What’s On My Playlist?

This summer has been a fantastic era for new music and new artists. Here are some of the songs that I’ve had on repeat this past June.

“Die Young” by Sylvan Esso

“Die Young” is a perfect combination of bittersweet lyrics and bubbly, bass-infused indie-pop beats that’ll make you want to hop in the car and leave everything behind. Plus, their new album What Now has similar hits like “Radio” and “Kick Jump Twist” that utilizes creative computer-esque beats and intriguing lyrics.

“Loving Someone” by The 1975

While their latest album came out in 2016, I can’t seem to stop listening to “Loving Someone” and pretty much every other song from The 1975. They have a beautiful talent of mixing aesthetic value and music together in a way that transports you to another place when you listen to them. For me “Loving Someone” is a song that uses poetic lyrics and dreamy synths to create a visual image every time you listen to it.

“Sober” by Lorde

As a long time fan of Lorde’s music, I was both hesitant and excited to listen to her new album, Melodrama. While I didn’t fall in love with her first hit from the album, “Green Light,” once I heard the opening to “Sober,” I was entranced. The song begins with eerie and desperate vocals that aptly sets the tone for the song. The subtle chorus and punching lyrics will definitely hit the heart of any angsty teen, like myself.

“Loudspeaker” by MUNA

I’ve already written an article on MUNA’s new album About U , here, but something about them has left a lasting impression. The lead singer, Katie Gavin, has such a unique voice, and all of their songs, like “Loudspeaker,” have an empowering, passionate, and truthful tone that goes straight to the heart. Plus, their style and aesthetic are to die for.

“Alone” by Halsey

While “Now or Never” is the staple hit from her new album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, the song “Alone” has stuck out to me personally. The Pink Floyd-esque opening is an interesting instrumental lead into lyrics about a life of partying and fame, while still feeling completely lonely when the glamor fades. While I’m not sure if I can relate, I still feel like wistfully looking through a window with my heart shaped sunglasses on whenever I hear the song.

“Amsterdam” by Nothing But Thieves

Ever since I heard their first hit, “Trip Switch,” Nothing But Thieves has formed a special place in my heart. The song “Amsterdam” is a rock filled anthem that makes you wanna headbang in a circle, but the vocals and melody are catchy enough that you’ll be humming it long after the song is finished.

Summer Boy by “Lady Gaga”

Yes, this song was originally released in 2009, but it’s integral to any summer playlist, and as soon as you press play on this track, you’ll understand why. Lady Gaga’s iconic vocals and pop-powered electric guitar riffs make the song feel like pure candy to the ears. Plus, the light-hearted and whimsical lyrics make it a perfect summer jam.

A Whole New Gaga

lady_gaga_-_joanne_official_album_coverStefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, or as you might know her, Lady Gaga, dropped her new album Joanne. To call it “okay” would be the understatement of the year. The album was written to honor the creative spirit of her aunt Joanne. Best known for her meat suit, dance music, and love for the disco-stick, Gaga turned in the sequins for blue jeans and a guitar on this accept-yourself-and-love-yourself album.

Track 01: Diamond Heart- A tale of how to be strong, told from the point of view of a young, wild, American woman. The bombshell lyric, “Some asshole broke me in, wrecked all my innocence, I’ll just keep go-go’n, and this dance is on you” speaks directly to Gaga’s past about being raped. Gaga sings that although she’s not perfect, she’s got a Diamond Heart.

Track 02: A-YO- This track is laced with lyrics about sticking it to the man. Gaga herself defines this track as, “‘A-YO, A-YO were smokin ’em all’ is like “Hey you, let’s celebrate. We’re leaving our haters in the dust.” Essentially, this song pays tribute to the people who called Artpop a flop. (Gaga’s album from 2013, Artpop, received horrible reviews from both critics and fans)

Track 03: Joanne – A song written about Joanne, Gaga’s aunt who passed away at age 19. This song is written in the first person, referencing Gaga by her middle name, but is a tribute to her father’s sister. She sings, “take my hand, stay Joanne, heaven’s not ready for you, every part of my aching heart, needs you more than the angels do”

Track 04: John Wayne – This song captures the album best of all, as Gaga sings about, “being strung out on John Wayne.” The dance-like track has the same feel as Born This Way (Gaga’s album from 2011) but is a little more western-y and surprisingly heartfelt. She sings, “He called, I cried, we broke” most likely referencing the split from her fiance earlier this year. This is the western pop song I never knew I needed.

Tlady-gaga-t-magazine-nyt-1476724790-640x434rack 05: Dancin’ In Circles – This track provides the closest resemblance to the 2008 chart topping album, The Fame. The gritty lyrics, ska beat, and message between the lines hugs close to songs like “Alejandro” (Born This Way) and “Love Game” (The Fame). I’m not going to leave any of the lyrics here, but the ode to loving yourself comes in a literal sense from this track, and it’s bound to be a dancefloor anthem.

Track 06: Perfect Illusion – Released as a single to announce the album, this track is an ode to someone specifically created by Gaga and the media. She got the idea from the pressure she feels to live up to the ‘illusion’ she’s created for herself. Between her cigarette sunglasses, black firebolt eye makeup, and neon animal print jackets, she feels as though she’s created a certain outlook for herself, and she wanted to reference how that02-lady-gaga-press-photo-cr-collier-schorr-2016-billboard-1548 feels for her. The lyrics also dissect how euphoric the feeling of fame can be, while at the same time, feeling incredibly fake.

Track 07: Million Reasons – This acoustic track is a heartfelt, simple song representing a turning point in Stefani’s career in which she has, “cut through all his worn out leather” and given herself reasons to continue with a music career even though it’s headed in a different direction. Most chill-inducing lyric: “Every heartbreak makes it hard to keep the faith.”

Track 08: Sinner’s Prayer – This western, empathetic, track is a hard hitting song that focuses on embracing yourself for who you are. Best bone chilling lyric: “The man’s got a gift for getting what he wants, He’s thirsty when he drinks, Gets on the brink, and throws her off.”

Track 09: Come To Mama – A track that can be summed up in the first line, “Everybody’s gotta love each other” This song is the farthest from a typical Lady Gaga track. It has a gospel feel, an inspiring message, and a heartfelt plea, begging the world to love each other.

Track 10: Hey Girl – Gather up every girl you’ve ever met and blast this at your next get-together. This song is going to be your new favorite ode to friendship. Featuring Florence Welch from Florence + The Machine, this song is full of empowering, lift-you-up lyrics such as, “Help me hold my hair back, walk me home ’cause I can’t find a cab, and we dance down the bowery, held hands like we were 17 again”. It’s catchy, it’s beautiful, and it’s fun.  Girl lady-gaga-joanne-jpg-c83925511999fcc49fd859aabc799988-678x381power forever.

Track 11: Angel Down – This song is a powerful tribute to Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen who was shot to death. While Gaga fears that she will get negative feedback about the song, she feels that she needs to make music with a purpose because of the platform she works within. Best lyric: ” Doesn’t everyone belong, In the arms of the sacred, Why do we pretend we’re wrong?”

Track 12: Grigio Girls – A catchy tune that pays homage to Gaga’s longtime friendship with Sonja Dunham, who was revealed last year to be suffering from breast cancer. This is my personal favorite on the album, for it’s ode to girl groups. Gaga references The Spice Girls, and calling your sisters to drink some wine after a 01-lady-gaga-press-photo-cr-collier-schorr-2016-billboard-1548hard day. Stand aside boys, tough girls on the mend are going to come out of the woodwork to sing along to the anthem ending of this song. My favorite lyric: “Pour your heart out, watch your blues turn gold”

Track 13: Just Another Day – The inspired-by David Bowie track reeks of the Electroclash movement. It’s a catchy, uplifting tune about keeping your head up in the clouds, even when people try to pull you down. Most playful lyric:  “I’ll lay back in my chair and find a way, and when you say that thing that you say, that makes me mad, I’ll turn away.”

This raw album is a new side of Lady Gaga that has never been seen on shelves before. Mother Monster opens up in every song, and even in the album artwork itself- she has taken off the wigs, glasses, and makeup to show us a more simplistic side of herself. The promo pictures for the album’s release are beautiful black and white portraits that show Stefani as she is in real life . This female empowerment album is something I never knew I needed.

Hacking Harassment

Has anyone said something mean, or degrading to you online? It’s happened to me, and I know I’m not alone. Countless people experience Internet harassment. It’s not something to be embarrassed about. Today, needless bullying is common online. People pass everything off as a joke, or claim an off-the-wall remark was sarcasm. It’s okay to be mean, because it’s always a joke, right? In my opinion, that’s the wrong idea.

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The right ideas on YouTube’s press event stream

Such a mindset has woven its way into gaming culture where I seldom don’t see some kind of harassment—where bullies hide and perpetrators pass ridicule off as jokes behind online identities. Why? There’s no reason for ridicule, and no warrant to be a troll. Still it happens, but trolling is bad. Furthermore, such malignant behavior definitely shouldn’t be a substantial part of the gaming industry. Bullying must STOP.

I attended a CES press conference where Intel, Vox Media, Re/code and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation partnered-up to form a new initiative to stop Internet harassment, Hack Harassment. 

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“40% of Internet users say they have personally experience online harassment” (hackharassment.com)

In a study conducted by Intel, Vox Media, Re/code and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, “eighty-four percent of technology professionals believe there is real life-risk and emotional impact being harassed online.” (Intel News Release)

“Online harassment is pervasive and can be vicious,” Intel CEO, Brian Krzanich said. “If we’re to truly succeed in a smart and connected world, we need to remember that behind every device, game, sensor or network is a real person with real feelings and real needs for safety.”

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Logan’s interview with Intel CEO, Brian Krzanich. Image by Intel’s Karen Schinzel.

Everyone has the basic human right to feel safe and respected online.

Can you tell I’m passionate about this? Here’s why. I once interned with an acting troupe, S.O.S For Youth. We traveled all over the Mid-West putting on shows that focused on teen-issues like suicide, depression, drug abuse, bullying and Internet harassment. S.O.S For Youth is based on peer-to-peer education, and it works. I spent 4 years of my life and  hundreds of hours helping kids make a difference.

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S.O.S. For Youth positively changes the lives of its actors and students (sosplayers.org)

HackHarassment works to solve the problems of Internet bullying, by getting the word out so people start to realize how bullying behaviors harm people. They will host online hackathons to generate awareness, implement accountability, and work to develop advanced anti-harassment technology solutions. Most importantly, Hack Harassment is about creating positive change.

The idea is to crowdsource help from the public to make a difference. After an S.O.S. show, we had talk-backs and breakout sessions that involved actors talking with students. This is how we made contact. They brought their problems to us, and we found help for them. The shows created a feeling to which they they could relate and use. Getting a conversation going really made a difference. Hackathons employ a similar idea.

Now, if you’re reading and feel the issue of cyber-bullying doesn’t affect you, remember we all live in a digital world. Online harassment effects everyone whether you know it or not. It can change life in a blink. It affects friends, family members and yours truly. Don’t sit by, act.

The online harassment problem is widespread and more volatile than ever before. It is an accepted norm to which we turn a blind eye. It is gamer culture.

I listen to people insult, harass and bully in the name of trolling. But what does trolling do for the world? Why do some people  tear others down just to do do it? This behavior contributes nothing, but it does infect others like the Plague. This problem matters. It makes me angry, and it should make you angry, too. It’s not something that will just go away. It won’t, if we do nothing.

Everyone needs to hack harassment. Every Internet user must work to change it, because everyone deserves to feel safe and respected online.

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There’s a difference between hate speech and free speech. (recode.net)

If you are reading this, I assume you’re online. If not, get online, stop reading this and go HackHarassment. That means everyone. Join the discussion #hackharassment.

We inhabit an ever-evolving digital world, a frontier we need to make safe in every generation.

Tune in to this week’s Geekwave Podcast where we’ll #hackharassment. You can also catch my interview with Intel CEO, Brian Krzanich.

-Ollie,  Social Activist (Takes a swig of H2O from his water bottle, and takes a nap he’s so worked up)

#HACKHARASSMENT