Ameer Vann and the end of BROCKHAMPTON

BrockhamptonAn alarming story has been developing in light of a string of allegations that were levied at, founding BROCKHAMPTON member, Ameer Vann. I’ve been looking over the information and today I’m going to be giving my two cents on the matter. First, the context.

Since May 12th a number of accusations have been made against Ameer Vann for being “emotionally manipulative and mentally abusive.” On the same day following the allegations, Vann addressed claims in a tweet,

“although my behavior has been selfish, childish, and unkind, I have never criminally harmed anyone or disrespected their boundaries.”

Another tweet continues,

“I’ve been in relationships where I’ve fucked up and disrespected my partners. I’ve cheated and been dismissive to my exes. Throughout the past 3 years I’ve been working hard to reflect on myself and seek out help. It continues to be a learning process every day.”

In the week following the allegations, Kevin Abstract, the group leader, came out in an Instagram Live and announced the delay of their forthcoming studio album, Puppy. Speaking about the assertions specifically Kevin had this to say,

“I’ve never seen Ameer hurt anyone. And I also want people to know that we hold each other accountable for anything, any mistake.”

After another week of deliberation, on May 27th, 2018 Vann was officially kicked out of BROCKHAMPTON. An official statement made by the band on twitter read,

“We want to sincerely apologize to the victims affected by Ameer’s actions. We were lied to, and we’re sorry for not speaking up sooner. We do not tolerate abuse of any kind. This is not a solution to their suffering, but we hope this is a step in the right direction.”

After all of that. This was the decision the group finally came to, and its one I don’t really agree with.

I believe every woman is entitled to share their story of abuse and should never be silenced for fear of public humiliation. However, I also believe anyone accused of criminal acts of this nature is innocent until proven guilty. As of late, I feel as if we’ve forgotten that and that we constantly jump to conclusions without first thinking about the bigger picture. Well, I’ve been mulling over all the available information for the past few days and here’s the conclusion I’ve come to.

While it is entirely true that the way Vann treated his ex-partners was incredibly callous and malevolent I do not believe it constitutes the total destruction of his career. As far as I know, the women involved did not accuse Vann of anything overtly illegal. (NOTE: he was accused of engaging in sexual relations with a minor, it seems that either angle was dropped or is no longer important to the media.) The choice to ouster Vann made by the members of BROCKHAMPTON, to me, was very hasty and is likely the end of the California-based group as we know it.

While Kevin Abstract may be the leader of the all-American ensemble Ameer Vann was the true face of the group. He appeared on all the covers of their SATURATION trilogy, was featured very prominently in music videos and promotional material, and was easily the best rapper of the group. Out of 40 songs not including the skits in the SATURATION chronology he was featured 31 times. It’s safe to say that, whether we like it or not, BROCKHAMPTON is losing an integral member of their group.

It’s heartbreaking to see the rise and fall of a talented artist come to fruition. I’ve been a fan of the self-professed all-American boyband since the inception of their first studio album and now it seems I have to lament the end of them. While the inevitability of their eventual downfall was never lost on me it, nonetheless, is still disquieting that it was induced so prematurely. I can’t even imagine how the boyband feels about this travesty.

While fans like me are simply seeing the death of a great artist the boys at BROCKHAMPTON are losing something much greater. A lifelong friend. I suppose all that glitters is simply not gold.

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Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino; a loving thesis and analysis

397816-d5_25-pc-zackery-michael-72dpiOn Sept. 9, 2013, the music world would be forever changed due to the release of Arctic Monkeys’ critically acclaimed album AM. What followed in its wake was a sudden outpour of praise from newcomers and veteran fans alike. For a time Arctic Monkeys epitomized the classic appeal of contemporary rock bands while still keeping in touch with their old-fashioned roots. However, after only a year of activity following the publication of their fifth studio album, the band decided to take a hiatus. A hiatus that would last nearly three years. We would not hear another new track from the elusive group until the eventual release of their sixth studio album; Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.

It’s unclear how to properly describe the album without sounding neurotic. There’s an intricate story being told across the eleven tracks that contain numerous details cleverly interwoven between each other. There are countless obscure allusions, and bizarre non-sequiturs, it’s difficult to take the whole LP in without properly examining them first. The production while familiar at times is a far cry from Arctic Monkeys’ prior outings. Sonically, it’s much more akin to music you would hear at an offbeat bar or lounge, which is a stylistic choice I’m quite fond of, thematically. To me, the album is a cosmic adventure through the copious wistful reflections of, lead singer, Alex Turner, as he drearily sings about “Tranquility Base” a fictional hotel and casino which serves as the record’s main set piece.

“Star Treatment” sets the scene for the narrative of the album while simultaneously establishing the tone. The very first words you hear are Turner moaning a statement teeming with nostalgia,

“I just wanted to be one of The Strokes. Now look at the mess you made me make.”

Turner is lamenting the concept of fame itself. He is melancholic as he mournfully speaks of his own popularity whilst satirizing the idolization of celebrities in culture and the media. He continues to add complexity to his jeremiad by interlacing his jaded thoughts with several nods to classic pop culture. One specific allusion Turner makes to the Blade Runner franchise has a very crucial thematic implication.

“They’ve got a film up on the wall and it’s dark enough to dance. What do you mean you’ve never seen Blade Runner?”

The reference to the classic dystopian film makes Turner’s paranoia about society and fame more salient. The film is set in the not so distant future of 2019 and could be a set point for what Turner feels the world is transforming into. The manner in which Turner goes about describing his current fears and regrets implies it’s taking a heavy toll on him. It’s a rather bleak note for the album to begin on and it only escalates as we continue into the next track.

“One Point Perspective” depicts much of the same casual grieving Turner did in the previous track, except with a chief focus on ambition. The main chord progression of the song is beautifully carried along by a grand piano, a very prevalent instrument on the album. The grand piano is regularly referenced as the album progresses and is used as a symbol of childhood. It’s especially important in this track as it coincides with its overall meaning.

“One Point Perspective” marks a breaking point for Turner. All of these melancholic sentiments are inevitably what causes him to abscond to “Tranquility Base.” He feels trapped, marred by the omnipresent constraints of society.

“American Sports” takes place on Tranquility Base and depicts imagery that mostly serves to push the story at hand. He compares the current state of the fictional world he’s into ours implying they’re one and the same. There’s not much else to derive from the song other than the stunning melody played, presumably, by Turner on the piano.

The title track of the album is interesting for two reasons. For one; Turner sounds subdued if not, a bit hypnotized. And secondly; while in this hypnotic state he makes several remarks about space and technology in a sexual matter.

“Technological advances really bloody get me in the mood. Pull me in close on a crisp eve, baby. Kiss me underneath the moon’s side boob”

Turner’s mindless self-indulgence implies there has been sexual assimilation between people and technology on Earth. Showing just how far society has integrated with machinery. The fact he’s able to speak so nonchalantly about such a grim revelation is likely due to his presence at Tranquility Base. It’s also worth noting this far into the review that Tranquility Base is located on the moon. More specifically the site of the first lunar landing, but more on that later.

“Golden Trunks” immediately follows the title track and marks a subtle return to the usual sound and subject matter of Arctic Monkeys. A thunderous guitar illuminates the desolate production and a stabbing piano section repeats in the background set a bit lower in the mix almost as if it doesn’t want to distract from the acoustics. The song is a conversation between Turner and someone he is falling for. It’s about love. A topic almost ubiquitous for the group, however, only explored once on this record. It’s also one song that doesn’t push the underlying narrative.

Track six, “Four Out Of Five” plays almost like an advertisement for Tranquility Base. The whole song is dedicated to enticing the listener into staying at the titular resort. It’s incredibly extravagant and features booming vocals from Turner who ceaselessly sings the praises of the space-bound retreat,

“Take it easy for a little while. Come and stay with us, it’s such an easy flight…I put a taqueria on the roof, it was well reviewed. Four stars out of five. And that’s unheard of”

It’s the most climactic song of the album. Turner has completely convinced himself he belongs to the idyllic, extraterrestrial hostel. It’s almost humorous to hear him so ecstatic about such a common score, like his time there has blinded him from the harsh nature of reality. Perhaps that’s exactly what he wanted in the first place.

The next four songs, “The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip”, “Science Fiction”, “She Looks Like Fun”, and “Batphone” all grapple with homologous subject matter. They expound the misuse of technological devices and hold very little substance as far as the narrative is concerned. For this reason and for fear of sounding redundant, I’m skimming over these tracks in this appraisal. However, that doesn’t mean they’re any weaker than the songs I’ve previously mentioned. In fact, “She Looks Like Fun” is one of my favorites on the LP. I just don’t believe they warrant an in-depth look at the moment despite being crucial for one’s overall enjoyment of the album.

“The Ultracheese” is the closer of the record and brings the whole thing full circle. We’re immediately introduced to theme’s equivalent to one’s formerly discussed in “Star Treatment” and “One Point Perspective.” Turner now outwardly expresses his detachment from society and himself. The thematic purpose of  Tranquility Base being located at the site of the first lunar landing is also made apparent in this track.

Michael Collins was an astronaut apart of the Apollo 11 crew, alongside the likes of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. In other words, he was part of the very first lunar landing, except in a much more minor role. While Armstrong and Aldrin got to physically walk around on the Moon and make history, Collins had to stay orbiting in the command module so he could link up with them later. As the command module began to circle the far side of the moon, the side that faced away from Earth, he lost all radio contact with Earth, Armstrong, and Aldrin for about 48 minutes. This effectively made him the most lonely a human being has ever been.

I imagine this was the tone Turner was trying to capture when he chose the location for Tranquility Base. It isn’t so much a peaceful retreat as it is a desperate escape. An escape from the bleak reality he has yet to come to terms with. A world dictated by a disturbing reliance on automatons. In some sense that existence may be lonelier than being sequestered on the moon. Perhaps Turner is calling out for help or simply trying to reassure himself. With one final coo from Turner, the album abruptly ends leaving the audience to wonder if he was justified in his irrational accusations of society or if everything he was saying was some sort of depressed, drunken fantasy.

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino marks one of the most unexpected but welcome changes of direction I’ve heard from a band in years. It’s incredibly ambitious but I believe none of it was in vain. Alex Turner’s soft vocals work very well in tandem with the loungey production, and space-themed iconography. I’ve been obsessed with this album since its release and I hope that Arctic Monkeys continue to experiment with their sound. Who knows, someday they may just blast off.

EDIT: 6/2/2020

So it’s been a few years since I wrote this analysis and my opinion on this album has slightly changed over time. One of the reasons I used to consider this album perfect was due to its unique production that the group had seemingly mastered in such a short span of time. However, I realize a lot of it was more of a rehash of Turner’s supergroup The Last Shadow Puppets. While that didn’t marginalize my enjoyment that much it was enough for me to not appreciate it as much. Do I not like the album now? No. I still love it deeply. It’s very hard to explain how obsessed I was with this album when it first came out.

Over time my taste has changed and matured and this album is just one of those things that got slightly worse with age. With that being said. It’s still their best record by far and the best thing that came out that year. Nothing will ever top it.

Music & Mindset: Saint Motel’s saintmotelevision

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(Originally published September 17th, 2017 on another website)

When I think of pop music, my mind tends to narrow toward a view of the genre that encompasses only the most popular contemporary music. Pop is arguably one of, if not the most ubiquitous genre of music today, and whenever I talk to someone about their favorite songs or artists, it comes up more often than not. While I wouldn’t necessarily call that a bad thing, I would argue that there has been an overwhelming saturation of pop artists within the music industry in the past few decades.

With this mindset, it’s somewhat difficult for me to listen to pop music impartially. So when a friend recommended me this “cool pop band,” Saint Motel, I was skeptical, to say the least. I was so skeptical in fact, that it took me nearly a week to actually sit down and listen to their music, but after enough pestering from her, I finally listened to their second studio album, saintmotelevision.

To my surprise, what followed was thirty minutes of pure pop goodness, packed with wonderful vocal performances from A/J Jackson and some of the most unique instrumentals I’ve heard in a while. The word “awesome” gets thrown around a lot, but saintmotelvision is truly deserving of the title. Try as I might avoid waxing poetical, it’s truly an excellent listen. The album spans ten tracks dealing chiefly with love, and if you couldn’t tell from my last piece here, I’m a sucker for love songs. But the way the band goes about writing these songs is rather interesting: they choose to write from nonconventional viewpoints and for the most part, not overly romanticize what love is actually like.

“Getaway” is about an enamored criminal who wants nothing more than to run away with his love. There are some appropriate allusions to Bonnie and Clyde that work well with the message Jackson is delivering, as well as the dark tone of the music. “Destroyer,” the next track, is the record’s finest, a one-two punch of emotional vigor and potent production. The fast-paced drum beat, the sweet brass section, and the angsty yet beautiful sax solo all work together perfectly. It also contains the de facto mission statement of the album:

“I don’t break hearts, I destroy them.”

The following track “Born Again” is from the perspective of a man who is a born-again Christian. There’s obvious biblical allusions throughout the song and an almost comedic edge to the lyrics that adds another dimension to the record entirely.

“Sweet Talk” presents a love story through the eyes of a man blinded by infatuation, as A/J sings,

“You could yell, ‘Piss off! Wont you stay away?’ It’ll still be sweet talk to my ears.”

If you haven’t noticed by now Saint Motel is great at writing punchlines that can make you laugh as well as cry. I’ll never forget the first time I heard this song and how much I related to it at the time. I was able to poke fun at something that had been bothering me, all while listening to some amazing pop music, which was a wholly new idea to me.

​saintmotelvision did two things for me. It gave me an amazing musical experience that I don’t think I’ll ever forget, and it also gave me a chance to widen my perspective on pop music as a whole. Being an amateur producer myself, I admittedly struggle at times with having an “elitist” view of the music world. The place I go to listen to music the most is SoundCloud, where one can find thousands of unheard artists creating amazing songs with quality comparable to Top 40 and radio hits. This has prompted me to have a general distaste for popular music.

But after falling in love with Saint Motel, I realize that it’s a good rule of thumb to at least try and appreciate what’s popular today. Because in all honesty – there’s a reason that popular artists gain the recognition of so many. They’re (usually) genuinely talented and competent musicians that have managed to stand out in a world of thousands more like them. Of course, luck, trends, gimmicks, budget, and connections within the music world are all factors as well, but it’s hard to imagine someone like Justin Bieber being as successful as he is without being majorly talented.

Saint Motel has encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and be more receptive to popular media.

​Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to Halsey.

talking about 2 movies, that are about love, from the perspective of someone who is single.

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500 Days Of Summer (originally written March 11th, 2018)

It’s rare that I give any independent films a chance. Typically, I find them too amateur or artsy for my pretentious sixteen-year-old mind to appreciate. Be that as it may, whenever I do end up giving them a chance; I always find myself astonished by the levels of quality and passion within each one of them. There is nothing quite like watching a well made independent film. They possess the same allure of a big blockbuster, but the charm you can only find in old home movies from your family basement.

500 Days of Summer, directed by Marc Webb and written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, offers a realistic take on contemporary relationships that hits close to home for anyone who’s ever been a part of one. It subverts the tired trope of romanticizing unhealthy relationships, and instead, plays the main character, Tom, portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, for a callow fool due to the fact he believes in such unrealistic and contrived ideas about romance.

I have a feeling everyone has some type of interpretation about the love they put forth for the world to hear, but what I think many of us don’t understand is that we really don’t know exactly what love is. Love is intangible. It’s an enigma. I don’t believe anyone in this world is able to pinpoint exactly what it is, and what it does to our feeble minds. The way we view love is often manipulated by how it makes us feel at the time. It’s an ever-evolving concept.

For a period in my life I was convinced love didn’t exist; much like Tom’s love interest Summer, who is played by Zooey Deschanel. At this point in my life, however, I see so many happy people together it’s almost impossible to deny its existence. It makes me feel so inadequate, but just a few months ago the thought of being tied down repulsed me. Tom is the exact same way, he’s just like me and just like you too. I think that’s the true beauty of 500 Days of Summer. When you look back at your past failed relationships you often laugh at the silliness of it all, at least that’s what I do. You can make fun of all the weird things you said and did because, while at the time it certainly felt real to you; once you look back. It doesn’t. Time passes, people change, and in time, everything you think you know about love will have altered itself in the blink of an eye.

I watched 500 Days of Summer to feel upset. I watched it to feel some sort of superiority over the field of love. I watched it to feel bitter. Instead, what I got made me change my mind and question the ways in which I perceive it. It provided me a thought-provoking introspection into the world that we think we know all too well. Heartbreak.

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The Lobster (originally written March 17th, 2018)

I’ve seen a lot of movies that take place in a dystopia. In fact, within the last few years, there has been a huge surge of films that have taken place in a dystopian world. The only purpose being for the author to criticize the grander scope of the world rather than a particular facet of it they find flawed. I don’t think it’s enough to find the whole world flawed without being able to divulge the specific forces making you feel such convictions. This is the problem I seem to find with most dystopian films I watch. However, The Lobster is able to breathe life into this over-saturated genre by properly using a creative dystopian setting for the purpose of evaluating what we perceive love should be.

The film takes place in a world which is entirely dictated by love; everyone must have a partner. If you don’t you’re sent to a hotel and tasked with finding a suitable mate in 45 days. If you fail to do so you are transformed into any animal of your choosing so you may start anew. The concept itself warrants a closer look, but what it reveals about society is much more fascinating.

We often worry about finding “the one” thinking perhaps we never will and as a result, we recklessly leap into commitment not realizing we had a choice the whole time. The Lobster, however, depicts what it would be like if that choice of commitment was revoked. The film trivializes love making it more of an obligation than something we normally perceive as special. In their world love should be something everyone should partake in.

Characters are able to find out if they’re compatible if they share a defining trait. For example; two characters are both short-sighted. It’s a connection sure, but it’s one that’s purely on a physical level that has nothing to do with the way they actually feel about each other. This makes the worlds current obsession with vanity more salient and shallow.

Further on in the narrative, there’s an alternative view cleverly juxtaposed that acts as a counter-argument for what society thinks love should be. The “loners” as they’re called in the film are comparatively not allowed to engage in any sort of relationship and instead emphasize the importance of individuality rather than partnership. In the loner’s world; love should be nonexistent.

The issue that’s coupled with the loners perspective on love is ironically exactly the same as the former. It revokes the person’s ability to choose; limiting society to two ideologically constrictive ideas. The film humors both viewpoints equally, however, encouraging a debate between both sentiments, and tailoring the film’s events and ending to how each different audience member may perceive it as such. The director stays neutral opting to emphasize the fact that we as the audience do have a choice. We can dictate if the main characters end up living a happy ending or a sad one. We can choose to live our own lives depending on how we perceive love.

It’s a choice I don’t think we should waste.

a little bit about me

I always have something to say about everything, and one of the greatest outlets man has created in order to share their thoughts is through writing. I like to write and I like to share my opinions. So that’s why I made this website.

For the foreseeable future, this is where I’m going to be stockpiling my intrepid and often ostentatious writings, whether it be on things like music or films. However, if you’re one of my close friends reading this I’m sure you already know about how I feel about both of those mediums, and even if you don’t I’m sure you’ll see very soon how opinionated I am.

But I digress, welcome to my website! Please turn off the bright lights. Thank you.