Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: The Babadook

Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall
Directed by: Jennifer Kent
Language: English
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 93 minutes

Ever since I heard about this movie, I desperately wanted to see it. It had potential to be something great and offered something fresh and different than what's taking up space in theaters. I heard many good things about it as well and I was very happy that my job had a couple copies to check out.

On the way to the hospital to deliver their first child, Amelia and her husband get into a horrific car accident causing her husband to die. Fortunately, Amelia is able to give birth to their son Samuel who has a constant fear and violent reaction to monsters. Amelia struggles with her emotions of the lost of her husband and has difficulty controlling Samuel around other kids, especially at school. She tries to calm her son down and rid his fear of monsters by checking his room and reading him bedtime stories to help him sleep. One night, a mysterious book appears on Samuel's shelf called Mister Babadook and his mother begins to read it. It starts off somewhat normal, but gradually the story becomes disturbing and too close to reality which triggers Samuel's fears once again. After reading the book, their home begins to have some strange and unsettling occurrences.

Much like The Conjuring, Oculus, and Sinister, The Babadook gives me hope for the horror movie genre. It has a slow building story full of suspense that gets more and more intense as mysterious, unexplainable events occur in the house. I guess it's the same factor people see in movies like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity that I don't see at all. I really enjoyed this story as simple and somewhat cliche as it is. I've seen this concept done before in horror, but Jennifer Kent adds something new to the concept that makes it intriguing and thoroughly entertaining for me. Mr. Babadook seems very ominous and yet threatening enough that you don't want him any where near our main characters or yourself. Some might lump him in the same category as other haunted house or possession movie plot devices, but there's a freshness to his motive and movement. I'm glad they didn't reveal him too soon or show too much, which is a mistake a lot of movies make, even the ones I like a lot. The way he slowly seeps into these people's lives is disturbing and unnerving. It's like a leech beneath the skin that you just can't get rid of. Our main characters Amelia and Samuel react very well to their situation as well as the set up to Amelia's neglected grief. I believe them and I feel sympathetic towards these characters, although I admit that there are moments where I found Samuel annoying or Amelia to be a bad parent, but I think that only makes them more human. They have near perfect development and I can easily understand Amelia's struggle with her emotions and her only son. You really want her to push forward and even more not fall into the temptations of Mr. Babadook.

I had some minor complaints with this movie...well, one minor and one major. For the minor complaint, which I've briefly mentioned, is my annoyance with Samuel. I know he's a child, but at times I couldn't stand him! He was always causing trouble for Amelia and his fear of monsters would kinda get a little old. Of course, I understand that this annoying acting was probably purposeful so we can understand Amelia's struggle and the other adults around him who tried to help him out. Nonetheless, he was still a believable actor and I didn't want anything bad to happen to him. For the major problem I had with the movie were the audio levels. I don't know if it was just me or the movie, but I had to turn up my TV pretty high to hear the dialogue. While the dialogue was soft, everything else was loud. So, occasionally, my mom would hear random screaming, growling, or whatever else outside my bedroom to either her room or the living room because it was so loud. But it couldn't be helped if I'm trying to hear the dialogue in between the intensity. I just wished the audio levels were more consistent.

If it isn't obvious, I really enjoyed The Babadook! It was a refreshing horror movie for me in the sea of mediocre, boring, or low budget horror I've subjected myself to. The story is intriguing and will keep you sutured to your seat the whole way through. If you enjoy good, slow building suspense with an ominous, intimidating creature literally lurking in the shadows, this will be a treat for you. I would like to recommend this to everyone, but since horror has shifted to more noisier, slightly faster pace, I don't think the newer generation would appreciate the suspense build up or gradual monster reveal in this movie. Nonetheless, it is a fantastic movie and I'm glad to have another sliver of hope for the genre's resurrection to its roots.

Rating: 4/5

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Review: Litchi☆Hikari Club

Title: Litchi☆Hikari Club (2005)
Author(s): Furuya Usamaru
Genre: Drama, Horror, Romance, Psychological
Volumes: 1

For the sooty industrial town's lads there's only one point of light: the Light Club, a secret brotherhood they've organized in an abandoned factory. They're on the verge of booting up their crowning achievement, a "thinking machine" fueled by lychee fruits. At the same time, the middle schoolers' cooties-fearing solidarity is devolving into a downright National Socialist muck of murderous paranoia, perverse aestheticism, and (not always) suppressed homosexuality. (Source: Vertical)

I believe I heard about this manga when PENICILLIN's Hakuei announced he was doing a side project for it with the same name. Later, former member of PENICILLIN GISHO joined the project. For the most part, I enjoyed what they put out and it was different from his other projects. After seeing the first couple fully released PVs, I became interested in the source material. At the time, I wasn't aware that the manga was based on a stage play, so the only thing I was interested in looking up was the manga. I read the first chapter as a scanlation, then decided to commit with buying a physical copy as I was impressed with the material so far. It was unexpected and gory and just different than what I was reading at the time. There are some gory, mature series that I do read and hopefully I will be reviewing a couple or so of those here eventually. I've had the book for a couple years and recently I ripped into the plastic and began reading.

The story is quite bizarre and definitely something I wouldn't recommend to everyone if they're not into that sort of material. Most of the questionable or inappropriate content is listed in the summary above. Supposedly this manga is a cross between Lord of the Flies and Frankenstein...or something. I honestly don't know since I've never read either, but it seems like Lord of the Flies is popping up an awful lot with some things I've seen or read. If it isn't obvious, I like twisted, dark, and weird things, so I knew I would really enjoy this manga. It's a shame that it's only one volume. The Light Club (Hikari Club) members is what makes the story entertaining. Each member has their own unique personality and role in the club. It's interesting seeing their connection and level of loyalty toward the club and its leader. The stand out members for me are Zera, Jaibo, Raizou, and Tamiya. There's nothing wrong with the other characters as I enjoyed them as well. Zera probably had the most obvious character development to the reader and I enjoyed seeing his downward spiral of delusion and power. Jaibo and Raizou I found visually unique compared to the others as they lean more toward beauty and cuteness while the other members I didn't name do have some specific physical traits that help them stand out; they don't care about appearance or beauty for themselves personally. Also, I think Jaibo is the only yandere character I like and enjoyed. On the polar opposite end of Zera is former leader Tamiya who isn't power hungry and is very much grounded into reality. He does have fun with the idea of their club, but he knows when to pull back on their rules and ideas. One last thing I want to say about the characters in detail is the relationship between Litchi and Kanon. It's unexpected in some ways and I was invested on what direction Litchi would choose for himself: his original design or true humanity.

After reading Litchi☆Hikari Club, I was really...sad. With each chapter, I became more and more invested in the story and attached to the characters that I was upset that the journey had to end in one volume. Since the series is so short, then the character development is cut short or sped up, which is unfortunate. I really enjoyed the characters a lot and I wanted so much more from them. I wish it was longer or had a full length show with the same tone. Some fans, at least on MyAnimeList, have advised to skip out on watching Litchi DE Hikari Club, but because I had that need for more, I watched it anyway. It's very...cute...and also has a guest appearance by Hakuei in one of the episodes. If you're curious about it, it's 8 episodes and each episode is 3 minutes long. So, it's easy to watch in one sitting, but you're not missing anything if you decide not to watch it as I said before it's a totally different tone than the manga. Maybe one day, someone will decide to make a serious anime series of it. Another downside is that Vertical didn't go through with publishing the prequel story, Bokura no☆Hikari Club. Unfortunately, I am reading scanlations of it currently.

Nonetheless, I found Litchi☆Hikari Club very entertaining and enjoyable. It has a lot of dark humor, the perfect amount of gore, and a nice splash of perversion and homoeroticism. What can I say? I enjoy boy love. I wouldn't recommend the series to everyone as it does contain a lot of mature content and some of it may be triggering with moments of sexual assault. For now, I'll be searching for an English subtitled version of the play and finishing up Bokura no☆Hikari Club.

Rating: 4.5/5

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Quick Movie Review

Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014, USA) | Rating: 4/5

Someone put in a request for me to review this, but I was planning on watching and reviewing this movie anyway. Ohohoho~ Anyway, I've been looking forward to seeing this movie since its theater release, but unfortunately, it was a limited release. Like most limited releases, I waited for it to be released on DVD. This movie has received a lot of awards and, for the most, I understand the praise it has received. This movie is a bit high brow and I understand why it was limited release as most artsy, original things are hardly ever released for the wide public, which is quite unfortunate. I skimmed over some people's comments on IMDb and heard a few things around work and I understand that people think this movie is overrated or they just don't get it at all. This movie is pretty out there and there were some moments that I was confused, but overall I thought it was an entertaining and intriguing piece of art. The visuals are amazing and watching the characters' personalities unfold was quite fascinating, even if I disliked Edward Norton's character quite a lot. This isn't for everyone and some moments can be a bit raw or intense, but I really enjoyed this movie and I'm happy I was able to see it.

The Voices (2014, USA) | Rating: 3/5

We meet again Ryan Reynolds (or maybe I'm just mixing you up with Ryan Gosling for some strange reason). I picked this movie up on a slight whim. It kinda looked cheesy and potentially bad, but it was the wall. It has some comedic moments that are simply just playful and you don't think anything about it because...comedy. Then it gets pretty dark and serious when we get a look into Reynolds's character and, oh boy, I was not really ready for the family issues to start filtering and suffocating the light, comedy from earlier. Then it switches it back! This movie definitely caught me off guard with the dark parts and in a way I kinda liked that it was included, but I wished the transition between the light and the dark were handled a little better. I was all ready for a good time and suddenly felt this dark cloud over my head. Nonetheless, I found the movie enjoyable and it kept me on my toes as to what direction the story would take. I am amazed at all the voice acting Reynolds had to do for this movie as he does the voiceover work for his pets.

Enter the Dangerous Mind (2013, USA) | Rating: 1.5/5

Another one of those movies that I just picked up on a whim and expecting it to be bad. While the concept sounded somewhat interesting, the execution could've been better. The movie seemed to have way too many ideas and didn't know exactly how to interpret them for the screen. The main character has some mental issues that he developed from a traumatic event, which has been done before and, for the most part, is easy to execute. The problem with this premise is the way his past is handled and how he interacts with certain people, especially a woman who shows interest in him. The psychology part of the movie was also kinda sloppy and it was a bit hard to follow, especially toward the end half of the film when they're looking for him. I don't know if I want to say this movie has potential as I think they would have to restart from the foundation and build something completely different. It also would help to make the main character more relatable or likable, but he's kinda bland, forgettable, and just odd.

The Man With the Iron Fists 2 (2015, USA) | Rating: 1.5/5

I reviewed the first movie and I enjoyed it for the most part despite the criticism it received. As for the sequel, it seems like IMDb commenters enjoyed this one more than the first, which is surprising as I thought this one was terrible and extremely cliche. The whole movie felt like RZA has all this money he has no idea what to do with and decided to live out a childhood dream. The story is incredibly cliche and just sounded like they ran out of ideas because it all sounded like is "you disrespected my land" or "you brought dishonor on our cornfield" so revenge. Then insert RZA who is mostly useless. The fight scenes were boring and not well edited with special effects. Really, the only shining element was seeing Dustin Nguyen in it...and he's looking pretty good.

Maps to the Stars (2014, USA) | Rating: 1.5/5

I saw the poster for the movie and read about it a little and it truly interested me. Unfortunately, it didn't stay in the theaters for long here, so I had to wait for the DVD release. I saw lots of complaints like this is one of David Cronenberg's worst movies. I really can't comment about that. I will say that this isn't a movie you can comfortably watch with a parent or anything. It does take an interesting look into celebrities and their delusional lives, but it just seems like there are parts missing to really drive home the message to its viewers. A lot of the time I was little confused on what the heck was going with these celebrities and some of the drama seemed...ineffective or forced. So, watch at your own risk. There are some taboo and sexual themes throughout this movie.

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"Nadeshiko Sakura" by Wagakki Band
I heard about this band through a friend on Facebook and I'm surprised I hadn't found them sooner, since I enjoy bands that infuse traditional Japanese instruments into their sound. The PV has plenty of lovely visuals in costumes, set pieces, and camera technique. My favorite shot is the left and right panning with the members playing in their own individual lit screen. The music is very energetic and the sound is absolutely beautiful and powerful.

Keeping their punk, ska, and electronic rock sound, I was excited to hear another new song by these guys. I believe I wanted to post this before I posted "Fallen Idols", but for some reason, they blocked it in America. I don't know. It's just a fun little video with the guys performing in a club and the vocalist going a psychedelic trip after drinking. It's random, silly, and fun. Everything I imagine them to continue to be.

Trying something a little different by mixing rock and electronic elements, I was pleased to hear their sound evolving more and more. The video is very simple and mostly focuses on the band members either playing their instruments or being robotic. Not sure if robots/androids was the concept for this PV, but the girls look beautiful. I really like the direction they're going with their music. The song's beautiful and upbeat and Oni's voice continues to be gorgeous and passionate.

"Look Around" by BASTERD
Everyone wants to be so hip-hop and a lot of the time it's just too much. Too much cliche and stereotypes and appropriation, but this video isn't like that. Sure, it sounds like something you could hear in America, but this duo add their own flavor in the rap delivery and a bit in the beat. As for the visuals, they're super simple. Snippets of the city, some beautiful women, a clip of a live performance, and just the guys hanging out and cruising the streets. It's perfectly hip-hop without being obnoxiously hip-hop. I'm looking forward to listening to more music from the guys. For now, enjoy this fresh, possibly new talent.

"Beat" by 100%
VIXX aren't the only ones that can pull off sleek, dark concepts. I'm sure plenty of people compared it to VIXX, but that's not a bad thing. I admitted that I sometimes forget about this group, but it doesn't ruin my enjoyment for their music. This song has an intriguing composition that keeps the pace going and softening it at the right time. The choreography is very dramatic and fits the tone and concept of the song overall. I also really enjoy the visuals. It has just the right balance of simple and complex and the boys look really good, even if I think some of the armor pieces look uncomfortable.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Throwback Thursday Review: Queen of the Damned (2002)

Starring: Aaliyah, Stuart Townsend, Marguerite Moreau
Directed by: Michael Rymer
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 101 minutes

In my music video series, Miko's Music Connection, I focused on the life and career of R&B singer Aaliyah and briefly mentioned a little movie called Queen of the Damned. I mentioned some of my opinion on the movie, but mainly focused on the connection it had to Aaliyah, one of the stars of the movie. Now that I'm doing Throwback Thursday posts on Muddy Cult, I decided to revisit the movie and review it here for you guys.

Legendary vampire Lestat de Lioncourt has been in hibernation for several years. Once he decides to awaken, Lestat notices how much the world has changed and discovers rock music through a group of people practicing in a garage. Sharing his vocal talents with the members, he becomes part of their band and gains a massive following worldwide. While planning a huge concert in Death Valley, his music catches the attention of Queen Akasha who awakens and searches for Lestat in hopes of making him her king.

Being a fan of Aaliyah, I was looking forward to seeing another movie starring her, even though her part was quite minimal. I also was curious how they finished the movie after her unfortunate accident as well, but I was aware they used CGI for her appearance and later learned that her brother helped with the dubbing of voice (or something). Watching this movie again almost feels like the first time as I hadn't watched the movie from beginning to end since its release in theaters. I have seen bits of pieces here and there on TV, but the experience was interesting, especially knowing a few extra information about the movie.

After seeing the movie in theaters, I remember enjoying it and finding Stuart Townsend quite handsome as Lestat. I was unaware that this movie was supposed to based on an Anne Rice novel and that most of the complaints about the movie were due to it being a poor adaptation...also Anne Rice wasn't too fond of the interpretation either. I skimmed through some IMDb comments mentioning that as well and comparing Tom Cruise from Interview With a Vampire to Stuart Townsend. Unfortunately, I can't really join in such a discussion as I've never read an Anne Rice novel nor have I seen Interview With a Vampire completely. Perhaps I will watch the movie at some point. Watching Queen of the Damned now, I can recognize that Townsend was kinda like any other vampire and he did a good job bringing that sexual, intimidating aura that they possess. I still enjoyed the movie, but the story is a tad bit weak and I'm curious what the source material contained.

The main cast is pretty good and I enjoyed their characters, while the supporting characters seemed to range from good to tolerable. I enjoyed watching Lestat's transformation, interactions, and development throughout the film, despite it falling short in certain places. Jesse Reeves was a slightly unconventional love interesting and I thought she was interesting character for Lestat to encounter, but I wished she stood out more. As much as I love Aaliyah, her portrayal as Queen Akasha was a little awkward to watch in certain places, but I thought she did a good job with the material she was giving. The effects are a bit dated, but they're pretty good for that time. One thing a lot of audiences agreed on is that the soundtrack is pretty cool. It's unfortunate that during the performance scenes with Lestat, his singing voice is dubbed by Jonathan Davis of KoRn. I love KoRn, but the vocals are kinda distracting as they don't match Townsend whatsoever. I would've either used his own vocals or chose someone else to do his singing voice that would fit his speaking voice (and perhaps his appearance).

Back then and now, I never thought this was an amazing, award-winning movie or anything, but I enjoy it just as much as when I first saw it in theaters. Of course, it has its flaws, but nonetheless it is an entertaining movie. It's unique from some vampire movies and the characters are enjoyable enough to watch. The soundtrack is fantastic and matches the tone and theme of the film; it's also nice to listen to as just a compilation album. I suppose if you can forget the that this movie is supposed to be an adaptation of an Anne Rice novel, then this film can be quite enjoyable for the casual moviegoer.

Rating: 3/5

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Promo: 365DaBand

[no particular order] Will, Isaac, S.T, and Jun
|Official Facebook|

Similar to my promotion post for BNR, I ran into a few dead ends finding information about this group. Originally 365daband was a quintet from Vietnam that debuted in December 2012. Each member had a very unique style to them: Isaac - cool man, Jun - Family boy, Tronie - Charming Prince, Will - Rebel, and ST - kiddo. What makes this boyband unique is that their musical style is a mixture of pop, R&B, and hip-hop. Their debut single is Awakening and they are one of Vietnam's most popular boy groups. I was first introduced to them by a friend when he shared the video for "Get On the Floor", which kinda reminded me of something MBLAQ would produce.

This is probably a slightly unusual promotional post for me as I really don't actively keep up with this group very often. I still enjoy the group and, for this post, I have watched more of their videos including their most recent one from December 2014 called "HAI CÔ TIÊN". I probably should look into updating their musical catalogue in my iTunes library, but for now I'll continue to jam to The Love Box [especially "I Let You Down"]. I'm very grateful for my friend introducing me to this group as I don't listen to Vietnamese music at all and they are quite a talented bunch. I hope that they will continue to make awesome music and keep pushing forward after their member lost.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Review: Bakuman.

Title: Bakuman. (2008)
Author(s): Obata Takeshi (Art) & Ohba Tsugumi (Story)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Shounen
Volumes: 20

Bakuman follows the story of high school student Moritaka Mashiro, a talented artist who does not know what he wants to do with his future. One day, Mashiro draws a picture of Miho Azuki, a girl he is secretly fond of, during class but forgets the notebook at school. He comes back to find that his classmate Akito Takagi is waiting for him with his notebook. Takagi tries to convince Mashiro to become a mangaka, a manga artist, with him, leading to Mashiro's disagreement. Mashiro goes home and thinks about his mangaka uncle, who had only one successful series before he died in obscurity. Mashiro is interrupted by a phone call from Takagi, who says that he is going to tell Azuki that Mashiro likes her. Mashiro runs down to Azuki's house to find Takagi waiting for him. Once Azuki comes out to meet them, Takagi tells her that he and Mashiro are aiming to be mangaka. Mashiro then learns that she wants to be a seiyuu, a voice actor, and has shown promise in the field. Mashiro, once again thinking about his uncle, accidentally proposes to Azuki who accepts. However, she will only marry him after they achieve their dreams. In addition, they cannot see each other until then. (Source: Wikipedia)

Similar to Tarot Café, I read this series during a time I need to conserve my money, so the library was a good source of trying new things without spending a dime. I wasn't completely sure what I was in for, whether I would find this interesting or absolutely boring as the whole concept deals with the manga industry. I also was a tiny bit cautious as well since the creator of Death Note was behind, even though I did find some enjoyment from that series. Obviously, I made it through 20 volumes without feeling any sort of disinterest. What helped keep my interest were the characters. Mashiro and Takagi are ordinary people, people you and I would know. People who are interested in anime and manga and have friends that are also interested in it may have a friend or two that have been or are interested in working in the anime and manga business. When you're young, you think it's really simple, but once you're older, you realize that being a voice actor or a mangaka is really difficult to be successful in. Bakuman. is a great series to learn how the whole journey, especially for those who aspire to be a mangaka. Even if you just simply enjoying reading manga, it's nice to learn how the system works while having an entertaining story at the same time.

The journey that Mashiro and Takagi travel through from volume to volume may sound pretty basic on paper, but once you delve into the story, it's easy to get involve in their struggle and cheering for them to reach their goals. Bakuman. reflects real life drama, so expecting Mashiro and Takagi to succeed all the time like some old 90s kids flick is not going to happen, which is good. Much like life, their failures only build our main characters up and develop them into stronger artists and writers. They form great friendships, test the limits of their love through a unique semi-long distance relationship, adjust to a new social atmosphere, and interacting with people who have other objectives that aren't exactly pure. These elements along with the unique variety of characters make the story entertaining, relatable, and engaging. Although I couldn't speed through the volumes as quickly as a shounen action manga like Naruto and Bleach as there is a lot of detail and dialogue between the characters, I gradually adjusted to it and felt it was necessary to have such things in a manga like this. I also enjoyed that we do get a glance at what the characters are working, so we're left in the dark about their competition or how creative our main characters.

Bakuman. is not a fast pace, action packed manga, but the details, story, and characters really keep you engaged from volume to volume. The artwork is great and has unique styles to it when showing off the characters' works and the character development is evenly paced and satisfying. I enjoyed that the Mashiro and Takagi didn't succeed all the time and that the outcomes were not predictable with each challenged they faced; it made it more satisfying to read and it added to their growth. The supporting characters were just as enjoyable whether you like them or not. I definitely would recommend this if you love reading manga or want to part of the industry. It's very informative while still being entertaining, comical, and engaging.

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Throwback Thursday Review: Spice Girl's "Spice" (1996)

Spice Girls - Spice (1996, USA)
Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Wannabe, Say You'll Be There, Naked, If U Can't Dance

For our first musical Throwback Thursday, I wanted to review the very first CD I owed and still have. Yes, back in the day I was a big Spice Girls fan. I absolutely enjoyed their music, had the dolls, and even seen and owned the movie on VHS. I knew a bit of their choreography since my friends and I thought we really were the Spice Girls and I surprisingly still remember some of it. Of course, lyrics have never left my mind, so I can still effortlessly sing a good portion of the songs in their discography. Let's shake it to the right with Spice Girls' debut album, Spice.

"Wannabe", the first track of the album, is where it all started for most fans and people who knew about the Spice Girls. It was their debut single and music video and it was the perfect track to show us who they are and the perfect way to start an album. "Wannabe" is a simple, upbeat pop tune with a catchy bridge and chorus that everyone couldn't resist but to sing along. It stuck in your head whether you wanted it there or not. I remember people always struggled and fumbled with Mel B's rap or that third verse that her and Geri split. They never knew what the heck she was saying and tended to fail singing along to that part. It was a bit of a nonsense song, but it was full of nothing but fun and energy in not only the video, but the lyrics as well.

I bet some people wondered how the girls were going to top such an addicting song like "Wannabe". Well, their second track "Say You'll Be There" kept that fun playfulness, but added a little more musical substance. While "Wannabe" had some nonsensical moments in their lyrics, "Say You'll Be There" had more comprehensive content about a relationship that's easier to point out than their first song. The video also showed off the members' individual personalities that matched their nicknames and gave each girl a chance to sing. Each member has a very distinct vocal duty and you could clearly tell who's singing which part. The music video was fairly simple and gave each member camera time as they sung their parts, while still having fun with basic choreography and visual effects.

"2 Become 1" was a more mature and sensual track that really displayed each members' vocal talents a little more than "Say You'll Be There". It was a slower track that even younger me enjoyed to some extent, even though I didn't fully grasp the content of the lyrics until I was a little older. It's a very innocent intimate piece that expands on their view of relationships compared to the previous two tracks. The video was more serious and chic, but still held onto the group's personality without being too loud with crazy costumes or a strange concepts. I strangely can imagine that one person wanting this to be their first dance song at a wedding reception or something. Listening to the track now, I can still appreciate how beautiful and emotional this track is and that it shows a different side to the group aside from their crazy, boisterous, and confident side.

"Love Thing" goes back to a more upbeat tempo with a slight funk edge. It's a confident, empowering track about overcoming a rough relationship and moving forward with life. It was a track that stuck with their group concept of girl power. The vocals are consistently strong and the arrangement knew exactly where to put the punches then unify the girls' voices into a catchy hook. "Last Time Lover" is another funk pop track with some lovely bass lines. It's a sensual track that primarily focuses on the deep vocal range of Mel B and Geri. It's a slightly playful track with tons of sass in the verses and a bit in the chorus. It has an easy beat that you could nod your head along to, but it's not a track that'll stick to your head like "Wannabe" or "Say You'll Be There". Nonetheless, it is an empowering track to take hold of a relationship you want to let go while feeling above that ex-lover or whatever.

Back in the 90s, it seemed like the popular thing to do is to make a song dedicated to the mothers. "Mama" is that track. It's a slightly uptempo song with the girls taking turns singing to their mothers. The video features footage and pictures of the members as young girls with their mothers holding pictures of them. The lyrics are pretty simple, but carry enough substance to make you smile and put a small tear in your eye. It's not a track I listened to very often as a kid as I wanted something more upbeat and fun, but back then and now, I never thought this song was a bad one. It's a little cheesy or even pandering, but there is some sincerity and lightness to the track. The girls could've done a more mature ballad piece like Boyz II Men, but decided to keep their fun to appeal to their younger fanbase, light appeal instead which isn't bad.

Similar to "Wannabe", "Who Do You Think You Are" is an extremely fun, upbeat track with a nonsensical music video full of random fun. It's a confident track with a pseudo-disco pop beat and a super catchy chorus. It's definitely a dance track or at least one that's fun to bounce around to like the first track. The video is completely random and fun with the girls playing around their wardrobe, but I honestly wouldn't expect anything else from a song like this. Much like the previous tracks as well as just the whole album, the song exudes tons of confidence, a bit a sexuality, and freshness. It's a good track to listen to pick up your spirits.

"Something Kinda Funny" is a smooth funk track that's pretty easy to listen to. It's really not that memorable compared to some of the other tracks, but the vocals are nice to hear. The melody fits with their voices and somewhat eclectic style. It's not a track I listen to often, but it's not a bad song in the least. Strangely, "Naked" is a track I listened to fairly often when I was younger and still appreciate the track to this day. It's pretty much the slowest track or at least the same tempo as "Mama". It's a pop track with some great guitar melodies and bass. The verses are more spoken word than song which is interesting and ties into the bridge which is sung by, I'm guessing, Emma and Mel B, then smoothly transitions to the chorus. The song has a slight dark, mysterious edge to it. Very vulnerable and raw. It kinda reminds me of Madonna's "Justify My Love" in the rawness. It's an amazing track with a great melody and composition. "If U Can't Dance" is a nice bookend to the album as it is just a fun and nonsensical as "Wannabe". It has a bit of hip-hop mixed with pop and funk elements. It also features that semi-rap delivery in the verses from Geri and Mel B, which I have fun singing along to although I'm sure people would stumble on that first verse. It also features Geri doing a verse completely in Spanish. It's a fun track with mindless lyrics, but it's fairly enjoyable.

Spice was a solid effort from the rising British girl group. From track to track, the sound and concepts are consistent and cohesive. There's a good balance of fun, upbeat songs, slower more intimate songs, and more experimental tracks. The album represented the group in a good light and showcased their personalities and vocal talents. Looking back on this album, I still believe this was a solid effort and deserved the praise and awards that it received. I hope you all enjoyed today's first musical Throwback Thursday and there will definitely be more to come.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Battle of the Hip-Hop Fused Rookies

It is no secret that I am a fan of Korean hip-hop. From the quick deliveries of Outsider to the soothing R&B fusion of Verbal Jint, I really love Korean hip-hop. Although the genre doesn't get as much attention or hype compared to kpop (mostly international), it is nice to see somewhat new rookie groups come out with a hip-hop concept or influence that truly matches it roots without being overwhelmed with pop elements. As of 2013, four groups debuted onto the scene with this concept or fusion of genres: BTS, AlphaBAT, ToppDogg, and GOT7. Similar to my notable rookies list, I wanted to put a special spotlight on these groups [because honestly, 2013 was a little lacking in the interesting department for rookies] and compare their execution and style to each other.