Tag Archives: music

‘The Life of Pablo:’ A tribute to arrogance

Kanye West has gone off the deep end; whether he’s $53 million in debt, explosively ranting about Taylor Swift, or banning “white publications” from reviewing his music, the rapper known as Yeezy is always up to something. If the music industry is the solar system, Kanye is the insane, dangerously narcissistic sun that us plebeian planets revolve around. Kanye’s newest album, The Life of Pablo—currently only available on the music streaming website Tidal—is just as bizarre as the man himself.

The Life of Pablo’s opening song, “Ultralight Beam,” establishes a recurring theme in the album; Kanye is the weakest link on his own songs. His verses are auto-tuned to death, droning, and extremely expressionless (the man sounds so bored). The song’s featured vocalist, Chance the Rapper, is by contrast quick and fervent, completely overshadowing Kanye. “Ultralight Beam,” along with other tracks on the album, is interspersed with dramatic gospel vocals, another odd disparity with Kanye’s listless rapping and near-incoherent lyrics.

In the midst of both mediocrity and audio Chinese water torture, The Life of Pablo supplies a few positives. In the song “Fade,” a sample of the Tempations’ “I Know (I’m Losing You)” collides with house music, creating, at the very least, an interesting instrumental. Meanwhile, “FML” is an eerie ode to self-sabotage and the battle of controlling oneself. Kanye mentions his use of the anti-depression and anti-anxiety drug Lexapro, while guest vocalist The Weeknd laments, “Wish I would go ahead and [mess] my life up/ Can’t let them get to me/ And even though I always [mess] my life up/ Only I can mention me.”

The Life of Pablo is ultimately the autobiography of a pseudo-intellectual megalomaniac. While occasionally bearing some glimpses of actual human emotion, it’s more concerned with taking petty potshots at fellow celebrities. The album’s disjointed nature and abstract concepts paired with poor execution make it sound more like the ramblings of an elderly park hobo than a supposed rap god.

The Life of Pablo is garishly braggadocios, and if Kanye isn’t going to fade into obscurity anytime soon, the least he could do is go to therapy to sort out his god-complex.

~lana heltzel, editor-in-chief


Say ‘Hello’ to an instant hit

Taylor Swift has officially been dethroned as the queen of pop now that Adele has returned with her much anticipated third album, 25. After an absence from the music industry of five years, the 27-year-old British singer is back and better than ever, musically, mentally, and emotionally.

With her successful previous albums, 2011’s 21 and 2008’s 19, Adele said in an interview that she didn’t think she could top their popularity. But the world was hungry for her music, and her suspenseful, bone-chilling comeback single, “Hello,” immediately sky rocketed to the top of the iTunes charts and stayed there for weeks.

Adele comes back confident, sexy, and belting notes in almost every song. Songs like “When We Were Young,” “Million Years Ago,” and “Remedy” are soft, pretty, and sorrowful piano ballads, with romantic lyrics and calming acoustics. But then the album takes a dip into catchy pop music with “River Lea,” “Water Under the Bridge,” “Send my Love,” and “I Miss You,” all featuring incredibly catchy beats, with background sound effects and vocals. Adele sounds like she is almost having fun.

Although many of the songs are her usual slow, beautiful tunes, the pop ones are nestled in between, almost as if they are a surprise. Definitely the most compelling song on the album is the catchy “River Lea,” personally my favorite; but it also comes with a heavy backstory. The Lea River is a tributary of the Thames River near Adele’s hometown. Adele is singing an ode to this river, and she has mixed feelings about it because she wants to forget where she grew up, but the past will always be a part of her. In the first verse, Adele sings: “I grew up by the River Lea / There was something in the water / Now that something’s in me / Oh, I can’t go back, but the reeds are growing out of my fingertips / I can’t go back to the river.” And in the chorus, she sings out: “I blame it on the River Lea.”

Adele’s voice has the ability to draw people in to the story she tells through her lyrics, and on 25 she shows she has overcome personal struggles. The boost in her confidence and self-esteem suggests it just took her a while to finally find her inner superstar. “I was too strong/ You were trembling/You couldn’t handle the hot heat rising/ Baby, I’m so rising,” she sings in “Send My Love.” This album, while new and confident and fiery, has a nostalgic touch to it, as if Adele secretly wishes she could relive her younger years.

Adele is a pop colossus who doesn’t conform to the basic rules of fame. She prefers not to be seen in public, and she is humble in every single interview, despite holding a BT Digital Music Award, four Brit Awards, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, 10 Grammy Awards, 13 Billboard Music Awards, and four American Music Awards. If that doesn’t define a music icon, then I don’t know what does.

~julia sexton, co-features director

‘Honeymoon’ brings back blues

If you’re into soulful and dramatic descants, Indie/alt. pop singer Lana Del Rey’s newly released album Honeymoon is what you’ve been looking for. While her last albums, Born to Die and Ultraviolence, dabbled in a modern pop feel, this playlist is the original Lana, full of sexy, raw, emotional ballads and angelic vocals without any background sound effects and auto tune frill.

With her iconic winged eyeliner and retro Hollywood waves, she is the modern day equivalent of Marilyn Monroe or Amy Winehouse. Del Rey retreats within herself for this album, but that’s not a bad thing. The eerie percussions suggest nostalgic reminiscence for teenage listeners, and offers a vintage music option for sentimental youths wishing they could live in the 60s.

The album opens up with the title track “Honeymoon,” which sets a mature mood for the following 12 songs. Sleepy, slow lyrics make it sound like Del Rey is in a trance. The songs are all similar in tune and audio, which may be boring for some listeners, since the album lacks dance melodies or sappy, bubbly pop lyrics.

Instead, the songs have a slow, gloomy feel, as if Del Rey is crooning over a tragedy. Songs like “Freak,” “Religion,” and “Music To Watch Boys To” are the most melancholy of the bunch because of their haunting, groggy procession. The album carries a sensual mood because of Del Rey’s pure unedited voice serenading throughout and the racy lyrics about her past love encounters.

“High By the Beach,” is probably the only song on the album that could fit right into Born to Die, the most hip work of her musical career, because it has a catchy, synchronized beat and melody.

Despite her age, Del Rey seems to understand the sorrows and heartbreak of living and falling in love, but she offers more emotional depth than any other singer in the industry today. Aren’t honeymoons supposed to be one of the best times of a person’s life? Apparently, not Lana Del Rey’s honeymoon. From heartbreak and painful self-refuge and withdrawal, Del Ray has produced possibly her best collection of songs and sounds so far in her career as a genre-defying artist.

~julia sexton, co-features director

Marching band takes the field

Senior Kelly Shaw is the drum major of the marching band; she not only conducts the band, she leads the entire show.

“For me, it’s a whole new ball game,” Shaw said. “Last year I was the junior drum major in the back conducting. Now, I’m in the front conducting. It’s a step up. We have captains and lieutenants. For me it’s interesting to be the one in charge and have everyone look up to you.”

Shaw’s passion for music began six years ago and has led to her leadership role today.

“I first got introduced to it back in the sixth grade. My brother was doing marching band, and he told me about how fun it was,” Shaw said. “I started playing flute in the sixth grade, and I still play it to this day.”

The marching band begins practice with stretching, and then breaks up into sections based on their instruments or into basics block, where they practice the fundamentals of marching. Members warm up musically and then begin practicing for the drill, or show. Dot books lay out where each student is supposed to stand and how the show is set up.

“The most challenging part for me is having to be strict with the band,” Shaw said. “I don’t like to be angry with them, but at the same time I’m strict because I have to be. They know whenever I’m serious, they have to be.”

Junior Austin Evans is junior drum major and hopes to be the leader, next year.

“This year I’m learning the ropes of drum major so next year I can lead the band,” Evans said. “It takes a lot of talent to stay focused. Kelly can pick up places and know exactly where it is; that takes me awhile. I envy her.”

Marching band students attend band camp in West Virginia before school starts where they meet the incoming freshmen and get acclimated with the show they will be performing.

“It’s always interesting to get to know the freshmen. You never know what to expect,” Shaw said. “We say we’re a family. We all know each other and encourage each other. I love that. It’s a sport that needs everyone else to complete it.”

In 2009 the marching band won group A competition, which enabled them to be an open, or competitive, band, and they have stayed an open band ever since. The marching band has five competitions a year. The fourth competition is states, held in Virginia Beach, and the fifth is nationals held in the MET Life Stadium in New Jersey. FHS’s marching band gets invited to nationals each year. Competitions are judged on a scale of 0 to 100; this year the marching band hopes to break 90.

“You have to be invited to nationals,” Shaw said. “Last year we scored in the 80s, and we did really well, so they invited us back.”

This year the marching band is putting on a production based on Hansel and Gretal, in which Shaw plays the old lady who narrates the story. The first competition will be Sept. 27 at Herndon High School. Marching band productions involve many people in addtion to the musicians. They have a composer, the color guard, a pit crew, and people who make their props.

“The props are mostly done by parents. Band moms and dads make the world go round,” Shaw said. “They do everything. They make us meals and do our hair-things like that.”

Shaw believes the best part about being a part of the team is the friendships she’s made.

“I’ve made so many friends, and it’s made high school so much easier,” Shaw said. “I remember freshman year. I was lost, and I ended up finding a band kid who showed me where to go and took me to my class. I’m friends with everyone in band. We all know each other.”

~SaraRose Martin, co-editor-in-chief

Bowie boisterously bounces back after heart attack

David Bowie’s iconic music and performance on stage need no introduction. Best known for his 1972 revolutionary album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, and his flashy, vivid getups, he has been dubbed by Rolling Stone as one of the greatest artists of all time. Ten years since his last album, Bowie is neither rusty, nor out-of-date with his spectacular recent release, The Next Day.
There has always been something undeniably intriguing about Bowie, and this album puts that quality in the spotlight. He begins the record with something of a doomsday mystique, ironically playing on the recent rumors of his crumbling health with lyrics like, “Here I am, not quite dying, my body left in a hollow tree.” Gritty sax and guitar playing characterize this album, giving the glam-rock artist a muddy, almost sultry edge. Bowie succeeds in effortlessly combining his old, legendary sound with an intimate, vaguely mysterious, and less bluesy tone. This intimacy is found in tracks such as the lyrically dense “I’d Rather Be High,” which recalls the post-war life of a traumatized soldier. Other tracks follow suit, covering a spectrum of heart-wrenching topics, from the tragic ballad of a high school shooter, to Bowie’s meditations on celebrity culture.
“You Feel So Lonely You Could Die” is a song for stereo speakers, incorporating a blazing guitar and drum line indicative of Ziggy Stardust’s “Suffragette City.” “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” is perhaps the most revered and successful track on the album, and reflects on the immortal nature of a celebrity with a backdrop of descending synth and guitar progressions.
The Next Day is a musical resurrection, a work of art, and a thrilling comeback for anticipating fans. While many of the songs could easily fit into one of his many hit records from the 70s, Bowie has successfully extended his abstract themes from previous works into a new, modern, and energetic achievement. The Next Day proves that Bowie, at age 66, has plenty left to give the world musically, and this record has earned a spot among his many great works.

~Michelle Daniek, staff reporter

Tyler triumphs on new album

A lot of people hate Tyler, the Creator. The soccer moms, suburban churchgoers, and sensitive hipsters hate his attitude and his satirical sarcasm. They hate his vulgar language, his violent imagery, and the sound of his voice. They hate him the same way they hated Eminem in the early 2000s, and they will not tolerate him. One can’t help but think of the Sex Pistols.
However, even Tyler’s critics have to admit that he’s unique. His new album, Wolf, is further proof of his authenticity. I can’t remember the last time I heard a rapper with as much conviction. His deep, rolling voice always has something to say, whether he’s complaining about his hype, lashing out at his absent father, or narrating the thoughts of a serial killer. Tyler’s entire musical attitude is soaked in artistic creativity, a dark and interesting atmosphere, and often in raw intimacy. When he’s not wasting time with shock lyrics or fan-rallying catch phrases, Tyler is one of the most personally honest and intriguing voices in modern hip hop. His debut album, Bastard, was an emotional rollercoaster. Wolf represents a return to form after his somewhat inauthentic sophomore effort, Goblin.
On Wolf Tyler rehashes the accessible hooks so many people liked on Goblin, but also reincorporates the emotional intensity so many people missed from Bastard. Songs like “Jamba” and “Domo23” burst with fiery production and provocative rhymes catchy enough to bring in a wider audience. Tracks like “Cowboy,” and “Awkward” focus on avant-garde lyricism, dark beats, and conceptual character development. “Answer” is not only the most emotionally charged song on the album, but it is also one of the most powerful songs in hip-hop so far this year, fusing Tyler’s real life with his story characters and giving him an outlet to vent about paternal abandonment. Every verse drips with an impeccable honesty and emotional power, backed by a beautifully subtle drum beat and synth line.
Unfortunately, the whole album isn’t gold. Tyler shows he has yet to grow out of his somewhat stale, horror-core shock-tactics. However ironic he intends the homophobia and sexism in his lyrics to be, sometimes his characters come off sounding unimpressively plastic. There aren’t any particularly bad songs on Wolf, but many of them don’t sound too fantastic either.
Tyler’s new record has its blunders just as he has his, but overall, Wolf is a rich, artistic concept album, and represents an artist growing in maturity and nearing a possible magnum opus. Even with his faults, Tyler remains one of the most interesting MCs in modern hip-hop, and one of the most daring, as well.

~Patrick Duggan, news director

Band busts out rhythm, blues

Nothing gives a high school a colorful splash of character like a school band. Band teacher Andrew Paul shares this sentiment and aims to enhance school spirit through his new R&B band.
“I wanted to start a jazz band, but we didn’t have enough instruments for that,” Paul said. “But we did have the instruments to go in a different direction. It’s not really an R&B band; I just call it that because I couldn’t think of anything better to call it. We’re playing a little bit of everything.”
The R&B band practices every Monday for an hour and plays a variety of music stretching across multiple genres. Freshman Nick Thorpe, a veteran bassist, will be performing with the R&B band.
“I wanted to meet other musicians and stuff like that,” Thorpe said. “Bands are fun. In middle school I played bass at the spring and winter concerts, but this is the first time I’ll be playing for this school.”
Thorpe is primarily a metal player, but values the experience and versatility he gains from performing other types of music.
“It’ll be a learning experience,” Thorpe said. “I want to be a studio musician, so I feel like I need to get experience with different genres.”
Two-year guitarist sophomore Jacqueline Crabtree decided to join the R&B band so that she could have a place to play guitar outside of her house.
“I’ve played with a band, and I go to open mike at Drum N’ Strum, but this is my first time playing guitar for the school,” Crabtree said. “I’m a strings player, so I have to get used to playing with the all the horns, but it’s really cool to play with other musicians. It’s not too difficult, because it’s very laid back.”
The band is currently working on “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne, “Louie, Louie” by Richard Berry, and “Chameleon” by Herbie Hancock. Students who are interested in joining should contact Mr. Paul in person or via e-mail.
“The music we’re rehearsing is flexible for pretty much any instrument that shows up to rehearsal,” Paul said. “Unless someone shows up with bagpipes, we’re pretty much covered with the music we have.”
The band is early in the rehearsal process, but Paul is already preparing performances.
“We’re planning to play at the faculty/student basketball game, we have an end of the year concert, and we’ve got something planned uptown for later in May,” Paul said. “We might play before or after school one day; you can never tell.”

~Patrick Duggan, news director