Tag Archives: music

The 56th Grammy Awards

01.27.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Usually Sunday is a day associated with the inevitable dread we feel in having to face another Monday, but not so last night. Instead audiences were treated to a star-studded cast at the 56th Grammy Awards show which aired at 8:00 p.m. EST.

And to ensure we’d forget the winter chill that has ransomed our cities, the opening act between power couple, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, was sizzling hot in their performance of their R&B collaboration, Drunk in Love, (with a side of a whole lot of sexy). It brought people to their feet to nod vigorously and clap their approval, because, hey, who doesn’t love a sexy performance that’s actually indicative of a real romance?

The show was off to a good start with Rapper/Actor, LL Cool J, holding the helm as sentimental and enthusiastic host.

And what better way to welcome the Grammys then to introduce the winner of New Artist?

In the company of James Blake, Kendrick Lamar, Kacey Musgraves, and Ed Sheeran (one of my favourites for the win), it was Macklemore & Ryan Lewis who brought the Grammy home.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26:  Rappers Ryan Lewis (L) and Macklemore accept the Best New Artist award onstage during the 56th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images).
LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 26: Rappers Ryan Lewis (L) and Macklemore accept the Best New Artist award onstage during the 56th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images).

***

And then to make it even more thrilling, a live performance of a wonderfully crooning singer and songwriter only 17-years-old who hails from Davenport, New Zealand, was Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor, better known for her stage name, Lorde. To look at her in her black, baggy pant legs, white sleeveless shirt, and eccentrically painted fingernails, which extended over to her fingers themselves (perhaps it was mehendi), she was as cool, stylish, and unruffled as her music. Her performance of her song, Royals, which has exploded like wildfire, was rich in tone and intoxicating to watch. It’s easy then to see why she won Best Pop Solo Performance and Song of the Year! I absolutely fell in love with Lorde and her song and congratulate her and her band in taking the spotlight from some of the more seasoned performers in the music circuit, those who, while being nominated for the same awards, could not snag the big prize: Sara Bareilles (Brave), Bruno Mars (When I Was Your Man), Katy Perry (Roar), Justin Timberlake (Mirrors); Just Give Me a Reason, Pink featuring Nate Ruess, Locked Out of Heaven, Bruno Mars, Roar, Katy Perry, and Same Love, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert.


***

Of course, a great delight in the show was also the appearance of two soon-to-be-famous robots of, Daft Punk, who weren’t afraid to alienate the audience with their dapper white tuxedos and sexy head-gear. If any two robots in the universe deserve a Grammy, it’s these guys, for Best Dressed. But, they did better than that. They won Best Record of the Year for Get Lucky featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, beating out Radioactive by Imagine Dragons, Royals by Lorde, Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars, and Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke.

But, Daft Punk, also snagged another impressive Grammy: Album of the Year for Random Access Memories, which for these guys, are out of this world. If I were them, I’d be applauding myself, too. Great job, guys!

Daft Punk applauding the 56th Grammy Awards.
Daft Punk applauding the 56th Grammy Awards.

***

Other performances included Katy Perry’s  Dark Horse, which, while the title indicated a possible chance at winning a Grammy this year, it wasn’t dark enough to snag one. It looks like Katy Perry’s gonna need more than just magic to impress the Academy since she didn’t win any Grammys for Roar. But, hey, she’s got John Mayer, right? And she can certainly “roar” about that.

grammys - katy perry
From digitalspy.com.

***

Robin Thicke kept it clean and slick with his performance of Blurred Lines—since we all know it isn’t right to cross them on the Grammys (even if they are blurred) with his collaboration with the classic and much beloved group, Chicago.

And even though I didn’t see Nicole Kidman in sight, Keith Urban played a pretty mean guitar in his performance with Gary Clark Jr.

What was especially great to see was John Legend’s piano performance of All of Me, which without the need of flashy lights, crazy costumes, and a crew of dancers, was played and sung in a very simple, genuine way.

From justjared.com.
John Legend performs at 56th Grammy Awards, his song, “All of Me.” From justjared.com.

***

What wasn’t great was the over-performance Taylor Swift made throughout the night in the audience. She “performed” more in the audience than she did when she was scheduled to sing All Too Well at the Grammys. And her performance itself wasn’t anything more than a crazy, hair-flipping mess. At least that was the height of her piano playing—the moment she flipped her hair like a person who was not only crazed, but perhaps demoniacally possessed.

But, her 5.8″-tall frame did not stop her from standing up from her seat and dancing, as always trying to bring more attention to herself. Well, here’s the thing—I think we’ve caught onto her vain gimmicks, Ms. Taylor Swift (whose name is more indicative of how quickly she moves from man to man in her very public relationships, I think), and have ignored them.

Because the Grammy Award show was not certainly her night, having lost for every nomination she received—except for maybe, Best Overacting-Attention-Seeking-Audience Dancer of the Night, that is. (Sorry, Taylor, but it’s time to sit down. Please.)  And I’m not the only one online who seems to think so. Check out The A-List’s article, Taylor Swift lets loose dancing at the Grammys (and Twitter shudders).

***

Pink, on the other hand, showed-off her gymnastic skills in her performance of Try, since try, she did, which much resembled a short from the famous and limber show Cirque de Soleil. Perhaps the excitement of the Olympic Games in Sochi which are coming up inspired the twirling and tumbling? Regardless, Pink, showed us her physical and vocal strength, as well as her courage to hang from the ceiling at risk to her own life. (And did I mention her tough, rockin’ bod? Hello, workout.) As much as she did try, though, she wasn’t able to snag any Grammys this year. No matter, we all love Pink.

Pink performing "Try" at the 56th Grammys. From bosschicks.com.
Pink performing “Try” at the 56th Grammys. From bosschicks.com.

***

While the young pups blazed their way on the stage, the Grammys did a good job of honouring the old greats like Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, who need no mention. They shared their first public appearance together after three years, performing Queenie Eye, a song from McCartney’s album New.

Aside from McCartney’s win for Best Music Film for Concert Movie, Live Kisses, and Best Rock Song with Cut Me Some Slack, the two of the Beatles were presented with the Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented by Julia Roberts. Not bad for the original boy band whose iconic membership changed the course of music history.

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr perform "Queenie Eye" together at the 56th Grammys. From telegraph.co.uk.
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr perform “Queenie Eye” together at the 56th Grammys. From telegraph.co.uk.

***

But, they weren’t the only legends to be honoured on stage. Country music has its own icons, too. With a collaborative performance between Willie Nelson at age 80, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, and country’s favourite funny man and judge on America’s television singing contest, The Voice, Blake Shelton—country music got to kick up its cowboy boots with Highwayman, Okie From Muskogee, and Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.

And while I was largely disappointed that Filipino-Latino songwriter and musician, Bruno Mars, wasn’t on the Playbill to perform at the Grammys, he did score a huge win with Best Pop Vocal Album for Unorthodox Jukebox. If you’re smart enough to listen to Mars’ rich musical concoctions, you won’t be disappointed to realize that he is an original and gifted artist.

He gracefully acknowledged his father in the audience, his Puerto Rican girlfriend, Jessica Caban, and his mother who recently passed away from an aneurism in 2013.

Bruno Mars accepted his Grammy for Best pop Vocal Album "Unorthodox Jukebox" at the 56th Grammys. From digitalspy.com.
Bruno Mars accepted his Grammy for Best pop Vocal Album “Unorthodox Jukebox” at the 56th Grammys. From digitalspy.com.

***

As sad as it was for Bruno Mars not to perform at the Grammys this year, the audience was certainly not robbed with two, not one, of the best performances of the night!

The powerful rendition of Radioactive by Imagine Dragons and rapper Kendrick Lamar kept us all engrossed (and in regards to Taylor Swift’s dancing, a little “grossed” out).


***

And then the explosive performance by hard rock, heavy metal greats of the 80’s, Metallica, and China’s classical pianist, Lang-Lang. Heavy metal and classical piano, you ask?

Well, yes. The point being, and I think crucially so throughout the performances of the night, that music, regardless of our sometimes misguided presumptions, is indeed universal. It was a brilliant celebration of unexpected musical fusion.


***

For more details on the nominees and winners of the Grammys, please visit the official webpage of the Grammys.

***

What did you think of last night’s Grammys?

Which was your favourite performance of the night?

What was your favourite highlight of the evening?

***

zara cat stamp

Book Review: Wonder by Dominque Fortier

01.22.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Wonder bk cvr

***

Category: Literary Fiction

Author: Dominique Fortier

Translator: Sheila Fischman

Format: Trade Paperback,  299 pages

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

ISBN: 978-0-7710-4769-5

Pub Date: January 7, 2014

***

Summary from Publisher:

This second work from critically acclaimed Quebec novelist Dominique Fortier, whose debut was shortlisted for a Governor General’s Award in both French and English, is an enthralling shell-game of a novel. Composed of three stories linked by theme and image, it brings alive a captivating cast of characters both historical and fictional. For lovers of boldly original literary fiction such as David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda, and Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. In Wonder past and present, science and emotion, speak to each other to create a brilliant whole from three distinct parts. Readers are swept from a devastating volcanic eruption in 1902 to today’s Montreal by way of a scientific love story in Victorian England. Along the way we follow Baptiste Cyparis, “The Man who Lived Through Doomsday,” who traveled the length and breadth of the United States with Barnum & Bailey’s circus, and meet Edward Love, the mathematician who discovered the mysterious waves that shake the earth. This luminous novel confirms Fortier as both a first-rate storyteller and as a master stylist. From the Chapters-Indigo website.

Book Review by Zara from The Bibliotaphe Closet:

Wonder by Dominique Fortier is a storytelling delight, both in its imaginative scope and its absurdity, yet thoughtful depth. The is divided into separate parts: Monsters and Marvels, Harmony of the Spheres, and Love Waves, which together form a narrative that will carry its reader to visual and thoughtful depths.

While the book opens to a formal and opulent narrative, the ease in which the reader will connect the story through its main characters will slowly emerge from the interesting, comical, yet almost sad, and grotesque plot movements. In Monsters and Marvels, we’re introduced to the unfortunate place which Baptiste, a man of various trades, begins as an impersonating socialite on the eve of Carnival in Saint-Pierre where for one evening, the roles between the rich and its servants are reversed as a testament to Carnival’s rebellious joviality and re-enactment of play. Baptiste, who has renamed himself on various occasions, in his nomadic nature, ends up in an unlikely place after a gallant move to defend a prostitute, which without even a graceful thank you, becomes both a form of suffering and salvation.

In the apocalyptic fate of Mount Pelee and its surrounding village, Baptiste, is asked to join a travelling circus in which his “phenomenal” survival, as well as his cultural heritage, both become a palpable form of voyeuristic entertainment. While Baptiste finds some quiet solace in both a woman and her son, his uncontrollable desire becomes both his punishment and demise.

In the Harmony of the Spheres, the style of writing is effortlessly precise as it is poetic. And its characters, Edward and Garance, are an eccentric couple whose giftedness is both superior as it is strange. While the characters’ uniqueness give the story its interest, it’s the same talents that both elucidate an academic frequency and freedom, as it does hinder the characters’ chance at a “normal” life.

In Edward’s case, his mistrust of fiction and compulsion for numbers, equations, and the possibility of solving the essence of life in its most complex, fundamental state, drives Edward to the point of blind obsession and introspective loneliness. Yet, it is in numbers that Edward finds solace and understanding, a gift that carries him through the bewildering secrets that compel him to investigate and quantify.

The Harmony of the Spheres, is in its own way, a puzzle the reader must contemplate, unsolvable until the end, but rather in its reading, a process in the joy of attempting to understand Edward, the character, as much as he attempts to understand theorems.

But, the novel all comes to together in the last part of the book, Love Waves, a story about a young woman and a man, whose serendipitous meeting becomes a quiet courtship based on the comfort of routine and solace. The woman, like the man is unnamed for most of the story, a woman who walks dogs up and down a winter mountain to discover a kindred and mysterious person who leaves rocks under a birch tree in the shape of an Inukshuk. Like play, she responds to each new finding with her own creation and interpretation of rocks. The two eventually meet face-to-face, first unknowingly hostile, and then resolute in simple acts of kindness.

Nature, history, ideas, all become the backdrop in which they meet. Their conversations slowly piece together small hints of their history and their eventual involvement. Like the story’s title, their love and their meeting-of-the-minds seem to lull together as naturally as the tide. The three parts of the book, though in themselves seem disjointed, are rather a microcosm of personal stories that reveal six degrees of separation. While Fortier’s writing is exquisitely lyrical, her characters are rich and eccentric, hidden within them a multitude of history and connection.

The book, Wonder, is a literary specimen that will coerce readers to read actively and carefully, as well as wonder quietly its outcome.

***

Characters: 4 stars

Pacing: 3 stars

Cover Design: 3.5 stars

Plot: 3.5 stars

***

Zara’s Rating

z ring - smallz ring - smallz ring - smallrsz_1rsz_one-half

***

A special thanks to Random House of Canada on behalf of McClelland & Stewart for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

***

About the Author:

From Random House of Canada website. http://www.randomhouse.ca/authors/121487/dominique-fortier
From Random House of Canada website. http://www.randomhouse.ca/authors/121487/dominique-fortier

***

DOMINIQUE FORTIER was born in 1972. She holds a Ph.D. in literature from McGill University and is a respected editor and literary translator. On the Proper Use of Stars, her debut novel, was first published in Quebec in 2008 as Du bon usage des étoiles and was shortlisted for the French language Governor General’s Award for Fiction, the Prix des libraires du Québec, the Grand Prix littéraire Archambault, and the Prix Senghor. It is being adapted for the screen by Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y., The Young Victoria). Dominique lives in Montreal.

-From The Random House of Canada website.

***

Have you ever read any work by Dominque Fortier? If so, what did you think?

What is the most eccentric character you’ve ever come across in fiction?

What do you think is the purpose of someone like Baptiste Cyparis in being the only human survivor of the eruption of Mount Pelee in 1902?

***

zara cat stamp

Tune-In Tuesday: “Real and True”

zara red hair avatar - tune in tuesday

Tune-In Tuesday: “Real and True”

01.14.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

While I’m not an avid musician like my husband whose self-taught training in classical guitar has earned him the title, The Sexiest Man Alive in Our Household, my musical beginnings started with the use of my vocal chords. By age eight, I was an active participant in my school and church choir, singing all throughout high school and university. My singing voice has always been a form of comfort and solace, a companion when alone in the quiet. I sing everywhere and at anytime, but tend to shy away when asked to sing in public, though I’ve been successfully coerced into singing karaoke or crooning to a song in “Rock Band” with my family at rambunctious gatherings. While my secret dream of being a lead singer of a band who tours the UK has not yet had the chance to come true, I still connect strongly with music that I discover and love, which brings me to the creation of this meme: Tune-In Tuesday. I thought it would add a little variety and fun to feature a recently discovered or favourite song for the week in lieu of the days I don’t participate in the usual Top 10 Tuesday meme.

My choice for Tune-In Tuesday is the song, Real and True, written and performed by the rapper, “Future” (Nayvadius Wilburn), singers, Miley Cyrus, and Mr. Hudson (Benjamin Hudson McIldowie).

Though it was released on November 5, 2013, I discovered the song on YouTube during a search for the infamous release of Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus. Instead of being drawn to Wrecking Ball’s controversy, I was instead impressed with the collaboration between Future, Cyrus, and Hudson for their vocal, rap, and electronic infusion.

The combination of their voices is eclectic as is the “space” theme of the song, which was creatively filmed with Cyrus completely painted in silver glitter while Future and Hudson dressed as astronauts discover her on what is assumed to be a distant planet.

I listened to the lyrics and immediately connected with them, associating them with my own, personal relationship with my husband. It soon became a favourite anthem, a romantic piece about the longevity and tenacity of genuine relationship.

Here are the lyrics:

When the sun dies and the stars fade from view our love will remain real and true

Through the distant and cold depths of space

The radio sings our song, it’s a love real and true

Hold on, hold on, hold up Future, what the fuck you doin’?

You can annihilate way more chicks than the chick you screwin’

You on top of your game, homie, man you a star

You got real bitches, they love that nigga that you are

They say you’re like Jimi Hendrix, in his early twenties

You in Vegas, you supposed to be with a snow bunny

You a player, huh, you wanna come around and save her

Keep it trill, you lovin’ her just as much as your career

You mad ill, I knew you’d be the one to keep it real

And I can’t even lie dawg, when I see y’all it gives me chills

And I’m a stand behind y’all because I know the way you live

Aye just do me this favor, give it time, time reveals

When the sun dies and the stars fade from view

Our love will remain real and true

Through the distant and cold depths of space

The radio sings our song, it’s a love real and true

We’ve been in the same place, for a long, long time

If our hearts go the wrong way, I still know you’re mine

Should we even try to fight it? If our love is trapped in all ways

I know that things been rough

But when you’re by my side

It’s more than enough, yeah

For us to make it through the test of time

When the sun dies and the stars fade from view

Our love will remain real and true

Through the distant and cold depths of space

The radio sings our song, it’s a love real and true

Standin’ in the middle of humility

Can’t nobody never love you more than me

Can’t nobody never love you more than me

If love is all you need, I’m all you’ll ever need

I can never be scared of commitment

I can prevail through life without bein’ malicious

I can’t hold you for responsible for your mischiefs

I hope you are never huntin’ me with vengeance

I’m not predictin’ anything, I’m just listenin’

Congratulations, you made it, you coulda missed it

And I’m acceptin’ your past but forgiveness

And with all the mistakes I’ve made, you’re still listenin’

When the sun dies and the stars fade from view

Our love will remain real and true

Through the distant and cold depths of space

The radio sings our song, it’s a love real and true.

***

Zara’s Rating

z ring - smallz ring - smallz ring - smallz ring - smallz ring - small

***

What do you think of the song, “Real and True”?

If you like it, what did you like most about it?

If you don’t like it, what about it don’t you like?

What elements of the video do you enjoy/not enjoy?

***

zara stamp

Book Review: The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood

Book Review:

The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood

03.22.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

***

Category: Literary Fiction

Author: Benjamin Wood

Format: Hardcover, 420 pages

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

ISBN: 978-0-7710-8931-2

Pub Date: March 20, 2012

***

The Bellwether Revivals by debut novelist, Benjamin Wood, is in a few words, an embodiment of its own subject matter: genius and enthralling madness—and the fine line it trespasses between the two.

***

***

The narrative begins distantly, an omnipotent, observant tone that lays the foundation of its parts for the reader: the characters in Eden, the high-minded musical genius absorbed by his unconventional theories of the power of sound; Iris, his intelligent and musically talented sister who intuitively plays the cello; Oscar, the protagonist of the story, who, as the socially underprivileged and academic outsider in comparison to his new Bellwether friends, helps bring logic and compassion to this highly tense novel.

***

Organ, St. Michaelis, Hamburg. Site of Johann Mattheson’s remains.

***

It is a book that is equally rich in its development of characters as it is in its progressive and climatic plot, which is a feat in itself considering a book usually weighs more in one spectrum than the other.

It’s a story of Eden Bellwether and his exploration of musical theory and music itself, as a force, if rightly composed and attributed, holds physically healing and redemptive powers. His musical genius and inherent self-importance, which perhaps derived from the latent seed of mental disorder was only further perpetuated by a self-indulgent and wealthy upbringing by a family who continually encouraged his prodigious talent and fearfully succumbed to his every wish. The danger of this kind of environment coupled with the mania and complexity of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, only solidified the severity of Eden’s deteriorating psychosis.

***

***

He’s a brilliant scholar and gifted musician, but the price of his superior intellect is a costly social incompetence that keeps him from being able to empathize and connect humanely, if not intimately with others. The egocentric nature of his character cannot help itself into amassing into a condescending, cocky, dominant, and controlling individual.

And those that suffer most from his presence and his ever-growing mania, are those who are closest to him, both in relation, in reverent awe, and intellectual worship—and even palpable fear.

From his debutante and complacent mother (Ruth), his confident and overly ambitious father (Theo), his suffering and compliant sister (Iris), to his specifically chosen friends (Marcus, Yin, and Jane) for their tolerance and adoration of Eden himself, as much as for their individual and necessary musical deftness.

Oscar, on the other hand, is resilient to Eden’s charms and holds a sobering view of the man whose mysterious genius is both exemplary and disconcerting. He is the grounding force for all those involved and the one with the most honest compassion as shown in his love and care for Dr. Paulsen, a resident of the nursing home, Cedarbrook, in which he works, and his willingness to involve himself in the matters of Eden’s “mental illness” on behalf of his growing relationship with Eden’s sister, Iris.

***

King’s College, Cambridge University, England.

This is a powerfully unsettling read that will intrigue even the most logical personality and metaphysical, occult skeptic. It moves from delusions of grandeur to frightening crescendos of absurdity and madness that begs the question of how close and intermingled genius is with giftedness and mental illness.

Filled with the idyllic sanctuary of a wealthy environment found in the Bellwethers’ lifestyle and estate, the genuine intimacy between a couple in love, and the subordinate compliance of friends who love, revere, and almost fear their friend—it’s a gorgeous book and a “hypnotic” read. It’s a subtly frightening, psychological analysis of love, friendship, and sibling rivalry that spirals into a coarse doom of the horrors, dangers, and possibilities of a brilliant mind.

***

Zara’s Rating

 ***

A special thank you to McClelland & Stewart for providing me with a media copy in exchange for an unpaid, honest review.

Zara Alexis