LGBT

I Gotta Be On My Own

Over the last year, there’s been several times within blog posts where I’ve mentioned having an epic concert night last November. I first wrote about it shortly after it happened when I wrote about Tegan & Sara. Then I wrote about it again while writing about ARIZONA. It’s almost been a year since I saw two concerts in one night so I figured it’s finally time to write about the other concert I attended on November 3rd besides Tegan & Sara, the one that ARIZONA was the opener for.

Before the Tegan & Sara concert last year, my friend and I decided to grab tickets for Hayley Kiyoko. Kiyoko grew up involved in the music and acting communities in Los Angeles, CA. Before even hearing of her music, I knew of her from watching the Disney Channel. She starred in a few episodes of Wizards of Waverly Place and the 2010 Disney Channel Original Movie Lemonade Mouth. She was also involved with Cartoon Network starring as Velma Dinkley in the 2009 TV film Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins and then reprising her role in the sequel Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster. She has of course acted in other small parts on various television channels and networks as well, but the roles I just mentioned are what she is best known for.

Hayley Kiyoko (Alcroft) has always been about music though. She started drum lessons at the age of 6 and learned several other instruments over her lifetime such as guitar, bass, piano, and accordion. In 2007, she became part of the all-girl pop group The Stunners which was formed by former pop star Vitamin C. The Stunners lasted as a group until 2011. They broke up before a full album was ever released.

Kiyoko released her debut EP A Belle to Remember in March 2013. Her second EP This Side of Paradise was released a little less than two years later in February of 2015. She co-directed and directed two music videos from the EP for the songs “Girls Like Girls” and “Cliff’s Edge”, respectively. In August 2016, she released the upcoming single, “Gravel to Tempo”, from her latest EP Citrine as well as the music video for it. The EP itself was released just over a year ago on September 30, 2016. Since then she directed two more music videos for the songs “One Bad Night” and “Sleepover”, another new single. Today she debuts her latest single, “Feelings” on MTV’s TRL.

Most of Kiyoko’s following comes from the internet. Her video for “Girls Like Girls” currently has over 79 million views. Last spring she went on her first nationwide headlining tour, which was nearly sold out. Her music draws a lot of attention from the LGBT community because of its subjects. As an out gay woman, Kiyoko wanted to write music that girls and women like her could relate to.

Her music is part of the dreampop/synthpop genre. I’ve always thought her songs have a subtle edge along with a hypnotic flow to them as well. They almost have an R&B style sexual feel going on too.

Last year when my friend and I decided to see her we both knew a handful of her songs. The tickets were pretty cheap too and the show only had some overlap with Tegan & Sara (Hayley Kiyoko was on during the Tegan & Sara opener, but finished before the Canadian twin duo took the stage). Also both shows were in different parts of the same venue. It worked out well for us and made for an epic concert night, one that I’m not sure we’d be able to replicate. It was kind of special occurrence too since we decided to attend Hayley Kiyoko’s show on the day of. It was one I didn’t prepare for, which in some ways made it more exciting. Plus I was super stoked when I realized ARIZONA was the opener for Hayley Kiyoko. She played a short set list, but played all of the songs we both knew and a quality mix from her 3 EP’s. She even covered Hailee Steinfeld’s “Starving”. My friend and I were both glad we went. The venue was small. The setting was intimate. It made for a great opportunity to see her since we both expected her popularity to rise and it has already. We’re lucky we took advantage of the chance to see her.

If you’re into the kind of music she plays, I suggest you check her out. I also recommend that if there’s any artists or bands on the rise that you like that you should go see them live. See them in a small venue. See them in an intimate setting. See them like that because it’s special and you may never get another chance to. I’m glad we saw Hayley Kiyoko like that and I’m glad she gave us an epic concert night we never expected.

 

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hopeless fountain kingdom: Album Review

As you know, all-new albums from some of my favorite artists will be dropping throughout the summer. The album releases began over the weekend. I’m going to try to review as many of them as I can, especially because I’ll be busy traveling and it will at least give me a few planned topics to write about.

On Friday, along with alt-J’s Relaxer, Halsey released her sophomore album hopeless fountain kingdom. Although it’s currently #1 on iTunes, it’s a disappointment for me. I’ve always liked Halsey’s darkness and edge that she brought to her music. Her new album seems generic. She tried to bring in this artsy, creative aspect to it by having it reflect a Romeo & Juliet type of scenario, but instead I feel like she’s trying too hard. I previously compared her styles and sound to a mix of Lana Del Rey and Lorde. Although this album brings in some of that Lana Del Rey creativeness, she’s strayed from the Lorde-ish type of sound and Lana-ish lyrical content heard on Badlands. If there are any songs that I enjoy/appreciate from this new album, it’s “Bad at Love” and “Eyes Closed”. “Eyes Closed” was released as a single a few weeks ago and I liked it initially. There’s really nothing more to it than that for me. Upon listening to the album though, “Bad at Love” was the song that stood out to me in sound and lyrics. It’s catchy, but the lyrics also give representation to Halsey’s bi-sexuality, which she’s been open about in the past. Sure the lyrics aren’t genius. They’re kind of just average pop lyrics. It’s definitely no “New Americana”, but I like the fact that the song reflects Halsey as an LGBT artist, which is something you don’t always get in music.

The new album also features a few collaborations. Quavo from the hip-hop group Migos, Lauren Jauregui from girl band Fifth Harmony, and Norwegian DJ Cashmere Cat all make appearances on hopeless fountain kingdom.

Overall though, I think this is one album I’m going to bypass on purchasing. It was a disappointment for me after such quality work with Badlands. I feel like Halsey is just falling into the main stream pop, where she had potential to be more than that. I’m going to just blame “Closer” and The Chainsmokers for this one. Hopefully her follow-up delivers in a big way. For those of you who really like this album, I’m sorry I don’t agree with you. I was hoping for this album to be just as good as Halsey’s debut. Unfortunately that’s not always the case and I’ll just hope for something better next time.

It’s Morphin’ Time

If you saw my tweets recently, you could’ve made a good guess that this blog post was coming. Yesterday I saw the much anticipated Power Rangers movie. If you grew up in the 90’s like I did, you probably watched or at least knew about the Power Rangers. They were all the rage back then.

Power Rangers (TV) was a TV series created by Haim Saban about teenage superheros that defended Earth against monsters and creatures who tried to threaten their town and their planet. The rangers were recruited by the leader Zordon. Becoming a ranger gave each teen special powers that allowed them to fight those that threatened Earth. Sometimes that wasn’t even enough to defeat the beasts. When that happened, the rangers utilized vehicles called Zords that were based off of prehistoric animals to help them win battles. The Zords could also come together to create a giant Megazord when necessary. The original TV series used battle footage from a similar Japanese TV series called Super Sentai. The only difference was that the American series used American actors for parts of the show when the Rangers weren’t in battle and voiced over the other parts in English using the American actors.

The movie which was released last weekend was based off the original TV series but set in modern time. It was written by John Gatins and directed by Dean Israelite. It stars relative newcomers Dacre Montgomery as Jason (Red Ranger), Naomi Scott as Kimberly (Pink Ranger), RJ Cyler as Billy (Blue Ranger), Becky G as Trini (Yellow Ranger), and Ludi Lin as Zack (Black Ranger).

Power Rangers (Film) tells the story of the formation of the rangers and ends in one giant battle with villain and former ranger Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) and her minion Goldar. Rita, who was banished to the bottom of the sea from a meteor strike ordered by Zordon (Bryan Cranston), a former Red Ranger, comes back to life when her body is discovered while simultaneously the group of teenagers discover the power coins (the Rangers’ power source) in the mountains of their hometown Angel Grove. Zordon of course returns as well once the Rangers discover his underground spaceship/base. He is still the commander/go-to guy of the Power Rangers. (Fun Fact: Bryan Cranston, who plays Zordon, actually did voice overs for the original series and the Blue Ranger, Billy Cranston, was named for him.) Zordon’s assistant, the robot Alpha-5 (Bill Hader), returns as well.

The movie does something the TV show failed to do though. It goes deeper. The film really explores the rangers on an individual level. Each teenager has depth and a story to contribute to the overall concept of the film which is the whole Power Rangers/teenage superhero thing. That’s why I consider this new film to be based off the old series and not a remake of it. The Power Rangers concept in total is re-imagined in this new film.

I saw the Power Rangers preview trailer a few months ago without knowledge of the film at all. I never thought I’d be interested in seeing the Power Rangers again, but the trailer made the film look so good that I couldn’t help but want to see it, especially as a former fan. Luckily I didn’t have to wait that long. I was anticipating the release for the last month or so though.

(WARNING: Some spoilers in here.) My first impression of the film gave it this sort of Breakfast Club vibe with a few of the kids meeting/recognizing each other in Saturday detention that they all received for different reasons contributing to each characters’ story lines. As the film went on though, it lost that feeling and created this new age Power Rangers that was better than the original. It was as if the story of the Power Rangers grew up while at the same time so did its fans. I thought this new movie represented exactly where the Power Rangers needed to be in this day and age from the setting, to the characters, and to the characters’ stories, which provided brief moments relevant for those on the autism spectrum as well as for members of the LGBT community that didn’t overshadow the main story. It also provided just the right amount of nostalgia for fans of the original series with the brief incorporation of the Power Rangers theme song and the cameo appearance by Amy Jo Johnson (the former Pink Ranger/Kimberly) and Jason David Frank (the former Green Ranger/Tommy). It’s a movie that people of my generation who were fans can bring their kids to see and both can share in this new yet old experience together.

According to what I’ve read, there’s supposed to be 6 Power Ranger films so the story and story lines will obviously develop much further if the first movie is any indication. The end of Power Rangers also teases the next film in such a way that fills fans with anticipation. I know I’m already ready for the second installment in this new series. I might just have to satisfy my Power Rangers craving by seeing this movie again. It was that good and even better than I expected! If you were a Power Rangers fan and you haven’t seen this movie yet, go see it! I promise you’ll love it.

I Won’t Treat You Like You’re Typical

I’ve always liked alternative styles of music. I’ve listened to alternative rock, indie rock, indie pop, emo, screamo, pop punk, punk rock, ska, hardcore, and lately even some of that mainstream EDM stuff. After I graduated from college, my music interests started to shift a bit towards the indie music genre. I wrote about it once and refer to it as my second musical enlightenment. Since then, I’ve been into the indie rock/indie pop scene. However, there were times during high school and college where I’ve been interested in indie artists. I think my first interest in indie bands came from watching The OC. Bands like Death Cab For Cute, Band of Horses, Spoon, Rooney, and Nada Surf had musical influence on the show. Indie music was a huge part of the series due to Seth Cohen’s (one of the main characters) interest in the indie scene. After the OC went off the air in 2007, I had interests in indie bands here and there before my main indie phase took over in 2011. One of those bands was the indie pop/rock duo, Tegan and Sara.

Identical twin sisters, Tegan Rain Quin and Sara Keirsten Quin formed their band in the late 90’s while still in high school. The Canadian duo, who hail from Calgary, Alberta, recorded their first demos in high school and began touring shortly after graduation. They released their first album, Under Feet Like Ours, in 1999. Since then, the band has released 7 other records. Their latest and eighth album, Love You to Death, was released June 3, 2016. They’ve also toured numerous times worldwide on both headlining tours and in support of many well-known acts and have played countless music festivals. Their seventh album, Heartthrob, released in 2013 is their highest charting album to date (number 3 on Billboard’s Top 200) and sold 49,000 copies in its first week. The album earned them more attention in the music world as well as a growth in their dedicated fan base.

Tegan and Sara’s sound has progressed since their debut in 1999. They went from folk/alternative rock to indie rock to indie pop and now to more of a straight pop sound. Their ability to grow musically along with having a devout following has allowed them to continue to make music for 20 years, even though the sisters are only in their mid-30’s.

Tegan and Sara have used their platform beyond the music world too. As out lesbians, both are huge advocates for LGBT equality, thus gaining a large following from the LGBT community. They’ve also advocated in support of other causes but their strong involvement in LGBT rights is well known and has made them a favorite act of community members.

I first heard of Tegan and Sara through a friend who had lyrics from their song “Take Me Anywhere” on her MySpace profile. At the time, I always confused Tegan and Sara and fellow girl duo Meg & Dia. Eventually Tegan and Sara won my heart over once I became interested in their music during my sophomore and junior year of college. I don’t remember how, why, or exactly when my interest started, but I do remember listening to their music while driving to class during the winter. I can honestly say they’ve never been my favorite band. I’ve only been a casual listener since around 2009 while in college. In fact, I purchased my first Tegan and Sara album in 2014 on a Black Friday deal. A few months prior I got into the song “Closer”, a year after it was all over mainstream radio, so a $7 copy of Heartthrob was a great deal in my mind. I had the album on repeat during my Christmas trip to visit family and Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Christmas Town. It was one of my favorite Black Friday CD purchases and was my go to album of the time.

A few weeks ago, my friend told me she had tickets for a Tegan and Sara show in the beginning of November. She planned on attending with her roommate and her roommate’s girlfriend. When she told me, I expressed interest in going and she said I should join them. I decided to go for it, purchasing my tickets a solid three weeks before the show. Last Thursday night was the night. I saw Tegan and Sara live for the first time (along with Hayley Kiyoko and ARIZONA, but that’s another show and another story). As a casual fan, I wasn’t as stoked for the show as I’ve been for others, but it surely exceeded my expectations. I had the best time. Tegan and Sara played a variety of songs from older albums along with ones from their newer releases. They also took the time to tell stories in between songs and advocate for the upcoming Presidential election. Even as Canadians they let us know they had our backs no matter the results. It was evident that the crowd was made up of plenty of longtime fans who knew the words to every song and created an energy difficult to replicate by singing a-long and dancing for the entirety of their set. There was something special about the atmosphere at the show that made it unlike other shows I’ve been to. Not to mention, I also attended with a great group of people who appreciate the twins’ music and music in general.

I feel like Tegan and Sara’s music can appeal to so many people because of how their music has grown and changed through the years. If you’ve never heard of them, please check them out soon. They’re good. If you have, you can totally vouch for me and if you ever have a chance to see them live in a smaller venue, go for it. It’s better than you know. Here’s some of my favorite Tegan and Sara songs, but there’s plenty to pick from with 8 albums so feel free to scan through all their tunes:

  1. Nineteen
  2. Walking With the Ghost
  3. The Con
  4. Closer
  5. Hell
  6. I Couldn’t Be Your Friend
  7. I Was A Fool
  8. Boyfriend
  9. Goodbye, Goodbye
  10. Stop Desire

Dear Abby

Dear Abby,

Four and a half years ago, the only soccer I ever watched was youth soccer matches for teams a few of my friends played on. I didn’t know much about the game, except the few things I learned from watching those matches. In fact, at the time, I wouldn’t even refer to them as matches (which goes to show how far I’ve come since then). Something changed in the summer of 2011 though. Something that would eventually impact my life in the biggest way possible. Something that wouldn’t have happened without you. But to get to that point, it’s best to discuss the kind of player you are and the impact you’ve made in your time as a soccer player.

You’ve been playing soccer for quite some time now. You played as a child, a teenager, and as an adult. You’ve played for youth clubs, your high school, your college, The University of Florida, and the Olympic Development/U.S. national program (and maybe even other teams that I’m missing). You’ve played for professional clubs (Washington Freedom, magicJack, and Western New York Flash) throughout your career too. Most importantly though, you began playing international, professional soccer for the United States Women’s National Team over 14 years ago. You got your first cap on September 9, 2001 against Germany during the Nike U.S. Cup. You scored your first international goal on April 27, 2002 in a friendly against Finland and it’s only gone up from there.

You’ve went on to play in 254 matches (255 if you count tonight), including 4 Women’s World Cups, 2 Olympics, and many other tournaments, friendlies, and victory tours in between. You’ve scored a total of 184 international goals (and counting if you score some tonight), many of those with your head, and you’re the United States’ all-time leading goal scorer (for both men and women). You’ve won the World Cup (2015), Olympic Gold (2004, 2012), and the FIFA Player of the Year Award (2012).

Your impact has been great off the field as well. You’re an ambassador for women’s pro soccer and for equality in the women’s game. You’ve supported many causes and charities throughout your career. You’re even a role model in the LGBTQ world as an out professional athlete, even though that was never your intention as a soccer player. You also have an extreme passion for and dedication to Chipotle, possibly greater than mine, especially since you scored a personal burrito card (I’m super jeal).

Despite all your accomplishments, you never take all the glory. You always give the credit to your teammates and to those who put you in the position to be great. You influence and inspire those around you to be better, no matter your role. In all these ways, you really have been an impact in every aspect of your life, so now I guess I should explain how and why you impacted me. Back to the summer of 2011.

That summer you and your national team teammates competed in Germany in the Women’s World Cup. You reached the quarterfinals of the tournament after finishing second in your pool. You played Brazil and I think you remember what happened from there. After playing a man down for 25 minutes in the second half and all of extra time, your team was down by 1 entering the stoppage minutes of extra time. In a last ditch effort to tie the match, Megan Rapinoe took the ball up field and sent in the greatest cross of her life to the far post where the ball met your head as you easily directed it into the back of the net. Tie game. End of extra time. Next came the PKs. Every player (including you) nailed their shots and Hope saved one. You guys won and it sparked news all over the country. That’s when I heard about it. After that I thought, “Hmm, maybe I’ll tune into the next game.” I did and I was hooked. I watched your last two matches that summer. I cheered for most of you guys by name in the final and sadly, I watched you lose to Japan on PKs. It was at that moment that I declared out loud to myself, “They’re gonna win it in four years.” (And just an FYI, I was right!)

In the four years since the 2011 Women’s World Cup, I fell in love with the game and the national team. It was slow at first, because I really didn’t start following your team closely until after the 2012 Olympics. But when I did, it was all because of what happened in 2011. I wouldn’t have cared to watch the Olympics that summer if I didn’t already know about you guys and think to myself, “Oh yeah, I love that team! They’re beasts.” I watched almost every game of your Olympic tournament that summer, including that crazy semi-final against Canada, and the gold medal winning match against Japan. From that point on it snowballed. I was inspired by so many players, a few in particular and you included. Your diverse stories and personalities inspired me to change and accept things about myself that I never had before. It was life-changing. I truly believe I’m a better person because of it.

Without that goal in 2011, who knows if anything would be the same. I know for certain my life wouldn’t be where it is today without it or without you. Although maybe I should take a page from your playbook, thank Pinoe for the cross, and the rest of the gals for playing their hearts out  during the quarterfinal and rocking their PKs. You’d probably tell me I should, but for now, you deserve some credit too, so thanks for using your head and scoring that goal!

Even though your playing career ends tonight, I know you’ll still impact the game through whatever you decide to do. I hope you finally have the time to do all the other things you love and want to do, including playing golf and starting a family with your wife, Sarah. It might even be a great time to start campaigning for the position as the President of FIFA, or at least a spot on the board. I heard they have some availability. I also heard you wanted to change the world, but I think most can agree you’ve already done that. I guess you can always just do it in a different way the next time. We all know you’re capable of it. No matter what though, I can’t wait to see what other great things you have in store for the future, because greatness runs inside you.

Lastly, before your final game in your illustrious soccer career, I wanted to say thanks. Thanks for being a world class athlete. Thanks for having that “American mentality” and the drive to never quit, despite the odds. Thanks for accepting and embracing every role you’ve been asked to play. Thanks for motivating your teammates to succeed and giving them all the credit. Thanks for inspiring me, this nation, fans, and others throughout the years. Thanks for being true to yourself while in the spotlight and most importantly, thanks for being you, the GOAT, Abby Wambach.

Sincerely,

An Inspired Fan