Reviews for Normal People

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Review: Bridge on the River Spy — October 19, 2015

Review: Bridge on the River Spy

Steven Spielberg and the Coen brothers aren’t a crossover many people expected. Aside from having each made a film with Tom Hanks in 2004 that was met with mixed reviews, the two don’t share much in common. However, it’s always nice to see two good artists come together, so while it’s not exactly a match made in heaven, I was still pretty pumped for Bridge of Spies. However, as previously stated, they’ve all had tough times in the past when working with Tom Hanks (no disrespect to Tom, who is near the top of my list of favorite actors), so this was really a project that could have gone either way.

And go either way it did. Much to my surprise, this film isn’t really an accurate representation of Spielberg or the Coens. It’s actually a fairly standard historical drama, aside from a few inches of skill to separate it from your typical J. Edgar. Hanks plays James Donovan, an attorney appointed to represent a man convicted of being a Russian spy. He’s found guilty, but manages to get out of a death sentence and gets thirty years in prison. Donovan is then tasked with negotiating a trade with the Soviet Union for an American hostage, while also separately negotiating with Germany and offering the same guy.

Things get sticky, and matters are complicated further by the newly-built Berlin Wall. The film doesn’t tell the story of one man or one event. Rather, like most historical films, it represents an era in world history. Namely, the Cold War in the late 1950s. The film draws a lot of parallels between the US and the USSR, but it’s mostly simple stuff. Just like any Cold War movie, Russia is sterile yet volatile while the US is hectic and welcoming. There are certainly clever concepts at play here (I especially liked the transitions between scenes), but it’s all a bit too basic to leave a lasting impression.

That being said, it’s a very fun movie. The plot is captivating, the characters are memorable, and the pacing is incredible considering the film is over 2 hours long. I’m not super into the orange/blue contrast, but when they go through the lengths of making all the furniture in every house orange and blue, it makes it a bit more impressive. One thing that rubbed me the wrong way was that in the final moments of the film, it made a big show out of the fact that Abel, the Russian spy, might have been about to be killed by his own people. But then, in the “where are they now” segment at the end, it reveals that he was reunited with his family and lived a happy life. I’m happy for the guy, I just find it disingenuous.

The truth is, I don’t have a ton to say about this film. I’d give it a B+. I definitely recommend you see it, but I don’t imagine it making my top ten this year. Like this post if you like it, comment if you’ve got something to say, follow my blog if you like it like it, you can also follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and be on the lookout for some more awesome articles coming around real quick.

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Top Ten New Songs of the Month (September 2015) — October 4, 2015

Top Ten New Songs of the Month (September 2015)

This is a weekly segment where I look at my top ten favorite new singles of the past month. This one has been yet another eventful one, with the return of some old favorites and a ton of new albums. With the Adult Swim Singles program in full effect and the new season just starting, there’s plenty of new music, but which stands out the most (in my opinion)? Here’s the top ten.

10. REALLY? YEAH! – Kyle

I first heard about Kyle (or Super Duper Kyle, as he’s apparently also known) from his goofy appearance on Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment’s Surf album earlier this year. He seemed like a pretty fun dude. It turns out, he’s an up-and-coming California rapper who’s album Smyle dropped just the other day, and who’s got a fun new single called “Really? Yeah!” The title is a pretty accurate portrayal of what the song is: a fun, enthusiastic song with a unique spirit. In a game where personality is key, Kyle delivers in spades. Don’t go into this song expecting a ton of lyrical dexterity: it’s just super fun.

9. THE LAVISHMENTS OF LIGHT LOOKING – WOKE (Flying Lotus, Shabazz Palaces, Thundercat) feat. George Clinton

And now for something completely different, a trippy funk/rap track from supergroup WOKE. While it’s certainly lyrically capable and well-produced, what really sets this song apart is just how weird it is. It’s got soundbites like “Sitting in the corner of a circle”, a surprisingly futuristic sound, and is made up of about 50% spoken-word interludes. Clinton and Thundercat produce a sound very similar to what we’ve already heard on To Pimp a Butterfly already this year, and Shabazz Palaces’ verse is nothing to write home about, but it’s Flying Lotus’ signature sound that really ties it all together.

8. RUNNIN’ (LOSE IT ALL) – Naughty Boy feat. Beyonce and Arrow Benjamin

As cliche as it sounds, this latest track from Beyonce sort of suffers from not having enough Beyonce. She has to split up time with the underwhelming Arrow Benjamin, who as far as I can tell has nothing to offer other than being on that one Beyonce song. It’s not even technically a Beyonce song; producer Naughty Boy gets top billing. It is a really good beat, to be fair. I just wish it had a little less Arrow Benjamin.

7. $AVE DAT MONEY – Lil Dicky feat. Fetty Wap and Rich Homie Quan

Jewish rapper Lil Dicky makes the list once again, this time with a track about saving money. Dicky’s parts are OK, and certainly very funny, but what really sets this song apart is the featured guests. I love it when real big name rappers agree to do comedy rap, even though Rich Homie Quan’s part kind of feels like cheating. The song thrives because it feels so genuine. It uses a generic trap beat courtesy of Money Alwayz, a chorus by Fetty Wap, and occasionally dives into flows that wouldn’t be out of place in a Meek Mill song. If you weren’t paying attention to the lyrics, you’d think it’s a standard brag rap. And that’s why it’s so good.

6. IN FOR THE KILL – Shamir

Shamir is an artist who’s only been on my radar for a couple of months, but he’s got a lot of potential. For example, his latest track “In For the Kill” is one of the best pop songs I’ve heard recently. The beat is so hectic that it takes a half dozen listens to figure out all the elements that make it come together. It’s way too upbeat for a song that seems to be about human sacrifice, but that pretty accurately sums up what Shamir’s all about. It’s just a lot of weird elements coming together in weird ways making weird music that I weirdly love.

5. VICTORIOUS – Panic! at the Disco

This upbeat party track about murder and being bad at sports is the latest single off Panic!’s upcoming album. It’s rare that an album produces three singles before anyone knows anything about it, but based on what we’ve heard so far, it’s shaping up to be a really solid record. This one, like the others, has a funny way of feeling familiar while also being wonderfully unique. I can’t really describe it in a way that does it justice, but suffice to say, it’s a bit too much.

4. ‘TIL IT HAPPENS TO YOU – Lady Gaga

Yes, out of pretty much nowhere (not that I’m complaining), Lady Gaga is back! And this time, she’s cooked up a… super heartfelt song about sexual assault. I really dig this song, and I can’t normally get into sad music. Maybe it’s the beat. Maybe it’s Gaga’s vocals. Maybe it’s the subject matter. But this song hits you really hard. It’s sort of like this year’s “Take Me to Church”, although all things considered it’s probably better.

3. VICE CITY – Black Hippy

I’ve definitely listened to this song more than any other one this month. Not because it’s particularly catchy or resonates with me that much. It’s just that every time I listen to it I feel differently about it. It’s basically a brag rap, although it has these weird sporadic bursts of self-loathing. The slurred flow and sinister beat add to the very warped image of success that the song paints. But on top of that, looking at it as a simple posse cut, it’s still really solid. Black Hippy works off of each other better than any other rap group around today, aside from the occasional Slaughterhouse and such. They all have really funny, intricate verses that make great use of this super unique flow. There’s also this sung part that comes up a couple times that’s like “I’m focused feeling blessed ’cause my eyes be the truth”, and I think it’s sarcastic but I’m not really sure what it means. And there’s so much other shit going on in the video. It’s just really good, okay?

2. BURNITUP – Janet Jackson feat. Missy Elliott

Shit, man. So, Janet Jackson has been putting out new singles for the past couple months, but this one in particular struck me because Missy Elliott is on it holy FUCK. We’ve been hearing about Missy’s upcoming new album ever since her appearance at Katy Perry’s Super Bowl halftime show, but this is a monumental occasion: we’re getting actual, real NEW MUSIC from Missy Elliott. This song is effectively Jackson and Elliott’s proclamation that they’re back and better than ever, and they just may be right. It’s an infectious banger from two legends of the industry. What could be better than this?

Well, before I tell you, here’s some honorable mentions:

“Lively Hood” – DOOMSTARKS (MF Doom and Ghostface Killah)

“The Bloom” – Wale feat. Stokley Williams

“My Own” – Kwabs

“Slow to Me” – Tech N9ne feat. Krizz Kaliko and Rittz

“Can’t Sleep Love” – Pentatonix feat. Tink

Alright, here it is. My favorite song for the month of September:

1. AIN’T THAT FUNKIN’ KINDA HARD (REMIX) – Funkadelic feat. Kendrick Lamar

One of my favorite bands and one of my favorite rappers have teamed up for ten minutes in heaven: “Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard”. It’s a flawlessly executed masterpiece of funk, asking the ever-important question: ain’t that funkin’ kinda hard? The answer is, of course, yes. But George Clinton and co. manage to pull it off yet again, with the help of current funkmaster general Kendrick Lamar. There’s an abridged 4-minute version for the radio (you know all the top 40 stations are clamoring for that new Funkadelic shit), but the ten minute version is more than worth it.

Well, those are my favorite songs of the month. I’ll be getting back into the swing of movie reviews, since these next few months are pretty loaded, but I’ll also deliver a good amount of music articles, hopefully. Like this post if you like it, comment if you’ve got something to say, follow my blog if you like it like it, you can also follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and be on the lookout for my The Martian review dropping tomorrow.

Top Ten Nicki Minaj Features — October 2, 2015

Top Ten Nicki Minaj Features

Very few rappers are as notorious for their guest verses as Nicki Minaj. It’s how she got her reputation in the early days of her career, and how she was able to pull $50,000 a verse without an album to her name. Even now as the biggest rapper in the world, she’s still able to destroy a feature like very few MCs can. Here are my picks for the top ten featured verses Nicki’s dropped in her career.

10. GET LIKE ME – Nelly feat. Pharrell Williams and Nicki Minaj

Kicking off our list is the little-known 2013 Nelly collab “Get Like Me”. The song has a very chill vibe throughout, and Nicki effortlessly incorporates that tone into her verse, in addition to taking some cues from Lil Scrappy of all people (“I’m the shizniyee”). Onika also incorporates some solid wordplay (prose/pros, back/’Bach/bike) into this relatively short verse (16 bars). It’s a tight, solid verse that showcases Nicki’s ability to incorporate the styles of artists she works with. Speaking of which…

9. SENILE – Young Money (Tyga, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne)

This bizarre track was one of the highlights of the Young Money: Rise of an Empire album, which I’ve already talked about. While Wayne drops a killer verse as well, this song’s main selling point is Nicki, who takes Tyga’s straight-up boring flow and adds an important layer of confidence to it. Clever, quick, and cool, Nicki proves once again that she’s one of Young Money’s most valuable assets.

8. SWEET DREAMS – Lil Wayne feat. Beyonce and Nicki Minaj

After a minute and a half of an already-released, chart-topping Beyonce song even though this isn’t an official remix and Wayne didn’t really have to use any of it, we get to the real main event of this track off Wayne’s No Ceilings mixtape: Nicki Minaj. This was one of the first tracks where Nicki truly eclipsed Wayne, signifying the oncoming demise of Lil Wayne as well as the rising star of Nicki Minaj. While the verse does have a disappointing number of wack lines, she maintains a killer flow throughout, and pulls through with some impressive wordplay as well.

7. DOPE DEALER – Meek Mill feat. Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross

Nicki Minaj and her fiancee, the recently-deceased Meek Mill, always bring out the best in each other. Perhaps that’s why a tragically overlooked Nicki verse can be found tucked away in an otherwise-unremarkable Meek mixtape (meekstape). She absolutely demolishes this track, and even though she borrows Meek’s flow, she uses it to a level that Meek could never reach.

6. MY CHICK BAD – Ludacris feat. Nicki Minaj

How could I leave out this classic? This was Nicki’s first successful feature, and it still stands the test of time as one of her best. While regrettably short at twelve bars, but she packs enough punch and personality for a full song. Nicki plays the role of the “bad chick” in question, and from the looks of it, that description may be a bit of an understatement. While her song “Out of My Mind” with B.o.B was plagued by being too corny to be convincing, this one showcases Nicki’s incredible ability to play characters in her rhymes and is so genuine it’s scary.

5. BOTTOMS UP – Trey Songz feat. Nicki Minaj

I think this was the first I’d heard of Nicki Minaj. And while it took me a few years and a sexual awakening to get into Trey Songz, I was hooked on Nicki from day one. With her kooky voices and lightning flow, this verse sort of feels like a prototype of “Monster”, which we’ll get to soon. A few baffling bars aside, it’s a really solid verse, and it cemented Nicki’s standing as a force to be reckoned with in the rap industry.

4. MERCY – Lil Wayne feat. Nicki Minaj

Yes, this is a Lil Wayne unofficial remix of a Kanye West song. That’s beside the point. On this song, Nicki’s lyrics are off the charts, her flow is fire, working off and improving Big Sean and Pusha T’s flows from the original song, and she yet again kills Lil Wayne on his own song (well, his own version of Kanye’s own song). She does a four-way pun on “C section”. She rhymes “Romney” with “economy”. She starts off the verse by telling dudes to “make that dick shake”. It’s just glorious.

3. HELLO, GOOD MORNING (Remix) – Diddy/Dirty Money feat. Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj

I love this verse. In fact, I love this song in general. In fact, I love the Diddy/Dirty Money supergroup as a whole, mainly for their utter lack of chemistry (listen to “Ass on the Floor” and tell me you didn’t laugh). But while there’s a lot to like about this song, we’re focusing on Nicki Minaj here today. You know how I said the “My Chick Bad” verse is too short? This is what I’m talking about here. In just 16 bars, Nicki effortlessly moves between about four different flows, uses what some have argued is a quadruple entendre (it’s not, but still, pretty impressive), and drops one of the best Puff Daddy-adjacent verses I’ve ever heard.

2. FLAWLESS (Remix) – Beyonce feat. Nicki Minaj

Sometimes, you look back on a decision you made and you realize that you probably shouldn’t have done it. So, let me confirm ten months later that this verse was, indeed, the best verse of 2014. Hands down, actually. Nicki absolutely bodies this track, perfectly encapsulating the message of the song and offering some of her best flows and lyrics yet. After a poorly-received venture into pop, this was Nicki’s confirmation that she was back and better than ever. If any verse can be truly “flawless”, this one is a prime contender.

1. MONSTER – Kanye West feat. Bon Iver, Rick Ross, Jay-Z, and Nicki Minaj

Fun story. There was a point in the creation of this article where I was going to put “Flawless” at #1. What changed my mind? Well, I listened to “Monster” again. I swear to god, this verse blows me away every single time I hear it. Its sheer versatility and dexterity sets it apart as one of the best verses of the decade. Nicki doesn’t just “go up against” big rappers, she demolishes two of the greatest rappers of all time. She creates one of the standout moments on the 2nd-most critically acclaimed rap album ever. She was one of only two artists this decade who managed to shake up the entire game over the course of a single verse (the other being Kendrick Lamar, who may or may not be beefing with her). What more can I say? She’s a motherfucking monster.

That concludes my list of the best Nicki Minaj guest verses of all time. I have a bunch of other awesome articles on the way, but in the meantime, like this post if you like it, comment if you’ve got something to say, follow my blog if you like it like it, you can also follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and I’ll see you around.