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 Pop Shots is hitting you with thoughts on everything from the unexpected place you can now find Hilary Duff, to a Hanson brother preparing to be in the delivery room again, to The Weeknd loving life in the Top 5, and since this is Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.
* Matthew Koma shared an image of a tattoo of the word “Hilary” on his backside that he had done in honor of his wife, Hilary Duff. Hold up, I’m not the only person with a tattoo on their butt honoring Hilary Duff?!?! Dammit!
* Taylor Swift's 1989 has now spent 300 weeks on the Billboard 200. Wait, the album1989 came out 300 weeks ago? I was still under the impression the year 1989 was just 300 weeks ago!
* The coronavirus has taken the lives of nearly 1 million people, but fear not, the Hanson brothers are hard at work repopulating the planet. Taylor Hanson and his wife Natalie recently announced they’re expecting their seventh child. This is in addition to the four children Zac Hanson has with wife Kathryn Tucker, and the three kids Isaac Hanson has with wife Nicole Dufresne. That’s 14 kids from the 3 Hanson brothers! I just gotta know, when they hear “Circle of Life” do they, for some reason, feel personally responsible?
* After three years of marriage Cardi B has filed for divorce from Offset. I expect Offset to attempt to get partial custody of that W.A.P.
* Avril Lavigne announced a live stream benefit concert to raise awareness, and funds, in the fight against Lyme disease. The show will take place on October 24th, and my guess is world famous superhero The Tick will not be on the guest list.
* U2 relaunched their YouTube page to mark the 20th anniversary of their 2000 album All You Can’t Leave Behind. Fans can expect to see all of U2’s music videos receive an HD digital update, and the band’s page will also feature previously unreleased live videos, behind-the-scenes footage, and remixed content. There’s no word on if everything will also automatically show up in your iTunes, but if history is any indicator we’ll all wake up one day with a whole new U2-themed OS!
* YoungBoy Never Broke Again now has three #1 albums in the span of under a year with his latest, Top, debuting atop of the Billboard 200. Three albums in under a year?!?! Is he trying to get out of a label deal, or somethin’?
* The Weeknd's “Blinding Lights” – arguably the best mainstream single of the year – has spent a record setting 28 weeks in the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100. No other song has logged that many weeks in Top 5 in the chart’s 62-year history. I wonder if there are any artists who turned down being official theme song for WrestleMania 36 who are kicking themselves right now.
That’s all for this edition of Pop Shots, but come back next Monday for more shots on all things pop.
Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Valley Latini isn’t originally from New York – she arrived in the U.S. at age 12 when her family immigrated from Colombia – but you get to call yourself a New Yorker if you’ve been gifted a bodega cat.
The friendly feline now lives with Latini’s parents, as the singer notes there’s much more room for a cat to leap, jump, and play, in a house versus an apartment.
Latini knows a thing or two about staying active – in addition to music, she paints, and is an exotic dancer. Most recently she released her first ballad, “Blue Moon.”
I caught up with Latini to find out more about her initial years in America, the diversity in her music, and the common thread that’s present throughout all of her artistic endeavors. She also discussed how she’s combating whorephobia, and who she’d like to see on OnlyFans.
Let's start off by talking about when you came to America, and what the journey, and adjustment, was like.
It was definitely a culture shock. I was very sheltered. I just always felt really safe with my parents, and I trusted them. When they told me (about the) move I was not that bummed out because I had just changed schools anyway, so I didn’t have that many friends, or I wasn’t that attached to the kids in that school. Well, I liked that school, but I was just kinda like I don’t have a choice but to go.
Yeah, at 12 they weren’t gonna be like, “You can stay here and fend for yourself.”
When I got to the U.S. I got to school immediately. I got to the eighth grade, and I only did like three months of the eighth grade because I came in late in the semester, and then I went into high school. I was a little early. I was a little young for high school. I had just turned 13.
Were you bilingual when you came over?
I was not. I didn’t speak any English. I learned English in school.
During the eighth grade, and all through my freshman year, I barely spoke English. The kids in school would like laugh at me because I was funny, but then I would think they were mocking me because of my accent, so that made me want to get better and prove them all wrong.
That’s a cool way to react to that, because I think some people would’ve just closed up.
My sophomore year I was speaking so much better English because I tried really hard.
Moving to your music, you recently released a new single titled “Blue Moon.” It’s very different from your previous releases. Is this a case of a constant artistic evolution, never wanting to do the same thing twice, or something else altogether?
Well, yes, my songs before, all of those songs are very different than “Blue Moon,” and I’m really glad you asked that question. Not a lot of people have asked me that. It is an evolution of my sound, and I have been working on the sound for a while, a few years, and it was just a matter of timing of releasing this song, “Blue Moon.”
I don’t think all songs should sound the same. Some of the best albums have different genres within the album, but in the end it’s still my sound, it’s still Valley Latini.
You are involved in a lot of different artistic endeavors. What do you get out of music that you don’t get out of your other crafts?
I’ve always been a musician. That’s what I identify myself as first. I’ve spoken the language of music since I was a little girl, so I just can’t imagine myself not doing music, or not having that outlet for self expression.
So were you the kid who was constantly putting on shows for your family, and winning talent competitions?
Well, I wasn’t winning any talent competitions, but I did do some little plays at home. I was just mainly always studying my favorite songs, pretending that I was singing in a big stadium. I would just daydream as a little girl, and I would write songs. Since I was a child I always loved writing.
When you were practicing other people’s songs, and imagining yourself in a stadium, who were some of the artists you were emulating?
When I was 11, oh my God, when I was 11 there used to be this Latin band called Rebelde. It was like this telenovela about these kids in high school, and they were like the coolest kids ever, and they started a band, and then they actually made songs and would go on real tours. It was like a telenovela, but also a real band. I loved them so much, and I would just pretend that I was in concert with them.
In addition to music you also paint, and you’re an exotic dancer. How do each of those crafts play into who you are as a person?
I started painting about a year, a year and a half ago, and I think painting has helped me develop my vision more, like where I am going with my artistic expression. It’s kind of cool to paint whatever comes out of you because it’s kind of like your inner world. It’s helped me understand my psychology, and my roots, and all of that. And it’s good for visual. I think people nowadays are so visual.
I’m telling a story through my paintings. I’m telling my story through my paintings, and my world in my paintings, so I’m glad people can see a peek of it.
Would you say there’s a common thread throughout all of your artistic endeavors?
There’s definitely a lot of sexiness, a lot of mystery. All my work is super ethereal, so it’s kind of like in an alternate dimension. That’s kind of where all my art exists.
I gotta say, in 2020 alternate dimensions seem like they’d be a pretty fun place to visit.
For sure. Yeah.
I was going through your Instagram and saw a post about whorephobia, and some of the comments you’ve received from whorephobes. First off, for those who many not fully understand what whorephobia is past the obvious definition, break it down for everyone.
From the years that I’ve been advocating for sex workers, which has been probably around three years, I’ve learned it’s the fear of a woman taking power in her sexuality.
I guess whorephobia is (also) the fear of sex workers. I feel people who have whorephobia, they don’t know their story, they’ve probably never met a sex worker that was out, so there’s a lot of shame surrounding that.
Do you find the comments from whorephobes hurtful, ignorant, or both?
They’re mostly draining.
I feel like a lot of the people that say it don’t even realize they’re being hurtful because they don’t know any better. That’s why it’s important for me to speak out about it. Education is the only way to enlighten people about a taboo topic.
I was about to ask how you’re going about attempting to change people’s minds, but I think you just answered that, it’s education.
Education, and the more sex workers that are out the more it will become normalized. The more opportunities that sex workers get in the real word, let’s say for a job, normalizing teachers having OnlyFans accounts. Teachers don’t really get paid that much, (so) stuff like that.
You seem like someone who is unafraid of pursuing whatever you’re passionate about, but tell me about something you’d like to do that you haven’t done yet.
I’ve never been on a Valley Latini tour, so I’d love to go on tour. I’d love to go abroad, but who knows, you never know when all of this COVID stuff will be better, so who knows. I’m just trying to live in the moment.
Aside from touring once the world is back to normal, what’s next for you? How are you hoping to close out 2020?
I’m gonna be releasing some more music, because I have an album coming out.
Tell everyone about the album.
The album is called Attention Lover, and it’s gonna be a seven track album. Nice and short. It will be released next year, probably around the spring, fingers crossed.
Is there a lover whose attention you’re trying to get with that album title?
Umm … I don’t know. I think the album title is about me. You know, I feel like people are so afraid to admit … to be real with themselves … I think the title is about me, for sure.
This week’s NYC Scene Report features Boo Riley giving a tour of the LES through a musician’s lens, Pretty Sick taking us on a wild ride through the same area, and Brothertiger with a song inspired by time on the road.
* It doesn’t get much more NYC than Boo Riley’s video for his self-titled song. The clip starts with Riley busking on the subway, and follows him through Tompkins Square Park, with everything leading to a gig at one of my favorite venues in the LES, Arlene’s Grocery.
In a statement, Riley explained the inspiration for the song, and video, saying, “I was listening to Wilco's ‘Wilco (The Song),’ and loved the lyric, ‘This is aural arms open wide, a sonic shoulder for you to cry on.’ I wanted to write a song inspired by that line, but with Boo Riley’s perspective. The video is an extension of this. We wanted to visualize what we were trying to do sonically.”
“Boo Riley” is off Riley’s 2019 EP Mango Garry, and you can check out the fantastic video right here.
* Sometimes I’ll hear a song that’s just completely f*cking undeniable. That’s how I felt when I heard Pretty Sick’s latest single, “Allen Street.”
The name of the song immediately pulled me in, as Rockwood Music Hall is on Allen St., and I have spent a lot of nights there. As I was listening to the song it became clear that Pretty Sick is a band that will have an extremely dedicated fan base, and sound-wise they could possibly bring about a sea change in at least part of the indie rock world.
Pretty Sick is led by native New Yorker Sabrina Fuentes, who is now 20, but formed the band when she was just 13 years old. She explained the inspiration for “Allen Street,” saying, “It’s just about experiences being a teenager in New York. New York is a big theme in all of my music for the most part. It’s such a deeply human city, even if it’s at risk of being taken over by gentrifiers and developers. There’s nothing you can’t do in New York, and there’s nothing the city can’t handle. It inspires so much, and it inspires so many people. It’s given me everything I have.”
Check out “Allen Street,” and be on the lookout for a new Pretty Sick EP later this year.
* While the first two selections this week took us through the LES, we’re closing things out with a song by Brothertiger that was inspired by being out on the road on the other side of the country.
The song is titled “Shelter Cove,” and Brothertiger discussed its origin, saying, “(“Shelter Cove”) is about some specific times on tour, driving through Northern California on the Pacific Highway, finding swimming holes with my friend and sound tech, Will. We’d look up some spots on our days off and drive to them. Last time we did was in October. We went to Pfeiffer Beach near Monterey. It was really windy and it clearly wasn't swimming season, so everyone at the beach was dumbfounded watching two pale idiots running into the ocean.”
“Shelter Cove” can be found on Brothertiger’s just released alum, Paradise Lost, and you can dive into the song right here.
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 16 years ago this week.
In September of 2004 I was nearly four full years into my career as a music journalist, so looking at the Billboard Hot 100 I see a bevy of artists I either interviewed, or whose releases I covered in some way.
Ciara was at #1 with her “Goodies” collab with Petey Pablo. I interviewed Ciara right around the time this song started becoming popular, and a very well known men’s publication jacked some of the quotes without any attribution for an online feature of their own. All I’m gonna say is I’m doing well in 2020, the men’s publication in question … not so much so.
Usher was also all over this chart, as his Confessions album launched him to a whole ‘nother level of superstar. I actually quasi-partied with him – OK, it wasn’t with him, it was near him – at a concert afterparty in Hartford, and I worked on a project for him for a month, or so.
Alright, that’s enough about my career. Let’s check out some highlights from the Billboard Hot 100 from this week back in 2004. Of course, since this is Pop Shots, you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.
2. Terror Squad – Lean Back
I am forever thankful to Fat Joe for creating a dance that white people could do. Lean back? Oh hell yeah! Finally, the dance craze I’d been waiting my entire life for!
As an aside, even our “dance” hip-hop songs were so much harder back then. It’s like we were fine inspiring some ass shakin’, but also wanted to punch people in mouth at a same time. Actually, it wasn’t just “like” that, that’s exactly how it was.
20. Linkin Park – Breaking The Habit
On a somber note, we really miss Chester Bennington, and his remarkable, emotive voice. The fact that Linkin Park could go from nu metal to synth rock so seamlessly is a testament to how remarkable the band was. We probably only heard the tip of the iceberg of what could have been.
27. JoJo – Leave (Get Out)
We all kinda knew there was something special about JoJo even when she was just a youngin’ with her first single, “Leave (Get Out).” Over the years she’s proven everyone who believed in her right, making her initial pop offering something that currently borders on the word “classic.”
38. Seether w/ Amy Lee – Broken
I’ve always had a soft spot for this song. Partially it’s because I love Amy Lee’s voice. Partially it’s because I’m a sucker for rock ballads. Partially it’s because it’s just a damned good song. Were there songs on the chart that had more of a lasting impact than this one? Most definitely, but we all need personal favorites, and this is one of mine.
53. Bowling for Soup – 1985
I loved this song when it was first released, and today I not only love it, but have a plethora of friends who relate to it on a very real level. The fact that Bowling for Soup managed to get Tawny Kitaen to recreate her car hood writhing from Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” video was a prefect touch.
Side Note – Did you know this is actually a cover, and the original was done earlier in 2004 by a band named SR-71?
76. The Killers – Somebody Told Me
I gotta say, although most of us really liked The Killers in 2004, I’m not sure any of us could’ve predicted the staying power of their songs. “Somebody Told Me” is just a handful of years away from qualifying for classic rock airplay, and that’s freakin’ wild!
86. Velvet Revolver – Slither
Velvet Revolver was a fantastic rock supergroup. With Slash, Duff McKagan, and Matt Sorum from Guns N Roses, Dave Kushner from Wasted Youth, and Stone Temple Pilots’ frontman Scott Weiland on vocals, songs like “Slither” were the kind you cranked up to eleven … and if you’re like me, you still do!
92. Crime Mob w/ Lil Scrappy – Knuck If You Buck
There was quite a bit of … let’s call it “motivational” hip-hop on the chart at this time. Trick Daddy was at #57 with “Let’s Go,” Young Buck checked in at #67 with “Let Me In,” but Crime Mob’s “Knuck If You Buck” featuring Lil Scrappy may have been the best of the best when it came to inciting enthusiasm with club goers. And yes, we’re going with the word “enthusiasm.”
100. Yellowcard – Ocean Avenue
Easily one of the best, and most recognizable, pop punk songs of all-time, the chorus of “Ocean Avenue” is one of the great earworms of the genre. It’s also a perfect song for singing/shouting along to while driving with the windows down on a sunny day. Actually, that sounds like a good plan for later!
That’s all for this edition of Pop Shots, but come back next Monday for more shots on all things pop.
When my book, ChemBro – Embracing Beastmode to Beat Cancer, came out earlier this month I’d had a plan to hire a publicist to create a campaign for it. The gods, however, conspired against me, and attempt after attempt to hire a publicist was thwarted by a myriad of reasons that ranged from the routine (things like cost), to situations so crazy if they’d happened in a movie I’d have said, “That would never happen in real life!”
So, being a lifelong freelancer, and only child, I turned to wherever I thought the gods might hear me, and gave them my best Pedro Cerrano impression – “I say f*ck you, Jobu. I do it myself!”
Despite not being a publicist, this isn’t a situation where I’m flying blind. As a journalist I’ve been working with publicists for two decades, and back in college I took a class in public relations and the professor really wanted me to continue on that path. Also, being that I’ve freelanced for many many years, I’m used to pitching editors.
All that said, there have still been some bumps in the road. Here are four lessons I’ve learned from doing my own PR.
1. PR pros are wizards of time management
Even just combining doing my own PR with continuing my journalistic exploits I’ve found that I consistently run out of hours in the day. I can’t imagine what it’s like running campaigns for half a dozen, or more, clients at the same time. It’s a juggling act of spreadsheets, bookings, a chainsaw, and a cantaloupe. OK, maybe not the last two, but at times it sure feels like it!
Not even with a steady diet of caffeinated beverages and cocaine do I think I’d be able to handle all that … and no, there’s no cocaine in my diet (unless there’s something I don’t know about the French Vanilla flavored protein I’ve been having after my workouts).
2. I’d still rather hear “no” than get no reply
This is a mutual issue for journalists and publicists alike – we work our butts off to craft the perfect pitch, oftentimes tailoring it for a specific editor, or publication, and it gets totally ignored. We follow up, and we still hear nothing.
There is a universal sentiment among all of us who pitch – we’d rather hear “No,” “We’re not interested,” or, “We’re gonna pass on this,” than receive no reply at all.
Do you have any idea how many times I hit “refresh” on my Gmail hoping a response to one of my pitches will appear? Instead it’s usually just spam trying to sell me CBD.
3. Websites don’t necessarily keep their “Contact” section up to date
As a journalist it always bugs me when an artist has outdated PR contact information on their social media pages. Neglecting to update contact info is also an issue with many websites and publications. The two most common situations I’ve run into are
* I’ll send emails to multiple people at a publication only to have them all bounce back saying the addresses do not exist.
* The “Editorial Team” page on a publication’s website has no contact info, so I start Googling the editors. One of the first things that comes up for a person is their LinkedIn page, which invariably reveals they’re no longer with the publication. In a few cases they’d left upwards of three years ago!
4. Whoever invented the “Contact Submission Form” should get kicked in the shins
The contact submission form – the perfect way to say, “I’d love to hear from you … but not really.”
Yes, I still diligently fill them out, and copy and paste my press release into the box, shedding a tear as I watch all the formatting I’d carefully done get stripped away. I then shed a second tear when I realize there’s no way to attach an image.
Despite these hurdles I’m happy to say I landed my first internet feature for ChemBro, which was a very nice article written by Dan Woog, and earlier this week I booked an appearance on a podcast. So hey, I must be doing something right.
Now, to continue the search for more places to pitch!
This week’s NYC Scene Report features Valley Latini shining under a “Blue Moon,” Samia’s post-breakup “Triptych,” and BS wanting to have a little “Fun.”
* Brooklyn-based Colombian artist Valley Latini had always wanted to write a ballad, and with “Blue Moon” she’s created a great one.
Explaining the creative process behind the song (which bears no relation the 1934 song “Blue Moon,” which has been covered by a litany of legends), Latini said, “(‘Blue Moon’) is mainly about being lonely in love. The song started in my loft apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn. I played the whole thing on my Korg SV1 and recorded the demo in Logic Pro. It started as a demo, and then I took it to producer Harper James, who helped me take my vision to the next level. This is the first track that I feel the most authentic and truest to who I am as an artist out of all of the music that I’ve released in the past. This is definitely my most vulnerable song to date.”
Check out the video, and hear Valley Latini at her most personal.
* Samia is a name familiar to frequent readers of this column, as she’s appeared here a number of times. This week she’s here because she just released her debut album, The Baby, the latest single off of which is “Triptych.”
Breaking down the inspiration for the song, Samia said, “I wrote ‘Triptych’ sobbing in a green room in Denver. I’d just read the story of Francis Bacon and his lover/muse, George Dyer, whose chaotic lifestyle served as Bacon’s artistic inspiration. George Dyer overdosed in the bathroom of a hotel room paid for by Bacon, who famously painted a triptych of his lover’s final moments. I had just been through a pretty tough breakup and felt I might be purposefully getting myself into dicey situations to justify my big feelings and write about them. ‘Triptych’ was a pretty blatant cry for help and an opportunity to confess my fear of being misunderstood.”
Check out the video for “Triptych,” which involves a pretty intense puppet romance.
* During these difficult times I think everyone is looking for a little fun, and Brooklyn-based hip-hop artist BS is right there with us with his latest single, aptly titled “Fun.”
“The only constant in life is change,” BS says of the inspiration behind “Fun,” “but that doesn’t mean others get to decide how you live your life and pursue your passions.”
“Fun” is off BS’s #satanLOL EP, and you can check out the video for the song right here. Click play, and get inspired to let loose.
For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.