Machine Gun Kelly’s newest music video for “I Think I’m OKAY” is giving me all the rock music feels. Maybe I’m just nostalgic for the pop/rock I used to vibe with in high school, but MGK’s new musical direction is pretty solid. Bonus points: the song features Travis Barker and YUNGBLUD. Check it out!
John Paul Roney aka Boom Forest is back with another beautiful collection of consciousness entitled “Hard Times, Anything Helps.” This album, available only on his website for a limited time, pushes sonic boundaries while showing off some of J.P.’s most impressive songwriting to date. (Pro tip: You’ll need a desktop to check it out. As JP writes on Instagram, “no phones allowed.”)
The experimental “Hard Times” feels like an exploration into both J.P.’s mind and travels. From rainy wine-soaked nights in Paris to sun-drenched easy days in Los Angeles, it’s a trip you need to take.
"It was charming
The way we danced around the truth
You were smiling, always hiding
And then I feel we're somehow quickly, slowing"
- "Mistake" by Middle Kids
Australian trio Middle Kids are set to release one of the best debut albums of the year, if their single "Mistake" is any indication. The infectious danceable rock, paired beautifully with lead vocalist Hannah Joy's surreal vocals, make them an instant indie darling. Check out the video below for "Mistake," and don't miss them on their U.S. tour later this year.
Clive Davis is more than just a living legend- his influence has defined music for the last five decades. He gave us Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen, Carlos Santana, Billy Joel, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd (in America), and Earth, Wind & Fire, to name a few. And he didn’t stop there- throughout the years, he has continued to sign top artists like Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Barry Manilow, Brad Paisley, Alicia Keys and The Grateful Dead. He even founded Bad Boy Records alongside Sean Combs and LaFace Records with Babyface and L.A. Reid.
In short, he’s an unstoppable force that the industry calls “The Golden Ear.”
While reading his biography, I was positively captivated. Clive has defied all odds to become the most successful man in the music industry. He was born into a middle-class family in Brooklyn, New York, and nothing more than his drive and aptitude earned him a full scholarship at NYU before receiving a law degree from Harvard University.
His intention might have never been music, but I have a firm belief that music finds you. You don’t have to be a creator for the passion to flow through your veins. When Davis found himself President of Columbia Records in 1967 with no background in the music industry, he not only rose to the occasion- he shattered records, defined an era and earned the respect of an entire industry, both artists and executives.
Last night, I attended Clive’s screening of his new feature-length documentary “Soundtrack of Our Lives,” at the ArcLight Hollywood, where he also did a Q&A afterwards. The film was breathtaking- by the time you left the theater, you felt like you knew the most powerful man in music. Better yet, you liked him…a lot. Clive’s twinkling eyes and astute taste are a wicked combination, and while he’s incredibly powerful, there’s a humbleness to him that makes him feel approachable.
The film is a musical education beginning with the late 1960s through the death of Whitney Houston, a pinnacle moment in Clive’s professional and personal life. The vintage video clips of artists like Springsteen, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston are worth the price of admission alone, giving us insight to how well-loved Clive has been throughout his career. The way he treated his artists and colleagues was also a huge takeaway for me- he leads with respect and an unmatchable passion. Notably in the documentary, a few of his artists attested to how attentive he was, always making them feel like a priority.
And last night, as dozens gathered around him to have a moment with Clive, he never rushed. As he shook hands, he listened to people’s stories of gratitude and awe, only politely declining photographs so he could speak with more people.
And right there, in that theater, I witnessed first-hand the magic of Clive Davis.
You need to see this documentary- it'll be the best thing you've watched all year. Available on Apple Music on Oct. 3.
It was a hot 4th of July in Chicago when I discovered the Counting Crows for the first time. I wandered into their show at Grant Park mid-set, and I remember standing in the back, completely entranced. The next day, I raced to Sam Goody's (I miss you, early 2000s) and bought every Counting Crows album I could find.
The Counting Crows have been the soundtrack, both literally and figuratively, to the first time I fell in love and the last (Adam himself introduced me to my now-husband). My sleepless college years of playing "Up All Night" repeatedly. Moving to Nashville with a suitcase in my hand. Starting over again in New Orleans with $100 in my bank account and curiosity about Mardi Gras.
I didn't discover the Crows music when it was brand new (I was 5 when August was released and presumably rocking out to Barney), but it was intoxicatingly fresh to me as a teenager, shaping the way I'd consume and digest music permanently.
Last Monday, the Counting Crows played The Forum on their A Brief History of Everything Tour, and looking around, I realized I wasn't the only one who relates so much of their own history with this iconic band.
A girl two rows in front of me had tears pouring down her face during "Long December." The crowd sang "Rain King" with such a force, I was pretty sure precipitation was going to start falling from the arena ceiling. And during "Round Here," even though I've heard it more than a dozen times live, I had goosebumps up and down my arms.
They always say, you can't know where you're going unless you know where you've been. And last Monday night, a crowd of thousands revisited where we had been- maybe the night we had blared "Miami" as we shut it down in New Orleans or the time when "Hard Candy" became one summer's soundtrack.
The band's History tour feels like a celebration, much in the vein of a birthday. They're another year older and it's a commemoration of who they've become over the years. Adam's voice and passion is stronger than ever, drawing you in with his trademark raw honesty that weaves in and out of his lyrics. In that dark arena, I felt moved the same way I did when I stopped in 100 degree day in Chicago. I may not have known who they were then, but they always sounded like they knew me.
If you have the chance, don't miss out on seeing the Counting Crows play one hell of a show on the A Brief History of Everything tour.
Last weekend was a musical double header for me. On Sunday night, I caught John Mayer's "The Search for Everything" tour and Monday night, I headed back to the Forum to see the Counting Crows/Matchbox Twenty's "A Brief History of Everything" tour.
They always say you need to know where you've been to know where you're going, so maybe I should have checked out "History" before beginning my "Search," but alas- I digress.
John Mayer's "The Search for Everything World Tour"
I have spent the last decade drowning in John Mayer's albums. He has provided the perfect soundtrack for this twenty-something, particularly during his Heartbreak Warfare album cycle. If I wailed "Perfectly Lonely" once, I murdered it 1,000 times alone in my car.
So when he announced the 2017 tour, my first phone call was to my best friend Rachel (pictured below from a 2010 JM concert), a fellow Mayer addict. We flew to Philadelphia to catch a show on the first leg of the tour and then scooped up tickets to his Los Angeles show soon thereafter.
But this was no normal show. We were going to get to meet John Mayer. Oh, and sit front row. We imagined all the things that could go wrong before the show- one of us could get hit by a bus, come down with the flu or her flight could get cancelled due to weather/flocks of birds in the engine.
Luck was on our side, though, and we rode to the Forum in an Uber singing rewritten lyrics, "It's a Sunday, we finally made it, we can't believe we get to see your face," presumably to the invisible Mayer seated between us.
A blurry two hours later, there he was, standing in front of us in the softest sweatshirt imaginable. We were alone with him, besides a photographer and a couple of tour personnel - they have other Meet & Greet fans stand outside the room to allow for a little more privacy- and he was....incredibly sweet.
For a career musician who is arguably one of the most respected guitarists and lyricists in music today, his demeanor was gracious and genuine, with not a trace of arrogance or aloofness.
So after chatting with John Mayer about Stranger Things (casual, I know), we headed to our front row dead center seats to begin the best musical experience of my life.
John Mayer left it all on stage for nearly two hours, dividing up the night between full band, acoustic and the Trio. He kicked off the set with "Helpless," segueing into fan favorite "Why Georgia." The set was peppered with "classic" John Mayer, like "Slow Dancing," "Vultures," and "Gravity," alongside songs off the new Search for Everything record.
Post Malone and Tommy Lee even made a surprise appearance for a collaboration on Post's "Congratulations," which has officially made its way onto my summer playlist.
Whether it's his time on the road with Dead & Company or simply the benefit of growing older, he seems more comfortable than ever showing off his roots as a blues guitarist. For the duration of the show, I became a little kid at Disney World, with eyes big as saucers and my heart strings played by the electric guitar. It's one thing to listen to John Mayer, but it takes it to another level to watch up close as he shred on the guitar.
I floated home that night, pretty sure that my search for everything may never be over, but it was nights like Sunday night that make the journey pretty damn worth it.
Last night, I did the unthinkable: I braved 5 o'clock Los Angeles traffic to drive down to the Orange County Fair, all in the name of Gavin Degraw.
I've been lucky enough to catch his shows more than a few times- on tour with Shania Twain, the Grammy's after party this year, the Greek Theatre last summer- and he consistently puts on one of the best shows in the music industry.
I could go on for hours about Gavin's bluesy vocals, his bright energy that bubbles over from the stage or the adorable way he dances to "Best I Ever Had." I might even mention his superhero capability of surviving a Southern California night on stage in a leather jacket. (Seriously, though- how?)
But the thing I find most worth mentioning from the evening was Gavin's behavior after the lights went down, when the crowd was steadily exiting the venue.
You know when artists are new, and they're still earning your affections? They offer meet and greets at the merch table after the show, they answer your tweets, they listen post-show to your stories about what their music means to you. They put in the time, because that's what it takes to build a fan base.
When artists hit it big, everything tends to change. Schedules and security are tighter, and the musician is being pulled in multiple directions.
Over the last few years, I've covered hundred of shows, ranging from stadium shows to intimate venues, but riddle me impressed- I witnessed something truly unique last night.
The last song of the encore, I Don't Want to Be, finished to uproarious applause. As Gavin took his final bow with his bandmates, I expected him to exit stage left immediately. I would be wrong.
Gavin did head stage left....but to begin a long line of signing autographs and taking selfies with fans that clamored to get near. And it wasn't just an artist snapping mindless photos- he was shaking hands, thanking them genuinely for coming to the show (eye contact and all!), asking about their lives and...wait for it...listening intently. He didn't rush anyone, he never gave the "save me" look to his manager, who would make up an excuse to hurry him off.
At one point, he just sat down on the edge of the stage and talked to the large group of fans gathered. It was all so casual- just Gavin Degraw, an artist who can sell out amphitheaters, hanging out. Fans openly shared stories of survival through his music, and he seemingly took it all to heart.
All in all, he took his time for about a half hour, and even when he had to leave, yelled out to the remaining fans, "I love you!"
And you know what? I believe him.
Just a week ago today, we lost Chester Bennington to suicide. And earlier this summer, we lost Chris Cornell. Kindness is exactly what this world needs right now, and last night, I witnessed the truest form of it. Not only did I leave moved by the music, but I left inspired by Gavin's actions.
So I guess what I'm getting at is....Gavin Degraw is not only a bad ass who doesn't pass out from wearing leather in July- he's also the nicest freakin' guy....probably ever.
Vegas is going to be a little hotter than usual this summer for three sizzling reasons: Kendra Wilkinson, Jai Rodriguez and Michael Milton.
The trio stars in Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man, an off-Broadway hit that debuted in New York City three years ago. I was lucky enough to catch the show at Paris Las Vegas a couple of weekends ago, and I must say...it is single-handedly worth the trip to Sin City. (As if you needed another reason!)
Jai's comedic brilliance shines during this 80-minute immersive show, as he navigates the audience interaction with incredible wit and a 100-watt smile. Most people remember Jai from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, but his acting career actually began on Broadway when he was only 18-years-old. His strong theatre background is evident, captivating from his very first line as he readies the crowd for the ride (no pun intended) they're about to embark upon.
And if you thought Kendra Wilkinson was just another pretty face on reality TV, you'd be terribly mistaken. Kendra shows off her acting chops as the conservative Robyn, a book forum moderator who learns to explore her sexuality throughout the show. She is endearing, lovable and altogether hilarious. And alongside Jai, they are a deadly combination.
Whether you're on a date, a girls' trip or just need a good laugh, Sex Tips aims to please....long after you leave the show.
Get your tickets here and thank me later!
Katy Perry has made the ultimate mistake: she has stopped pretending to be a pop-tart.
Over the last year, she has become politically active, cut off her hair (gasp!) and even won the Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award for her contributions to UNICEF (presented by Hillary Clinton, no less).
And as the big release date for her first record in four years neared, it became evident that critics were not a huge fan of the new "woke" era.
But here's the thing...I admittedly am a huge fan of KP version 2.0 and Witness.
Katy’s “purposeful pop” isn’t an overt political statement that gives cause for an eye roll, as I feared it would be. More accurately, it’s the coming-of-age for a young woman who finally feels the confidence to actually roar.
In her most brave and personal album yet, Katy explores expanding her mind, dealing with heartbreak and finally calling the shots without apology. She is trusting and feeling herself, and it’s exactly the album this twenty-something needed this year.
It’s been a tumultuous year for women, particularly for ones hoping to elect the first female president. As a strong supporter on the Hillary Clinton campaign and avid fighter for equality, Katy is no exception, and the subtext of the record examines the recovery in the wake of loss and rebirth.
As Katy sings on the killer track Power, “Hell hath no fury like a woman reborn.”
The record is empowering without preaching, a difficult balance to strike. And the introspective moments on the record are some of Katy’s best, like when she concludes, “I miss you more than I loved you” or “Then you came in like a sailor with a heart that anchored me/And every day, I wake up grateful I’m no longer lost at sea.”
And what would Katy Perry be without top ten pop bliss? The clubs will be thumping “Roulette” and “Power” all summer, because these two are bangers.
Honestly, the worst part about the record has nothing to do with the music. It’s the headlines that preceded it, between the Migos controversy, the never-ending Taylor Swift feud and the “Katy’s head on a plate” art exhibit that was equal parts strange and disturbing.
But don't let that take away from what Katy Perry does best (besides make documentaries that are flawless): creating a pop music getaway with her quirky self.
Katy Perry, I’m a witness and a believer….you’re still a “courtside killer queen.”
It's hard to believe that Kelsea Ballerini released her debut album only two years ago. In that short time, she's been nominated for multiple awards, including a Grammy, CMA Female Vocalist of the Year and Billboard's Women in Music Rising Star Award (which she won). In other words....she's been busy becoming the new Queen of Country.
Last night, as she stepped on stage to a 17,000+ crowd at the Hollywood Bowl, it was clearly a milestone for the blonde darling from Mascot, Tennessee. And she was ready for it. She might be putting the finishing touches on her sophomore album, but Kelsea is performing like a senior in the high school of music, confident and ready to take on the world.
She commands a venue the same way Taylor Swift always has- combining charm, superior songwriting and sparkly outfits, but that's where the comparison ends. Kelsea doesn't imitate anyone or anything else as she forges her own path into country music history. And it's her sincerity that rings true with her fans.
Kelsea's set was a mixture of The First Time hits, including "Dibs," "Stiletto," "Yeah Boy," with a few new songs sprinkled in. "Unapologetically in Love" is an instant smash, calling out the doubters on a beautiful relationship. "I Hate Love Songs" is one of the best country songs in years (yes, I said years) that gives early 90s country music vibes in all the right ways. And more pop-leaning "Roses," which fans initially thought to be a Taylor Swift song, already gets a sing-along going, even though the track is still unreleased.
Her songwriting, along with her matured voice, have clearly been elevated on this next album, ensuring there is no sophomore slump in sight. Hearing her new tunes that drip in authenticity, I recalled a quote from our interview back in 2015 when I asked her advice for upcoming songwriters. Kelsea said, "Write whatever you want to write, and say whatever you want to say. For me, when I stopped worrying where it fits, that's when I found what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. Be original."
Catch Kelsea out on the road with Lady Antebellum over the summer on their You Look Good World Tour.
With its longer days and starry nights, summer is the perfect season to fall in love. Maybe it was the red wine, maybe it was the dancing, but last Friday night at Standing Sun Wines I fell hard...for The Dustbowl Revival.
Like they sing on their new song with Keb' Mo, "I never met no one like you. Every word you say...well, it's the truth."
This Venice based group sounds like nothing you've ever heard before, but innately, you know it's one the most honest and authentic sounds in music today. They transcend genres, blending New Orleans horns, California attitude and bluegrass vibes all into one. It's an unlikely combination to be sure, but it works. Vocalist Liz Beebe wraps you around her finger from the first note, and the band's energy causes a chain reaction around the room. A fully seated show suddenly had a pit area that was filled with dancing bodies of varying ages.
The Dustbowl Revival are, in short, incredible live.And here's the best part- they're about to kick off their summer tour and release a brand new record on June 16. (Fellow Los Angelenos, they're celebrating their record release at the Teragram Ballroom!) Catch them on the road and thank me later. Full tour dates here.
Recommended as your favorite summer jam: Honey I Love You
Admittedly, I think of Tony Lucca as some kind of musical King Midas. It seems like everything he touches is instant melodic gold, whether he's covering Jay Z's "99 Problems," Britney Spears' "Baby...One More Time" or simply belting out his own heart wrenchingly good tunes (which there are plenty of).
In short, Tony is the real deal.
So it's no surprise that TFDI, the music supergroup he's 1/3 of, is also some kind of gift from the harmonious heavens. TFDI consists of Lucca, Philadelphia's Matt Duke and Vermont's own Jay Nash, and this intimate show will be the best you see all year. Period.
As I arrived to Hotel Cafe last night, there was a line snaking around the building waiting to get in. People compared predictions on song choices and how many times they had seen/met the band. These were fans, and the energy was high before the doors even opened.
The set began a little after 8pm, and for the next two hours, TFDI gave the kind of performance you may only ever witness once or twice, if you're lucky. Their harmonies are absolutely chilling, and the new album Beggars and Ballers shows off their superior songwriting skills. They seem completely connected and committed to the new material, making it a particularly special time to catch the live show.
The boys joked about the "morose" theme throughout the night, with an album that was written during and post-election, but the overall feeling I was left with was hope. TFDI drew a full house to the Hotel Cafe, indicating that people still care about lyrics and true vocal talent. Don't miss this tour, if you get the chance. Check out the remaining dates here.
Evalyn might originally be from Colorado, but that doesn't stop her from being the ultimate California dream girl. With an attitude equivalent to the careless flick of a cigarette, tousled blonde hair that looks ocean-dipped and a voice that cuts through the noise of an abundantly loud music industry, Evalyn is ready for her takeover.
Late last year, Evalyn partnered up with Louis the Child for smash hit "Fire," gathering nearly 2 million hits on YouTube and joining dance playlists across the country. Now she's back with her own song of the summer, "Filthy Rich."
She sings, "I thought you knew I'm filthy rich / I thought you knew I never answer my phone / I thought you knew I was a bitch / I got a driver so I'm never alone."
The song offers the listener the same kind of dark and haunting vibe that made The Weeknd's "Hills" a gigantic success, a peek into the mysterious life of the (filthy) rich and famous. Listen below to the song that just hit 1,000,000 streams on Spotify and welcomes you into the world of Evalyn.
"I saw him at Hotel Cafe before he made it big." - some guy talking about John Mayer
"She played at this little party in the hills a couple of years ago. Now she's getting a Grammy." - some girl talking about Adele
Everyone in Los Angeles has their story of witnessing one of the greats long before they were a household name. I've only been in L.A. for nine months, but I think I finally got my chance last Monday at the Bardot Hollywood.
Move over, Ed Sheeran. There's a new ginger in town. And forget what you've heard about gingers not having a soul- Joe Marson is nothing but soul.
Joe was jaw-droppingly good from the very first note, riling up the room filled with young Hollywood's finest. One of the best signs of a hot set? Phones shot up immediately to capture the magic, a sea of electronic memories stored and ready for a social media launch moments later.
Even though Joe has elements of vintage soul, he pushes into new territory that feels current, much like Bruno Mars when he released "Treasure" or "24 Karat." It's that marriage of the old with the new that feels refreshing and sexy as the room turns into a dance party.
Don't miss an opportunity to catch a Joe Marson show- it won't be long before you can see you saw him before he was accepting his first Grammy.
John Mayer makes the Search for Everything Wave One sound way more poetic than it probably feels, and per usual, it's right on time. The four song EP is the first set of songs from the new album, and it follows the transition from quarter-life crisis to the next step in adulthood: your 30s. Mayer makes life's challenges feel so romantic with lyrics that paint the beautiful balance of heartache, letting go and finding what you've been searching for all along. The soulful collection feels honest and heartfelt, a throwback to the days of Contiuum or even Battle Studies.
(And let's face it- the guitar solo in "Changing" requires you to close your eyes and get lost.)
"You're gonna live forever in me. I guarantee- it's your destiny."
Please excuse us while we play this on repeat. All day/weekend/month.
By Rachel Foresta
Quick Bio: Rachel Foresta is a long-time Nashvillian who is rumored to be an alien due to her combination of killer good looks, knowledge of Star Wars trivia and mega-brain that allows her to build/sell computers. MCN has begged her for months to share her thoughts, and we're honored to end the year with her contribution. Enjoy. xx, HP
So it seems that once every three years or so, it is demanded of me to not break tradition of my “yearly” NYE post. This is a tradition that is near and dear to my bestest friend Holly’s heart, even though said tradition doesn’t exist. So as to maintain this friendship and not break my eccentric friend’s heart, I bring you my not-so-clever-but-mostly-true-thoughts on the soon to be departed 2016.
At this point everyone knows how sucktastic 2016 was - Bowie, Prince, Carrie Fisher, Muhammad Ali, a craptastic election - don’t think I need to rehash that. Personally, I know a lot of people have had really terrible things happen. I, for one, turned 30 and my body immediately fell apart. I wont go in to all the details, but let’s just say $3k and 3 months of physical therapy later, my body still hates me. Also I’ve developed carpal tunnel, had to replace the plumbing in my house (not a euphemism), fix the clutch on my car for the 2nd time in 3 years (NOT MY FAULT I SWEAR) and have had not, one, but two different stomach bugs within a few weeks of each other just to close the year out right - and somehow I've still gained 10lbs this year!! Talk about a curse.
BUT....in taking a closer look, 2016 was also the year I bought my very first home with the love of my life. It was the year I was fortunate to have enough funding to fly home and see my brand new baby niece every other month so I could see how much she grew in her first year of life. I was blessed to get to spend time and vacation with many of my very good friends including a trip to the beach where I ran and ran in the waves with the best puppy a girl could ask for. 2016 also brought me the chance for my BFSB (best friend since babies, in case you aren’t hip) to come see my new home states away AND for me to see hers as well! I traveled to NYC and had an amazing time watching Adam Duritz and Rob Thomas in a crowd of roughly 300 covering each others songs - it was magical, plus later Mr. Duritz then recommended to me a life changing milkshake which did in fact change my life. I formed not one, but two bands - shout out to Meathammer and The Silence. I got to witness what those from Chicagoland can deem as nothing short of a MIRACLE - the Cubs winning the world series after 108 years - and I got to do it alongside the biggest cubs fan I know. AND I was mistaken for Princess Leia by a child on a Southwest flight carrying a Luke Skywalker doll.
Me: *hair in braids wearing a tunic and boots* oh man! is that Luke Skywalker??
Kid’s Dad: oh my gosh! how does she know who that is??
Kid to dad: IS THAT PRINCESS LEIA?!? *gives me an R2 sticker out of his sticker book*.
Me: Thank you! I’ve got something for you too! *pulls out heartshaped pin of R2 and C3PO I kept in my pocket*. (end scene)
So all of that gets me to wondering.....I mean...is 2016 just that whiny friend on facebook? You know what I mean, we all have them. Those one or two people who like to update on everything thing that has gone wrong in their terrible cursed life. Now here’s the thing... I’m not saying those people’s lives don’t have some suck. I’m also not saying 2016 did not suck for many many people, there were deaths and terrible world tragedies that I by no means intend to make light of. However, what I am saying is that maybe the AMOUNT of suckage compared to any other year with deaths and tragedies has just been a bit over blown this year by the frequency in which we announce it. #ThanksSocialMedia (see what I did there? ps. if you are reading this....you are also on social media, so....)
Exhibit A - While some will argue that there were more notable celebrity deaths this year than in years past, both Snopes and CNN have confirmed that 2016 is not the largest year of celebrity deaths in recent history.
Exhibit B - Many great things have happened this year too. GIANT props to my college bud, Eric Feltes, for making it his mission to update everyone with #FeelGoodFriday facts each week. Here are just a few of the things he took the time to point out this year:
- New study shows a blood test may detect cancer 10 years in advance.
- CEO of Imprimis Pharmaceuticals Mark Baum, who is known for offering a $1 AIDS medication, is developing a customizable alternative to the EpiPen for under $100.
- A new drug in the early stages of study called aducanumab is known to slow down memory loss and could be a cure for Alzheimer's.
- The first ever quadriplegic is showing motor function just two months after stem cell treatment.
- Obama moves to permanently protect Planned Parenthood from being defunded by the states. (Fact: Only 3% of PP's medical services are abortions. PP is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and has helped millions, especially young women in need, with cancer screenings, STD testing, and contraception.)
- A 16 year old developed an app called "Sit With Us," which helps teens find lunch buddies.
- Daryl Davis is a black musician who has spent the past 30 years befriending KKK members; since he started, 200 members have dropped out of the organization after seeing the error in their ways.
- The Taronga Zoo in Australia opens its doors one hour early for children with Autism so they can enjoy the animals in a stress-free environment.
- Colorado is using over $66 million in surplus tax revenue from marijuana sales for school grants for bully prevention programs.
- A terminally ill 6 year old raises €400,000 to help children less fortunate than him because "It could be worse, some kids don't even live to be 6."
- A toy store devoted for children on the autism spectrum opened in Chicago.
- The National Pediatric Cancer Foundation in North Carolina hosted a fashion show where children dressed as their dream careers and walked down the runway alongside men and women in these careers.
- USA solar power energy grows 192% since last year.
- Costa Rica has been running on renewable energy alone for 2 months now.
- Las Vegas now draws 100% of its energy from renewable sources.
- Google will be powered completely by renewable energy in 2017.
- The president of France announced plans to close all coal power plants by 2023.
- A global non-profit, Planting Peace, launched an LGBT flag into outer space along with this message: "Declaring space as LGBT friendly reinforces our universal message to our LGBT family: You are loved, valued, and beautiful. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not alone, and we will stand with you."
- For the first time in history, half of NASA’s astronaut class consists of females.
- Luxembourg’s Prime Minister is the first EU leader to marry his same-sex partner.
- A Muslim businessman has erected the tallest Christmas tree in Baghdad as a way of honoring Iraqi Christians this season.
- A Muslim-owned restaurant in London is offering a free 3-course meal to the elderly and homeless on Christmas.
- South Korea market bans the slaughtering of dogs.
- Conclusions by a Harvard psychologist suggest that dogs dream about how much they love their human companions.
- Therapy dogs at an Australian hospital reduce kids’ recovery time by 30%.
- A retired couple in New Westminster is converting their 25 acre farm into Honor Ranch: a safe space for veterans who suffer from PTSD.
- Los Angeles is turning old motels and hospitals into 500 apartments for homeless veterans.
- Following the Standing Rock protesters’ victory Sunday where construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline was halted, a forgiveness ceremony was held with U.S. veterans and Native Americans.
- A 72 year old Louisiana flood victim wins $1M lottery.
So do what you do with 2016, but just remember there will be good and bad to any year - it’s all about what you choose to focus on. Don’t be like me with As Seen On TV infomercials and let what you see on TV affect your daily state of being. Be kind. Focus on the good. Be the good. And for those of you asking what we tell our children in these turbulent times (cause let’s face it, for those of you fretting the results of the recent election, we can’t thrown the Trump baby out with the 2016 bathwater, that effects 2017 too), I suggest you take the advice of Mister Rogers:
Fred Rogers often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: "My mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world."
Happy new year, y’all.
As we wrap up the bleakness that can only be described as 2016, a song comes to mind...."How Far We've Come" by Matchbox Twenty.
As if borrowing a page from Nostradamus, Rob Thomas sings lyrics like "I'm waking up at the start of the end of the world..."
(And to make things slightly more eerie, Hillary even has a cameo in the music video. Did I mention this song was released in 2010?)
Let's face it- no one makes the end of times more upbeat than Rob Thomas. Excuse me while I go dance and sing to this for the rest of the day....
Let's face it...2016 was the year we'd all like to forget. (Can we ask for a do-over?) It was a year full of disheartening headlines, and just when you thought we'd end on a good note....November smacked you in the face one last time. When the going gets tough, though, there is one thing we all count on: music. Here are my favorite albums of 2016, the ones that held me tight when I wanted to tune the world out most.
15. The Colour in Anything, James Blake
English singer/songwriter James Blake gave me all the feels on The Colour in Anything, an album that seems most fitting on a thoughtful rainy day. Blake has the vocal ability of Sam Smith, but it's his innovation sonically on this record that really catches your ear. Wonder what I'm talking about? Listen to "Put That Away and Talk to Me."
14. Out of the Shadows, Callie Hopper
Callie Hopper is one of the best discoveries of 2016. This album shows off her songwriting chops, which are far beyond than her twenty years on this earth.
13. Big Mess, Grouplove
Grouplove is generally best experienced live. Their energetic personas help breathe a new life into their music on stage. Yet, Big Mess is a rare record where you can rock out just as hard alone in your bedroom.
12. Last Year Was Complicated, Nick Jonas
Admittedly, I was late to the Nick Jonas party. Like a true hipster, I refused to give a Jonas brother a chance. Then "Close" feat. Tove Lo happened, and I fell down the Jonas rabbit hole. Quickly, "Bacon" feat. Ty Dolla $ign became one of my regular jams, and the rest of the album feels like a Timberlake-esque adventure, which I love. Nick Jonas is no longer a teen heartthrob- this record solidifies his place as a pop prince-in-waiting.
11. The Driver, Charles Kelley
Anyone who has listened to country radio in the last few years knows exactly who Grammy Award-winning group Lady Antebellum is. Charles Kelley is 1/3 of Lady A, and his debut solo album is some of his best work yet. "Leaving Nashville" is the most relatable song about Music City in years, and this seemingly classic record features mega stars like Stevie Nicks, Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley. This is songwriting at its best.
10. Views, Drake
When Drake wasn't making headlines for a beyond adorable Apple commercial singing Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" or dating Rihanna, he was busy releasing another hit record. Any song that references Cheesecake Factory (Why you gotta fight with me at Cheesecake/You know I love to go there) automatically makes me love Drake even more. Drake even toyed with a new sound on this album, particularly with "One Dance," and he's never sounded better.
9. Something Worth Saving, Gavin Degraw
Gavin Degraw could sing the phone book, and I'd buy it. Gavin's soulful voice essentially makes him the Class Favorite of music, and he's one of the nicest people on the planet. "Kite Like Girl" and "Making Love with the Radio On" are the kind of happy ditties this year truly needed.
8. The Hamilton Mixtape, Various Artists
The only person that rivaled Beyonce's year was Lin-Manuel Miranda, who constantly made waves during 2016. He broke records with the ticket sales of Hamilton, hosted everyone from President Obama to Hillary Clinton, and wrote songs for Disney's Moana. This mixtape is a smorgasbord of current music's finest talent performing Hamilton. It. Is. Perfection. And almost nothing felt as timely as the release of "Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)."
7. The Suffers, The Suffers
I will forever remember the first time I saw The Suffers perform live. I was standing side stage at their Voodoo Fest performance, and from the first time lead singer Kam Franklin opened her mouth, I had chills. She is simultaneously ground breaking and a throwback, and the 10-person band brings a whole extra layer of soul.
6. Revolution Radio, Green Day
Politically outspoken Green Day released their first album in four years, and it was the best example of music rising to the occasion. Revolution Radio is incredibly powerful, with an energy that makes you feel like Green Day are just as excited to be back as the fans are.
5. It Doesn't Have to Make Sense, Ingrid Michaelson
I've loved Ingrid Michaelson for almost a decade (you know, when none of us could get "The Way I Am" out of our heads for anything), and this is, by far, her best body of work to date. As a whole, the album is incredibly cohesive, boasts poetic and moving songwriting, and her voice is nothing short of an instrument. Her vocal control alone leaves you in disbelief.
4. Starboy, The Weeknd
The Weeknd can do no wrong, as evidenced by his slew of back-to-back unconventional hits. Nothing on the radio ever sounds like his singles, and six months later, as he evolves into something else, everyone else is releasing mere imitations. He's an innovator, and Starboy pays ample homage to the XO record while still pushing forward. Wait for it..."Party Monster" will end up being one of the biggest hits of 2017.
3. 11 Blocks, Wrabel
Okay, so this technically is not an album- it's a single. But to not mention Wrabel in my countdown of this year's most impressive would be doing you, the reader, a disservice. Mark my words- Wrabel is next year's biggest breakout artist. The honesty conveyed in "11 Blocks" is stunning, and his voice is simply...perfection.
2. Anti, Rihanna
Risks like Anti are few and far between for established hitmakers like Rihanna, and this was a rare occasion where it paid off. Rihanna strayed away from her Top 40 mainstays to create an album that establishes Rihanna as an artist. While Rihanna will always be known for her sexiness, it's the depth in this record that stands out the most. She also pushes the envelope with the production, making her one of the top contenders at the 2017 Grammys.
1. Lemonade, Beyonce
Queen Bey surprised the world yet again with Lemonade, a mic-dropping visual album that came to slay. She dabbles in rock alongside Jack White and dips her toes in country music with "Daddy Lessons," all the while making the R&B album of the century. Whether it was really about Jay-Z's affair with Becky with the good hair or just an incredibly genius fictional narrative about a woman scorned, this record is not only the best of this year, but maybe the decade.
As your Facebook timeline fills up with support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, you may be wondering one of two things: why is everyone checking into a party in North Dakota that I wasn't invited to...or (if you're already aware of the situation)....is there anything else I can do to help?
To give a little background, if you're asking the first question, hundreds of thousands of people are checking in to aid the protest to the Dakota Access Pipeline, posting:
"The Morton County Sherriff's Department has been using Facebook check-ins to find out who is at [SR] in order to target them in attempts to disrupt the prayer camps. SO Water Protecters are calling on EVERYONE to check-in at [SR], ND to overwhelm and confuse them. This is concrete action that can protect people putting their bodies and well-beings on the line that we can do without leaving our homes. Will you join me?"
If you were previously aware of the situation and have already explained to your mom, who called frantically after seeing your Facebook check-in, that you support this movement but want to do more, singer/songwriter Korby Lenker is stepping up and hopes you will, too. He has taken the issue personally, explaining in a poignant piece for The Bluegrass Situation, why 100 percent of the proceeds of his new song, "Last Man Standing," are being donated to the cause. Inspired by Chief Sitting Bull, Korby actually recorded parts of the song earlier this year while visiting Standing Rock.
The song is a beautiful tribute, and an amazing way for you to help fund a cause so many passionately believe in. You can purchase the song for $1 here.
As Chief Sitting Bull says, "Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children."
LAST MAN STANDING LYRICS:
Oh mother mother let me tell you somethin
White people gonna know my name
The big general think he up-and-comin
That man got nothin
I had a vision in the middle of the night
The great spirit come down on me
So Custer's in for a big surprise
A bullet between his eyes
I am the last man standing
Even if you break my heart
Even if you take my land
I am the last man standing
You say you want what's mine?
Well I ain't gonna give it to you
This reservation is a choke chain collar
This reservation is closing in
But I ain't gonna let no great white father
Tell me who I am
I am the leader of the one Sioux nation
Born free on the prairie wind
But then I signed the treaty of '68 and
It all come
They took it all
I am the last man standing
Even if you break my heart
Even if you take my land
I am the last man standing
You better take my life
'Cause I ain't gonna give it to you
Nobody gonna live forever
Someday you'll leave your legacy
Only when the last tree
And the last leaf
And the last lone river has died
Will you realize
I am the last man standing
Even though you took my life
Even though you took my land
I am the last man standing
Now I will live forever
Cause I will be remembered
I will be remembered
I will be remembered
I am the last man standing.
It's hard to separate the idea of New Orleans music and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. They help define each other, enhancing and accentuating the culture of a city that is rooted in soulful jazz. As such, nothing was more fitting than the Preservation Hall Jazz Band closing out Voodoo Music + Arts Experience as a headliner in the Toyota Music Den.
But in the tradition of New Orleans, the Band and sponsor Toyota decided to give it a little twist. The 2016 Toyota Music Experience has really solidified Toyota's role as a true supporter of the arts, and Voodoo Fest was no exception, giving three up-and-coming local bands the incredible opportunity to perform alongside the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Many natives will easily recognize the names that Toyota chose - Faubourg Fouligny, New Breed Brass Band and Tank and the Bangas. After creating their own original music videos a la Toyota, the videos were shared on the Music Moves You Tumblr Page, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band was able to select a winner.
The winner was Tank and the Bangas, who took the stage with Preservation Hall Jazz Band to a full house, and gave a riveting performance. Tank and the Bangas are the music equivalent of a good cup of gumbo, and paired with the Preservation Hall Band, it was a feast for the ears.
"Toyota is always looking for grass-roots approaches and platforms to engage with and celebrate emerging musicians," said Florence Drakton, social media marketing manager, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. "Partnering with one of New Orleans most influential jazz bands is a great way to help elevate an up-and-coming artist in a city with an extensive musical heritage."