Do as the Ozians Do!

This is part two of a two-part blog. The first entry is “When in Oz…”

Here’s a helpful image I made to show what my life was like in September and October.

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This seems like a lot, and I wouldn’t be honest if I said it wasn’t. However, I came to college to challenge myself and see what I could do. The payoff of all this hard work was truly incredible. I was able to work with alumnus and professional dancer/choreographer Dexter Jones whose talent and personality can’t be put into this blog post. The energy of the shows was awesome. The reception of the crowds and their comments really show that this effort is not for nothing. One of the most awesome comments I got were that professionals thought I had prior dance training before this show. I was fortunate enough that I was in the show-stopping dance number, the Winkie Celebration dance. The crowd interaction in that number is why performing is such a rush and privilege.

Right before the Celebration. I'm the General (in black)!

Right before the Celebration. I’m the General (in black)!

You would not believe the amount of adrenaline pumping through my veins during and after that scene.

The dance crew became a very tight group, and I was able to meet so many wonderful people that were a part of the cast and crew in general. We got to make a lot of memories together, not just rehearsing with each other, but getting pizza or late night together (We love food!). I still get breakfast with them and hang out with them.

The moral of the story is that college is a fantastic time to explore. I made it a personal goal to leave my comfort zone and try something that I haven’t done here. Just look how much magic happened! We were able to open up Waterman Theatre with a bang, learn so many new things, and create awesome relationships. The arts community here is unique and leads to unrepeatable experiences. If someone is even thinking about trying something in the arts or just something new, here’s my advice: go for it!

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Lady Gaga – The Fame Mons†er

As a good majority of you probably already know, I am a very big Lady Gaga fan. I think that she is incredibly creative, artistic, daring and independent. She has undoubtedly changed the music industry, setting new grounds for artists that were most definitely not there before. I recently read one critic who argued that Gaga is not original at all, since she dresses like Björk, acts like Madonna and sings like Gwen Stefani, but I would argue against most of these claims. She has the “out there” look that Björk always has, a sense of fashion that dares to defy norms. However, Gaga designs most of her own clothing, and a good majority of the clothing that she designs (although most definitely drawing influences from artists such as David Bowie and, yes, Björk) is very creative and original (where have you seen the bubble dress before?). I would not argue that her demeanor is anything like Madonna, except that I would argue that she has a similar need of daring to venture. As far as her vocals being compared to Gwen Stefani, there are undoubtedly tracks in which you would think it is Gwen if you didn’t know any better. However, these tracks are limited to a select few, such as “Paparazzi,” “Paper Gangsta,” “Summerboy” and “Filthy Pop.” Gaga definitely has her own style of singing, which is definitely brought to light in songs such as “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance.”

Anyway, the highly-anticipated follow-up to last year’s record, The Fame, was released yesterday, Monday, November 23rd, and even though the album is somewhat short (consisting of only eight tracks), it does not disappoint by any means. My anticipation for this album has been building up for quite some time now, and I don’t, in any way, feel cheated (except for maybe the fact that I do wish the album was a little bit longer). After Fame’s release, Gaga began to explore fringes of her personality that she hadn’t been immediately experiencing during the early days of her major success. She began to realize that as much as she loved fame, fame was not an all-seeing power of goodness but instead sometimes heavily comprised of monsters, or fears, with which, as a superstar, Gaga had to deal. She was consistently traveling since she was touring, and during her days on the road, she began to explore this dark side of fame musically, a project that came to be known as The Fame Mons†er, an eight-track sophomore effort that would bring Gaga’s music to new levels.

The record opens with the hit single, “Bad Romance.” I have heard a great deal of people say that “Bad Romance” is more or less a reinvented “Poker Face,” but I drastically fail to understand the connection, not one that calls for that kind of comparison anyway. Her vocals are a bit similar, since in the verses, Gaga explores very low registers of her voice while in the refrain, she explores higher registers. However, I fail to understand how the melodies are similar. Anyway, “Bad Romance” has already gone its way to becoming Gaga’s fifth smash hit in the U.S. (the other four obviously being “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” “Lovegame” and “Paparazzi”), and the music video (which features Gaga as a sex slave, sold to the Russian mafia after a round of bidding) is by far her most genially creative one yet. Even if you’re not a Gaga fan, I think that it would be rather difficult to get this track out of your head.

The second track that Mons†er has to offer is “Alejandro,” which had previously been titled “Don’t Call My Name” when a short portion of the song had been leaked online. “Alejandro” has been described as a rehashing of the “What happens in Mexico stays in Mexico” adage. Gaga has traveled to Mexico, fallen in love with a boy who is either named Alejandro, Fernando or Roberto (she can’t seem to recall), but she fears commitment and therefore insists on running away. The song is very powerful both melodically and vocally. Unfortunately, since both “Alejandro” and “Dance in the Dark” have both been officially released as promotional singles to help promote The Fame Mons†er, we can probably rule this one out as a future single. The second and the third singles from the album have already been selected, which I will discuss momentarily.

The third number we’re given is the track “Monster,” which I personally feel would have been a much better opener for the album. The song has previously been described as demonstrating a “fear of death,” and although I don’t immediately interpret the lyrics of the song to be related to death, I am going to continue to listen and see where perhaps they could in fact be interpreted that way. The track opens with the spoken lines: “Don’t call me Gaga/I’ve never seen one like that before/Don’t look at me like that/You amaze me.” At first glance, the lyrics potentially seem to be about rape or some form of sexual interaction that was not consensual, which is why she refers to the boy as “a monster.” This track definitely has the potential of being a future single, and even though it has not been announced what the fourth single will be yet, I think that this might actually be it, because I can definitely see this one doing well on the radio. There is a censored line in the song that upset me at first, because I thought that it was censored on the CD since I had bought it at Walmart, but further research has since indicated to me that the track is censored on all editions of the album, which I find to be a bit odd. Why write words on a piece of paper that aren’t going to be used?

The album moves into its first and only ballad, which is the epic “Speechless,” a song that has already been confirmed as the album’s third single. According to Gagapedia, Gaga’s father had been very sick, and she recorded this song for him as a way to plead for him to receive heart surgery that he needed. “I think is the best song I’ve ever written,” Gaga, herself, says about the song. “It’s about my dad. It’s a really beautiful ballad. It’s piano-driven, and there’s no beat on it. It’s all live instruments. I produced it with Ron Fair, so we did a full live orchestra, recorded everything with live drums, live guitar and bass with me playing piano. We got that really organic, delicious feeling.” “Speechless” is probably my second favorite song on the record and really does stand out as incredibly powerful and emotional. To those of you who watched the American Music Awards the night before last, this was the second song that she performed, the one in which she played at a piano and broke Vodka bottles over it.

The fifth track is the incredibly powerful “Dance in the Dark.” While “Speechless” is probably my second favorite track on the record, this is probably my first favorite. Gaga revealed a few months ago that during the writing process of The Fame Mons†er, she had been exploring some gothic influence, mainly in beats, and I think that this song is a very good example of what she was talking about. Melodically, it is probably the darkest song on the record, reminding me very much of bands such as the Birthday Massacre and Depeche Mode. Although I cannot seem to locate any information behind the meaning of the song, it seems to me to be a kind of feminist anthem, shouting out to women have ever felt unprotected or unsafe in the world (literally shouting out to women such as Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana). Like “Alejandro,” this song has been officially released a promotional single, so I seriously doubt that it will be released as an official single, especially since one song (“Bad Romance”) has already been determined, and two more have been announced.

The first few times that I heard “Telephone,” I was not very impressed. It just isn’t as powerful as some of the other material that The Fame Mons†er has to offer, and even though it is still not one of my favorites on the album, it has grown on me, and I like it a lot better than I did when I first heard it. The track features vocals by pop superstar Beyoncé (who was originally supposed to be Britney Spears, but Britney’s vehement desire to include the track on her new Greatest Hits collection caused some complications), and the lyrical content seems to be relatively simple. It seems to be about a girl who is out partying with her friends who is consistently being annoyed by her boyfriend texting her cell phone. Its simplicity could be one reason why it is not one of my favorites on the album, but one fact that needs to be kept in mind is that out of the eight songs on the record, this is the only one that was not actually written during the Monster era. “Telephone” was written during the Fame era and was initially supposed to be a song written for by sung by Britney Spears for her Circus album. This has been selected as the second single from the album and is expected to be released in early 2010.

Although I have not mentioned it until now, there are two songs on the album that remind me a bit of “Just Dance,” and those two songs are “Monster” and “So Happy I Could Die.” “Monster” shares very similar electronic accompaniment, and the next song on the record, “So Happy I Could Die,” is somewhat similar melodically. “So Happy I Could Die” is another song that I haven’t been able to fully decode just yet, but the title does seem to be fairly self-explanatory. This one has a bit of growing to do on me yet, since I am not absolutely crazy over it just yet like I am “Speechless” and “Dance in the Dark.” The album closes with the song “Teeth,” which is a very blunt, R&B-like track that, to be quite honest, closes the album while you are left wanting more. Like I said, The Fame Mons†er is incredible, but if I can find any fault in it whatsoever, it’s that I would have liked for it to have been a bit longer. It is more outrageous than The Fame while at the same time is more down to earth, and I love how in the track “Monster,” she shouts out to the very first hit with the line, “I want to just dance, but he took me home instead.” Her voice is also a lot more natural on this record, with not as much production applied as songs such as “Poker Face.” You have once again not failed to please, Gaga.