Fall Out Boy

FOB

I grew up during the emo/ pop punk mainstream popularity in the mid-2000s. Fall Out Boy is one of the few former “emo” bands who are still relevant in the music. I only fell in love with their music after listening to their their album, Infinity on High, in 2007. Many “emo” bands either disbanded or faded into music oblivion. Only some former “emo” bands endured the test of time in the music industry over the past decade.

In a previous blog post, I brought up how I only decided to check out Fall Out Boy’s music to make my friend, Shakira, stop nagging me. It’s a 50/50 chance you’ll end up liking something in such situations. Infinity on High album formed my appreciation for Fall Out Boy in 2007. Yet, it wasn’t until a year or two later I was actively listening to FOB’s music.

Here’s some background information about Fall Out Boy. This band is from Chicago, Illinois. It consists of four band members. Patrick Stump is the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist. Also, he plays the piano instrumental parts in FOB songs. Pete Wentz is the bass guitarist. Joe Trohman is the lead guitarist. Pete and Joe provide backing vocals as well. Andy Hurley is the drummer.

FOB members             [From left to right: Joe Trohman, Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz, Andy Hurley]

Fall Out Boy formed in 2001. They have released six studio albums since 2003. Take This To Your Grave, their debut album, was released in May 2003. From Under The Cork Tree was released in May 2005. Infinity on High was released in February 2007. Folie à Deux was released in December 2008. Fall Out Boy was on hiatus between 2009 and 2012. Save Rock and Roll was released in April 2013. American Beauty/ American Psycho was released in January 2015.

From Under the Cork Tree album launched Fall Out Boy into mainstream popularity.  Even still to this day, I don’t love From Under the Cork Tree album. This is typically an all-time favorite album for longtime FOB fans. Nope not me. I only really love the promotional singles from this album. Sugar We’re Goin’ Down. Dance, Dance. Fall Out Boy was truly “pop-punk” with their first two albums. Yet, I much prefer Take This to Your Grave if I’m in a more pop-punk mood.

Infinity on High albumInfinity on High album will always have a special place in my heart. It was my official introduction to Fall Out Boy. Honestly, it was love at first listen. It wasn’t traditional pop-punk style. In fact, this album was a huge departure from their sophomore album. Elements of R&B, soul, and flamenco. There are even brass instruments like bass trombone and French horn incorporated into some of the songs. All studio albums following Infinity on High began Fall Out Boy’s musical evolution to more pop rock style.

FFolie a Deux albumolie à Deux translate to “A Madness Shared by Two”. This is first FOB album in which the lyrical content is less autobiographical. All other albums have incorporated elements of the bands collective experiences within the lyrical themes and content. With a slight political edge, their fourth studio album explores themes of moral dilemmas, decaying social relationships, and societal shortcomings. They didn’t want overly political themes by leaving the lyrics up to interpretation for the listeners. Also, Fall Out Boy continued to experiment with non-pop punk musical styles in their fourth studio album. Elements of R&B and soul are mixed in with the alternative rock style. This is easily their most underrated studio album. I’ve grown to appreciate Folie à Deux more over the past several years.

I was overjoyed when news of Fall Out Boy’s return broke all over the internet. I had really hoped Folie à Deux wasn’t going to be their last studio album. I’d seen enough of my beloved pop-punk bands disband. I didn’t want Fall Out Boy to join the list. Fall Out Boy reimagined their musical style in their post-hiatus studio albums. Save Rock and Rock and American Beauty/American Pyscho are drastically different in terms of musical style. Yet, they are closer to pop rock style. There is even influences of electronica rock. Fall Out Boy took a huge risk reinventing themselves post-hiatus. Yet, it paid off as they are still very much prevalent in the music industry.

Fall Out Boy is known for their fascinating song titles. Take This to Your Grave to Folie à Deux studio albums had some long song title as well.  Their fifth and sixth albums had shorter, more straightforward song titles. I’m glad to see the return of quirky song titles in upcoming seventh album, Mania. Some aspects of old FOB remain the same.

Every band is different how they delegate lyric writing and music composition duties. Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump make a dynamic duo. Pete is the primary lyricist. Patrick is the primary music composer. I’m sure Andy and Joe give their input as well. Yet, Fall Out Boy covers a range of topics in their music. Not beating the same dead horse. Each of their studio albums are different in terms of musical style and lyrical content themes. I personally don’t want to hear the same musical style for every album. Change and evolution is important for any musician. Studio albums should reflect how the musicians’ lives have changed over the years.

Emo/pop punk lead singers typically have a tenor vocal range. Usually no more than a two octave vocal range. There are some exceptions in the pop-punk genre. From my own experience, Patrick Stump and Brendon Urie not only have distinctive singing vocals but also have more than two octave range. Patrick Stump has three octave vocal range. He even throws in R&B and funk vibes into his singing vocals which is unusual for this rock sub-genre. Patrick Stump is technically classified as a high lyric tenor vocalist. His vocals are emotively soulful yet still has clarity.

Thanks to Fall Out Boy, I discovered other Fueled by Ramen artists/bands between 2008 and 2011. Paramore, The Academy Is, Cobra Starship, and Panic! at the Disco. I’ve had the opportunity to see almost all of them live in concert. Paramore in October 2009 (mtvU’s Ulalume festival) and July 2014 (Monumentour tour with Fall Out Boy). The Academy Is in July 2009 (mtvU’s SunBloc festival with Boys Like Girls). Panic! At the Disco in August 2014 (This is Gospel tour) and September 2015. Cobra Starship is the only exception. Sadly, Cobra Starship disbanded in November 2015.  Also, The Academy Is disbanded in October 2011.

I had the chance to see Fall Out Boy live in concert twice. July 2014 on Monumentour with co-headliner Paramore. This was my second time seeing Paramore in concert. But this was my first Fall Out Boy concert. Also, this was my first concert in four years. I couldn’t have asked for a better combination of my favorite bands for a tour. June 2015 on Boys of Zummer tour with co-headliner Wiz Khalifa. I have a strong dislike for rap genre in general. So I wasn’t a fan of them touring with rapper Wiz Khalifa. But I’d put up with him if it meant seeing FOB in concert again. Monumentour was promoting Save Rock and Roll album. Boys of Zummer tour was promoting American Beauty/ American Pyscho album.

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Fall Out Boy deliver dynamic, energetic live performances. They’re even better live than on recorded studio albums. Plus, each of the four band members are charismatic in their own ways. Pete Wentz, the bassist, does majority of the talking during concerts which isn’t the same with my other rock bands. Lead vocalists typically offer commentary during live concerts. But Patrick Stump does very little talking during live performances. He doesn’t mind Pete taking over the live commentary aspect. Patrick, Pete, Andy, and Joe have a blast throughout the setlist. Fall Out Boy knows how to enthusiastically engage their crowd at concerts.

Decaydance logoI’m so thankful Fall Out Boy helped launched the music career of bands including The Academy Is and Panic! at the Disco. Pete Wentz actually formed an independent record label in 2004. DCD2 Records (formerly Decaydance Records) is an imprint of Fueled by Ramel record label. The four band members have branched out to other projects and roles when not actively recording new Fall Out Boy music.

Fall Out Boy never fails to amaze me with music they come out with. There are still always some elements of rock. Pop-punk is what gained them mainstream popularity. Yet, they learned to keep reinventing their musical style to remain relevant in the music industry. Some FOB fans complain they want things to go back to the golden pop-punk days. No thank you. I really do love their musical style evolution especially after post-hiatus. Plus, Fall Out Boy gained a newer generation of fans as a result of their pop rock musical evolution after their hiatus. Musicians strive to reach new groups of people with their music. Yet, they don’t forget about their loyal longtime fans. I’ll cherish the musical styles in Infinity on High and Folie à Deux. But I don’t want to hear the same musical style for every proceeding studio album. I love how I can simultaneously headbang and dance along to Fall Out Boy songs. Over the past 11 years, my love for Fall Out Boy has exponentially grown. I’m eagerly looking forward to their upcoming seventh studio album, Mania, coming out in January 2018.

Their upcoming seventh album is continues to demonstrate Fall Out Boy’s musical evolution. Mania album is a huge departure from Save Rock and Roll and American Beauty/American Pyscho studio albums. Yet, I will still continue to support Fall Out Boy. “Hold Me Tight or Don’t” is the fourth single from upcoming Mania album.

 

 

 

 

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Kinky Boots

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve visited New York City. There’s always something to do. Plenty of touristy attractions for all age groups. I’ve been to NYC at different times of busy tourist seasons. Summer and fall/winter seasons. The warmer seasons allows me to do more venturing around the city compared to colder season. All my NYC adventures are memorable in their own way. But my most recent trip is special for its own reason.

It isn’t often that my celebrity biases have taken time away from their TV/movie or music careers to take on Broadway. In general, Broadway doesn’t pay as much. The person must have a strong passion to pursue a Broadway musical project.

First Date Musical posterIn October 2013, Messiah College Student Activity Board (SAB) had a NYC Broadway excursion to see the off-Broadway musical First Date. I normally never went on any SAB excursion to NYC. This trip was sold out but our campus radio was giving away two tickets. I was lucky to win one of the two tickets. So why was I so keen on going? Zachary Levi from NBC’s Chuck joined the main cast ensemble of this off-Broadway musical. In fact, he was making his Broadway debut in First Date. I was obsessed with NBC’s Chuck. This action-comedy/ spy-drama TV show was nerdtastically bad-ass! This was my main motivation for attending this SAB NYC Broadway excursion. Thankfully colleges can get group rates when they plan Broadway trips. So, I was going to take advantage of this opportunity.

She Loves Me Musical posterIn March 2016, Zachary Levi returned to Broadway for She Loves Me revival musical. Last spring my local community college had a New York City day trip. Obviously, I had made another trip to New York City mainly to see this off-Broadway musical. I even had opportunity to meet Zachary Levi backstage after She Loves Me performance. He autographed the playbill and took a photo with me. First Date and She Loves Me musicals helped to form a deeper appreciation of him as an actor. Zachary Levi is a versatile actor.

Bend It Like Beckham musical poserIn June 2015, my family and I were travelling to London, England for vacation. I stumbled across some interesting information a few weeks before this trip. I’d been going through a Jamie Campbell Bower movie and TV show marathon during the last two months of my senior year of college. Jamie’s Wikipedia page mentioned he would be participating in London’s West End musical production of Bend It Like Beckham. This musical was based off the 2002 film. In fact, the film’s writer and director, Gurinder Chadha, penned the script for the stage musical as well. I’ve seen Bend It Like Beckham movie at least 15 times over the past decade. Thankfully, it didn’t take much convincing to convince my family to check out this West End musical while we were in London. Best of all, I had opportunity to meet Jamie Campbell Bower backstage after Bend It Like Beckham performance. He autographed the musical playbill and took a photo with me. I feel so lucky to have met some of my favorite celebrity biases.

Couple months ago, some exciting news regarding Panic! at the Disco popped up online and social media platforms. P!ATD’s frontman, Brendon Urie, would be making his Broadway debut in Kinky Boots musical. Of course, I had to find a way to make another trip to New York City to see it. I’ve been a longtime fan of Panic! at the Disco’s music over the past six years. Plus, I saw them in concert in August 2014 and September 2015. This Broadway musical had gotten great reviews. I had no doubt it will be a good musical.

Kinky Boots was my first  main street Broadway musical. First Date and She Loves Me are technically off-Broadway musicals. Brendon was my main motivation to see Kinky Boots musical. But I do really enjoy musicals in general.

The bus pulled into New York City around early afternoon. Thankfully, the hotel was nearby the Kinky Boots theater venue. I had time to meander around the city before the 8 o’clock evening performance. I specifically wore my new Panic! at the Disco tee for this performance.

Al Hirschfield Theatre is in midtown Manhattan. This theater is within close vicinity of other main street Broadway musical venues. Yet, the Al Hirschfield Theatre is a fairly small venue. The seating capacity is around 1,400 persons. My seat was very close to the stage. Orchestra section on the right side in the first section of seating. End of the second row. No joke my seat was right by the stage. I was right there where all the action was. No complaining about this incredible view of the stage. According to Ticketmaster, it says it is a partial view seat. Lies. I had a fantastic perspective of the whole stage!

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Kinky Boots posterKinky Boots musical revolves around the character, Charlie Price. He is a fourth generation son in his family’s shoe factory business. After his father’s untimely death, Charlie inherits the shoe factor which is near bankruptcy. Now he must find a way to save the family business. A creative business solution comes in the form of an unlikely partnership with cabaret performer and drag queen, Lola. He plans to reinvent Price and Son brand by producing a line of comfortable high-heel boots which can even withstand a man’s weight. Charlie and Lola’s unconventional business partnership helped them realize they aren’t so different after all. Kinky Boots officially debuted on Broadway on April 4, 2014. J.Harrison Ghee replaced Toderick Hall as Lola in March 2017. Brendon Urie replaced Killian Donnelly as Charlie Price in May 2017.

Cyndi Lauper wrote the music and lyrics for Kinky Boots. Many know Lauper because to her hit song “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”. In fact, Kinky Boots was her debut as musical theater songwriter. The song numbers in this musical have emphasis on father-son relationships but also has overarching themes of tolerance and self-acceptance.

Kinky Boots is an eccentric Broadway musical full of heart and soul. I definitely got feels during the performance. Laughter and tears. There’s a great balance in serious and comedic tones within the dialogue and songs. Honestly, I love all the songs in Kinky Boots. Mixture of infectiously catchy and pensive ballad numbers. They’re all incredible in their own ways. Although, some songs stand out for me. “Land of Lola”, “Sex is in the Heel”, “Not My Father’s Son”, “What A Woman Wants”, “Soul of a Man”, “Hold Me in your Heart”, and “Raise You Up/ Just Be”. You’ll be tapping your foot, clapping your hands, and dancing in your seat by the last song of the performance. I had a huge grin plastered on my face at the end of the performance.

Being his musical debut, Brendon did an amazing job as Charlie Price. He still has room to improve his acting skills. Nonetheless, he still brilliantly brought his character to life on the stage. It never ceases to amaze me how Brendon makes singing look so effortless. He is a lovable ball of energy and explosive charisma. On and off stage. He pulled off a decent British accent for this role too. (Side note: It was a bit odd seeing him in a buttoned-up shirt and khaki pants. I got so used to him wearing skinny jeans, casual tee, and leather jacket. For concerts, Brendon even wears bold colored suit ensemble. He is typically shirtless the last half of concert performances.)

The whole cast ensemble of Kinky Boots had phenomenal chemistry. Most of all, J. Harrison and Brendon worked so well together. It is essential the main roles have good chemistry. This can make or break a musical, movie, and TV show. J.Harrison Ghee vastly impressed me. His acting skills and mannerism make you quickly love the character of Lola. Lola and her troupe of drag queens (also referred to as “angels”) were my favorite characters in Kinky Boots musical.

I waited until the last bow from the cast ensemble before heading to the stage door. (Side note: It’s plain rude to leave before the last bow. You don’t have to be a seasoned Broadway musical attendee to know this fact. It’s assumed courtesy.) There was a massive crowd around the stage door in front of the Al Hirschfield Theatre. Not surprising at all. Most people were waiting for Brendon Urie. Brendon was my main motivation to see Kinky Boots. Yet, a success performance on a daily basis rests on the talent and harmony of the whole crew and cast ensemble. Based off the online comments on social media, this wasthe first Broadway musical for majority of Panic! at the Disco fans attending Kinky Boots performances. I love how celebrities can help expose their fan base to other entertainment forms. The group of P!ATD fans around me came from far away states and even Canada for Kinky Boots musical.

The crowd worked together to ensure people’s musical playbills got signed by the cast members who took time to interact with the awaiting fans. The noise level drastically increased when security announced Brendon was coming out soon. All the other crew and cast members had already left the theater. There was much demand for Brendon’s autograph. But I persisted and politely weaved through the now slowly dwindling crowd. Brendon did his best to sign all the playbill musicals shoved in his face. Plus, people were screaming for selfies with him. I managed to find a spot close enough to pass over my two Kinky Boots playbills for Brendon to easily reach it. Brendon signed both playbills! My heart exploded with joyous fangirl feels when I saw his signatures on them. Plus, a tall girl nearby me offered to take some overhead pictures of Brendon before he got into his car. The pictures turned out surprisingly good. I waited almost 1.5 hours but it was so worth the leg cramp from all the standing. I didn’t come that far only to give up. That’s the closest I’ll get to “meeting” Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie.

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img_1902Brendon Urie will be playing the role of Charlie Price in Kinky Boots Broadway musical until August 6, 2017. Thankfully, Brendon not his understudy was in the June 16th performance.  He was my main motivation to check out Kinky Boots musical. I’d highly recommend this Broadway musical. Yet I don’t recommend this musical for any children under 15. It’s a fun time. You won’t regret it. Kinky Boots’ overall message is to find your true potential. Become the person you want to be rather than the person others want you to be.

I’ll leave you with a clip of Kinky Boots cast performing “Everybody Say Yeah” musical number on the Tony Awards in 2013.

Thirty Seconds To Mars

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Nowadays people associate Jared Leto from his acting roles in Dallas Buyers Club (2013) and Suicide Squad (2016). Some people aren’t aware Jared is very versatile.  Actor. Singer-songwriter. Director. Producer. Editor. Photographer. Investor. Painter.

I’ve always associated Jared Leto as the lead singer of Thirty Seconds to Mars. Actually Jared Leto and his older brother, Shannon Leto, are co-founders of Thirty Seconds to Mars. Their mother, Constance, encouraged her boys to get involved in the creative arts at a young age. Since childhood, music played an integral role in the Leto brothers’ lives.

I’ll give some background history about this rock band. In 1998, Leto brothers formed Thirty Seconds to Mars in Los Angeles. Jared did some acting roles prior to pursing his passion for music. People magazine named Jared Leto one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World in 1996 and 1997. Jared refused to promote the band by flaunting his Hollywood fame. This speaks volumes about his humility. In fact, he has never leveraged his Hollywood fame to garner more attention for the band. Jared has intentionally maintained his acting and music careers as distinct entities. In 1998, Thirty Seconds to Mars sign with Immortal Records. Then, Virgin Records joined this contract in 1999. Their self-titled debut album was released in August 2002.

Since 2006, Jared Leto has directed all of Thirty Seconds to Mars’s music videos. He goes under the pseudonyms of Bartholomew Cubbins and Angakok Panipaq. His directorial filmography includes A Beautiful Lie, From Yesterday, The KillKings and QueensHurricaneCloser to the Edge,  City of AngelsDo or Die, and Up in the Air. Each music video is basically a short film or documentary. Beautiful works of cinematography! [WARNING: Hurricane music video contains some mature content!]

Also, Jared Leto is a savvy business man. He founded an on-demand streaming platform called VyRT. This media company has diversified their services to include digital distribution, social networking, and online shopping. Artists can provide their fans unique virtual social experience through VrYT. Musicians can offer live experiences and broadcast it in real-time on the Internet. This is not his only technology investment. He was an early investor stakeholder in many companies. Nest, Uber, Airbnb, Reddit, and Slack to name a few. Jared has diversified his streams of revenue. But it is safe to say majority of money comes from his music career.

One thing differentiates Thirty Seconds to Mars from other artists or bands in the music industry. All of the band’s music videos and documentaries were produced in collaboration with producing partner, Emma Ludbrook, under their Sisyphus Corporation. They even have their own teams that address the business and marketing functions. They don’t have heavy reliance on their record label. Majority of artists/ bands aren’t quite as self-sufficient as this alternative rock band. My appreciation for Thirty Seconds to Marks keeps exponentially growing.

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[Tomo Milicevic (left), Jared Leto (middle), Shannon Leto (right)]

Thirty Seconds to Mars has consisted of three members since 2006. Jared is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist. Tomo is the lead guitarist but also plays the keyboard and violin as needed. Also, he is responsible for backing vocals. Shannon is the drummer. Yet, he can play other percussion instruments as well. There’s fluidity in the roles within the band. All three members equally contribute to the creative music writing process.

Thirty Seconds to Mars’s music incorporates philosophical and spiritual elements in combination with Leto’s life experiences. All of their songs have deep lyrical content. By the way, Jared Leto is the main songwriter for the band. They certainly aren’t afraid to experiment with different musical styles. Electronica vibes are injected into the band’s alternative rock sound. Each Thirty Seconds to Mars album revolves around a specific concept theme.

Compared to my other bias rock bands, Thirty Seconds to Mars’s music is relatively mellow. But nonetheless their music delivers deep lyrical content. Jared Leto’s vocal tone is rather clean cut. But not too polished.  It still conveys a wide spectrum of raw emotions. Jared Leto is technically a high baritone/low tenor. Until recently, I’ve never heard of this vocal classification.  In my opinion, the only other lead singer with a similar vocal tone is Muse’s Matt Bellamy.

Jared delivers clean cut vocals with sporadic bursts of intense screaming. There was more screaming outburst in the songs on their debut and sophomore albums. Hardly any screaming outbursts featured in the songs on the third and fourth albums. This explains how Jared has maintained his singing vocals over 18 years. Also, he doesn’t smoke or drink which definitely preserved his clean cut vocal tone.

There are some artists or bands I’ve been listening to many years…yet I cannot exactly recall when I discovered their music. Thirty Seconds to Mars falls into this category. I didn’t even know about this alternative rock band until my sophomore or junior year of high school.

Back in 2008 or 2009, I vaguely recall a friend of a friend obsessively ranting about a music video one day in class. The music video in reference was “A Beautiful Lie” by Thirty Seconds to Mars. Lauryn randomly stumbled across that while browsing YouTube. It left a memorable first impression on her. Also, she emphasized the lead singer was stunningly gorgeous. She didn’t have to work too hard to persuade me to check them out.  Thirty Seconds to Mars is an alternative rock band. My music preference usually leans towards the rock genre anyway.

During one of my free weekends, I decided to check out “A Beautiful Lie” music video. Rock genre has varying types of musical styles. I honestly had no idea what to expect with Thirty Seconds to Mars’s music. “A Beautiful Lie” music video concept was quite simple. It addresses the importance of global warming.  Also, the band shot the music video on location in Greenland. 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It left a lasting impression on me. I wanted to listen to more of their music. So I checked out Thirty Seconds to Mars’s A Beautiful Lie album from my local library. This album was released back in August 2005…but I only discovered it three or four years later.

One of my all-time favorite Thirty Seconds to Mars music video is “From Yesterday”. This was the third single off of their sophomore album, A Beautiful Lie. To current date, it is the band’s most elaborate music video concept. It was shot on location at the Forbidden City. Thirty Seconds to Mars is the only American artist/ band to shoot an entire music video in the People’s Republic of China. This music video pays tribute to the 1987 film The Last Emperor. More than 300 extras were used in this music video shoot. There are two versions of “From Yesterday” music video. 13 minute short film and edited 7 minute versions. The cinematography and story concept immerses you into China’s rich history and culture.

For the longest time, A Beautiful Lie was the only Thirty Seconds to Mars album I had ever listened to. It wasn’t until a few years ago I checked out their two recent albums. This is War. Love Lust Faith + Dreams. Drastically different music styles from A Beautiful Lie album. There was definitely more experimentation with music styles on those two albums. It took a few listens before I acclimated to this new sound. I’d grown accustomed to darker undercurrents of A Beautiful Lie album.

Also, I recently listened to the band’s debut album for the first time. I thought their sophomore album, A Beautiful Lie, was pretty intense in regards to the sound. Nope. Their debut album is way heavier.

Their sophomore album, A Beautiful Lie, helped the band finally gain mainstream popularity. In March 2006, this album’s second single “The Kill” immensely launched Thirty Seconds to Mar’s music career. Ten years of working their asses off had finally paid off! But the victory was very short-lived. The band was informed they owed $2,500,000 of debt to Virgin Records. Despite selling millions of albums, they hadn’t made any money from the album sales up to this point. Of course this news would be very disheartening to any artist. Thirty Seconds to Mars made the decision to leave Virgin record label in mid-2008.

EMI Records slapped the band with a $30 million lawsuit for breach of their 1999 contract with Virgin Records. EMI is the parent company of Virgin. Between 2008 and 2009, the band simultaneously recorded their third studio album, This is War, and fought their own legal battle with EMI. The band waged war against the music industry’s unethical business practices in their documentary, Artifact. It even includes  in-depth, behind-the-scenes footage of recording sessions and legal meetings. Also, it paints the harsh reality of modern music industry for upcoming and even established artists. Artifact was directed by Jared Leto under his Bartholomew Cubbins pseudonym.

30STM Guinness World RecordsDid you know Thirty Seconds to Mars made it into the Guinness World Records in 2011? Their third album, This is War, was released in December 2009. Into The Wild tour spanned over a two year period. The band traveled to 6 continents performing over 300 shows. In fact, the music video for “Closer to the Edge” features live concert footage from this tour. Thirty Seconds to Mars wanted to break the world record for most live shows during a single album promotion cycle. They made this a reality. Thirty Seconds to Mars set the world record for “Longest Concert Tour by a Rock Band” with a total of 309 live concerts on their Into the Wild worldwide tour.

It has been a little over a year since I last listened to Thirty Seconds to Mars’s albums. I go through various music phases. So I haven’t been in the mood to listen to their music. Within the past two weeks, I’ve seen Suicide Squad twice in theaters. I normally don’t like DC universe films. Yet, Suicide Squad piqued my curiosity. I had two main reasons to see this film. Panic! at the Disco and Jared Leto. There was much hype surrounding Jared Leto portraying a modern-day gangster interpretation of the Joker, the clown prince of Gotham. I was intrigued how Jared would bring this character to life on the big screen. The first DC universe movie I’ve gone to the theater to see. My curiosity paid off. I very much enjoyed this anti-hero summer blockbuster.

Suicide Squad convinced me to re-explore Thirty Seconds to Mars’s music. I’ve intensely binged all four of their albums over the past two weeks. Love Lust Faith + Dreams album has really grown on me. I love Thirty Seconds to Mars even more than I did. Jared, Shannon, and Tomo are all awesome people in their own way. Also, they are incredibly talented artists. Each of their albums demonstrates their growth and maturity as artists. Thirty Seconds to Mars have maintained their presence in the music industry over the past 18 years. Longevity in the constantly changing music industry isn’t easy to achieve.

Love Lust Faith + Dreams album was released back in May 2013. So they haven’t come out with new material in three years. Jared pursued some movie projects during this gap. The wait is finally over! Thirty Seconds to Mars will release their fifth studio album in 2017. There are plenty of YouTube videos verifying Thirty Seconds to Mars is a phenomenal live act.  I’d love to see them live in concert on their tour promoting the new album!

SS Joker[On a somewhat related side-note rant: It is frustrating how close-minded movie goers bashed Leto’s amazing performance as the infamous Joker. Jared Leto put his own unique spin on this multi-faceted villain. I’m pissed how majority of Joker scenes were cut from final theatrical version. I’m well-aware the Joker is only prevalent to Harley Quinn’s backstory arc. So he isn’t the main focus of the film’s plot arc. But the studio heavily emphasized the Joker in Suicide Squad’s promotional marketing campaign. This is extremely deceptive. Jared is disappointed how only few of his scenes actually ended up in the final version of Suicide Squad. There were some minor plot gaps because many Joker scenes were cut out. Most importantly, music is his main passion. So Jared is very selective of which movie projects he chooses to participate in. Any movie project means less time he can devote to working on new Thirty Seconds to Mars material. He won’t take time away from his music for just any movie role. It must be a truly worthy artistic film project. He joined Suicide Squad project because of the artistic premise. DC extended universe films are a major time commitment. So Jared has a valid reason to be angry the Joker only got 15-20 minutes of screen time. Warner Bro Studios were very misleading when bringing him onto this film project. I really hope we see more of Jared Leto’s Joker in future DC extended universe films. I love the charismatic bad-assery of the new Joker.]

Suicide Squad

Let me start by saying DC comic universe it not my usual preference. The only exceptions I make are their television shows Smallville, The Flash, and Gotham. Otherwise, I avoid DC universe movies. Way too much angst with very little to no humor injected into the script. I need a good balance of humor and angst in my superhero or anti-hero movies. My preference goes towards DC universe’s TV shows.

Suicide Squad

There has been much hype leading up to Suicide Squad’s film release on August 5, 2016. For the most part, I hardly cared much for this DC movie. I was aware Jared Leto, lead singer of Thirty Seconds to Mars, was cast in the role of the Joker. Leto garnered considerable press coverage for it. Despite his awards for Dallas Buyer Club, Jared will now become synonymous known for playing the Joker.

Jared Leto_Joker

Jared Leto’s portroyal of the infamous Joker received mixed reviews. In my opinion, Leto brilliantly portrayed this villainous character.  Bad-ass. Charmingly wicked. Enigmatically charismatic. I love how the Joker was depicted as a modern-day gangster of Gotham. I cannot deny that I was kinda attracted to this character. The Joker wasn’t part of Amanda Waller’s Task Force X. Yet, he still fits into Suicide Squad’s overall plot arc. Within the film’s storyline, his appearances basically revolved around Harley Quinn’s character.

Some things in Suicide Squad really impressed me. First, the fascinating development of Harley Quinn/ Joker romance sub-plot arc was well implemented. Harley Quinn is the product of Joker’s screwed-up experiments in Arkham Asylum. How long did it take for the drastic transformation from psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel to psychotic Harley Quinn? The movie didn’t quite clarify this time span. Not that is a big deal. I’m just curious. Her obsession and infatuation morphed into an unhealthy, co-dependent romantic relationship with the Joker. Clearly, he has no remorse about emotionally manipulating Harley Quinn to be his lover and accomplice in crime. But I don’t think the Joker is completely heartless. He does have some convoluted emotional connection with Harley to keep her by his side. I didn’t expect to get tad emotional during some of the Harley/Joker scenes. The Joker/ Harley Quinn romance sub-plot was compellingly convincing. Margot Robbie & Jared Leto had great on-screen chemistry.

Second, the conversational interaction between the main characters added a good balance of dark humor. I especially enjoyed the interactions between Harley Quinn and Deadshot. Although, Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang offered some moments of humor. The element of dark humor is what sets Suicide Squad apart from other DC universe movies.

Third, the main characters were developed well throughout the film. The flashback sequences fluidly meshed with the present day sequences. We were given the most background information about Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and Diablo. Though, the backgrounds of Killer Croc, Katana, and Captain Boomerang could have been explored a bit more. Some of Task Force X’s “bad guys” had so much potential yet had weak character development. I’m really curious how Killer Croc acquired his fierce reptilian appearance. I was pleasantly surprised with Rick Flag’s development. Being part of Task Force X, Flag monitors the six criminally insane team members for his superior, Amanda Waller. So he is the only “good” guy among the main characters. His “holier than thou” self-righteous mentality slowly fades away throughout the movie. Sadly, Dr. June Moone had the worst character development. This character had so much potential with the whole split personality aspect. It’s obvious how June strongly resists the Enchantress. In fact, she avoided invoking the sorceress’s spirit unless the circumstance truly warranted it. Enchantress was your stereotypical villain. The usual motive of taking over the world so people fear and quiver at their immense power. Villains want weak, puny humans to worship them. If not they’ll destroy all of humanity. In my opinion, the June Moone/Enchantress conflicting natures could have been better fleshed out.

Suicide Squad_The Album

Fourth, the song selection for the movie’s soundtrack enhanced the cinematic experience. Each of the songs appropriately matched the mood of the scenes. Some of the songs blur the line between pop, techno, and rap genres. But there are some curve-ball songs thrown in. “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Slippin’ into Darkness”, “I Started a Joke”, “Heathens”, and “Fortunate Son” are exceptions. It is great to heard rock genre music in movie soundtracks. I’m glad Suicide Squad soundtrack incorporated different music genres. This is quite refreshing. Not many movie soundtracks have song tracks from various genres.

In a previous blog post, I’ve mentioned about my love for Panic! at the Disco. The movie soundtrack featured Panic! at the Disco’s cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. Although, the film includes the original version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I’m sure it wasn’t cheap to buy the rights of this famous Queen song. That’s probably why the original song isn’t featured on the soundtrack. Panic! at the Disco kept the integrity of the song’s tune yet still inject their own unique twist on this classic rock song.

Random fun fact: Panic! at the Disco’s music has many classic rock influences including Queen. I saw Panic! at the Disco live in concert back in August 2014 and September 2015. A cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is part of their concert setlist.  I think I prefer the live version slightly more than the recorded version. Although, the live and recorded versions of this Queen song are equally awesome in their own ways.

“Professional” critics have been severely harsh about Suicide Squad and its soundtrack. Basically I ignore critic reviews about movies, music, and TV shows. Critics are human too. Human beings will always have bias of some sort. This is why I refuse to let “professional” critics shape my movie experience. Only I will decide whether or not I liked something. Usually I disagree with critics reviews anyway.

Originally, I wasn’t planning on even seeing Suicide Squad in theaters. I don’t normally care much for DC universe films. Yet, the TV spot trailers piqued my curiosity. I didn’t know what to expect with this movie. My friend and I went to see Suicide Squad on August 5th in standard format. (Random side note: I hardly watch movies in digital 3D or IMAX 3D formats. There must a damn good reason I pay more for those formats. I’m not an avid DC fan so I saw no valid reason pay additional for 3D movie format.) Not surprisingly the movie theater was packed to almost full capacity. It was opening day.

For some reason, I convinced myself that Suicide Squad was rated R. So I was mentally prepared for content and profanity associated with R rating. Only halfway through the movie, it dawned on me that Suicide Squad was only PG-13. Recent interviews revealed director, David Ayer, had two version of Suicide Squad: PG-13 and R rated movie. I’m actually glad it wound up being PG-13.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed Suicide Squad. The movie has a dark, gritty theme but still conveys a wide range of emotions. I actually teared up a bit at some of the heart-wrenching scenes. The talented cast ensemble, diverse music selection, and visual style enhanced the cinematic experience.  In the end, my curiosity paid off. Suicide Squad was a very entertaining anti-hero DC universe film.

[Somewhat related side-note: Ted Whittall plays the role of Admiral Olsen in Suicide Squad film. CW’s Smallville has subtly references Suicide Squad in few episodes in season 9 and 10. Ironically, Mr. Whittall formerly portrayed the recurring guest role of Rick Flag in Smallville Season 10.]

My Chemical Romance

MCRBack in middle school, “scene” genre was considered part of mainstream popular music. Oh the nostalgia when rock music was played on the Top 40 radio. It saddens me I didn’t begin to explore the “scene” genre until 2008. At this point, this genre’s popularity was slowly waning within mainstream music. Rock was beginning to become a niche music genre again.

My Chemical Romance released their third studio album, The Black Parade, back in October 2006. The Black Parade is essentially a rock opera album. I was well-aware of this band’s popularity among my fellow school peers. Yet, I wasn’t willing to give this band a chance. It wasn’t the right time in my life.

My love for rock genre music has exponentially grown since 2006. Of course I only discovered some “scene” artists several years later. In certain circumstances, time better allows you to embrace something with a more open-mind perspective. I can now approach certain pop-punk artists from the mid-2000s I had previously refused to listen to. My Chemical Romance definitely falls into this category.

One of my college friends is a huge fan of My Chemical Romance. She had often recommended this band to me. She swore they fit well within my rock genre musical taste. But I was still very hesitant.

So what exactly convinced me to listen to My Chemical Romance’s music? In short, my obsession with Andy Black’s solo album, The Shadow Side, played a key role. On Andy Black’s solo album, the co-founders of My Chemical Romance, Gerard Way and Mikey Way, contributed to the track “Louder Than Your Love”. Gerard co-wrote the song lyrics. Mikey played bass guitar parts for the song. Somehow, this finally convinced to listen to My Chemical Romance. I cannot even tell you the reason why for this sudden, impromptu decision. Only took me ten years before I was willing to give this band’s music a chance. It is strange how some things work out.

I listen to my fair share of rock bands. Generally, I’ve gotten used to tenor vocal ranges when it comes to lead vocalists. Yet, I can still differentiate the various tenor vocals among the lead singers of my bias bands. Of course, some lead vocalists have unique singing vocals. Black Veil Bride’s Andy Biersack and My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way falls into this category. Andy Biersack has a beautifully deep raspy baritone vocal tone. Gerard Way has an intriguing sing-screaming tenor vocal tone. Both are definitely acquired tastes and not everyone’s cup of tea.

Almost two weeks ago, I began my journey to discover My Chemical Romance’s music on Spotify. They have an extensive selection of their full studio albums, live albums, and EP albums. Best of all, they have all the uncensored versions of their songs. Censorship of profanity in bias rock band’s music is one of my biggest pet peeves. Among my bias rock artists, there isn’t that much strong profanity overall. Typically “clean” versions of explicit rock songs are pretty shitty. It doesn’t even properly edit out the swear word. You can still figure out what the swear word is despite the censorship within the song. Apologies for that slightly off-topic rant.

Anyway, I created a My Chemical Romance playlist on my Spotify. I was a bit thrown off by the sing-screaming vocals of Gerard Way at first. Some of lead singers in my favorite rock bands have sing-screaming vocals. Red, Linkin Park. AFI, Black Veil Brides, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and Three Days Grace to name a few. But nothing quite like Gerard Way’s vocals. His sing-screaming vocals are distinctive. Pretty clean cut in regards of easily making out the lyrics in MCR’s songs. But not so refined it feels too polished. Yet, it conveys a wide range of intensely raw emotions. Not only different types of frustrated or angry emotions. After two or three days, I got accustomed to the lead singer’s unique vocals.

Now I comprehend why people love My Chemical Romance. Out of most “scene” genre artist, this band has heavier tones injected into their music. I tend to gravitate to bands whose music has darker undertones. Even many years later, I cannot explain why this is the case with some of my rock genre music. Some things in life are just inexplicable conundrums. Anyway, I’ve really come to love My Chemical Romance’s music. I don’t necessarily have strong connection with their song lyrics. Although, My Chemical Romance meets the three essential elements I look for in rock music. Beautifully complex layering of instrumental sound, emotionally-charged vocals, and confessional lyrics. Also, not too repetitive lyrics or song beat. These are more than enough reasons for me to become very attached to a band. In addition, I really love the creative cinematic theatrics incorporated into their music videos. Not many of my “scene” bands have included theatrical elements into their music. The exception to this are AFI, Panic! at the Disco, and Fall Out Boy.

Sadly, My Chemical Romance officially announced their disbandment back in March 2013. Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys was MCR’s last full studio album before their disbandment. Following their break-up, the band released their greatest hits collection album, May Death Never Stop You. in March 2014. This greatest hits collection album included content spanning their 12 years music career and one unreleased single track titled “Fake Your Death”.

MCR recently posted an extremely cryptic video teaser promoting the date of September 23, 2016. This sent fans into a frenetic frenzy. People basically assumed the band was reuniting. Nope. Not the case at all. My Chemical Romance later revealed the significance of September 23, 2016.

In honor of its 10th anniversary, The Black Parade album will be re-issued as a deluxe edition. This version will include The Black Parade’s full-length album along with never-before content such as 11 demos and outtakes from the album’s original recording session. The actual 10th anniversary is October 23, 2016. I shall be eagerly looking forward to their The Black Parade/Living With Ghosts album.

MCR_1

Unfortunately, I have the tendency to discover some bands after they’ve officially broken up. Just my luck. Now I will never have the opportunity to see My Chemical Romance live in concert. I shall vicariously live through concert videos posted on YouTube. Also, I have Spotify to get My Chemical Romance music fix. That is more than enough to make me content. Overall, My Chemical Romance has earned a new fan even if I’m very late to the party.