Test Spin: Keri Hilson

In 2007, Keri Hilson neared the top of the charts as a featured guest on label boss and mentor Timbaland’s “The Way I Are.” Already an established songwriter, the major pop crossover success of the song was intended to launch of Hilson’s career as a solo artist, as she quickly prepped her debut record for a late 2007 release. However, this release date, as well as subsequent ones, came and went, as label budget cuts and two underperforming singles delayed the project indefinitely. Finally, with the success of third single “Turnin’ Me On” — a flirtatious, swaggering romp adorned with an inspired Lil Wayne guest verse — In a Perfect World… was officially released, a mere 18 months later.

Watch Out — Watchmen Disappoints

Cult comic book nerds rejoice! The film rendition of your beloved Watchmen is at long last in theaters. Having been in development hell for over 20 years — suffering from a revolving door of directors, innumerable re-drafts and legal battles between studio backers — the 2009 Zach Synder-directed incarnation of Watchmen is finally upon us as the movie goes public. And to be honest, I would rather the film just go back to its dusty shelves, as Synder’s much-anticipated adaptation of the world’s most celebrated graphic novel is an insufferably interminable adaptation of the ’80s graphic stories, whose reverence for its origins suffocates nearly all the intriguing nuances of its parent novel.

Test Spin: The-Dream

To those not familiar with contemporary R&B, the solo artist known as The-Dream is a largely unknown entity. Despite reaching gold status and scoring three top-ten R&B singles with his debut Love/Hate, the man born Terius Nash has gained famed chiefly from penning and producing monster hits for the likes of Beyonce (“Single Ladies”), Mariah Carey (“Touch My Body”) and Rihanna (“Umbrella”). While crossover fame has escaped him, his sophomore follow-up will likely launch The-Dream to solo stardom, as Love vs. Money is as professional and concise as mainstream R&B records come.

Test Spin: Kelly Clarkson

Disregarding her misguided 2007 My December foray into “serious sounding pop” music, it has been nearly four years since Kelly Clarkson has commanded the airwaves. The singles off her sophomore effort Breakaway were so omnipresent that it’s hard to imagine it’s been this long, as it too is almost unimaginable to call her fourth proper studio release a comeback album. Nevertheless, this in effect is what All I Ever Wanted is, Clarkson’s acknowledgment to the record-buying faithful that she’s ready to return to her strengths of singing straight-ahead pop music.

Marching on the Hill

The Cornell Big Red Marching Band is certainly a unique organization. Not only are they the largest student-run group in the Ivy League, but they are the only traditional Ivy marching band, spanning a history of well over a century. Despite these distinguishing qualities, there is little known about the inner workings of this welcoming organization. This is what I aimed to seek out.

The Secret Lives of Les Francais

In all likelihood, you probably have never heard of the 2007 French film Un Secret (or “A Secret”, for all you non-French speakers out there). Not only was the film solely distributed in its native country, but it is a wholly sub-titled picture that is performed, written, and directed by an entirely French ensemble. And the film’s anonymousness with American audiences is a shame, as Secret is a poignantly heart-wrenching affair whose anguish and tenderness transcends any language barrier. Through its untraditional plot structure and intimate character storylines, Un Secret intrigues the mind and satisfies the heart with vigorous poignancy.

What Them Boys and Girls Like

Maybe it’s just my uptight, white-boy nature. Maybe I set my expectations too high. Or maybe I just haven’t attended the right show. Whatever the case may be, I rarely have had a great experience at a rap concert. From their general chaotic nature to the star’s lack of perceived rehearsal, the rap concert experience usually leaves me with a sense of “so what?” ambivalence (I’m sorry, T-Pain). So when I heard that Ludacris was coming to Ithaca, I admittedly had mixed emotions — knowing that, in spite of my love for his music (Word of Mouf still affectionately holds that singular place in my heart as my first Parental Advisory rap album purchase), somehow the concert experience was inevitably going to let me down.

Test Spin: U2

It’s been over four years since U2 released their last proper studio album, the Grammy-winning How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Their 2009 return to recording explores no new musical territory, as No Line on the Horizon is a poised, comfortable, record from a veteran group that has nothing left to prove. But at this point in their nearly 30-year career, what musical frontier has U2 not explored? No Line on the Horizon doesn’t aim to reinvent, but rather shrewdly expand upon the grandiose soundscapes U2 has explored for the last decade.

Touched By Nightmare and Fantasy

When I told my friends that I was going to go see Coraline over the weekend, most of them either had no idea what I was talking about — “What’s a Coraline?” — or were prepared to ridicule me for my affinity for animated films — “Isn’t that a kid movie?” And while the film is indeed an animated feature that primarily caters to the young at heart, this is a film that transcends all age barriers, as Coraline is an enchanting picture distinguished by its unique amalgamation of youthful spirit and whimsical charm. Characterized by its eye-popping visuals and mystical story line, this is a tightly-focused movie that keeps you engaged throughout.

The Sun's Guide to: The 51st Annual Grammy Awards

Every year since the Grammys’ inception 51 years ago, they have been a crap shoot of controversy. Following convoluted nomination metrics of artistic merit and commercial success, the Recording Academy never fails to surprise (and confuse) with its subjective selection of nominees. And while this year’s leading nom-getters are surprisingly mainstream — Lil Wayne earning top nominations with eight, followed by Coldplay garnering seven, and Jay-Z, Ne-Yo and Kanye West each earning six nods — there are bound to be some upset selections when the winners are revealed. As Lil Wayne rambled on his Weezy YouTube blog, “I think they [the Academy] thinks it’s enough just to nominate me,” going as far to predict he will get shutout of all categories.