Last updateFri, 19 Jun 2020 7pm


The Best and Worst of 2013 Pop Music

There’s a certain realm which exists in the world of music that both fascinates and disturbs me – a realm known as the radio. I’m not talking about niche stations or college radio (Go WMCX!), I’m talking about common, Top 40 playing, comes-in-crystal-clear-no-matter-where-you’re-driving radio.

My relationship with the radio is an odd one, as no matter what, my stance is never set in stone with it. Every year is the same: I hear a few songs that make me think we can be friends, and then I hear many, many more that make me want to file a restraining order. When will it end?

Not in 2013, certainly. As another year ends, let’s review the top 5 reasons why I love pop radio and the top 5 reasons why I mostly loathe it. Keep in mind for a song to make either list, it must have had significant radio play on Top 40 stations this year, so not every song from a popular artist will count (sorry Kanye, you’re still the man, though!).

Also, I decree there will be no Miley Cyrus on either list. That’s just too easy.

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On Friday Nov. 22, audiences filed into Pollak Theater to see Josh Ritter. First, however, was opening act Natalie Zeller. Zeller, a sophomore, played a 45 minute set to open for the distinguished singer/songwriter.

Zeller walked onstage with her acoustic guitar and a smile. She said, “I’m so honored to be here. I was going to be here anyway tonight to see Josh Ritter, so this worked out.”

The music industry major first sang a song called “Bipolar” and said, “Sing along if you know it.” Zeller definitely had some fans there as audience members were heard singing along to the track (which was featured on the first Blue Hawk Records compilation CD).

Zeller really liked audience participation. She asked audience members to clap with the beat many times over the night. It kept concert goers interested, even if they weren’t familiar with her music.

The Blue Hawk Records artist also played a song that is on the newest compilation from the record label. Zeller talked to the audience about recording “Twisted,” a long process. She said, “It was 10 and a half hours in the studio, but I’m not complaining at all.” The compilation CD came out Dec. 2 on iTunes.

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“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” Lights a Spark at the Box Office

This weekend, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” had the largest Thanksgiving box office on record, earning over $110 million from Wednesday to Sunday. The movie got into record books, but did it stay true to the book that it is adapted from? I’m a book lover, which often makes me hate movies. Every once in a while, though, there is an adaptation like “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” that makes a perfect transition from page to screen.

“Catching Fire” starts just a little while after the credits rolled in the first movie. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) have settled into their new mansions in Victor’s Village after managing to win The 74th Annual Hunger Games.

They head out on their victory tour where they have to face the families of those they killed in the Games. They see the people revolting against the government, despite Katniss putting forth her best effort to pretend she supports President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the government in the Capitol.

This is where “The Hunger Games” really shines as a movie and book series. Katniss does not try to be a hero or lead a revolution against the government. She just wants to protect the people she loves. Snow knows that the people see Katniss as a symbol of revolution though. So he wants to figure out a good way to kill her. Thus, The 75th Annual Hunger Games puts only previous winners in the competition.

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Fifty Years of Flying Through Time and Space

Television’s longest running sci-fi adventure series, “Doctor Who” celebrated its 50th Anniversary this past weekend in a special episode to commemorate the occasion.

The series started in England in 1963 and ran consistently until cancellation in 1989. The show kept going by having the main character, the Doctor, regenerate every time he died, allowing a new actor to take over the role. A 1996 made-for-television movie attempted to revive the series but didn’t see much success. Finally, in 2005, the show was brought back and welcomed into the lives of a whole new generation of fans (or Whovians, as they like to call themselves).

BBC America aired the special at the same time England was broadcasting it, which allowed fans to watch at 2:50 pm. It was definitely worth a Saturday afternoon. “The Day of the Doctor” brings back some familiar faces in what may be one of the Doctor’s greatest adventures through time and space.

During the last day of the Time War, the Doctor (John Hurt), faces a decision that will impact him for the rest of his life: the destruction of his home planet as well as the Time Lord race.

After the Doctor steals the universe’s most destructive and powerful weapon, the Moment, the interface system appears in the form of Bad Wolf Girl (Billie Piper) in an attempt to provide judgment for the deployment of the device.

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No Applause for Lady Gaga’s “ARTPOP”

Lady Gaga is one of those artists who packs a pop powerhouse punch and constantly outdoes herself. She has proven herself worthy of a pop icon title in a few short years and is now releasing her fourth album, “ARTPOP.” As a mega fan of hers, it isn’t fun to admit this, but “ARTPOP” has put a pause in her platinum streak.

I’ve always been a huge fan of hers, from her creative style to her authentic pop songs and more. I have had the pleasure of seeing her twice in concert where the woman surely can sing her heart out and dance like her life depends on it. I even saw her on the VMA red carpet, where news anchors shouted “Lady Gaga!” with joy as she walked by. She is a genuine talent and each album (“The Fame,” “The Fame Monster” and “Born This Way”) kept upping the pop genre’s game.

One thing that Gaga has done superbly throughout each album has been her ability to synthesize pop gems that not only have become dance anthems, but keep you singing all day long. “ARTPOP” hits a steep, downward slope however. It doesn’t have the same magic as seen in her previous albums and suffers from a strong lack of effort. Many of the songs included on this disc are disappointments.

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Book history scholar John B. Hench delivered a lecture entitled “Never Far From Books,” for students and faculty in Wilson Hall last Wednesday to educate on the growing and changing field of book studies.

Hench, 70, now retired, was the Vice President Emeritus for Collections and Programs at the American Antiquarian Society (AAS), a national research library of pre-twentieth century American historical literature. Hench is also the author of the book “Books as Weapons: Propaganda, Publishing, and the Battle for Global Markets in the Era of World War II,” as well as an avid book collector with a collection of over 1,500 pieces of literature.

This was the second annual event in the lecture series “Ink and Electricity: Advancing Liberal Learning in the Digital Age,” which was sponsored by the Humanities Department at Monmouth University. The event was free of charge and open to the public.

Students and faculty packed into the intimate yet ornately decorated and gold-trimmed Wilson Hall room, filling every elegant leather chair in the process and then some. Dr. Kristin Bluemel, Wayne D. McMurray-Helen Bennett Endowed Chair in the Humanities and professor of English, coordinated the event and gave a brief introduction before the lecture began.

Hench, who was accompanied by a large stack of worn, yellow-tinted books, took a highly autobiographical approach to his lecture. He shared with the audience how his father’s prized book collection, his studies at Lafayette College and Clark University, and many years of work for the American Antiquarian Society influenced his passion for collecting and researching books and book history.

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“Thor: The Dark World” Brings the Hammer Down

The Nordic god Thor is back again with the release of “Thor: The Dark World.” After the events that happened in New York in “The Avengers,” Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to Asgard to face his father (Anthony Hopkins), Odin, and prove he is worthy of the throne.

The question on most people’s minds going into this movie is what will happen with Thor and Jane (Natalie Portman)? As you remember, Jane is the girl that Thor fell in love with before he had to return to Asgard to deal with Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Do not worry! This will be addressed in “Thor: The Dark World” and there will be more barriers in Thor’s way. Thor will have to deal with new conflicts and fight an old enemy.

Along with the ongoing problem with what to do with Loki, Thor states that he had learned to not trust him or give him any more chances. Unfortunately, a problem arises that is not Loki’s fault and Thor needs to fix this or Loki will be the least of his problems. In fact, Thor will need Loki’s help in order to deal with this new threat.

Thor’s adopted brother, Loki, is back because they just cannot seem to get rid of him. Loki has to be judged by Odin and punished for what he did in New York. Thor’s reluctance to completely stop trusting Loki may prove to be a problem for Thor in the end.

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Students Shine in “The Laramie Project”

It was a cold winter night when the Department of Music and Theatre Arts produced Moises Kaufman’s play, “The Laramie Project” on Thursday, Nov. 8. Rest assured, the audience’s mood in the Lauren K. Woods Theatre was quite the opposite.

This particular production follows Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Project as they conducted hundreds of interviews with the people from Laramie, WY following the fatal beating of homosexual, University of Wyoming student, Matthew Shepard.

Many of the selected interviews range from eye-witness accounts to those affected personally by Matthew’s death. This analytical, yet touching perspective play examines the social and moral ramifications of the beating while delving into more widespread, controversial topics, which includes the obscene social stigma directed towards homosexuals. The cast, comprised of University students, carefully crafts the narrative through each individual’s interpretation of the interviewees.

To some, the subject matter that the production is based upon may make it seem a little dark and discomforting. That’s the beauty of the actor’s interpretation, the personalities in the play are portrayed as stereotypical and over-zealous to alleviate the seriousness. One particular character, named Doc O’Connor, played by junior Brandon Wiener, brings some humor to the stage as the elderly, east coast accented cab driver who babbles about the beauty of the mid-west while wearing his trademark flat cap. In regard to comedic content, his ability to work the audience is gold.

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PlayStation 4: More Than Just Video Games

For those of you keeping up with the video game industry, this year has surely been an exciting one. Next week marks the launch of the PlayStation 4 (PS4), Sony Computer Entertainment’s fourth home video game console in its PlayStation line of products.

Launching Nov. 15th, eager PlayStation fans will be lining up to storefronts the night (or day) before, hoping to secure their own console and games.

Sony has high expectations for their new console, with sales expected to exceed five million units by the end of the company’s fiscal year on March 31, 2014. This is the biggest system launch to come since the release of the Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3 in late 2006.

Pre-order numbers for PS4 are much greater than past consoles, with millions of people (including myself) ordering at either online or in-store locations; this is even more sweet due to the $400 price tag, an unexpected move from Sony. Many industry analysts anticipated the system to launch at $500, so the cheaper price point is much appreciated.

If you are interested in the system and did not secure your own pre-order, fear not! During an interview on “Fox Business,” Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Jack Tretton reassured fans “We’re holding back some inventory to make sure people have an opportunity to buy one, come launch day…. Production yields have been phenomenal.”

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Justin Timberlake Rocks IZOD Center

Justin Timberlake grooved his way to the hearts of thousands of fans at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, NJ for the second date of his solo “20/20 Experience World Tour” on Saturday, Nov. 11. With his slicked-back hair, Christian Louboutin flats, Tom Ford designed suits, playful charm and impeccable musical ability, Timberlake embraced the essence of the ‘30s and swooned the crowd from 9 pm until midnight.

By not having to share the stage alongside rap-sensation Jay-Z with their “Legends of the Summer Tour,” Timberlake seized the opportunity to individually embody what it meant to be an entertainer.

The Weeknd opened for Timberlake on a smaller, front-facing stage with his “reign of seduction,” as fans like to say, starting at 8 pm. His intoxicating melodies and flawless vocal arrangements were displayed in songs including “Wicked Games,” “The Morning,” and “Remember You.” The Weeknd’s dark and damaged lyrics resonated with some of the deeper, post break-up songs that were scattered throughout Timberlake’s performance, including “What Goes Around… Comes Around.”

Timberlake’s flirty and suave performance opened up with “Pusher Love Girl,” a single off of The 20/20 Experience. His voice graced the crowd, free of any strain, while his dance moves upheld an equal rhythmic elegance.

Timberlake showcased his abilities by playing the keyboard and guitar while singing along simultaneously.

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Arcade Fire’s “Reflecktor” Explores Genres

Where does “indie rock” end and “freakin’ huge rock band” begin? For Arcade Fire, the biggest little band in the world right now, you could argue multiple points. Some might say it’s selling out Madison Square Garden (twice), and others would argue winning Album of the Year at the Grammy’s is the point of no return. Which one is it?

Well, neither. The real tipping point – the moment where Arcade Fire really embraced being larger than life – is “Reflektor,” the group’s flashiest, grandest, and most bloated album to date. And guess what? It’s awesome for it!

“Big” is nothing new for a group like Arcade Fire. The band’s penchant for diverse instrumentation and fitting as many band members as you can on one stage certainly doesn’t scream modest, and their albums, from their profound, genre-defining debut “Funeral” to their Grammy-winning achievement “The Suburbs,” exhibited emotional and musical maximalism at its most sincere.

Yet when Arcade Fire goes the distance on “Reflektor,” their genre-bending, meticulously produced new double-album,  it feels different than it did in the past.  Arcade Fire’s previous work had a sort of underdog-level grandness to them, like this “little” indie band was pushing itself as far as they can go and constantly beating the odds to achieve greatness.

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Contact Information

The Outlook
Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication
and Instructional Technology (CCIT)
Room 260, 2nd floor

The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151
Email: outlook@monmouth.edu