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June 2019

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“Drizzy” Drake has had quite the month of June. He has announced that he is in “album mode”, his beloved Raptors have won their first NBA Championship, and he released a two pack of songs to follow. One of those two songs, Money in the Grave, has debuted in the Hot 100, which was the icing on the cake for Drake’s June of successes.

With Money in the Grave debuting as number 7 in the Hot 100, Drake’s thirty-fifth top 10 track, he breaks the tie at thirty-four with The Beatles for the second most top 10 songs all the time. Any record that is broken previously held by someone with such prestige like The Beatles is an incredible feat, and yet another accolade to add on to the long list of accomplishments in Drake’s career to date.

Next up on the list for Drake is icon Madonna, whom Drake ironically has a song named after. She has 38 Top 10’s all-time, and there is little doubt that Drake will break her record in due time. Take into account the fact that he has done all this in a span of just over 10 years, one can imagine that he will not only break her record, but set a bar to be broken so high it almost seems implausible.

Suffice to say, June was a pretty good month for Canadian icon Aubrey “Drake” Graham.

“Bad Guy” is more proof of the multi-faceted artistry of Billie Eilish.  She operates on so many levels it’s hard to track them.  Her tunes are pop confections of consistent quality, her visuals are inventive performance art pieces and her vocals move from feathery to sinister.  That’s just on this song.

All of this was apparent in her easiest work, though by comparison it seems as though she was playing it safe back then.  The song “Ocean Eyes” from three years ago is one of her most straight forward attempts.  The video starts with a simple singer/songwriter delivery and then, without bringing attention to it, her hands come into frame and they appear to be stained with blue ink. No reason, just a visual mention of Ms. Eilish’s bend approach, an approach that has flowered and released all its strangeness as her career has moved forward.

Notably, it is the haunting melodies of hers that provides the solid foundation allowing the strangeness to work so well.  If they were too abstract, it would all be disconnected from reality.  Billie Eilish is a master work and she has come along at the perfect time, a time when multi-layered media opportunities abound for a multi-faceted artist.  The audio-video medium is her instrument.

“Bad Guy” is the number three streamed song and the number six purchased song in the last week of June.

If you are a music fan, there is a new show on NBC made for you. It’s called Songland.  Adam Levine, from Maron 5 and The Voice, was part of the team that created it, but he’s not the story.  The story is that Songland gives you the most accurate glimpse of how hit songs happen as has ever been aired.  Each week a big time artist has a chance to choose a between songs pitched by unknown songwriters.  Some of them are wannabe artists, others can sing well enough to present their music, but will never be lead voices themselves. 

While the stars change every week, there is a stable panel of major league record producers who, after hearing the songs, provide constructive criticism.  They suggest ways to improve the song.  Then you see the studio process and how those changes are realized.

The show ends with the weekly star choosing one of the reworked songs to record.  Here’s a great example of the beginning and the end of the process for a song called “Greenlight” by unknown singer/songwriter Able Heart.  Watch the first video to see Able Heart present the song.  Follow that with the second video of the Jonas Brothers version that sits at number 9 on the iTunes most purchased list this week.

Song selection process:

Jonas Brother’s Hit Song:

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-pty-pty_maps&hsimp=yhs-pty_maps&hspart=pty&p=jonas+brother+greenlight#id=1&vid=fe23ebafb770384044251fa567331bde&action=click

Recent protests in Hong Kong occurred over a bill which would allow Hong Kong residents to be brought to court in mainland China for actions done in Hong Kong. More specifically, protesters in Hong Kong are concerned that freedom of expression is under attack because of fears that Hong Kong critics of China’s government might be extradited to the People’s Republic of China. These happenings come as part of a history of power struggles between China and Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a former British colony which was only recently given back to China in 1997. Hong Kong first became a British colony in 1842 after the First Opium War. The war occurred as an attempt by China to suppress an illegal British drug trade of Opium into China; the British won the war which lead to the Treaty of Nanjing. This treaty gave Hong Kong to British control. It was one of several unequal treaties between China and imperialist powers. China has in recent history sought to regain its strength on the global stage. The agreement in which Hong Kong was returned to China was described as creating “one country, two systems.” This recent bill is looking like a threat to the “two systems” part of the slogan. Perhaps this is a way for China to assert itself against Western power.

            Hong Kong served as a refuge for mainland Chinese people during the invasion of China by the Japanese Empire during the Sino-Japanese war starting in 1937. Eventually the Japanese took over Hong Kong as part of the war, yet the British regained control after WW2. In 1984 Britain and China signed an agreement about Hong Kong, promising it will be returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under the conditions that Hong Kong would keep its capitalist system and its partially democratic political system. Concerns now exist that this agreement seems to be under attack. If Hong Kong critics of the government in Beijing end up punished in mainland China for expressing their perspective, little hope is left for the “two systems” agreement.

            Hong Kong is generally acknowledged as having high levels of free speech and civil liberties. Freedom House, a non-profit research group which studies political freedoms and human rights, provides yearly rankings of freedom in countries around the world. In 2019, Freedom House gave a “partly free” ranking to Hong Kong, while also giving a “not free” ranking to China. This would suggest that China exerting greater power over Hong Kong probably won’t be good for Hong Kong’s freedom.

            On June 9th, more than a million people marched against the new bill. Three days after the protests began police shot rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons into a crowd outside a government complex. Journalists have been challenging government claims that the police didn’t use excessive amounts of force. A New York Times article “Hong Kong Protest Live Updates: Police Violence Puts Government on Defensive,” has reported that the Hong Kong police arrested a man who organized thousands of protestors using a smart-phone app. Hong Kong’s police commissioner has said that Hong Kong will not seek the assistance of the People’s Liberation Army. The commissioner added that 22 police officers were injured from the conflict. The English language China Daily publication, which is a media source owned by the Chinese communist party, has implied that the opposition to the new amendment is rooted in “foreign masters” who are opposing it at the expense of the city of Hong Kong. Another publication owned by the Chinese government, The Global Times, has described the opposition as “radical opposition forces” who are allegedly supported by “the Western forces behind them.”

            United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May has expressed concern over the bill saying that the freedoms given to Hong Kong in the 1984 Sino-British joint declaration must be respected. She mentioned that many British citizens currently reside in Hong Kong. In the 19th century, Great Britain was more powerful than China, today this is clearly not the case. It’s unclear if Britain or the West in general can make much of a difference regarding what happens to Hong Kong. It remains to be seen if Hong Kong will find a way to defend its liberty against increasing control from the mainland.

Links

Story 1

https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/06/13/everyday-tasks-few-people-do-anymore-because-technology/1438758001/

https://www.history.com/topics/inventions/printing-press

https://home.bt.com/tech-gadgets/future-tech/9-jobs-overtaken-by-robots-11364003046052

Story 2

https://www.theguardian.com/global/video/2019/jun/12/hong-kong-protesters-gather-to-oppose-extradition-bill-debate-video

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/hong-kong-protests-latest-updates-190612074625753.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-48607723

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-16526765

https://www.britannica.com/event/Treaty-of-Nanjing

https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2019/map

Miley Cyrus knows how to keep her name in the mix.  She recently liked an IG post saying that she, Ariana Grande and Lana Del Rey will soon be releasing collaboration, and the internet is abuzz.  Although Ariana added to the noise when she too liked it we’ve gotten no hints from Del Rey.

Cyrus and Grande are no strangers to collaboration, they released, “Don’t Dream It’s Over” a couple years ago for charity.  Adding Lana’s soft, plaintiff voice their big voices could make for nice musical contrast, if Del Rey can punch through.  Although this whole story started from mere speculation the attention it has garnered might bring the trio into the studio anyway. 

It is easy to see her deeply Latin look, her teeny roles for Disney and a history of purely pop songs and come to the conclusion that Selena Gomez is a light weight.  You would be wrong.  Ms. Gomez was born in 1992 in Texas and by the time she was ten she had scored a role in Disney’s Barney & Friends.  During the auditions she would meet Demi Lovato and the two would follow parallel acting and singing careers at the studio.

Gomez’s acting breakthrough came as the lead in the Disney TV series Wizards of Waverly Place, which lasted four years. 

Her musical breakthrough came in 2013 after years of recording in the context of movies and TV shows and almost always getting mixed reviews, Gomez released “Come & Get It” as the lead single from her first solo album Stars Dance. The song reached top ten on Billboard’s Hot 100.

At various times she has pointed to musical influences that include: Bruno Mars, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Cheryl Cole, Taylor Swift, Janet Jackson and producer Skrillex

By 16, Selena Gomez had an acting career and a singing career and an early sense of business: she formed July Moon Productions, a production company she used for her pop-rock band Selena Gomez & the Scene, which preceded her solo albums.  She was serious.

With a couple more years under her belt, Gomez went into business by starting an eco-friendly casual fashion line called, Dream Out Loud.  That was 2010, by July of 2011 she signed a fragrance deal with Adrenalina.  She would later (2015) become the face on Pantene haircare products.

Meanwhile, Selena’s music career was chugging along.  2015 saw the release of her second solo studio album, Revival, which yielded three consecutive number one singles.  She was now one of only six female artists to ever have three singles from the same album top the chart.

Though young and spirited, Selena Gomez has started at least two long, multi-continent tours in support of her albums and in both cases ended up cancelling the later legs due to mental stress of one sort or another.  And in her early twenties she was diagnosed with lupus, an auto-immune disease.

In spite of these health concerns, Selena Gomez is a hard driving artist who, at the age of 26, has an impressive list of accomplishments. 

“Senorita” by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello sounds like summer as their mellow voices alternate, then harmonize, then alternate again with a light Latin snap rhythm in support of a pretty stock melody.  It also sounds like something else; a chart topper.

The two artists had a hit together as teens four years ago with “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” which came out of Mendes’ album Handwritten.  There‘s been some growth from then to now. Check them out getting steamy in their latest music video below!

            In 2020, Disney is releasing an animated web television series spin-off of the Monsters Inc. franchise titled Monsters at Work. The visuals of a new character from Monsters at Work has been revealed to the general public. Ben Feldman is the voice actor for the character Tylor Tuskmon, an eager and talented mechanic. Feldman showed the image to the public through an Instagram post on June 12th.

            The image presents a thin and yellow character with bright blue eyes. A lot of personality is clearly present in the image. The character is blessed with horns, a bright blue hat and two white teeth sticking out. His body language shows incredible enthusiasm and readiness for the job at hand. He is carrying a red toolkit in his left hand and a silver tool in his right hand. He has thin feet with black nails at the end. Everything about his body language suggests that he is an innocent soul who is excited about his work.

The beauty of Disney’s new Aladdin film does not end with the film! The new movies comes with a line of Mac beauty products, including eye shadow and lipstick. The eye shadow palette called X9: Princess Jasmine, comes with nine shades including golden brown, bright gold, metallic pink, strong gold, pure silver and dark black among others. The lipsticks are named after moments in the film: one is called Rajah (deep purple) and the other is Whole New World (deep pink). Both the eye shadow and the lipsticks come in attractive gold packaging. Keep a lookout for these becoming available near you!

            Tom Hanks and Tim Allen have been playing their characters voice in the Toy Story films for 25 years. This process has allowed them to relate to their characters more and more over time. Acting is a matter of putting yourself in the shoes of a character, so it makes sense that the actor would start to relate to the personality and struggles of their character.

            Tom Hanks relates to his character Woody through the idea of being a team player. Hanks said at a red-carpet event, “I am a team player. I love being part of an ensemble, and I think we are always in this together somehow. Anybody can make it a miserable day by being cranky or self-centered or thinking it’s all about them instead of all about the whole.” Woody is known for his loyalty to his friends in Toy Story movies.

Tim Allen says that he hopes he has the same authenticity that Buzz has. Buzz accepts that he is a toy when he is told this by Woody and he accepts himself for who he is.

The two actors have been going to lunch together for years and the end of the series is an emotional experience for them. Interesting how imaginary stories can bring real people together.