Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Entertainment journalist with 20 years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week I’m bringing back an old favorite – 5 Songs on the Radio That Don’t Suck. I haven’t done one of these in well over a year because … well … it’s been difficult to find songs on the radio that don’t suck! The other day, however, on a short drive, I had my local alt-rock station on and heard something that made me go “WHO’S THAT?” and that’s the kind of thing that gets me excited.
Who was the artist? You’re about to find out, as that song leads off the column. Of course, since this is Pop Shots, you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.
Fousheé – Deep End
This was the song that made me crank up my radio, and bring this column back. Apparently it was part of something on TikTok, but being that I’m 42, I’m not allowed to go on TikTok without being put on a government watch list. That said, boy am I happy “Deep End” is now getting radio airplay. Having something like this in rotation will inspire me to occasionally flip over from the ‘90s, and Classic Rock stations I’m normally tuned to (like I said, I’m 42).
Cannons – Fire for You
Cannons’ “Fire for You” is a serious groove, and it’s the kind of song you fall in love with the first time you hear it. Personally, it makes me think of late nights in the city, walking the streets of the LES, making my way to my train after an indie show and a few adult beverages, not necessarily because of the lyrical content, but because I can picture the pace of my steps being in rhythm with the song.
Yes, I walk fast. I was raised here, what do you expect? As K.Gaines once told me, I have a “tri-state gait.”
AJR – BANG!
I have to admit I have a soft spot for AJR, and not just because I interviewed one of the members of the group back in 2015. They’re an NYC indie band that made it, going from being kids performing in Washington Square Park, to having mega-hits known the world over. How can you not love that story?
Their latest hit is “BANG!,” and it’s fantastic. I welcome every time I hear it at the gym, where it’s currently in heavy rotation.
Arm curls and AJR – it’s a thing!
The Weeknd – Blinding Lights
Combining the talents of The Weeknd, and Max Martin = pop perfection on a level we haven’t heard in quite some time.
This may very well be one of the best pop songs of the past 25 years, and the fact that it’s spent more time in the Top 5, and Top 10, of the Billboard Hot 100 than any song in the chart’s 65 year history is a testament to its greatness.
24kGoldn w/ iann dior – Mood
One of the gyms where I work out (we all work out at multiple gyms, right?) has this song in super heavy rotation, and when I say super heavy, I mean I hear it at least twice per workout. Because of this, “Mood” has really grown on me. The vibe reminds me a bit of Shwayze, and although we’re currently in the middle of winter, this song is a two and a half minute shot of summertime, and that’s something that some of us – like yours truly – could certainly use, and definitely appreciate (yes, I cleared snow off my car this morning, why do you ask?).
That’s all for this edition of Pop Shots, but come back next Monday for more shots on all things pop.
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.
“I’ve got a problem,” states NYC-based musician Ryan-O’Neil, “I can’t not do shit.”
A constant creative, self-motivation and musical passion have led Ryan-O’Neil to doing just about everything over his many years in the city’s indie music scene.
His latest group project is Tyger Handheld. They recently released their first single, “Shanghai,” and have more music on the way, including two more singles, and a concept album that’s currently in the developmental stage.
While his solo work can go in a plethora of directions – from singer-songwriter to hip-hop, and just about everything in-between – he says one thing he loves about Tyger Handheld is that it forces him into a specific lane. “Tyger Handheld was a project that was made to be put in a box, to have this ‘80s digi synth vibe with me rapping and singing on top of it, and a pinch of Frank Ocean inspiration,” he explains. “Every beat we make has to have some kind of Juno synth. I’m all about Auto-Tuning, I’m all about vocoder on this project. Anything that sounds like a live drum, I’m like take that shit out. I want super compressed, super gated reverbs for doing this.”
In addition to an album, he says other forms of media may be involved, including a possible comic book, and a release schedule that could be inspired by old radio dramas.
As a solo artist, Ryan-O’Neil is putting the finishing touches on an EP titled Love in Three Acts, which will be his first vinyl release, tentatively due out this spring/summer.
For the multifaceted musician, having so many varied projects is all about one thing – creative freedom. “People look at Beck, Beck can do whatever he wants and no one’s like, ‘What the fuck is that? Beck doesn’t do that kind of music.’ I would like to be seen as that, Ryan is a musician that just makes music.”
I recently caught up with Ryan-O’Neil via Zoom to open up some packs of MusiCards, and the artists we found sparked conversations about an ex-girlfriend’s dad, the times we separate art from artist, and the power of a great performance.
A couple things about Lionel Richie … I don’t know much of his music. I know “Hello, is it me you’re looking for,” the great music video with the blind girl, and the Lionel Richie bust.
He’s got “All Night Long.” “All Night Long” is a tune!
I feel like Lionel Richie is one of those artists that if you play his discography I’m like oh, I know that!
I dated a girl in high school whose dad looked a lot like Lionel Richie, like when he was younger, so when I see Lionel Richie he has a special place in my heart, because they were a good family.
Is there a bust of her dad’s head somewhere in the house?
That’s the kind of Christmas gift that man should get.
And it has to be done by a blind girl.
It HAS to be done by a blind girl.
Hall & Oates
Oates is so smooth, and I feel like Oates falls into that “Is Oates Black? How Black is Oates?” (category). Oates is one of those artists that exists in that vibe for me.
The hair here on Oates, and the mustache, are kind of iconic.
If only I could grow a mustache like that.
When I was a kid I was really into long hair. I wasn’t into dreadlocks, but guys with long hair were cool. I realized I could (try to) perm my hair, but my hair didn’t grow long enough to be permed, but when I locked my hair it grew.
I’m doing my best.
Aw man, Tina Turner’s awesome.
Growing up did you hear a lot of Tina in the house?
I did. I don’t know if I was aware of who she was, but “River Deep – Mountain High” is a really big tune in my house. I remember it from when I was a kid.
This is really interesting, this package of artists (we’re talking about), because none of them I’m like, “Oh yeah, I listen to that, and I can tell you about the influence,” but I have these weird, roundabout, connections to them.
When I think of Tina Turner I think of Angela Bassett in the movie What’s Love Got to Do with It?, because I was really young, and I watched that movie about this person who I didn’t really know about. I knew her songs, but I didn’t know she was an actual human being.
Then you’re like oh yeah, that’s the woman who sings this song, and she was abused by her husband.
Then as I got older, people talked about Ike Turner. I saw these lists about Ike Turner, and I’m like dude, that’s the guy who beat Tina Turner. Then I realized Ike Turner was an actual musician who found Tina Turner, and I started to listen to their old stuff that I never knew existed, the more soulful stuff, and he’s a terrible person for beating his wife, but that old soulful stuff with The Ikettes is my favorite.
And it’s difficult, because then you have to do the whole thing where you separate art from artist.
Yeah, but at least she’s still singing (on the songs), she’s still there, and those women are still there, and it’s still her voice.
His voice is (also there), it’s still his songwriting, it’s still his guitar, and that really f-ing sucks.
Are there any other artists where when you listen to them you’re like, “I appreciate the music, I love the music, I have to just separate who they were as a person from it”?
I don’t know if there are many.
I think there are some artists I like that other people feel that way about, like Michael Jackson. I don’t have a thing with Michael Jackson, my wife definitely does, and she’s not a huge fan.
Oh, Kanye West. I boycotted his music for a while, and then I met my wife, who didn’t know much about hip-hop. Sometimes we’d be doggin’ him, but then I’d be like, well, he did make this one. I felt the need to educate her on why he kind of gets a pass, so we went back and listened to his old stuff, and she was like oh wow, OK, I can see why people let Kanye West say stupid shit. It’s like, yeah, I know, there was a time.
But he’s one man, and he supported Trump, or whatever, and did his stupid run for president, but he hasn’t sexually assaulted anyone, he hasn’t hit anyone, and while I love Michael Jackson, and in my heart believe nothing happened, I’m just one stupid dude, and there are millions of people who believe opposite from me. I don’t argue with them too much, because they make good points, (and) I think I make good points. It’s just really hard, because I grew up listening to that music, and it’s like the best music ever, in my opinion.
It’s very interesting to see people wrestle with this. We all have one or two musicians, or actors, whose work we just enjoy too much to ever put it away. I will never stop watching Major League no matter what Charlie Sheen does in his personal life, but Mystikal, I was like, alright, I’ve liked some of your stuff, but I’m not playing it anymore.
Word. I was actually surprised people still play Mystikal. I was like, yo, didn’t we hear he raped a woman?
Yeah, and he went to jail for a while for it.
I’m glad he went to jail, at least that happened. Sometimes that doesn’t even happen.
And with Chris Brown I was just like, nope. I didn’t even really like you that much anyway.
Sometimes it’s really nice to take the high road because you already didn’t like the artist.
It’s like sweet, now a legit reason to hate on you!
I actually found a Janet Jackson record recently. In my building we have a spot on the first floor where people put things before they throw them out. I was like, really? You don’t throw a Jimmy Jam record (out). You might not like Janet Jackson, but these songs are dope.
When I put it on I didn’t know every song word for word, but in 2020, on my system, it sounded great. It sounded like this would work today.
The person (who left it) wasn’t feelin’ Janet. Maybe an ex was a big Janet Jackson fan, and they were like, alright, no more.
If you like Beyonce, and I’m not a huge Beyonce fan, but I respect the shit outta Beyonce …
Janet paved that road.
Exactly. Along with many others, but she’s huge, and I’m sure Beyonce was a little kid looking at Janet Jackson.
There’s a video of Janet doing a costume change backstage during one of her shows. The whole thing is less than three minutes. She changes her costume, and her team is phenomenal because they’re doing her makeup, and she just runs back out. It’s like a NASCAR thing.
I started out hating Madonna, like ugh, she’s everywhere, she’s just in your face all the time.
In the early ‘00s I was not a fan of the Ray of Light Madonna. I just felt like before people were having these conversations about appropriation, Madonna was just wading in the appropriation pool. She went to India, and then she had a bindi in her video. At one point she was doing the British accent thing. Then she had Ali G, before he was famous, in her music video, and I remember saying, “Oh, Madonna’s a Black lesbian now. That’s cool. That’s her new thing.” So I was never really into her, and I always found her kind of annoying.
I don’t know when, probably around college, with ‘80s theme parties … you throw on a couple of her jams from the ‘80s, and you’re like, “Oh, wow, this little teenager got a bop!” She’s not a great singer at all, which is why it works for silly pop songs, and not ray of fucking light –Madonna, sit down. But like I said, those jams in the ‘80s, you put on a bunch of Madonna bangers, you put on some Cyndi Lauper, you cannot go wrong. I don’t care who you are, I don’t care if you’re the hardest thug, I don’t care how old you are, when those songs come on you’re just vibin’. It’s 1982 again and you’re there.
Here’s the thing with GAWR, I have an idea of what GWAR’s music sounds like, I can’t name a single GWAR song, but – and this is why, and I understand why he did it, but if it wasn’t for Gene Simmons kind of being a conservative asshole I’d have picked KISS, too – I appreciate performance. I appreciate showmanship. I appreciate going hard. I miss old Busta (Rhymes). I miss that, man. Not everything needs to be cool and laid back.
GWAR, regardless of how they got to where they are, or how they settled on that aesthetic, and regardless of who likes that aesthetic – fuck yeah. More artists need to lean into that shit more, and I’m trying to do that myself.
Let’s talk about your live performances, your latest group project, Tyger Handheld, and the video you guys made for “Shanghai.”
We did that music video, and it was just literally, “We need a video.” My buddy was in the building with a camera, and I was like let’s get some shots of me on the roof performing. (Because of COVID) everyone else sent in their own shots of themselves, and then my friend edited it.
In the video I’m dancing a lot, and I dance a lot, it’s a thing in my family, we dance a lot. I was like, you know, I don’t dance enough. You see James Brown, you see Mick Jagger, you see these dudes and really, not just two stepping when the guitar is doing a solo, but really dancing, and really feeling yourself, and in that video it was the first time I was like – I’m gonna try to ignore the fact that people are gonna see me dance, and embrace the fact that people are gonna see me dance.
I’m glad I did it. It was fun. I wish there was a stage where I could do it more.
This week’s NYC Scene Report features Vaeda Black giving us a pop gem to “Wake Up” to, Paola Gladys with a “Pure” groove, and Cold Wrecks teaming up with Warren Britt for some high energy “Panicking.”
* I first discovered the music of Vaeda Black two years ago when the young singer took to the stage at Rockwood Music Hall Stage One. Today she’s still too young to actually order anything at the bar, but her songwriting has a maturity the belies her age.
Her most recent release, “Wake Up,” is the kind of song that will make anyone who’s still unaware of her talents wake up to them.
An absolute pop gem, and a true earworm that will get stuck in your head for hours, consider this your “Wake Up” call to keep an ear out for Vaeda Black in 2021, and beyond.
* NYC’s indie music scene is a true melting pot of genres. It’s also a melting pot of the world. Take, for example, singer/producer/visual artist Paola Gladys, who currently calls Brooklyn home, but originally hails from Southern Italy, where she studied jazz, and performed all over the country.
Gladys recently released a single titled “Pure.” It’s a smooth R&B groove that floats along, and creates a gorgeous ambience.
Click play, and get lost in Paola Gladys’ “Pure” vibe. Personally, I can’t wait to hear more from her.
* What do you get when you combine a group that describes themselves as “Dad rock for pop-punkers, pop-punk for emo kids, emo for dads,” with one of the most high-energy hip-hop artists in all of NYC? You get the remix of Cold Wrecks’ “Panicking,” featuring Warren Britt.
Warren gives some background on the collaboration, saying, “I met Cold Wrecks at a show organized by Brook Pridemore back in October 2017. I saw them perform live, and they absolutely captured my heart, and took me back to a moment in time that I never thought I’d touch again. I was instantly converted into a fan. We would perform on various shows over the years, and I was fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of an email asking if I could pen a few bars for a remix to their song ‘Panicking,’ Of course I said yes.”
Based on this remix of “Panicking,” here’s hoping for more collabs between these two in the future. Heck, lemme just throw this idea into the universe – how about an EP, or an album? That could really be something special. Click play on “Panicking” to hear what I mean.
For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.
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 37 years ago this week.
Back in January of 1984 we were rockin’, we were dancing, and we were rappin’ … although the quality of the latter could be debated. You’ll see why as we get into this look at the Billboard Hot 100 from 37 years ago this week.
Of course, since this is Pop Shots, you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.
1. Yes – Owner of a Lonely Heart
Certain songs define the ‘80s. They’re the songs that are on every ‘80s compilation, and are played during every ‘80s theme night. This chart features a few of those songs, with Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart” being one of them.
The nonsensical break in the music video shows we’d fully entered the “music videos have to be more than just music” phase that was ushered in by Michael Jackson, and probably should’ve only been done by Michael Jackson. Seriously folks, who would want to break up a song as perfect as “Owner of a Lonely Heart”? Not this writer, that’s for sure!
4. The Romantics – Talking in Your Sleep
Another absolute classic that’s synonymous with the ‘80s, “Talking in Your Sleep” is an era-defining tune, and an earworm for the ages. It’s also a warning to anyone who has secrets that talking in your sleep will, in fact, reveal all!
22. Shannon – Let the Music Play
Disco had to die for Freestyle music to be born, and once Freestyle was born we were given dance floor classics like Shannon’s “Let the Music Play.” This would be Shannon’s lone hit, but if you’re going to be a one-hit-wonder, this is a heck of a hit to have!
33. Nena – 99 Luftballons
Can we be real here – this song is so much better in its original German. “Luftballons” is such a great word, and it’s way more fun to sing than “red ballons.” Interestingly, the English version of the song isn’t even a direct translation. Maybe that’s why only the German version charted.
38. Real Life – Send Me an Angel
The other night I was watching the 1986 BMX bike film Rad, which co-starred none other than Lori Loughlin (pre-Aunt Becky fame). Real Life’s classic song “Send Me an Angel” provided the soundtrack for a fairly epic bike dance scene that I’ve included above. In fact, this movie is the entire reason I chose to write about the music of January 1984.
That’s right, you’re reading a column that’s based on the fact that I randomly decided to watch an ‘80s movie about a small town boy doing whatever he can to compete in a BMX bike race.
I am journalism-ing so hard right now!
42. Pat Benatar – Love is a Battlefield
I have a pretty simple rule when it comes to these throwback columns – if I have the option of including a Pat Benatar song, I’m going to include a Pat Benatar song. She just turned 68, and can rock the face off artists young enough to be her grandkids!
52. Re-Flex – The Politics of Dancing
As many of you know, I avoid talking politics on this site, but when it comes to “The Politics of Dancing,” that’s an issue I’m willing to publicly debate in a roundtable discussion!
The title track of Re-Flex’s debut album – and only album until 2010. That’s not a typo, they went 26 years in-between albums! – “The Politics of Dancing” would prove to be the group’s only hit. The song is so perfectly ‘80s, I’m kind of surprised it isn’t included in more retrospectives of the era.
54. Huey Lewis & The News – I Want a New Drug
Patrick Bateman was a monster, but one thing he got right was a strong appreciation of the Huey Lewis & The News album Sports, which features the classic “I Want a New Drug.”
Speaking of getting it right, Weird Al also got it right when he parodied this song, giving us “I Want a New Duck.”
Gotta say, Al has some mighty high expectations for his ducks!
55. Quiet Riot – Cum on Feel the Noize
If you weren’t rockin’ out in the ‘80s, were you truly immersed in the era? Take the advice of Quiet Riot, and “Cum on Feel the Noize.”
91. Rodney Dangerfield – Rappin’ Rodney
Yes, this actually charted.
No, I can’t believe it either.
That said, the cameos in the video by Father Guido Sarducci, and Pat Benatar, are nice touches. Hey, that’s two Pat Benatar appearances in this week’s column!
That’s all for this edition of Pop Shots, but come back next Monday for more shots on all things pop.
Diggin’ In My Own Collection is a nine-part series where I’m taking a look at some of the rare, and incredibly unique, albums in my CD collection.
During the heyday of writers receiving everything on CD I accrued not just a plethora of albums, but so many CD singles that I may have singularly funded Case Logic with the number of CD storage wallets I purchased.
OK, they may be a slight exaggeration, but I do have multiple wallets that hold hundreds of CDs, and they’re all filled to capacity.
Most of the promo singles I have in my collection have the value of a regular CD single, but there are some that have become of interest to fans of specific artists.
For this edition of Diggin’ In My Own Collection I’m taking a look at three promo singles from legendary artists, and theorizing on what makes these CD singles so desirable.
Amy Winehouse – Tears Dry on Their Own
The fourth single off Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black album, you might be wondering what makes “Tears Dry on Their Own” a hot commodity. I was wondering the same thing.
The best answer I can come up with is that while there was a CD single release in the UK, there was no official CD single release in the U.S., making the promo CD single the only way U.S. fans could get their hands on a hard copy of the song. Sure, “Tears Dry on Their Own” is on an album, but if you’re an Amy Winehouse completist, and you need everything she’s released, this is a unique piece for a collection.
As of the writing of this column, only 2 people on Discogs have the single – so it’s me, and one other person, who’s probably upset that someone else finally said they have it – and 10 people want it. That’s a ratio that implies some pretty decent rarity.
FYI – The reason I have the back cover as the photo is because there was no front cover.
Guru – State of Clarity
A hip-hop legend we lost far too soon, Guru was one of the greatest emcees of all-time, and an instantly recognizable voice. Whether it was as one half of Gang Starr, or when he was creating his Jazzmatazz series of albums, he was always the epitome of smooth.
“State of Clarity,” which featured Common, was off Guru's Jazzmatazz, Vol. 4: The Hip-Hop Jazz Messenger: Back to the Future, but the CD maxi-single seems to have had a very limited pressing.
As of now I’m the only person on Discogs who has it, while 10 want it. One is available in the marketplace, but it will run ya $75.
Oh, and in answer to your next question – no, I’m not selling mine, but you already knew that.
As an aside, I’ve written a lot of one-sheet bios for artists, and having interviewed Guru for a feature he liked, he ended up choosing me to write what would turn out to be his final bio that was sent to press. When the news of his passing came out I was absolutely gutted. It’s hard to believe it’s been over ten years.
Kool G Rap – The Streets / First N*gga / Thug For Life
What do you get when you combine a hip-hop legend, and a legendary hip-hop label? Apparently you get a promo CD maxi-single that collectors really want.
Kool G Rap, and Rawkus Records, are two names that immediately bring hip-hop heads together, because there’s basically universal agreement regarding the greatness, and importance, of both. The fact that they actually came together for a release is pretty amazing, and perhaps that’s why there’s so much interest in the promo CD for “The Streets / First N*gga / Thug For Life.”
On Discogs it has a ratio of 7 having it, 17 wanting it, and in their marketplace there are two available, with a store in Belgium offering it up for $11.50 USD, and a U.S. store listing it for $100 even.
You know what that means? It means I have no idea what it’s actually worth, and neither does anybody else, but it’s a really cool piece to have in my collection.
The next installment of this series of columns is the final one, and it will stay in hip-hop, with two albums so rare I had to add them to Discogs myself!
This week’s NYC Scene Report features Elizabeth and the Catapult popping a placebo, Pretty Sick hitting the roller rink, and donSMITH doing some good with his music.
* Longtime column favorite Elizabeth and the Catapult will be releasing a new album, titled sincerely, e, on March 5th via Compass Records.
Elizabeth Ziman (who is the Elizabeth of Elizabeth and the Catapult) explained the inspiration for the project in a statement, saying, “This collection of songs was born out of a need during the pandemic shut down, an experience felt by so many across the world, to cope with the breakdown of communication.”
She continued, adding, “Ultimately, this album is truly my love letter to you – for folks who can’t look away from the issues facing humanity, and for folks who need an escape into the depths of our shared humanity.”
Check out the album’s lead single, “pop the placebo,” and catapult yourself into sincerely, e.
* The Sabrina Fuentes-led band Pretty Sick had a pretty sick 2020, releasing a standout EP titled Deep Divine, which featured numerous fantastic singles. The latest off the project is “Superstar,” and it’s yet another gem from the NYC-based band.
In the video for “Superstar,” which was directed by Ophelia Horton, Fuentes has a pair of skates strapped on at a roller rink, but this song is not about speed, it’s a mood that moves at a slower pace, and the visuals match the music perfectly.
Honestly, everything I hear from this band makes me more excited to eventually see them live when venues reopen.
The question isn’t have I become obsessed with the music of Pretty Sick? It’s why hasn’t everyone become obsessed with the music of Pretty Sick?
* If there’s anything better than an artist making great music, it’s an artist doing great things with their great music, and that’s the case with Harlem-based hip-hop artist donSMITH (not to be confused with New York Mets standout Dom Smith).
donSMITH released his latest album, Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From on November 24th, and donated the first month’s sales to Meals on Us, which is an organization that provides food for families in need.
While donSMITH was helping others put food on their respective tables, he also released the single “Table,” which features Radamiz. A song that’s guaranteed to make you nod your head, click play on the video, and take a seat at the “Table.”
For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.