Maya Rudolph

MY PLEA FOR JAY-Z TO STAR IN THE NEXT GROWN UPS
June 9, 2016 2:30 pm

I’ve been using Tidal for a few months now. When I first joined, I thought that it’s horribleness was just a meme meant to make fun of Jay-Z and the product itself wouldn’t be so bad. As it turns out, all of the hype is to be believed. Tidal is horrible. I don’t even want to go into detail about it, please, just take my word for it. Do not use Tidal. Jay-Z, one of my all time favorite rappers, had lead me down a rotten path.

But because I’m lazy, and because I know he’s gonna get Kanye too keep Cruel Winter exclusive to Tidal for at least a month, I’m sticking with the misery like a 1950s marriage. Ever since I’ve drastically lowered my standards, it’s actually been pretty okay, kinda! So when the Brooklyn rapper’s streaming service kept sending me alerts last week, insisting that I listen to Pusha T’s new single “Drug Dealers Anonymous” featuring Jay-Z, I naturally obliged.

What followed that was a less than an ideal experience. Holding up his end of the Drug Dealer bargain, Pusha had his exemplary cocaine kingpin raps front and center as usual and I was grateful for every second of it. After Pusha came Jay-Z, which is when things got ugly.

Having already expressed some real hatred over hashtags and retweets on his last record, Jay is no stranger to showing flashes of his true corny middle aged dad self. However, that was three years ago, and all of his paternal cantankerousness was spread across Magna Carta Holy Grail well enough for it to be a non-issue. His Corny Dad levels have increased dramatically since then, though. He is now fully infected with Corniness.

The verse Jay had on “Drug Dealers Anonymous” was ripe with a myriad of ‘Back In My Days’ to choose from, as well as an attempt to reach out to us snake people™ by ending it with him saying “Damn, Daniel” in an all too sincere fashion. Yes, “Damn, Daniel.” The internet meme that has swept the nation. And to counterbalance that, he went into the Hip Slang time machine to retrieve ‘Bling Bling’ from 1999 a few lines prior. It was rough. And that’s without even even mentioning the ‘Google Me, Baby’ part.

google

Seriously, it was rough.

To put it lightly, 2016 hasn’t been the best year for Jay. It’s bad enough that he’s lost his touch as a rapper and Tidal continues to get nothing but venom from the masses, but after Beyonce released Lemonade, her world-stopping, deeply personal memoir of an album about unfaithfulness, his image has taken quite a few blows. If we kept track of rapper approval ratings, his would be at Bush levels right about now.

What he needs is a shift in tone. It would tarnish his legacy if he tries to release another album, or if he continues jumping on these tracks, only to embarrass himself. His now rampant Corny Dad aesthetic does not mesh well in the world of Hip-Hop, but there are other outlets more accommodating to this behavior that needs to be embraced as a way to build up some much needed love.

It’s possible he can redeem himself by simply coming off as a relatable father who makes uncomfortable jokes and wears questionable clothing. None of this is a stretch for him. So what can he possibly do to help him be seen as this new persona to the public eye? Simple: star in the next Grown Ups film.

grown ups 2 poster 1For those who don’t know, Grown Ups a huge buddy comedy centered around Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, and David Spade. They all each have a wife, kids, or at least some type of adult responsibility, which is crazy because, like, they’re still basically kids themselves! And boy, oh boy, when they get together, it’s like they’re back in high school all over again. Whether it’s having fun  objectifying their friend’s daughter as a group activity, or public urination, these guys know how to let loose.

Also, if you’re into a little more ‘headier’ comedy, don’t worry, Sandman and Co. have just the thing for ya: Toe based puns! Seriously, nothing makes me smile more than seeing Chris Rock, one of the most thought provoking stand-up comedians of all time, call his mean step-mother ‘Toe-bocop.’ You know, like Robocop, the Peter Weller vehicle. I’ve seen each Grown Ups movie at least 10 times.

I honestly have no clue if they’re even planning on making a Grown Ups 3, this is is all speculation. But if they ever do decide to go for the trifecta, adding Jay-Z to the fold would give this franchise brand new legs. Just imagine all the stale ’99 Problems’ jokes they’d let fly without consequence, never leaving out his penchant for ‘Back In My Day’-ing. Would Jay be able to bring his buddy Memphis Bleek along for the ride? Grown Ups can be the one hit Bleek’s been missing his whole career.

And perhaps the most important benefit here is that it would be hard for the outside world to view Jay as a sexual entity after 90+ minutes of slapsticky pratfalls and inane fart jokes. From a multitude of personal experience, I know this to be true. Beyonce will never have to worry about another affair after Jay unwittingly eats a sandwich that David Spade sneakily put dog poop in after he pulled off a successful “made you look” as a distraction. This seems like a win-win.

By choosing to hone in on a softer, more affable side to his personality, Jay-Z would do wonders rebuilding his good name. Right now, he’s nothing more than a cheating entrepreneur who probably wears a fanny pack when he raps. All he has to do now is stop the rapping and embrace the fanny pack. Giving up being cool can be challenging for someone of Jay-Z’s stature. Thankfully, the entire cast of Grown Ups knows exactly what he’d be going through, as they’ve been through it themselves.

FAREWELL TO THE APACHE RELAY
February 8, 2016 10:55 am

You already missed your chance. The Apache Relay was here bringing the masses heart and soul with their indie-Americana sound. But no longer. On September 21st, 2015 the band posted this on their social media pages, explaining that they are going their separate ways. Let me tell you why that is too bad.

The group formed in a dorm at Belmont University in Nashville, and grew to represent much of what the “Nashville Sound” has become: Indie rock with touches of folk, bluegrass, rhythm & blues, and pop. Pleasant harmony sits in a bed of modern production, and highlights Nashville’s emphasis on song writing, as opposed to song making. While this sound is growing into a formula for some, The Apache Relay was on the front end of it. Though they never quite achieved the status of other artists in their ballpark, like Local Natives or Fleet Foxes, they showed strong promise that they might.

The Apache Relay gained notoriety after their second album American Nomad when they opened a number of dates for pop-bluegrass all-stars Mumford & Sons.  They also got some attention when their song “Power Hungry Animals” was featured in the movie The Way, Way Back. While not exactly a blockbuster, the film supported a pretty stellar cast, and shed an interesting light on The Apache Relay’s song. Look at it in the context of the promotional “music video” they made.

It’s essentially a trailer for the movie. The song plays while clips of video from the film plays over it. Yet it could totally work on its own. It doesn’t have the look of a music video, but with small changes in editing and color, it could. Take away the distraction of Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, and a few other actors you’d recognize, and you’d be left with a music video that nails the feel of the song. We see images of a coming of age story. A teenage boy struggles through smattering of classic themes: loneliness, romance, body issues, family, youth, father issues, a summer away, friendship, etc…

The beauty of this is that these are exactly the kinds of themes that The Apache Relay should be reminding you of. The modern “Nashville Sound” is built on them. Bands like Mumford & Sons and Local Natives rely on this nostalgia to complete their music. Their songs are striving for an emotional power in addition to just sounding good. Pop and Dance music is escapist; It makes you forget about your problems and just feel good. Adele makes you cry. Indie-Americana has an element of memory tied to it. It’s a return to roots, a call home. The blend of folk and bluegrass style with modern instrumentation and production is the old become new. The past become present. It’s a return to youth, to summer. To that time that you did that thing that changed the way you think.

This is why “Power Hungry Animals” is featured in the trailer for “The Way, Way Back.” Prominently. It comes in at the end. At the time when the trailer is showing you conflict and tension and growth and love. When the trailer needs to say “This movie has warmth and depth and feeling,” it uses this song, and it is the song that takes your interest in the kid and turns it into care.

Yet The Apache Relay is gone. But do not dismay! Front-man Michael Ford, Jr. has made an appearance or two, and their parting message specifically says the members are looking to “explore new endeavors.” There doesn’t seem to be any news on this front yet, but in the meantime, there are three albums of Apache Relay to work through. If that well runs dry, check out some other Nashville indie-Americana acts, like Humming House,  Sugar & the Hi Lows, or Knoxville’s Cereus Bright. Hopefully that will hold y’all out until a reunion comes around.

THE MELANCHOLY SOUNDS OF ALEXI MURDOCH
January 27, 2016 12:53 am

Alexi Murdoch is hauntingly beautiful. His voice is rich and soulful, his songs compelling and emotionally complex. Picture an early winter morning with hot tea and a blanket. Or maybe a warm fire in the middle of the night, comforting yet dangerous. Evocative, poignant, spiritually enlightening. Like running through a field in a thunderstorm. Turning on the lights after a sock hop. Eating a whole mouthful of Skittles all at once because why not, it’s Halloween. Sometimes a light turns on inside you and can’t help but respond. Alexi Murdoch knows that feeling and can put it to music. Just try not to burst out crying when you hear it.

I first heard Murdoch in Away We Go, Sam Mendes’ excellent 2009 comedy/drama (and I didn’t cry, I swear.) As John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph scour North America for a place to call home, Murdoch’s soulful voice becomes a third protagonist, articulating the difficult emotions surrounding the film. Almost all of the soundtrack comes from his debut album Time Without Consequence, and almost all of the soundtrack could bring you and your entire family to tears. Just listen to “All My Days,” featured here in this trailer and also in the climax of the movie. Try not to cry I dare you (or just wait til you shower–then it’s like it never happened!)

Really makes you think, doesn’t it? What does it all mean? Why does anyone do anything? Are we all just dust in the wind? Ships in the night? Ducks in a row? What if I’m just a drop in the bucket? A bump on a log? A line in the sand? A lonely sailboat lost at sea with only my stars and sextant to guide me? My cargo bucks and shimmies in my cabin as my sails flap and tatter about my delicate mast. A single candle in the captain’s quarters illuminates my treasurous booty. I am the captain on the ship of my life, and Alexi Murdoch is my soul compass. His first directive? A good solid cry. Goddammit, Alexi you read my mind.

Now that we got that out of the way, I’m sure you’re wondering what we’re all wondering: where is he now? How can I get some more of that good good stuff? Everybody’s looking for a good cry nowadays, where’s Alexi when you need him? Well I got sour news for you, buster: no new music since 2011. Guess you gotta dust off the old time machine and cry your way back 5 years or so. Apparently he plays a show now and then, but his Twitter and Instagram don’t give much away in that regard. Your best hope is to be at the right place at the right time. Sounds a lot like life, amirite? Think about that as you listen to this: