Culture Feature

Are Disney World And Universal Orlando Doing Enough To Keep Visitors Safe?

Is it possible to keep a theme park clean and safe during a pandemic?

Back in October, California governor Gavin Newsom announced a plan for reopening theme parks in the state.

After months of lobbying for reopening from both Disney and Universal as the state sought to limit the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the plan was not received well, with representatives from both companies balking at measures they saw as overly restrictive. Then — after huge spikes in COVID numbers — Disneyland was converted into a vaccine distribution site in January...

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New Releases

Matt Lovell Releases “Alligator Lilly,” a Sultry Ode to Beaches and Youth

Matt Lovell's enchanting new video takes inspiration from Wes Anderson and the days of youth.

Nicole Poulos (via Sideways Media)

Need some escapism? With his magnificent new video, Matt Lovell has you covered.

"Alligator Lilly" is the second single from Lovell's forthcoming LP, Nobody Cries Today. Inspired by Wes Anderson films and the ominous allure of Florida beaches, it's full of eye-candy visuals and striking, hypnotic imagery. The video begins with Lovell alone, walking on a beach next to a glittering sea. Slowly, he begins to shine like the ocean waves, donning a diamond-colored outfit and eventually (with the help of some digital enhancement) his body becomes the diamonds themselves. It's a celebration of beach living, of solitude and creativity and communion with nature's beauty.

Matt Lovell - Alligator Lilly (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

Sonically, the arrangement is soulful and simple but laden with teasing moments of dreamy synths that briefly open up the track to a more psychedelic plane. Thematically, the song explores the dichotomy between innocence and danger that defines so much of youth. "Someone once told me that they couldn't tell if this song was really innocent or really risqué. And that's exactly what 'Alligator' has been from the moment we sat down to write it," Lovell said.

He wrote the song with two friends, Mandy Cook and Tim Jackson, when they were living near the Gulf of Mexico in Florida's panhandle. "One day we were driving along the coast and passed a lake covered in lily pads—so many of them that you could hardly see the water," he said. "When we noticed the lake was called Alligator Lake, we laughed about what a strange juxtaposition of danger and beauty this was. I started singing the opening lines 'Alligator Lilly, twinkle in your eye, tide is rolling in pulled by the moon up in the sky.' Mandy gasped and we were like two kids in that moment." They drove back to their friend Tim's house and told him they wanted to write a "silly song about lost virginity."

The product was a joyful and exuberant single, a celebration of seduction and freedom, both spiritual and physical. In the days of social distancing, it feels like a time capsule of a former era, when we could just touch each other without risk—a time that will certainly come again, but that seems far away. "To me, it's actually a song about innocent fun. In that era of our lives, Mandy and I lived like two Peter Pans," Lovell remembered. "I'll certainly always look back on this period of several months and remember it as one of the brightest in my life. We had quit our jobs, left our apartments, said goodbye (for then) to boyfriends, and there we were. We woke up every day, walked on the beach, and wrote and recorded with our dear friend Tim every morning. Most days we would finish this whole routine by lunchtime, and spend our afternoons in local thrift stores or at one of our favorite tourist trap restaurants (there is no shame in a little kitsch). When I listen to 'Alligator Lilly,' I can hear all of that. Every bit of innocence, all the love, the unbridled sunshine, and zest for life that the three of us possessed in those days."

Nobody Cries Today Album Art - Matt Lovell

Many of us have moments of our lives that pass by quickly when they're happening but take on something like a religious significance in hindsight's glow. Those moments where we experienced total freedom, where we had nothing holding us back and where time seemed like an illusion and youth felt eternal—those are the kinds of moments that "Alligator Lilly" lovingly remembers, celebrates, and invites back in.

The journey to this heavenly place wasn't quite as smooth as the video implies, and Lovell's experience writing his album Nobody Cries Today was a long and winding road. "In a way, Nobody Cries Today has actually been my teacher. As I have written these songs, each of them has been like a tiny rowboat to get me from one day to the next," he said. "These songs have witnessed me in the years that I was in the throes of trying to find acceptance for myself and for the world I'm living in. As a gay man of southern origin, this proved to be a tall order."

The songs have taken on deeper significance over the past few years. They were almost all written before Lovell's life changed forever when he was shot and nearly lost his life. "All but one of these songs were recorded in 2016—just months before I nearly lost my life in a shooting. On January 20, 2017, I was shot in the chest by a sixteen-year-old who was attempting to steal my car. Miraculously, I lived," he said.

"This moment in my life created my new center of gravity and re-ordered my whole view and understanding of everything I've experienced in this lifetime," he said of the near-death experience. "Many people who experience an acute trauma go through somewhat of a euphoric period immediately after the incident occurs, and this was definitely my experience. Call it a spiritual awakening, or the result of adrenaline and endorphins gone wild, or even just the natural result of a near-death story with a happy ending. Whatever it was, this event threw me into a span of six months where it felt as if I was on a honeymoon with myself. The level of peace I felt was something I had never touched before. I wrote profusely, I gardened, I brought new life and vigor to my musical ventures, and I made peace with complicated friendships. More than anything, I found a level of great self-acceptance, and this created space for me to begin to learn how to live this life."

Things grew more complex as time wore on. "This era ended abruptly when PTSD showed up unexpectedly one day—about six months after I was shot. It was—no doubt—the most difficult time I've ever faced," he said. "It made me question just about everything. For months, my entire consciousness felt as if it had been turned upside down, and I couldn't find a way to articulate the horrors I was experiencing. This kind of trauma is a knot you can only untangle with slow and patient work, and with the help of saints. Thankfully, I know a lot of saints," he said. Fortunately, "I'm now on the other side of that long nighttime," he said, "and I'm so excited to sing these nine songs again—for anyone who will listen. Nobody Cries Today contains every bit of earnestness, desire, and love that I have to give. These are songs that have brought me so much joy and healing over the years."

Nobody Cries Today is out on June 5th. The first single, "90 Proof," is a more solemn contribution than "Alligator Lilly." Whereas the latter is a light, effervescent montage of memories, "90 Proof" is a more soul-influenced breakup tune. Still, both are defined by Lovell's sensitive musicality, his effortlessly gentle voice and his ability to transmute feeling into song—all star-making qualities that offer necessary healing for these times.

Matt Lovell - 90 Proof (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

Follow Matt on his website, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

MUSIC

99 Goonsquad & Penelope Robin Electrify on "4 Leaf Clover"

Suave electro-pop performed by an 11-year-old star.

Penelope Robin

Press Photo

South Florida DJs and music producers 99 Goonsquad join forces with 11-year-old singer-songwriter Penelope Robin for their new single and music video, "4 Leaf Clover."

Identical twins, Julian and Jovani Jara, began creating original music and remixes stretching across an array of genres, including house, hip-hop, Latin, and electronica. Vastly popular on YouTube, Tik Tok, Instagram, and Younow, the duo has worked with MTV and Universal Studios under their moniker, 99 Goonsquad.

Although she's young, Penelope has been showcasing her acting and singing talents since she was 5 years old. After releasing a series of successful singles—"Little Bitty Heart," "You're Mine," and "Some Girls"—now Penelope is laying down tracks for her debut album.

"4 Leaf Clover" opens on swirling synths and a pulsing rhythm that flows into a layered electro-pop melody. Penelope's crystalline voice infuses the song with youthful energy. The music video supplements the polished harmonies with glitzy visuals full of special effects, classy attire, and suavely presentations of charisma and debonair attitude.

Follow 99 Goonsquad Website | Instagram | Twitter

Follow Penelope Robin Website | Instagram | Facebook

Junkee

Everything is cyclical, and that includes the relevance of our favorite rappers.

While headlines as of late have been centered on the legal drama of Tekashi 6ix9ine, the budding rap beef between Tory Lanez and everybody, and the birth of XXXTENTACION's son, it's important to remember that those who used to steal our hearts in the early 2000s are still very much alive. Even more so, a handful of these artists are all gaining traction right now, hinting at a possible future where Millennial and Gen Z rappers can co-exist in harmony. Here are few rappers that you forgot existed but are still hanging around.

"Spendin'" by ILoveMakonnen featuring Gucci Mane

"I'm winning, I'm winning," Canada's ILoveMakonnen sings on the track's opening hook. Sure, the awkward singer/mumble rapper has released multiple projects since his breakout single "Tuesday" took over radio in 2014, but to say he's been "winning" feels like a stretch. I mean, does anyone even remember anything about that song besides Drake's verse? "Spendin' is a fun song you can play anywhere," the former ILoveMakonnen said of the new track. "It's about spending money on things you love and spending time with people who hate you. People always like to hate when you're spending." Alrighty, then.

ILoveMakonnen - "Spendin" ft. Gucci Mane (Official Lyric Video) www.youtube.com

"Cut Dat Check" by Soulja Boy

Somehow, the "Crank Dat" MC has skyrocketed back into the mainstream. After his insanely quotable Breakfast Club interview a few weeks ago, Young Draco capitalized on his newfound relevance, pushing out his latest single "Cut Dat Check." The track itself is stale and dispassionate, but it's refreshing to see a celebrity make headlines for goofy antics rather than drama. While he may be forever known to the younger generation as a walking meme, it's safe to say Soulja Boy's return has provoked nostalgia in Millennials everywhere.

Cut Dat Check www.youtube.com

"Getcha Roll On" by T-Pain featuring Tory Lanez

While the King of Autotune has released plenty of projects in the last few years, the Tallahassee MC's latest club-ready track is the catchiest single we've seen from him since his iconic "Buy U A Drank" days. Tory Lanez's tight guest feature is sure to help solidify a radio feature for the track; but regardless, it's nice to just see Faheem back in circulation after being overshadowed by other autotuned rappers for so many years.

T-Pain - Getcha Roll On ft. Tory Lanez (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

"Fix Your Face" by The Ying Yang Twins

Between the monumental success of "Get Low" and the residual pop culture relevance of "Hey Mama (The Whisper Song)," the Ying Yang Twins remain one of the most prolific rap duos of the early 2000s. The duo's latest outing, "Fix Your Face," is more of a hard-hitting Trap record than what the group is known for; but as 2019 kicks off. it's exciting to see Kaine and D-Roc back at it again.

Ying Yang Twins x Odd Squad Family - Fix Your Face (Prod. by AKT Aktion) www.youtube.com


Mackenzie Cummings-Grady is a creative writer who resides in the Brooklyn area. Mackenzie's work has previously appeared in The Boston Globe, Billboard, and Metropolis Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @mjcummingsgrady.


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Interviews

PREMIERE | Between Giants Zooms Off to 'Jupiter' with Debut Album

The Florida Singer-Songwriter Shoots for the Stars with His First Full Length Album.

Between Giants

The indie-pop guy unpacks remarkable beauty in heartbreak.

The galaxy of stars and planetary orbs plays a remarkable role in our everyday lives. Without the moon, we wouldn't have tides and life might not be nearly as thriving, and we'd likely be on a collision course to doom as we speak. But that's all conjecture. What we do know is the starry beings looming over our heads have had an indelible impact on our very way of life for millions of years. From the four seasons and other such naturally-occurring events as hurricanes, tornadoes, and thunderstorms, we are bound by the intangible, which runs in our blood and affects our every movement, mood and encounter, even romantic and heart-struck entanglements.

Tyler John, a singer-songwriter currently out of Florida, maps out a storyboard, on a rather minuscule scale, comparatively. His debut album, the appropriately-named Jupiter, whooshes with spacey synths of the 1980s and zips across a blanket of stars, crashing full-steam into the Milky Way and getting lost in creamy, gaseous matter. Going by Between Giants onstage, John seeks to replenish his chest with greater understanding, turning to his songwriting as a way to reassess his youth, relationships and the big-body of Jupiter itself.

Tyler John

"I lived in Jupiter, Florida as a kid for one year, and since the album was written and inspired here, I thought that was a nice homage for this body of work," John explains of the album, premiering today. "It worked well with the celestial concept, though, because one thing I always loved about the planet Jupiter was that it creates its own auroras. I'm big into astronomy. It is the only planet to do so, and it literally creates light out of nothing. I love that, because at its core, that's what music is. Taking inspiration from whatever form it takes and translating it into a song."

Jupiter pushes and pulls with various synth-pop tones, from the EDM-lite of "Every Night" (featuring Violet Hart) to the hip-hop-looped whirl of "Lie to Me" to the ethereal, stinging, neon-busted glow of "Nevermind," which sees John linking up once again with former bandmate Brett Cameron (of Kalimur). Cameron not only lends his piercing vocal to the latter track but also produces it. While John wrote and produced the majority of the album solo, he enlisted Au Chyld to lay the production in meaty layers for "Cautious," bubbling and thick and warm.

On putting together his debut solo record, he tells Popdust it was born out of similarly-crafted songs that were drawn together on their own. "I eventually found an overlap in a lot of the material I was working on. Extreme cross over in the words and message and instrumentation that I knew had to be a full body of work in order to really shine. I knew from the first single 'You' that dropped last fall what I wanted this record to be."

Jupiter erupts in posh grandeur, smokey-eyed and nurtured and precisely angled. Between Giants is a craftsman of the highest order, and even as an independent musician, his offering is carved and creased with shadowy but reflective insight. Below, John discusses the recording process, several essential cuts and relationships.

Listen to Jupiter ahead of its August 1 streetdate:

What led you to finally writing and recording your debut album? Did it come out of a necessity? Or were you examining things in your life?

I am always writing. That never stops ⎯⎯ it is an outlet for me, so pretty much everything I experience gets translated into some kind of composition. So I have all these songs constantly flowing out, but if I was going to do a record I wanted it to be a piece of work. A soundtrack to a period in my life, or a certain experience or feeling. Cohesive you know? And with this, I found a lot of inspiration from relationships during some of the biggest formative years in my life in a new town and it just felt right putting them together in the same coalescence.

"Colors of Your Mood" is a definite standout, drenched in classically-80s synths and a dance-floor grind. What's the backstory? Did it take time to get the production just right?

This all came from one sentence. A girl said to me, “You don't want me like you think you do." I couldn't find a way to answer that in the moment, so this song was my way of doing so. How I make it all right I guess. Sort of like when you realize all the great things you could've said in your argument from earlier in the day?! I used this song to articulate how I was feeling, that I wanted her and every part that comes with it. Every mood swing, every cold fall night, every impulsive move. I wanted it all. The production was extremely tricky ⎯⎯ I wanted it to incorporate that feel-good 80s electro pop sound without slipping into inauthenticity. The guitar on the track was extremely difficult to record and mix how I wanted it to sound also, it was a lot of work so I am very happy that everyone is loving it.

Earlier this year, you said "Every Night" mirrored the impulsive effects of Florida weather. Were you finding inspiration from other elements or left-of-center sources throughout this album making process?

Definitely. I always carry a notebook with me, and write throughout the day. Sometimes it will be single words or just random incoherent sentences that come from – well wherever they come. Most of the time it's nonsense, but sometimes there are gems. "Every Night" I wanted to be almost jarring in the production, and that stemmed from a major storm that was only happening on half of my house during the recording. Florida is crazy that way. The 'Lie to Me' melody was written as a joke that I sang to my friend over a Snapchat telling her I didn't want to go to the gym. A line that started '5091' was from a conversation I overheard in a supermarket between a couple. Inspiration is everywhere, you just have to go find it!

"Lie to Me" has a sort of spacey, starry-eyed rhythm to it ⎯⎯ from the snaps to the tinkling of synths. You have a hip-hop/spoken word breakdown in the second half. How did that come to be?

I struggled on the bridge for a long time – I could never get it to sound the way I wanted. It was the first song from this cycle that I recorded and was the last to get finished. At one point I realized I never liked the melodies that I was writing for the bridge because it didn't feel like it belonged. The track opens with a phone conversation based on one that I had in real life, so if I had the chance to reply now – what would I say? Once I wrote my response and it took the form of an actual conversation, the song felt complete. And I realized that is why I was never satisfied before that point.

Now, the piano version is quite stunning, a nice contrast to the fully-produced, hip-hop-bred recording. Did you begin writing this song originally on piano?

Yes! "Lie To Me" was originally going to be a ballad, but the song has this theme of a beautifully crafted landscape of lies disguising a crumbling relationship. I felt like that was something that needed to be reflected in the production more. When I added the automated digital synth creating a sort of modern-era type romance within the instrumentation I knew where the song needed to go.

Why not leave it as such a stripped down composition for the final product?

While I love the final version of "Lie to Me," it strayed far from its origin. I tend to get lost in production, and created a piece of art that is almost unrecognizable from where it started. I love both versions, but felt that they were so distinctively separate that each needed to be treated as their own song.

Tyler John

Why include that particular live performance on the album?

This fall, I move up to New York City to pursue my music, and this marked my last performance in Florida. I have lived here two years now, and the experiences I had shaped me into a better version of myself and wrote this album. I figured it was only appropriate that my final show here made the record and showcased 'Lie to Me' in its original form.

Do these two versions fulfill different emotional needs for you?

Not so much ⎯⎯ I think that they just convey different messages. Emotionally both feel just as genuine and expressive but just are different perspectives.

With "Nevermind," you're working with your former band Kalimur. Why did it make sense to reconnect on a song? Do you see it as a sort of bridge from your past to the present and future?

Definitely. My experience with Brett Cameron the lead singer of the band shaped me into the artist I am today. The journey filled me with the confidence to start this project and share my art, so it made sense that my first major release incorporated such a big influencer. And also Brett is a national treasure – any opportunity to work with him is one that I will take.

On "The Reason," you actually mention your "axis is off-kilter." How did that relationship send you into a spiral?

This definitely stemmed from the cosmic mood I was in when creating the album aesthetic – and the relationship was one of those things that just made me question myself. We as people are always craving balance and things that keep us centered, but this girl had the power to change my ideals and life ambitions just for another moment with her. The fact that I was able to act these ways, in almost raw desperation for her, made me rethink who I was and what I really wanted in life. A lot of self reflection came after this. But, you know, I'm not too bitter about it. Just kidding, screw her.

Did this album process make you really examine your life?

Definitely. Some of these concepts covered in the songs aren't written in the moment per se, so it is always interesting approaching music and ideas that you wrote in a different headspace. This made me actually quantify my sources of inspiration and realize just how much certain things affected me.

"You" is another instantly unforgettable moment. Is this the same relationship you've sung about on much of the album?

This one is about a different girl actually, but I loved the common trend between this and 'Colors,' of me chasing women who don't want anything meaningful and me attempting to convince them why it would be great.

Tyler John

Follow Between Giants on Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


Jason Scott is a freelance music journalist with bylines in B-Sides & Badlands, Billboard, PopCrush, Ladygunn, Greatist, AXS, Uproxx, Paste and many others. Follow him on Twitter.


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Popdust Presents | ANTONIO RAMSEY talks music, food, and funk

EXCLUSIVE | ANTONIO RAMSEY is bringing Trap Funk to New York and a screen near you

Photo: Courtesy of Antonio Ramsey

"Then of course the Hennessy and cranberry kicked in, giving us the melody "Imma give that girl this d***" and from there the song just fell into place"-Antonio Ramsey

I started to add a "Muthf--ing" as his middle name because it seemed appropriate, but I'm a lady 93% of the time. Last night, PopDust had Antonio Ramsey in our studios for PopDust Presents . When I read he was originally from Florida, I was excited. Southern gentlemen are some of my favorite people on earth. They are naturally charismatic, mannerable, and walk around with this air that screams protector of women. That may seem like it has nothing to do with music, but those characteristics dance onto a record through sexual metaphors, buttery smooth vocal richness, and a playful flirtation that can be hears on the track. That southern flair with the infusion of his new home, LA, is woven throughout his newest single, "All Night Long". In fact, Antonio, like most songwriters, feeds off life experiences to give his music soul, "I grew up listening to icons like James Brown, Stevie Wonder & Jodeci! So me being able to put pieces of my life together to create #FunkTrap music is a journey that I look forward to".

"ALL NIGHT LONG" is the new single from male vocalist and songwriter ANTONIO RAMSEY. The #funktrap single was written by Antonio Ramsey and Kareem James and produced by Brandon "Monstaa" Brown.Photo Courtesy of Antonio Ramsey

Let's play a game. Quick, throw out the first musical act you think of when you hear "funk". Did you think Bootsy, James Brown, Parliament, even Prince. Now, throw out the first names you associate with trap music? Did you yell out Jeezy, T.I., Goodie Mob, or UGK. Now imagine the two together. You made the "ewww" face right? Same. Separately, they sound amazing, but "It's a man's world, soul survivor" by James "The Snowman" Brown just doesn't sound eargasmic (actually, DJ's can you try blending and cutting these two songs? It may not be that bad). Then I heard Antonio's music.

Guitar. It's the instrument I love to hear and hate to play. Sexy and strong, electrifying and relaxing all in one, it's also the prominent instrument on the track next to Ramsey's voice. Reminiscent of 70's and 80's funk, you can almost see the notes percolating in front of you as they are played. This is where the funk comes in, and the heavy James Brown influence of the artist. "As soon as I heard the guitar riff that plays the record in, it just felt sexy with that classic throwback-feel to it," mentions Antonio. As much as this song brings the funk, it also has another of Antonio's influences all throughout the tone of the lyrics. Jodeci, the New Jack into 90's era R&B group that made sex sound like something fun and dangerously forbidden at the same time. JoJo, you can take a break now, Antonio is ready to pick up where your bare chest, leather jackets, and sunglasses left off, and while he keeps his shirt on, guns are out. After listening to "All Night" the entire time I wrote this article, I have the refrain "All night long she follow me/Tell her come get this/she follow me". Not a bad theme to have in your head on a lusty 80 degree day.

Also not a bad day to make your mark on NY. Tonight, May 17, 2017, Antonio will be at the legendary Sol Village at SOB's. While it is the same stage that boasts legends and legends in the making (Erykah Badu, Luke James, Common, Emily King, Musiq), Antonio plans on giving tonight's audience the full "Funk Trap" experience. Hear antonio talk about he best spots in Miami for seafood, his new LA inspired love for Koren BBQ (watch him explain the pork selection-iconic!), his mom, and how straightforward he is in dating, below.