To the Stars: An Ad Astra Review

Brad Pitt stars in Ad Astra, a story about human bonds that has cosmic proportions.

For a long time, the idea of humans living in space remained in the realm of fantasy. But as we tiptoe towards environmental collapse, a future of mankind in space seems more and more inevitable. 

This might explain why there has been an uptick in films that grapple with humanity in space and mankind’s quest to find a place in the cosmos. Some quintessential 21st-century “space movies” that come to mind are Wall-E (2009), Interstellar (2014), and The Martian (2015). 

And Ad Astra is another (lengthy) addition to this “space movie genre,” but instead of widening the scope to include all of humanity, it focuses on one individual.

Brad Pitt stars as Roy McBride, a cool, capable, yet emotionally repressed astronaut who narrates this story through an internal monologue. He is the son of a famed astronaut who disappeared during a mission that attempted to find intelligent life beyond Jupiter. Roy is tasked by SpaceComm to deal with “Surges,” violent earthquake-like events that cut off electronic power on Earth and other human-colonized planets. Roy’s employer believes that Roy’s father is still out in space causing these surges, and cautiously sends Roy on a classified mission to Jupiter in order to stop his father and bring him home. This journey forces Roy has to confront his complex, tumultuous relationship with his father, confront the personal rifts he has caused in his relationships, all the while dealing with the life-threatening ordeal of space travel. 

Visuals-wise, Ad Astra and it’s cinematographer (Hoyte van Hoytema, also DP of Interstellar) succeed in creating a distinctive look for the cosmos. Some of the most memorable visuals include those of Pitt saturated in oppressive reds and sea glass greens, along with the heart-racing opening sequence and the high-contrast space-pirate chase on the Moon.  

However, the writing is more of a mixed bag. 

The premise is interesting enough– but what bogs down the entire movie is the internal monologue and cliche dialogue. Brad Pitt’s internal monologue is hit or miss. At its best, it hits you with a painstaking clarity, such as when McBride describes his complicated relationship with his father. But at its worst, the writing can feel redundant and even condescending towards the audience, as emotional nuance is sacrificed for direct, straightforward monologues that weakly echo the well-acted shots of Brad Pitt experiencing that said emotion. Brad Pitt does what he can with the script however, and at moments you can forgive the redundancy. 

Pitt shines in Ad Astra as he recounts the multifaceted nature of his relationship with his father. Within two hours, we have moments of longing and the simple need for mutual understanding, begrudging respect and emulation, scorn and frustration, and a heartbreaking acceptance and letting go, with varying levels of fitting detachment from Brad Pitt. When the film touches on fatherhood and trauma, everything fits together with breathtaking clarity. 

But apart from this clarity, the rest of the relationships in this film feel murky. 

While the father-son relationship is fleshed out, I was left wondering why the writers couldn’t have done the same for Eve, Liv Tyler’s character and Roy McBride’s ex-wife. There are very few moments where they’re together, and it’s hard to believe by the end of the film Eve is ready to romantically reconnect with Roy, as such little attention has been paid to her. Due to this, the end of this film leaves something to be desired, as it feels very tacked-on and cookie-cutter. 

But I’m not going to let this bog down what I loved about Ad Astra. Ad Astra isn’t about extraterrestrials, exploring new planets, or a ragtag story of unlikely friends on a space ship. It is deeply human and relies on solitude, and what happens when this solitude is disturbed. When forces outside your control force you to question what you have known.

 Ad Astra isn’t a space movie. It is a familiar story of a father and his son, but instead of having it happen under an Earthen roof, it expands its scope and turns to the stars, “ad astra”.  

AD ASTRA (2019) 3/5

-Grace Lee (’21)

The New Fast & Furious: Worth the Watch?

As the new Fast & Furious movie, Hobbs & Shaw, hit movie theaters, fans wonder if the film was worth the wait.

The answer is not really. 

A disappointed, resigned, reluctant not really, coming from both personal experience and a recap of the movie’s reviews of others. 

But first, some context. 

The Fast and Furious series is a popular American movie franchise focused on action-heavy plots that revolve mainly around heists, covert spies, and illegal activities. Its newest movie (the seventh, to be exact), Hobbs & Shaw, was released on July 13 in the United States and on August 15 in Korea. Some fans were beyond excited to see what the new movie had in store; others were less expectant, as the Fast and Furious series had been rumored to be declining in quality ever since the third movie, Tokyo Drift. 

It seems as if the rumors did hold a measure of truth to them. To start off with a bit of the personal aspect of this article, my experience of the seventh movie of Fast and Furious was nothing short of a let-down. The movie is—in one word—cliché. From the very beginning, when the characters are introduced—Hobbs the rugged philosopher and Shaw the slick man in a suit—it’s obvious that this movie is going to go down the path of the many stereotypical ones in its genre before it. 

The cliché then became overwhelmingly apparent when the overall plot and the two characters’ motives were revealed. Shaw’s sister, Hattie, is discovered to carry a deadly virus that an evil scientist (surprise, surprise!) wants to use for equally-as-evil purposes. By the way, that scientist is Russian and his name is Brixton Lore (and this is where I heaved a weary sigh in the middle of the dark theater).

But Hobbs and Shaw absolutely cannot work together, and they decide that themselves. But then the sister is kidnapped (how convenient), and the two decide that it is imperative that they do work together in order to save her. 

Describing the rest of the movie would result in spoiling it for those reading this article, so I’ll refrain from it. But one note would be that the climax is just as cliché as the scenes building up to them. And the resolution is an absolute forehead-slapper. 

A number of articles written on Hobbs & Shaw seem to share my sentiments towards the movie. One article from The Guardian states, “Sometimes there is pleasure to be found in brainless action, but the extended video game-style finale left me furious and fatigued.” Another from the Atlantic describes the movie as, “an exhausting 135 minutes, and it feels longer, meandering from set piece to set piece and location to location without much purpose.” You get the gist. 
Maybe the movie will appeal to those who love watching the stereotypical action, heist-filled movies. In that case, Hobbs & Shaw is the one for you. But for those expecting an action movie with a compelling and novel plotline should stay out of theaters until the hype driven only by the tagline, “Fast & Furious presents,” has passed.

-Lauren Cho ’22

3rd Time Wasn’t the Charm

Following the grandiose retirement of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s superstar Ironman in Marvel’s Endgame, fans of the universe responded explosively to the announcement of a new Spider Man movie. Spider Man, also known as Peter Parker, was the on-screen protégé of Ironman, and Marvel’s take on the beloved character through actor Tom Holland as a developing teen with conflicts about his identity was adored by the public. 

While executive producer Kevin Feige’s execution on the character was well loved, fans looked forward to seeing Spider Man finally on-screen with other Marvel characters. For almost a decade, two cinema giants fought over the character rights and usage of Spider Man in the box office. While Spider Man was the creation of Stan Lee, one of the founders of Marvel, the creative rights are owned by Sony, which produced the critically acclaimed Sam Raimi trilogy and the Amazing Spider Man duology. Both of these productions, however, were met with definite shortcomings: the Raimi trilogy had a lackluster finishing while the Amazing Spider Man duology ended with talks for a third movie coming to an end. The MCU Spiderman trilogy, however, is continuously receiving critical acclaim and the hype doesn’t seem to be dying down as Disney announced the final movie of the trilogy to be coming in a couple years. With talks between Marvel and Sony regarding their collaboration to bring Tom Holland’s Spider Man into the cinematic universe, the Spider Man-dilemma seemed to be coming to an end. That was, of course, until last week.

The online community, ranging from hardcore Reddit fan pages to mainstream news outlets, reported that Spider Man would be leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe as negotiations between Marvel and Sony executives fell apart. The original deal over Spider Man was that Disney – which owns Marvel – would receive 5% of gross revenue generated by all profits that trace back to the MCU Spider Man, while Sony would take the remaining 95%. Kevin Feige and his team’s success with the inclusion of Spider Man in the Avengers series and Spider Man stand-alone films propelled them to renegotiate with Sony, now asking for a 50-50 deal instead. Unable to come to an agreement, Sony decided to take back the character for their own films.

There have been multiple rumors circulating online from entertainment outlets such as EW which claims the negotiation has taken a turn for the better due to public outrage. Unfortunately, recent updates from both sides and a statement from Sony blaming Marvel and Kevin Feige will mean Spider Man won’t be returning to Marvel for a while. For now, fans are waiting for updates that may lead to a positive outcome. While unofficial, fans are speculating that a new instagram post from MCU Spider Man actor Tom Holland and Ironman actor Robert Downey Junior with the caption “We did it Mr. Stark!” may lead to their participation in negotiations. 

With the love that comic book fans have for Spider Man, it’s been a tragedy to see that such iconic fan-favorites are caught between crossfires of corporate dealings. While it’s always been Marvel’s policy to not let its designers have access to the creative rights of their characters, Spider Man’s treatment in the entertainment industry is reflective of the way Sony and Disney executives had treated comic book legend Stan Lee during his lifetime, tunneling in on profits rather than the beauty and intrinsic value of the character.

Both sides are equally at fault in this situation. Even if one side provoked the other during negotiations, the results of these failed dealings show the immaturity and disrespect that billionaire companies have for the creators of the characters, the characters themselves, and most importantly, the fans who care. The future of Spider Man will most likely continue to be jeopardized by the struggle between the two corporations over the rights of the character. The only way to ensure that Spider Man doesn’t eventually disappear under the dust of corporate warfare is if fans continue to voice their love for the character and fight for his survival. While many may view this entire ordeal as childish or meaningless, Spider Man holds a dear place in the hearts of many generations, both from elders in their 70’s to children growing up in this digital age. Spider Man needs us.

Featured Image: BGM Twitter

-Andrew Hong (’20)

11 Netflix Shows to Binge-watch

Every weekend, you may be studying for the SAT, writing your college apps, meeting your family members, or living in a PC-bang for the whole week. However, we all know that you are going to spend at least some time on Netflix. So, here’s a list of movies to keep you entertained.

Mindhunter

Mindhunter Poster
Source: IMDb

Recently premiering its second season, Mindhunter has been screening back-chilling episodes of psychological drama. Majority of the episodes were produced by David Fincher, the mastermind behind Seven, Zodiac, and other mystery thrillers. The show follows the story of a new unit from the FBI called Behavioral Science Unit as it interviews past serial killers to chase for potential ones. Shocking us with appalling scenes-such as Ed Kemper (Co-ed killer) describing his murders and Jerry Brudos (shoe-fetish killer) finding pleasure in high-heels-Mindhunter is favored by avid crime tv show junkies, delving deeper into the minds and confessions of world-famous serial killers. Although the second season does not give us the tight unsettling experience, it is still one of the most intense shows on Netflix. 

 

Black Mirror

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Source: Cnet

Gaining an avid fandom, Director Charlie Brooker’s social commentary drama quickly became one of the central and most popular shows on Netflix. Consisting of individual storylines for each episode, the show clearly depicts a skewed view of dystopian future, subtly disturbing the audience with its close resemblance to reality. In addition to its series, the Christmas special that offered a game

 

Hannibal

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Source: Vox

 

Extrapolating the framework of the storyline in Thomas Harris’s novel Red Dragon, Hannibal follows the story of the relationship between an unstable FBI agent, who is able to reconstruct murders from the crime scene, and his therapists, who is a copycat killer. Although the show illustrates one of the most gruesome murder scenes in history, the plot, performance, and visual are beautifully and elaborately constructed. It has already been 4 years since season 3 and left us in a dead-end with its cliff-hanger. Since its beginning, the series has been critically acclaimed and is still remembered as one of the best TV crime dramas. 

 

Breaking Bad

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Source: AMC

 

No matter how disconnected you are from the media, it would be a shame if you haven’t heard of this show: Breaking Bad. Accompanying the story of a high school chemistry teacher on his path to becoming one of the most infamous drug lords, the series grapples the audience with unexpected twists and turns of the plot. Although it has been more than 6 years since its season, a trailer of the sequel as a movie premiered, prompting avid fans to rewatch the whole 62 episodes. 

 

Stranger Things

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Source: NME

 

Recently returning with its third season, the nostalgic sci-fi show continues its reign as one of the most popular shows on Netflix. Set in the suburban town in its 80s, the story follows four boys, along with a girl with psychokinetic powers, investigating the world of “upside” that constantly disrupts the reality amid supernatural events. Developed with a strong and structured plotline, the show also consists of moments of nostalgia of the 80s and comedy, further enthralling the audience. 

 

American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson & The Assassination of Gianni Versace

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Source: Vanity Fair

 

Similar to the renowned series American Horror Story, the American Crime Story developed two 10 episode mini-series: the trial of O.J. Simpson and murder of Gianni Versace. Developing a story around the two of the most infamous events in America, the series is compelling enough on its own. Furthermore, the performance by actors in the first series (Cuba Gooding Jr. as Simpson and David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian) was riveting in such that they received a 22 Emmy nominations. As captivating as the first season, the second season does not fail our expectations: it reveals an eccentric, darkly skewed characteristic of the murderer of Gianni Versace. Overall, both shows give us a new, dramatic insight into what might have happened in these global, notorious events. 

 

Dark

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Source: The New Yorker

 

As the first German Netflix Original series, Dark is a brooding and volatile sci-fi series. What might seem like a simple mystery series about a missing teenager, it takes a twist into time travel. Although the show may be dull or too convoluted when compared to other sci-fi series such as stranger things, it is because Dark has a mature storyline, illustrating how characters would react to such supernatural events in real life. 

 

Masters of None

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Source: AudNews

 

Produced by the prominent comedian Aziz Ansari, Masters of None is a light comedy show beloved by the Millenials as it follows the life of a New York-based actor who struggles to live his young and single life. While some of its scenes aim for light comedy, it delves deeper into how the world really works, instead of one-dimensional comic characters. Each episode deals with specific themes ranging from old age, racism, parents, infidelity, and more. Although this show sometimes fails to deliver both its message and comedy and consists of a narrow audience, it is worth a try. 

 

Maniac

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Source: Netflix

 

As a short 10 episode mini-series, Maniac delivers a straightforward yet skewed plot, along with trippy visuals and excellent performance by Emma Stone and Jonah Hill. Accounting the story of two strangers drawn to a mysterious pharmaceutical trial, the story digs deeper into each character’s personal issues as the experiment does not go as it is planned. Each episode focuses on the two character’s past while illustrating their bounded relationship in each realm. Although the tension of each episodes gradually dwindles, the almost-hallucinatory visuals make it up. If you are a fervent fan of trippy and eccentric visuals, it is definitely a show you should watch. 

 

Bates Motel

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Source: Netflix

 

Based on the iconic thriller Psycho, the 6-year-old television show delivers a solid and chilling plot and performance. After the death of her husband, the mother and her son moves into a small town and opens up a small hotel. Their close and intimate relationship, however,  is not normal and even harmful for each other. Expanding the plot of Psycho, it delineates how the son’s intimate bond with his mother forged him to become a serial killer. Although the scenes are not as gruesome as other serial killer series, the character’s development of an unstable mind draws the audience’s attention. 

 

Atlanta

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Source: Entertainment Weekly

 

Directed by Donald Glover (a.k.a. Rapper Childish Gambino), Atlanta is a comedy television show, following the life a Princeton drop-out working as a manager for his cousin, a rising rap star in Atlanta. It portrays how the characters navigate themselves in the jungle of Atlanta music industry. Rather than a simple music industry drama, it strongly illustrates the relationship between race and money, delving into the life of a poor black male in Atlanta. Along with its suitable soundtracks, Atlanta is an eccentric television show, as evidenced by critical acclaims and accolades. 

Featured Image: iVrox

Mark Park (’20)

The Future of Music Producers

What does the increased accessibility and popularity of bedroom music production mean for the music industry?

The Sound is a column on all things music written by Charles Park (’20) and Mark Park (’20). -Ed.

It’s 2019. Computers and phones are more accessible and affordable than ever. A Spotify or Apple Music subscription is at our fingertips. Youtube and Soundcloud are bottomless pits of great music that’s waiting to be heard.

As a result, it’s never been easier to make music.

You may not have noticed, but just in the past few years, a significant chunk of popular music has shifted from being produced in the biggest studios to the smallest bedrooms. An entire generation of underground producers is sending their beats to rappers and singers on Soundcloud, hoping to make it big. Take the example of Ronnyj, a Miami native who was a virtually unknown Soundcloud producer until he sent the beat for “ULTIMATE” to Denzel Curry.

The fruits of this trend extend beyond pop music. How many times has Youtube recommended you a live stream or playlist like this? It’s true: the rising popularity of “lo-fi hip hop” can be attributed to the numerous bedroom producers that make compilations and EPs full of simple, jazz and 90s boom-bap inspired songs that make it onto these playlists.

You might be disappointed to find out, though, that more producers do not necessarily mean more talent. The idea that “anyone can make music” has brought greater diversity and new ideas to the scene, but it’s also created a market for babysitting beginning producers. Here are just some of the reasons why music production has gotten so accessible and popular.

Sample Packs / Melody Packs / Loop Packs / MIDI Packs

My apologies if this breaks the mystery around the music producing process, but most of what music producers come up with, and a lot of what makes it onto the top charts, isn’t even made from scratch. In reality, most of the drum sounds and some of the instrumental melodies you hear are from “sample packs” that can be downloaded or bought from the internet, created by other producers. Sometimes, pulling three to four samples from a sample pack can end up sounding like something that’s ready for Drake or Kanye to rap over. There’s definitely a stigma around using these premade loops and melodies–and rightfully so–but the sample pack industry has become extremely lucrative.

To give you an idea of just how widespread this new business is, take the example of Internet Money. It’s a collective of producers (most notably Nick Mira, the producer of pretty much all Juice WRLD songs) that live together in a giant mansion and make music. A huge portion of their income reportedly comes from the samples they sell on their website. That’s right: samples are lucrative enough to afford a mansion.

Splice

Splice is arguably the best thing that has come from the bedroom producer trend: it’s an app and website that allows you to buy music software and plug-ins on payment plans, share your project files with other users like Dropbox or Google Drive, and browse through a near-endless bank of samples. It’s a great way for beginning producers to dip their toes in the game and see if the temperature right for them. Just from browsing through Splice’s samples, it’s clear where lo-fi hip hop producers get virtually all of their sounds from.

Type Beats

This is the main reason why producing is so appealing to hobbyists: the prospect of making a little pocket money from it. Gone are the days of having to lawyer up to sell a song: today, you can easily “lease” mp3s of your track to vocalists for a flat fee, through middlemen services like Traktrain and Beatstars. Producers post these instrumentals on Youtube with titles like “Drake Type Beat” or “Lil Baby / Gunna Type Beat” as a marketing tactic. Most famously, Desiigner’s song “Panda” was a type beat he bought for $200 from Youtube in 2014. For producers, type beats are a further affirmation that producing can be profitable as much as it is enjoyable.

 

There’s no doubt that as of today, it doesn’t take the same amount of studying music theory, learning the ins and outs of software, and taking classes on audio engineering to make a beat worthy of the Billboard 100. And at this point, it’s clear that no amount of complaining about loop packs or mediocre type beats will reverse the way the music industry has shifted in the last few years. What we can only hope for is that through the bloated market of Frank Ocean type beats on Youtube will come new genres and new sounds, reflective of the unpredictable ebb and flow of the music world.

Featured image: Wallpaper Safari

Rising Artists to Watch in 2019

2018 has been a rich year for music as has expanded the limits of its genre, style, and more. With the start of 2019, learn more about who will expand and lead the music scene for this year.

The Sound is a column on all things music written by Charles Park (’20) and Mark Park (’20). -Ed.

Zacari
Zacari is a new signee of the most prominent Indie Label, Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) which consists of artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, SZA, and more. Comparing himself as the “lone wolf,” Zacari delivers a new style of music—an amalgamation of Jazz, Soul, Hip-Hop, and lo-fi. The R&B singer first appeared in the public by featuring in Kendrick Lamar’s song “Love.” The song gained significant spotlight due to his mellifluous voice and unique R&B beats style. Then, he featured in the song “Redemption,” Black Panther album, one of the best Original Soundtrack for 2018 consisting of major artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, Khalid, and Swae lee. Recently, in 2019, he posted his first single, “Don’t Trip,” which has been on the rise for popularity in all music streaming services. The new single has already been appraised by critics, gleaming hope for his upcoming project many TDE fans.

Prominent songs: Don’t trip, Love, and Wat’s wrong

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Source:XXL Magazine

Gesaffelstein
The French DJ was already producing with major artists such as Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, Daft Punk from 2013; however, the public did not know him as he worked behind the spotlight of these artists. The recent album, “My Dear Melancholy,” by The Weekend solely features Gesaffelstein, gaining attention from the public. Following his feature, he releases a new single in collaboration with The Weekend, topping the charts. Unlike other EDM and techno artists, he carries a dark and threatening yet enchanting style of music. Finding himself in the public more than usual, many are keeping an eye on his punk-rock EDM music.

Prominent Songs: Lost in the Fire (feat. Weekend), Pursuit, Viol

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Source: BBC

XXX
The South Korean Hip-hop duo XXX-rapper Kim Ximya and producer FRNK-is an outlier in any Hip-hop scene. Rather than gaining popularity from Korea, they first caught the eye of the international community. In 2017, they were the first Koreans to feature in Maison Kitsune Fashion Show playlist for its after work exhibitions. Despite their relative silence with only two album releases, XXX is considered as one of the most subversive hip-hop groups. Working with frenetic electro beats and dark and vitriolic style, the duo continues to be on the rise while being the outlier in the music industry.

Prominent songs: Flight Attendant, Sujak, Dior Homme, and Ooh-Ahh

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Source: The Korea Herald

Aries
Starting from a home-made youtube channel that remixes popular songs, Aries only has 8 songs released, yet most of the songs were able to rack up 1 million streams on Spotify. Merging late-stage emo and modern hip-hop, his music delivers a wide range of emotion such as rage and sadness in a flip of a dime. There’s not a lot of information about Aries, yet his music is a paradigm of the current trend in rap music-emo. However, unlike Lil peep and other emo-artists, his songs feature some light moments, establishing a diverse spectrum of his style.

Prominent Songs: Carousel, Racecar, Sayonara

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Source: Youtube

Masego
Though an underground musician, Masego continues to establish a strong fan base, transforming avid, hardcore hip-hop fans into fans of jazz and soul. With his hit song, “Tadow,” Masego represents the younger generation of jazz hip-hop (as jazz was one of the most used genres in hip-hop beats by many hip hop legends). Collaborating with few R&B and unique artists such as TDE’s SiR, Masego’s style soothes out every R&B song.. Employing modern DJ sets and his iconic saxophone, his music has the elements and formula to become one of the most funk-styled artists such as Outkast.

Prominent Songs: Navajo, Pink Polo, and Tadow

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Source:Vibes

Ella Mai
With her first debut album, “Ella Mai,” two of her songs were nominated for Grammys; moreover, her song, “Boo’d up,” was considered as a ‘breakthrough hit’ by charting in the Billboards. Although Ella Mai may be considered as a typical now-days R&B singer, she is able to have the perception of 90’s heartthrob emotions with break-up anthems, soulful ballads. In other words, she was an affinity for classic R&B artists. The already bright start of her debut album illustrates the bright future of her career, hyping many R&B fans.

Prominent songs: Trip, Boo’d Up, Whatchamacallit, Everything

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Source: Billboard

Blueface
Blueface has stirred almost all hip hop community debating about his style and controversy. Coming from the Crip gang, the Los Angeles Bluface represents the younger generation of gangster rap with the mix of trap and trendy beats. The carelessness and young energy engendered by the rapper attracted many younger followers to his fanbase. Most of his beats conform to the trend; however, his offbeat flow is what catches Internet’s attention, polarizing many rappers and fans. Consequently, the stirred controversy left the young rapper in the spotlight, getting co-signs by Drake, Lil Uzi Vert, and other artists (even Kendrick Lamar took Twitter to acknowledge his young presence).

Prominent Songs: Thotiana, Bleed it, and Studio

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Source: Youtube

Colde
Appearing as the third Korean artist in the Colors Studio-an aesthetic music platform channel in Youtube-the R&B singer Colde is on the rise in the Hip-hop scene. Originally, Colde was in the OFFONOFF hip-hop duo; however, he currently came off as an independent artist, fully revealing his talents. Having a strong connection with mainstream artists such as Dean, Crush, and Punchnello, Colde continues to dominate the Korean music charts. Similar to Dean and DPR Live who both performed in the Colors Studio, Colde continues to build an international fanbase.

Prominent Songs: Your Dog Loves You, Poem, String

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Source: Pinterest

Reason
As the newest member of the indie label TDE (along with Zacari), the Compton native Reason is one of the most anticipated rapper this year. His debut album, “There You Have It,” fully divulges his true rhyming skills, accounting his life story of how his come-up from Compton. Similar to major artists in TDE such as Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar, Reason excels in telling his success story and the struggles of his neighborhood.

Prominent songs: Better Dayz, Situations, and There You Have it

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Source: Rolling Out

2018 has already been a bright year for avid hip-hop and R&B fans. Rising artists topping Billboard hits with singles, not to mention old artists making a come back to the music industry. There are a handful of others that deserve this title and achieved more last year (such as all the members in 88rising Entertainment) yet these artists seem to hold the most amount of potential. All of them holds the prospect of being able to expand the limits of music.

Featured Image Source: Complex

Mark Park (’20)

Doubt in Kanye West’s Redemption

The Sound is a column on all things music written by Charles Park (’20) and Mark Park (’20). -Ed.

Whether or not if you’ve been following the news or music, most people know that Kanye West is one of the most controversial entertainment figures today. The past years have been a rough road for his fans, shocking them from his advocacy for Trump, from problematic tweets, and from the defense of problematic artists. Despite his sincere and apologetic reflection addressed in his latest album, “ye,” and the address of his unstable mental health, all is not forgiven. He still faces criticism from the majority, finding himself as the most polarizing artist last year.

From the absurd comments such as “Slavery is a choice,” and “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people,” Kanye lost everything: he jeopardized his marriage with Kim Kardashian,  lost one of his closest friend, Don C, and, most importantly, disheartened all of his fans. In an interview with 107.5 WGCI Chicago, Kanye West breaks down into tears on his so-called “downfall” and struggles with his mental health issues. He wholeheartedly apologizes to everyone for his comments, insinuating that his struggles with mental illness drove him to this problematic state. This became a tearful moment for many, prompting people to assume that this was the turning point: a redemption for Kanye West.

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Source: DJ Booth

West started his redemption in the later half of 2018. His latest album, “ye,” truly reveals his raw emotions and insecurities in this whole tumult. Unveiling the rationales of his questionable beliefs-his unstable mental health-Kanye tries his best to reach out to those who were damaged from his comments. Kim Kardashian also tried to control the damage by referring his tweets as a form of “therapy” for his mental illness-schizophrenia. As an ultimate apology, he tweets, “My eyes are now wide open and now realize I’ve been used to spread messages I don’t believe in. I am distancing myself from politics and completely focusing on being creative !!!” The sole belief of Kanye distancing himself from Trump and political opinion sounds ridiculous; however, it did sound plausible as he was working on his new album. This promise still satisfied what everyone wanted: enjoying his music without any hatred against his words. So, fans started to hope that the “old Kanye” would return in 2019, redeeming himself as one of the legendary rap-stars in the 2000s.

Unfortunately, his promise broke this year, unable to contain that “dragon energy” he kept during his album workshop. In January, West posted his first tweet: “One of my favorite of many things about what the Trump hat represents to me is that people can’t tell me what to do because I’m black.” This, again, devastated his fans, failing all anticipation that everyone has hoped from his real self. Kanye, blind to the world that Trump envisions, continued to ignore the voices from the community that he once supported.

Image result for kanye west sunday service
Source: Tone Deaf

The only thing that we could really hope for is West to redeem himself in 2019 as there are plenty of opportunities. For instance, the new album, “Yandhi” is a sequel to his past albums, suggesting he maybe could go back to his past self. Furthermore, he plans to have “Sunday Services,” wherein he hosts religiously themed concerts by adding gospel vibes to his songs. Although this news shines no definite light on his comeback efforts, these suggest positive things that we could hope for.

Throughout his whole career, Kanye always was put in the spotlight with either quality music or unexpected behaviors. So, the ultimate question is whether we separate the artist from his or her work. Personally, I do enjoy listening to some songs produced by controversial artists as my playlist are filled with them such as XXXTentacion, Kanye West, Famous Dex, Chris Brown, and more; however, it is a guilty pleasure. I do acknowledge the wrong in supporting these controversial artists. Others outright dismiss their music, condemn them in social media, and more. It’s a difficult question to be had.

Almost everyone has a song or two by Kanye West, Chris Brown, Dr.Dre, or even David Bowie in their playlist. So here is a slightly different perspective. Perhaps, actions that we take for our ethical concerns are not the best for us. Rather, the incomplete rectitude and guilty enjoyment to their music help us better understand the complicated world we live in and lets us become more self-aware. Ultimately, whether we like it or not, these artists will always pop up in the “recommended” lists for our playlists, and it is up to us on how we take responsibility. A song or two from these artists in our playlists would not change their whole career, but we should still condemn these artists for their outrageous behaviors but while giving them a second chance at the same time. 

– Mark Park ‘20

Featured Image: USA Today

SKY Castle: What College, Success, and Love Really Mean

SKY Castle, a skyrocketing Korean Drama, is breaking through unprecedented ratings across the country. But what does this drama really tell us about our perceptions on success and love?

A daughter finds out that her mother is not her biological mother, a boyfriend finds out that his girlfriend cheated on him, a girl discovers that her rival’s mother’s step-sister’s nephew is her brother. These are some classic Korean drama plots, exaggerating daily events that may or may not happen in reality. However, SKY Castle, a skyrocketing drama in Korea that is reaching unprecedented popularity not only in Korea but also across Asia, breaks apart this classic representation of K Dramas. Captivating everyone from teens to 60-years-old, SKY Castle reveals one of the most sensitive topics in Korea, and frankly our lives.

Broadcasted from late November 2018, this 20 episode series trails the lives of four families whose children are mostly in high school. While all of them are elite families of doctors and lawyers, these four families each experience their own hardship and pain as they struggle to prepare their kids to enter college.

On the surface, SKY Castle may seem like the over-exaggerated reality of high schoolers journey in getting into elite colleges. However, when dissected further, this drama is not so much of a drama as it unveils on some of the bleak, hidden realities, touching upon the most uncomfortable and vulnerable part of our lives: college, success, and parental love.

SKY Castle is a reflection of our lives that makes us redefine life and love. (http://www.wikitree.co.kr/main/news_view.php?id=397833)

One of the key messages that this drama illustrates is the obsession we have with college —what it is, what it does, and what it disrupts. SKY Castle highlights this strong emphasis in addition to the greed and desire that parents, and sometimes students, too, have on getting into an elite college.

Main student characters in the drama who find their definition of success throughout struggles. (https://www.hellokpop.com/kdrama/k-drama-premiere-sky-castle/)

Many think that getting into a prestigious university equals prosperity and attending a name-value school brings some form of inexplicable joy into the home. But we can all agree that this socially valued norm can consume our thoughts, making us lose our own selves and definition of happiness. Just look at Ye-Suh’s father, a man who for so long focused on reaching the top position and recognition, slowly recognizing how striving straight for the top makes you lose simple things in life: love, joy, sorrow. Things that make us feel human.

In addition to focusing so much on college, SKY Castle also sheds light on our corrupt definition of success.

Sure, killing a rival shown in the drama may not seem realistic, but it does symbolize something: there is an unquenchable desire to win and be number one. Much like how we have been cultured to think that college defines one’s identity, we have constructed our culture to believe that winning someone is a sign of victory. As portrayed by Ki Joon and Seo Joon’s father, we believe that we must reach the top of the pyramid by stepping on others and getting up beyond them. We believe that we can only gain victory by how we compare to  the people around us. In fact, if we think about it, this notion of reigning in victory relative to those around us drives this drama’s plot; the motive of the students is to be ‘number one.’

The other bleak reality this drama uncovers is college entrance coordinators. Across the globe we have consulting groups who help students get into colleges, much like Kim Joo Young in the drama. However, we can often be too consumed by getting into a college that we might let those groups overtake our voice. It’s important to note here that I am by no means saying that consulting advisors or agencies are harmful or useless. I have seen and heard countless students be successful and happy with the coordinators help and I’m sure they do incredible work to support you  reaching your dreams. But we also need to remember to have our own say in our education and life.

Ye-suh’s mother shows desperation to the coordinator.

Ye-suh is virtually controlled by her coordinator, listening to her directions and suggestions rather than directing her own path. Like Ye-Suh’s life crumples throughout the episodes, we are vulnerable just like her to feel hopeless and helpless. Some agencies layout everything in linear order; you must do this and this to get this. But we don’t realize that not everything in life is a straight line. There’s curves, squiggles, slanted lines, perfect lines, and unfinished lines. We must remember to break away from that line drawn in front of you; make sure you control your direction because no one, not your mom not your consulting firm, will determine your future but you.

As exaggerated as it seems, the consulting agencies may in real life “control” you. http://www.hankookilbo.com/News/Read/201901081896712588

But perhaps the most important message of the drama, SKY Castle shares the warmth and commonality we all have: family love. All four families have different lives and personalities; they are all so distinctive that you can’t help it but ask one another, “ which one of the four moms is like yours?”

Despite the diversity of the four, all of them show family love as the common denominator. This universal feeling, the most powerful love that’s stronger than any other relationship, ties all the families together. Take Ye-suh’s mom for example. We feel anger and happiness toward this character for her cruel acts. But we are forced as viewers to empathize with her; after all, her daughter’s life is at risk. Just like any mom in the world, she is just trying to protect her daughter, urging the viewers to feel indecisive about her.

The tension and unconditional love a mother has for her kids. (http://www.christiantoday.co.kr/news/318871)
A mother having to give up on her daughter’s life to reveal the truth.

The unconditional love of the mother for her child is such a powerful feeling and emotion. It’s the mother’s love that takes in all the child’s sins and brings warmth to the cold soul. It’s the mother’s love that she gives life and breath to the child.

For me, I am fortunate and grateful to have a mother who understands and values my say in my path, who doesn’t make me feel bad about a low number, who doesn’t believe that success is defined by a certain acceptance. But I know that many of my peers and Korean students feel that their moms are pressuring them to achieve the highest; even as you are reading this, you might feel yourself emphasizing with Ye-suh more. But as this drama shows, regardless of which of the four families you seem to lie in, all mothers have the same desire for a child: to be successful in the real world and to find happiness. Sometimes, however, our definition of success may not line up, or maybe you’re like Soo-han and you don’t know what that looks like. That’s okay because that just means that you haven’t struggled enough to find that definition. But regardless, always remember the unconditional love that family has.

There is still so much to delve into in this drama, whether that’s the characterization, symbols, or shootings. But for me, as someone still struggling to find my own definition of success, SKY Castle lent me a perspective. It didn’t give me a solution to the doubts and uncertainties I hold, but it proved to me that I am not alone in this journey- that this is a universal experience we all feel. That joy, regret, shame, evil are all so human. Perhaps, the intro song We all lie aims to tell us the same.

I respect the writer for her audacity to write such a sensitive, veiled topic, to tell us how corrupt our definition of success is, and most importantly, to remind us the infinite power parental love holds.

– Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)

Featured Image: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2019/01/03/popular-south-korean-drama-sky-castle-blamed-for-inspiring-copycat-murder-of-doctor/

Let’s Talk About Kanye

The Sound is a column on all things music written by Charles Park (’20) and Mark Park (’20). -Ed.

If you’ve been following news on politics or music this year, you know about the tumult Chicago rapper Kanye West has created for himself: for calling for the abolishing of the 13th Amendment, for claiming that slavery was a choice, and for flaunting a MAGA hat all over social media.

Less than a month before his album ye dropped this June, Kanye famously said at TMZ: “When you hear about slavery for 400 years… For 400 years? That sounds like a choice.” TMZ employee Van Lathan was one of the first to confront him, telling him that his luxurious life as an artist has alienated him from the problems that “common black folk” go through in their lives: the residual discrimination that has manifested as an after effect of the aforementioned 400 years of slavery. Kanye has often been cited as the symbol for “blackness” (as Vox put it) in American pop culture.

His first three albums, nicknamed the Higher Education trilogy: The College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation, are reflective of his self-awareness and reverence for his roots – with his mother, with Chicago, and with his career as a producer and rapper. He admittedly didn’t have the in-the-pocket flow and gruff voice of many rappers at the time, which is why it took so long for him to convince Jay-Z to give him at a shot at rapping, a stray from his usual gig as a producer. His real draw was, therefore, not his voice, but his introspective and humble lyrics.

So what makes people accuse him now of losing that humility? Did the fame truly get to him? Did marrying into the Kardashian family compromise his values?

I don’t think that Kanye’s remarks on Trump and on slavery are anything new. To me, Kanye saying anything controversial means “oh… he’s probably dropping an album soon”. Even in the past few years, he had a feud with Taylor Swift and opened up about his $53 million debt just before releasing his 2016 album The Life of Pablo; most iconically, he said on national television “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” a week after dropping the second album to the education trilogy, Late Registration.

As far as most can tell, these recent controversies simply started as another attempt to promote his work that ended up becoming blown out of proportion because of the topical nature of the subject matter he chose to delve into: Trump and racism. His appearances on shows like Jimmy Kimmel are embarrassingly revealing of his lack of fleshed-out, logical contentions about the people – and ideas – he’s promoting, and Trump’s open endorsement of West just seems like a PR move to pretend like the president is actually caught up on American and African American pop culture – “thank you Kanye, very cool!”

What’s equally upsetting is the number of people that are getting worked up about Kanye’s recent moves. Even if they can’t see through the fact that it’s just a promotional campaign for an album that went too far, it’s plain to see that he has good intentions. For the record, Kanye has never stated that he agrees with everything Trump says: he said that he doesn’t fully agree with anyone, which is what makes everyone unique. Instead, he stands behind what the MAGA slogan represents: literally speaking, a great America.

As a fan of his music and art, I hope that Kanye would actually take the time to learn more about how his own country functions, and to use that knowledge to inspire his fans to take action for themselves. So many rappers have made efforts to improve their hometown and do actual good for the community, a recent example being rapper 21 Savage making a back to school drive for underprivileged children in Atlanta. Kanye’s bars on ye showed that a large part of him is still the soft, insecure Kanye he was during his formative years as a rapper in the early 2000s: he just has to harness that energy for actually politically informed discourse, rather than his usual sensationalized tirade.

– Charles Park (’20)

Featured Image by author

How a Trending Netflix Rom-Com Teaches Us About Culture

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before? Noah Centineo?  Whether you’ve joined in on this ultimate movie frenzy or have been on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter— basically any form of social media in the last month— those words probably ring a bell.  Teenagers all across the world are fangirling (or fanboying) over the movie To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, the current Netflix sensation.  Most people probably watched the movie for a two hour escape from reality into a world of romance and relatable high school experiences.  And you probably finished the movie thinking one of two things. One: “Wow… Noah Centineo is really hot.” Or two: “I wish I had some love in my life.”  But these movies envelope ideas that are more valuable than just teenage love.  

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” features a Korean-American family of a single father raising his three daughters.  Lara Jean, the main character, writes love letters to her crushes and keeps them hidden in a box. When her younger sister, Kitty, sends the letters out to their respective recipients, Laura Jean finds herself “fake-dating” a boy, Peter Kavinsky.  The movie unravels the details of how her fake relationship with Peter Kavinsky led to her finding her true love.

Everyone who watched the movie was absorbed in Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky’s suspenseful and heart-fluttering romance.  But I’m sure the Korean-American audience noticed something more throughout the film. Even the cast gives heavy emphasis on Asian-American actors in an otherwise White-dominated movie market.  Personally, I feel represented and proud whenever a Korean-American family is featured in a US movie or TV show because I can relate to their daily struggles so well.

Laura Jean’s father struggles to follow the Korean food recipe that their mother left behind when she passed away.  In the midst of constant meals of In-N-Out, Italian food, and Chinese takeout, the father wanted his two girls to enjoy a nice home-cooked Korean meal, a way to find your true culture despite being surrounded in people of different nationalities.  

The most famous reference to Korean culture can be seen when Peter Kavinsky is introduced to a “Korean yogurt smoothie”, known as Yakult (야쿠르트).

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  After taking a sip, Peter Kavinsky actually loved it, being pleasantly surprised at the unique taste.  Since I know many Korean-Americans who grew up in the United States being surrounded with friends who were unfamiliar with the snacks they brought to school and hesitant to try them because they were “Korean”, this scene was a new and pleasant welcome for me.  

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A while into the movie, Peter Kavinsky makes a romantic move of driving all the way across town to the Korean market to buy the yogurt smoothie Laura Jean’s family loves so much.  After the film’s release, stores in the United States have been selling out of these Yakult drinks. My Korean friends living in the US have been telling me that since the movie had gained popularity, their non-Korean friends are finally trying those drinks. The teenage Korean-American Twitter community especially blew up after this movie, posting about how this movie has sensationalized their favorite childhood drink.

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It’s personally great to see so many new people trying and enjoying one of my all-time favorites as it feels like Korean culture is being shared across the United States.  This movie depicts the realness of Korean lives and emotions, showing the international audience that we are essentially the same people as them. Yes, we have our Korean quirks, and yes, we are unique in our own ways.  But this film sheds light upon the fact that Korean-Americans aren’t just tiger-parents and super good at math, but rather that we are more than just the typical Asian stereotype.

Granted, Yakult becoming widespread and enjoyed doesn’t really seem like much.  But it’s a way for other cultures to learn about ours and experience it for themselves.  I’m certainly happy when Korean-American families or characters become new hits in the United States, as it means our culture and our lives are being appreciated.  It’s not a large step in eradicating all Korean stereotypes or the division between races, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

– Michelle Shin (’20)