Sunday Kind of Love

Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you all slept in and cozied up with a mug of coffee. I’m spending the day reading and visiting with family, but before I do that, I wanted to share a couple of things I love from across the vast Internet. This week has a fitness theme, since I went to the gym twice yesterday and am now basically immortal.

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  1. I started doing yoga every Saturday morning at my local gym and it has been an exhilarating change of pace! I find myself looking forward to it all week. I’ve been an on-again off-again yogi for about ten years, so I’ve got some pretty sweet gear—like I’ve said on the blog before, beautiful things inspire me! My lululemon yoga bag (similar), lime green mat & matching towel, and block accompany me to every session (thanks for the presents, mom!). lulu’s stuff is great, but every piece is a million dollars, so I’ll be over here, perusing their sale section.
  2. Over the holidays, Girlfriend Collective had a free bra promotion when you bought a pair of leggings! So, of course, I bought myself a set of these leggings and this adorable bra. I had first heard of Girlfriend a few years ago when they were first starting out—they had a deal where you could get a free pair of leggings for only the cost of shipping! They quickly became one of my favorite brands, with their focus on sustainability and humane labor practices.
  3. This Rebecca Minkoff duffle was inexplicably inexpensive on Amazon, so I had to snag it. Of course I have a designer gym bag—I’m the bougie-est person on the planet. If I could retroactively gather the money I’ve spent on handbags in the past five years, I could easily pay for grad school. Some other gym bags I was peepin’ are this one, this one, and this one.
  4. On that note, I’ve been tracking my water intake like a psycho lately. I’ve always been really good about #stayinghydrated, but nothing keeps me more in check than my reusable water bottles. I usually rock a 32oz Camelbak, but please get me one of these in every single color available. If I’m being honest, I’ll probably cave and buy this one today. I’ve heard great things about S’well bottles, but I cannot bring myself to shell out $30+ for a vessel to hold (free) water. Even if it’s this pretty. Maybe I’ll do it in honor of the Women’s March (S’well is a badass woman-owned company!) P.S. Even though I’m not drinking right now, the 25oz. S’well can hold a bottle of wine…food for thought!
  5. I just started listening to Whitney Cummings’ book, I’m Fine…and Other Lies, on Audible, and I am loving it so far! It’s hilarious (no surprises there), but also oddly inspiring. Whitney talks at length about her many forays into therapy, which tugs at my heartstrings like Joanna Newsom on a harp. Next time I have to go to the gym without my husband (the horror), I’ll be glad to have Whitney as an elliptical companion.
  6. I got into sneakers (and by got into sneakers, I mean, condescended to own them) a few years ago, but now that I actually have an excuse to wear them, I might have to step my game up beyond my clearance Nikes. These are gorgeous, I am positively lusting over these, and these must enter my life immediately.

 

Enjoy the rest of your day off, and buckle up for the work week!

xoxo,

c

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Gratitude: Blog Lovin’

Part of my New Year’s Resolution is to express more gratitude. I’m a perfectionist who has trouble living in the moment, so taking daily stock of the little things in life that make each day a little prettier and brighter helps me to stay grounded. I have so much to be grateful for! I’m even letting myself end the previous sentence with a preposition, because 2018 me is super #chill.

This week, I’m highlighting ten blogs that I follow, some religiously, some occasionally, that inspire me to use my voice.

A Beautiful Mess

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No surprises here, right? I’ve been following ABM almost daily for about 5 years. Their whimsical, colorful aesthetic has been a huge influence on how I’ve styled my own home. I’ve tried a ton of their recipes and DIYs (I’ll link a few below). ABM has inspired me to bring more life and color into my home.

These ladies are prolific! Check out their product line, their glasses collection, their e-courses, their cookbook, and their camera bag collab!

DIYs &c. I’ve tried:

Photo Ledge DIY, Vegetarian Tikka Masala, Eggplant Parm Meatballs, Cinnamon Spice Sugar Scrub, Macrame Room Divider, Creamy White Sauce, Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese, Veggie Soup, Face Oil, and so many more!

Follow if you love: recipes, home décor, DIYs, crafts, photography

The Band Wife

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This is the personal blog of Laura from A Beautiful Mess. Laura’s aesthetic and style in particular are closest to mine, and she’s a fellow cat mama, so when I discovered her blog, it became an instant bookmark. Her husband plays guitar for Mutemath and tours a ton, which is the impetus behind the blog name. My husband doesn’t tour, but being a musician’s wife is definitely…unique. Us band wives gotta stick together!

Bonus points for all the kitty and baby content!

Follow if you love: style, home décor, DIYs, babies, cats

The Larson House

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This is the personal blog of Elsie from A Beautiful Mess. It’s where she chronicled her heartbreakingly long adoption process and blogs about the joys of her new daughter, Nova. The Larsons’ adoption story has brought me to tears on more than a few occasions…adoption is one of the most beautiful and selfless things a person can do!

Follow if you love: personal posts

Almost Makes Perfect

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Minimalist aesthetic? Neutral tones? Excellent graphic design? Check, check, and check. Almost Makes Perfect is a destination for great DIYs, home decor, and gorgeous printables. I even have one of her rap lyric Valentines up as an art print in my house!

Follow if you love: home décor, minimalism, personal posts, DIYs

New Darlings

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I’ll admit it—I’m super jealous of Christina and Robert’s lives. They’re jet-setting bloggers based in Phoenix, AZ, who have the most gorgeous aesthetic and sweetest pup. Show me your ways!

Follow if you love: home décor, style, beauty, travel, photography

Man Repeller

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Technically, Man Repeller isn’t a blog anymore, although it started that way. It is a fully-fledged, awesome fashion, lifestyle, and beauty site that is #goals for any blogger. I mean, Leandra, the creator, goes to like, Paris Fashion Week. So aspirational. MR is one of my favorite sites on the whole wide internet, so much so that I actually just submitted a piece!

Follow if you love: fashion, beauty, humor writing, silly horoscopes

Sucré Style

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Stacy King (of Sucré, formerly of Eisley) barely ever posts, but the aesthetic when she does is marvelous. Fun fact, I went to a bar in Atlanta based solely on one of her gorgeous posts. Talk about an influencer! Her entire wardrobe is goals, and she has the cutest little fam.

Sucré (the band) released a single today, so go listen to it!

Visit her band’s website, and if you get a chance to see them live, DO IT.

Follow if you love: style, personal posts

Skunkboy

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Alright, fine. This is another blogger I discovered through ABM. Katie is (was?) one of the staff writers for ABM, and has a collab line with BonLook. Skunkboy Blog is where she chronicles the goings-on of her sweet fam, DIYs, and her adorable handmade “creatures.”

Follow if you love: personal posts, sewing, crafts, DIYs, vintage

dum doceo

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dum doceo is the personal blog of my dear friend Annie, a teacher and all-around badass. She’s debuting the blog at the end of the month—don’t miss it!

P.S. “Dum doceo” is Latin for “while I teach.” Annie is really freaking smart, and remembers way more about AP Latin than I do.

Follow if you love: education, personal posts, professional writing

Not Really Oxford Women

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And last but certainly not least, my own side project! My friend Annie (of dum doceo) and I recently applied to study abroad in Oxford this summer, and we’ve started a blog about the whole experience!

Follow if you love: travel, photography

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What blogs inspire you, dear reader?

xoxo,

c

Kool Things VI

It has been a minute since I’ve done one of these. But one of my major resolutions for 2018 was to get back out there and shamelessly stan my favorite tv shows write! Here are a few of my faves from the past month.

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

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image source: goodreads

So—fun fact—I started tutoring this fall! It’s definitely a challenge for me, since I’m not sure I’m the teacher type, but luckily my “student” is a wonderful human with a ton of integrity and maturity for a teenager. Her final project was a presentation on the book Station Eleven, so obviously I had to read it!

It fits squarely within the genre of dystopian YA, but the author attempts (sometimes, too hard) to elevate it with a ton of Shakespeare references (there are characters named Arthur Leander, Miranda, Olivia, Viola—and those are just the references I get). Without spoiling the ending, the climax is a bit, well, anti-climactic, but I still consider the book a worthwhile read. Plus, it’s pretty short, so it took me all of two days to finish.

 

Happy Endings

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image source: hulu

I know what you’re thinking—this show ended like 5 years ago. And it did. But I’ll have you know that David Caspe’s Happy Endings is one of the *Kanye voice* best shows of all time. It’s a travesty that it only lasted three seasons. Genius actors comprise the entire cast, but special shout out to Eliza Coupe and Damon Wayans, Jr. Brad and Jane are two of my favorite tv characters ever. This show has some of the best writing I’ve ever heard—it’s inspiring and brilliant.

The whole thing’s on Hulu, so you know what to do-lu.

 

Great, Sara Benincasa

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Full disclosure: I only bought this book because I love Sara Benincasa and it was super cheap on Amazon. Great is a contemporary, YA, gender-flipped retelling of The Great Gatsby, which should be a recipe for disaster, but was actually a joy to read. The names are a bit cringe-worthy (I’ve compiled a list below), but, beyond that, it’s a smart spin on a classic that you could easily read in a day. I’m reading DC Trip now—keeping the Benincasa binge going!

Great Gatsby

Jay Gatsby – Jacinta Trimalchio (get it?!)

Nick Carraway – Naomi Rye

Delilah Fairweather – Daisy (Fay) Buchanan

Teddy Barrington – Tom Buchanan

Jeff Byron – Jordan Baker

Misti – Myrtle Wilson

Giovanni – George Wilson

 

Leahlani Bless Balm

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I am obsessed with this stuff. Bless Balm by Leahlani came in the December Oui Fresh Beauty Box and I’ve been using it almost daily since it arrived. At first I was a bit skeptical of its texture and scent (it’s a pretty strong jasmine scent and it’s got sort of a Vaseline texture), but after a month of use, I’m in love. It’s so super hydrating and has kept my skin fabulous through the dry winter months. It’s upped my skincare game.

It’s pricey as hell, but after a month of use, I’ve barely made a dent in it. I have no doubt that it will last me the rest of the year. Plus, it’s all-natural and almost 100% organic, so I feel great about supporting this beauty brand.

 

Dry January

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And, last but not least, Dry January! I’m participating in the DJ tradition this month, and I’m feeling great about it! It’s such a nice new year refresh, and a great way to shed some of those holiday lbs! Basically, the rules are: Don’t drink any alcohol for the entire month of January. That’s it! I’m tying in some other wellness practices as well, but no drinking is the main goal. I’ll post a wrap-up in early February all about my experience! Wish me luck!

It’s a 12-Month Wrap-Up!

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2017 is over and frankly, BYE GIRL. What a rough year. I went from severe election depression, to a Mexican vacation, to not knowing WTF I was doing with my life, to going to grad school. The transition was rough, but not just for me. This year has also, obviously, been an actual trash-fire for the entire country.

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But apart from praying for mercy from our overlords, there were a few enjoyable things about 2017. I went to Cancún and Atlanta for the first time, and got to spend two weeks in L.A., which I proudly yet undeservedly consider my homeland. I dove even deeper into my comedy obsession, and turned it into a final paper on feminism and comedy writing (in which I got to use the quotation “Men are a cancer! God made a mistake!“). I binged so much TV that it should be considered a crime against (my own) humanity. I started therapy and got back on meds. Actually, if it weren’t for the backdrop of constant nuclear panic, 2017 might have even been a good year.

Luckily, even in the darkest timeline, artists gonna art, so there was a barrage of dope shit released this year. Here are the things that really stood out in my 2017:

Roxane Gay, Hunger

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image from the chicago tribune review

Literally everything Roxane Gay has ever written is perfect, so it was a no-brainer that this incredible book would be on my “Best Of” list. This book is so powerful and emotional; I cried reading it. Hunger is, genuinely, a memoir of her body—unlike so many other books written in a similar vein, this one has no self-help aims or “happy ending.” It is a raw, honest rendering of past and present traumas, and though Ms. Gay’s journey is unique to her, her writing speaks to the universal truths familiar to all those who inhabit bodies and navigate the world. For six months, the words of Hunger have stayed with me, like a haunting presence.

Hillary Clinton, What Happened

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image via slate

I haven’t finished this book yet, so no spoilers! (lol)

Part of me loves this book so much merely because I love Secretary Clinton and want to push back against the haters that think, for some reason, that it’s unacceptable that the first female presidential candidate of a major political party should write a book chronicling her experiences. I know this about myself. What I didn’t expect, upon beginning to listen (I’m checking out Audible this season), is how deeply First Lady Clinton’s words would affect me. She gets pretty real about her journey, and doesn’t shy away from being honest about the present danger in which America finds itself. But it’s never sad. In What Happened, hope eclipses sadness and darkness at every turn. It doesn’t hurt that Senator Clinton is funny as hell, either. Listening to What Happened is like inspiring meditation for all of us who were deeply hurt last November.

So, if Popular Vote Winner Rodham Clinton wants to hit me up for a glass of Chardonnay, just DM me @highwaytochel, bby.

Just realized I keep switching up her name! I guess she just has so many accomplishments that I’m not even sure what to call her!

Matt Bellassai, Everything is Awful 

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This list was getting pretty heavy, so I had to turn up the levity to 11.

Matt Bellassai is a national treasure. I first heard of him on Throwing Shade, so I’m a bit of a late adopter, but as soon as I heard him on TSPod, I sought out his podcast Unhappy Hour, which led me to his book, which I scored, again, on Audible. I knew the book would be funny, but I didn’t think it would be laugh-out-loud-like-a-maniac-alone-in-my-car funny. The writing is so, so good. He has such a clear, distinct voice that it’s shocking he’s only my age. It’s so powerful, in fact, that I find myself relating on a deep level to a chubby, sheltered, Midwestern, gay, cis-male child, most of whose adjectives don’t describe me at all! I rarely advocate for audiobook over real book, but hearing Bellassai’s delivery is the icing on the cake.

Check out his popular Whine About It videos on Buzzfeed!

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

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Amy Sherman-Palladino has blessed us once again! The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (which Jen Kirkman consulted on, nbd) is my favorite new show of the year! I’m not even that bitter about the fact that the lead actress, Rachel Brosnahan, is the same age as me!

The MMM tells the story of Midge, a 26-year-old mother of two in 1958, going through a separation following her husband, Joel’s, infidelity. Joel had been fervently pursuing a stand-up career (i.e. plagiarizing one), but it turns out that his wife is the real natural. Coached by Susie, played by the incomparable Alex Borstein, Midge begins to perform, to varying degrees of success. Oh, and Lenny Bruce is a character.

In true ASP fashion, the dialogue is fast-paced, joke dense, and sensational. If there had to be an heir to Gilmore Girls, this is indeed the one. I just watched the series but might start it over and force the huz to watch it with me. 10/10

Get Out

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Is Get Out the best movie I’ve ever seen? Strong possibility. Give Jordan Peele and Daniel Kaluuya and Betty Gabriel all of the Oscars!

I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t know it would be that good. I only just watched Get Out this fall, since I am horror-averse to the extreme, but I already know it will be one of my life-long favorites. Unfortunately, to write pretty much anything about it would spoil the majesty, and for once, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I was shocked, despite waiting months to watch it, and I wouldn’t take that experience away from anyone.

Jordan Peele is a genius. The film is aesthetically gorgeous, socially aware, hilarious, and terrifying. It’s a horror film, and a comedy, and a documentary.

P.S. I had the unique privilege of writing one of my final papers about Get Out, which I’m submitting to conferences!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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If you didn’t like this movie, please eject yourself from planet Earth. I won’t spoil it for anyone (it was spoiled for me by my brother), but it was a joy and a pleasure. I gasped in surprise or glee multiple times, and I got to experience the entire thing sitting between my husband and my best friend—best combo ever. I’d write more about how much it rocked my world, but I’m busy going to see it again.

#FeelTheDern

Hallmark Christmas Movies

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I finally discovered the true, unadulterated joy that is Hallmark Christmas movies. I watched Christmas in the Air*, which only made me thirst for more**. These things are a bright spot in an increasingly dismal world. Plus, where else will you experience the true joy of a 49-year-old, childless female lead? Hallmark doesn’t even know that it’s feminist!

*I will say, specific to this film, that it espoused one trash value, which is that messiness and imperfection is acceptable. You should have let her clean your office, dude. You’re not a creative genius—you have untreated ADHD.

**There’s an upcoming one starring Candace Cameron Bure and Marilu Henner!

St. Vincent, Masseduction

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I. Love. St. Vincent. I finally got to see her in concert last month at the House of Blues! I’ve liked her for years, but I have to admit, when she started getting super high concept, starting with Strange Mercy and continuing even stronger with St. Vincent, I really became a superfan. Masseduction doesn’t disappoint for a second—it’s got killer visuals, tight tunes, and her sexiest sound yet. Go purchase this album with human currency!

Highlights: “Los Ageless,” “New York,” and “Pills.”

The National, Sleep Well Beast

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image via pitchfork

As if The National could put out a bad album. I’ve been waiting for what seems like decades for new Ntl jams, and finally, my prayers have been answered. Sleep Well Beast is everything I dreamed it would be and more. It has more tech-y, electronic-y moments (please, don’t be intimidated by my vast knowledge of music) than previous releases, but it works. Get on this album, my dudes.

Highlights, for me at least, are “Day I Die,” “I’ll Still Destroy You,” and “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness.”

Taylor Swift, reputation

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image via billboard

I know. I’m going back on years of hating on T. Swift. I can admit I was wrong! In my hour of darkness she was standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, so let her be.

Reputation is bops for days. I adore it. I’ve listened to it more than the previous 2 albums combined, which severely deducts cool points from my street cred. But I don’t care. I even like “Look What You Made Me Do” which was pretty much universally panned. Highlights are, for sure, “Endgame (feat. Future & Ed Sheeran),” “Ready For It,” and “I Did Something Bad,” but basically every song is great so just go listen to it? T. Swift redeemed.

Put Your Hands Together

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Guys, I got to actually go to PYHT in Hollywood! It was probably the craziest night of my entire life—maybe I’ll share the story someday—but it was an amazing experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. The whole drama is recorded on the podcast, so if you’re a listener, you may know what I’m referring to. It was definitely a…teachable moment.

Cam & Rhea, thanks for being the moms we all need, and being genuinely the warmest and best people I’ve ever met.

Oui Fresh Beauty

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image via a beautiful mess

My ABM ladies started a natural beauty line! Lipstick, lip gloss, and essential oils, oh my! I am obsessed with clean beauty products (#backonmyhippiebullshit), so these gems were a total godsend. I took advantage of all of the launch and holiday sales, so I, of course, have the full lip collection. They go on smooth, hydrate, last, and bonus: the lip gloss smells like yummy vanilla!

The lipsticks and lip glosses all have ’90s namesakes like Blossom, Kapowski, Pink Ranger, and As If! They even have a natural beauty subscription box, à la Birchbox, which flies off the virtual shelves every month. I subscribed in December, and got an amazing box of goodies! 10/10 would recommend!

 

 

 

Dirty Pop

I have a confession to make: I really like pop music and I always have.

I’m not ashamed of this, per se—I have just seen a decline in quality in recent years, so my fandom has felt bittersweet. For me, saying that I like pop feels like saying that I like country music—I love Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Jason Isbell, Lillie Mae, Amanda Shires, Neko Case’s early records, etc, but the term “country” connotes the utter trash of Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, and the like. And heaven forbid anyone think I like that! I feel like listening to that music is like advertising that you voted for Trump. Maybe I’m being too harsh. Or…whatever. I’m a judgmental bitch.

Anyway, digression aside, there have been a few recent standouts in pop (other than everything Beyoncé and Rihanna do) that have (belatedly) caught my attention. While everyone is freaking out about Taylor Swift’s new (hilarious, awful) song, y’all are sleeping on these two (incredibly popular, shut up, Chelsea) albums! That’s right—I said albums. As in, complete, cohesive artworks, not a collection of singles with some filler thrown in (à la every pop album from the ’90s). Coincidentally, both of these albums came out on the same day! What?! May 12th was lit this year.

Let’s check ’em out!

Paramore, After Laughter

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Hayley Williams is finally free, you guys! I always got a vibe that she was really cool and talented, but shackled to the “scene”. In the past few years, Paramore has been in transition from my guilty pleasure to a band that I have no qualms about supporting. I thought the self-titled album from 2013 was good, but it still had too many connecting threads to the pop-punk/whatever-it-is genre that Paramore came up out of. After Laughter is different. It’s catchy, fun, and bright, and owes little debt to the band’s “roots”. Quickly peruse Hayley Williams’ Instagram page and you’ll see Paramore assertively described as an “American genre-neutral band”. For a band aligned with a very specific genre, this is a bold-ass statement and I am here for it.

This is, imho, the only Paramore album that is listenable from start to finish with no eye-roll moments. These songs would make no sense at Warped Tour, for instance. Hayley’s even sporting a new lewk, with platinum blonde hair and her best fashion sense to date. And Hayley’s style isn’t the only noticeable aesthetic departure. Even the cover art and the press photos for After Laugher are elevated far beyond years past. Looks like Paramore is one of those extremely rare bands that has gotten better with each album.

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This album is a joy to listen to. Put it on next time you’re in a bad mood, it’ll kick your doom-and-gloom’s ass.

Standout After Laughter moments: “No Friend” (feat. Aaron Weiss from mewithoutYou), “Tell Me How”, and the infectious lead single “Hard Times”

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Harry Styles, Harry Styles

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image via billboard

Disclaimer: I am 100 years old and therefore way too old to know anything about One Direction. I’m to old to know anything about the Jonas Brothers. I saw DNCE on the VMAs and I was like, “Oh, that kid looks familiar.” My boy-band obsessed days were 20 years ago and centered around *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys.

That being said, I don’t live under a rock, and I’ve heard a handful of 1D songs. They didn’t do a ton for me, which is why I didn’t have high hopes for Harry Styles’ solo album. That’s why his SNL performance blew me away. I’m not going to pretend that his album is changing the landscape of music or anything, but I have a ton of sudden respect for Styles. It seems like he wants to set himself apart as an artist, not just a cog in a manufactured boy band. (No shade, all of those groups are manufactured by producers or labels, it’s not an indictment).

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“Sign of the Times”, the lead single, is downright soulful! I’m going to put my rose-colored glasses on and assume the title is a nod to Prince, of course. The album is tight from start to finish, and it has fun little moments sprinkled throughout (my personal fave is the intro to “Woman”: “Should we just search for romantic comedies on Netflix and see what we find?”). If this album had come out when I was a teenager, it would have totally been boning music. The kid’s got pipes. He’s also pretty easy on the eyes, but as he is younger than my little brother, I must abstain from attraction.

Standout Harry Styles moments: “Meet Me in the Hallway”, the rambunctious “Kiwi”, and “From the Dining Table”

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I’m 100% buying both of these albums with real U.S. currency and you should too! What are you into these days?

Love,

DellaBites

P.S. I hate Lorde and you will never see her on my “Best Of” lists.

Stay Mad

I am so mad about Twin Peaks: The Return, episode 8. It’s an hour of my life that I’ll never get back. After minute 2 of watching as the camera zoomed into an explosion, I turned to Twitter to amuse myself, but my husband freaked out so I was banned from my phone. For an hour. It was a struggle to stay awake. In fact, the second the credits started rolling, I walked out of the room without a word and went to bed, even though it was still pretty early.

Art-house cinema has its place. People are free to make whatever movies they want, as long as they’re not hurting children or animals. But it doesn’t belong on Showtime, plopped in the middle of an ongoing series, disrupting plot and punishing its audience. No matter what this fawning article has to say about it. Even the New York Times is against me.

I know David Lynch doesn’t give a fuck. It’s an admirable quality most of the time, because it allowed the original Twin Peaks to change the landscape of television forever. But this act of not-giving-a-fuck was aggressive. Thus far, the new series has been difficult to swallow—some moments have been undeniably incredible, but others have felt like dead-end tangents. Despite assurances from the cast that eventually, all of this will make sense, I have my sincere doubts that an hour detour into 1945 New Mexico is relevant to the goings-on of Twin Peaks, Washington’s residents. Enough with the fan theories. Bob’s origin story! Who’s the girl who swallowed the gross bug?

Who cares?

I’m glad that the new series is not a rehashing of the old. I’m glad that, so far, we’ve only had to see James for about ten seconds, in a scene that, like the entirety of episode 8, seems to have little to no bearing on anything else going on in the series. But episode 8 was condescending. The subtext of episode 8 was, “You are all mindless idiots who don’t know how to meaningfully consume texts, so I’m going to force you to stare at nothingness for an hour and be present with it.”

As someone working on her 2nd degree in literature, I’m far from an expert, but I’d say I’m pretty good at sussing out meaning in the media I consume. For instance, Master of None season 2 is undeniably influenced by art-house, and it is thoroughly enjoyable. There’s a 3 or so minute sequence when the camera rests on Aziz’s face in the back of an Uber—the subtle physical acting he does takes the audience on an emotional journey. The guy barely moves for 3 minutes, which in TV land is a painfully long time to linger on one shot, but it’s never boring.

Plot is secondary to any great work, but it is an important component of a television series. Even shows like Seinfeld, that were ostensibly about “nothing,” were still plotted episodically. I had faith that watching Coop navigate a purple planet for an excruciating 20 minutes would be relevant to the overall story. I had faith that two young people getting brutally murdered while watching a giant glass box would eventually make sense. But episode 8 was so remote from Twin Peaks that I genuinely don’t care if it makes sense with the rest of the story. For Lynch to justify this capsule episode in the larger context of Twin Peaks: The Return will be such an unnecessary stretch that it might damage the integrity of the series as a whole. There are other stories to be told.

In eight hours of this new series, we’ve heard Audrey Horne’s name once, watched the insufferable Dougie wander around Vegas for innumerable minutes, and had to roll our eyes through the worst plot device of all time, which is the new Sheriff Truman talking to the absent Sheriff Truman in one-sided telephone calls. (Michael Ontkean chose not to return for the series—why not just say he retired, died, or better yet, not address it at all and just have a new sheriff?) We’ve also gained some wonderful characters (Naomi Watts and Laura Dern are sensational, and Michael Cera provides, in my opinion, one of the best comic performances of all time) and followed the story along some interesting detours.

I was on board through episode 7, because I truly felt like the creator of the ingenious original series wanted to provide us with a new piece of art that didn’t rely on nostalgia, something that challenged us to make connections. Episode 8 was a giant middle finger to everyone who gives a shit about Twin Peaks. It was the work of someone who seems to have contempt for his audience. I’m going to keep watching, because now I feel I’ve made an immense investment in the series and it seems wasteful to abandon it now. But I’m approaching tonight’s episode with a healthy dose of skepticism.

***

It is my great hope that, at the end of the new series, this take will be proven sorely wrong. I hope to look back on this in a few months and laugh at my own ignorance. But I’m not holding my breath.

 

P.S. “The” Nine Inch Nails performance was very cool, although the placement in the episode was terrible.

Edit: I have read a recap of episode 9, and it looks like it’s going to be absolutely incredible. I’m looking forward to watching, I just hate that I have to look up recaps in advance now to make sure I won’t be subjected to visual torture. 

The 90s Baby Playlist

Yeah, that’s right. Céline Dion is not the only thing I cherish about the nineties. But if I’m being 100% honest, most of what happened in the decade of my birth was trash. Kurt Cobain died. The OJ thing. The band Nickelback formed and rose to prominence. Hillary Clinton became such a household name that a bunch of millennial fuckboys decided to vote for Jill Stein in 2016. Et cetera.

For a lot of people around my age, it feels like the ’90s/early ’00s never ended. I mean, I watched the Spice Girls movie by choice in 2009. We’re still appropriating the fashion trends (even fucking scrunchies are back, I’m wearing one right now) and we still lose our goddamn minds every time we hear “…Baby One More Time”. I mean, Urban Outfitters has just been selling the outfits from the movie Clueless for the past ten years. People of every generation get stuck in their respective youths—play “Jessie’s Girl” in a room full of 50-year-old women and you’ll see what I mean—but it feels like this particular nostalgia has real lasting power. It might have something to do with the fact that this was the very last pre-Internet era. The Internet existed, sure, but not in our hands 24/7. We kept maps in the car. I remember when iPods were released and I needed to call a Voodoo priestess to revive me after I died of shock and amazement. I would never argue that this time in history was better (it wasn’t), but I will say that I had a much better attention span and had yet to be insulted by an anonymous Twitter egg, so, simpler times.

I digress. Now, when I say ’90s baby, I don’t necessarily mean that you were born in the ’90s. This playlist is geared towards those old enough to have vivid memories of Y2K and 9/11. ’85-’92 or thereabouts. My compatriots in culture. Growing up in this era afforded a very specific and pop cultural experience, one that, as much as we may have loved it, was pretty much trash. This is no “best of” list. But this is the shit that we can’t erase from our psyches, no matter how hard we try. Or at least, this is the shit that I can’t erase from my mind, and in the words of millennial superhero, Lana Del Rey, “God knows I tried.”

It’s Gonna Be Me” – *NSYNC (2000)

You thought it was going to be “Bye Bye Bye“, didn’t you? HA. “Bye Bye Bye” is a solid, beloved track, but which song is still a meme almost 20 years later? “It’s Gonna Be Me” motherfuckers! This song is so tight! I’ve listened to it twice today, in prep for this post, and let me tell you, ’90s pop songwriters did not eff around with song formulas. Bridges for days!

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image source

I have vivid memories of procuring the “No Strings Attached” album. I was in third grade at the time. It’s possible that we bought it at Bradlee’s. By the way, if you’re ever unsure of a person’s age, just bring up Bradlee’s. It’ll seal the deal.

It still bums be out the JC Chasez was supposed to be a frontman. Timberlake just dominated, and he has spent the last several years earning his fame. The 20/20 Experience took us all to church, and solidified JT’s position as a pop icon. “Cry Me A River” could have stood alone as an anthem, but I appreciate JT’s growth as an artist.

I will say that “This I Promise You” was written by Richard Marx. Unrelated to this post, but an absolutely invaluable piece of trivia. Ya welcome.

Bootylicious” – Destiny’s Child (2001)

I DON’T THINK YOU CAN HANDLE THIS. No grade-schooler was ready for the line, “I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly”. Is “Bootylicious” the feminist response to “I Like Big Butts”? I don’t know! I do know that the guitar is sampled from “Edge of Seventeen” and that Stevie Nicks herself is in this video. Also, Michelle actually gets to sing in this one, and Kelly actually takes the lead! Also, the costumes, which I can only hope were designed by Ms. Tina, are sublime. They are transcendent. Fringe…bikinis?

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WERK (gif source)

The term “bootylicious” was conferred upon us by the illustrious Snoop Dogg ten years prior to the release of this DC track, but Beyoncé & co. are certainly responsible for popularizing the term.

Lucky” – Britney Spears (2000)

To be fair, she cried for help. Folks my age remember the 2007 Britney meltdown, and the subsequent YouTube video. Britney’s trials and tribulations are even a running gag on the show Girlboss in the Year of our Lord 2017. Looking back, this song is so depressing! It’s basically Brit looking at her own life and being like, “Help! I’m so depressed! Success is not fulfilling!” But we didn’t even bat an eye at the “Everytime” video, and she legit kills herself in that one.

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gif source

On a happier note, Britney looks stunning in this video, styled as an Old Hollywood starlet. Even the chord progression of the song is a clear homage to doo-wop, which is a cute and thoughtful detail. Let she who did not want to sit on a sparkly star and throw glitter cast the first stone.

 

U Got It Bad” – Usher (2001)

“U Remind Me” almost took top billing here, but “U Got It Bad” has a permanent spot in my heart and mind. This is one sultry-ass ballad. When I think about the (Boston) radio station, JAMN 94.5, this immediately comes to mind. Usher has the smoothest voice in the game—I’d listen to him sing the phone book.

Also, if you can actually believe this shit, this song was dethroned as #1 on the Hot 100 by that Nickelback song. You know the one.

P.S. Chili from TLC is in the music video, so this probably belongs in the Smithsonian as an example of peak human achievement.

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look at this actual fucking queen (image source)

All the Things She Said” – t.A.T.u. (2002)

Yaaasss, bitches, the fake Russian lesbian song! For many of us, this music video may have acted as a sexual awakening of sorts. The controversy surrounding it was so beyond trife. I can’t even imagine such nonsense happening today, but again, this is before we even had marriage equality in Massachusetts. Any queer content was a big deal back then—remember Ellen & Anne Heche?!

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raise your hand if this was the first girl-on-girl kiss you ever saw *raises hand* (image source)

Moral of the story: they weren’t lesbians, they’ve since dismissed the whole thing as “silly” (ugh, very progressive, guys), and they’re probably to blame for the Madonna/XTina/Britney MTV awards fiasco and the song “I Kissed A Girl”. “All The Things She Said”, however, though repetitive, is actually pretty friggin’ catchy.

P.S. Now I think that, somewhere in here, there’s a TrumpRussia/pee tape joke to be made but I’m not quite there yet. I’ll report back.

Beautiful” – Christina Aguileira (2002)

Continuing right along with our theme of LGBT-tinged pop singles, y’all know what’s next! “Beautiful”, baby! She won a goddamn GLAAD media award for the video! Linda Perry, of 4 Non Blondes fame, wrote this gem, whose vid was more inclusive 15 years ago than certain Disney movies that are trying to be on trend in twenty-seventeen.

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this vid featured a lot of people getting introspective into mirrors.

This video features a kiss between two men, a girl suffering from anorexia, and a closeted trans* woman, among others. It’s still mostly white people (2002, smh), but when this aired, it was radical. It affected me personally—I was pretty young, so I was seeing some of those people for the first time. This video probably opened those narratives and told those stories for the first time to a lot of folks. I’ve long felt that XTina doesn’t get the credit she deserves for taking this risk with her image. For a while, this was the wokest thing we had, for better of for worse.

Landslide” – The Dixie Chicks (2002)

Like I said, growing up in the late nineties/ early ’00s was a very specific and bizarre time. So, we grew up with a country band performing our “Landslide”, as opposed to the O.G. or Billy Corgan versions. I am a Fleetwood Mac devotee, but I’m also 25 years old, so I learned these lyrics from Natalie Maines, not Stevie Nicks. This song also dropped at the height of my TRL-watching, so I have seen this video, which features a heavily pregnant Emily Robison playing lap steel (?!), about 150,000 times.

All the Small Things” – blink-182 (1999)

Is it just me, or does this song actively suck? I remember loving it at the time, but now I hear it and I’m borderline horrified that this is all it took to top the charts in the year 2000. I mean, Tom DeLonge’s voice alone could serve as a suicide note. There’s not enough nostalgia in the world to justify this (and blink’s entire catalog) as good music.

I’m sorry, dudes. Just had to let that out.

In Da Club” – 50 Cent (2003)

Okay, so, back story: this was hugely popular when I was in the sixth grade, and as a little prude warrior, I took great offense to the line, “I’m into having sex / I ain’t into making love” as I felt it was disrespectful to women. Rap music doesn’t have the best reputation re: misogyny, but if I could go back in time and shut myself up, I would. Hearing this song floods me with happiness. It’s so dramatic. The video is like some CIA action-movie homage. Also, Eminem discovered 50 Cent? What?

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makes you think! (image source)

In a lot of ways, this track feels like an 80s rap set to truly stellar (eye-rolls for days @ the orchestra hits) early-00s production. The lyrics are deliciously cheesy. This song was #1 on the charts for nine weeks and its most memorable line is, “Yo, shawty, it’s your birthday.” And,I reiterate, the orchestra hits are just…sublime. Anthemic.

It Wasn’t Me” -Shaggy (2000)

This song is a trash anthem and I love it! I was NINE when this song was popular. NINE. It is 50 Shades of Cray that any of us were allowed to listen to this. Shout-out to radio-edited lyrics that mystified the line “bangin’ on the bathroom floor” for years!

Honorable Mention

Cry Me A River” -Justin Timberlake (2002)

I just wanted to include this. I mention it above, but it bears repeating. No jokes, no commentary—this song holds up, is the best, and you wish you could drop a song this fire. #byebyebye

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gif source

***

Well, when I think of my childhood, this is what I think of, for better or for worse. Now, next time you hear that “’90s baby/’80s Mercedes” song, you can be like, nah, girl. Don’t get it twisted.