Quarantine Gave Me Something

It’s not the most outlandish statement to make when I say none of us are exactly thriving in quarantine. Lifestyle changes have hit us too fast, especially for us college students trying to pave their way to the real world.

My experience during mid-March was a bit unique: I had been hospitalized for something completely unrelated to COVID-19 right after my weekend trip to New York City. I went in on that Wednesday with the rest of my semester in Athens, a job, commencement, and a plan for my future, and I left on Friday the Thirteenth with none of it. It was as if I had entered the Twilight Zone and never left.

After that, everything got boring. Classes are currently insufferable, although I can tell most of my professors are trying their best. Learning online without a schedule or a professor in front of me to teach me the material can really nag at the lazy side of my personality. And as a second semester senior with the optional satisfactory grading system, it’s becoming easier and easier to ignore my Catmail inbox and focus more on my Animal Crossing island.

But one thing that has been good for me during quarantine has been my increased self-esteem, which honestly is something I never thought I would say. I looked at myself in the mirror the other day and recognized the person staring back. I haven’t been able to say that for the better part of a decade. I’ve worn makeup nearly every day since seventh grade, believing that enough of it would make me believe that what I saw in the mirror would finally be adequate. But it has been quarantine, the constant days of me existing as I am, without makeup, that has shown me my face again, and I can actually recognize me without makeup. I think that’s pretty cool.

I’ve also been working out regularly. That’s another thing I couldn’t say before all this happened. It does wonders for my self-esteem as well — making me feel good about the body I’m in that otherwise just sits on my bed and watches TV.

I was so concerned about my well-being going into quarantine, especially after being in the hospital, but instead of breakdown, I got a personal breakthrough. The victories I’m experiencing are small, and to the outside world they may seem pretty trivial, but I’m amazed at myself and how I’m able to better myself in an environment that I believed I would have otherwise tarnished in.

Album Drops: Spring 2020

It’s been the longest month of our lifetimes, and I think it’s time to treat ourselves to some good ear candy. Today, I bring you two albums that have already dropped and one more that is set to release in the next few months. These are all sure to shift the face of pop and alternative music, so make sure to add these to your library as soon as you can.

5SOS

March 27: 5 Seconds of Summer – CALM

The four-piece released their new album just a few days ago, but they’ve been releasing singles one by one since early last year. The album name, CALM, is made of the first letters of their first names, Calum, Ashton, Luke, and Michael, with tracks ranging from hard-hitting bass songs to acoustically soft ones. The band jokes in their latest video titled “5 Seconds of Summer – Carpool Karabloke” that they had no direction with this album, and when it was time to make songs, they simply sat down, made whatever came to them that day, and created the complete package.

Luke Hemmings, the lead singer and rhythm guitarist, claims the first track “Red Desert” is one of his favorites, joking that he got word that it was “the best song ever written and recorded.” Other standout tracks include “Teeth,” which was featured in the 13 Reasons Why: Season 3 Soundtrack. This is the band’s fourth studio album, and even though they joke about a lack of sonic cohesivity, the album shows their journey as a band and their achievements in the 10 years that they’ve been together.

Dua Lipa

March 27: Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

With only her second studio album, Dua Lipa has managed to gain a massive following online as well as soar in the charts. Her songs have gone viral on the app TikTok, most notably “Don’t Start Now,” which helped her name become even more well-known.

Her retro-inspired concept photos and tracks elevate her from her debut album, which featured a heavy modern pop influence. This time around, the 24-year-old singer wasn’t afraid to lean into the nostalgia side of “Future Nostalgia” and bring a new sound to pop music. Her incredibly catchy tracks are sure to brighten up your day.

Diet Cig

May 1: Diet Cig – Do You Wonder About Me?

The band’s sophomore album is coming soon, and the world needs it more than ever. This two-piece from New Paltz, New York, creates within a music genre described as “indie punk rock.” Their fun, bright tracks traditionally have an uplifting quality to them. They gained a larger following after opening for the Front Bottoms on their tour in 2017.

The first single of the album, “Thriving,” features the lead singer and guitarist, Alex Luciano, describing how she feels after a breakup. Her vocals mixed with warm backtracking makes this first song a great set-up to the rest of the album.

Why Everyone Loves the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen

If you have even browsed social media platforms in the past year, there is a good chance you’ve seen the likeness of Claire Saffitz or Brad Leone across your feeds. These two charismatic people are part of the cast of Bon Appetit’s Test Kitchen, best known for their upbeat, informative YouTube videos that regularly go viral.

It’s no secret that the Bon Appetit brand is alive and well, but I’m here to tell you why you love watching the cast interact and create incredible recipes. The brand didn’t start out as what most younger people know.

Bon Appetit has caught the attention of younger viewers as of late, but they have been around since 1956. The magazine brands itself as a “highly opinionated food brand” that focuses on local produce, recipes that anyone can follow, and a strong bond between their editors and readers. Since they’re based in New York City, a lot of their shorter stories center around the five boroughs. They’re extremely successful in keeping their reputation as the gold standard for food publications, and the staff at Bon Appetit likes to hold high-brow conversations about food. They’re the kind of people who look at a $14 breakfast sandwich and think, “That’s reasonable.”

But the creation and maturation of their YouTube channel brought the brand to a new level of relatability. The channel has formed into a multitude of series and stand-alone videos featuring an approachable, fun-loving cast of editors who produce content across platforms and turn the magazine’s opinionated, sometimes high-brow articles into digestible and relatable content for viewers of all ages.

The channel generally attracts a viewership between ages 18 and 35, bringing the average consumer of Bon Appetit media down significantly. With their YouTube channel reaching over 122 million video views as of the beginning of 2020, Bon Appetit has become one of the most beloved brands on social media.

They have cracked the code on what can keep a magazine alive in the digital age. Bon Appetit transformed into a multi-platform brand that successfully produces content their viewers want to see. They’re also doing something not many brands can do these days, which is attract new viewership. It also helps that viewers regularly see familiar faces like Claire, Brad, or Chris Morocco on the YouTube channel and then see their bylines on recipes or articles across other mediums. It creates brand loyalty; you’ll want to find out more and explore other platforms of their brand if you trust the people you watch on YouTube. The brand has even reached out past their world of food and has brought in celebrities from Hollywood and the internet in a series called “Back to Back,” where the famous have to keep up with professional chef Carla Lalli Music.

The brains behind Bon Appetit’s branding are genius; they realize that showing their audience the personalities behind the content they read and follow will likely keep them engaged longer. And with such a diverse, charismatic cast, it’s easy for anyone to fall in love with the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen. I appreciate what the brand is doing, and I’m going to keep watching and reading because I love to see a magazine that takes strides toward keeping up with the times.

How Netflix is Changing Reality TV

I’m sure most college kids have heard of “The Circle” by now; it’s one of Netflix’s most popular shows. The premise, according to the show, is that contestants answer the question, “How far would you go to be popular on social media if $100,000 was at stake?” through their moves in the game. And that’s the main idea of this show — the contestants communicate solely over social media through their TVs and screens throughout their one-bedroom apartments.

The concept of a reality show that features contestants who never meet in person was something that shocked Netflix subscribers across the U.S. But, since the show’s release, it has gained quite the following. People are hooked on the idea that the people on the show can virtually be whoever they want, so long as they can convince their competitors well enough to keep from getting blocked or kicked off the show.

Reality shows have been more of a recent trend in past decades, with shows like “Jersey Shore,” “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” “The Bachelor,” and, more recently, “Love Island.” Shows like these prove that there is a booming market for shows about what audiences see as the normal lives of normal people. The basis of all of these shows is the relationships between the cast members, and obviously all of the drama that ensues. But, with “The Circle,” viewers don’t get the satisfaction of watching the in-person dramatics. Instead, viewers watch as the cast of “The Circle” carefully plan their words over a messaging app in order to win the big prize. For those who haven’t seen it, I promise it’s much more interesting than it sounds. You get hooked by the end of the first episode.

Another Netflix original that dropped more recently is a similar, yet completely unique reality show called “Love is Blind.” In this show, contestants come on in hopes of finding a life partner. The catch is, they aren’t allowed to see each other until they are engaged. Only after the guy drops to one knee can the two meet in the flesh. Then, by the end of the month, they can choose to get married.

This more severe and consequential “experiment,” as the show calls it, turned quite a few more heads. The premise of getting engaged to someone before seeing them seems almost impossible, but the contestants on “Love is Blind” surprise viewers from the first episode.

The two shows are focused on a double-blind premise and reform what the world knows as reality TV. They adapted the typical script of a reality-based production and turned it into something similar to how the internet and mobile technology affect our daily lives. The world now interacts through screens, and that’s exactly what Netflix is channeling with these two shows; they take what a large part of their audience does on a daily basis and turn it into a game.

Netflix has breathed new life into the reality TV genre. Yes, millions of Americans still watch “The Bachelor,” but the proposals in “Love is Blind” definitely made me more emotional than any rose ceremony ever could.

Please Listen to Music in Different Languages

I’m still thinking about how the Grammys didn’t completely suck this year. We got incredible performances by artists of genres across the board, and surprisingly, the Grammys featured artists who didn’t speak English as their first language. Rosalia performed her hit songs “Juro Que” and “Malamente,” and BTS was featured in Lil Nas X’s medley performance of “Old Town Road.”

I have nothing but hope for the future of the music industry when I see artists performing and speaking in different languages. The world music market has too many talented, more-than-deserving artists who should have the platform and world stage that is the western music market. Sadly, foreign songs and artists making it to the top of the American music charts is a phenomenon that has happened only in the last few decades. America saw one of the original trailblazers for foreign language artists, Shakira, perform alongside Jennifer Lopez during the Super Bowl halftime show earlier this month. Shakira used her attitude, dancing, and Spanish lyrics to create something truly sensational, earning her multiple worldwide hits and a song dedicated to promotion for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Fast-forward to today, new artists are beginning to infiltrate the almost exclusively English music industry of America. For a country that prides itself on the melting pot philosophy of its population makeup, the U.S. doesn’t do much within the pop genre to tap into diverse cultures and languages. It took bands like BTS almost three whole years to be taken even a little bit seriously by American interviewers and radio DJs, and even still their insanely popular albums are discredited. Rosalia, someone who has a wide fanbase across Spain and the U.S., doesn’t receive the recognition her album sales show she deserves.

I want to make the case for music in other languages to those who only listen to music in English. The argument I hear the most is: “I don’t want to listen to music I can’t understand.” And that’s completely expected; a large part of listening to music is the lyrics. I do know, however, that most people aren’t listening to their favorite party song or the latest hit by Dababy for the lyrical content, and those who liked “Despacito” when it was popular weren’t too concerned with what Luis Fonsi was saying. If someone does really rely on the lyrics for choosing whether or not they like the song, just look up the lyrics. Like, for example, when I listened to a particularly emotional song from BTS, I was curious about the message. So, I looked up the lyrics and was pleasantly surprised by the complexity of the metaphors and imagery used. It made me appreciate the song, and now I can listen to it knowing what the band is trying to say, even though I don’t speak much Korean.

I urge you to give foreign music a shot. There’s a rapper named Snow Tha Product who switches from English to Spanish in her songs. Her stuff is similar to what’s topping the charts, and you can understand the message of her music without searching the lyrics. Do you remember “Papaoutai,” the French song that went viral back in the mid-2010s? The artist who sings it, Stromae, has so much more than just one track. Even if you’re listening to “Mi Gente” or “Taki Taki,” you’re inviting foreign artists, and therefore a more worldwide influence on music, into American airwaves.

So please listen to music in different languages; doing so can and will broaden your worldview and help you appreciate art from so many other cultures. And maybe we can break America out of its western-centric ideals of what good music can be. We appreciate paintings, classical music, and sculptures from other parts of the world, so why not modern music, too?

Spring Couture 2020 Part Two

There were too many brands to talk about in my first post about the Spring Couture shows in Paris, so I’m back for part two. Spoiler: no one did worse than Chanel in the latter half of the week.

Christian Dior opened its show with a blinding mirage of shiny gold and silver two-piece suits and gowns. The brand is seemingly trying to single-handedly bring back gaucho-length pants, and this time it’s styled as couture business wear. Many of the blazers that walked the first half of the show were, sad to say, weak. The first 57 looks had a cohesiveness, tying in this weird shiny fabric. Is it silk? I’m not sure we’ll ever know, but luckily these odd pieces were broken up with a few gorgeous tulle layers with a carefully crafted nude illusion. Then, the collection takes a hard left turn with the introduction of bright red and jewel-toned knotted tulle gowns. Dior loves the nude illusion this season, featuring in almost every piece that walked in the latter half of the show.

Honestly, it seems like the first and second half of the collection could be from separate trains of thought. All the looks push a goddess narrative, but the ways in which the first half and the second half display that narrative are vastly different. Overall, I’m confused, but not exactly mad. I could do without the first 50 looks of the collection, though. See the rest of the collection here.

A brand that had a similar vision with arguably better execution, is Zuhair Murad. The Lebanese designer is known for his exquisite gowns, and more virally, his wedding collections. This season, Murad takes embroidery to center stage, adorning every single gown with jewels, beads, and crystals. His gowns didn’t disappoint as they flowed down the runway. He crafted his dresses in sapphire blue, red, gold, peach, black, and white. He created a modern Egyptian goddess with long sleeves, cutouts in the bodices, and attractive necklines. 

My jaw dropped as I looked through this collection. One word that came to me throughout the whole collection was: decadent. Murad created a modern goddess who was not only an Egyptian queen in a past life, but she’s also super-rich. See every look here.

One thing is for sure about Valentino runway shows: you always know it’s Valentino. Their Spring 2020 Couture show featured bright, in-your-face looks that not only varied in color but varied in texture, pattern, and silhouette. Literally, it’s a grab bag of weird mermaid skirts, ruffled dresses, and tree headdresses. I’m not sure how to describe this one. I’m also not sure if there’s a message, but there sure is a vision. The best part seems to be the giant earrings worn by half of the models because it was a cohesive part of the collection and one of the few plusses. The wide, vast array of patterns and fabrics confuse me even as I look through the collection for the 10th time. Some of the later gowns in the show were even creased and ill-fitting. Valentino is one of the most well-known brands in the world, and they put creased, ugly gowns down the runway?

I wish this collection had a cohesive thread throughout. I leave it each time with more questions than answers, but my biggest question is: Why? 

See the 74-look collection here.

The Importance of Pop Music

Amidst all of the controversy and lawsuits surrounding the Recording Academy and its executive members, the 2020 Grammys was generally a successful broadcast. Billie Eilish took the spotlight with five wins, including the big four: best song, best album, best record, and best new artist. Not only is she one of the youngest artists to receive a Grammy, but she was also the first woman to sweep the main categories. Lizzo opened the show with a powerful two-song medley of her hits “Cuz I Love You” and “Truth Hurts” and took home three wins. Demi Lovato performed an emotional and moving song that she wrote just days before her overdose back in 2018. Tyler, the Creator won best rap album. Lil Nas X, an openly gay man of color, performed arguably the biggest song of the year, “Old Town Road,” with a superstar cast including BTS, a Korean boy group topping the Billboard charts, and Nas, a rapper who up until this year, never performed on the Grammy stage.

Can you see where I’m going with this? Pop music has evolved greatly in the past few decades, and most notably in the past few years. It’s become a more inclusive, intersectional environment, and although there is much, much more work to do in the scope of the American music industry and its politics, this is a great stepping stone of progress.

A decade ago, the face of pop music looked a little different; Taylor Swift won album of the year for “Fearless,” Kings of Leon won record of the year with “Use Somebody,” and Beyonce walked away with six awards. It was still a great year in music, and the voices that were heard and recognized for their talent continue to make music in the pop genre. But pop is no longer what it was 10 years ago. Now, it’s something much broader that encompasses people from a wider spectrum of walks of life, style, body types, and sexualities. Billie Eilish’s first studio album would have never made it into the pop category of a major award ceremony back in 2010, and I argue that Lizzo’s aggressively positive music wouldn’t resonate as much as does now. Pop music is moving toward something that means more to diverse people around the world. Popular music in America doesn’t even have to be in English anymore; BTS and Rosalía both performed as international artists, with Rosalía nominated for best new artist. 

The pop music scene is taking a turn, and I argue, it’s taking a turn for the better. 

Let’s Talk Spring Couture 2020

The Paris Spring Couture runway shows are underway, and there is much to talk about. There were some immediate hits and, unfortunately, some major misses — and we haven’t even gotten through all the biggest fashion houses. But let’s discuss the collections that have already debuted, and be warned: there will be opinions throughout this post.

Let’s start with a good one: Giambattista Valli’s 34-look collection. Debuting just days ago, he never fails to impress with his beautifully draped fabrics and stunning silhouettes. Feathers and fringe take center stage, adorning gowns with precision and elegance. Florals appear to be a trend among designers this season, but Valli seems to have created one of the only collections that did the pattern in a tasteful, non-repulsive way. Not only does he use floral patterns, but he also manipulates the fabrics on his gowns to mimic the blossoms of flowers. The bright yellows, soft greens, and vibrant pinks bring innocent yet dazzling energy to the collection, and each gown seems to be better than the last. Thank you, Giambattista Valli, for creating something actually pleasing to the eye. You can find photos of the entire collection here.

The Givenchy show is an excellent example of beautiful silhouettes and fabrics, but a poor attempt at floral patterns. It’s unfortunate, really, because some of the pieces are truly beautiful, especially with their divergence from the typical spring color palette. But the near god-awful purple flowers copy and pasted onto the skirts of a handful of gowns just makes me sad. The print is tired and quite frankly something I could find in the Kohl’s women’s section. And then you have simply stunning pieces that feature bright, almost tie-dye prints that are draped and pleated elegantly, giving an Iris van Herpen vibe. It’s obvious that there is a level of inspiration behind this collection, giving a brighter and richer perspective on the spring season. Givenchy had a similar vision to Giambattista Valli in where they mimicked blossoming florals for a few of the necklines of their gowns. It’s pretty, and overall, they did a nice job. But please, for the love of God, leave the awful floral print in the past. (Photos of the entire collection here)

Speaking of Iris van Herpen, she absolutely came through this season with another incredible 21-look collection. Her previous collection went viral most notably for her talents of construction and pattern-making. It was something completely different from all of the other fashion houses, and the world was sure to take note. This season, she’s back with an understated and darker vision. She seems to be channeling the sea and sky with intricate prints featuring creatures from the deep sea and feather-like cuts. The movement of these pieces is mesmerizing, and Amy Verner from Vogue makes a good point: “Additional designs — each attesting to Van Herpen’s technical and artistic legerdemain — fluttered, flowed, and reverberated in step with the models who, themselves, swished around the central stage like marine animals.”

The collection may be more understated than her previous, but it still packs the same level of artistry, precision, and mastery of fabric and shape. She may be one of the best designers of our time, dare I say it. Do yourself a favor and experience the entire collection here.

I hate to bring this next collection up after such a beautiful one, but it has to be discussed. Chanel. What were they thinking? A blogger and fashion YouTuber I love, Luke Meagher a.k.a HauteLeMode tweeted, “I did just audibly laugh while trying to watch the Chanel show,” and I think that’s all I need to say about this collection. But since this is a review, I’ll try to articulate how I feel.

It’s terrible. The patterns, the silhouettes, the lack of inspiration, all of it. I mean, just take a look at the entirety of the collection. Next to the mastery of other fashion houses, this apparent “couture” is barely ready-to-wear. Why did they do an almost complete tartan, tulle, and tweed runway? Why the short hemlines? Why the sheer white tights with ankle socks? I have so many questions that unfortunately cannot be answered. Perhaps they switched up their trunks on accident and sent the wrong collection down the runway. Either way, these looks should not have seen the light of day. And what’s special about them? The jackets and skirts look like items I’ve seen on the Macy’s rack for decades now. And the belts with large buckles… can we please leave them in 2019? If you want to see the rest of this collection, click here.

Album Drops: Early 2020

The new year brings along new music from artists across the globe. Here are the biggest and most anticipated releases for January and February.

Jan. 17: Mac Miller – Circles

The world of rap was shaken following the death of Mac Miller in September of 2018. His fans had been waiting for his next release following his successful album, “Swimming,” which dropped earlier that year. In a letter posted by his family on Jan. 8 on his social media, it was announced that Miller’s unfinished project, “Circles,” would be released for the fans to enjoy later in the month. The post read, “This is a complicated process that has no right answer. No clear path. We simply know that it was important to Malcolm for the world to hear it.” The album features 12 tracks and was welcomed with open arms by the fanbase.

Jan. 17: Halsey – Manic

“Manic” is Halsey’s third studio album with 16 songs and features from Alanis Morissette, Dominic Fike, and SUGA from BTS. In an interview with Billboard, Halsey reveals the tracks on her latest release are part of a “musical biopsy,” something for her fans to relate to. Themes of frustration, anguish, and a stripping of her celebrity persona can be heard track by track.

Feb. 14: Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

With their fans eagerly awaiting new music since 2015, Tame Impala will finally be releasing a full studio album on Valentine’s Day. The group rose to fame with their wildly successful album “Currents,” which featured a psychedelic rock and synth-pop vibe. Since 2007, Tame Impala grew steadily from a local band in Australia to a global success, which is why so many are looking forward to their new music.

Feb. 12: The 1975 – Notes on a Conditional Form

The 1975 have shifted concepts a few times since their creation in 2002, and their last album, “A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships,” was perhaps their most successful concept switch to date. Most fans remember hearing the band for the first time when their hit single, “Chocolate,” went viral back in 2013. Since then, the band has exploded in popularity, topping the U.K. and U.S. Billboard charts on multiple occasions. It’s safe to say the world is anticipating this release; will the band stick with their monochrome, British branding, or will they stray from their comfort zone and show their fans something different?

Feb. 21: BTS – Map of the Soul: 7

https://genius.com/albums/Bts/Map-of-the-soul-7

The viral sensation known as BTS is putting out their first album since April of 2018, which is a long time for their fans to wait in the scope of the Korean pop industry. BTS has taken the world, and more specifically the western music charts, by storm since the latter half of 2017, and this album proves they have no signs of stopping. With the album still a month away from release, the band has already received over 3.42 million preorders — and that’s just in one week. The official cover art, tracklist, and main single have yet to drop, but one thing is for sure: BTS’ fans — known as ARMY — are anxiously awaiting what may be the biggest album the band has ever released.