Introducing: The Rotation

Music is one of our favorite topics to discuss here, so we’re rolling out an Apple Music playlist series called the Rotation, where we compile new and relevant songs to listen to occasionally spliced in with underground favorites and artists who just need more shine in general. The first playlist is a warmup jumper. Nothing totally uncomfortable or out of the ordinary. It’s encouraged to put this playlist on shuffle. Also included in this post are our March Madness Soundcloud playlists, which will eventually turn into the Soundcloud Rotation playlist series once April rolls around. Listen, share and enjoy. If you have any artists you want to make a case for to be in the next installment of the Rotation, let us know. Or better yet, write about them. The Rotation: 1 features songs from Frank Ocean, Kendrick, Wizkid, and Playboi Carti among others. You can find the Apple Music playlist here and March Madness 1-3 are available below. Follow our Soundcloud for continuous updates here.

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Road Trips with Mom: A musical Odyssey

by Gabi Watkins

Over spring break I visited Florida with my mom and younger siblings. During the 42 total hours on the road I listened to a lot of NPR and classic rock. From epic ballads about love gone wrong to ventures of sex and drugs, the era of Rock ‘n Roll was a defining and crucial point in the evolution of music. Throughout my car ride I heard some songs that stuck out to me not only as a fan of this genre, but as a music lover in general:

Part 1: “Paradise By the Dashboard Light”

Michael Lee Aday, better known by his stage name, Meat Loaf, started his musical career in high school through theater productions. After graduation he made his way to Los Angeles where he formed his first band “Meat Loaf Soul”. The band opened for various artists including Janis Joplin, the Who and The Grateful Dead.

Meat Loaf then went on to record for Motown Records, where he released his debut album, Stoney & Meatloaf in September 1971. Despite the album’s moderate success, he was unhappy with Motown and left shortly after to audition for various parts in musical theater. It was during one of these auditions he met his future collaborator Jim Steinman. He had success in the theater, starring in the production of Hair on Broadway and earning a part in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

All the while he was working with Steinman on creating his second album and left theater in 1974 to pursue his music career exclusively. In 1977 he signed with Cleveland International Records and had his big break that October with his sophomore album and claim to fame, Bat Out of Hell.

Bat Out of Hell contains some of the most revolutionary and iconic tracks of the 1970s. Composer, Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf brought together aspects of hard rock, pop and spoken word lyrics, tied together by one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s key elements – sex.

 

“Paradise By the Dashboard Light” highlights the album; a three part, eight minute long epic, telling the tale of high school sweethearts about to take their relationship to a physical level in a car. Meat Loaf and Ellen Foley embody the suspense and desire of young lovers at the beginning of the song, with Meat Loaf proudly proclaiming “we’re gonna go all the way tonight”.

The first part then cuts to a metaphoric play-by-play done by New York Yankees’ shortstop, Phil Rizzuto. This transition is part of what makes this song so iconic as listeners feel the excitement resounding through commentary as the player reaches first base, is nearly thrown out at second, steals third base and sprints for home plate leaving Rizzuto to proclaim, “Holy Cow I think he’s gonna make it!”

Foley then stops the run short, making it clear that she won’t go any further until she knows they’ll be together forever. The male and female vocals intertwine as Meat Loaf pleads with her to let him ‘sleep on it’, promising to tell her in the morning. After their banter makes it clear that she needs confirmation now, he gives into frustration and reassures her that, “I’ll love you ‘til the end of time”.

The song ends with an ironic twist as Meat Loaf exclaims, “now I’m waiting for the end of time, to hurry up and arrive”. Despite the relationship turning bitter and the couple clearly not being able to stand each other, they keep their vows to stay together and reminisce of their first time, remembering how the spark that was once there is now but a distant memory.

The well thought out story line and sarcastic undertones portrayed in these lyrics mash together with an experimental pop-funk tune and the heavy guitar that this era is known for. The song itself peaked at 39 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the album has sold over 43 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best selling records of all time.

Interview With Local Photographer, Daniel Nielsen

by Lucas Reiman

 

Daniel Nielsen is an aspiring photographer from Des Moines. I went to school with Daniel for four years of high school and grew up playing youth sports with him. His ability with a camera after taking photography seriously for only four years is inspiring and drives me to continue my own photography. I am incredibly proud to know him and am proud to be able to share a bit more about him. I sat down with him during this winter break to get his journey in photography and to listen to some of his opinion on the photography world.

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Q: Give us a little Background about yourself.

A: I am 18 years old and I am from West Des Moines, Iowa. I graduated high school from Dowling Catholic in West Des Moines and I currently attend the University of Northern Iowa.

 

Q: What are you studying in school?

A: I am currently an environmental science major and I plan on adding a photo journalism minor in the spring.

 

Q: What got you interested in photography/filmmaking?

A: I have always been really into making videos since I was in middle school. I would try to make short films with my friends. I always had a camera on me in those days and it led me to go and buy my own personal DSLR. I bought a Canon T3 and I used it for photos and short films. Once I got the Canon, that really inspired me to pursue more of photography.

 

Q: Was it easy for you to learn or was there a slight learning curve?

A: Transition from film making to photography wasn’t easy. My film making past made the technical side of operating a camera easier but I had so much that I still needed to learn. It took me a while to get really confident in my work.

 

Q: Do you think too many people are photographers?

A: I don’t think there are too many photographers but I do feel like there are a lot of people who give up too soon.

 

Q: Do you feel there is often a stigma against people trying to get into photography?

A: Yeah I feel that sometimes new photographers are knocked for trying to get into the field. Some photographers react this because they may feel threatened that a new photographer could steal their style. I honestly don’t get it though because every photographer at one point was new to it. I feel that photographers should try and be mentors to new photographers.

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Q: Do you wish you would’ve had a mentor through your growing process?

A: Yes, to an extent because I could’ve grown quicker but I learned so much on my own. All the information I’ve learned on my own has been incredible and I’m glad on the way I got here.

 

Q: Opinions on people doing photography just for the sole purpose of being popular/liked?

A: I’m not going to judge but sometimes I feel that people forget about the art of photography and use it as a way to get popular. I’m not going to bash on people who enjoy it for the attention, that just isn’t the reason I’m in photography.

 

Q: Do you feel good equipment is super necessary or should the technique come before the gear?

A: Passion I think should come before gear. You often can get away with having good equipment even with poor technique.

 

Q: Advice for new photographers/filmmakers?

A: Take lots of photos. I did a project where I took a photo every single day for an entire year and I learned so much about how to take quality photos in that year.

 

Q: Favorite shoot?

A: I did an engagement shoot at it was a lot of fun. Capturing all of the emotions between the couple was incredible.

 

 

Q: Would you ever do something even more emotional like a wedding?

A: Definitely not at the moment because it is a huge responsibility to capture something that important. Maybe in the future but I don’t really have any interest in doing any weddings.

 

 

Q: Favorite photo?

A: It was a photo taken early morning at clear lake. I just thought it was such a cool shot with the amount of fog blocking out any view of the actual lake but the color of the dock just makes everything pop out. I am always asked how much touch up was done to the photo and all that was done was a bit of color touch up on the dock. That’s why this photo is my favorite because I didn’t have to do a lot to it.

 

Q: Instagram, Twitter or VSCO

A: Instagram

 

Q: Dream destination to do one shoot at?

A: Alaska is a huge dream of mine. I don’t think it is photographed enough and I would love to explore the state and photography my trip.

 

 

Q: Favorite photography social media accounts?

A: Jason Charles Hill, Matt Cherubino, Andrew kearns, Ben Brown, Rj Bruni

Sam Kolder, Eric Pfohl (friend from UNI), just to name a few off the top of my head.

 

Q: Where do you see, photography taking you?

A: At this point it is just a hobby but I want to take it with me into my career. I would love to use photography and videography over the environment to make every day citizens more aware of Earth.

 

 

Thank you to Daniel for taking the time to do this interview with me. Please go support him by sharing his work or just follow him on his social media pages.

 

Website: nielsenvisuals.com

YouTube: Daniel Nielsen

Instagram: @danielsen02

Twitter: @danielsen02

 

 

 

 

More Life: More Drake, More Controversy, More Hits

MORE LIFE

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Drake finally released “More Life”, his long awaited follow-up to Views on March 18th, via OVOSOUND Radio on Apple Music to widespread acclaim. The internets exploded in a fervor only to be soon matched by Kanye’s next rant or Beyonce giving birth. This was set up to be Drake’s Magnum Opus, a layup opportunity for a star with growing global influence. An instant classic. Drake fans are everywhere. There are teenagers in every corner of the world with Drake or his lyrics tattooed somewhere on their body. Aubrey Graham has been in the news near constantly in the last 2 years, mostly through much publicized beefs with Meek Mill and Cudi, and sometimes possibly Kanye West, who is featured on the album.

From here on out, I’ll stop referring to the album as an “album”. It’s titled as “A Playlist by October Firm” and a quick listen confirms that is exactly what it is. Drake is attempting to shed himself of the limits of an “album” concept, where a cohesive narrative is still very much valued by the hip-hop community at large. October Firm is the name of Drake and right-hand man, behind the scenes orchestrator Oliver El-Khatib, who it can be inferred creatively directed the vibe of the project. Drake has struggled with the idea of a narrative album, in my opinion most notably on “Views”, his last project, which to me undermined his coronation as the biggest in the game. The playlist concept proved to work on the “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” mixtape, which cemented Drake’s status as a hitmaker and permanent fixture in popular culture.

Drake fully embraces cultural influences from all corners of the world in this album, with distinctly dancehall sounds, afropop, and grime features. It’s a conglomeration of Drake’s claimed musical influences, and the culture of the city of Toronto. Immigrants from Jamaica, Africa, Haiti, South Asia, and the Middle East all against a Canadian backdrop. Drake has drawn criticism for suddenly adopting these cultural influences out of nowhere, and it’s fair to say this criticism has hurt his career somewhat. “More Life” is Drake going against any denial. Drake adopts a variety of sounds on the playlist, making some dancehall songs here that I could do without in terms of the front to back listen. The best tracks are produced by Murda Beatz, the 23 year old Canadian who’s produced hits for Migos among others. “Murda on the Beats so it’s not nice” is now the new “Metro Boomin want some mo” and it’s a beautiful thing with Quavo and Travis Scott backing Drake on vocals. “Portland” is the confirmed hit from this project and rightfully so. Murda masters the flute over a remarkably bouncy beat that makes the song undeniable, and Quavo demonstrates more star quality on an instantly infectious hook. Travis Scott demonstrates one of his little known skills, actually rapping, and makes me proud to be a consistent fan of his. He shows out on a song with two of the hottest out like he knows he’s a top 5 artist, and he is on this one.

Back to the strong worldwide influences on the album, the grime features on the album add an instant authenticity to the record that reflects the streets of Britain as much as it does the hidden hills of Calabasas. For those of you who didn’t know who Giggs was before now, the grime icon is featured twice on the playlist, with his typical low menacing tones masterfully riding arena production. KMT is a pretty blatant Xxxtentacion bite, but the beat and Giggs verse make it pretty hard not to listen to. Still #FreeX and everything, but “BATMAN, DAH DAH DAH, DAH-DAH” has never been said before on a rap song, and the fact that it’s Giggs on a Drake album sort of feels right in 2017. It’s good that grime is finally getting the worldwide exposure it deserves. These guys live and breath authenticity, and Skepta has been the leading figure in grime’s worldwide image for a while now. His album, “Konnichiwa”, has been in my frequent rotation since it dropped last year, and is honestly one of my favorite albums ever. “Skepta Interlude” is Drake giving Skepta an entire song to basically just go off, and therefore giving him the perfect platform to broaden his reach and the reach of grime. He destroys it, as typical, and for those of you who can’t get with the accent, do your research, listen to a grime playlist one time, and you’ll get it. The energy is on another level, especially given the current slow lean obsessed state of popular hip-hop in this country.

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The 2 Chainz feature is notable and shows that the Duffel Bag Boy is in a zone leading up up to his next album which is expected to come out in the near future. 2 Chainz really doesn’t care, and his talent is just spilling the contents of his vibrant imagination in hilarious and sometimes very poignant bars. He got famous for being infectious, and his presence is felt on the album. Young Thug also spits a verse that makes you think you can understand exactly what he’s saying on first listen, run it back, and then realize he’s actually speaking much more clearly for some reason. But it’s actually fire, and catchy in typical Thugger fashion. Drake got everybody on this one, even Kanye West on “Glow”, an undeniably catchy song that feels like it was recorded in one night. Kanye leads the track with a classic few bars about when “me and being broke broke-up” that again validate Kanye as an artist who is still doing it on an iconic level. Kanye’s legacy to me is going to forever be more influential than Drake’s, just because Kanye has otherworldly talent that Drake hasn’t demonstrated.

Drake works hard, and consistent improvement in numbers and reach every album proves that despite the criticism. It’s hard to listen to a Drake album and love it as a fan of music knowing that he might really only be responsible for the vocals. I’m not trying to be all pro-Meek Mill, but that controversy never really came to an actual resolution for me. Quentin Miller and his reference tracks are real things. The fact that Drake pulls from so many different influences, and throws a wide variety of features on the 22 song playlist make this album similar to Views for me. Yeah it’s what Drake’s giving us at this point, and there will be some songs off of here that’ll be spun into oblivion for the next 8-12 months. But is it a classic? After at least five front to back listens at this point, I have to say no. It’s a playlist in the truest sense, just a mix of vibes and attempts at capturing all sides of culture. It’s the play of a man on the road to world domination who’s plagued by too many insecurities to trust himself to innovate in his own lane. There are fewer and fewer people doing it now, and it’s an actual problem for the integrity of music. The innovation is happening on Soundcloud and overseas right now, and Drake is smart enough to realize that and use it to his advantage.

“More Life” is good in the sense that it gives these artists a bigger platform, but bad in the sense that it borrows too much from them. Again, how many of these songs will you have in pop up back in regular rotation a year and a half from now? If you’re already a die-hard Drake fan, a lot of them, and if you’re a skeptic like me, you’ll just keep going back to Skepta and Giggs while telling yourself you’re not really listening to the last Drake album again. “More Life” is a Jamaican saying to wish someone well, and Drake doesn’t exactly project positivity on this one project. He goes at Kid Cudi again, a possible veiled Jay-Z diss on “Free Smoke” and repeated Meek Mill shots. He thrives off of vulnerability, and he reflects the emotional state of many people in 2017. Anxious, self-conscious, sometimes irritable, it relates well to so many that this record will definitely go platinum in streams. I feel old when I wish that the invulnerable 50 Cent era was back, and rappers were still superheroes. The people need a voice, and Drake has been chosen. And if he doesn’t turn into Will Smith and just act forever now, one thing’s for sure: there’ll be More.

A blown call-by-blown call review of The NCAA Tournament

by Jacob McKay. (I talk about sports too)

This years NCAA tournament has busted many brackets, including mine. After 40 games, there are no longer any perfect brackets left. The only bracket to make it past 37 games was entered in the Yahoo bracket contest, and now we all watch the rest of the tournament for fun, as it was meant to be enjoyed. The tournament would be more fun in my opinion if it wasn’t for the glaring errors in officiating that I’ve seen all tournament. The improvement of replay technology may be to blame, but I’m watching most of these calls live on TV, from a worse point of view than the officials, and being blown away by the amount of touch fouls and whistles being blown on absolutely no contact. Duke lost to South Carolina in part to the call that created the tournaments second most popular meme. Luke Kennard got called for a foul after being elbowed in the face on defense, and the meme is hilarious but the reaction was kind of warranted. perfectbrackets34_final_copy

Via NCAA.com

haha

Duke wasn’t the only victim of questionable calls. St. Mary’s got absolutely cheated in their loss to Oregon, the Northwestern-Gonzaga game had some heartbreakers, Arkansas, URI, the list goes on and on. The tournament has been robbed of even more upsets and deserving teams have gotten railroaded. Is it like this every year? It hasn’t been in recent memory, at least for me. And the enduring images of this tournament say it all. Crying Northwestern kid will live forever in the annals of tournament history. This is the tournament where the refs robbed children of their hopes and dreams. northwestern-fan

My dad is an official, and he taught me a lot of what I know about the game. Our one-on-one contests at the park lasted hours, and I still remember the firs time I beat him in fifth grade. We operated on the no blood no foul rule, and in AAU and school games I grew up on a pretty physical brand of basketball most of the time. I learned how to play defense aggressively, how to make people earn buckets. Defense is as much a beautiful part of the game as offense, the art of denying a man of everything he wants. One of my coaches used to call it “protecting your mama’s house”, and he’d yell that us while we did wall sits in between suicides. That’s basketball, and the finesse part of the game is important, but if contact is dead then every kid will have to try to be Steph Curry. Three-Point shooting is already dominating the game, and this tournament is the perfect example of teams like Duke living and dying by it. Sometimes it works like it has for Oregon. I understand officials have an incredibly tough job, and I’m not disparaging the profession whatsoever, I’m just saying we should let the kids play. Blow the whistle less if we’re going to keep blowing it for everything thing that might appear to be contact. If the defense isn’t allowed to put bodies on people, then a whole element of the game is gone. As we roll into the Sweet Sixteen, the bad calls will probably continue. It’s March, and March is for basketball no matter what. In one of the most divisive times in modern history, I think we can all agree that basketball is pretty cool. The NCAA is going to give us this tournament their way and year after year I will stop all other thought for a full day to work on brackets. It’s called Madness for a reason.