‘LM5’: the return of the queens

Pop Odyssey features Jackie Goff’s thoughts, reviews and analysis of popular music.

By Jackie Goff

“LM5” is the best Little Mix album since their 2013 album “Salute” (their best in my opinion) and the two share theme that has only been magnified over time: women.

The songs on “LM5” are more about empowering women and supporting women than it is about sex, love or men that have done them wrong (though there is a bit of all of those from time to time). All in all, this is the kind of pop record we need in 2018 and it’s beautiful.

Here are a few of the record’s standout singles:

“Woman Like Me (feat. Nicki Minaj)”: The debut single from the new record featuring Nicki Minaj, which addresses the things we all deal with but shouldn’t hold us back, such as insecurity or regret for past mistakes. These flaws don’t make you make you any less desirable or worthy of love. In fact, they are trials that make you stronger, more powerful and deserving of someone who can take the good right along with the bad.

“Strip”: Whisper-singing has a way of driving me bat-shit crazy until it eventually grows on me until the song is an earworm that I can’t get out of my head. It was true for Selena Gomez’s “Hands To My Self,” and the same goes for “Strip”. My first couple of listens I wasn’t overly into it melodically, but the underlying message of self-acceptance and confidence meant that eventually, I was all for it. “Strip! / Take off all my make-up ’cause I love what’s under it / Rub off all your words, don’t give a uh, I’m over it / Strip! / Jiggle all this weight, yeah, you know I love all of this / Finally love me naked, sexiest when I’m confident.”

“Told You So”: “The only thing I love more than an empowering Little Mix jam is an acoustic guitar-based song that showcases these women’s insane voices. This song is about the importance of girlfriends who are around to love and support each other in moments of despair and heartbreak. Picking up the damage without dealing out handfuls of shame, even if they saw it coming because, well, he never did treat her right. The whole record is more heavy-handed about supporting your fellow woman than the men who have done wrong, this song is more tender than the rest of the record and supportive about the fact that sometimes your friend gets their heart broken, and your job isn’t to say “I told you so,” but be there with a bottle of wine or a cup of tea and a shoulder to cry on.

Honorable mention: “Woman’s World”: A beautiful tribute to the trails and tribulations of what it’s like to be a woman in this world hoping for a day where women are heard, recognized and respected not for their body, but their brains.

Jackie Goff can be reached at popdiversifies@gmail.com or @jackiemaemusic on Twitter.

Jared and the Mill’s ‘Story’ slated for February release

Pop Odyssey features Jackie Goff’s thoughts, reviews and analysis of popular music.

By Jackie Goff

Today, Jared and the Mill released the next single from their upcoming record “This Story is No Longer Available,set for release Feb. 15.

The band, hailing from Tempe, Arizona, continues to put out thoughtful, carefully curated western indie rock that rocks as hard as it feels personal, describing an intensely passionate love. I can’t wait to hear what else is to come from the new album.

Having followed Jared and the Mill for a couple years now, the thing that strikes me most is how the visible sincerity that captured me about their music directly translated to their actions as a band. They love their music and their band as much as they love their fans, and they go above and beyond to make sure that they know it.

Check out “Kelsee’s Shelves” below, and if you get the chance, see them on their upcoming tour. You won’t regret it. 2019 Tour dates can be found here.

‘Suspiria’: a beautiful, tangled web Luca weaves

Semler at the Cinema features Brandon Semler’s thoughts on the world of film, including reviews, think pieces, previews and more.

By Brandon Semler

“Suspiria” (2018) is exceptionally dark and decidedly brazen, seeking meaning in many directions with some of the most effective moments and sequences of any film this year.

The thematic juggling act does not form an entirely focused portrait in the end, but provides a truly memorable spectacle. The film nearly necessitates multiple viewings. One — for me — will simply not cut it.

“Suspiria” is Luca Guadagnino’s re-imagining of the 1977 film of the same name, centered around a young dancer joining a studio with some dark secrets in Berlin, Germany. I should mention that I have not seen the original “Suspiria,” which will admittedly create some blind spots.

The 2018 film flows like a slow and torturous song. Thom York’s spacey score accompanies trippy and horrific dream sequences, brutal deaths and stunning dance; it is easy to get lost in Guadagnino’s vision. The “Call Me By Your Name” director’s immersive tone is both coaxing and revolting, but it is obvious that a craftsman is at work in nearly every scene.

Dakota Johnson stars as the new dancer Susie Bannion. Johnson has a secret buried in her eyes in nearly every close-up, which the film ultimately vindicates. Tilda Swinton plays three roles (a choice worthy of a discussion on its own) and Chloë Grace Moretz and Mia Goth both shine in smaller parts.

The decision to widen the scope beyond the studio, and include Dr. Josef Klemperer (a Swinton role) as a central figure, seemed odd during the film’s run-time. However, the character serviced a contemporary and relevant theme that added yet another dimension, but also another pin in the juggling act.

In the midst of the deeper and more psychological focus, plot clarity is sometimes sacrificed. Most developments are easy enough to follow, but some of the less-emphasized moments, such as the power struggle within the coven, are vague at best.

While the ending is far from predictable, there seemed to be no build up to it from a character standpoint (perhaps this is something that a re-watch will bring new light to). The chaotic and exuberant ending contradicted the more quiet, brutal insanity that the rest of the film portrayed so well.

The film is one of the most interesting and well-directed endeavors of the year, though it is not entirely cohesive. I’m quite intrigued to see how my feelings will change after a re-watch.

Status: Recommend for Fans (of Arthouse films, horror, Luca Guadagnino)

Brandon Semler can be reached at popdiversifies@gmail.com, or on Twitter @BrandonSemler.

Busted yearns for the ’90s in return to early ‘2000s sound

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Pop Odyssey features Jackie Goff’s thoughts, reviews and analysis of popular music.

By Jackie Goff

Upon first listen of the newest single “Nineties”  from British pop band Busted, I was an odd combination of apprehensive, disappointed, perplexed and… something else. I couldn’t quite figure it out. I listened to it over and over again until I could understand what exactly I was feeling.

When they released their 2016 comeback after a decade apart (read my previous Busted post here), I was thoroughly stunned that I loved the record, though it was different from their younger sound. The band took a turn to an ’80s-friendly, synthy pop-rock vibe, which was OK by me. The more mature sound seemed to suit their second act well.

So when I heard that they would be reverting to their old sound for their follow up, I was apprehensive. I was so into the new Busted; I didn’t want to see them go backward.

The song starts with a drum machine beat and synth pads that made me think the direction change wouldn’t be so different, maintaining a bit of the new song. However, by the chorus, we’re aggressively catapulted into heavy guitar and vocals, and the song maintains this tone for its remainder.

I was immediately unimpressed with the lyrical content. In the “Night Driver” days, I almost believed that a stipulation of Charlie Simpson’s return to Busted was that James Bourne had to grow up lyrically; making fewer pop culture references that make the songs sound juvenile.

However, the more I listened, the more the song grew on me, and eventually, I realized what that feeling was. Nostalgia for a time long passed. Nostalgia for the days that I was obsessed with the sounds of OG Busted and McFly (easily the most influential band of my teenage and young adult years). Of course, this is the lyrical point behind the song, and while I couldn’t relate directly to the age that they were singing about, I could relate to it in my own way as I struggle to adjust to the trials of adulthood, particularly trying times, and wanting to go back to simpler times.

So in this particular case, for particularly complex reasons, “Nineties” has grown on me. However, I do hope for more from the new record, and that Busted continues to progress rather than digress.

Jackie Goff can be reached at popdiversifies@gmail.com or @jackiemaemusic on Twitter.

Pop Geneology: Orchestra Hits – From the symphony to the studio

Pop Odyssey features Jackie Goff’s thoughts, reviews and analysis of popular music.

A while back, I wrote a series of posts entitled “Pop Genealogy,” in which I took modern pop artists and detailed some of the common tropes from musical influences that they had adopted into their own sound. Estelle Caswell of Vox’s Earworm produced this amazing video about a musical trope with origins dating back to 1910, which has become synonymous to 80s R&B and pop employed in different ways throughout the decades that have followed. This video gives a stunning history of the technique, and I highly recommend watching the feel mini documentary here:


The Reader’s Digest verision is as follows: The “orchestra hit” that has become so prevalent in modern music dates back to Russian-born Igor Stravinsky in 1910. Stravinsky’s breakthrough piece “The Firebird” opens on a sharp, staccato orchestral chord. This jarring musical moment in the piece went on to cement Stravinsky’s place as a musical innovator and one of the most influential composers classical composers. So how did this one sound time travel to become a staple in music 70 years later? By complete accident as it would happen.

In 1975, Peter Vogel invented the first commercial sampling technology in the Fairlight CMI synthesizer. With this synthesizer, one could record any sound and then play it back at different pitches on a keyboard. When creating a library of sounds for the Fairlight, Vogel had a record the Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite” and well… the rest is history.

This sample has vast potential to a creative mind, finding places in rock music, R&B and pop, though it tends to appear differently within the context of its genre. 

The orchestra hit is used more sparingly in rock, but certainly not subtlety. In the 1984 hit “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes, Orchestra Pop is a brief moment of chaos that stirs the listener from otherwise melodic rock riffs. 

In R&B the orchestra pop smacks you in the face and is just as much a rhythmic tool as a melodic tool.

Now, fast forward to the 90s and early aughts, pop and R&B sounds start to diverge. R&B keeps it’s harsh, staccato embellishment, whereas pop orchestra hits are still widely used, but extremely affected and end up buried in the mix.

Enter modern pop music where Bruno Mars uses orchestra hits to play on 80s nostalgia.

Jackie Goff can be reached at popdiversifies@gmail.com or @jackiemaemusic on Twitter.

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