21 May 2019

Summer Jam 2019 Week 2! Where You Take Your Horse?!

We're a day behind, but still on track! Maybe. Summer Jam is of course still a thing and here we are counting down the hottest, most intriguing tracks of the second or third week of May 2019! Let's dive into this mess:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Earfquake" by Tyler the Creator



T the C just dropped IGOR which is solidly trending right now and could have a nice summer. I post a lot of Tyler the Creator songs on here because they tend to tickle my fancy, but he seems to avoid mainstream buzz, perhaps because he's totally bonkers. Still, he remains popular amongst the youth in this splintered media landscape. There's good vibes right now and "Earfquake" is kind of a whack, very un-"Yonkers" kind of track, but that might be a good thing.

"I Don't Care" by Bieber & Sheeran

These two putzes teamed up to make an attempt at a meme video, and it's largely successful. There's enough goodwill between these two crooners that this could surge this summer, although this is also totally exactly like every Sheeran song ever. Bieber has lent his voice more to EDM and DJ Khalid tracks lately, so this sort of stands out for him. This point is, if this track takes off I'm going to have to look up the title each and every week because I will absolutely not remember.

"Middle Child" by J. Cole

J. Cole is back again with one of the greatest songs of the moment and of his career. J. Cole was such a joke so recently, now he's laying down tight rhymes over sick beats. This really isn't that hot on the Hip-Hop scene, but still one of my favorites right now.

"ME!" by Tay Sway and the Lead Singer of Panic! At the Disco

This is starting to feel like a track that might be around for a while but never overpowering. It also feels very much in the model of five to ten years ago - a pleasing pop track designed by studios for a happy traditional release. As we move forward this suddenly feels so antiquated. It's enjoyable, though, and already has enough traction to move forward, but probably not on top.

"Bad Guy" by Billie Ellish

This is a really new artist who has dropped a bunch of intriguing tracks, and there's a combination of irreverence and intensity here that's most intriguing of all. The beat is sultry and engaging, with a raspy fray voice that filters over its most boppy moments. It's more original than most pop stuff out there and could remain for a while on these hot summer nights. I get the feeling that Billie Ellish is a new Kat Dahlia or Skylar Grey or something, though. In the moment, not to rise beyond her year.

"Don't Call Me Up" by Mabel

This week turned out pretty pop-centered. Back in the day this was all Katy / GaGa / Ke$ha wars. Oh how we've changed. I really enjoy how this song drops its beat, but it's also one whose title I totally had to look up. Mabel, Billie, all these artists are pretty good but I don't know if they have staying power in this new landscape. That also goes for

"Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus

First of all, check out this little history of this song, which is mind-blowing. Somehow it's totally possible to just make a song and self-promote it up to the #1 spot in the country. Of course, that's all the more to do with how much this song nails its hip-hop / country appeal, which is perfect. It really hits a sweet spot between earnestness and parody that fits 2019 so well. This is #2 this week because #1 was just in my head more, but I think this is just beginning its mainstream run.

"Sweet but Psycho" by Ava Max

Yeah, I don't know, but this totally earwormed me this week. I kept thinking she mentioned "George Micho" or something but I guess not. This dug into my soul and stayed there all week. This is more than this track deserves because it's totally not a #1 Summer Jam, but definitely this week - and that's why we have 17 of these! Stay tuned all summer!

Next week...

I really enjoyed Lizzo's "Truth Hurts" but it's been out for a year? If that track continues to surge I may not be able to ignore it. I'm also eyeing just about all of IGOR because with a Spotify-fueled world singles just don't matter any more. Logic and Eminem teamed up for a great all-white rapper track and the Jonas Bros are still hanging around. There's a lot of directions this Summer may be pulled!

13 May 2019

Summer Jam 2019! Week 1! Let IT BEGIN!!

Welcome to the 10th Incarnation of Norwegian Morning Wood's Summer Jam Countdown!

Posts here have been so spotty lately. The Summer Jam will fix all of that! Probably. Each and every week until Labour Day we'll list off the Top Eight HOTTEST Jams in the Good Ol' Us of America and then tally up WHICH track is the final, ultimate Soundtrack to Summer 2019. It's going to be a good one. I can feel it. The media landscape isn't fractured!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Picasso" by Hopsin



I just searched for New Music, this jam popped up and I dug it. Is Hopsin a new hot artist on the Hip-Hop scene? The Travis Scott of 2019? Time will tell, but this is actually a bumpin jam, pretty brutal, clever, and a sick cutting beat. It's good enough to be the HOT ONE this week!

"Please Me" by Bruno Mars ft. Cardi B

An ancient song, but still hanging around this week - the second, much worse collabo between Bruni and Cardo does its job and is an earworm enough to be enjoyable. I naturally subconsciously searched for "Please Please Me" because of Johno and Pauli.

"Break Up with your Girlfriend, I'm Bored" by Ariana Grande

Ariana continues to dominate 2019 with every single thing she does, although this is a little bit of a lesser work compared to "Thank U, Next" and "7 Rings." It's the kind of bold, aggressive song that takes on a weird connotation after her series of high-profile relationships (chronicled with a little more tact in "Thank U, Next"). It's still a catchy jam, but it's pathway to the Top is probably over.

"Middle Child" by J. Cole

Did anyone else pick up on the moment when J. Cole became one of our best current rappers? He has a slew of hits, or at least songs lately, but this is chief among them. It's incredibly listenable in the background but also has significant lyrical weight when you sit down and contemplate it. Basically, a perfect rap song. I'll take it. A little old by Summer Jam standards, but it'll do.

"Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus

How did Billy Ray Cyrus earn a #1 Billboard Single and it not be the year 1990? This is a solid jam that has set the streaming world on fire. Since I am old man in my 10th iteration of this insane list, I haven't gotten up on streaming yet. Still, I'll acknowledge this because it doesn't matter what old men say - just what Old Town Roads say. And they say...hotness. Also this video is tight.

"Sucker" by Jonas Bros

I didn't know that the Jonas Bros were still a thing nor that this track was a Jonas Bros track but I actually dig it. My pop knowledge is insane that it actually reminds me quite a bit of Fifth Harmony's "I'm in Love with a Monster" from a few years back. That's really a guilty pleasure song.

"WOW" by Post Malone

This is somehow one of P.M.'s best tracks. His flow is stellar as always, but it's the throbbing beat and weird dancing beard man that push it over the edge. It's such a devil may care video that fits pretty well with the post-modern musical landscape. The post-malone musical landscape, if you will.

"ME!" by Taylor Swift ft. Brendan Urie

Tay Tay deserves more credit for slight reinventions of herself as the years go on. She seems less about petty weird jealousy and fake feuds with Katy Perry than actually making some mature music these days. This track was everywhere this week and I think could last a bit. It's far too early to proclaim a Summer Jam Winner. Yes, it is. But on May 13, 2019 this is what we got. That's actually the point of this countdown, Robert.

Next week...

Oh, we'll have more. This is a solid list for right now but the ebbs and flows of our fickle musical landscape will morph and change until our destinies are fulfilled! To September!!

19 April 2019

First Impressions: Captain Marvel

Listen, I'm not a fan of this once a month blogging thing, either. I need to get my act together. I saw Captain Marvel (2019) last month! Let's talk about that! SPOILERS forever!

By this point we need a lot of context. As Marvel Movie #21 there is inherently a lot of background to understand, but for how much people tend to gripe about this, Captain Marvel largely stands on its own, with little bits to discover as treats, not detractions. Considering how every other major studio has fallen on its face when it comes to shared cinematic universes, it's impressive that Marvel continues to actually restrain itself for stand-alone adventures. Of course Infinity War (2018) is something else entirely, but let's keep it to the Captain here.

Bring back Phyla-Vell!

The structure of the film exists in this weird limbo where we start en media res, somewhat eschewing a typical superhero origin story and making that origin more the driving mystery of the film. This ends up being a little choppy and haphazard, but if they had done anything any other way they'd be criticised for ripping off Doctor Strange (2016) or Iron Man (2008) or Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), or anything else they've done. There's not really a way to win this argument with people who aren't fans of these movies.

Captain Marvel largely succeeds as a film. Every character has a successful arc, action scenes are well-choreographed, and there are some engaging scenes at heart. It doesn't quite stand out as one of the greatest superhero films ever, but it's certainly an enjoyable time at the cinema. Let's talk about the cast.

Brie Larson is okay as the eponymous Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers of Earth who ends up a space commando for the Kree Empire. She can act, but the film tends to waddle the line of whether they want her to be an irreverent goof like Chris Pratt or a genuine badass like Chris Hemsworth (at least in the early Thor movies). We've seen that we can have both in THOR: Ragnarok (2017) and in Robert Downey, Jr. in everything, but the writing isn't quite as crisp here.

What's more powerful is what Cap'n stands for, and as there should be, there's a heavy feminist message here. The scene where she keeps getting up time after time should be immortalized forever as both an astounding character moment and a powerful statement for her gender. Even the end when she faces off with Jude Law who is still trying to bring her down to his level is a satisfying moment of a woman instead claiming her own destiny in her own way.

That being said, the film does creak a little bit into distaff counterparts rather than true feminism. Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman (2017) worked in part because she was a fierce warrior who also fought with love and compassion in ways that the cold, battle-hardened men couldn't. Marvel is feminist because the protagonist taking action is a woman, not because she's really doing feminist things. This is a tricky landmine to navigate. There are some moments that stand out, like her and her fellow fighter pilot not being allowed to fly male missions or the crude biker wanker who disrespects her. Still, part of it feels like cool girl wish fulfillment.

Speaking of that, why does every single Marvel superhero need a black best friend? It's kind of crazy at this point. Not only her fellow pilot, but Sam Jackson features more prominently here than in any other Marvel film, which was great to see. Marvel seems to stealth infuse different genres into its films lately, and this was totally a 90s buddy cop movie. Jackson's presence even gave it a Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) vibe, except you know - in space. In the way that some prequels tend to find a need to over-explain everything, there was also remarkable restraint here. The big thing is how Sam Jackson loses his eye, and having it scratched out by a kitty/space monster is pretty damn fitting.

On that 90s note, this also could have been a pretty heavy-handed nostalgia trip, but it's never very overwhelming. We aren't constantly reminded that it's the most Extreme Decade ever. Sure there are Nine Inch Nail shirts and Blockbuster Video, but it's not crazy. In fact, the Blockbuster really works because we have no frame of reference for the time period when Captain Marvel is flying around shooting folks in space. It instantly places us in time in a meaningful way. As for how that stacks up in the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe, I don't really care. It doesn't matter. This is a fun movie.

Some of the music choices were weirdly on the nose and tonally off. It's almost as if they were going for a 90s Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) soundtrack? "I'm Just a Girl" by No Doubt fit pretty solidly with Carol first really unleashing against her former Kree Commando colleagues. "Come As You Are" by Nirvana was super weird during the big moment when she's confronting the Supreme Intelligence, once she was revealed as the real villain of the picture.

One thing I was really excited about was that the villains weren't just doppelgangers of the hero. For how great it is and how amazing Killmonger is, Black Panther (2018) still beefed this. Every damn Marvel movie does. Instead we get the shape-shifting Skrull as who we THINK are the villains, but then it turns out that they're just like, the Mexicans of the Universe trying to find a new home. The immigration stance is not exactly obvious, like many things in this film - just the right touch. The real bad guys are the Kree, which we should kind of know from Ronan being insane and trying to destroy the Nova Corps in Guardians, but the switcheroo still largely works here. Everyone has a finely crafted motivation.

It also gives this idea that Captain Marvel is really special. There's no one like her in the Universe. Finally we had a real comic book origin - an experimental hyperspace engine explodes in her face. BAM you got superpowers now, girl. It's a totally un-recreatable accident. Because it actually doesn't matter how you get your powers, what matters is how it pushes the character underneath. Carol is manipulated, lied to, shackled, and space hypnotized or something. She also loses her space alien woman mentor, just like Steve and Tony. There's not really much re-inventing the wheel here, but nice to see Annette Benning playing a role worthy of her talents, as well as women helping women.

This film plays with what is good and evil in really interesting ways. You get the sense that Carol would be on Cap's side in CIVIL WAR (2016), trusting individuals and independence rather than shady government oversight. The comic nerd in me kept waiting for the other shoe to drop with the Skrulls, though. The Skrulls are like the ultimate bad guys! They're never good. Real jerks. Super-skrull is actually one of my all-time favourite supervillains. We can hope and dream about him fighting a Marvel Fantastic Four one day. I just don't think his powers would make much sense otherwise...

But we ARE actually now set up for a Secret Invasion. That's a thing. And there were all sorts of Super-skrulls with like, combined powers of Dr. Strange and Iron Man for some reason. This nerdiness actually took me out of the movie because I got so caught up in waiting for the moment that Ben Mendolsohn betrays Sam Jackson and Brie Larson again. That never came, which I thought was super weird, but everyone else enjoyed it because it's just a good movie. The sneaky Skrulls matching up against the might of the Kree reminded me of the only other Marvel movie to actually have the villain's powers complement and nullify the hero's, which was Iron Man 3 (2013). See? I told you we couldn't do this without context of the 20 other marvel films.

As far as Marvel films go this is solid, but not completely mind-blowing. Everything largely works and it's fun to see more of the cosmic side of things from a non-completely insane perspective. Brie Larson ought to have a large role in the upcoming Endgame and we'll see how all this crap sorts out!
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