September 29, 2005

Throwback Thursdays

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Lately, due to the classes and talks I’ve been attending on campus, I’ve been thinking a lot about originality. Sometimes I look around and all I find is a sea of the commonplace. It’s hard to discover that “something special” when TV shows attempt to bank on the same formula as their competitors from season to season, “Lighters Up” by Lil Kim sounds a lot like Jr. Gong Damian Marley’s “Welcome to Jamrock,” David Banner’s “Play” is an unapologetic carbon copy of “Whisper Song” and Ciarra looks a lot like Ashanti, who’s trying to look like Beyonce, who is simply divine, but the world really only needs one Beyonce.

The outlook of film doesn’t appear to be promising either. Film distributor Larry Jackson calls it the “age of undergrad film schools,” where students study their adulated icon’s films and learn to create, not surprisingly, their favorite icon’s films. I can’t remember one good film from the summer that wasn’t a throwback to a movie from way back when. I mean, what romantic comedy released in the last five years has not made a reference to When Harry met Sally? What recent thriller hasn’t reused the worn suspenseful because it-all-comes-together-in-the-last-five-minutes-folks-I-swear route applied so well by The Sixth Sense? It’s great, but even M. Night Shyamalan’s endings are Planet of the Apes/Psycho-esque. I’m sorry, but something like, “Oh my god, so he’s really been dead for the entire movie?” is only an effective surprise once or twice a year.

If anyone else out there would like to step out of the entertainment redundant lull that’s been served to us on a platter of crap and more crap, here’s a shortlist of my faves from last summer onward that give me hope for the future of music and movies in our great U.S. of A.

An informal definition would be where DJs mix old school with the new. DJ Danger Mouse started it all when he created the Grey Album, a lovely fusion of classic Beatles faves and Jay-Z’s final record. Some other delightful downloads I’ve found have been a smashup of Cameo’s “Word Up,” Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” and most recently, a brilliant mix of Radiohead’s “High and Dry” with Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” I hope this trend doesn’t stop anytime soon.

Lizz Wright
I first caught notice of her second CD, Dreaming Wide Awake, over the summer and could not get over how strikingly beautiful this girl’s voice is. She seems vaguely familiar, in the vein of Joan Armatrading or Tracy Chapman, but Wright’s unique style and superb vocal abilities are immensely refreshing. What a strong statement one can make in the still of hushed delicate sound.

Me and You and Everyone We Know
I absolutely adored this little film by performance artist Miranda July when I saw it at the IFC in August. I love it for its quirky but relatable dialogue and the statements it makes about diversity and the frivolity of the modern art world. Although the movie is naive at times in its dealings with sensitive subject matter, it is all done in a tasteful and respectable manner. July manages to confront a wide range of issues – some comical, others disturbing and tragic – with grace and indelible charm. Me and You and Everyone We Know will be screening at Cornell Cinema during October.

Go to his website,, and you’ll be formally introduced to the “Hasidic Reggae Superstar.” I’m doubtful Hasidic Reggae even existed before Matisyahu. Bedecked in orthodox clothing and full beard, the one-time Matthew Miller and co. crafts songs dedicated to the music he fell in love with as a hippie youth and his newfound Lubavitch Hasidic lifestyle. Watching this guy live must be a trip.

Amerie – One Thing
So this breaks my rule of keeping my timeframe within the past few months, but when this song came out, I thought it was the coolest thing. The beat, the sound … it was from another planet compared to the R&B scene today. Produced by Amerie’s long-time recording partner Rich Harris, the song doesn’t sample yet another old school jam, but records an actual band with blasting drums and a funk slap bass. It’s a breath of fresh air during a time when innovative and new has become synonymous with the latest Kanye/ Neptunes/ Matrix production.

Maybe one day record companies will realize that we recognize that beat from last year’s hit single. And maybe movie studios won’t roll out tired remakes like Bewitched, that no one I can think of actually wants to see. Well, at least one can dream.

Archived article by Sophia Asare
Sun Staff Writer