All Posts By Brittany John

The New Low Talks Debut Album “Continuance” and New Beginnings


The saying goes, “if at first you don’t succeed, try again.” That is exactly what Fletcher Howell, Garrett Garfield, and Christopher Kim did when their previous band Hearts and Hands disbanded. “It’s about moving forward, away from and without the bullshit,” Howell said, addressing the change. “Hearts and Hands had several lineup changes and we lost a few members through ‘natural selection.’ It just didn’t work. Some friendships ended, and instead of pursuing other interests, we kept going and started fresh.” With the addition of two new members, Hiram Hernandez and Corey Beaver, the alternative rock/metal band The New Low was reborn.

“The record has an overall theme of life, in general, knocking you down,” Howell stated. “Things are going to go wrong. When you reach that low point, you can either roll over and die, or you let the situations turn you into a stronger person and you overcome. Or at least continue.” We chat with bassist and vocalist Fletcher Howell on new beginnings and hopes for this new chapter.
Cliché: What makes The New Low different from your previous band, Hearts and Hands?
Fletcher Howell: Almost everything, really. The way we wrote this album and the way we do things now are very different.
How does it feel to release your debut album, Continuance, as The New Low?
It feels great. We’ve waited a long time to make sure this album was everything we wanted it to be. It’s awesome being able to finally share it and play these songs live. The response has been better than we could have ever hoped.
What was the inspiration behind “Burning Bridges” and why did you choose that song as the first single?
“Burning Bridges” was inspired by a toxic relationship with someone we were very close to. Misery loves company and we refuse to be miserable. Sometimes you have to cut ties with toxic people in order to remain happy. Sometimes you have to stop trying to put out fires started by other people.
You all got the opportunity to be a part of Warped Tour in 2016. How was the experience?
Warped was awesome! It’s a tour we’ve always wanted to be a part of, so having the opportunity to make it our first tour was a dream come true in a lot of ways. We got to meet so many new friends and fans.
What would you want new listeners to know about The New Low?
We want our listeners to know that we appreciate them giving our music the time of day. We can’t do any of this without them and we know it.
What’s next for you guys?
Touring. We want to be on the road meeting new fans and playing shows.
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The New Low Talks Debut album “Continuance” and New Beginnings: Photographed by Kyle Sipple

Dawn Richard’s “Redemption”


If you haven’t heard of Dawn Richard, now is the perfect time to listen. Richard first became known to the world as a contestant on MTV’s “Making the Band” where Sean “P. Diddy” Combs was searching to create the world’s next big girl group. He succeeded in creating Danity Kane, where Richard shined as one of the lead vocalists. After two very successful albums, the group disbanded, but Dawn was able to find a home with her old boss, becoming one-third of the group Dirty Money along with Diddy and singer-songwriter Kalenna Harper. While the trio had success, it was never meant to be a long-term thing.

After being asked to be released from her contract with Bad Boy Records, by 2013 Richards launched her solo career and developed  an idea for a trilogy of conceptual albums. The first album in the trilogy titled, Goldenheart, focused on love and relationships. The second, Blackheart focused on loss, and lastly, Redemptionheart on (what else?) redemption.

The first single from Redemption is “Renegades,” a song that represents Dawn’s signature style mashing up electronic beats with R&B melodies. Renegades is about nothing else but doing what you want to do and what you believe in. She follows up with “Lazarus,” an ode to watching yourself grow and become stronger while realizing it’s normal to come from humble beginnings. She sings, “I can be one in the same, I didn’t change, I became.”
One of the best things about Redemption is that each song has a strong message accompanied by a phenomenal production of music, encompassing everything from dance, rock & roll and even a bit of traditional New Orleans jazz, which is showcased on “LA” as a tribute to Richard’s hometown roots. Other favorite tracks include “Voices,” “Tyrants,” “Vines,” and “Love Under Light,” which encourages us all to enjoy and “make love on the dancefloor.”
Redemption, also referred to as The Red Era, is a testimony to Richard’s career. In an interview with NPR, Dawn declared that The Red Era is about “dancing in the beauty of self, that whatever or whoever you are, be proud of it.” She has gotten to this place on her own, releasing each album independently under her own imprint, Our Dawn Entertainment. She has reached number one on the Top Independent Albums chart and number two on the Dance/Electronic chart, and top ten on the R&B and Hip-Hop charts with each album. I would say that’s a lot to be proud of.
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Image courtesy of Our Dawn Entertainment

Now Playing: ‘Nightride’ by Tinashe


Coming down from her 2014 release Aquarius and gearing up for her sophomore album Joyride, Tinashe decided to join the ranks of music’s elite and surprised the world last month with Nightride, a sexy, subdued, cool and slightly dark glimpse into another side of the singer’s skill set.

A few of the songs on this mixtape were recorded by Tinashe herself in her own bedroom, but she also worked with a few well-known producers like Metro Boomin, PartyNextDoor, and The Dream. Nightride came about after creative differences with her record label surfaced while making Joyride, which was originally supposed to be released first. Her approach to music as of late is “to do it her way and do it unapologetically.” She confirms this state of mind by opening with “Lucid Dreaming.” She sings “if it’s my life / ain’t nobody gonna tell me how to live it / they can’t see it the way I see it through my eyes.” In a Twitter Q&A with fans, she revealed that the song is about “creating the life you want by manifesting it.”
Most of us all fell in love with Tinashe when we first heard her debut single  “2 On,” which quickly turned into a summer anthem. Although this album keeps too much of the same theme of slow and mid-tempo tracks, Tinashe still delivers a cool dance track in “Touch Pass,” where she attempts to seduce a young man to be hers. Other stand-out tracks from the album include “Ride of Your Life” and “Sacrifices,” which were produced by Metro Boomin, “Sunburn” and “Party Favors,” which originally features rapper Young Thug.

The release of Nightride doesn’t mean that Joyride will never see the light of day. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Tinashe explained that the two are still very much related projects.
“I see them as two things that are equally the same,” the singer said. “I think you can be a combination of things, and that’s what makes people human and complex.”
In an industry that churns out female talent like an assembly line, it seems as though Tinashe has found her place and has made it very clear she will not be pushed to the side.
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Now Playing: ‘Nightride’ by Tinashe: Photo courtesy of @tinashenow on Instagram

Heirsound Talks New Beginnings and Colorful EP ‘Merge’


One can say that life has imitated art for Alexa San Roman and Dane Petersen of Heirsound. Both singer and songwriter came together from California and New York in 2014, literally merging together to create music. Alexa explains, “The release of Merge is the bridge between our old musical styles and the future of Heirsound.” We chatted with the duo about how they formed, the importance of visuals to accompany their music, and the overall ideas and inspiration that helped create their new EP, Merge.

Cliché: You started your previous band [Love, Robot] when you were 15. Was it easy to transition and leave that behind and start a new chapter with Heirsound?
Alexa San Roman: It definitely wasn’t easy, but it was something that I felt needed to happen. It was a milestone moment for me. Having grown up through my experience in Love, Robot, it was definitely emotional to close that chapter, but it was the right decision for me to progress.
Dane Petersen: I wouldn’t say it was easy, but it was definitely exciting and even refreshing to have a blank slate with open possibilities.
You two are from opposite coasts. How did you initially become familiar with each other and form a musical bond?
DP: Like so many things, the Internet played a part in our initial meeting as a mutual friend introduced us over social media. We just always kept in touch and talked music. There was a mutual respect for what we’d be working on individually for a while before we began working together. The musical connection and our process have been developing ever since.
The six songs on your EP Merge are represented by the basic colors of the color wheel. What inspired that idea?
DP: Really, all it took was sitting down with the songs and taking a good listen. To us, each song had a kind of mood or identity to begin with, so when we’d close our eyes, the colors would just come to mind quickly. At that point, matching them with their corresponding song followed shortly after. We knew we could do so much with this visually as well, which is another big part of who we are, so the whole idea was exciting to us.  
Alexa, you produced and edited the video for “Hoods Up.” How did you come up with the video treatment and how important are visuals for you both?
ASR: Well, we had the game plan to have the six EP songs all tie together with primary and secondary colors, which set the stage for “Hoods Up” to be purple. I just kind of always imagined that song to have a weird, effect-based video, so the treatment kind of just happened as we filmed. We tried a bunch of different poses and positions throughout the filming of the video and wound up with something unique. I think someone could see a screenshot from the video and just know “that’s Heirsound” based on our positions. Visual is pretty equal to the audio in my mind; they go hand in hand. I hope to be fortunate enough to release a visual for everything we ever do.

Your sound is described as alternative pop, but I saw a great cover you guys did of The Internet’s “Just Sayin.” What other genres influence your sound?
DP: Hip-hop and R&B do play parts in certain inspirations for sure. Our tastes are actually rather eclectic, so we do wind up blending a few different influences in one way or another while writing.
Besides the release of your EP Merge, what have been some other highlights for your band this year?
DP: Playing our first few shows were highlights for me. We get to connect with so many different people who come from all over just to support us at one intimate show. Seeing the word spread has been rewarding, but it’s the people who support us by coming out to a show or all our friends around the world who we haven’t had a chance to meet yet that make doing what we’re doing continuously more exciting.
What’s up next for Heirsound?
DP: We’ll continue to spread the word with new content for your ears and eyes. There’s always something going on behind the scenes with us. We’ll play some fun shows as well.
ASR: We are really looking forward to writing and recording our first full-length album, which we’ve already started on. We can’t wait to continue on and to connect with the people who have been touched by our music.
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Heirsound Talks New Beginnings and Colorful EP Merge: Photo courtesy of Sam San Roman

Now Playing: ‘Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight’


Don’t let the title fool you. This is not an R&B album by Brian McKnight. Instead, it’s a look into the mind of one of hip-hop’s leading new artists: Travis Scott. His sophomore album, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, is Scott’s take on letting your creativity flow and just being able to create without constraints. Travis Scott is pretty lucky to do so himself. He’s signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music as a producer and T.I.’s Grand Hustle Records as an artist. He’s produced and written songs with everyone from Rihanna to Jay-Z, but it is through his own music that he shines most.

Travis Scott stays true to his sound on this album using autotune for raspy melodies and his immaculate production of beats to bring Birds in the Trap Sing Mcknight to life. Never one to turn down a feature, Birds hosts a slew of great collaborations. “Pick Up The Phone,” featuring rappers Young Thug and Quavo, is a trap love song of sorts about a girl who won’t give in and return any of the guy’s advances. Another stand-out feature from the album is “Goosebumps,” which features Kendrick Lamar. In a recent radio interview with New York’s Hot 97, Scott couldn’t believe he was on Lamar’s radar. He talks about meeting him at the MTV VMAs in which Kendrick Lamar told him he finds his music “really inspirational.” Travis Scott holds his own with all the features on his album and seems to bring out the best in everyone he collaborates with giving them room to shine in his world.

Other must-listen tracks from the album  include “Way Back” which features Swizz Beatz and Scott’s idol Kid Cudi, “First Take” featuring Bryson Tiller and a collab with The Weeknd called “Wonderful” which finds the duo feeling joyful about life. Birds is a pleasant departure from the dark and angsty sounds of his previous mixtapes and debut album Rodeo.
Although Scott isn’t the most lyrical rapper in the industry, he is authentically himself, which makes for great music. Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 music charts, which proves he is definitely on his way to becoming a mainstay in the industry. Each song on the album builds momentum off of the others, which makes for an amazing listening experience from beginning to end. Next up, Travis Scott is set to executive produce the G.O.O.D Music compilation album Cruel Winter, which he says will be “for the youth.”
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What We Think About Usher’s New Album, ‘Hard II Love’


It’s been four years since Usher’s last album, and the R&B genre seems to be facing an identity crisis. Think of classic R&B and you think of love songs and sad songs influenced by soul and jazz music. But today’s R&B is mostly influenced by hip-hop and the occasional EDM beat. Usher has walked both of these roads with much success and the 37-year-old singer just released his eighth studio album, Hard II Love. At his Tidal listening session he said, “I really did cater this album to men, specifically men who don’t think love is cool to do.”

The lead single “No Limit” featuring Young Thug showcases that half R&B and half hip-hop style that Usher has perfected over time and made his own. On “Crash,” he delivers that falsetto that we all love and sings about wanting back a past relationship–even if it won’t last. Another standout track is“Rivals,” which features Future. Future, also known for his raspy, auto-tuned vocals, sings on the chorus as they trade melodies back and forth.

Unfortunately, there are songs on this album where Usher doesn’t sound like himself and more so like newcomers Bryson Tiller and Tory Lanez, who tend to mix rapping along with their singing a’ la Drake, who is the most successful at this style. The track “Bump” starts off sounding like a love ballad, but ends up being the opposite of romantic. The same goes for “Let Me” which samples INOJ’s “Let Me Love You Down.” On “Downtime,” Usher trades in singing all together on the second verse and just talks over the music.
While we may never get another 8701 or Confessions, Hard II Love falls short of how amazing Usher’s music catalog actually is. Earlier this month, Usher received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He’s had an amazing career spanning over 20 years, and while it’s not unusual for artists to recreate themselves over time, sometimes it’s better to stick with what makes you, let’s just say, easy to love. 
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Photo courtesy of RCA Records

SYMON Talks EP Plans and Her Single “Say”


SYMON, a 23-year-old California native, has known that she was meant be a performer since she was a young girl. “Growing up in the ‘90s, a lot of pop stars were incredibly inspiring to me,” says SYMON. “I remember studying Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and the Backstreet Boys and thinking, ‘This is what I want to do when I grow up.’ I want to sing. I want to make people feel amazing and I want to entertain.” She has crafted a “pop sound with a lot of island and urban influence,” and with her new single “Say” breaking into the Radio Top 60 charts, she seems to be well on her way. We chatted with the pop sensation about her inspirations, her upcoming EP, and her cool connection with Demi Lovato.
Cliché: What was the inspiration for your single “Say”?
SYMON: Having the name Symon, I would always play with the title “Symon Says,” which is an international phrase. I thought, “What better a way for people to get to know me than to have my own name in my debut song?” It’s the perfect introduction! It’s a feel-good summer anthem and definitely good to dance to.
Give us a glimpse into your songwriting process. Is it planned out or more spur of the moment?
It varies. Sometimes it can be from a word someone says in a conversation to me and I’ll run with that for a concept. Other times it’ll be writing to a track or starting a melody first. [It’s] always different for me!
Where were you when you first heard “Say” on the radio?
I had just landed from New York City and headed straight to the studio to make some edits on my single “Say,” which currently wasn’t out at the time and wasn’t planned to come out for another month. In New York, I had taken my first radio meeting with legend Kid Kelly from Sirius XM. I left the studio late at night, turned on my car and radio, and started hearing this song on. I thought, “Oh no! This song kind of sounds like mine!” I looked down at the screen to see MY NAME! I screamed so loud! I called my mom and hysterically cried… it was me! Kid Kelly surprised me and added it so fast on Sirius XM Hits 1! It was a total dream and a crazy moment that I will never forget. Love you, Kid Kelly!
As a teen, you opened up for Demi Lovato’s tour. What did you take away from that experience?
Opening up for Demi was quite an experience. Not only was Demi Lovato an incredible artist to watch, but she was so lovely to everyone. She was a wonderful example of how to act, perform, and slay! I take that with me in my career. Thanks, Demi!
If you could work with or write for anyone in the music industry, who would you choose?
If I could write with anyone in the music industry, I think it would be Sia. If I could collaborate with an artist on the track, I think it would be G-Eazy.
Who are your musical influences?
My music inspirations vary because all music truly inspires me. I love Rihanna, TLC, Kygo, No Doubt, Sia, and songwriters such as Max Martin.
What can fans expect from your EP? Do you have a title and release date set?
Fans better get ready to have the windows down, stunner shades on, and a tropical drink in hand listening to my EP! It’s a lot of fun and is so me. I currently do not have a title or release date, but I do know it will come out the end of August or September, so get ready!
What’s one thing you want everyone to know about who Symon is?
I want everyone to know that I love mac & cheese. [Laughs] Get ready for some amazing, feel-good music and a lot of fun. Follow me on my socials! Let’s connect! I’m on Instagram @officialsymon, Snapchat @official-symon, and Twitter and Facebook @officiallysymon.
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Photo courtesy of  Irvin Rivera, Photo Assistant: Phil Limprasertwong, Styling: Tyler McDaniel, Make-Up: Bethany Garita, Hair: David Harrington

The Hunna Discuss Their Debut Album, ‘100’


Young and carefree, the UK-based band The Hunna, made up of Ryan Potter (vocals/guitar), Dan Dorney (lead guitar), Jermaine Angin (bass), and Jack Metcalfe (drums) is set to take on America. They are signed to 300 Entertainment, co-founded by two huge names in the music industry: Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles. The group recently finished their first U.S. tour and is preparing to release their debut album 100 in late August. Here, the group tells us how they formed and the meaning behind the members’ fun nicknames.

Cliché: How was your group created?
The Hunna: We (Dan and Ryan) met in a music practice college course when we were 16 years old. Then we decided that being in a band is what we were going to do with our lives. We were in many different bands throughout the years whilst working and making money where we could. While doing this, we were educating ourselves and becoming familiar with the industry and how everything works. We then asked Jack to come to a rehearsal and join the band. We got along so well and he killed the kit. Dan knew Jermaine from junior school and he always came to our shows to support us. Jack asked Jermaine after a show in London if he wanted to join the band and play bass. He did. From that, The Hunna was born.
You all recently had a sold out show in New York at Mercury Lounge. How was that experience?
It was such a rad experience. Our first time ever in New York City and the show was a sell-out; we couldn’t believe it! All the American fans we met were so amazing and we honestly can’t wait to come back and see them all again. USA H-Gang has got it down and knows how to turn up hard. NYC livin’!
Do you guys have a favorite song to perform live or are there any huge fan favorites?
Right now it has to be a +1Hunna track (bonus track) from the album called “Bad For You.” Every single time we play that tune, we all go mad—straight up possessed when we’re on that stage! [Laughs] We love it.
Who are your biggest music inspirations?
All four of us are very universal when it comes to music. We are always open to any genre, just as long as that specific track is good to listen to. We are always searching for badass tunes and we always share them with each other. Music fishing! Our influences are Kings of Leon, Drake, Foals, Kanye, Roy Woods, Deftones, Biffy Clyro, Bombay Bicycle Club, Young Thug, Wiz, and many more.
Music is widely described as a “universal language.” Does the music scene in the U.S. differ from the U.K. at all?
We think the music and the scene is like how it is back home. At times, we did think a few bands had that American feel and sound, but overall it’s very, very similar.
How did you all receive or create your nicknames? Jermaine is “The Prince,” Ryan is “Valentino,” Jack is “Insta King,” and Dan is “Bandana Dan.”
[Laughs] Yeah, the Hunna names are awesome; we have so many for each other now. We never plan or force the names for anybody or us. They always have to come naturally; that’s when they are the best. Ryan is called Valentino because he was supposed to be born on Valentine’s Day, but he was born a few hours too late and got called Ryan. The day he told us this was the day we stopped calling him Ryan.
You reply to fans on your Facebook and Twitter pages regularly. How important is it to you to connect with your fans?
We always do our best to respond to them. Seeing what they have to say is always loads of fun. They mean everything to us. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today. We are forever grateful for their support. Long live the Hunna Gang…AHOO, AHOO, AHOO!
Your debut album, 100, is coming out late August. What can your current fan base and those who don’t know the group expect from the album?
Expect complete radbars! Each song is unique and written about real experiences and situations we found ourselves in. We put a serious amount of time and energy into this album and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome. We’re seriously stoked for the world to hear it.
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Photo courtesy of Haris Nukem

MTV Video Music Awards Recap


This year, the MTV Video Music Awards found its way back to New York City, but instead of using Radio City Music Hall as its classic venue, the show took place at Madison Square Garden for the first time. In recent years, the VMAs has not had a traditional host and this year was no different. Comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele were in character as social media mavens (because if you know anything at all, you know the best place to watch an award show is on Twitter) but none of their antics, most of which were impossible to follow, seemed to connect with the audience. Other stand-in hosts included MTV’s own Nicole Byer from Girl Code, comedian Jay Pharoah with his great impressions throughout the show, and lastly DJ Khaled, who kept the energy going with his signature catchphrases.

Rihanna was this year’s recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award and she did something different then all the recipients before her and treated us to four different themed performances throughout the show, each showcasing a different style of music she has perfected. She opened the show with a medley of her hits from her pop era. Dressed in light pink from head to toe, she sang “Only Girl In The World,” “We Found Love,” and “Where Have You Been.” Her second performance of the night was a tribute to her culture and homeland in which she brought a traditional Caribbean bashment party to the stage performing all her reggae influenced hits such as, “Rude Boy,” “What’s My Name,” and her recent hit “Work.” Later in the show, she performed her more mellow party records “Pour It Up,” “B*tch Better Have My Money,” and her latest single from ANTI, “Needed Me.” She ended things off with her crowd favorite ballads, “Stay,” a slowed down version of “Diamonds,” and her next single “Love on The Brain,” fully taking in the opportunity to show how much her vocals have grown since she was first introduced to us in 2005. To end things off with a bang, Drake presented Rihanna with her award, giving a speech that sounded more like a love letter. He expressed, “I’ve loved Rihanna since I was 22 years old.” He also so spoke on what makes Rihanna a great artist: “She succeeds by doing something that no one in this industry does by just being herself.” After a sweet embrace between the two, Rihanna expressed her excitement by showing love to her country of Barbados, her friends, family, and fans and her disbelief that at only 28 years old she is lucky enough to accept such an award.

Now as we all know, MTV always keeps us on our toes with surprise antics and this year it came in the form of Kanye West taking to the stage to talk about whatever it is he wanted. He walked out to his song “Famous” which contains the infamous line that has reignited the Kanye vs. Taylor Swift beef and stood as the crowd chanted “Yeezy.” Highlights from his six and a half minute “speech” include saying “I see you Amber,” to his famous ex girlfriend Amber Rose, expressing his hope to win video of the year but it being okay if he lost to Beyoncé, shouting out his wife Kim Kardashian West, and finally debuting his new video for his song “Fade.” The video is a performance piece starring singer Teyana Taylor in what could almost be a tribute to Jennifer Beals in Flashdance. In true Kanye fashion, he has to leave us somewhat bewildered as the video ends with Taylor becoming a cat woman, with her fiancé Iman Shumpert of the championship winning NBA team the Cleveland Cavaliers and their 8-month old daughter “Junie” surrounded by sheep.
In addition to winning eight of the 11 Video Music Awards she was nominated for, and passing Madonna for acquiring the most VMAs ever, Beyoncé completely turned the stage into her own personal concert with a full on recreation of her visual album Lemonade. She eased us in starting with her song “Pray You Catch Me” and followed up with “Hold Up” carrying her signature baseball bat from the video and smacking the camera to the floor. She continued with “Sorry” and “Don’t Hurt Yourself” throwing on a fur coat and aggressively performing as flames and sparks surrounded her. She closed her performance with “Formation” filling the stage with an army of female dancers and ending in the formation of the symbol for woman.

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 28: Beyonce performs onstage during the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards at Madison Square Garden on August 28, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 28: Beyonce performs onstage during the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards at Madison Square Garden on August 28, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Britney Spears also returned to the VMA stage to perform her new single “Make Me” featuring G- Eazy. This performance was her first performance on MTV in almost 10 years since the cringeworthy performance of “Gimme More” at the VMAs in 2007. Other performers included Nick Jonas who performed his new song “Bacon” with Ty Dolla $ign and Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj who gave a lackluster performance of “Side to Side” off Grande’s album Dangerous Woman.  Newbies to the VMA stage, The Chainsmokers and Halsey performed their number one hit “Closer” and rapper Future gave an excellent performance of his hit song “F*ck Up Some Commas.”

Seemingly missing from the VMA stage this year was any form of Rock or Alternative music. It seemed to be a show for only the “who’s who” in pop culture right now. Also many of the awards were not given out on camera. Those lucky enough to take the stage to give speeches were DNCE for Best New Artist, Fifth Harmony for Best Collaboration, and Beyonce for Video of the Year and Best Female Video.  Drake also won for best hip-hop video but missed his chance at an acceptance speech because he was “stuck in traffic.”
Our U.S. Olympians Michael Phelps and “Final Five” gymnasts Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman (minus Gabby Douglas, who was absent due to an injury) were lucky enough to take the stage and introduce some of the musicians for the night. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte was also there in spirit as Jimmy Fallon impersonated him in a platinum blonde wig while singing Justin Biebers “Sorry.”
All in all, the VMAs did not disappoint. What they lacked in variety and a host they made up for in electrifying performances and a who’s who of celebrity presenters. For a complete list of VMA winners, and video clips head over to MTV.
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MTV Video Music Awards Recap: Featured image courtesy of MTV

DJ Khaled Has ‘The Keys’ to Success


If you follow DJ Khaled on Snapchat, you would know he has had an amazing year so far. From his partnership with T-Mobile, signing a deal with Epic Records, and opening up for Beyoncé on the Formation World Tour, DJ Khaled has been almost inescapable. With eight albums already under his belt, he found a way to reinvent himself through the use of social media by showing us his daily life and hard work ethic on Snapchat. Day after day, DJ Khaled shows us the things “they” don’t want us to have and the “major keys” to success with cameos from his celebrity friends and his endearing fans whom he calls “fan luv.” From this spawned his new album Major Key, which like his prior albums is a collaborative effort with a who’s who in today’s music.

The album begins with the two lead “anthems” as he likes to call them, “I Got The Keys” ft. Future and Jay-Z (who most recently became DJ Khaled’s manager) and “For Free” ft. Drake, a great party track reminiscent of rap legend Too $hort’s west coast style. Khaled also has another hip-hop legend on the album in Nas with a song titled “Nas Album Done” where he raps about his “signature fade with the bevel blade.” There is also an anthem for the ladies on the album featuring Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj, August Alsina, Jeremih, and Future titled “Do You Mind.”

Other stand out tracks on the album include “Jermaine’s Interlude” ft. J.Cole and “Holy Key” ft. Big Sean and Kendrick Lamar. Both records speak on the perils of world, the state of the music industry, and recent incidents of police brutality. “Don’t Ever Play Yourself” is also sure to be a fan favorite. Not only is it one of DJ Khaled’s favorite sayings, but he has turned it into a record featuring iconic New York rappers, Jadakiss, Fabolous, Fat Joe, Busta Rhymes, and an appearance from Khaled’s new protege Kent Jones. Always one for surprising collaborations, among all the rappers on the album, Meghan Trainor shines on “Forgive Me Father” also featuring Wale and Wiz Khalifa on a song about remaining positive and living life to the best of your abilities.
The album ends with the song “Progress” by reggae artist Movado. DJ Khaled often shows his appreciation and love for reggae music in his Snapchat stories, so this was a perfect way to end the album. Like the title states, the song is about moving forward and progressing in life, staying away from people who don’t want you to succeed and those that wish bad for you.
DJ Khaled has succeeded in making an album that lets each artist shine and has created songs that bring each of his metaphors for life to fruition. In the words of DJ Khaled, “I like that, I like that.”
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DJ Khaled Has ‘The Keys’ to Success: Photo courtesy of We The Best Music Group/ Epic Records

5 Music Festivals to Check Out this Summer


If you’re into music like I am, then we probably share the same dream of making it to the Coachella Music Festival in California someday. But fear not! There are many other great music festivals (some new, some old), that rival Coachella in awesome lineups and atmosphere. Festivals have become an easy way for many music lovers to see their favorite artists at reasonable prices. Here are 5 music festivals to check out this summer.

  1. Bonnaroo

The music and arts festival takes place this year from June 9th to June 12th in Manchester, Tennessee. This year’s headliners include: Pearl Jam, Dead & Company (which contains original members from legendary rock band Grateful Dead), LCD Soundsystem, and J.Cole, who is a little more hip-hop than rock and roll. While extremely popular, the Bonnaroo music festival is not the most budget friendly of festivals. General admission tickets start at $324.50 and range all the way to about $1600 if you require special VIP treatment. While the VIP option is steep, it offers up great amenities like showers, wifi, lounges, parking and early morning yoga classes to prepare you for the long festival day ahead. Bonnaroo also offers a VIP food program for $200 that gets you six meals (lunch and dinner) for the 4-day festival. If you refuse to miss out on these acts but can’t drop that much money all at once, they do offer a payment plan, which is very cool.

  1. Firefly Music Festival

Taking place at The Woodlands of Dover International Speedway in Delaware, The Firefly Music Festival is a 4-day festival which takes place this year from June 16th to June 19th. The best part about this festival? You don’t have to go home until it’s over! While tent camping is the most popular way to go, RV camping is also available for an additional fee. This festival has an eclectic lineup which includes Kings of Leon; Florence + The Machine; Deadmau5; Earth, Wind and Fire; and A$AP Rocky.  Tickets are priced at $129 for any single day entry and up to $349 for a 4-day pass. While waiting for your favorite acts to take the stage, the festival provides other attractions to pass the time. They have an outdoor bazaar to purchase festival goodies, “hammock hangout” if you need to rest, and The Beercade where, if you are over 21, you can indulge in beer and classic arcade games.

  1. Lollapalooza

With over 170 music acts and eight stages, Lollapalooza which takes place in Chicago’s historic Grant Park, running from July 28th to July 31st. As for headliners, J.Cole and LCD Soundsystem both make appearances at this festival, along with Lana Del Rey, Radiohead, and Future. Lollapalooza  rounds out the lineup with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Disclosure, Jane’s Addiction, Ellie Goulding, Flume, Hiam, and Halsey. Festival goers can opt for a 4-day pass at $335 or a one day pass for $120. They have fans covered in the VIP department as well. For $650 (one day) or $2,200 (four day), you can enjoy air conditioning, lounges, catered food, and spa treatments. (Admit it, not all of us are equipped to take on harsh summer temps and hot dogs and hamburgers for four days.)

  1. Austin City Limits

The self-proclaimed “live music capital of the world,” the festival is held in Zilker Park in Austin, Texas. Produced by the same company that produces Lollapalooza, it was originally inspired by a PBS concert series of the same name. With over 130 performers and 8 stages, there will be plenty to see when the festival is on from September 30th to October 2nd and October 7th to October 9th. Headliners include: Kendrick Lamar, Mumford and Sons, Willie Nelson and Schoolboy Q. Ticket prices range from $100 for one day admission all the way to $3,600 for platinum packages, which include a hotel stay and on-site concierge.

  1. Summerfest

“The world’s largest music festival” definitely lives up to its name with its impressive lineup of artists that you want to see, headliner or not. Taking place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the impressive 11-day festival is the most budget-friendly that I have seen thus far. An 11-day pass will only cost you a whopping $90, and after June 1st the price rises to $110. You can also attend any one day of the festival for a mere $20. Have fun trying to choose who you are going to see this year, because  the lineup includes Sir Paul McCartney of The Beatles, Luke Bryan, Sting, Billy Idol, Nelly, Pitbull, Blink 182, Weird Al Yankovic, Common, Panic! At the Disco, Selena Gomez, DNCE, The Commodores, and Hollywood Vampires.
If your festival addiction isn’t satisfied with these five favorites, or if you are looking for a certain act, there are plenty more festivals to choose from. For a full list, click here.  
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Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock

Ariana Grande is a ‘Dangerous Woman’


Ariana Grande is back! Her third studio album, Dangerous Woman, finds the 22-year-old wanting to assert her womanhood while still remaining the youthful girl we’ve come to know. With two number one albums already under her belt (Truly Yours and My Everything), Grande is definitely aiming to achieve the same feat again. She’s not a stranger to high profile collaborations as we’ve seen with her hugely successful singles,“Bang, Bang,” “Break Free,” and “Problem.” Dangerous Woman aims to be no different including features with Nicki Minaj, Future, Lil Wayne and Macy Gray.

The album starts off slow with the ballad “Moonlight” and title track “Dangerous Woman,” which showcases Ariana’s powerhouse vocals and at this point I’m intrigued on what makes her so dangerous. Many of the songs on the album touch on bad boys who are fun but may not be too good for us in the end, a place where every girl finds herself at least once in her life. “Everyday” which features rapper Future boasts the lyrics “you fell in love with a bad guy,” and on “Let Me Love You” featuring Lil Wayne, Grande sings about just breaking up with her boyfriend and “being a mess,” essentially saying goodbye to being a good girl.

Other great tracks off the album include “I Don’t Care,” which is a sweet goodbye to all of the trivial things that can hold us back in life. “Be Alright” an upbeat dance track where Ariana sings “the hard times are golden, cause they all lead to better days and “Thinking Bout You”, a mid tempo serenade to memories of a past love. Dangerous Woman is sure to be another hit for the songstress as she has found her niche with her R&B/Pop sound and she continues to grow lyrically with each album release. Besides the few expletives she drops throughout the album, I’m still not sold on her being so dangerous but a la’ Beyonce we are all allowed to embrace our inner Sasha Fierce every once in awhile.
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Ariana Grande is a ‘Dangerous Woman’: Photo courtesy of Universal Music Group