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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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Pop Shots – A Look At The Charts … From 43 Years Ago
Monday, September 17, 2018

Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week I’m hopping into my time machine again, this time setting the coordinates for 43 years ago this week.

Stepping out of my time machine I see … man the ‘70s were strange! The decade gave us some great music, though, as evidenced by the Billboard Hot 100 from this week back in 1975, which featured quite a few timeless artists, and songs we still listen to today.

So let’s get into this exploration in chart history! Of course, since this is Pop Shots, you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.

1. David Bowie – Fame



If you were to pick up a pen and pad and list all the people cooler than David Bowie all you’d have is a blank piece of paper. Bowie was the man in so many ways, and “Fame” was the first song of his to reach #1. It’s a bit ironic that a song about the perils of fame would launch him to a new level of superstardom, but Bowie being Bowie, he seemed to take it all in stride.

Oh, and some guy named John Lennon co-wrote the song, and sang backup vocals. Maybe you’ve heard of him. He had a little band of his own back in the day.


10. Bad Company – Feel Like Makin’ Love



Although I can’t prove it, I’m absolutely sure there’s a unspoken rule that “Feel Like Makin’ Love” is required to be played every hour on every classic rock station in America. You know what? That rule is fine by me!

The build up to the chorus, and the killer guitar riff, are things of beauty, and the fact that everyone, no matter their age, cranks this one up, shows the timeless quality of the song (and perhaps the fact that we all “Feel Like Makin’ Love”).


11. Sweet – The Ballroom Blitz



Another song from this chart that’s become a mainstay on classic rock stations, the story behind Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” is pretty interesting. The song was inspired by an incident at a concert of theirs in Scotland in January of 1973 when the band was driven offstage by fans throwing bottles at them. The fact that the band turned such an incident into a hit song that still rocks over 40 years later is a real “when life hand you lemons, make lemonade” story.


68. Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run



The first single of Bruce Springsteen’s career that could be considered a hit, “Born To Run” peaked at #23 on the Billboard Hot 100, and helped sell six million copies of the album of the same name – the third album of Springsteen’s career.

I think it’s safe to say The Boss ran with the success of the song, as over four decades later he still sells out stadiums, and has earned his status an all-time great. Plus, he ended up getting to dance with Courteney Cox. I’m still waiting for my chance to do that!


78. War – Low Rider



Perhaps because of its inclusion in the classic Cheech & Chong film Up In Smoke, I’ve always felt like “Low Rider” was the audible equivalent of being high. You can’t help but feel chilled out while listening to it. Then there’s the vocals … how freakin’ great are those vocals!

“Low Rider” was one of many hits for War, who also gave us “Spill the Wine,” “The Cisco Kid,” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” Now if you’ll excuse me, after listening to it again I’m feeling totally laid back, and ready for a snack.


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: June Divided – I Didn’t Mind
Friday, September 14, 2018

Philly pop-rock foursome June Divided are ready for war … Body Wars, that is.

Body Wars is the title of the band’s just released album, the lead single off of which is the incredibly catchy “I Didn’t Mind.”

Consisting of Melissa Menago (vocals, keys, guitar), Chris Kissel (guitar), Keith Gill (drums), and Lenny Sasso (bass), June Divided recently completed a U.S. tour that saw them hit numerous cities in the Northeast, Midwest, and South.

Wanting to know more about the band, I caught up with Menago to ask her about their music, the interesting situations they’ve found themselves in while on the road, and where they were when the Eagles won the Super Bowl.

Tell everyone a little bit about your new album, Body Wars. The title is intriguing.
 
The hook of the title track is pretty self-explanatory – “Why can’t the head and heart just get along now?”

It’s about being at war with oneself, inner conflict, and how to survive it. 
 
You recently released a video for the single “I Didn’t Mind.” What makes this a perfect song to introduce listeners to the album?
 
It was a fun song to write, it's a fun song to play live, so we made a fun video for it. It’s upbeat and hooky, but we snuck some theory in there for music nerds, too. That’s our band in a nutshell.
 
How personal are the lyrics to you? And if they’re extremely personal, does the person the song is about know it’s about them?
 
My lyrics are always extremely personal. People closest to me respect my privacy and don’t really ever ask, and I appreciate that. I’ve never been too concerned about it (though). I’d rather be honest in a song, and get my feelings out, instead of worrying who will assume what. For me, honesty is the whole point of writing music in the first place.

 
You just finished up a tour. Every band has at least a few interesting stories from the road – getting pulled over, engine troubles, accidentally leaving a member at a gas station – when I say “insane tour story” what’s the first story of yours that comes to mind?
 
We’ve done literally all of the things you mentioned. {laughs}

One time we pulled over so Lenny could pee, and to mess with him Keith began to pull the van away. It was all fun and games until an officer pulled up behind us to yell at us for messing around on the side of a road. We're usually pretty safe and responsible, though.
 
You hail from Philly, a city well known for music. What’s one thing you absolutely love about your city’s music scene, and what’s one thing you’d absolutely love to change about your city’s music scene?
 
It’s so awesome how supportive the artists are of each other here. That’s really something special.

Honestly, the only thing I wish would change are the liquor laws. PA has strict liquor laws, which makes it hard for the venues here to do all-ages shows. A lot of rooms are 21+, and it just makes everything even more difficult on bands, fans, and venues alike.
 
Staying in Philly, the Eagles won the Super Bowl this past season; were any of you in the streets and/or climbing street signs during the celebration?
 
If any of us did climb a street sign, it may have been Keith.

The entire city went absolutely insane.

We were all over the city. Chris was in center city, Lenny was somewhere, and I was on Two Street in South Philly and the Mummers were out in full force. It was wild.
 
Since you didn’t climb a street sign, what would be something you’d be so happy about that you would climb a street sign in celebration?
 
If the Eagles do it again!

For more June Divided check out at junedivided.com, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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3 Reasons You Should See JOATA Live
Thursday, September 13, 2018

With a genre-defying mix of Latin singer-songwriter stylings, hip-hop, and indie rock, JOATA hit the stage at The Acoustic in Bridgeport, CT, this past weekend as part of his Cambio tour.

JOATA is the performance moniker of Brooklyn-based bilingual Puerto Rican musician Jose Oyola, who is a skilled guitarist, singer, emcee, and above all, knows how to inspire emotions.

Cambio, which is Spanish for change, is not only the name of his tour, it’s also the name of his latest project, and it’s a change music fans can believe in.

JOATA’s live show makes him an artist who is easy to believe in, as anyone who was in the crowd at The Acoustic can attest to.


Here are three reasons you should see JOATA live.

1. There’s a lot of passion behind his music

Whether or not a person understands Spanish, emotion is a universal language, and it’s something JOATA performs with an abundance of on stage. If he’s strumming a song about love, you can feel the emotion. If he has the Puerto Rican flag in one hand, microphone in the other, performing the high energy song “Cambio,” you can’t help but feel inspired.

It takes a truly talented individual to cross a language barrier, and relate to people on this level, and JOATA is one of those truly talented folks.

2. He’s a highly engaging artist

I’m pretty sure almost everyone likes when an artist takes the time to talk to the crowd, explain the history, and meaning, behind some of the songs, and engage in a bit of audience interaction. JOATA does all of these things, and he does them with a big smile on his face. Whether it was talking about the inspiration for a song, or joking about when he was learning English, and having trouble with the last name “Johnson,” by the end of his set you’ll feel like you’ve met JOATA, and you will most definitely like him.

3. You’ll learn a little bit of Spanish

At one point during JOATA’s performance he called for the audience to take part in a little call and response. The word he wanted everyone to say, however, was a Spanish word, so guess what – we all learned a little bit of Spanish before the end of the night.

So if you don't know any Español, attending a JOATA performance will cause that to “cambio.”


For more JOATA follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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NYC Scene Report – Otis Clapp, Me Not You, & more
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

This week’s NYC Scene Report features a hip-hop “Eulogy” from Otis Clapp, a live clip from alt pop-rock outfit Me Not You, something “F*cked Up Crazy” from the soulful Stolar, and singer-songwriter Ricky Lewis checking out some “TV On A Tiny Screen.”

* If you’ve been involved in NYC’s indie hip-hop scene anytime over the past decade there’s a pretty good chance you’re familiar with Queens-based emcee Otis Clapp. He’d now like you to meet Quentin.

Quentin is the name of his just released EP, produced entirely by Ricky Vaughn, and it’s an introduction to Otis’ alter-ego – Quentin Ballantino, a mash-up of one of his favorite movie directors, Quentin Tarantino, and his favorite beer, Ballantine.

The lead single off of Quentin is “Eulogy,” which Otis explained the inspiration for in a statement, saying, “During the writing process for Quentin I thought a lot about death. Not necessarily suicide, but more how I wouldn’t want people to be upset at my wake if I DID die. Unconventional to some, but through the good and bad I’m living the life I want to live. If I died tomorrow and was able to speak at my own wake, ‘Eulogy’ would be my final thoughts and perspectives to offer the world.”

Thankfully, Otis Clapp is still alive and well, and able to deliver this “Eulogy.”


* As any reader of this column knows, I’m passionate about telling folks to get out there and enjoy some live music. In my mind, an indie music venue, with a good band on stage, is a perfect recipe for a great night.

Longtime column favorite Me Not You created such a night when they hit the stage at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right last month, and for those of us who weren’t able to attend (sadly, myself included), they’ve posted a few clips from their performance. One of these clips is of the alt pop-rock band’s closing number, “Bulletproof.”

Check out the video, catch the vibe, and you’ll understand why I look forward to being in the crowd next time Me Not You has a show in the city.


* If you’ve ever been in a relationship that’s “F*cked Up Crazy” (and who hasn’t?), NYC-based singer-songwriter Stolar has created a soulful pop anthem for you.

Stolar explained “F*cked Up Crazy” in a statement, saying, “‘F*cked Up Crazy’ is really about caving in to be with someone who you know will completely tear you apart. It's a love story where I’m convinced that this person and I are perfect for each other since we are both ‘f*cked up.’ The truth is, however, that we are just being manipulated by the dark side of our minds because we don't want to be alone."

The video for “F*cked Up Crazy” features Brooke Johnson, Miss Alaska USA 2018, and is shot in a vertical style that emulates an Instagram story.

Speaking about the video, Stolar said, “I think this video is about REAL life. It is literally a night with a new person I met in New Orleans. She is also Miss Alaska USA, and a mental health advocate. It’s real, raw, no bullshit or structuring. It's just a peek into life,” adding, “I think it comments on how complicated the balance between real life and technology is. This is the new real, even though it’s digital, it’s life experience.”

For Stolar, his ultimate goal with “F*cked Up Crazy” is to show people “it’s okay to be a little crazy and wild if that's who you are. It doesn’t make you ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Crazy, sad, happy, ugly, messy are all beautiful things. I want to celebrate them all.”


* NYC-based singer-songwriter Ricky Lewis grew up in what he describes as the middle of nowhere New England (I’m actually pretty sure I’ve driven through there a few times). A latchkey kid of the ‘90s, he spent a considerable amount of time in front of the TV.

After his TV infused youth Lewis felt the call of NYC, and moved to the city … well, Astoria.

As he waited tables, and wrote music when he could, he started to question his decision, but just as he was about to call it a day, and move back home, a young women invited him to live with her in her loft on Astor Place.

The locale was perfect, as was the relationship … for a while. The breakup was a tough one, and Lewis moved to Alphabet City, where he finished writing his upcoming album, See You In The Morning.

See You In The Morning will be released on September 21st, and the lead single is “TV On A Tiny Screen.” It’s a song title that brings Lewis’ life full circle, and with a vibe that’s slightly reminiscent of early R.E.M., it’s a song that’s easy to enjoy.


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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Pop Shots – Where’d They Go?
Monday, September 10, 2018

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 Selena Gomez leaving the internet behind, to Michelle Branch’s baby leaving the womb, to Bono leaving the stage for a night, and since this is Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.

* In an interview with Elle magazine, Selena Gomez revealed she no longer uses the internet, saying, “I haven’t been on the Internet in months. I don’t have my password for Instagram. I have no apps on my phone.” Personally, as someone who still refuses to own a smartphone, this makes me like Selena Gomez even more. Of course, since she’s not on the internet there’s no chance she’ll read this. I guess I’ll have to pay for a carrier pigeon again.

* Drake showed off a huge new owl pendant, which is reportedly made of over two pounds of gold and over 100 carats of Asscher cut diamonds. I just have one question – why do so many rappers think it’s a good idea to look like they shop exclusively at SkyMall?

* Michelle Branch and fiancé Patrick Carney welcomed a baby boy into the world on August 28th. Word is the baby felt it was time to be born because it was “so lonely inside, so busy out there.”


* Eminem’s surprise album, Kamikaze, landed in the top spot of the Billboard 200 albums chart this past week, but all was not rosy for the rapper, who found himself on the wrong end of a Machine Gun Kelly diss track titled “Rap Devil.” Somewhere, the girl from Machine Gun Kelly’s episode of Catfish is probably taking credit for this.

* Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons is another artist taking a shot at Eminem, but not in song form. Instead, he called him out – although not by name – for the use of a homophobic slur on a new song. In a related story, Dan Reynolds has apparently just discovered the music of Eminem.

* In fresh ink news, Offset had his daughter’s name tattooed in large letters on the side of his face along his jawline. That’s a heck of a way to make sure everyone knows who you’re there for during parent-teacher conferences.


* U2 had to cancel the second of their two scheduled Berlin shows due to Bono losing his voice. To quote a U2 song, it’s a beautiful day.

* Halsey and G-Eazy reunited on stage at the Holmdel, NJ stop of G-Eazy’s Endless Summer tour, performing their collaboration, “Him & I,” and sparking rumors of a romantic reconciliation. If they do reconcile it will mean Halsey’s “Bad At Love” is nothing but a pack of lies!

* Last, but not least, when The Struts team up with Kesha for a song, your “Body Talks.” It also moves, jumps, and dances.


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: Bop Alloy – “Count On Us” / “Writing My Wrongs”
Friday, September 07, 2018

The Bop Alloy duo of Substantial and Marcus D can always be counted on for great hip-hop music. The twosome recently released a new video that features their songs “Count On Us” and “Writing My Wrongs,” both off of their Another Day in the Life of … album, which came out four years ago.

I caught up with Substantial to find out more about the music, the video that was shot mostly in Japan, and the concept of an album’s life cycle. We also talked about who he might like to count with next. The answer may surprise you!

“Count On Us” and “Writing My Wrongs” are songs you’ve had in your arsenal for a while. Why did you feel now was the right time to release a video for them?

It was the combination of us being in the same place mixed with having a great director willing to work with us.

Marcus D and I are rarely in the same place at the same time. Maybe twice a year at best. He mentioned that he had a videographer that was interested in filming us. The director, Robert Lewis, pitched an idea to us to combine these particular songs into one video. We loved the concept and decided to make it happen. 

The majority of this clip was filmed in Tokyo, after a tour in Japan honoring the late Nujabes. What were your favorite moments from that tour?

My favorite moment of that tour was during our Osaka show. While on stage I mentioned where Marcus and I were from and two audience members screamed out, “P.G. County, Maryland,” followed by “Seattle!” We spoke to them afterwards while signing merch and discovered they were from our hometowns, which was dope.

My second favorite moment was eating takoyaki in Osaka with the fellas.


How different is it for you to tour Japan now versus the very first time you had a show there?

The first time I performed there, I was performing material from my debut album with Nujabes, which had just been released in late 2001. Now when I perform in Japan, I have nearly 20 years of music to share with them.

It's dope to think that some of them have been rocking with me for that long.

“Count On Us” and “Writing My Wrongs” are from the 2014 Bop Alloy album Another Day in the Life of … Speaking of days in lives, let’s talk a bit about the perceived life cycle of an album, because I think for a lot of folks who only know the major label way of doing things it’s almost incomprehensible to imagine a four year life cycle for an album. How do you keep an album alive, and relevant, over the course of a longer period of time, and how much do you enjoy having that option?

The key to it is thinking of fresh content that can be built around the album, and also paying attention to the demand. A fan literally asked me if I ever shot videos for my first album just yesterday. The beauty of being independent is that if I chose to shoot a video tomorrow for the most popular song from that record, people who still listen to songs from it daily would be excited to see it.

You have to know your audience. If what they want aligns with what you want, why shouldn't everybody be happy?


On the topic of albums, you recently released an instrumental album, titled The Garden. What made you – a person so known for his words – go the instrumental route, and how did it challenge you as an artist?

I've been producing instrumentals since I was a teenager. Professionally, I’ve spent the last ten years teaching music production to teens in the DMV area (Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia), and Baltimore. I just felt like it was time to share another side of my artistry.

The main challenge is increased productivity. Those who love what I do most, usually want more of it. I figure this is a way to meet that demand while also pushing myself to grow artistically.

Finally, be honest, you have two kids – you’re secretly hoping “Count On Us” will get you a guest spot on Sesame Street rapping with Count Von Count.

Absolutely!!! I need that Sesame Street bag, bruh! LOL!

For more Bop Alloy, and Substantial, check out Bop Alloy on Bandcamp, and Substantial at IAmSubstantial.com.

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