebo movie stars that Hollywood has ever tried to force on the public, and a scattered Ritchie screenplay. I'm being mean, though, it's kind of jaunty and fun, Hammer and Alicia Vikander have good chemistry. 

This was pretty good. I liked the way the script played with your expectations of what the story would be, essentially by manipulating a character's emotions and the audience's at the same time, it was very cleverly laid out. There are a few intense scenes where the score drowns out the actual sound of what's going on and it's really a pretty gripping device. Oscar Isaac gives such a great charismatic, occasionally comic performance that really keeps the whole thing from being a little too somber and intellectual.

Jonah Hill has done a fair share of dramatic films by now, and so has James Franco, but I feel like it was kind of a misfire to make them the two leads of a movie like this. And I think it's more because they can't carry the movie than because I think Seth Rogen's gonna come around the corner with a bong and turn it into a comedy. Also this story is kind of ridiculous, I mean it really happened and it's plausible but I think the way they tell it is kind of pompous.

I feel like the people who made this movie just loved Shaun Of The Dead and wanted to remake it with vampires instead of zombies and an American office building instead of a British town. But I do enjoy a good horror comedy, and this was well done even if it did feel derivative, there was a lot of loopy fun to be had with the premise and the cast was pretty good.

i) The Pirates! Band Of Misfits
This was on TV recently and I watched it a bit with my son, I need to see the whole thing at some point, I love Ardman Studios cartoons so much. 

Saturday, August 06, 2016




















I made a playlist for The Dowsers of the best Gucci Mane tracks produced by Zaytoven.

Friday, August 05, 2016


















Complex did a quick little round table about what various writers think about the possibility of Eminem dissing Drake and how that beef would go down, and I contributed a paragraph that I think came out really well.