When she stepped onto the American Idol stage in 2012, Jessica Sanchez commanded the audience with her soaring vocal, delightful personality and her emotionally-charged delivery. Following her impressive run (which includes such standout performances as Celine Dion & Andrea Bocelli's The Prayer and Jennifer Holliday's And I'm Tell You I'm Not Going), she dropped her urban-flavored debut full player Me, You + The Music. Despite early buzz surrounding the release, the powerhouse found little industry traction and was later dropped from Interscope Records. Now, she shakes off the dust and has recently signed a lucrative talent deal with Endemol Beyond USA to create video content as a snapshot into her personal and professional life. The company, known for creating vast digital properties, also works closely with Pitbull (behind the Gentleman’s Code and The Most Bad Ones imprints) and YouTube sensation Michelle Phan (who recently assisted in the launch of the ICON Network). "I’m really excited to be with them, because I’m posting more videos (of covers). There will be more content of me. Fans will get to know me more that way and what I do, other than music. It’s going to be fun and creative," Sanchez shares with Popdust in an exclusive interview, about the pivotal role the partnership will serve.
"I’ve never done anything like this before. I used to be on YouTube a long time ago before ‘American Idol’ when I was 10 years old," she says. "I did covers before, but now, the videos will be more about me doing crazy things and working with other YouTubers and my friends. My fans will become a part of my life."
Admittedly, Sanchez has been a huge supporter of Pham's content from the start. "I don’t watch a lot of YouTube. I’m usually playing video games or doing my own thing. I have watched a lot of Michelle Pham, even way back when she first started," she says. "I used to watch all of her stuff and try to do my makeup like her when I was 13. I could never follow it then, but now I can."
But the big question on fans' minds has been: when will she release a new record? Don't worry, things are coming along nicely. "I just came out with a single ‘This Love’ and a music video [watch here]. It’s similar with the YouTube stuff, too. When we did the video, we recorded it with GoPro. It wasn’t very professional; it was ‘let’s go make this simple and seem like fans are on a date with me.’ I did some crazy stuff in that video, like roller skating (and I can’t roller skate)," she quips, noting that she has a different approach this time around. "I want to take [my music] back. When I was on ‘American Idol’ and when my first album came out, the music was very mature. I feel like I was unapproachable. I want to tone it down a couple notches and show everybody I’m a regular teenage girl that does regular things."
On the album's progression (so far) she shares:
At the moment, I’m going in with different producers and singing on different demos and figuring out the sound. I’m definitely working hard.
She quickly adds that the project may or may not be released independently. She explains, "I do not know [how it will be released yet]. Right now, I’m not with a label. There’s some big plans in the future. Hopefully, later on, I’ll have a label." Needless to say, she teases she has been approached by some record execs. "It’s just kind of on the down low right now. I’ve been in contact with some different people. I’m very excited to announce things when the time is right."
And no, she doesn't have a time frame for the new batch of songs. "I’m not very sure of anything. I’m taking my time and experimenting. Once I do have a set date [for the album], I will announce that immediately on Twitter," she laughs.
Digging into the music a bit more, she ponders how the past few years have influenced her new aspirations. "I guess I could say my first album taught me a lot. When I was working on it, I was traveling a lot. I was on tour. It was back and forth into the studio. I didn’t really get a lot of time for that one. Now, I want it to be more about what I love and what I listen to, which is more R&B, pop and urban kind of stuff."
On developing her songwriting skill set:
"I actually have been in with a couple writers. I’m not very good at writing, but I do sit down with them and observe. A lot of the times, I tell them what’s going on in my life, whether it’s family or friends backstabbing me or just boys, they take those stories and write about them. It’s pretty awesome that way, too, because I’m not a good writer. I can tell them the stories, and they can turn it into a masterpiece."
As far as creative influences for the new record, she says she's been listening to "a lot of hip-hop and dance and R&B. A girl I just found out about not too long ago is named Kalani. Her music is awesome; it’s more the route I want to go. It’s like Miguel but the girl version. I love her. I feel like my voice is more soulful. The whole pop thing is really cool, but I think I’m more of a rhythmic artist. I love my Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. I hope my music is influenced by that."
Looking back at her debut Me, You + The Music (featuring a Ne-Yo collaboration on Tonight), she says there is one song she still loves to perform live. "I just performed in San Francisco for Pride Week, and I did ‘Right to Fall.’ I absolutely love that song. Hands down. I love the message and the beat. It was written by Ester Dean, too. Amazing."
But as a whole, she concedes that "I don’t think I had a lot of me in [that album]. It wasn’t very authentic to me. I still love the music, though. If I could release the songs now, there are a couple I would definitely do again, like ‘Right to Fall’ and ‘You Got the Love.’ Now, I want to make the new record 100 percent me and bring that kind of genre back and mix it with some soul."
Of course, with American Idol shuttering next year, Sanchez recalls her time on the show and the lessons she learned. "It’s kind of sad [it's ending]. When I tried out, I was only 15. Now, I’m going to be 20 this year. It feels like home to me, every time I go to a finale. I even go to check out the live shows. It always hits me like ‘oh my gosh, this experience again!’ While I was going through it, it was like an ‘Idol’ bubble. But I learned a lot. I have no regrets. When I sang a song and got critiques, I really don’t take anything back. Everything happens for a reason. I’m happy to be where I am, and I do have a lot more to learn. I’m content right now."
The future, though, is looking brighter than ever. For fans itching for news, she says to make sure you keep your eyes peeled on her YouTube channel. "All I can say is subscribe to my YouTube channel. There’s going to be a lot of videos coming on there about what I’m doing at home or behind-the-music or at events. It’s going to be very raw and getting to know me," she teases of upcoming projects.
Check out some up-close and personal magazine shoot footage below:
[PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Davis/Getty]
It was an inside job.
TW: This article contains references to sexual assault and abuse.
Let's get one thing straight: Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself.
According to official reports helmed by top medical examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson, Epstein hanged himself in his cell—but later medical reports suggested that his injuries resembled those of a homicide more than a suicide. When Epstein died, he had been removed from suicide watch, left alone and not checked on for hours because the two guards assigned to watch him were "sleeping," and, conveniently, the cameras outside his cell "malfunctioned." Recently, a former Navy SEAL went on Fox News and blurted out, "Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself."
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Porn videos games and video game themed porn are suddenly on the rise.
One of the biggest things that sets Millenials and Gen Z apart from previous generations is their relationship with technology, a common critique being that video games have replaced real life for many young people, particularly young men.
It's true that many 20-and-30-somethings began playing video games when their brains were still malleable.This was before psychologists began raising concerns about the effect it may have on the brain, concerns that are now backed by a mountain of evidence. Frequent video game playing has been connected to a myriad of issues, including decreased life satisfaction, loneliness, decreased social competence, poorer academic achievement, increased impulsivity, increased aggression, and increased depression and anxiety.
These concerns have only been further highlighted in cultural conversation by the sheer number of people who play video games: 67% of Americans, to be exact, a number that has grown exponentially in recent years. Perhaps even more startling, according to Pew Research Center, 72% of men younger than 30 report playing games often. Scariest of all, Douglas Gentile, a psychologist who's been studying the effect of video games on the brain for decades, estimates that roughly 8.5% percent of young people who play video games in the United States are addicted — not including the number of people who are inevitably underreporting how much time they spend playing.
There's also plenty of evidence that video games can be a positive thing for brain development. According to Psychology Today, playing video games can help children develop "perception, attention, memory, and decision-making," as well as "logical, literary, executive, and even social skills."
But regardless of what side of the evidence you choose to believe, there's a new factor to consider in the conversation about video games' psychological effects: their relationship to porn. Most notably, according to a study by Laura Stockdale and Sarah M.Coyneif, playing an excessive amount of video games greatly raises your chances of becoming addicted to porn, and, likely, vice versa. This is because both sources of stimulus, primarily visual and aural, affect the same pleasure center in the brain, specifically the ventral striatum which helps elicit the good feelings you get when you do something good, can be done in the same environment (alone, in a technologically connected room), and are both sources of immediate satisfaction and escapism.
Prominent Stanford University psychologist, Phillip Zimbardo, conducted an in-depth study into 20,000 young men's relationships with video games and pornography. He said of the experiment: "Our focus is on young men who play video games to excess, and do it in social isolation - they are alone in their room. Now, with freely available pornography, which is unique in history, they are combining playing video games, and as a break, watching on average, two hours of pornography a week." He goes on to say, "It begins to change brain function. It begins to change the reward centre of the brain and produces a kind of excitement and addiction. Young men -- who play video games and use porn the most -- are being digitally rewired in a totally new way that demands constant stimulation. And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety."
As these commingled addictions develop, they soon (similarly to drug addictions) require greater and greater degrees of stimulation to get that same chemical release. But since these two addictions seem to affect similar demographics and often coincide with one another disproportionately, there's something that sets them apart from other forms of addiction. According to Zimbardo, porn and video game addictions are "arousal addictions," which differ from drug and gambling addictions in that the attraction is in "the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content." So while drug addicts need increasing amounts of a substance to get high, they still crave the same substance over and over, while arousal addicts need an increasing intensity and variety of stimuli, as well as more and more.
This leads to a desire for increasingly intense stimuli, leading addicts to more violent and bizarre video games and porn in pursuit of novelty. Fascinatingly, and perhaps disturbingly, while these addictions are interwoven, they used to require separate stimuli to satiate — but even that's changing. In an inevitable progression, the two addictions have begun to seamlessly merge in the form of pornographic video games and video game-themed porn, allowing an addict to satiate both needs simultaneously, setting off a veritable fireworks display of dopamine responses — at least until the viewer becomes desensitized. For example, Fortnite-inspired porn is apparently so widely consumed that "Fortnite" was one of the top 20 most-searched terms on Pornhub in 2018, and in 2016, when Overwatch rose to popularity, searches for Overwatch porn jumped by 817% in a matter of months.
Perhaps even more distressing is the advent of porn video games, where players take an active role in the plot of the explicit content they're viewing, perfectly intermingling the already connected addictions. While some of these games show consensual sexual intercourse, many do not. For example, RapeLay, produced in Japan, is a game where a player plays as a disembodied penis to simulate rape of a woman and her child daughters over and over again. There was a massive outcry against the game when it was released, ultimately causing Amazon to stop selling it — but not before millions and millions of people purchased the game.
As an article on the topic in Men's Health points out, this trend of combining two similar and symbiotic addictions is understandable as video games already often feature hyper-sexualized characters, porn is being watched more and more on video game consoles, and animated porn allows for a level of fantasy live-action porn can't reach. If your brain is lighting up in a similar way when you play video games and when you watch porn, of course you'll begin associating the two. Throw in the feeling of power that comes with having control over the results of the stimuli, as a player does in porn video games, and you have a perfect chemical spider web, one that ensnares young men in an endless and isolating cycle of escape.
There are legitimate physical issues that can result from addictions of this kind. There's evidence that it can lead to debilitating sexual dysfunction in young men, called porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED), a term coined by Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, an associate clinical professor of urology at Harvard Medical School — an affliction that can get worse as a video game addiction feeds off a porn addiction in a vicious cycle of dopamine release. Many doctors are reporting that more young men than ever before are coming to them with ED, and they think the cause is, at least in part, because of this rise in virtual escapism in young men. "I have absolutely seen a pretty drastic increase in ED rates among young men, especially in the last two, three years," says sex therapist Vanessa Marin. "My average client base is starting to get younger and younger."
Even more troublingly, Zimbardo concludes that the effects go even deeper, and that this toxic combination creates a "generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment." Of course, this estimation doesn't take into account countless other factors at play in the lives of young men, not to mention the risk that comes with shaming people for sexual exploration. As Dr. Marin goes on to say, "We're not having any conversations about what are healthy ways to engage in porn. So no one has a general sense of what's healthy and unhealthy when it comes to porn. And of course it's not black and white either, but I do see a lot of younger men engaging in porn in ways that aren't healthy, in ways that make it more difficult for them to connect with partners and make it more difficult to engage in their own healthy sexuality."
Perhaps the same can be said of video games, that are treated dismissively by parents, as a quirk of young men that should be, for the most part, discouraged until outgrown. Perhaps, the culturally polarized narrative surrounding video games and porn is part of the problem, and the conversation we need to be having is how young men can indulge in video games and explore their sexuality, without the shame that can often foster addiction — and without letting it consume their lives.
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