Review of Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods

21 Feb

I like outdoorsy stuff.  I think Brandi Carlile’s Bear Creek album was a perfect representation of that outside feeling.  It wasn’t on the nose like this, but the vibe hit the right notes and was in the right sound and genre.

Not so with this one.  I think my biggest criticism is the name of the album.  You’ll see what I mean. . .

  1. “Filthy”

The first 30 seconds are how you open an album!  Does it fit with the purported theme of this particular album?  Absolutely not.  There is nothing woodsy or outdoorsy about this electric/dance track.  It’s grand, it’s loud, and it’s futuristic.  I also like the robotic background noise.  And the breakdown at 2:45 minutes in has a cool horror movie sound to it.  What I didn’t like was the video on YouTube that ended in major objectification of women.  Why are skimpy bondage outfits and simulated humping necessary, Justin?

I don’t like any part of the spoken verse from Jessica Biel.  I’m glad they are a happy couple, and I don’t mind if he sings about her, or to her.  But that’s the extent of it–I don’t want her voice IN the music.  I don’t care if it’s supposed to be a story that pulls the album together.  Jessica–stay in the movies where you belong!

2.  “Midnight Summer Jam”

It’s a little retro in the singing–like something the Bee Gees would do.  But the funk sounds, and harmonica-like layers in the music bring it to a more 2018 sound.  Again, is it anything to do with the wilderness or roughing it?  Nope.  But good song if you take those expectations away.

3. “Sauce”

The beat is fun.  The song starts out sounding like something I could be into.  But then the lyrics are gross.  “I love your pink, you like my purple” ???  Ewwww.  And it’s repeated, unfortunately.  I have to think about that visual a few times.  If not for that I like the vibe of this one.  It’s funky and fun, and at one point Justin almost reminds me of Karmin.  Maybe there’s a karaoke mix without the words.

I am glad that Justin went for more, shorter tracks.  His last album had obnoxiously long songs.  And the more tracks the better, I think.  Give me my money’s worth!

4.  “Man of the Woods”

Seeing Justin dance in this video actually made me like the song more.  Which rarely happens.  Except, I wasn’t impressed with the later ballroom dancing.  Firstly, doesn’t Jessica have people to do her hair?  It looked super-ratty.  And she’s not a strong dancer, you could totally see him leading her.  I say she sticks to what she’s good at–acting.  Leave the dancing to JT.  Prior to seeing the video I thought this new woodsy vibe was a put-on.  Phoniness to cater to a certain audience, but after seeing Justin rock his plaid and vests on logs and in cabins–I realized he’s being authentic.  He is Mr. Happy now that he’s married and has kids, and a stable, relatively quiet life.

To me, this is nothing reminiscent of Montana–where I was born and a lot of my extended family still live.  Montana is being rugged, and self-sufficient, and maybe even a little uncouth (and most people in Montana are poor).  None of which describes Justin or Jessica.  But if you think about it, compared to LA, or even TN where entourages, and their people, and fans are always about–they DO feel like they’re off the grid.  In their cabin-mansion.  No, it’s not what you or I consider outdoorsy.  But to Justin–it totally is.

The song is kind of cool and catchy.  I like the syncopation, the echoed vocals, and the beat.  The lyrics are cute, and tell a story.  I think it’s my favorite track on the album–even though it is decidedly nothing to do with the woods.

5.  “Higher Higher”

This song could have been on any one of Timberlake’s albums.  It’s very “him.”  It’s everything that he’s known for, the romance, the easy dance sound, right down to the higher vocal range.

6.  “Wave”

This one has an interesting time key.  It’s unique, but it goes into some nice singing by Justin.  The lyrics, as usual, are a little banal.  I’m not sure I ever particularly liked the writing on Justin’s albums.  His specialty is the music blends, his vocal stylings, and obviously–the performance.  Not necessarily the words.  The break at 2:30 minutes in is unexpected and playful, and I like the percussion that follows.  Also, what’s a song without some whistling?  You can always expect to hear something out of place made cool and hip with Justin’s songs.

7.  “Supplies”

I like the rolling sounds (vocal trills?).  I like the background, and how it’s kind of bare.  The way the music goes reminds me of the ticking of a clock.  A countdown to the end, if you will.  The chorus is catchy, too.  This is my 2nd favorite song on the album.  I also liked the Hunger Games themed video for this one.  It supplemented the song perfectly.  Does it say to me camping or living off the land in a cabin?  No.  It says zombie apocalypse or end of the world.

8. “Morning Light”

The singing is very soulful.  And it’s typical Justin.  The lyrics are lovely, if not overly-sentimental.  The thing is, though Timberlake tends to run into the super-saccharine in his writing, I do think he MEANS it.  I don’t think he’s just writing garbage on paper to prove it’s a love song.  I feel like he might actually be that sensitive.  Alicia Keys features on this one, and the pairing is just right.  It’s a quiet song, but groovy and smokey and loving too.  It is probably what an actual evening with Justin is like.

9. “Say Something”

There’s hand-clapping.  There’s guitar.  But that’s about the extent of how country it gets.  This sounds more like a Ben Harper song, than ANY of the Hanks.  Chris stapleton is credited on this track, and he brings an earthy feel, but more funk and hippy-groove stuff that foot-stamping or truck drivin’ fare.  What I don’t really get is the message of the song.  At first, I thought it was going to be political.  And I was happy that Justin was going to use his fame to educate or SAY something.  But I didn’t love the, “sometimes the greatest way of sayin’ something, is to say nothing at all.”  I think that’s the opposite sentiment that we should have in these tumultuous times of NRA/mass shootings, pussy-grabbing Trump/me too movement, etc. . .

One of my favorite things about all of Justin’s songs is the unpredictability.  I might be able to stop a track in the middle of another artist and still have the gist of the song.  But you never know what you might miss in a Timberlake.

10.  “Hers” interlude.

First, the interlude died in the 90’s.  Second, the talking of Jessica Biel is too much.  But if I had to pick one of the spoken verses to like, it’s this one.  I can appreciate the intimacy she’s talking about, and how that’s love.

11. “Flannel”

It’s a sweet-sounding song, with some Prince–or whatever he was calling himself at the end–sounding talking.  And some Boys II Men-inspired harmonies.  But it’s a random subject-matter that I just can’t quite buy into.  I wish the words to this one were completely different.  Anything else.  Well, except your pink and my purple-ick!

By this time, I was so fed up with the spoken verse!  And this one goes on and on.  Lame.

12. “Montana”

This song could also be on any of Justin’s other albums.  There is electronic, and a funk beat.  He sings in a laid back way, and oozes sex-appeal and R&B sentiment.  If it had a different title it would be better.  To me, Montana sounds more like John Denver.  Or Charlie Daniels.  Even pow wow music.  But not this.  That’s not to say I don’t like the song–I just think it needs a name change.

13. “Breeze Off the Pond”

The writing on this one is almost terrible.  It’s a little too simple, almost childish.  But I like the tune of the song just fine.  Probably the weakest track on the CD though.  Maybe cutting it or saving it for the next release wouldn’t have been the worst thing.

14.  “Livin’ Off the Land”

I don’t really like the random talking up front.  I can see this one will inspire some awesome dancing at the concert (or on Netflix, I hope!) that I always adore.  I like the beat-boxing in the background, as it’s subtle.  And I like the catchiness.  Also, the lyrics are good too–for once.  It’s my third favorite track on Man of the Woods.  I like how it closes with a lot of string instrumentals, mixing some “country” in.

15. “The Hard Stuff”

I like the sentiment of this song.  How relationships aren’t always easy, and Justin isn’t expecting a free ride of all fun and games.  It shows he’s serious and real.  I respect that.  I think in real life Justin Timberlake is a real good guy.  Solid and dependable.  I’m glad he hits some notes and actually sings in this one, also.

16. “Young Man”

And the culmination of the CD is (predictably) the product of Justin and Jessica, their son.  And fatherly advice given my Justin to his boy.  It’s trite.  It’s cliche.  But it does complete the family theme of the album nicely.  It’s a nice arc, even if it’s too much.

So I get how this whole album was a love song to his wife.  And they had their special moments in the state of Montana.  So he’s all sentimental, and lovey.  What they are NOT, is rustic or outdoorsy.  Part of being woodsy is going without–living a sparse lifestyle.  And you just can’t do that in a mansion.  I think I (and the critics) would have liked this electronic/funk/R&B/dance album just fine, if Justin kept his camping fantasy to himself.  I’m going to think of the album’s theme more like the comfortable feeling Justin is living having a family.  I think if you think of “the woods” as symbolic of peace and quiet in your head-space, this album (with it’s silly title) is easier to swallow.  Had he named the album and some of the tracks ANYthing else, all would have been forgiven.  As it is, the album’s tone just doesn’t match what is supposed to be the theme.

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Song by Song. Brandi’s By the Way, I Forgive You

20 Feb

My Spotify went one track passed the new album, and it showed how almost, melancholy By the Way, I Forgive You sounds.  It’s subtle, but by comparison to the two prior albums, it’s a lot less light-hearted.

  1. “Everytime I Hear that Song”

It’s kind of a slow opening to the album.  I would have put something more upbeat in the first spot.  But the track definitely provides the foreshadowing for what is to come:  A sentimental, serious, from-the-heart string (pun!) of songs.  The chorus is very Fleetwood Mac.  I like what the song says though.  It talks about how bad relationships are actually good because it brings us to where we were supposed to be in life.  The trajectory of our love and family would be completely different without those failed relationships.  And hearing certain songs or seeing certain pictures, triggers those memories and makes us wonder what might have been or even sentimentalize what opportunities were lost because things didn’t go a better way.

2. “The Joke”

The message that the joke is on the detractors is a good one.  The band is saying, ‘you be you, and live your life, despite what others think about it.’  The background music is resonant, and swirling, and provides enough drama to help get the point across.

3.  “Hold Your Hand”

Probably my favorite track (so far) and absolutely my fave upon the first listen through.  It’s reminiscent of that old western style that focuses more on telling a story then singing.  It reminds me of Jonny Cash, and the way he talks through every song–but it’s better.  Because there are great key/cadence/style changes that show-case Brandi’s strong voice.  I like the combination of both styles in one song.  I like how it’s cheeky, yet strong on singing-technique.  This is what the band does very best–change it up in the middle of the song.  Think “The Story” and the title track, “Firewatcher’s Daughter.”   On this song, the shouting is so fun after the 2.5 min mark!  What I could do with less of is the bad-da-das.  But I can see them involving the audience in that at a concert so maybe it will turn out all right. . .

4.  “The Mother”

I’m not down on this song.  It’s one of, if not THE strongest songs on the album.  It’s just that I heard it so early, it didn’t feel like part of the rest of the album.  I like that this song conveys love, but realism, too.  It’s one of the few mom-songs that’s not entirely lovey-dovey, super-saccharine.  Here is what little edge Brandi has left.  Sure, she’s up in the family lift all gung-ho–but she knows what she’s not doing anymore also.  I like how Brandi acknowledges that she’s missing out on things, kids are messy, and motherhood is sometimes about being tired and giving up on your own wild flights of fancy.  Also, the video is cute.  Though, I wonder how many takes it took because Evangeline looks bored.

5.  “Whatever You Do”

Another slow song.  As a whole, I think the album would have benefitted from something a little more dancy by this point.  I love the line, “I never said I’m sorry, but I meant it.” It shows how serious the writing was for this latest album.  Very thoughtful lyrics are throughout.  The best part of the song for me is after 3:08 min when the instrumentals really come out loud.  It’s haunting, and melancholy, and final.

6.  “Fulton County Jane Doe”

I had really high hopes due to the title that this would be the raucous track of the album.  Alas, it’s another kind of internal dialogue that is quiet and lulling. I think Brandi’s yips at the end are the best thing about this one.

7.   “Sugartooth”

Searching.  Judging someone without walking in their shoes.  Bad habits that keep pulling you back.  Guns and suicide.  Finding peace in death.  Without reading the lyrics or hearing the backstory, I find this song a little meandering.  Is there one takeaway point or is it just a conglomeration of ideas?  I do enjoy how Brandi sounds like she means whatever she’s singing–whatever it’s about.

8. “Most of All”

How your parents are with you even when they’re not physically there.  You resemble them.  Your speech patterns end up sounding similar.  You internalize their lessons.  This one is also a little Fleetwood in the chorus, and I think that’s reaching a little.  I believe they should stop relying on their inspirations or fitting in a certain genre, and come up with something more original.  It’s nice that the song-lyrics go full circle though.  And the emphasis on family goes well with the rest of the album.

9. “Harder to Forgive”

I think this one might be the catchiest song on the album.  Finally!  One you want to sing with.  Though the subject matter is still sentimental and internally-probing, it has some happy sentiments in it as well.  “When every broken heart seemed like the end” shows that the band is not at that stage anymore.  I like how the song goes into a march.  Again, these cadence changes are some of the band’s best work.  Where I lose it though, is when the twin’s humming sounds like kazoos.  Not. a. fan.  I think maybe it was supposed to emulate the string section, but it sounds too circusy for the previous part of the song.  I do like how Brandi ends it on a partial scream.

10. “Party of One”

I like when Brandi takes to the piano.  She doesn’t do it nearly enough.  But this song is kind of a bummer to end on.  I would like them ending on a more uplifting note.  Or at least something the conveys some inner peace has been achieved as a result of all the afore-mentioned forgiveness.  Or else–what is the audience motivation to practice forgiveness?  Or what exactly is the album trying to say about forgiveness?  Just do it, despite the difficulty of it, to–feel alone and disappointed?  I think the message should be more uplifting and present some benefit from the forgiveness.  Not end on a divorce.  And the symphonic end is kind of nice, but it felt like they didn’t really know how to close out the album, so they just played and played.

 

So that was what I gleaned from listeninging only.  I’m excited to read the track notes, hear the stories behind the songs at concerts, and see articles on the content.  I probably missed a lot of the intent–I hope so!

 

Brandi Carlile: By the Way, I Forgive You

20 Feb

Let’s get the superficial out of the way first, why don’t we?

I hate the cover art on the album.  It makes Brandi look weird and old.  Like her face is dirty and she’s a hobo or something.  Speaking of physical appearance, I can’t help but be disappointed that Brandi looks old in the face.  And she’s gained weight.  And has mom hair.  The too-cool-for-school rock star vibe I used to see in her promo material and at concerts has been replaced with a mature-almost matronly tiredness.  And I hate that it matters to me.  I don’t want to believe I was only a fan because Brandi was nice to look at and seemed on the cusp of alternative-trends.  But I did used to really enjoy that finally, FINALLY the gays could have an icon that was attractive.  It’s not that common, you know.  So there is still the writing and singing talent, but that coolness is gone. . .

Another thing that had me questioning how fickle I may be as a fan was (very unfortunately) the music.  I mean, I like “The Mother” because it’s a unique take on a common subject.  But I’d heard it at a couple of concerts already.  And Mom songs are. . .  only so personal to me.  I also snuck listens to the first few singles on YouTube, and was really sad there was no Bear Creek-esk song.  Not even any upbeat song!  Where did Brandi’s edge go, I wondered?  It made it worse that all the videos were obviously from the same session, with no costume changes, no effects at all.  The band just played.  The songs all blended together sounding mostly the same.  I was dismayed that my fan-days were over.

But I have been listening, and buying the music, and contributing on Facebook comments, and attending concerts since the Indigo Girls (another one of my favorite bands) called Brandi the third Indigo Girl.  And I think Brandi is a good person–given all personal communications I’ve seen on her page and through media.  So I wanted to really like Brandi’s new stuff.

I listened to the album as a whole on Spotify (I pre-ordered the album, but cheaped out on shipping so it’s not here yet) with an open mind.  And I missed that upbeat song.  I wanted a “Hard Way Home,” “Dreams,” or “Alibi.”  But what I could appreciate right off was Brandi’s flawless, heartful singing.  And the instrumentation–the strings are beautiful.  I could hear right away Brandi was really going for it with her notes, too.  She can always hit them, but this album had a lot of passion that was easily discerned through her voice.

I listened again.  Once, I stopped listening for that amped up song that I long for, I could notice that By the Way, I Forgive You is a lyrically-driven CD.  Brandi and Tim and Phil wrote from their hearts and souls and you can absorb that after a few listens through the album.  So I come away, actually feeling like Brandi returned to her original fans by writing something closer to Give Up the Ghost, but at a different, more settled stage of life.  She did just what I have been asking her to do–go back to her roots and be her authentic self.

So she’s not nearly as cool as she used to be.  She looks tired.  Just like me.  She weighs more–just like me.  That happens in your 30s.  And the neat thing?  In your 30s you don’t really care as much about that stuff.  You learn what’s really important.  Family.  Love.  Forgiveness.  Moving forward.  So even though I started out bummed at Brandi’s new persona (ie NOT having one.  But stripping away the edges and just settling into herself) I’m, actually pleased about the direction.  So Brandi, please forgive me for objectifying you, and not remembering to look to your internal beauty and talent.

But Brandi, please do me a favor–still play the rockin’ songs at concerts, jazz up the studio version of at least ONE of the songs on this album so I want to jump, stomp my feet, and scream the lyrics–and on the next album include another amped up song. Or a few of them.  That’s all I ask.

Valentine’s Series #13(?!): Restaurants are Decidedly Not Romantic (that day)

13 Feb

Before we get to the meat (pun!) of my Valentine’s topic–will somebody please help me?  I used to edit and edit (I know!  Can you believe it?  I know you couldn’t tell) each post as a draft.  And now I’m not sure how I can start writing, leave, come back–however many times, then publish it later.  Help!

My topic this year is a favorite Valentine’s activity–dining out–and how it’s actually horrible because of this contrived day.

Restaurants are fun.  You can try new and exciting food, eat something you don’t know how to make, avoid grocery shopping, spend time chatting with your loved one rather than minding the stove.  AND the cleaning is up to someone else.  All good things.  Yet, dining out on Valentine’s Day isn’t.  good.

Why?

Everyone else had the same idea.  And that sucks.  According to ideas-time.com, “53 percent of couples planning to celebrate the holiday with dinner this year will be doing so in a restaurant” (1).  It requires planning and a competitive spirit to capture seats at a restaurant on V-Day.  Sometimes the thinking ahead has to be months and months ahead.  Often, you have to settle for something, whether it be the time you get to eat, or worse, the place itself.  “Valentine’s Day is the busiest day of the year for reservation-taking restaurants,” reports OpenTable.com (1).

As such, there can be no spontaneity because restaurants are booked.  And what is more romantic than being spontaneous?  Sometimes the stars just align and you end up somewhere, and it captures the perfect moment or creates the best memory.  Valentine’s on the contrary has to be PLANNED.  There is no room for error here.  As a matter of fact, you better get that reservation on the books early, because “25% of people eat out (making it the 2nd most popular day at restaurants after Mother’s Day)” (4)!

If you get into the dinner at all, the parking will suck.  It may or not be at a time that you and your date like.  The time may or may not work nicely with any other events or activities planned that evening.  Maybe you don’t get to see a movie, star-gaze, or have a moment at the park.  The point is–the restaurant is the WHOLE thing.  And already it’s kind of a bummer. . .

And there WILL be waiting.  “An increased number of tables means more orders for waiters to manage, which spells trouble even for veteran teams,” popsugar/food.com asserts (5).  If you’re lucky enough to be seated right away, you’ll still end up waiting for the drinks, the food, or the check (at least one of those things-if not all three).  A reasonable explanation for the waiting problem:

Instead of the typical two special orders he [your chef] might get an entire night, he’ll get no less than 50 on Valentine’s Day, whether it’s requests for sauce on the side or a steak well-done instead of medium rare. “We always try to make guests happy, but it does affect the flow,” says Symon. Considering that the kitchen crew is seeing 50 tickets for two people at one time instead of the usual 25 for four, it’s no wonder the kitchen’s a veritable pressure cooker (1).

The quiet, romantic little place will be crowded and loud.  And was that anybody’s idea of romance?  I mean, there will be no whispering of sweet nothings and no privacy.  You and your date will be just another one of the many, many love-birds taking over the place.  NOT special.  Your favorite restaurant will also be different than usual.  But WHY?!, you ask, and popsugar/food.com explains:

You won’t get a true taste for what the restaurant has to offer. With a high demand for reservations, many restaurants choose to serve a prix-fixe menu in lieu of the establishment’s greatest hits. Not because it makes for a better meal, but because a prix-fixe menu reduces cost and complication. The problem: it can be unfamiliar to both the cooks and wait staff, inviting more opportunity for mistakes (5).

I read a survey of restaurant owners and how they feel about Valentine’s Day:  “Many restaurateurs including Carter say overcrowded dining rooms combined with overpriced prix fixe menus can lead to a high-pressure experience for both restaurants and diners” (3).  Your favorite entrée may not be included on the prix-fix menu–or worse, not cooked as well as usual.  And that’s the WORST.  So the reason you came to this location in the first place is ruined!  With Valentine’s Day hype and numbers, comes your restaurant staff in survival mode.

The restaurant will be crowded with people who have made these reservations waaay ahead of time, on a romantic day of expectations.  They have dressed up, and even have to forego other plans because of weird reservation times or a late seating.  Therefore, those lovey couples want to savor the moment.  It’s a circular problem, the menu is prix fixe, service slow, and bill expensive because everyone is crammed in on one day, and the people are over-staying and being high-maintenance.  Causing the prices to have to be increased for the restaurant to be profitable.  As grubstreet.com writes:

One part of the equation is that diners tend to linger longer than they might on typical nights, making it difficult to turn tables quickly. “You don’t want to rush people out,” Hough says. “You want people to enjoy their experiences.” He says that Il Buco handles about 200 diners on a typical Saturday, but on Valentine’s Day, the restaurant will only see 150. “But,” he adds, “you make that up with the prix fixe.” (7).

The menu will probably be pared down and both your wait-staff and the cooks will be run, run running to try to accommodate a larger than usual set of diners.  And the composition of this crowd?  Couples.  With high expectations and reservations.  Who might not have been to a restaurant in a long time, and may not be familiar with this particular restaurant.  For some, this might be the one time they eat out in the year.  AKA–they will struggle.  They don’t know how to order quickly, what the new dining trends are, or they may have tons of questions.  And that contributes to more snags:  “Too many rookies at any one restaurant can disrupt the flow and feel of a place” (3).

Eating out on Valentine’s Day will be expensive!  Maybe even more than usual.  Ideas-time.com says “the average bill on V-Day will be $142.11” (1)! It’s like this:  Either the restaurant is diabolical and knows you’re in a tricky spot and HAVE to have that romantic dinner out on this sexist day of spending so they hold you hostage (reason 2 coming up after this).  As LAmag.com’s article agrees,

“Restaurants are a challenging business. You have to fight for every butt in a seat, for every cover, for every dollar. But then you have a day when there’s a captive audience. They’re obligated to go out and to do something more extravagant than they would normally would. So—and this is the sort of sinister part—the idea was always, ‘Let’s give them something more extravagant and bind them by making it the only choice.’ I mean it makes business sense right?” (6). 

OR the restaurant is simply economical (with much the same expensive result).  You’re going to pay for any fancy, romantic menu items.  A restaurantier interviewed for grubstreet.com speaks of the dilemma facing owners on V-Day:

The problem is that it’s tough to force people into a menu full of special foods while also pricing it accordingly: “You can never mark up truffles what you’d need it to cost,” Bissell points out. “People would say, ‘I’m not gonna pay that much for a black rock from the ground, no matter how much I love it.” But he also points out you can’t put together a Valentine’s menu and not offer something like truffles, so he has to face up to the reduced profitability: “I absorb some of that.” (7). 

So the pricing isn’t entirely due to greed.  Here is another contributing factor to higher prices on Valentine’s–the tables themselves.  Think of a restaurant.  Most of the seating is booths.  Or the bar.  On such a couple’s-centric day–neither are getting utilized as they normally would.  Ideastime.com breaks it down:

The reservation list is packed with “two tops,” industry-speak for tables of two. As a result, the tables for four or more — usually the most lucrative on any other day — go empty. So, for many restaurants, the heat is on to pack in and turn over as many two tops as possible to make up for the loss. “Basically what’s going through the manager’s mind — besides taking care of the guests — is, ‘How am I going to maximize seating?  They need customers to eat quickly, spend a lot, or both. Trouble is, this is also the time of the year when customers are feeling poor (1).

You are going to pay for the overcrowding of small tables, and lack of filled booths.  You are going to be charged for the restaurant’s trouble.

My main point = if you eat out on Valentine’s Day you are probably going to leave disappointed.  FoodWolf.com sums it up nicely:

The diner that books a holiday reservation—regardless of whether or not they are aware of it—have an elevated expectations that are nearly impossible to obtain.  More than anything, the diner imagines, the dining experience on this night should elevate this special moment.  It’s not wrong for diners to expect a great experience. But a restaurant—even the best ones—can not be all things to all people (2).

So there it is, folks.  How Valentine’s Day manages to ruin even a seemingly joyous, wonderful experience-eating out.   My solution, forgo Valentine’s Day, and go to a restaurant any other day of the year to truly celebrate your love.  It’ll be TONS better of an experience!

 

 

 

1st link (1):

Why Restaurants and Valentine’s Day Don’t Mix

2nd article (2):

 

http://www.foodwoolf.com/2010/02/service-restaurant-recommendation-valentines-day.html

3rd link (3):

 

http://www.pennlive.com/food/index.ssf/2018/01/oreo_subscription_box_amazon.html

link 4 (4):

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/michelle-pruett/valentines-day-dining-by-the-numbers_b_9178768.html

link 5 (5):

https://www.popsugar.com/food/Why-You-Shouldnt-Eat-Out-Valentine-Day-39904265

link 6 (6):

 

http://www.lamag.com/digestblog/the-truth-behind-why-restaurants-suck-on-valentines-day/

link 7 (7):

http://www.grubstreet.com/2015/02/surprising-economics-of-valentines-day.html

CareNational Potential Blog Topics

23 Jan

nomenclature

organization

work-flow

setting priorities

work-life balance

planning

ways to maximize productivity

phone etiquette

call reluctance*

acronyms list

definitions

using social media to network

keeping engagement high

working with coworkers

sexism in the workplace

the trifecta that contributes to getting sick

how little things can impact getting the dream job (typing, for exp)

tips to increase self-discipline

moving/relocation tips

TOP 6 Albums of 2017 (after much adieu)

14 Jan

#6-Imagine Dragons

In the past, I liked Imagine Dragons just fine.  They were an agreeable band for work or other group settings that called for a musical consensus.  They were a neutral background sound.  Evolve stands out.  It’s easily in the top albums of the year.  The lyrics are meaningful, the album as a whole is cohesive, and each song is good.  There are no throw away songs here.  And the catchiness is at it’s peak, every song gets inside you.  Best song of the year–tied with Ke$ha’s “Prayer” is “Believer” oh my gawd!  They had factored even higher in my list all year long, but several last minute discoveries upset their easy top 3 place.  Still, this is good, and just shows how diverse the music was in 2017, and how many new artists came right out of the gate as contenders.

#5-Demi Lovato

After much deliberation, she settled on my list above magic Dragons because her emotion on Tell Me You Love Me is tangible and raw.  These songs are an obvious ‘fuck-you’ set to somebody.  You can feel the maturity, hear the singing power, and tell she went through a transformation while writing this and came out the better for it.  There are only 2 songs on the album that I didn’t care for (“Daddy Issues” and “Ruin the Friendship”) but big deal.  Plus, she gets extra bonus points for “Sorry, Not Sorry” my 3rd favorite song of the year, and very favorite diss song.  I was going to post a link to that video, but it was horrible.  Bad boots, bad kissing scenes, not the awesomeness I had imagined.  So here is a song without a video to ruin it.

#4-Lee Ann Womak

This is different from her prior adult contempory/easy listening/country touchy-feely stuff.  Different in a great way!  The Lonely, the Lonesome, and the Gone is bluesy.  The emotion isn’t contrived here—you can feel it.  Womak’s voice is thick with pain and grief and she easily conveys some gritty emotion.  Guitar is played with soul.  She reinvented herself, or slid into another niche—and I whole-heartedly approve!

#3-Sam Smith

I thought his radio hit was more of the same.  Urban R&B sounding stuff.  Which is good, but has been very overplayed in 2017.  I get it–every non-white, non-male, minority needs to shout right now.  Good on the industry for finally including other voices on the scene.  But it shouldn’t just get put on the radio, because it fits a certain image/demographic–the songs should be GOOD.  And the R&B is starting to get a little diluted.  Anyway, when I heard Sam Smith’s first single, it was just another one.  But when I discovered The Thrill of it All as a whole I was blown away.  The album isn’t another cookie-cutter to take advantage of the latest sound that sells.  It breaks stereotypes and pushes at boundaries, while showcasing a true writing and singing talent.  I like the gospel influence, and Smith’s resonant voice.  I like how a gay man (I haven’t researched this, it’s an assumption based on the songs).   speaks of love of religion–and men, and shows they are not mutually exclusive.  I admire the genuine way in which Smith has assembled the album.

#2-Marin Morris

She played SxSW in 2016 so I feel like neither she or her new album are exactly “new.”  But her album, which I heard in December, has been officially released in 2017.  And she’s fresh and awesome.  Every song is memorable and catchy.  Every song is good!  She’s part Miranda Lambert, part Gretchen Wilson, and part Shania Twin (in her hey-day).  And she is blowing up!  With good reason.  The hype (I’m assuming there is–I don’t really see TV, magazines, or forums in my daily life now) is legit.  This gal is the real deal.  Add to substantially talented, and I don’t think we’ll be seeing the end of her anytime soon.  I hope her sophomore album holds up.

#1-Ke$ha

Earns my #1 spot with her album, Rainbow.  The aptly-named album proves Ke$ha can pull of a range of sounds and show her true colors (pun intended–sorry, I couldn’t help it, it’s just too easy).  Sometimes, I would have to double-check these were still Ke$ha songs, and Spotify hadn’t run in to the next artist’s album, or those annoying “suggested songs” because it would be something that sounded different.  Which is good.  This album showcases the talent I always knew/hoped she had.  On her other works, I always liked the dance, but wanted something more substantial and serious also.  This is it.  In Rainbow she does not just talk through the songs as in the past (though there is that) and Ke$ha proves she can SING.  After Ke$ha’s traumatic experiences being sexually abused by her management, then held hostage to her contract, she has some pain and strength that make these songs outstanding.  Tied for best song of the year is “Praying” which shows both vulnerability and a new maturity.  I love how Ke$ha experiments with different genera categories and sounds on this album.  “Woman” is the girl-power anthem necessary to empower feminists in this Trumpian-sexism.  Ke$ha plays with a country sound on “Hunt You Down” and the game works out in her favor.  She has a campy-punk song (yes, apparently, you can have both at once) in “boogey feet.” The duet (“Old Flames”) with Dolly Parton is spot-on.  And “Godzilla” reminds me of the Juno soundtrack.  And yes, there are still the cheeky dance songs to shake your ass to!  Finishing with “Starship” was just the right move to reinforce the maturity, talent, and reinvention in the rest of the album.  I just can’t emphasize enough how Rainbow shows the range that I’d always hoped Ke$ha could pull off.

Here’s my full 2017 songs/albums list so you can listen for yourself.  I hope you enjoyed these countdowns!

Things are Heating Up! Top 10 to 7th Best Albums of 2017

12 Jan

#10-Eminem
The King of controversy stops whining (mostly) and becomes socially relevant again with a Trump diss track. And anyone who disparages Trump is on my good-list.  I like Eminem’s political stance on Revival (for once) and think he put a lot of thought into the lyrics.  “Untouchable” is a work of socio-economic history and motivation.  It also didn’t escape my attention that Em uses “us” when he speaks of the situation, which rather than putting me off (b/c he’s pandering or phony or a poser), proved to me that he feels as-one with the black community and feels true understanding and empathy.  I felt American just listening to it, and moved to make change.  On a lighter note, Eminem can really utilize a sample:  Em takes Joan Jett, The Cranberries, and even a playground song, “… eat some worms” hooks and incorporates them seamlessly in his album. EXCEPT I absolutely hate when Eminem starts whining through verse and makes all kinds of excuses for his shitty behavior. “Bad Husband” is a prime example. Terrible.  But 3/4 of the album is great, great, awesome.  And he is cool enough to include 18 songs, so I can live with the 2 I really hate and 3 that I only half dislike (3.5 songs of 18 is pretty darn good).  But I love his total command of rapping. Eminem can hit those phonemes and rap fast! “Offend” shows off his undisputed talent. As for being 100% done with his career–we’ll see if it sticks.


#9-Kelly Clarkson
A new, sassy, soulful side to America’s first Idol winner!  Meaning of Life comes from a place of strength. I like how Clarkson still showcases man and relationship problems, as always, but this album plays on her power. “Whole Lotta Women” is fun, ferocious, and hits the notes. From the lyrics to the southern-influenced singing, Meaning of Life shows a woman who knows what she wants–and has the wherewithal to get it. The gospel background, and gravelly edge to Clarkson’s always strong voice are a welcome addition to her music.

Now I stand tall
Feeling like myself again, no worries at all
Breathe
No one can stop me from livin’ this moment for me
I found my heartbeat
After all that I’ve been through
No, I don’t think about you
#8-Blondie
Way to go, Blondie! I must say it was almost a relief to hear a true rock album this year. And I’m going to try really hard not to be condescending or age-ist in this blurb. I’ve seen some other reviews for Pollinator that I didn’t care for just for those reasons. Blondie knows what they are doing as a band. All the songs are good on this album, and Blondie stays true to their sound. The band manages the difficult feat of being careful not to alienate their loyal fans by diverting to a new direction, but also remains on the forefront of rock and trend.  I really liked it!


#7-Train
They snuck right in at the last minute!  A Girl a Bottle a Boat is FULL of winning songs. An album of radio-friendly singles, that may put them back on track (sorry couldn’t help it) to be a mainstream success again. And for some reason, I didn’t know Train had a new album until late December.  I thought my countdown was pretty well locked up, but this band bulleted (there I go again) to the top of it.  “Drink Up” is the new raucous drinking song. It surprised me that I liked, “Play That Song,” which is a nice sample/remake of a familiar tune. “Lottery” is super-catchy. Let’s be real, here, EVERY song on this album is catchy!  “Valentine” is also one that you’ll be humming for the rest of the day, and is legit romantic. I could go on, and tell about each song—but you get the point. Listen. Enjoy.

a girl a bottle a boat