Music Reviews

Third Time’s the Charm with Sam Smith’s "Love Goes"

Sam Smith's artistry has always been most interesting when partnered with electronic soundscapes.

Sam Smith

On Sam Smith's third LP, Love Goes, the singer excels at exploring the LED glow and disco ball glitter of dance pop and electronica.

Although Sam Smith has made a name for themself in today's pop game as the chieftain of soulful, the multi-platinum singer-songwriter has best showcased their talent when their voice travels across enveloping, electronic soundscapes made for endless dancing rather than elegiac ruminating.
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New Releases

Billie Eilish Releases "No Time to Die" for New 007 Movie

The Grammy Award winner has added her name to the long list of artists to feature on Bond film soundtracks.

Billie Eilish is everywhere these days.

You can't turn on an awards show without seeing the 18-year-old clad in baggy designer clothes and sporting her signature thousand-mile stare. Now, her quiet, velvety voice will feature in the upcoming James Bond film No Time to Die. The new single shares its name with the film and begins the way many Eilish songs do: quietly and hauntingly. But, as is customary with the songs that prelude 007 films, the track soon builds into a multi-instrumental explosion of suspense. It's not as overtly produced as your average Eilish track, but it's decidedly stirring in its simplicity.

Eilish sings, "You were never on my side / Fool me once, fool me twice / Are you death or paradise? / Now you'll never see me cry / There's just no time to die." The dark theme of the song hints at the movie to come, which is sure to be full of surprises, given that it's supposedly Daniel Craig's last turn as the iconic secret agent.

The movie is scheduled to be released in April 2020.

www.youtube.com

CULTURE

"They" Is Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year, So Stop Being a Dick About It

This is a big deal for recognizing nonbinary folks.

"They" is Merriam-Webster's 2019 Word of the Year.

As a singular pronoun, "they" has exponentially risen in popularity over the last few years to refer to nonbinary people—folks who feel neither entirely male nor female. Other neutral pronouns like "ze" and "hir" can also be used, although "they/them" is most widely used among English-speaking communities.

Though so-called grammar purists have dismissed the use of the singular "they" on the basis of clarity, Merriam-Webster (as well as the Oxford English Dictionary) insists that it's totally OK. In September, Merriam-Webster officially added the singular "they," stating: "People have used singular 'they' to describe someone whose gender is unknown for a long time, but the nonbinary use of 'they' is relatively new."


According to Merriam-Webster, lookups for "they" increased by 313 percent in 2019 over the last year. Sure, everyone knows what "they" means in a pretty simple sense, but we still use dictionaries to look up different usages of words and how definitions change over time. A few events in the news this year likely spurred the sharp increase in lookups: Singer Sam Smith and Atypical star Brigette Lundy-Paine both announced they were using they/them pronouns. The American Psychological Association recommended that "writers should use the singular 'they' in two main cases: (a) when referring to a generic person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant to the context and (b) when referring to a specific, known person who uses 'they' as their pronoun." During a House Judiciary meeting in April, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal stated that her child is gender-nonconforming and uses they/them pronouns.

While there's still plenty of work left to do in recognizing and accepting trans and nonbinary folks, "they" being the Word of the Year is a huge start. Though recognizing gender identity outside of the male-female binary might seem a little odd to some—and our current administration continues to pretend like transgender people don't exist—it's crucial that they/them pronouns become normalized, and it's possible to adapt. If "they" can be one of Merriam-Webster's most looked-up words of the past 12 months, it appears that, thankfully, more and more people are getting on board.

Sam Smith has officially entered his 2.0 era.

Always a talented singer with a penchant for searing lyrics and earworm melodies, he's now added dance to his repertoire.

In the new video for "How Do You Sleep?" Smith shows off his new choreography skills, successfully leading a pack of professional dancers through a series of perfect tableaus and Fosse-like gyrations—all while effortlessly sporting sky-high heels.

Sam Smith - How Do You Sleep? (Official Video) www.youtube.com

The song itself is a package of mixed messages. At parts, it feels a little bit overly produced and synthetic, but in others, Smith's genuine emotion pierces through the gloss. In some ways, it's a traditional breakup song—but it also manages to be as empowering as any Lizzo tune, as liberating as the start of a road trip into the unknown. The first line, "I'm done hatin' myself for feelin'," reveals a newly self-aware Smith, no longer willing to be pushed around or minimized by a relationship or by anyone at all. "I've gotta leave and start healin'," he adds, an important message for anyone who's found themselves in an unhealthy relationship, or inhibited by societal expectations.

In March, Smith came out as non-binary and gender-queer. "Non-binary/genderqueer is that you do not identify in a gender. You are a mixture of all different things. You are your own special creation," Smith said. He's also been open about his longtime struggle with body image, so it's inspiring to see him so clearly embracing his body and his identity.

Overall, the video feels like a tribute to gender-queerness, to personal reinvention, and to letting go of anything that holds you back—be it a dishonest lover, pressures to look a certain way, or restrictive gender roles. Aesthetically, it's a triumphant, stylish tribute to Madonna, Mariah, and other great divas. To see Smith stepping into their (very high) heels is to see a person embracing newfound self-confidence, and it's a call for all of us to do the same.




MUSIC

Johnnyswim Shines Bright on New Album "Moonlight"

The duo perfects and reinvents their signature sound on their third studio album

The husband-and-wife duo, Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudaro, better known as their collective moniker, Johnnyswim, just released their third studio album Moonlight, and it is spellbinding.

The 12-song album is a result of writing and recording sessions that spanned much of 2018. Alongside Grammy Award-winning producer-songwriter, Malay (renowned for his work with Sam Smith and Frank Ocean), Johnnyswim provides a smooth and timeless blend of pop, indie, and folk, with subtle hints of R&B on this project. Moonlight marks the group's first release under Britannia Row Recordings/BMG, and longtime fans of the duo will hear just enough of the Johnnyswim they are familiar with while also discovering exciting new dimensions to their evolving sound.

In some ways, Moonlight sounds like the album that Johnnyswim has been aiming for since their 2014 full-length debut, Diamonds. A seamless blend of pulsating, upbeat pop-rock fun and dreamy, heart-on-sleeve ballads are exactly what fans have come to love and expect from the band. Moonlight revels in this characteristically cohesive juxtaposition of sounds but it also takes this sound a few steps further, branching out into some more sonically daring and complex territories than ever before. Part of this is almost certainly due to Malay's production and influence, which is audible on many of the songs. But another factor is that Ramirez and Sudaro have clearly matured as songwriters, providing a more nuanced, layered, and eclectically-influenced musicality to Moonlight that sets it apart from the rest of their discography.

If you've never heard Johnnyswim before, Moonlight will be the perfect introduction to the band. This album proves that careful, brave, and honest songwriting (along with some pristine production) is a surefire recipe for musical achievement.

Moonlight



Dustin DiPaulo is a writer and musician from Rochester, New York. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University and can most likely be found at a local concert, dive bar, or comedy club (if he's not getting lost somewhere in the woods).


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CULTURE

Body Positivity: Seven Celebrities Who Think You're Hot Just the Way You Are

Your cellulite is excellent, and these days not even Barbie has a thigh gap.

The age-old truism that media is designed to make you feel like shit about how you look is still mostly true in 2019.

At least now a growing number of celebrities use their social media influence to shame toxic messages. Body positivity is a well-intended movement designed to promote self-confidence. High-profile activists include supermodels who've been pigeonholed into "plus size" categories, as well as actors and fashion designers who publicize their own struggles trying to meet the Hollywood's unhealthy beauty standards.

GIPHY

With the core message of combating unrealistic beauty standards, the topic of body positivity is an active conversation on Instagram and Twitter, with both men and women calling for a "revolution" in media. These are seven of the most outspoken celebrities protesting the need to label body types and who promote self-acceptance.

7. Sam Smith

Sam Smith on Instagram: “In the past if I have ever done a photo shoot with so much as a t-shirt on, I have starved myself for weeks in advance and then picked and…”

Sam Smith recently shared his personal struggles with body image on Instagram, posting the first shirtless images of himself. "In the past, if I have ever done a photo shoot with so much as a t-shirt on, I have starved myself for weeks in advance and then picked and prodded at every picture and then normally taken the picture down," Smith wrote on Instagram. "Yesterday I decided to fight the f*ck back. Reclaim my body and stop trying to change this chest and these hips and these curves that my mum and dad made and love so unconditionally. Some may take this as narcissistic and showing off but if you knew how much courage it took to do this and the body trauma I have experienced as a kid you wouldn't think those things."

He also spoke to actress and activist Jameela Jamil about the pressures to fit male body standards and struggling to accept himself.

I Weigh Interviews: Ep 1: Sam Smith speaks to Jameela Jamil about body image and self acceptance. youtu.be

6. Amy Schumer

The controversial comedian has always made self-confidence and self-love the topic of her work. From her recent film I Feel Pretty to her ongoing sketch comedy show Inside Amy Schumer, her satire mocks the unrealistic body standards promoted by the media, as well as the self-hate it engenders in young women.

Inside Amy Schumer - New Body youtu.be

5. Demi Lovato

The 26-year-old pop singer has long been vocal about her own struggles with an eating disorder and the practice of fat-shaming on social media. Recently, she criticized a headline that focused on her weight. "Unlike in the past, I'm not triggered, I'm not upset that someone wrote a headline about my 'fuller figure,'" she posted on Instagram. "I'm angry that people think it's OK to write headlines about people's body shapes. Especially a woman who has been so open about being in recovery from an eating disorder. I'm not upset for myself but for anyone easily influenced by the diet culture."

She added, "Too many people today base their ideal body weight off of what OTHERS tell us we should look like or weigh. Articles like these only contribute to that toxic way of thinking," she wrote. "If you're reading this: Don't listen to negative diet culture talk. You are more than a number on a scale. And I am more than a headline about my body shape."

Instagram

Instagram

Instagram

4. Iskra Lawrence

"Beauty is not perfection," the 28-year-old model posted to Instagram. "It took me a long time to realise that. I want to see the texture of my skin, the folds, wrinkles, scars, tiger strips, celluLIT - all the things that make me me. Our skin is a journal of our lives, our expressions, a timeline of how we got to this point."

The English model has publicly criticized Victoria's Secret for their lack of size inclusivity. She's also been outspoken against labeling women as "plus size," particularly in response to the term being ascribed to her. She posted, "To me unretouched and raw images always make me feel more connected to the subject - I feel like I'm truly seeing them. I hope that you're feeling OK today even if you've been scrolling through airbrushed and perfected images, please remember the real you is best you can be and how God created you to be perfectly imperfect. Sending you all love in all ways❤️"

3. Chrissy Tiegan

The former Sports Illustrated model often shares candid photos of herself, including the realities of her post-pregnancy body. She posted "Mom bod alert" on Twitter with a proud, full view of her stretch marks.

She went on to explain, "Instagram is crazy. I think it's awesome people have killer bodies and are proud to show them off (I really do!!) but I know how hard it can be to forget what (for lack of a better word) regular ol' bodies look like when everyone looks bonkers amazing." Teigen continued, "Also I don't really call this 'body confidence' because I'm not quite there yet. I'm still super insecure. I'm just happy that I can make anyone else out there feel better about themselves!"

2. Jameela Jamil

The Good Place actress is extremely active in promoting body positivity and protesting toxic diet culture, including detailed takedowns of the Kardashians' promotional products targeting young women. She also runs a body positivity project called "I Weigh" that encourages people to judge their worth based on something other than a number on a scale.

She's also been frank about criticisms of her own changing shape. "Now that I'm slimmer, people are listening to the same thing I've been saying for six f*cking years, and that's the biggest problem," Jamil said. "When a bigger woman speaks out against the way society, the industry, the media and everyone around us shames us, you call them 'jealous' and 'bitter,' and you victim-blame them and make them feel like they're a failure. But suddenly a slender actress on an NBC sitcom says it and everyone acts like it's the first time anyone has ever heard it."

1. Ashley Graham

Initially labeled as a "plus-size" supermodel, Graham has become an author, motivational speaker, and fashion designer to promote body positivity. When Mattel honored her by designing a Barbie in Graham's image, she demanded that the doll didn't have a thigh gap. From her Instagram account to her TED talk, she insists on normalizing body rolls, cellulite, and other perceived imperfections as elements of natural beauty.

Instagram

Plus-size? More Like My Size | Ashley Graham | TEDxBerkleeValencia youtu.be



Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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