End of Year Playlist + A Few Musical Highlights

The other day my friend me sent me this article, which lists several reasons why twentysomethings should find and invest in a “side hustle.” That is, find some sort of side activity, business, or interest that will allow you to explore your passions, flex your creativity, and/or (hopefully) bring in extra cash, all while you buckle down and begin your journey into that scary world of first jobs and life without the safety nets of college and your parents. We were inspired after hearing how our other friend had made a shit ton of cash simply by operating her own little side business creating and selling these beautiful hand-beaded bracelets. While I doubt I’d ever have the artistic flair or patience to painstakingly put together something someone out there would ever pay for, our conversation and the article made me think of my own passions and interests. What could I claim as my own “side hustle”? I feel like I’ve dabbled in so many different things, but have never found that TRUE PASSION of mine. I’ve always had an interest in music, movies, and television, as well as the other aspects of pop culture, so much so that I’ve gone on to study media in grad school. But that activity clearly isn’t going to bring in the cash, at least, not yet. So while I continue praying that my get rich side hustle will easily fall into my lap, I will go back to blogging and exploring my interests without pay. To be honest, I do consider this blog, despite my inability to update regularly, my side hustle. I created this page in attempt to both create a “professional” web presence and an outlet where I could challenge myself to focus and discuss my interests without slipping into tangents about what I did that day or what my class schedule looks like (see: my xanga). So. I will now give my beloved blog the half-yearly attention it deserves and update it NOW.

Let’s start with this music round-up post for 2013. Firstly, here’s a nice Spotify playlist of my favorite tracks from 2013. I realize that some of these songs technically came out in 2012, but I complied this list based on what I found myself enjoying or repeatedly listening to this year (RIP repeatyoutube btw).

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“But it’s free!”

I’ve made a post in the past detailing how to take advantage of cultural happenings in San Francisco on a student budget (which you can read HERE) and now I’m going to try to do the same for New York City. I’ve been here for almost a year now and I don’t think I will ever get over how expensive and out of control some of the prices are here (this may be due in part to the fact that I’m on the hunt for housing right now and I just want to weep while scrolling through Craigslist; must avoid places like these listings). Almost everything here, from produce to housing, is a lot more expensive than I’m used to and as a result, I’m always on the hunt to save a few bucks here and there. New York’s crazy prices shouldn’t deter you from enjoying the multitude of events and activities the city has to offer, I tell myself. Personally, it’s pretty pricey living here, all the way across the country, away from my family, friends, cheap produce, cheap Mexican food, In-n-Out, and so on. I force myself to go out and really enjoy the city because not everyone can say they live in New York City, right? So I will now present a taste of some of the FREE (or super cheap) activities I’ve partaken in this summer so far.

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Things I Enjoyed in 2012

I’m really bad with keeping up with this blog but figured I should post something before the year ends.

Since the last time I updated, I started my MA program at NYU and moved to New York. It’s been a huge change (one that was quite difficult at first), but it’s definitely been a learning experience. I’m happy to say that I’m enjoying my time there now and school has definitely contributed to my overall happiness. The beginning half of this year was possibly the hardest time period in my life – having to learn how to accept “no” as an answer multiple times, realizing that I need to stop acting entitled just because I have an expensive sheet of paper, learning how to be happy for other people even as my self-confidence dwindles, learning how to swallow my pride and face the fact that nothing is really “below my standards,” and so on – but I do believe I am a better person overall for having experienced it. Did it suck? Obviously. Would I do it again? Hopefully not, but I am, in a strange way, grateful for January – August because I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes and how to be satisfied and thankful for any opportunity that comes my way.

Now that I’ve explained my current and past mentality for this year, I’ll move on to much more exciting and entertaining things. This is a post about the pop culture-y things I’ve enjoyed this year – anything from movies, tv shows, music, YouTube videos, etc. I have to admit there isn’t anything groundbreaking here as I was/am a bit slow to catch onto things, at least for 2012, due in part to my lack of time and (mostly) in part to my laziness. Some of these items listed are things I’m sure most people already know about and may have even moved past or gotten over. Oh well!

So here are the things, in no particular order, that provided an escape, entertained me, or helped me procrastinate:

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A Summer Mix – JEAH~~~

A quick post (I still need to put together a post about the Olympics, which I miss everyday) for a very short mix of songs I’ve really liked or listened to a lot this summer. I haven’t made one of these in awhile and making this one made me realize I haven’t been listening to a lot of new music recently. If anyone has suggestions, please throw them my way!

Anyway, here we go:

living in a state of dreaming

1. The State of Dreaming – Marina and the Diamonds

2. Portions for Foxes – Rilo Kiley

3. What Makes You Da One (One Direction vs Rihanna) – DJ Nico (I think…I ripped it from YouTube)

4. Keep It For Your Own – POP ETC

5. Us – Azealia Banks

6. Lazuli – Beach House

7. Spectrum – Florence + the Machine

8. Radioactive – Marina and the Diamonds

9. Esta Noche- Azealia Banks

 

(I am also super excited that 8tracks mixtapes can now be embedded on WordPress! Maybe now I’ll make more mixes.)

Fact: Asians Are Indeed Capable of Singing

As a not-so-ashamed fan of One Direction (I must mention that I bought a 1D notebook at Target the other day…best $2.50 ever spent), I will admit that in addition to listening to their CD and looking up pictures and GIFs, I also follow all of them on Twitter. Now, as I mentioned in my previous post, many of their fans display deplorable behavior; Twitter and Tumblr are cesspools of ignorance, racism, homophobia, and more. So I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised when I see a disappointing Tweet in response to Liam Payne’s Tweet of this really great 1D cover:

My initial reaction was disgust. Again, I really should not be surprised when these sorts of things appear online as I’ve learned this particular fandom is beyond help (keep in mind that many of 1D’s fans think it’s hilarious to make racist remarks about their very own Zayn Malik, who happens to be of British Pakistani descent). However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that while it’s possible this person’s reaction stems from their own ignorance, it could also be the result of a bigger problem in mainstream music/pop culture.

There aren’t many Asians in the mainstream US music scene.

I’m going to recount an embarrassing anecdote from my high school years, so please don’t judge me. During my freshmen year of high school, a UC Berkeley student known as William Hung auditioned for American Idol with his rendition of Ricky Martin’s ‘She Bangs.’ His audition was terrible and just plain embarrassing, and naturally, as a 14-year old I thought it was absolutely hilarious. I spammed my own Xanga (yes, this did take place in 2004) with GIFs of William Hung dancing and made all my friends watch his audition. Looking back now, I do believe William was sincere in his audition, but I can also say that his audition managed to push Asian Americans back a few years. William Hung became a joke and unfortunately, embodied the nerdy Asian stereotype to a T and managed to leave many Americans with the impression that Asians can’t sing.

Since then, there have been several Asian Americans/Asians who have tried to break into the US mainstream scene. Many of them have managed to find success, such as Far East Movement, who are the only Asian-American artists to have reached the Top 10 of the Billboard 100, as well as having a Number 1 Song. Jay Sean is also the first South East Asian artist to have a Number 1 Song in the US. And most recently, Jessica Sanchez, a Filipino American, was a runner-up on American Idol just this past Spring.

Earlier this year, KPOP girl group, Girls’ Generation (aka SNSD) tried to break into the American market when they came over and promoted their single on “Live with Kelly” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.” I’ve never been a huge fan of KPOP, but I started to root for them because I wanted to see more Asian artists in the mainstream music scene. Sure, they had a total of 9 girls in their group and sure, only two members were fluent English speakers. I still saw the potential for an Asian group to make it into the Billboard Hot 100. They were cute, they could dance, and they had catchy music. However, others insisted they wouldn’t make it simply because American audiences weren’t open to having Asians on their radio and televisions, especially if they couldn’t speak fluent English. It’s disgusting to even consider this a viable reason, but sadly, I do believe it plays a part. The above Tweet is just one of many examples of the xenophobia and close-mindedness that still exists in mainstream media.

That isn’t to say that Asian artists are few and far between in the overall music industry. Many are independent and underground artists on smaller labels or have yet to be discovered by major labels. And many more are finding success on their own without the help of the Billboard Hot 100. One of my favorite bands last year, The Naked and Famous, had a major hit with their song ‘Young Blood’ and their lead vocalist, Alisa Xayalith, is of Laotian descent. The Temper Trap had one of the most popular songs of 2009 with ‘Sweet Disposition,’ which would not have been as special without the vocals of Dougy Mandagi who is Indonesian.

And I would be amiss to write this post without mentioning the large numbers of Asian musicians who have embraced YouTube as a means to share their music. They have managed to skip the arduous process of hoping and praying for a record deal by simply uploading their own covers and music onto the web and many have become fairly successful, racking up thousands of views and fans.

Asians can sing. We are not all William Hung. Many of us can carry a tune, play our own instruments, and dance*. It’s a shame that mainstream media has perpetuated this stereotype due to its failure to fully embrace Asians/Asian Americans into pop culture (the severe drought of Asians in film and television is another issue as well).

*Sadly, I am not one of them (minus the instrument playing…my mom paid for 10 years of piano lessons and I don’t want to just write those off). Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy screeching during karaoke sessions or in the car though!

“Viva Forever!”…also known as THE SPICE GIRLS MUSICAL!!!

Although I was technically born in the 80s (1989!), I grew up in the 1990s and the core majority of my childhood was spent watching Nickelodeon, collecting stickers in my Sanrio sticker book, reading Baby-Sitters Club/Harry Potter, and obsessing over Titanic and a fabulous girl group known as the Spice Girls.

My love for Titanic has waned (partly because of Leo not aging as nicely as we’d all hoped), but my love for the Spice Girls has always remained. I think most kids who spent their elementary school years in the late 90s can attest to the power Victoria, Emma, Geri, Mel B, and Mel C had over us. Who didn’t play Spice Girls on the playground? Spice Girls lollipops were treasures to us bearing a special sticker, hopefully with the letter you needed to complete the world “SPICE.” Sometimes the teacher was kind enough to play some kid’s “Spice World” CD in class. Platform shoes were so trendy. Everyone had a favorite Spice Girl (mine was Baby), even if you weren’t a fan. And the movie to watch back in the 3rd grade was Spice World. Most importantly, the Spice Girls embodied friendship and “GIRL POWER!” I cannot stress how important those two ideals are to have, especially as young girls growing up. Sure, there were probably skeptics who scoffed at the idea of these fabulous ladies preaching “Girl Power!” but I can tell you that it definitely influenced many of my classmates as we paraded around the playground, held up the V sign, and shouted the phrase at anyone who stood in our way.

Like most major pop acts, the hype had to die down eventually and I still remember how shocked I was when I found out that Geri left the group. Things really weren’t the same afterwards, but at least the Spice Girls knew when it was time to end things. They did reunite in 2008 for a tour (I’m still sad that I didn’t get tickets to see them…thank you, finals), but got together for the first time since then to launch their musical, Viva Forever! As someone who watched Jersey Boys three times (yeah, not sure what I was thinking) and enjoyed Mamma Mia (the film version), I am so excited about this news. This musical will probably be the closest thing I get to seeing the Spice Girls in concert. I’m almost positive the tears will flow freely if/when I watch it, no matter what the story’s like. Judging from this video though, it definitely seems like a tearjerker.

A story about friendship and a mother and a daughter? Definitely bringing tissues with me.

In Which I Come Back From My Blogging Hiatus to Write About One Direction

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a post for this blog, so it’s not much of a surprise that I would come back and write about the one thing that’s been preoccupying my time (other than whining and crying about finding a job) since I last posted.

That’s right. I am one of them. I am a victim of One Direction Infection (I can’t decide if it’s a better name than Bieber Fever). I have succumbed to these five charming kids and their catchy music. They’ve somehow climbed to the number 4 position on my Top Listened Artists on Last.fm and guess what? I am not ashamed to admit it either.

So before I start to blab about what makes One Direction so great – or beautiful – I will describe just what I experienced when I had the fortune of seeing them last week in Oakland.

I had no ticket and subsequently no hope the night before the concert and felt despair, misery, and all sorts of feelings that I probably shouldn’t have felt regarding 1D as a 22-year old college graduate. However, after watching the videos from the San Jose concert the night before I knew I had to at least try to get a ticket. I had heard that several people have managed to get last minute tickets at the box office just hours before the show and because I really have nothing going on in my life, there was no excuse. I knew that I would hate myself more for not trying, than not managing to get a ticket at the box office. Luckily, my friend Samantha is as much of a victim of One Direction Infection as I am so we both decided we would risk our sanity and our hearing to see Harry, Zayn, Liam, Niall, and Louis in concert.

That morning, my friend Amy called me to tell me that a girl sitting near her on the Amtrak train and had seen 1D in San Jose the night before and had essentially stalked them throughout the city to catch a glimpse of them. She managed to meet Niall and was proudly sharing her accomplishments with her fellow passengers. I took this as a sign that the universe was blessing my decision to try to see 1D. An hour later, however, I discovered that BART (the subway/train) was not running to Oakland from San Francisco because of a massive fire that had occurred the night before. Now here was a sign as any that the universe did NOT want me to go. I kept an eye on the news and prayed to Jesus Payne that things would be working by the time we would leave for Oakland.

Fortunately for us, everything was running soon enough and we were on our way to the Paramount Theater. Once we got there, one of the first things we witnessed was a group of teenage girls standing at a street corner, shrieking at something across the street. Already I was witnessing the One Direction Fangirls in action. Now, if you are unfamiliar with this fandom, here a few things that you may or may not want to know:

• One Direction fans cling onto inside jokes like they’re dying in the freezing Atlantic Ocean and all they have is a plank of wood to lie down on. Carrots, spoons, the phrase, “Vas Happening?,” cats, shamrocks/anything relating to Irish culture, and a pigeon named Kevin are just some of the things fans like to bring up all the time to prove that they are in the know of all things 1D. Not only are these things old and unfunny a year and a half later, they’ve also become the bane of One Direction’s existence. Unfortunately, their fans aren’t as quick to pick up on the fact that no one in the band cares about these things anymore.

• Homophobia, racism, and sexism run rampant in this fandom, particularly on Tumblr and Twitter. I try my best to stay out of these parts of the fandom, except to find a cute picture or gif, but occasionally you will see a post or Tweet that will make you lose hope in future generations. I don’t know if it’s because these websites give people anonymity and a large platform to spew garbage, but I do not recall coming across anything similar to this when I was younger and listened to Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, Britney, etc. Of course, not all 1D fans are like this and there are many Tumblrs/blogs that call out fans on their stupidity and ignorance.

• One Direction fans enjoy obsessing over ANYONE in contact with the band. This is a fandom that has somehow created a fan name dedicated to the baby of their hairdresser, as well as a fake Twitter for her, just because a few of the guys have taken pictures with her. They also enjoy worshipping their security guards, girlfriends, and live band.

• One Direction fans will not let anything stop them to see the guys or anyone slightly connected to them. Traffic, large security guards, laws…nope, not one of these things will prevent them from getting that picture or video.

• One Direction fans scream at anything and scream very, very loud.

Now, with that knowledge, you might be able to better picture what I witnessed and how I felt. I watched as these girls shrieked at what turned out to be Paul, One Direction’s bodyguard, across the street and then run into the street/traffic just so they could get a picture with him. Cars had to stop midway just so these girls could run across. Clearly, I had no idea what I was getting into. Thank God I had Samantha with me because I don’t know how I would’ve survived all of this by myself.

As we waited in line for tickets at the box office, we witnessed several things that would make that day memorable.

• A girl dressed as a carrot and when I say, “dressed,” I mean she was wearing an orange bed sheet.

• We were in line behind a mother and father who were accompanying their children and talked to the parents more than any of the other fans.

• Theater staff looked liked they hated their lives and really, who could blame them. They had hundreds of teenage girls running around, screaming, and ignoring any rules and instructions.

• Things got heated when a group of moms cut the line after theater staff tried to get things sorted between those who were picking up tickets (Will-Call) and those who didn’t have tickets (Box Office). The mom in front of us began yelling at them to get out of the line and that they should know better as mothers. We were glad she was there because she was basically shouting everything we were too scared to say.

• The line was next to where the tour buses were parked and there were fans on the top of the parking lot across the street so they could catch a glimpse of anyone coming out of the buses. This led to frequent screams and stampedes. At one point Niall and Zayn came out and chaos ensued as a bunch of fans began crowing around the barricade that blocked off the tour buses. The lines that security worked so hard to form (essentially the line that we were in) disintegrated, but we did our hardest to stay in line. Things got hectic several times and the girl behind us in line had a bloody foot after getting stepped on.

Those were just a few things that made those couple of hours before the show memorable. Once 7:30pm rolled around, we began to wait to see if there were any extra tickets left. The moms who cut the line were the first in got tickets, as well as the group of girls ahead of us. Finally around 8pm, we got our tickets and they were great seats (Row E in the center orchestra)! We practically sprinted in and got to catch the last part of Olly Murs’s set. So that is my BIG TIP from this entire experience: Try to get last minute tickets at the Box Office. It’s worth the couple of hours wait because you can probably get better seats than those on StubHub/Craigslist and at face value!

Credit: joesmuchbetter.tumblr.com

The show was so good. I’m very happy I took the risk and went to see One Direction because, honestly, they have been the only thing making me happy these past few months. I have had a rough time since moving back home because of the soul-crushing experience known as job hunting and just general unhappiness. Their videos, interviews, and American take over have given me something to look forward to and cheer me up, as sad as they may be. It’s quite funny, because I remember feeling calm right before they come on and as soon as their introduction video began playing, it’s as though I regressed ten years and became a middle school girl again. “OMG they’re coming out in 1 minute!” “OMG only 30 seconds!” “OMG 5…4…3…2…1!”

I’m going to get a big fangirl-y here so feel free to skip this paragraph if you’d like, but oh…my…god. They are perfect in real life. Zayn Malik is literally stunning and I could not believe this perfect person was maybe less than 10 feet away from me. Harry Styles was intensely staring at everyone in the front and I can finally understand what people mean when they say he’s very charming and very charismatic. Niall Horan has amazing stage presence and very fun to watch. Louis Tomlinson, well all you need to know is DAT ASS. My favorite is Liam Payne and I just want to weep when I think about how I was so close to Jesus.

Credit: joesmuchbetter.tumblr.com

Credit: joesmuchbetter.tumblr.com

Credit: joesmuchbetter.tumblr.com

Credit: joesmuchbetter.tumblr.com

The Up All Night show is the same production they’ve been touring since January of this year. The only things they change up is the Twitter Q&A, the pranks during Harry’s solo in “What Makes You Beautiful”, and the occasional cute interactions between members. The Twitter Q&A at this show wasn’t very exciting, except for a question asking them to yodel. Someone did ask them to rap battle, but Zayn and Louis failed to deliver even after being put on the spotlight. During Harry’s solo, Liam and Louis put a pair of undies on Harry’s head and after Harry finished singing he flung the undies at the crowd, only for it to fly back and land on him again. And if there’s one more thing you need to know about One Direction (props to you if you have read this far), it’s that they aren’t shy about showing affection towards one another. It’s one of the refreshing things about them as a pop act and Tumblr is filled with gifs and pictures documenting each and every one of these moments. I will spare you more details about the concert and instead link to some of the videos from the night.

This blog post ended up being much longer than I intended, but I guess I had more to say about the entire night than I thought! Now if you’re still interested in learning more about these charming lads, I will direct you to a few of the videos and songs that convinced me to become a fan.

“One Thing” Acoustic
+“One Thing” MV
La Boite Interview
Alan Carr Interviews 1 and 2
One Direction Being Dirty Minded
and this just came out recently, but it’s FANTASTIC! “The Adventureous Adventures of One Direction”