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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Vid Pick: Jon Hope – Savage Beauty
Friday, September 22, 2017

During the summer of 2015 I discovered a super-talented hip-hop artist by the name of Jon Hope. His work was passionate, his lyrics were top notch, and his star began rising at a rapid rate. Then, in early 2016, he disappeared.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago, and it was with great excitement that I saw an email from Hope in my inbox, letting me know he’d released a video for a new piece titled “Savage Beauty.” Wanting to know more about the clip, and where he’d been for the past year-plus, I caught up with Hope to find out what he’s been up to.

First off, where have you been?!?! It’s been a while since we last heard from you. What was the reason for your break, and your social media blackout? Was it artistic downtime? Were you simply super focused? Where was Jon Hope?

It has been some time since I have been active. For some reason I tend to go off the grid, and just live life.

I think as an indie artist we tend to operate, and get caught up, in everyone else’s pace, and we punish ourselves for it. I just wanted to hear my own pulse, and create without a social deadline.

I also got involved with new things, and expanded my reach as an entrepreneur. I bought property, and am developing my creative space – the Zayn Butler Compound in Providence. I’m also a professor at a university in New England, teaching a hip-hop inspired course that I designed.

Why do you feel “Savage Beauty” is the perfect piece to re-announce your artistic presence with?

“Savage Beauty” is right on time. The hysteria, the divisiveness, all the bullshit that’s going on in America, particularly affecting young people of color – I’d be a fool not to dive head first into it as an artist.

This project is a conduit for people who want to transition to a better situation in their lives.

I think Trump’s administration is indirectly forcing us to take a hard look at humanity, and remove labels, religions, creeds, class, etc., and do whatever it takes to push the agenda of goodwill.

How do we get to that point of savagery to beauty? This project looks for the answer.

There’s a lot of hope in this piece – no pun intended.

If you start from the premise that no one is exempt from prejudice, harm, depression, violence, etc. … then there’s no room for judgment, and people will gravitate to the idea of something better. I just want to do my part as a creative to foster that.

How did the video come together, and in what ways do you feel the imagery represents the message?

I have to thank the director, Jon Walley, and Chris Peaks for execution of my vision. It was a collaborative effort to set the tone of what’s to come on the project. It’s like a visual hike from elements of my childhood as a foster, to the violence in my city of Providence (Rhode Island), to the craziness going in America, all the while you see the thread of the forest, which represents that search, or desire, for more.

It’s one of my proudest moments as a writer.

You mentioned “Savage Beauty” is off of an upcoming project. What can you tell everyone about it?

Savage Beauty is my upcoming project, and it’s less personal. This is about me looking outward, and curating other voices. I have dope production from Bongo By The Way (Chance The Rapper, Jerimih, The Game), and Kris Fame (Lupe Fiasco), and it will feature some of the dopest talent from New England.

The new single is “ChamPain,” which is hard, and really in line with the tone of the rest of the project. I also partnered up with creative director Phil Johnston to executive produce (the project), and guide me.

For more Jon Hope, check out jonhopemusic.com.

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3 Reasons You Should See Toy Cars Live
Thursday, September 21, 2017

As many of you know, I have a golden rule about attending concerts – always try to get there in time to see the opening act!

I can’t tell you how many times showing up early has led to some of my favorite musical discoveries. This happened yet again the other week, when I attended a show at Mercury Lounge that featured New Jersey-based rock band Toy Cars as the opener.

Aside from writing about one of the band’s videos for a column late in 2016, I really didn’t know much about Toy Cars going in, but I not only left a fan, I picked up a cassette of their EP, Sleeping Patterns (yes, you read that right, I said cassette!).

If you want to know what about their show inspired me to make that purchase, here are three reasons you should see Toy Cars live.

1. Their Sound is Stadium Rock Meets Indie Rock

There were times, especially early in their set, when I felt like Toy Cars were a stadium rock band on an indie band's stage. I could easily imagine them performing their songs in front of an audience the size of which would rival one of U2’s shows. At other times, Toy Cars showed off their indie rock chops. This dichotomy makes them the perfect band to reach both sets of fans.

It wasn’t until the very end of their set that I could finally put my finger on a band that performs in a similar vein – Everclear.

That’s some really good company to be in!

2. (Crowd) Size Doesn’t Matter

Toy Cars were in a damned near impossible time slot – 7pm on a Thursday. It’s incredibly difficult to get an NYC crowd into a venue at that hour. That said, Toy Cars performed with the kind of intensity that would make you think the venue was at capacity, and they were turning people away at the door.

Lead singer Matteo DeBeneditti gets into a zone when performing, so whether there are 7, 70, or 700 people in attendance, fans are being treated to an energy packed set.

3. They Will Risk Life and Limb to Rock Out

OK, maybe this is a slight exaggeration, but during Toy Cars’ set DeBeneditti found himself performing in a small pool of whiskey, as he accidentally kicked over his drink mid-song. His guitar chord was in this small pool of whiskey. Everyone knows what can happen when you get electrical equipment wet!

So yes, Toy Cars will risk their lives – and even their drinks – to put on a great show.


To find out when, and where, Toy Cars performing next, check out their Facebook page for show dates.

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NYC Scene Report – Diet Cig, The Jukebox Romantics, & more
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

This week’s NYC Scene Report features a new video for an older song by indie rockers Diet Cig, a pop-punk tune from The Jukebox Romantics, Zuli giving listeners something with a retro rock n roll vibe, and indie singer-songwriter Justin Morelli singing one of his Bed Time Stories.

* Diet Cig have become one of the most buzzed about bands in NYC. So much so, in fact, that when Pitchfork gave a negative review to the band’s most recent album, Swear I’m Good At This, it set off a tweet-storm of support for the NY-based duo.

I first became enamored with Diet Cig a little over two years ago, which is when I first featured them here. This is why I’m especially happy to see their 2015 Over Easy EP get an official release – digital, vinyl, and cassette – via Father/Daughter Records.

The duo made a video for the single “Harvard,” and it features roller derby … well, almost … and some overaggressive parenting.

Diet Cig are on tour overseas through October 28th, but you can check out “Harvard” right here.


* When I featured The Jukebox Romantics here a few months ago it was for their blistering punk rock song “Breaking Rad.” Their latest, “Buried With Children," shows the band also has a classic pop punk side. When you listen to the song you can easily imagine you’re back in the ‘90s – and who doesn’t want to be back in the ‘90s?

“Buried With Children” is off of the band’s upcoming, as of yet untitled, album, due out this fall via Paper + Plastick Records.

Total road warriors, The Jukebox Romantics – who are all about “fun, heartfelt, sweaty punk rock” – celebrated finishing up a recent tour by going on another one. You can catch them live through November 4th, and you can check out the video for “Buried With Children” right here.


* Like your indie rock to have a retro rock n roll vibe? Then you’ll definitely want to check out “Kubadiver" which is the latest from Zuli. It starts out like a singer-songwriter song, but really ramps up around 1:20 in, with a sound reminiscent of some of the retro rock acts that broke into the mainstream in the early millennium.

“Kubadiver” is off of Zuli’s upcoming album, Human Freakout Mountain, which is due out October 20th via Swoom City Music. According to Zuli, the content of the album stems from his return to Long Island after time on the road with various bands, and his subsequent reconnecting with friends while writing his debut EP, 2015’s Supernatural Voodoo.

“I felt the songs all connected to this period in life where everything was in limbo,” he explains. “You are still connected to your childhood, but you need to make decisions that will potentially affect the outcome of your entire life.”

Check out “Kubadiver” to hear what he’s talking about.


* NYC-based singer-songwriter Justin Morelli has experienced success in a way very few have – with a remix to one of his songs blowing up before releasing the original version.

As the story goes, Morelli wrote and recorded “Stay All Night” for his debut EP, Bed Time Stories, back in 2016. It landed in the hands of Latin producer Boy Wonder, and his protege Papi Wilo, who conceived of a reggaeton remix that found its way to radio. Listeners fell in love with the reggaeton version of song, the video for which has racked up over two million views on YouTube.

Last month, Morelli finally released the original version of “Stay All Night” as part of a unique bi-weekly song release rollout of all seven tracks from Bed Time Stories.

Give Morelli’s original version of the song a spin, and hear what caught Boy Wonder and Papi Wilo’s attention.


For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.

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Stacking The Deck with Fjer
Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Stacking The Deck is a feature exclusive to Adam’s World where I bring packs of 1991 Pro Set Superstars MusiCards to artists, and we discuss who they find in each pack.

When I sat down with Danish electro-soul-pop artist Fjer for this feature she was open about being slightly nervous. Her nerves had nothing to do with doing an interview, as we’d done plenty of interviews over the years. Her nerves were regarding potentially not knowing any of the artists in the packs of MusiCards I was going to hand to her.

Even though many of us in America think of pop culture as our country’s number one export, other countries have their own self-contained music scenes, and in the pre-internet era only America’s most popular acts broke through.


Thankfully, when Fjer and I sat down at the Think Coffee at the corner of Bleecker and Bowery, and she opened up the packs of MusiCards, we found a few artists she recognized. This sparked conversations about musical inspirations, and the surprising person whose wardrobe she’d love to steal.



Janet Jackson

I know her, obviously, but I don’t know that much of her. It was always the brother.

But, musically, she made it all the way out to Denmark?

She did, but not massively. There were a few hits, and obviously “Scream,” but (she was) never like a big thing.

Later I really appreciated “Scream.” It was shown in an art museum in Aarhus, where I’m from, and it blew my mind.

(Director) Mark Romanek makes amazing music videos. All his videos are art, they’re all beautiful.

They literally showed it at an art museum, but that was like years later. It was an exhibit about the most beautiful, artful, music videos, and that was one of them. Of course, Bjork had like three there. It was a bunch of different directors. That’s how I saw it on a big screen.

It still holds up, and the style in that video, you’ve seen me on stage, that’s what I aspire to look like.

It’s so beautiful, and the fact that it’s beautiful, and the fact that it’s black and white, it’s just gorgeous.

So your current set design, and look, are loosely inspired by the concepts that came to mind from that time?

Yes. The mid-to-late ‘90s. Actually, mostly the late ‘90s.

Later, with the “No Scrubs” video by TLC, and that kind of more like leather, S&M, silver, metallic, goggles … that shit, that’s basically my look right now. That’s what all I’m about, late ‘90s, early aughts. These guys were ahead of their time.



Cher

Again, with her, I gotta say I got in later. I know that she was obviously a huge icon before I knew of her, but when she got really famous – she might have been famous in Denmark before – but when I knew of her it was actually “Believe.”

I know that she had done so much before that, but “Believe” was like one of those, already as a kid, guilty pleasures. You knew you weren’t supposed to like that.

The thing about it was, because of the Auto-Tune effect, that was basically why it became a hit, and literally, she started that whole thing. She, and obviously some other people, but that sound, and that song is the reason that Auto-Tune is so used right now.

That was ’98, so I was seven.

That song was a rebirth for her.

The thing was, that was right around the time when they started to use the pitch corrector, not straight up Auto-Tune, but just like to correct them a little bit. It was actually just to find the note, so you take the sensitivity down. It will grab onto the note, and try to process it, so much that it actually makes it wobble.

So that was (originally) a mistake, and they just kept it on, and it became the gimmick of the song.

And I fucking love Auto-Tune. I use it on everything. Sometimes I use it for an effect, like she did, like a lot of the music everyone is listening to now, but most of the time I use it just to even out the choir work in all of the stuff that I’m doing to make it sound more electronic, and then I’ll have my own organic voice on top. That’s my sound. I love the robotic sound. She kicked that off. She really did.



Vanilla Ice

Oh no!

You have to admit you knew who Vanilla Ice was.

I know who he is, but I don’t have a lot to say about him. I know “Ice Ice Baby,” obviously, and I know hip-hop people hated this guy, because I am surrounded by hip-hop people.

Just this picture … how current is this right now? With the track pants, and the big jacket with the letters on it? This is basically what Justin Bieber wears in 2017. I’m just waiting for the flat top to come back. That hasn’t happened yet, but that’s amazing. I love this picture. I want these pants. I’m so obsessed with this fashion right now.

So if Vanilla Ice reads this …

He was a very beautiful man, but even I can see, as a white person, I can see how this was super fucking corny, to the point where it’s like, why you gotta ruin hip-hop?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why there needed to be a cornball white rapper in order to make hip-hop more mainstream, and I understand that at that time that’s just what happened, but it’s just super sad.

I just want his clothes, and I think he was handsome, and that’s it. {laughs}

Basically, you want to find his old storage locker.

Oh yeah. People would kill for these clothes right now. It’s so current that it’s hilarious. This doesn’t look old to me. Isn’t that weird?


For more Fjer, check out fjermusic.com.

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Pop Shots – Relationship Drama
Monday, September 18, 2017

Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week Pop Shots is hitting you with thoughts on everything from Mariah’s collaborative honor, to Fergie and Josh Duhamel’s breakup, to Katy Perry connecting with Comcast, and since this is Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.

* Mariah Carey will be honored at VH1's Hip Hop Honors: The '90s Game Changers for her many collaborative efforts with rappers. Apparently no one at VH1 knew any actual ‘90s rappers, so they just pulled someone off their VH1 Divas list and said, “F*ck it. Let’s run with it.”

* Selena Gomez announced on Instagram that she had a kidney transplant earlier this summer due to complications stemming from Lupus. With Selena going through this, and me having gone through cancer and chemo earlier this year, I don’t know if I want to interview her, or simply hang out and compare our 2017 battle wounds.

* Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo announced they’re expecting their second child. I’m just here waiting for any other Victoria’s Secret model to suddenly have a thing for guys named Adam. Maybe an Adam with glasses … and a music blog. Anyone?


* Fergie and Josh Duhamel have split after eight years of marriage. So now if you want to see a couple that consists of a member of Black Eyed Peas and someone who starred in various Transformers movies … well, let me tell you about my will.i.am fan fiction!

* Avril Lavigne surprised the crowd at a Nickelback concert in Los Angeles when she joined the band – and most notably her former beau, Chad Kroeger – to guest on the song “Rockstar.” The rest of the world was surprised there was a crowd at a Nickelback concert.

* Comcast’s Xfinity brand is launching a new On-Demand destination that will allow Katy Perry fans who are Xfinity X1 customers to access behind-the-scenes content from her 85 date Witness: The Tour, as well as music videos, and never-before-seen interviews. The next step in this partnership will hopefully be Katy Perry starring in a remake of the Jim Carrey classic, The Cable Guy.


* Bruno Mars fans will be able to see the singer in his first primetime TV special – Bruno Mars: 24K Magic Live at the Apollo – November 29th at 10pm on CBS … cuz nothin’ says the holiday season is upon us like recklessly sampling dozens of funk classics.

* Gene Simmons has announced he’ll be releasing a box set of previously unreleased solo material known as The Vault on ten CDs in a big vault-like box, but you’re gonna have to pony up some serious cash if you want to listen. Simmons is planning on releasing The Vault in tiers – the lowest priced tier being $2,000, the highest being $50,000, all of which include meeting the man himself. $2,000 seems like a lot just to meet Gene Simmons, especially for groupies from back in the ‘70s who remember when all they’d have to do to hang with Gene Simmons is Ace Frehley. Actually, maybe The Vault is a bit of a discount.


* Chance the Rapper is being sued for alleged copyright infringement over his song "Windows" off of his debut mixtape, 10 Day, which came out in 2012. The plaintiff is a New York based jazz musician and composer named Abdul Wali Muhammad (formerly Eric P. Saunders), who claims the song contains portions of the Lonnie Liston Smith song "Bridge Through Time," which Muhammad filed a separate copyright claim for in 1979, a year before it was released. So basically, someone who had no idea who Chance the Rapper is now thinks all the money Chance has donated to charity should have gone to him? Ah, litigiousness, ain’t it grand?

* Puddle of Mudd frontman Wes Scantlin, who has been in the news for all the wrong reasons over the past few years, was arrested at LAX for allegedly attempting to bring a BB gun on a plane. His bail was reportedly set at $850,000, but that’s just because the judge f*cking hates him.


And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.

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Vid Pick: Conscious – 3:33
Friday, September 15, 2017

Long before he became one of Brooklyn’s great entrepreneurs, and community leaders, Conscious was a hip-hop renaissance man – part emcee, part producer, part poet, and even occasional singer. A true artistic visionary, he released a visual album over a full year before Beyonce.

With a late night posting of a new song titled “3:33,” Conscious reminded everyone that the artist inside him is still alive and well. I caught up with him to get the story behind “3:33,” as well as the video he released for it, and find out what’s been inspiring him of late.

Clocking in at just under 1:45, “3:33” is in the tradition of much of your work, embracing quality over quantity. What inspired the content of the song, and why did you want to get this particular message out right now?

I believe one night a few lines came to me while listening to (Jay-Z’s) 4:44. I think after that I sought out an instrumental version, found it, and continued to write.

Initially it was just a verse to upload to Bandcamp. Of course, I couldn’t leave it at just that. I decided to create the video, and the selection of this particular clip suited it so well.

Lyrically this is in line with my general life message of #SelfWorkMatters. (I was) expressing some feelings and ideas that were floating in my mind at the time.

The present is always a good time to advocate for #selflove.

I personally enjoyed, and was moved by, the 4:44 record, as well the original song the sample is borrowed from. I feel all three creations present a depth of emotion, introspection, and communicate human experiences that are familiar, though perhaps not discussed regularly as candidly, and matter of factly.

Sometimes my delivery mirrors Jay's as it can seemingly lack emotion while clearly speaking of matters of emotion. 

Where was the video shot, and what spoke to you about this location?

A good friend of mine shared some video from a visit back home, (and) I asked if I could use it for something in the future. (I had) no idea that I'd be writing “3:33” shortly after.

(The location) is called the Babbacombe Cliff Railway. Babbacombe is the name of an area/beach in Torquay, in the English county of Devon. 

There is just an energy. I can't articulate it. It makes sense. 

Is there any hidden meaning to the panning out, and/or the video being shot sideways?

No hidden meaning. Not from me. But from feedback, the motion of this video, and the movement of objects in the environment, had a definite impact on viewers. That I purposefully played with. I mean, I felt it as I created it in the wee hours of the morning.

The video is one continuous shot captured by an iPhone, so it was (originally) vertical, and I actually for the first time considered letting it go as that, totally against my feelings about the proper way to hold a phone to shoot, and as an exercise to be less ridged about the way things have to be done. But when I dropped it into my editing program it appeared horizontally, and honestly it ended up lending much to the mood and presentation.

The video was just a few seconds longer than the musical recording, and I wanted to make sure I used it all without truncating. I sped it up slightly to match, and present space for a more dramatic display of the title card at the end.

Timing is so important. When you don't have much (time), it's even more critical when combining visual and sound elements to capture a mood, and round out your piece in theatric fashion, even when it's video on a mobile device. If I can capture attention in that space like one would on a giant screen, then that's a win.

Other than being a play on Jay-Z’s 4:44, why did you name the track “3:33?”

Three is the number of completion. Beginning, middle, and end.

What are you working on for the rest of 2017?

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings I’m on the air doing TK in The AM on Bondfire Radio. I’m continuing to build the station, doing #selfwork, of course, and developing Geturshirt and HoodMarket101.

To quote the late Dr. Wayne Dyer, “You are where you focus,” so I'm focused on self study, success in business, and leading with love.

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