Friday, 17 February 2017

My Thoughts on the 59th Grammy Awards



My post-Grammy analysis post is going up later than customary, but what can I say? It's been one of those weeks. The 59th Grammy Awards were held Sunday evening, and I was able to watch a recording of the telecast in its entirety during the week, even though this was managed in bits and pieces between mountains of work. Hosting duties were handled by James Cordon of Carpool Karaoke fame, and as could be expected, he had no problem holding the whole thing together while also managing to deliver a few quality gags along the way.

There was an overall sense of deja vu this year as Adele onced again cleaned out in the major categories, winning all 5 awards for which she'd earned a nomination. Her wins included awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance, Best Pop Vocal Album, and of course, Album of the Year. She'd beaten out fellow musical juggernaut, Beyoncé, for that last award, and even went as far as renouncing the award to Beyoncé during her tearful acceptance speech.

Elsewhere, Drake and Chance the Rapper won the rap categories with 2 awards apiece, with the latter also scoring an additional win for Best New Artist. Beyoncé managed two wins for Lemonade (Best Urban Contemporary Album) and Formation (Best Music Video), a crying shame considering she'd gone into the ceremony with the highest number of nomitations (9). David Bowie was honored with 4 posthumous awards for his album, Blackstar, while Cage the Elephant beat out Blink -182 and Panic! at the Disco for Best Rock Album (Tell Me I'm Pretty).

In terms of performances, The Weeknd and Daft Punk made musical magic with their performance of one of my 2016 favorites, I Feel It Coming. Other standout performances include Shape of You (by Ed Sheeran), Chained to the Rhythm (by Katy Perry and Skip Marley), the Bees Gees tribute (by Demi Lovato, Tori Kelly, Little Big Town and Andra Day), and the hip-hop mashup between A Tribe Called Quest, Anderson .Paak, Busta Rhymes and Consequence. Bruno Mars also brought his A-game during his performance of That's What I Like and the Prince tribute, so no surprises there.

One thing that surprised me this year though were the sheer number of hiccups and mistakes that were caught on camera. We had everything from Adele fumbling her lines and having to restart a song, to a faulty microphone during the Metallica performance, to Greg Kurstin being rudely cut off during an acceptance speech. I realize such things are inevitable during a live event, but come on, this is the Grammy's we're talking about here, not some B-grade musical sideshow.


Monday, 6 February 2017

The Wedding Party (Movie Review)



Well, this is a first. But whenever a movie gets touted for besting Rogue One at the local box office, then that movie had better damn well live up to that claim. Released locally on the same day as the recent Star Wars spinoff, The Wedding Party was the movie that had people flocking the various Lagos cineplexes all through the holiday season. So, of course, I was mildly curious and needed to see what all the fuss was about.

I'll start with a quick disclaimer: I am not the biggest fan of Nigerian movies. In fact, I tend to avoid them like the plague. This is due mainly to my inability to overlook their many artistic and technical shortcomings. That said, I'll try to keep this review as fair and free of bias as humanly possible.

The Wedding Party tells the story of an intercultural wedding between two high society families that don't exactly see eye to eye. It features an ensemble cast that include Adesua Etomi, Banky Wellington, Richard Mofe Damijo, Sola Sobowale and Iretiola Doyle. Set on the day of the titular party, the movie tries to capture the behind-the-scenes details of the typical Lagos wedding, in colorful and cartoonish fashion.

Unfortunately, the end result is plagued by the very same shortcomings that keep the vast library of Nollywood movies from being watchable. For a high-profile movie of this kind, the production values were surprisingly low. The editing was poorer than it had any right to be, with scenes cascading into one another with very little sense of purpose or direction. The sound mixing was even worse, with background music clashing with dialogue at every given opportunity.

As far as acting was concerned, the majority of the cast were content with mimicking the same caricatures we've seen in at least a dozen other movies. By and large, the biggest offender of the bunch was Richard Mofe Damijo, delivering his lines with the kind of hamfisted bravado that only a Nollywood veteran could muster. You can't blame him though, not when the script itself is laden with enough poorly-written dialogue and leaps of logic to make any recent Nicolas Cage movie look like high art.

The Wedding Party is a glorified home video masking as a proper theatrical release. The movie was so cheesy that by the time the end credits rolled, I felt like an overfed mouse. If you've managed to avoid seeing it at the cinemas this long, then I'd advise you continue doing so. There's simply nothing to see here, folks.

Friday, 30 December 2016

2016 in Review: Looking Back

This is the fifth and final post in my 2016 in Review series. I started the series on Monday, by highlighting my favorite TV shows for the year. Next was a rundown of my favorite songs on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I moved on to my favorite albums for the year. And yesterday, I shortlisted my favorite movies. Today, I'll be reflecting on the events that shaped the year into what it is.


The year started on a high note, with my short story, Ground Zero, being selected as one of the winning entries for the IWSG Anthology, Parallels. The book was published on the 3rd of May, and is currently available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo and Goodreads, so if you fancy some good speculative fiction, you know what to do. I wasn't particularly active in the IWSG this past year though, with work, school and life in general getting in the way, so I would like to use this opportunity to throw a quick apology to Alex and the remaining members of the group.


The nations of the world came together in August for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. I am not a fan of sports, but I do love watching opening ceremonies and such, and the Rio 2016 opening was no exception. There was a very timely presentation on the effects of global warming during the ceremony, where they'd shown aerial shots of how coastal cities around the world would look in the future, should the current trend be left unchecked. It was quite eerie seeing Lagos largely submerged underwater like that; perhaps I should consider moving further inland.


The 2016 U.S. presidential elections were held on November 8, during which democratic candidate, Hilary Clinton, went toe to toe with republican candidate, Donald Trump. Although I didn't have a horse in this race as they say, I followed the proceedings with what I could only describe as mild amusement. And in what has been termed an unexpected outcome by some and a downright travesty by others, Donald Trump won by receiving the majority of the votes, securing his place as the 45th president of the United States.


2016 is a year that would be remembered for its string of celebrity deaths, as several icons of music, film and sports passed away. It started with David Bowie and Alan Rickman in January, then there was Anton Yelchin, Muhammad Ali and Prince, and more recently, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. These were all stars of their respective fields and crafts, and the world continues to mourn their deaths till this day, even as we celebrate the legacies they've left behind.

I also lost a star of my very own this past year, the one at the very center of my universe, my mum, Mrs. Clara Dupe Omozokpia, who died about a month ago. She was 66 years old. Sometimes I wonder if she is up there looking down on me, and what I would say if I had one last chance to speak with her: "Mum, I miss you more than words could possibly convey. But I must console myself with the belief that you are in a better place now. Say hi to Seye and dad for me, and tell them that I miss them just as much."


Overall, 2016 has turned out to be a year filled with sadness and grief, casting a veil of uncertainty on the future. But as much as we might feel like curling into a ball and crying sometimes, this is not the time to despair or lose hope. As my sister once told me, so long as you still have a beating heart in your chest, then you still have a life to live. So live life to the fullest, and never lose sight of the legacy you'd like to leave behind when you are gone.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

2016 in Review: Favorite Movies

10 Cloverfield Lane



A woman on the run from her past wakes up following a car accident to find herself imprisoned in an underground bunker. That is the basic premise behind the pyschological thriller, 10 Cloverfield Lane, a movie that also serves as a spiritual successor to the 2008 found-footage monster film, Cloverfield. The movie stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the woman, and John Goodman as her abductor.

Deadpool



Ryan Reynold stars as the fourth-wall-breaking, potty-mouthed antihero with regenerative powers, Deadpool, a role he'd previously played in the X-Men misfire, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Thankfully, his second stab at the character proved to be both critically and commercially successful, becoming the first superhero movie to earn a Best Picture Golden Globe nomination, as well as the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time.

Zootopia



Zootopia is an animated film that tells the story of a small-town rabbit trying to make it as a police officer in the big city. She forms an unlikely alliance with a cunning red fox as they try to unravel the mystery behind the animals going "savage" in their city. The movie started Walt Disney's current winning streak, and it would eventually go on to earn over $1 billion dollars in the global box office..

The Jungle Book



The Walt Disney classic was remade for a new generation of kids this year, resulting in what is currently one of the most technically impressive movies to date. The movie features a breakout performance by Neel Sethi, who is supported by an ensemble cast of animals that include the voices of Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Scarlett Johansson and Christopher Walken.

Captain America: Civil War



The latest Captain America movie is frequently referred to as a mini Avengers movie, as our costumed heroes assembled on the big screen to face off against one another. The movie is best remembered for giving fans their first taste of Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Tom Holland as Spider-man, but should be equally lauded for telling a story that featured so many Marvel heroes without feeling too bloated or overstuffed.

Finding Dory



Finding Dory is a sequel to the 2003 Pixar animated film, Finding Nemo. It tells the story of Dory, a blue tang with short-term memory loss, and her journey to find her long-lost parents. The movie currently holds the title of highest-grossing movie in North America for 2016, but might soon be forced to relinquish that honor to another Disney juggernaut further down my list of favorites.

The Shallows



Blake Lively gives a solid performance as a woman trapped by a shark in the survival horror film, The Shallows. The film was one of the sleeper hits this past summer, grossing several times its production budget during its theatrical run. Beautifully shot and about as tense as they come, the movie proved that even well-worn story lines can be quite effective when done right.

Don't Breathe



A home invasion story with a twist, Don't Breathe is a movie about three burglars who get more than what they bargained for when their latest mark, a blind man living in a deserted neighborhood, turns out to be more predator than prey. The film boasts some truly unique scares and enough unexpected twists to satisfy even the most jaded horror film fan.

Doctor Strange



Marvel expanded its cinematic universe into magical realms this past year with Doctor Strange, a movie about a skilled neurosurgeon who drops his scientific knowledge and embraces the mystic arts after a life-altering car accident. The movie works as a standalone story, but ultimately ties into the larger cinematic universe, hinting at greater things to come.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story



I think it is safe to say that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has turned out to be quite successful. Not only is it the current box office champion, but it is already well on its way to becoming the year's highest-grossing film in North America. The fact that the movie boasts a great cast, great action, and high production values overall definitely helps. But hey, this is Star Wars we're talking about here. Did anyone honestly think it would be anything but awesome!?

And the winner is...

10 Cloverfield Lane




That's right, folks, my favorite movie for 2016 is 10 Cloverfield Lane. There is just something about this movie that sets it apart from others on this list. Perhaps it is its smaller scale, with the greater part of the movie taking place in an underground bunker. Or maybe it is that sense of mystery that permeates the whole film, with the audience left guessing even as more and more pieces of the puzzle are revealed. Overall, I think it is because it is superbly well-made, with events building up to what is easily the most wildly unexpected climax I'd seen all year.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

2016 in Review: Favorite Albums


Panic! at the Disco - Death of a Bachelor


Death of a Bachelor was one of the first albums to drop this year, and it was received favorably by both critics and fans of the band, Panic! at the Disco. It more recently earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album, their second overall nomination till date. Highlights include Victorious, Death of a Bachelor, Crazy=Genius, and LA Devotee.

A Day to Remember - Bad Vibrations


I discovered A Day to Remember this past year through their most recent album, Bad Vibrations, with its unusual blend of metalcore and punk rock. The album starts by exploring themes such as anxiety, depression and mental illness, but ends on a positive note. Highlights include Paranoia, Naivety, and In Florida.

Beyoncé - Lemonade


Beyoncé followed up the success of her self-titled 2013 album with Lemonade, an album that finds her exploring genres as diverse and far apart as rock and country, but one that still manages to sound like a cohesive whole. Easily one of the best reviewed albums this past year, Lemonade has helped Beyoncé earn 9 nominations in the forthcoming 59th Grammy Awards, including a much-coveted Album of the Year nomination. Highlights include Don't Hurt Yourself, 6 Inch, Daddy Lessons, and Formation.

Issues - Headspace


Issues was yet another band I discovered in 2016. Their unique blend of metalcore, pop, electronic and R&B results in a form of nu-metal that was previously unheard of. They released their sophomore album, Headspace, this year, and it saw them further expanding their sonic soundscape with the incorporation of country, jazz, funk and rap into their music. Highlights include The Realest, Yung & Dum, and Someone Who Does.

blink-182 - California


blink-182's California marked a welcome return to the band's punk rock sound from the late 90s and early 2000s. It is their first album not to feature Tom DeLonge, whose singing and guitarwork no doubt helped define that earlier sound. In spite of this, California was well received by fans and critics alike, earning the band a Grammy nod for Best Rock Album, its first-ever nomination. Highlights include Bored to Death, Sober, Home is Such a Lonely Place, and Teenage Satellites.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Getaway


The Red Hot Chili Peppers were back with their eleventh studio album, The Getaway. Production was handled by Danger Mouse of Gnarls Barkley fame, which lent the songs a blues rock feel that blended quite well with Anthony Kiedis' signature vocals. It featured the same lineup that recorded their 2011 album, I'm with You, a first in the band's 33-year history. Highlights include Dark Necessities, Go Robot, and Detroit.

Jon Bellion - The Human Condition


Jon Bellion released his debut album, The Human Condition, this year, after several mixtapes, as well as production and writing credits on Eminem's Grammy-winning song with Rihanna, The Monster. The album straddles quite a number of musical genres, with Jon Bellion showcasing some serious singing chops on quite a few numbers, but somehow it still manages to retain its hip-hop core. Highlights include All Time Low, Woke the F**k Up, The Good in Me, and Guillotine.

Craig David - Following My Intuition


Craig David finally released a worthy follow up to his 2000 album, Born to Do It, after several attempts at adopting a more mainstream R&B sound, and falling out of the limelight altogether. It's a good thing he'd decided to embrace his UK garage roots in this year's Following My Intuition, with the genre currently enjoying a bit of a renaissance, fueled by recent hits from the likes of Naughty Boy and the British duo, Disclosure. Highlights include When the Bassline Drops, No Holding Back, and Here with Me.

Benny Benassi - Danceholic


The DJ that brought us Satisfaction all those years ago, and more recently, one of the songs shortlisted on my 2011 list of favorite song, Beautiful People, released his fourth studio album, Danceaholic, this year. With singles spanning as far back as 2013, the album has been years in the making, but the end result is a pleasing blend of memorable choruses and danceable beats. Highlights include Paradise, Universe, and Dance the Pain Away.

The Weeknd - Starboy


Having finally found some much-deserved mainstream success with last year's Beauty Behind the Madness, it was only a matter of time before The Weeknd capitalized on his moment in the spotlight with a follow up album. Thankfully, Starboy doesn't sound like a rushed job or a cash grab, as it further cements his position as one of the best pop crossover acts in the world today. Highlights include Starboy, Rockin', Secret, Lonely Night and I feel It Coming.

And the winner is...

The Weeknd - Starboy


For two years running, The Weeknd has dominated my playlists with hit songs spanning his two back-to-back albums. His latest effort, Starboy, continues his ongoing shift from progressive R&B to mainstream pop, even though there are hints of his former self lurking in the shadows of a few tracks. The album isn't without its problems; at 68 minutes long, it feels a bit overlong, with some tracks sounding like they were included merely to pad out its length. But what the album lacks in sense of progression and overall cohesion, it more than makes up for with sheer number of standout tracks.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

2016 in Review: Favorite Songs

Mike Posner - I Took a Pill in Ibiza (SeeB Remix)



The man that brought us Cooler than Me way back when finally managed to score a follow up hit this year. The fact that both songs are dance remixes probably says something about where his true audience lies. Hopefully he finds a way to capitalize on this instead of fading out of the limelight for another 5 to 6 years.

Desiigner - Panda



Say what you will about the barely-decipherable rap lyrics that have been plaguing the charts recently, mumble rap is here to stay. And there was no bigger song championing the movement this past year than Desiigner's hit single, Panda, a song that was as infectious as it was hard-hitting.

Drake - One Dance (feat. Wizkid & Kyla)



Drake finally scored his first #1 as a lead artist on the Billboard Hot 100 this past year with One Dance, a song that featured the guest vocals of Nigeria's very own, Wizkid. The song would help propel his album, Views, to sales of over 1.5 million units, making it the highest-selling album released within the calendar year.

blink-182 - Bored to Death



The aging punk rockers were back in 2016 with a throwback sound and a slightly different lineup, and the vehicle for that return was their single, Bored to Death. The song captured everything fans loved about the band back in the day, while also showcasing their growth and just the right amount of depth to their lyrics.

Hardwell - No Holding Back (feat. Craig David)



It seemed like 2016 was a great year for comebacks, with Craig David being yet another artist who'd reemerged into the limelight this year. His collaboration with Hardwell is one of the highlights of that comeback, the resulting club banger representing a sort of best of both worlds, with its UK Garage verses paving the way for a more mainstream EDM chorus.

Panic! at the Disco - LA Devotee



Perhaps the catchiest song on my list of favorite songs, LA Devotee is Panic! at the Disco at its most lighthearted. Don't let the upbeat tempo and Brendon Urie's sweet vocals fool you though, this is a song with hidden depths. It also happens to have one of the creepiest videos I have seen all year, starring Noah Schnapp from Stranger Things.

The Weeknd - Starboy (feat. Daft Punk)



A collaboration that is almost too good to be true, The Weeknd and the french electronic duo Daft Punk join forces on this dark, mid-tempo song about the former's transformation into the eponymous Starboy. It is clear that both artists were made for each other, as Daft Punk's production and signature vocoder stutters compliment The Weeknd's falsetto and lyrics about the excesses of life.

Issues - The Realest



Issues is a rock band that blends metalcore with pop rock and funk (with hints of R&B), creating a mishmash of genres that might seem jarring at first, but is actually quite ingenious. The Realest is the perfect example of their blend of genres, with its nu-metal turntable scratches, funk groove and guitar riffs coming together to defy any kind of musical boundaries.

Bring Me the Horizon - Oh No



We've had quite a number of recent attempts by metalcore bands trying to incorporate some of the more melodic rock genres and styles into their music. But none other have managed to handle that transition as seamlessly and as beautifully as the members of Bring Me the Horizon. Oh No is the current pinnacle of their mainstream crossover, a song that sounds nothing like the songs from their deathcore and metalcore roots.

The Weeknd - I Feel It Coming (feat. Daft Punk)



The second collaboration between Daft Punk and The Weeknd doesn't only sound brighter and more upbeat than Starboy, it also plays like more of a follow up to Daft Punk's Get Lucky. While there is no official music video as at the time of this writing, the song is featured at the very end of The Weeknd's musical short film, M A N I A, which is worth checking out in its entirety if you fancy a trip into his twisted, artistic mind.

And the winner is...

Bring Me the Horizon - Oh No




Bring Me the Horizon is a band that I discovered and completely fell in love with this past year. They are one of the bands that have been credited for helping bring the nu-metal genre back into the public eye. Their 2015 album, That's the Spirit, is quite possibly the best album I've heard in years, and it is bookended by my favorite song for 2016, Oh No. The song marks the farthest they've gone from their metalcore sound of old, with its electronic-driven bassline and saxophone solo, but it still has enough raw emotion to please long-time fans and newcomers like myself.

Monday, 26 December 2016

2016 in Review: Favorite TV Shows

It's the last full week of the year, the time I normally set aside to have some form of reflection on the things and events that helped shape the last twelve months. 2016 has been filled with the highest highs and lowest lows, but if you're curious to find out how it compares to previous years, then be sure to check out my year in review series from 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011.

My 2016 series would run through the whole week, so be sure to check back every day as I reveal my lists of favorite things. Emphasis on the word favorite, as my lists are comprised of things I personally found praiseworthy, not necessarily what was universally loved or considered to be the best.

To kick things off, today I'll be revealing my favorite TV shows that ran during the year. There are some returning champions from last year, as well as revivals of some of my all-time favorites, so let the rundown begin!

Daredevil



The first season of Daredevil basically raised the bar for all superhero TV shows (and to an extent, movies as well). And the folks at Marvel and Netflix have followed up that seminal effort's success with a second season that is packed with even more tightly-choreographed fight scenes, awesome camerawork and an amazing cast that help bring the beloved comic-book characters to life like never before.

Better Call Saul



The Breaking Bad spinoff was back for a second season this year, in which it further established its identity as a standalone series, even as we watched title character Saul Goodman still struggling to find an identity of his own. And while it is quite clear that the show may never reach the same heights as the critically-acclaimed hit series that spawned it, it is also clear that Better Call Saul is its own kind of special.

Game of Thrones



The biggest show on television got even bigger this year, as it went beyond its source material by showing what happened after the fifth book in the series, A Dance with Dragons. The sixth season was ripe with twists and turns, all of which culminated in two of the strongest episodes we've gotten till date; I am still reeling from the sheer brilliance of Battle of the Bastards, and the revelations at the end of The Winds of Winter has fans the world over waiting in anticipation of what comes next.

The Night Of



Based on the first season of the British crime drama, Criminal Minds, The Night Of was an eight-part miniseries that aired on HBO this year. It explored the effects of the criminal justice system on a college student (Riz Ahmed), when he becomes the main suspect in the murder of a young woman after they have a drug-induced one night stand. It also stars John Turturo as the student's self-appointed lawyer, and Bill Camp as the detective trying to make sense of the whole thing.

Voltron: Legendary Defender



Voltron was one of those cartoon shows that effectively shaped my childhood. So you can imagine the joy (and to an extent, dread) I felt when I learnt that it was being rebooted for a new generation of kids. Thankfully, the reboot has been handled with enough care that it doesn't offend those like me who still have fond memories of the original series, while still feeling fresh and relevant for the kids that enjoy these kinds of shows today.

Stranger Things



What would you get if you took E.T., The Thing, and It, and you tossed them in a blender? Stranger Things. The show nails the look and feel of said works, while telling a multilayered story centered around a group of likeable kids.This is hardly the first time a work of art is drawing inspiration from the decade that brought big hair and spandex pants into the mainstream. But what stands out here is how much attention to detail the Duffer Brothers have put into the eight episodes of this must-see miniseries.

Westworld



Easily one of the most ambitious TV shows in recent years, Westworld is a science-fiction drama/western based on the 1973 Michael Crichton movie of the same name. It centers upon the day-to-day operations of a theme park modeled after the American wild west, where guests can interact with lifelike robots called hosts. The production values are through the roof, and it features an ensemble cast that includes Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins.

Ash vs Evil Dead



Ash William was back for another season of demon slaying this year in the horror-comedy series, Ash vs Evil Dead. The second season took basically everything we loved about the first, and cranked it up to full blast, so that we had more laughs, more blood and guts, and more evil creatures than you can shake a stick at. It's hard to imagine how the showrunners plan on topping any of this in the forthcoming third season, but I'm pretty sure they already have more than enough tricks up their sleeve.

Luke Cage



Luke Cage marks Marvel's latest entry in its build up to its upcoming superhero ensemble series, The Defenders. First featured in last year's Netflix original series, Jessica Jones, the show continues Luke's journey as he struggles between a desire to keep his abilities hidden from those who'd wish to exploit it, and a need to protect the people of his Harlem neighborhood from the criminals who run the city.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life



As much as I hate to admit it, Gilmore Girls was one of my all-time favorite TV shows. There's just something about the fast-talking mother and daughter and their small-town shenanigans that kept me coming back week after week during the show's 7-year run. And the recent Netflix revival does an admirable job of capturing most of that magic.

And the winner is...

Stranger Things



What more can I say about Stranger Things that I haven't already said in my glowing review of the show from back when it was released? Not much, only to add that if you were born in the 80s like I was, or grew up watching movies and TV shows from that era, then you'd be doing yourself a great disservice by skipping out on this one. And with a second season already in the works and set to debut next year, there is no better time to take a dose of some sweet 80s nostalgia.