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Video by Jordan Edwards

Dylan Conrique didn’t want to release “Birthday Cake.” She thought the track, written for her best friend who had lost her mother to cancer, was too personal and specific. But her friend insisted that the world needed to hear it.

The song has helped gain Conrique a worldwide audience and touched millions of lives along the way. Sure, it’s sad; but it’s also about perseverance and getting the most out of life.

Beyond music, she is an actress best known for her role as Tamara Colins on ABC’s The Rookie. Hollywood's post-pandemic world of self tapes and Zoom auditions have allowed her to balance both sides of her career.

We sat down with Conrique to talk about the success of “Birthday Cake” and how she maintains a normal teenage life.

Get to Know Dylan Conrique | Popdust Presents www.youtube.com

CULTURE

Pete Davidson, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian’s Bed

Kim K’s bed is the star of the latest bout of drama … we just wonder what bedding she uses

How could he be so bold?

That’s what I keep asking myself when I think about Pete Davidson. That is the question. How could Pete — fresh off the heels of Kanye West’s most recent social media rampage — spark another yet another one?

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Photos and Interview by Jordan Edwards

Over the past few years, Sorana has built an impressive songwriting career, with credits including The Chainsmokers, Bebe Rexha, and Charli XCX. Now she's focusing on her own music. Her debut single (and David Guetta collab) redruM, landed in January. Now we get her first solo single, "Karoake." An epic heartbreaker ready for arenas, the track explores the idea of singing karaoke to get over a breakup.

We talked to Sorana about the song and its stunning video, and what it's been like to start her solo career.

“Karaoke” is sad but empowering. I can imagine the crowd singing it back to you. How did you find the right sound and vibe for this track?
The story of "Karaoke" is very personal to me. I used to go to an old wooden Karaoke bar every night and sing with my friends. I sang for my heartbreak, which I find very powerful and vulnerable at the same time. I sang to get over my shyness too. When producing the track, I wanted it to be as stripped as possible so the song could shine as someone shines when they open up and sing about their emotions. I wanted it to feel old school and have raw instruments. A lot of producers tried until Ali Payami captured the vibe I was looking for.

What was it like working with Ali Payami?
It’s always amazing to work with talented people that share your vision. When I heard his first demo, I thought, "Yes, finally someone understands what I’m trying to say."

The music video features multiple versions of yourself. What was behind that concept and what was it like to film?
The video shows a different layer of the story than the lyrics. Growing up, I used to be really shy, and I would cry if somebody walked in my room while I was singing. Later, I started going to karaoke not to have fun with my friends, but to force myself to get over my shyness. Each character in the video represents a different emotion I was going through while being on that karaoke stage. I felt everything from shy and crying because I didn’t think I was good enough, and getting tipsy just built my courage up to absolute confidence and excitement. NGM creative made filming this video an amazing experience and brought my vision to life. We rehearsed every movement and emotion of each character for weeks. We filmed using this cool robot called Bolt that allowed us to put each version of myself in the same frame. It was hard and rewarding.

What songs did you like to sing, and do you still find time for karaoke?
I loved to sing "Black Velvet" by Alannah Myles, "Stepping Stone" and "Warwick Avenue" by Duffy, "Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O’Connor, and many more sad songs. I always feel bittersweet when it comes to karaoke, as it reminds me of my first heartbreak.

When your songwriting career was taking off, did you ever feel like your solo music was being neglected?
I never felt like my solo career was neglected because I never neglected it. Being a singer was always my main motivation for writing songs, but I feel proud to have written songs for amazing artists like The Chainsmokers, Charli XCX, David Guetta, and more.

At what point did you realize that music could be your career?
I never had to realize. I always knew. I have a very powerful intuition, and I knew I was going to be a singer ever since I became aware of my existence. Growing up, my friends and even my family would tell me that it’s just a dream, especially because no one really escapes Romania to make pop music in the UK and USA, but I always knew my dream would come true.

You have such a unique aesthetic. Who do you look up to in terms of style?
My inspiration for my look was always Sailor Moon. That’s where I got the idea for the super long pigtails. I don’t only love the cartoon for the aesthetic, but also because it’s all about girl energy and girls with superpowers sticking together. I kind of manifested that in my high school girl group. Me and my six best friends were always together, up to no good, and always on an adventure. I’ve always loved to live in my fantasies.

You’re mostly known as a pop singer-songwriter. Are there other genres you’d like to explore?
I don’t think of songs in genres. I love great songs with big choruses whether vocal or instrumental, hooks and memorable lyrics. But those could be wrapped in any type of instrumental. If it’s good, it’s good. Right now, I’m loving guitars and raw instrumentals with old school sounds.

What have you been listening to lately?
Lately I’ve been listening to Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, old rock songs like "Nothing Compares 2 U," "Zombie" by the Cranberries, the Pixies.

Sorana - Karaoke (Official Video) www.youtube.com

For more from Sorana, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

For nearly 30 years, G. Love (Garrett Dutton) has moved fluidly between the blues, hip-hop, and alternative worlds. His last album, The Juice, received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

His latest single, “Love from Philly” pairs him with Philadelphia rap legend Schoolly D and Chuck Treece. The track is part of the upcoming album Philadelphia Mississippi, due out June 24.

G. Love (on dad duty!) talks to Jordan and Demi about the new album, staying creative, and venturing into the NFT space.

G. Love | It's Real with Jordan and Demi www.youtube.com

In 2022’s Scream — the fifth installment of the meta slasher franchise — the new killer, like all the predecessors, likes to play with his food before eating it. As a throwback to 1996's Scream, he primes his target victim by asking her about her favorite horror movies.

For any horror fan, it’s a bit of a dream. Sure, I’ll talk to anyone who will listen about Halloween or Friday the 13th for hours, but the lead actress isn’t the biggest fan of the horror classics that dominated the conversations in earlier films.

What is elevated horror?

“Scary but with complex emotional and thematic underpinnings” sans the “schlocky cheeseball nonsense with wall-to-wall jump scares” is how Tara Carpenter describes it, before getting stabbed multiple times by a guy in a mask.

The term first landed on Google Trends in 2008, but didn’t gain traction as a phrase until 2014, the same year The Babadook premiered.

It’s been used by critics and fans alike to describe some of the slow-burn, metaphor-laden horror stories that dominated the 2010’s.

2014’s It Follows features a sexually transmitted presence that’s always on its way to kill you, a metaphor for death, and currently holds a 96% Critic’s Score on Rotten Tomatoes versus a 66% Audience Score.

2015’s The Witch, takes place in 1630’s New England and features dialogue lifted directly from journals, diaries, and court records from the time period. Most notably horrific moments pepper the first and second act, but the slow, methodical plod of the movie along with the historic dialogue demand more patience from the viewer. The Rotten Tomatoes Critics Score of 90% and the Audience Score of 59% posit that the film demands too much patience for some.

Both of these films were put out by the independent distribution company, A24; a company known for its focus on the horror genre, as well as genre-bending films from the Daniels and Oscar favorites like Lady Bird and Moonlight.

Elevated horror is nearly synonymous with A24 Horror, thanks to the rest of the films on their 2010’s roster. Saint Maud, The Lighthouse, Midsommar, Hereditary, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer are all considered elevated horror.

Elevated From What

2014’s It Follows, The Babadook, and Goodnight Mommy were perhaps a relief from the visceral torture porn of the 2000’s. Saw (2004), Hostel (2005), and The Human Centipede (2009) all feature graphic sadistic violence, guts, and gore not merely as a side effect, but as a plot point.

From the early to mid-2000’s, horror’s obsession with torture coincided with mainstream culture’s conversation around torture — capturing the conspirators behind the September 11 attacks dominated the news. 2005’s dawn of YouTube also meant anyone with computer access and a curious mind could stumble upon real life horrors, including everything from snipers and testimony from political prisoners to the infamous 2 Girls 1 Cup.

Pre-2010’s

Although some critics bemoan the recent explosion of elevated horror, others aim to retrofit horror classics like Psycho (1960) and The Shining (1980) as part of the genre.

Carol J. Clover, writer of Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film notes in her 1992 novel that one reviewer marked 1991’s Oscar-winning The Silence of the Lambs as “Nightmare on Elm Street for grad students.”

Elevated horror became a phrase recently, but it’s always been around. 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby is a slow-burn meditation on motherhood. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from two centuries ago deals with complex themes of birth and creation.

Horror has never been viewed as high-brow films even with “serious actors” and “esteemed directors” — it doesn't bother most fans of the genre.

(Notable exception: The internet’s collective horror at Toni Collette’s Oscar snub for Best Actress in Hereditary.)

What’s Wrong With Cheeseball Nonsense?

Bitch Media’s Britt Ashley wrote of The Witch, “Like any good horror film, The Witch is rife with opportunity for allegorical interpretation, and one of the most compelling narratives bubbling beneath the surface is the origin story of America itself.”

Not every movie needs to be an “opportunity for allegorical interpretation”…but aren’t they all? Friday The 13th Part III is a prime example of the schlock nonsense Tara hates. It’s known for its incredibly dated 3D gags and a hockey mask rather than its compelling cultural narrative.

However, pre-slaughter, the protagonist, Chris, describes the lasting effects of her previous traumatic encounter with serial killer Jason. These reactions perfectly mimic PTSD symptoms, only 2 years after Posttraumatic Stress Disorder was finally recognized and added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Horror is in continual dialogue with what’s bubbling just under the surface of society. And just because it’s unintentional or cut with eye-popping deaths and the worst acting you’ve ever seen doesn’t mean it isn’t damn fine horror.

What Will Define The 2020’s

Horror has always had complex emotional and thematic underpinnings. In a genre where watching people die is the point of buying a ticket, how can horror not be about grief?

The violent torture porn of the 2000's sired the elevated horror of the 2010’s. And now the 2020s' pendulum is swinging in a different direction, from minimalism to maximalism.

If the recent 192-minute science fiction comedy action fantasy phenomenon of a film Everything Everywhere All At Once — with its 90%+ Critic and Audience RT scores — is a harbinger of what’s to come, we’ve got chaos ahead.

Think not just werewolves, but telekinetic vampire werewolves. During a blizzard. Plus aliens. A worldwide pandemic, a global war, and the repeal of Roe V. Wade are all possible in our lifetimes — why not everything else we’ve ever feared, all at once?

The app, TikTok, is already a melting pot of content genres. You can watch a cheesy pasta tutorial immediately followed by a healthcare worker discussing assisted suicide before a viral dance to a remixed ‘90’s hit song with text statistics about income inequality worse than the Great Depression. With more than a 1 billion users — most of them Gen Z and millennials — it’s safe to say we’re getting comfortable with the pandemonium and the whiplash.

Millennials are now of age to climb the Hollywood horror ladder to become the masters of horror — most ascending from a culture where we’re constantly aware that we can’t afford to own our own homes. After all, you can’t have a haunted house story without a home.

But you can have telekinetic vampire werewolves; what could be more 2020’s than that?

CULTURE

What Happened at the Met Gala 2022: Best Dressed, Worst Dressed, and Questionable Invites

How to survive Met Gala night — even if you’re just watching in your peejays

Why Does the Met Gala take it out of me? It’s my Super Bowl — and every year I feel like I’ve played the big game, or attended the big event — falling into my bed completely wrung out. All this, after doing nothing but sitting on my couch. Why?

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