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First Look: Arcade Fire’s “We Exist”

Arcade Fire’s new video for We Exist is exhilarating. Andrew Garfield completely disappears into this character and even though the clip is only about six minutes long and there’s no dialogue, there’s more of a story here and more character development than in some full-length films. I absolutely love, love, love it. Just breaks my heart and fills it all at once.

A lesson in appreciating life

On Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT and opened fire on innocent teachers and children.

Like everyone else, I watched with horror as details about the shooting began surfacing. I felt like I was going to throw up just trying to imagine what these families’ lives would be like. Then offshoot conversations began stemming from the main story.

Spiralling conversations

Journalism ethics were called into question as some media outlets began interviewing surviving children on air. Commentators called on politicians to re-examine the American “right to bear arms” and on President Barack Obama to take action. Health advocates criticized the ease of access with which an individual can purchase a firearm but not receive mental health care.

There were a lot of thoughts and emotions flying around online, in newspapers, and on television – but all I could think of was something I had seen tweeted by Chris Jones, a writer for Esquire and a columnist for ESPN.

Chris Jones, writer for Esquire and columnist for ESPN tweeted this on Friday, following the shooting in Newtown, CT.

Chris Jones, writer for Esquire and columnist for ESPN tweeted this on Friday, following the shooting in Newtown, CT.

I couldn’t figure out why this stuck with me. As a journalist, you’d think I’d be more concerned with finding out confirmed details and what the story really was.

But the story isn’t about what happened – the story is about what won’t happen.

From the perspective of children

I had considered social work and teaching before I pursued journalism full-time. When you’re around children, your perspective on everything changes. You stop looking at the world from your own eyes and you begin to understand how it looks from the perspective of someone who still believes in, well… everything.

Children have a curious way of looking at the world, at embracing the magic that still surrounds us everyday. Some people don’t give kids enough credit – they’re much wiser than their years would have you believe, and more creative than you might think possible. To kids, the entire world truly is a playground and everything is still a possibility.

Yesterday’s story isn’t about what happened in Newtown. The story is about what won’t happen.

Non-existent futures

The 20 children who had their lives traumatically cut short won’t even finish elementary school. They won’t conduct any awkward fundraisers where their parents do majority of the fundraising. No field trips, no bake sales.

No mini-graduation as they make the transition to high school. No AP Calculus, no detention after school, no prom and no graduation gown. No university applications, no scholarships, no first apartment in residence.

No first love, no meeting the parents. They won’t get down on one knee to ask their high-school sweetheart to marry them. They won’t say yes ecstatically. They won’t spend forever trying to figure out the seating plans at their wedding.

They won’t feel the knot in their stomach on the first day of a new job – their first real job after graduating from university. No promotion, no first big assignment at work. No performance reviews at work.

These kids won’t even make it to Christmas this year. Their parents are now going home to clear out their Christmas-present hiding spot. The children whose names are written on the gift tags are no longer around.

Sympathy

It pains my heart to think of everything that is happening to these families right now – but even more so to think of all the things that won’t be happening to them. It is an unimaginable pain and grief these parents will feel for a long time, if not forever, knowing they won’t see their child graduate, work, get married, become parents themselves.

I’m not yet a parent but as a human being, I still hurt. My heart aches when I think about all the experiences I’ve been lucky enough to see in my young life, things that these 20 kids will never understand. Then when I think of all the times I’ve complained about anything, any major challenge I’ve come across – fuck, even the small challenges I’ve come across – that pain turns to guilt.

Learning to live with appreciation

While gun laws and health care access might take some time to change, there are a few things we can do now to make sure these 20 children aren’t forgotten. We can’t bring them back but at the very least, we desperately need to learn from this horrific incident and treat it as a wake-up call.

Let this be a lesson in being better people, in taking better care of each other. Make sure we hug our parents a little tighter every time we do get to see them. Walk a little slower and breathe a little deeper. Drive more carefully along the scenic route. Pay more attention to the ones we love. Let this be the last time you ever feel ungrateful for anything. Stop complaining about the petty shit and start living our lives with appreciation.

Above all, keep playing, keep believing, keep loving, and keep trusting – the way that kids do.

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NEWTOWN SHOOTING | THE VICTIMS

Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6
Rachel Davino, 29; Teacher
Dawn Hochsprung, 47; School principal
Nancy Lanza, 52; Mother of gunman
Anne Marie Murphy, 52; Teacher
Lauren Rousseau, 30; Teacher
Mary Sherlach, 56; School psychologist
Victoria Soto, 27; Teacher

(Victims’ names sourced from The New York Times, www.nytimes.com.)

Featured photo courtesy of Getty Commons.

HBO’s Girls: The Voice of My Generation

“I’m like Tinkerbell, Finn. I need applause to live.”

That’s from an early episode of Glee wherein scene-stealer Rachel Berry explains her love affair with fame. While I’m nowhere near deserving of the attention that Lea Michele’s character receives – mostly because I’m not that talented of a singer – I can partially relate.

Pay Attention

I love attention. I crave it. I thrive on it. Who doesn’t? I’ll be honest in admitting I love talking about myself. But like any love-hate chase, I only want attention when it’s not there. When it’s being freely awarded to me, I get weirdly uncomfortable with being in the spotlight. So maybe that’s why I’ve become so attached to the new HBO series Girls. The first season’s finale aired Sunday and let me tell you… it’s a gooder.

Girls Just Want…

Before the NYC-based series premiered, I’d been really excited, having read some of the praise Lena Dunham had received for her previous work. Of course, the idea of a show that focuses on my demographic – 20-something not-quite-grown women trying to deal with post-collegiate life – appealed to my narcissistic side. It’s nice though, y’know, being scrutinized and yet, not having to really deal with any criticism.

Deal With It

Here’s a show that puts me and my friends in the spotlight but without forcing me to own up to my own stupid decisions and mistakes of being in my 20s. Dunham’s show draws from the personal experience of her own life and those around her and yes, while she lives in New York and that is drastically different from my life here in Vancouver, the human experience is still very much the same.

I face paralysing self-doubt whenever my work or writing is put on display. I struggle with my body image, embracing my ‘real’ curves but also wondering what it would take to lose a few pounds. The idea of allowing ourselves the love we think we deserve is also a constant theme. While I’m busy yelling at Hannah for allowing Adam to treat her as horribly as he does, I’m ignoring my own advice by continually being hung up on my own past relationships.


Taking A Cue

The show isn’t about me but I can relate to Dunham’s quirky quartet of heroines. I understand how it might not be attractive to admit that and no, not everyone can connect with the show’s seemingly far-fetched storylines but there’s an element of reality that rings true.

Sure, it might just be the selfish, self-involved side of me that loves Girls, but maybe watching the show religiously – and reading Vulture’s commentary on it – will finally make me realize how many unresolved issues I’ve avoided in my own life. Maybe when Hannah finally sorts out her life, I’ll take my cue and be inspired enough to deal with mine.

I Can Relate

In honour of my obsession with Girls, here are some of my favourite moments from the show’s first season. Be prepared to get to know me a little bit better. (I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good or bad either either…)

1. “I invented him.”
Let me tell you, Hannah. I know what you mean. I have definitely been there. I am probably still there.

2. “You are just naturally interesting.”
I have to remind myself all the time that I’m probably not as boring as I think I am.

3. “I just had this crazy realization…”
I won’t elaborate but… Shosh, I feel you, girl.

4. “You’re wearing a white dress.”
While I’ve never been sent home to change, I have been told that I am very bad at dressing appropriately for work. Sigh.

5. “Are you punking me?”
I never really know how to deal with attention either – see above post, obviously.

Photo Credit: Google Images.

First Look: Adaline’s “The Noise”

It’s time to admit it. Success in the music industry isn’t always based on talent — a large part also depends on image. Hell, sometimes even image alone can make you, talented or not.

Adaline, however, has plenty of both. The artist, born Shawna Beesley, has more than enough talent to go around. Her live performances and presence overflow with a cool sort of confidence, stylish and hip but not pretentious and overbearing. It’s the perfect storm and a music label’s dream.

This comes across clearly in Adaline’s new music video for “The Noise”, the latest single off her sophomore album, Modern Romantics. The storyline of the video, while a bit abstract, speaks to the context of relationships and looks at the environments where we foster emotional connection. In a city filled with noise and the buzzing of society, where’s the romance?

Of note is director JP Poliquin, who also directed Adaline’s last music video for “Whiter/Straighter.” Poliquin does a great job with “The Noise” and it’s clear he’s a director to follow in the future.

Adaline, “The Noise”
From Modern Romantics (2011)

Adaline – “The Noise”, Modern Romantics (2011)
Director:  JP Poliquin; Production Company:  The Field
Executive Producer:  Cherie Sinclair; Producer:  Jason Aita
DOP:  Todd Williams; Editor:  JP Poliquin
Choreography:  Sidney Leeder
Dancers:  Sidney Leeder, Monica Calzaretto, Milda Gecaite, Katherine Rakus, Randi MacQueen
Male Lead:  Ted Puglia
Hair and Makeup:  Luisa Duran; Stylist:  Muska Zurmati
Label:  Light Organ Records

Feature photo and screen captures by Stephanie Ip.

Review: Like Crazy

In the most recent issue of Converge Magazine, I did a review of Like Crazy, a film starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones. I saw the movie at VIFF 2011 and really enjoyed it. Check out the review and if you’ve seen the move, let me know what you think.     -Stephanie

Originally published in the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of Converge Magazine.

—–

LIKE CRAZY (2011)
Director: Drake Doresmus
Writers: Drake Doremus, Ben York Jones
Starring: Anthon Yelchin, Felicity Jones

Like Crazy (2011)

LIKE CRAZY is the story of a British girl and her American boyfriend who must face the realities of a long-distance relationship after she overstays her student visa and is shipped home to the UK. Captured beautifully by Anton Yelchin (Charlie Bartlett, Star Trek) and Felicity Jones (The Tempest), Jacob and Anna must find a way to make their relationship work while their everyday lives seem to pull them further apart.

The film, directed by Drake Doremus, seems trivial at first: young love is separated and their idealistic desires begin to create friction in their relationship. However, upon spending time with Jacob and Anna both together and individually, the audience is wrapped into their feelings of abandonment and conflict, selfishness and longing. Both Jacob and Anna struggle, not with fidelity, but with the halting pace of their connection. Their relationship is on again, off again — but it’s never long before they find the familiarity of the other’s embrace.

As Jacob and Anna reconnect throughout the years following college graduation and their forced separation, it becomes obvious that the success of their love is based on two factors: convenience and chemistry. While both are certainly of value in a relationship, it seems troubling, although not entirely surprising, that the two young adults have built their entire romance on these two concepts. This detail is hammered home when Anna’s parents suggest marriage as a solution to their visa troubles and the lovers react with surprise and uncertainty.

Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones portray long-distance lovers learning to face the realities of their relationship. (SCREEN CAP)

Yelchin shines in his role and is perfect as a down-to-earth, patient boy; a carpenter and furniture designer. His character’s occupation seems to reinforce the idea that Jacob is always the one left behind, rooted in place like a tree from which he takes his craft materials. His gift to Anna early in the film — an uncomfortable-looking wooden chair that she absolutely adores — represents him perfectly: well-built but not universally attractive, the inside joke to their relationship.

Like Crazy also succeeds in that the beginning of Jacob and Anna’s relationship never seems rushed despite being forced into a quick montage that shows their initial flirtation unfurl over the course of a school year. A scene that cuts through different clips of the couple sleeping entwined in different positions manages to illustrate quite simply the immediacy and quick development of their attraction.

The film has been rumoured to be based on Doremus’ personal history. Media interviews with his wife reveal that many details of the film (down to the timing of the storyline and details of the visa complications) are remarkably similar to their real-life story. With this in mind, the pain of separation experienced by Jacob and Anna seem all too realistic, which is perhaps why certain scenes are almost difficult to watch.

Even so, audiences both cringe and rejoice with the couple though all their lows and highs. As the film comes to its conclusion, viewers begin to realize that no matter what Jacob and Anna thought was the right way to do things, it’s clear there’s no road map for love.

Presented at the 27th Sundance Film Festival in January 2011, Like Crazy garnered a Grand Jury Prize in the dramatic film category and Jones won a Special Grand Jury Prize for her portrayal of Anna. It’s since been picked up by Paramount Vantage and was released to mainstream audiences in late October.

Feature Photo: Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones portray long-distance lovers learning to face the realities of their relationship. (Screen cap by Stephanie Ip.)

Review: The Penelopiad

During my early years at UBC, I fought with a lot of pressure coming from different places on the merits of an arts degree in the real world. It speaks to the larger issue of how art, literature, creative writing, theatre, music and so on can contribute to society. While some folks are more inclined to write these off as ‘hobbies,’ I think it’s pretty obvious by now that these areas help us to communicate the human experience beyond numbers, reports and dry facts.

THE PENELOPIAD plays at the Stanley Theatre until Nov. 20, 2011. (ARTS CLUB PHOTO)

The Original Desperate Housewife

The Arts Club’s current production of The Penelopiad is the perfect example of how the arts and modern-day life can intersect, helping us to further understand our world.

The Penelopiad is Canadian writer Margaret Atwood‘s take on the famous tale The Odyssey. In Homer’s original story, Odysseus, the Greek king of Ithaca, spends a decade fighting the Trojan War and spends another decade finding his way home. Atwood’s version, however, explores that same 20-year time period but from the perspective of Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, who waits at home in Ithaca. While Odysseus is known for his resourcefulness, Penelope must also channel that same quality to fight a very different war on home turf.

After Odysseus’ departure, the young girl is quickly thrust into control of the household. Following the death of her in-laws, she must also learn to cope with the aggressive affections of suitors and the difficulties of raising a son. Luckily, she has in her company 12 young and loyal maids who help her to weave a tricky lie to fend off the suitors. The disastrous result, however, is heartbreaking and wreaks guilt even on the hearts of audience members who watch helplessly as the tragedy unfolds on the lives of the maids.

Modern Day

Unbeknownst to me, my season tickets happen to land on Talkback Tuesdays of each month. It’s always an interesting experience to hear from the actors themselves.

One of the questions posed was about the modern-day relevancy of The Penelopiad, a play of war, abandonment and traditional cultures. Meg Roe, who plays Penelope in an achingly beautiful and hauntingly graceful manner, responded with the suggestion that Atwood’s play gives a voice to the unheard. (NOTE: I’ve since been corrected that it was actually Dawn Petten who brought up the connection with the Missing Women Inquiry.) She believes that the play is highly topical today and specifically noted its connection with the Missing Women Comission of Inquiry currently taking place in Vancouver.

Missing Women Inquiry

The inquiry, which explores why so many missing DTES women were left uninvestigated during the Pickton era, has drawn national attention, both positive and negative. If you’ve driven through downtown Vancouver recently, it’s possible you’ve encountered protesters who are unhappy with the way those cases have played out, demanding justice for their fallen sisters.

While The Penelopiad certainly doesn’t address those issues directly or in detail, I believe it helps by voicing concerns about those who deserve and seek justice. The play itself is about giving a voice to the voiceless, telling the other side of the story; it brings light to those who can’t plead their own stories. Just as the Missing Women Inquiry hopes to hear the families of victims who have long been left in the dark, The Penelopiad shares the other side of the story and explores how a different kind of battle occurred while Odysseus was away. The play is really about finding justice for those who’ve been wronged.

In retrospect, many aspects of the play may have struck me differently if I’d approached The Penelopiad with the Missing Women Inquiry in mind. A week later, I find myself still turning over and over the different conflicts and issues the play brought to light, examining them through the filter of its modern-day connection.

The Arts Club's THE PENELOPIAD features (clockwise from top) Meg Roe, Laara Sadiq, Rachel Aberle, Ming Hudson, Sarah Donald and others. (DAVID COOPER PHOTO)

In Performance

Despite the morbid nature of the play’s outcome, the cast does a stellar job of playing out the seductively eerie storyline. The choreography and movement add another layer to the story and stretches the audience’s imagination into the wildest, most terrifying places. That credit goes to Denise Clarke, the play’s movement designer.

While Atwood does not state a preference on the makeup of actors, The Penelopiad is commonly played with by an all-female cast, with many doubling up on various roles. Roe addresses the audience as her story’s narrator, candid at times and often casual and relatable. So realistic is her retelling of the story, however, that when she fears for her life, we also feel the same grip on our throats. Colleen Wheeler also deserves mention, doubling as a maid and as Odysseus, realistically commanding and assertive as the king of Ithaca.

There’s much to be said about good chemistry within a cast but The Penelopiad is one example where there’s an obviously high level of trust between the actors. Some of the play’s key moments are difficult to watch and likely heartwrenching for the actors to perform but it’s clear the cast wholeheartedly believes in the words they speak, in their armstrokes and in every step.

The Penelopiad plays until Nov. 20, 2011 at the Arts Club’s Stanley Theatre. Tickets are still available and can be purchased at an Arts Club Theatre box office, by phone at 604-687-1644 or online at www.artsclub.com.

Featured Photo: Meg Roe as Penelope in the Arts Club’s production of THE PENELOPIAD. (DAVID COOPER PHOTO)

First Listen: Modern Romantics

Adaline's 'Modern Romantics' is due Nov. 1, 2011 on Light Organ Records. (PHOTO SUBMITTED)

The first time I heard Shawna Beesley — known to most as Adaline — play “That’s What You Do Best” was at a piano recital at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver, B.C. The stage was covered in candles and in the center, a baby grand piano and a girl who just loved those black and white keys.

At that point, the song was a sultry, simple, flirtatious theme. I remember the way she introduced the song, laughing into the microphone, bantering playfully with her friends and audience. The song was bare and basic, living only on her deep, throaty vocals, accompanied by the classical twirl of its Spanish melody.

That’s What You Do Best

Now, it’s the lead off Adaline’s sophomore album, Modern Romantics. “That’s What You Do Best” is no longer the simple tune it once was — it’s been worked up to a multi-layered, driving, insane theme of passion, full of chaos and disorder, thrown about by the battered arms of lovers. Like the other songs on the album, there’s the same characteristic voice but it’s now surrounded by the textured and varied layers of skilled production and electronic elements — a sign of Adaline’s audio evoution.

Modern Romantics

The album due on Nov. 1 has been a long time coming since Adaline’s debut album, Famous For Fire, was released in 2008. Graduating from sweeping ballads to electrifying pop haunts, there’s almost a seasoned playfulness on Adaline’s latest effort that somehow wasn’t there before. But while the songs veer into a strange, unfamiliar, yet comfortable direction, Adaline’s lyrics are still very much the same voice listeners have grown to love.

“That’s what I think I was attracted to from the get-go: Somebody who can write a lyric – which again, I can’t stress enough — is just not common, y’know? People who have an elegance with language,” said Canadian quirk-rock artist Hawksley Workman who, along with Marten Tromm and Tino Zolfo, produced Modern Romantics in Toronto, Canada.

Adaline on the set of her new music video for "The Noise," directed by JP Poliquin at Pinewood Toronto Studios. (VANESSA HEINS PHOTO)

Sparks

While Adaline’s last album was very much a journey of sorts, her second album is broken down into different pieces of the same puzzle. Famous For Fire, as gorgeous as it was, couldn’t be fully appreciated in just one song. The 2008 release required a full end-to-end listening before the beauty in every detail shone through.

Modern Romantics, however, boasts more immediate satisfaction with each song carrying its own weight. The album definitely lends itself more easily to radio play and while some may critique that quality, it’s something highly sought after in a world full of disposible pop songs. With this latest offering, Adaline’s proven that she’s not just raw talent but that she can also harness that skill into mastering even the trickiest of pop formulas.

For a preview of Adaline’s Modern Romantics, visit her website at www.adalinemusic.com. Be sure to catch Adaline on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011 at the Biltmore where she’ll be hosting her Vancouver album release party for Modern Romantics. Tickets are $14.74 (includes service fees) and are available on Ticket Web. Trust me. You won’t want to miss this one.

Featured photo by Vanessa Heins; graphic design by Justin Broadbent.

Full Disclosure: I worked as an intern with Adaline for a brief time in 2009. Take this review with a grain of salt — I’m a bit biased since she’s one of my favourite Vancouver (now Toronto) artists.

Review: Next to Normal

There’s a stigma around mental health that’s been poked and prodded in recent weeks here in Vancouver.

Former Canucks player Rick Rypien was one of three NHL players to die this off-season in the midst of mental health struggles. The VPD recently released its second report detailing how police officers become defacto health workers when dealing with the DTES’s mentally ill. It’s a huge deal and it receives media attention but for some reason, we still don’t really know how to approach mental health issues in our every day lives.

Performed On Stage

The set for the Arts Club's production of Next to Normal was designed by Ted Roberts. (GOOGLE PHOTO)

I saw the Arts Club Theatre’s production of Next to Normal earlier tonight at Vancouver’s Stanley Theatre. The musical, fresh off a hit Broadway run, three Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize, details how mental health issues have gripped a seemingly “normal” suburban family and how they choose to deal with it.

Diana (played by the wonderfully talented Caitriona Murphy) is a mother of two whose fractures are slowly starting to creep up into her marriage. Dan (Warren Kimmel) is her devoted husband who lovingly learns to work with her sporadic and wild swings of emotion. Gabe and Natalie (Eric Morin and Jennie Neumann) are their two children, emotionally distanced from each other as if they’d never met. The rock musical is composed by Tom Kitt and the book is by Brian Yorkey.

Illustrated Through Music

Though its format is a musical and mental health is a serious issue, the two concepts meld seamlessly, thanks to Kitt and Yorkey’s careful interpolation of each character’s voice. The music is wildly enthusiastic, an illustration of the mental states of each character at various points of the story. Voices constantly drop in and out of the main theme of each song, often with overlapping and competing lines.

Although there are points where the stress of the demanding vocals begins to peek through, it bears repeating that these actors perform the show eight times a week and have no understudies to rely on. All things considered, I’d still argue that the music is probably one of the more catching qualities of the production, subtly driving home points about how mental health affects us without us realizing, how it drives us in different directions.

 Private Struggle

Each character fights their own private struggle that runs parallel to the family’s main conflict — Diana is slowly becoming more and more unhinged as she bounces between treatment options. (It’s hilariously outlined in a sing-song grocery list of medication followed by, “These are a few of my favourite things.”) It’s not until part way through the first half of the play when we realize there’s something deeper and darker than just being chemically imbalanced.

Diana’s pain draws on emotional depths that are exposed in violent and frightening ways. The story does this by spending a fair amount of time examining how Diana’s actions have affected her 16-year-old daughter Natalie. As we watch Natalie meet a boy and develop a relationship, we begin to fear that history will repeat itself as we watch her spiral into a similar pattern as her mother — each of their flaws are reflected in the other.

Promotional poster for the Arts Club's production of Next to Normal. (ARTS CLUB PHOTO)

Feeling Everything

Without giving away too much of the plot or sharing my own personal history, the musical is rightly sold as “the feel-everything musical” — I felt it all. Thought its subject is dark, there are moments of hilarious clarity that give the audience hope throughout. Although my real-life situation is vastly differently from the story on stage, I could feel myself becoming attached to the struggles Natalie experienced when dealing with her mother.

While many films, plays, musicals, productions are predictable and follow format, Next to Normal presented so many different opportunities to its characters. I was never really sure whether Diana would survive the insanity presented at the beginning of the story but by the end, you become so attached to the characters that you can’t help but support their decisions and feel as though things will be okay. The story, characters and the issues discussed draw in the audience and force us to examine how a family falls apart and attempts to put itself back together again.

Next to Normal plays until Oct. 9, 2011. Tickets are still available and can be purchased at an Arts Club Theatre box office, by phone at 604-687-1644 or online at www.artsclub.com. I highly, highly recommend you check it out if you’ve got the chance.

Featured Photo: Eric Morin, Jennie Neumann, Caitriona Murphy and Warren Kimmel star in the Arts Club’s Next to Normal. (DAVID COOPER PHOTO)

First Listen: Greyson Chance – “Unfriend You”

Before I got into journalism full-time, I spent years working with youth outreach programs. High school wasn’t that long ago for me and even when I was in high school, I felt a bit like an old soul. At the time, everything was a big deal and when something went wrong, it seemed like the end of the world. While I know that’s not the case, that’s something we only understand in retrospect.

Anyway, one of the joys of working with kids and youth is being able to see the potential within each person even before they realize it themselves. I’m a big believer in giving young people opportunities to grow and learn, to cultivate talents and strengths long before they’re ready to do so. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you encourage it, the more it’ll take shape. So that’s my explanation for why Greyson Chance caught my eye.

“Paparazzi”

Greyson Chance first caught international attention for a Youtube clip of him covering Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” at a festival. First off, this kid has legit talent. There’s something about him that is just absolutely natural. It’s true that you can practice, practice and PRACTICE playing the piano and singing but there is a certain quality to this kid that is undoubtedly born from within. I’ve worked with kids his age for years and to see this 13-year-old just completely own the performance is ridiculously fun to watch. Pay attention at 3:00. You don’t just learn how to do that.

The Bieber Treatment

I don’t want to paint them all with the same brush but at the same time, there’s no other way to describe it. Greyson Chance got The Bieber Treatment. What’s The Bieber Treatment, you might ask? It’s simple. It’s like a coming-of-age party of sorts. Young star releases their first music video with a somewhat decent music video concept, shiny production and execution, covered with the safest possible parental guidance rating.

“Unfriend You”

1. Concept. The music video concept is good. It’s adorable. He likes a girl who likes someone else. But now he’s going to pick himself up, carry on and “unfriend” her. Sounds dorky but that’s the day and age we live in. (How many times have you introduced youself and followed it up with, “Oh, I’m so-and-so on Twitter”? Never? I don’t believe you.)

2. Production/Execution. Is there money being thrown into this music video? For sure. You can tell it’s well done. The problem is… really? You had to slick it up that much? The problem with shiny packaging is that it makes me question the actual quality of the product. It’s distracting, really.

3. Parental Guidance. This is my favourite part. I can’t get over it! They’re so adorable! His ex-girlfriend does nothing you wouldn’t do in front of her parents (that we can tell, anyway). Greyson goes to a totally radical party where obviously underaged teens are drinking Coca-Cola and some unknown company’s sponsored fruit drink. Don’t forget the dance circle! Not that they can dance… but it’s cute to watch them try. THEN PING PONG! Like, real ping pong and not just beer pong! I can appreciate that. And the grand finale? Totally harmless but awesome TP’ing of the ex-girlfriend’s house. NICE.

Growing Up and Moving On

Don’t get me wrong. I know I sound a little sarcastic but I legitimately want to see this kid do well. He’s got real talent and he seems to not buy into the Bieber Experience just yet. No fancy footwork, no fancy over-production… just a kid, a piano and one hell of a voice. Maybe if he keeps getting opportunities thrown his way, he’ll be able to become much more than just another Youtube-breakout-MTV-teeny-bopper sensation. He could have an honest, long-term career. Now wouldn’t that be a nice change from everything else in today’s music industry?

P.S. “You’re beautiful and crazy too / Maybe that’s why I fell into you.” OH, GIRL.

P.P.S. I totally would’ve had a crush on him if we had been the same age. No joke. Army jacket? Chucks? Totally clean-cut fun? I’m in.

Playlist: The Mix Tape.

Those who know me, know that I’m a hopeless romantic. I spent five years focusing on finishing my degree and in that time, I didn’t date at all. I did, however, pine after a few gentlemen during that period. While none of those crushes came to fruition — probably for the best — my romantic tendencies usually got the best of me and would manifest itself in poorly written poems, unfinished letters, and mix tapes that sit on my shelf, collecting dust.

Here is my favourite of them all.

The Mix Tape.
Summer 2010

1. She & Him – “I Was Made For You”

2. Hannah Georgas – “The Deep End”

3. Justin Nozuka – “My Heart Is Yours”

4. Jack’s Mannequin – “Dark Blue”

5. Landon Pigg – “Falling In Love At A Coffee Shop”

6. Joshua Radin & Schuyler Fisk – “Paperweight”

7. The Beatles – “I Will”

8. Beach House – “Take Care”

9. John Mayer – “Edge of Desire”

10. The Perishers – “Nothing Like You And I”

11. Cat Power – “Sea of Love”

12. Buddy Holly – “Everyday”

13. Iron & Wine – “In My Lady’s House”

Featured Photo: John Cusack in High Fidelity.