Let me begin this post by assuring my readers that at one point in my life, I was a massive fan of Maroon 5. In fact, I’d say I was one of their first, and my love began when Adam Levine stood front and center on ‘Last Call with Carson Daly’ to debut ‘Songs About Jane,’ their first record. That album was almost entirely written by Adam Levine and Jesse Carmichael, the latter of which is the band’s pianist and rhythm guitarist. The two also almost exclusively wrote the band’s second album, ‘It Won’t Be Soon Before Long,’ which was also a success. But in 2010, everything changed. They released ‘Hands All Over,’ which debuted far below expectations. This was especially surprising given that it was produced by legendary veteran Mutt Lange. In an interview with Howard Stern, Levine referenced a rift with Lange while making the album, implying that once they worked out their differences, it was smooth sailing. Did Levine tie Mutt’s hands, thereby hindering the creative process, or did the two simply not get along — and the resulting album reflected their rancor? It’s hard to say and sometimes things just don’t land, but the experience seemed to have hit Levine hard given that for their next three albums, ‘Overexposed,’ ‘V,’ and ‘Red Pill Blues,’ Maroon 5 opened their doors to a daunting amount of songwriters outside their band. Was that the right decision? Perhaps. I certainly enjoyed those records. But I cannot help but think when you employ the industry’s heaviest hitters to keep you relevant, you move from a bunch of friends in their garage doing what they love to a group of guys trying to be famous no matter what the creative cost.
When I arrived at The Forum to see Maroon 5 live, I had an open mind. I promise. As soon as Adam began singing, I noticed his live vocals seemed far too low for the venue, which I first blamed on the front of house engineer. Then my friend asked if he was lip-syncing, and it was as if my mother just confessed Santa isn’t real (I’m Jewish — but you get the point). “It’s far too perfect,” she said. Later, when it felt as if he was in fact singing live, the vocals sounded astoundingly different. Though I have no direct confirmation that Levine lip-synced, I’ll say that I pay a hefty ticket price for a reason, and if Sheryl Crow can give an incredible performance at The Greek with a cold and cracked voice, Levine can sing that entire concert live. But let’s assume he sang live, for argument’s sake.
It’s no secret that Adam Levine is often the target of “haters.” Though celebrities will always deal with negative press, these types of attacks start from somewhere. Even Jonah Hill (a longtime friend of Levine) told Howard Stern that though Levine gets a bad reputation, he’s an extremely kind, genuine guy. So why the misconception? For starters, Levine seems arrogant. Why? Because he took the stage in sweatpants (literally), a wife-beater, and sneakers. This is a far cry from the suits the band was known for wearing during their rise, and it’s not acceptable for a grocery store run let alone the stage at The Forum. It’s as if Levine is so hot he’d look good in anything, and so famous he can’t be bothered to forgo his pajamas while performing. At one point he even took a swipe at James Valentine’s (lead guitarist) jumpsuit, which was actually damn cool. In fact, Valentine was the best part of the show, given that the man seemed to purely want to play his instrument, rather than artificially hamming it up for the audience. Speaking of hamming it up, Levine did this in all the wrong places. For starters, he almost exclusively played downstage right, despite having an underutilized stage (in the shape of a “V”) in the center of the audience. When he sang “She Will Be Loved” beside Valentine for the encore while standing on the unique stage mid-audience, it provided a rare authentic moment that could have been duplicated throughout the show to provide a more dynamic experience, rather than a light-assault akin to a South Beach club. Sit on a stool and sing a ballad, or do anything other than burn through your material while barely addressing the audience. I’m not there to see you hit the play button on your record and call it a concert. Speaking of which, I’d have loved to see more of the Maroon 5 band, but because of the on-stage setup, they were basically hidden like Hollywood Squares. Okay — I’ll stop now. I seem angry.
When Roseanne Barr visited Howard Stern to promote the revival of her hit series, she made it clear she was managing her expectations, as the television landscape has massively changed since her show first premiered. As it turns out, no such management was needed. The series garnered 18.2 million viewers, and judging from what I watched last night, it was deserved.
For starters, it’s important to note that the cast of Roseanne returned because the wanted to — not because they needed the work. The cast consists of the beloved John Goodman, who has banked some of the best roles we’ve seen to date, Emmy and Tony winner Laurie Metcalf, who recently earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in Lady Bird, and Sara Gilbert, who helped launch The Talk on CBS. As for Roseanne, she’s just as sharp as ever. Casting is an art form, and when you’ve got some of the best talent in the business who also have great chemistry, it makes sense to bring them back together for a reboot.
If you know me personally, then you’d know I prefer drama over comedy. You’d also know I loathe reboots, especially when they return with nothing new to say (sorry, Will & Grace). For Roseanne, though the show could have updated some of their more iconic elements so as to bring it current (that couch can’t be sanitary), that’s neither here nor there. This is a show for the middle class, and with Roseanne as an admitted Trump voter and her sister Jackie proudly toting her pussy hat, the rivalry is actually rooted in truth. Our country is divided, and the talented writers behind Roseanne figured out how to make light of it. And let us not forget Darlene, whose son wants to wear glittery pants to school over the objection of Grandpa Dan, who’s certain he’ll receive hurtful flack from his classmates. Insistent he should express himself the way he sees fit, what ensues is a powerful, topical conversation about bullying. As for Becky, she’s struggling to make ends meet with an odd surrogacy given her age, but hey, it managed to bridge the gap between the case of the two Beckys.
I loved every second of this premiere, and if Roseanne hadn’t blocked me on Twitter, I’d tell her myself.
There are a few problems with SNATCHED, none of which involve the casting. With legendary Private Benjamin star Goldie Hawn beside Trainwreck’s Amy Schumer, you’ve got comedic gold. But the perfect comedic pairing is only as good as its script, and this effort falls just short of its potential.
Amy Schumer plays Emily Middleton, a selfish dreamer whose boyfriend Michael (Randall Park) dumps her just before their exotic vacation. With two non-refundable tickets to paradise, she reluctantly turns to the one person who says yes, her mom Linda (Goldie Hawn). Emily and Linda’s relationship has become distant, but when Emily discovers her mother’s fun former life, she thinks its the perfect opportunity for Linda to loosen up.
Once they arrive in paradise, Linda’s ultra-conscious, over protective nature clashes with Emily’s live-in-the-moment mentality, and their mother-daughter bonding gets derailed. Needing a break from the smothering, Emily heads to the hotel bar where she meets the very handsome James (Tom Bateman) who convinces the pair to come with him on a road trip to explore the local culture. Hypnotized by his charm, she ignores her mother’s warnings and they soon fall into a trap orchestrated by the treacherous Morgado (Oscar Jaenada). They escape due to a lucky accident, but when they call the US State Department, Morgan (Bashir Salahuddin) is hilariously unsympathetic to their situation.
They make one last call to Ruth (Wanda Sykes) and Barb (Joan Cusack), who they met at the resort. Barb is retired special ops who is always ready to return to action and Ruth is Barb’s hype man, since Barb can’t talk.They later meet Roger (Christopher Meloni), a guide who exhibits questionable abilities as an outdoorsman, but promises he will get them safely to Bogota.
When Amy Schumer did the press tour for this movie, she told Howard Stern that she resented the endless questions about gender. If the press would simply stop asking the same questions, perhaps the sexism would go away faster. As for Hawn, she received the inevitable, offensive questions about ageism and where she’s been for the last 14 years. Though she’s been actively pursuing charitable endeavors, I can only imagine her exit from the spotlight also has to do with the limited roles in Hollywood. Hawn is a star, and she’s not going to take that small supporting role simply to remain in play. She has a rich personal life, and that is enough. Schumer has said time and time again that the studio did not want Hawn for the lead, and she fought for her. If that’s true, she should have kept it to herself, but that’s neither here nor there.
Despite all the proper elements for a hit film, this simply is not funny enough. Schumer and Hawn hit their lines out of the park, but they’re few and far between. Also, there’s little to no story here. Sure they get kidnapped and held for ransom, but . . . that’s it?! I began this review with a long plot, but in truth, the film can be summed up rather simply by saying, “A mother and daughter get kidnapped in a foreign country while on vacation and make a desperate attempt to escape.” That’s literally the entire movie. It’s a high-concept, unoriginal story that therefore lives and dies by the filler jokes. And if there are not enough filler jokes, it doesn’t work. Look at Hangover, for example. It’s just about a bachelor party, but the hilarity is in the details. Bachelor parties have been done a million times, but they offered a unique spin. That did not happen here, which is a shame, because I sure do love Goldie Hawn.
David Crosby doesn’t need any promotion from The Dishmaster. The man is a legend, and even without Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, and Neil Young, he can carry a concert. Crosby graced the stage of The Wiltern for an intimate evening with his most devoted fans, and he delivered the goods. The iconic singer/songwriter hit the road to promote his new solo album, Sky Trails, which is a follow-up to the recently released Lighthouse. Before Lighthouse, Crosby released Croz, which was his first solo album in decades. Given the close proximity of his solo records since the release of Croz, I can only guess he got the bug and he’s on a roll. He now performs with session guitarist Jeff Pevar, and his pianist son James Raymond (“CPR”). He attributes his creative re-awakening to the demise of Crosby, Still, Nash, and Young, insisting that quitting the group “unleashed a tidal wave of new music,” because the band became solely about playing their greatest hits. They had, “No new songs, no growth, and [they] didn’t like each other. There was no reason to be there other than the money, and that’s not enough.”
So what exactly happened to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and why don’t they like each other? It’s unclear, but the culprit seems to be Crosby himself, which isn’t surprising given that Crosby hilariously admitted during the show to being kicked out of The Byrds because “he was an asshole.” Here’s an elusive quote from Graham Nash about the matter:
I don’t like David Crosby right now. He’s been awful for me the last two years, just fucking awful. I’ve been there and saved his fucking ass for 45 years, and he treated me like shit. You can’t do that to me. You can do it for a day or so, until I think you’re going to come around. When it goes on longer, and I keep getting nasty emails from him, I’m done. Fuck you. David has ripped the heart out of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
Crosby apparently bad-mouthed Neil Young’s girlfriend, Daryl Hannah, calling her a “purely poisonous predator,” and though he later apologized, Young was not quick to accept, telling Howard Stern that a CSNY reunion is out of the question.
The irony here is that their mutual dislike likely propelled their creativity. Bands often enjoy songwriting with people that they like, but sometimes we are at our best in moments of discomfort. Though Crosby’s new venture, CPR, gives the audience those much-loved harmonies, his original music is missing the unforgettable melodies we’re so used to hearing from CSNY. But I appreciate an effort to produce original music throughout one’s life, and I agree with Crosby that playing a band’s greatest hits in perpetuity is painful. One thing is for sure — seeing David Crosby, in person, on stage, singing beautiful harmonies, is a true privilege.
My next complaint? What on earth is CBS All Access, do I have to pay for it, and WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY FOR IT? I currently subscribe to Tidal, HBO Go, Xfinity, Amazing Prime Streaming, Sirius, and more. CBS seriously expects me to add to that list, FOR ONE SHOW? If they aren’t aggregating content to offer more than a basic subscription to their only enticing creative endeavor, I will not pay extra, even if it is $5.99 per month. Old CBS programming is not enough. Something has got to give, and it’s not going to be Howard Stern, Beyonce’s Lemonade, or old episodes of Sex and the City. Sorry, CBS. Furthermore, if I were giving advice, I’d have launched this as a free service season one and charged for season two. That is if they believe in their show of course.
There’s a fine line between empowering and humiliating when it comes to selling sex, and it’s difficult to articulate. For instance, I don’t mind Kim Kardashian posing naked or baring her genitals, and I would guess it’s because that’s been her brand from day one. To quote Howard Stern, she might be the most famous porn star in history. So why does the new video starring Bella Hadid for Love Magazine make me cringe? Is it because I find blowing a banana inherently gross? Though I fully support the actual act, I draw the line at simulating it for clicks. Love Magazine is known for their off color features for their holiday advent calendar, and Hadid kicked off their 25 days until Christmas countdown with the video below. Need I also point out that smoking a cigarette in a “sexy” way is grossly objectionable in 2016 (80’s throwback or not).
Howard Stern’s star has never shined brighter. The man’s “shock jock” status has slowly morphed into a one-stop-shop for career cleanup interviews whose long-form format is unprecedented in the business. Gone are the days of the small club of cool kids or loyalists who understand his appeal. In fact, those who poo-poo the radio titan are now considered old school, up tight outsiders.
In the last few years, Stern has dialed down his on-air time to just about twelve hours per week, which means that he must be extremely judicious about his interviews. And though he’s still loyal to the comedians whose careers he helped launch, there’s a large space for something more, and it lies in music. Though Stern often interviews the musicians who perform live on his show, that space only leaves room for huge acts, and there’s an opportunity to feature up-and-coming talent at the end of each show. He should follow in David Letterman’s footsteps and hire a talent scout to find rising stars. It’s simply ten minutes at the end of each show and it would keep in current.
Get on it, Stern. We’re all waiting.