Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Taylor Swift's Reputation


At the time of this writing it has been a fortnight and four since the drop of Taylor Swift's hot new record Reputation. And since its midnight release I have been listening to the album on repeat non-stop except for breaks to listen to The Writer's Almanac. Even in my sleep my eardrums thrum to the thuds of the deep throbbing bass, wondering what I made her do. I'm ready for discourse. (Note to self: in that last sentence I see potential for some type of disc golf course related play on words. Circle back to this in the future)

Are You Ready For It?


So clever. So good. This is the title of the opening track of the album. It both engages the listener as an active participant as well as establishes expectations for the remainder of the album. AYRFI (as fans refer to it) is also one of the songs that came out as a single in advance of the full album.

What this song does well: it blends the sing-songy melodic characteristics of vintage Taylor with the over-produced electronicish pop-trash of new Taylor. It acts as a tertiary step to acclimate the tender sensitivities of longtime fans by referencing established motifs while preparing them for the aural garbage landslide that is about to assault their ears.

Getting Ahead Of Ourselves


As an established and well respected music critic, I'm afraid I'm wearing my review heart on my blog sleeve a bit here. But before we delve into the many pitfalls and shortcomings of this album (spoiler alert), let's look at the numbers.

Wait. So I'm Microsoft Bing Searching for statistics about record (album) sales because I know it broke all sorts of records (historical milestones) and made like a bajillion dollars in a day and I'm learning all sorts of things that I would have known if I had done more research beyond listening to the album for over 430 hours continuously. Like did you know that Reputation had an official partnership with the United Parcel Service? You could snap a selfie with a specially vinyl wrapped UPS truck and post it on social media for "improved chances" at scoring tickets to a concert. (I propose raising an undead army of skeletons to wage war upon marketing teams worldwide)

And also, I'm about to tell you all of the bad things I thought about this album and am learning that other music critics are saying good things about this album. Is this all just part of the machine? No one benefits from negative reviews, but everyone gets paid when there's praise. Maybe my lens is fogged.

Taylor Swift


She started as the country darling who could connect to the youth with her songs about heartbreak and romance. It was all real boy-crush, girl-crush music. And while it was always pop-country, she endeared herself as the singer-songwriter type who wrote all of her own music in earnest. As she and her sound matured she distanced herself from her humble gee-golly country girl beginnings, but never really lost the image of a musician who writes her own songs. It may be naive on my part to assume that some musicians still make their own music, but with this album she seems to have only a minor hand in songwriting, if any at all.

Part of this problem is in the music industry and media. These aren't just people who are musicians anymore. These are brands. Everything about their life and public perception is carefully curated and presented to the world. So it's important to talk about the person (TSwizzle) especially when the album and its contents strongly alludes to public perception and how the "artist's" reputation might be tarnished.

Taylor is a reputed serial dater who participates in tumultuous relationships for the purpose of creating music about being burned by relationships. This is win-win because she gets to write about both the struggles of falling in love, and also the pain of heartbreak from people who don't care enough or whatever.

Additionally, she apparently has beef with other pop-stars such as Katy Perry. I don't know what this beef is and if it is real or manufactured drama created by record executives, but it works its way (often not so subtly) into her music (deliberate for sales boost? create drama, elevate drama).

The Crux


These two things (relationships & petty feuds) are, for me, the crux of this album's pitfalls. It becomes laborious and exhausting trying to decode the lyrics and figure out who or what event Swift at which is hinting.

Taylor Swift Is Dead

"The old Taylor can't come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, because she's dead!" First, the concept of "coming to the phone" is so dated and hilarious to think about. Like, remember when there were only landlines and you had to call a person's house and speak to their parents first before talking to your friend? And how even more harrowing that prospect was when you were calling someone you were, uh, interested in?

She's making a statement that she's not who she was and that she has reinvented herself. This point is strongly reinforced in the music video where she portrays all of her past character iterations in a battle for the neon cross (neon T (in Ford we trust)). But why?

The New Taylor Swift

If the old one is dead then we presumably have a new one. What is she like? Well, from what I can tell she is dark and oily and dances like Beyonce. There's a little bit of s&m 50 shades vibe, but also like "I am still a very precious object don't touch me" kind of deal. And she is all about auto-tune and bass drops. Taylor will have a long successful career, and hopefully this will be the period that eventually will embarrass her the most.

What Did She Do?


The first single to drop and probably the catchiest earworm on the album is "Look What You Made Me Do." But what did she do? Steve Irkel often wondered if he did that. Is this a Family Matters reference?

But really, what did she do? Because I remember something about a year or two ago. It was something she said or did that had bad optics. And I remember thinking that she would have to lay low for a while and then release something new and flashy. Because until that point she was a golden child who could do no wrong and I'm going to take a moment to see if I can figure this out. She has a very good agent/publicist, btw.

Was it all the groping stuff and lawsuit with that DJ? The suits and counter-suits or possibly something that resulted from the trial? It was mos def bad optics. But I need a Taylor Swift historian to weigh in here.

Or was it in reference to Kanye West? See, here I am again trying to decode lyrics to what is little more than a catchy pop song. Is she Santa Claus, because she has a list that she is checking twice?

Hype Machine


This is what Taylor does best. She (and all her people) drummed up so much hype and anticipation for this album. They did marketing very well, despite being attacked by a skeleton army the entire time. And I too was pumped for the whole album. Because the singles (LWYMMD, AYRFI, and Gorgeous) were interesting but didn't reveal too much and I wanted to hear them in context of the entire album.

Boy, let me tell you: if disappointment were red shoes I'd be Ronald McDonald. (Red, another Taylor Swift album and also a special edition U2 iPod in the Apple Store). Because, y'all, despite all the hype and anticipation...

Here's The Deal


In the end it's still just a pop record for teenage girls. All of the songs that aren't about mysterious celebrity beefs or having receipts are about wanting to be in certain relationships, being in relationships, and dealing with the fall-out of past relationships. Age old themes present themselves like "if it is bad, then why does it feel good?" to which many young people will explore their sexuality and have many awakenings (Kate Chopin? (which I guess might actually might be somewhat relevant)).

The record doesn't defy or challenge conventions by any stretch. So many of the songs I could see just as easily on an album by, like, Selena Gomez or Pink or Miley Cyrus or whatever else is on the radio.

Assorted quotes and quick takes:

"My drug is my baby I be using for the rest of my life"

"Delicate" starts off like an Imogen Heap sounding song.

Does the song "So It Goes..." reference Vonnegut?

She mentions being "chill" in several songs but never says Netflix

"You should think about the consequence of your magnetic field being a little too strong" is basically pro-rape and it's the victim's fault

She makes "ooOOhh" and other assorted moaning sounds in a lot of the songs. I would like an isolated vocals track of just these.

"You said there was nothing in the world that could stop it / I had a bad feeling / And darling, you had turned my bed into a sacred oasis" also rape-centric lyrics

"My baby's fly like a jetstream" pro-chemtrail mind control propaganda. Later in the song sings about chains around her neck (slavery)

"Only bought this dress so you could take it off" glorifies rape culture. Women can only do things like shopping for clothes and want to be dominated by men.

TL;DR


You know those 5 paragraph essays you wrote in high school? I think soon they will be 5.1 where that extra tenth is a TL;DR at the end of every essay.

So the new album by Taylor Swift, Reputation is okay. It's got some bangers. It feels a little uninspired and derivative. It's mainly about teenage girl problems. The old Taylor might be dead, but this can't be her final form. Admittedly, I am only a fan of the hits. I couldn't tell you about any TSwizzle deep cuts and I think that will continue to be true after this album. I'm a fair weather Swift Head.

Rating: I dunno, like 6/10? What is even good or bad these days?
She's still pretty, though, and for girls that is the only thing that matters.


Thursday, September 07, 2017

Wendy's Bacon Queso Burger: Not Exactly What You Think


Gather 'round children. It's time for the classic tale of the short-lived sandwich from Wendy's. They called it the Bacon Queso Burger and it was available on either beef (hamburger) or fried chicken patty (chicken sandwich). It was the year of our Lord, 2017, and it was a crazy times. Emperor Trump had just come to power, Taylor Swift couldn't come to the phone because she was dead, and OJ Simpson was released from prison.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

This Week In Banal Conversation Topics

Haha! Yes! I also watch television programs!

We're well into the new year (new you!)--so much so, as a matter of fact, that we can basically already consider this year [2017] OVER! More or less. Less is MORE! But for the time being we're just going to hit some bullet points from the week ahead so we can talk about the things that we're going to be talking about around the water cooler at work in order to seem personable despite all of our inner fears of making a real human connection.

Daylight Savings Time
It's so close, that by the time you read this it will probably have already passed. And you will have passed...one hour into the future. We're living on borrowed time, folks. Why do we still do this? Is it for the cows? Is it so we can pretend to be Time Lords and feel like we have some sort of tenuous grasp on the ethereal strands of our own withering destinies?

The 2nd Monday The 13th In A (Monthly) Row
Garfields of the world know about these kinds of days. They're almost as bad or possibly worse than being murdered by a guy with a big knife and a hockey mask on an unlucky Friday, because you have to go back to work and wallow in the sameness of your meaningless routine. This Monday the 13th is extra special because it happens after a full moon. I'll start heating up the lasagna now.

MARCH MADNESS!
If you ask an average American "why do you live?" a great majority of answers will be "to watch sporting events, of course!" And what other pinnacle of athletic competition garners more attention than the NCAA men's basketball tournament? And it's great for advertisers because it's an entire half a month, not just a 3-5 hour Super Bowl event. These highly unpaid "student" athletes make millions of dollars for many people all for a shot at The Big Game. Sure, many will go on to be talented professional athletes, but what about the scrappy point guards of the world who graduate with a degree in Health Teacher or Gym Teacher and have learned no other professional skills? I guess you do a couple John Deere commercials or something and then go play for an international team.

Get your office bracket filled out and prepare to lose to the guy/gal that picks teams based on mascots.

Beware The Ides Of March!
The fifteenth of the month is when "Orange" Julius Caesar was famously murdered by his best friend Brutus. At least that is what I remember based on reading Shakespeare in high school English class. "Shakespeare is cool because of fart jokes, ya dig?" said the cool high school teacher, deeply in touch with what the kids find cool. "What scene is this?" the cool teacher continued while showing the class a series of emoticons.

St. Patricks Day
Yup, everyone is a little bit Irish if it means you can get out-of-control-drunk. This is especially true since it's on a Friday and you don't have to show up at work the next day green-tongued and barely functional. It's also a little bit like Halloween for some reason, where people dress up in weird costumes and girls act extra, uh, promiscuous. Is this a racist/xenophobic/insensitive tradition here in USA?

That's all  I can think of as far as big days this coming week. I guess there's always the weather too. Weather is crazy, right? Haha.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Super Bowl LI Last Minute Preview



Chill out. "Last Minute" is a figure of speech. Did you really think I would wait until the literal last minute to publish a Super Bowl preview? That wouldn't give you enough time to read beforehand and you might miss an advertisement. I mean last minute like doing your summer homework assignment on the final day of summer break before schools starts. Speaking of last minutes, I will bet this sports contest of champions comes down to the last minutes. Get information about this and the full pre-game analysis in my annual "Non-sports-fanatic lambasting of American culture and consumption: A post-cynical view of society and its whims."

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Let's Talk About Fall: 2016 Edition

It's Facebook Official: Autumn has occurred. And continues to occur. The equinox has passed and we mark this segment of our orbit around the sun as our fall season. There is so much to cover. At least one fourth of our yearly traditions take place (occur) this season.

"Whatever, just give me the bullet points, filthy blogger," said the rude website reader. "It's new TV episodes season and I have much much viewing to do. Like, I know it's mindless garbage structured around advertisements, but it just helps me relax at the end of the day. And as a HardWorkingAmerican, I just want to come home from my job (vital to the economy) and relax with an ice cold Bud Light Lime, some Cheeto's dust coated Burger King Chicken Fries, and kick back to some good old fashioned network television programming."

I understand your plight. Who knows what trending hashtags you might miss out on if you don't catch every second of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X? Well, pop in a blank VHS and press record, because it's time to read about:

Pumpkin Spice


Love it, Hate it. The over-saturated flavor Pumpkin Spice has reached a tipping point. The p-spice stock has been on the quick rise over recent years and it's either going to enter the eternal pantheon of autumn indulgences, or it will be dethroned and forgotten like so many flavor trends. I feel we are at a critical juncture for p-spice and it will be immortalized or immolated very soon-like. More than likely, it's here to stay. If that is true then I'm going to need companies to CTFO about blasting it in my face.

Are there other flavors that could fill in for p-spice? Caramel apple, maybe. Apple pie. Who am I kidding. PS4L.

Oktoberfest


It has come and gone and it left me feeling underwhelmed. That's what she said. This is supposed to be the big "welcome to fall" festival to celebrate the German traditions of drinking beer and listening to polka and eating German food. Except my local O-Fest was charging way too much for a liter of beer and a bratwurst. The wenches were in short supply, but the trendy Americans in Alpine hats were aplenty. Is this kind of cultural appropriation inappropriate? Imagine Germans celebrating American Independence Day by serving $8 hot dogs and $16 tall-boy Bud Lights while wearing American flag clothing and listening to either Kid Rock or, like, John Philip Sousa. Seems weird.

Football


Sports. It's always fun to catch a few football games until your favorite local team loses more games than they've won and you give up hope on the Bengals again and say well maybe next year is our year. More importantly, are your favorite players sitting or standing during the national anthem? What is their message? "I am protesting this great nation, but will continue to fulfill my sports contract in order to make millions of dollars." Honestly, I don't really understand the reasons for this. Is it a display of general dissatisfaction with something about this country or its leadership? Or is it specifically a Black Lives Matter themed protest? Or is it just like you know people like being part of something--a movement--even if they don't fully understand the reasons or results they hope to achieve.

I think it's more that last one. People live their lives and as they get older they're like "this is it? this can't be it" and look for things to make it feel like they might make a difference or are doing something brave or important but it's all really as inconsequential as posting a status on a social media webpage for their friends to see and maybe talk about but still in the end it's a topsy turvy world where we're all striving our hardest to make sense out of anything as this rock we call earth hurtles endlessly through the vaccuum of space.

Politics/Elections


Can we please just stop? Neither major party candidate is my friend, yet they keep showing up in my Twitter/Insta feeds. Shouldn't elections be like choosing between a chicken sandwich or a hamburger? You'd be fine with eating either one but maybe you want one more than the other based on the policies of the hamburger? Instead it's always a strong dislike of both candidates, but one is maybe slightly less terrible than the other. South Park nailed it by describing elections as the choice between a Giant Douche or a Turd Sandwich.

I've taken some online surveys and they're like "if the elections were today who would you vote for" and I answer "undecided" and the next question is all "yeah, but if you had to chose one today who would it be?" and I'm like damn, neither of these two. I'm voting for Jackie Chan. And that's politics. You have to chose today! It has to be one of these!!! What happened to my voice? This surely isn't democracy. I don't feel represented.

I may do a separate post on voting and these elections on darkblacknetsite.

Halloween

What will the too-soon/in-poor-taste Halloween costume be this year? There's always something that someone daring tries to pull off and it makes everyone go:



For instance, I don't think anyone was a WTC-w/-airplane in 2001, but it still seemed pretty wrong though slightly amusing in 2002. So who's pushing the poor-taste envelope in 2016? Maybe a Bill Cosby rapist outfit, which: bonus points if you do blackface for this costume. Maybe something Islamophobic, terrorist related. The ghost of a dead unarmed black man killed by police. When did Caitlyn Jenner happen? That seems like more of a Matt Lauer costume though. I dunno, leave some comments down below about what offensive costumes might be out there this Halloween.

Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground


Them trees be poppin'. Where are your favorite hotspots for spotting hot colored leaves? I love the sweet decay and look forward to your photographs on social media. There was a poem we read in high school about the changing of the seasons and how we wait to see it happen one proud day but end up missing it because it's a gradual process that just sort of sneaks by without grand announcement. I think it was more about Winter to Spring, but I forget the poem.

Flannel/Sweaters


Warm clothing is making a comeback. Hide your body shame in billowing layers of thick comfy clothing. What's in fashion this fall? I really don't know. Hoodies are probably still cool, right? And LLBean Duck Boots with thick wool socks. Do you have the perfect flannel shirt for picking apples on the orchard? And like, are we still doing skinny jeans or can we go back to comfortable Brett Favre Wranglers. 

Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is the holiday when Europeans tried to escape the tyrannical religious rule of England and bring tyranny and religion to the Americas, freeing the local heathens from their primitive ways. In return, the primitive "Indians" showed the Europeans how to "not die" in America. Then they celebrated by eating a Turkey with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce and enduring relatives that you love like family even though they're crazy. The way we do Thanksgiving now is nearly identical to the way they did it back in, like, uh, 1621? The main difference in 2016 is headphonejackless iPhones and:

Black Friday


They didn't have Blizzle Frizzle back in the dizzle. I know, rite? How did those pilgrims and noble savages get their HOTTT DEALZ? Can you imagine if the natives already had Wal-Mart and 100" LED 4K UHDTVs? The Europeans wouldn't have even needed small pox blankets, they could've just trampled everyone to death to get the score on cheap Chinese consumer electronics. But on the for realz, what are are the hottt dealz this season? And when will stores start offering turkey dinners to people foregoing their families and waiting in line Wednesday night to get the first deals at 12:01AM Thanksgiving day?

What else is going on this fall? Pumpkin flavored beers are off the hook. Anything you want to talk about? Leave it in the comments or ignore everything forever whatever I don't care.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Pepsi Cola 1893: New Old-Fashioned Soda Pop For The Cool Kids; A Tasting And Review


I've got another confession to make and it's not a Foo Fighters song. (Foo Fighters cover band Goo Gighters?). The cold hard truth is that I've been figuratively sitting on this review for literally months. Deletes, re-writes, procrastination, fear. In fact, by the time this is published this soda might have already failed in the free market economy and been scrapped by PepsiCo for something more tuned-in to today's soda drinkers.

The trouble has been that I want to write a comprehensive review, but soda pops come with so much baggage. I would have to start at the beginning of soda in America to really convey my great and well-reasoned points. I would have to cover the entire history of beverage marketing for this article to really make sense. And this includes The Cola Wars--no small topic in itself. And then I would have to examine current trends in culture and lifestyle choices. You guys, I have a 200-level college course about cola trapped in my head. Sure there are a lot of familiar faces/students taking my class just because they loved me so much in my "Gossip Girl & Modern Ethics" course last semester. But can you begin to see how daunting a simple cola review becomes?

So I will write this abbreviated review with the understanding that you have a firm foundation in the cola market and are familiar, in general, with pop culture (get it?!). (In case you're wondering, I read Freakonomics, so yes I am as knowledgeable as an actual economist)

Well, anyways. Let me dig out my tasting notes from May 20, 2016 and get back into this review. I could just buy new cans and re-taste for today's review, but (spoiler alert) nope, no thanks.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Cracker Review: Nabisco Triscuit Smoked Gouda Flavor

Attractive three-quarters view of the box of crackers

Introduction

For many of us crackers are an important part of daily life. From breakfast to all-day snacking to hosting outrageous and/or classy parties/sorties, crackers are there for us. Remember when you were a kid and you were sick? Your mom gave you crackers. Remember when you wanted to eat a brick of cheese but felt socially embarrassed to just go for it? Crackers.

Crackers aren't usually expensive--maybe a few dollars for a box--but there are so many varieties that you'll never try them all. Even such a small investment can be a huge risk when it comes to crackers. What if you don't like the flavor? There is so much that can go wrong. The possibilities for failure, like varieties of crackers, seem literally endless.

That's why I'm here. To taste your crackers for you and then give you an indication as to whether or not it's worth buying and eating that variety of cracker. But the decision to do so is still up to you! That's the beauty of free will. Or is free will an illusion? I'll have to ask my psychic what she thinks.

There's one thing that I don't have to ask my psychic about, though, and that's a question of how thorough this review will be. The answer is: quite so. A secondary effect feature of a rambling incoherent thoughtful and thorough review is length. Thank Al Gore (inventor of the Internet) for jump breaks. Click on, brave reader, to the full review!