Blogs > Tuned in to Pop Culture

They’re not standing around the watercooler, but Cheryl Sadler, Mark Meszoros, Mark Podolski and Nicole Franz are talking about what they’ve been watching, listening to and playing during their free time.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Dare I say, rap is back?

By Nick Carrabine

It’s a third of the way through the year and I haven’t bought one album from any artist, rap or rock, yet this year. That my friends, is a serious issue. I don’t recall any year in the past decade where I’ve went this long waiting for a worthy album to be released.

As I said time and time again, 2009 was a weak year for music and so far the first four months of 2010 have been even worse. Like, rock bottom.

No, I’m not running to the stores to purchase Justin Bieber’s My World 2.0. In fact, Bieber can have his own world, I want him out of mine. Kesha, whatever this Glee soundtrack is, Lady Gaga and a handful of others can follow suit.

Fortunately there are plenty of solid releases coming this year and thankfully for my sanity, coming soon.

This past week, my favorite artist of all-time, and two of my favorite rappers officially released their singles for their upcoming albums.

The man, the myth, the legend, Nas has finally “offically” released his first single for his upcoming project with Damian Marley called “As We Enter.” It’s the first single off Distant Relatives which will finally hit stores May 18.

It’s a fast paced, rap/reggae song where Nas and Marley trade off vocals throughout two versus and is actually above any expectations I had when I first heard about this project a few years ago.

Lupe Fiasco released “I’m Beamin,” which is the first single off of Lasers, which still doesn’t have a release date.

When I first heard it, I wasn’t that big of a fan but after about half a dozen listens, it has grown on me.

As usual, Lupe, a self-proclaimed nerd, is on another level and on “I’m Beamin” he discusses being successful while being different and staying true to himself.

“Failures my last name, nevers my first one/ You see I hood a lot, and yeah, I nerd some/ Hood is where the heart is, nerd is where the words from/ I don’t represent either, because I merged them/ There is kids who want to leave, and I encourage them/ Go out and see the world, never return from/ Yeah, you don’t come back, unless you learn something."

And finally, among very skeptical expectations, Eminem has released his first single from what is now called Recovery (formally known as Relapse 2), due out June 22.

“Not Afraid” was released on Thursday and boy is it a relief. For the first time in his career, he actually released a serious single as the album’s lead single.

Even better news is, there is no stupid accent and the best news is, on “Not Afraid,” Eminem admits the accent ran its course quickly and even goes a step further by admitting his comeback album, Relapse wasn’t that great, which it wasn’t.

“To the fans, I’ll never let you down again, I’m back/ I promise to never go back on that promise/ In fact, let’s be honest/ That last Relapse CD was ehh/ Perhaps I ran them accents into the ground/ Relax, I ain’t going back to that now.”

This single has heightened my expectations for Recovery.

Below are a taste of what looks to be the start of a decent year in hip hop. Unfortunately, all of the Eminem “Not Afraid” videos on YouTube have been taken down. However if you have a radio in your car, I’m sure every single person in America will be sick of “Not Afraid” in one month.

Lupe Fiasco: I’m Beaming

Nas and Damian Marley: As We Enter

LOST: Time for you to chime in

Last week, Lost fans had a chance to catch their breath, and ready themselves for the stretch run that is the conclusion of one of TV's all-time greatest shows.

Before you know it, it will be The End, literally. That's the title of the series finale on May 23 - The End.

It's been six interesting - and mostly confusing - seasons with a plethora of great characters, episodes, questions and answers.

To read the rest of this blog and comment, click here:

Monday, April 26, 2010

"America's Got Talent" auditions online

"America's Got Talent" is putting its auditions online and letting viewers pick their favorites, according to a Monday article from The Associated Press:

Performers can upload their audition videos through June 18 to the "America's Got Talent" site on YouTube, NBC and producer Fremantle Media North America announced Monday.
Producers will select 40 acts to be posted on the site. Then the YouTube community will vote for their favorites. The top vote-getter will perform on "America's Got Talent" alongside 11 other YouTube acts chosen by producers.
The online auditions will supplement in-person tryouts staged across the U.S. in a half-dozen cities.
The new season of “America’s Got Talent” premieres June 1.

For more details, you can check out or

I don't watch the show (and don't know the exact premise), but I think allowing people to try out online is a great idea. Talented performers are always looking for the YouTube spotlight by recording themselves in the comfort of their own home. Some of them are actually really talented (Kat Badar comes to mind). Moving auditions online is a great way to expand the field of potential contestants for those who wouldn't be able to attend tryouts in person.

Will you be trying out? Let us know so we can follow along and promote your video -- and, with hope, follow your journey into the spotlight.

--Cheryl Sadler

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News, notes, opinions

By Mark Podolski

It could be a while until we see Daniel Craig reprising his role as James Bond.

Online reports say the next 007 film, the franchise's 23rd, titled "Bond 23" has been put on indefinite hold because MGM studios, which produces the Bond films, is in serious financial trouble. The film was scheduled for a 2011 or 2012 release.

To read the rest of this blog and comment, click here:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Manchester Orchestra: Live in Cleveland

By Nick Carrabine

I’m not one to take risks.

Anyone who knows me knows I do not make any plans in advance between mid-April and mid-June due to the NBA Playoffs. I couldn’t stomach the thought of missing a Cleveland Cavaliers playoff game.

Wedding? Birthday party? Funeral? Forget it. I may go, but I’m certainly not planning on going in advance.

So when one of my good friend called me while I was on vacation in Las Vegas (where I was taking many life-altering risks, all of which, did not work out to my benefit) to ask me if I wanted a ticket to the Manchester Orchestra/Thrice concert on April 20, I practically hung up on him.

Not because I don’t like Manchester Orchestra, quite the contrary, actually.

I just couldn’t fathom the thought of committing myself to something when there was a possibility Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs could have been held the same night of the concert.

However, as the day went on, I realized just how much I love Manchester Orchestra and although I had seen them twice in the past six months, I hadn’t seen them headline (or in this case, co-headline) a show yet. I also took into account that it was only the first round of the playoffs as there is absolutely no chance I would have agreed to such a preposterous request later in May or God forbid, June.

So, I took a risk, called him back, told him to buy the tickets and for once in my life, it worked out to my advantage.

Cavs playoff schedule came out a week later and there was no Cavs playoff game. High five!

Now, back to the concert.

Manchester Orchestra was originally supposed to take the stage at 7:45 p.m. for an hour long set list, however they started before 7:30.

While the show was labeled as a co-headlining concert, it was clear that most fans in the audience were there for Thrice.

If Manchester didn’t win them over, similar to how they won me over the first time I saw them live back in October, I’d be shocked.

Contrary to most bands who come out on stage swinging and pick a rather energetic song to start their set, lead singer Andy Hull, donning a blue Cavs Shaquille O’Neal shirt under a red flannel, came out on stage looking like a cross between Shaq himself, Eddie Vedder and comedian Zach Galifianakis and took the energetic “The Only One” and turned it into a soft solo-electric number that set the tone for the 70 minute set list.

The band’s set consisted of mostly songs from their 2009 breakout album Mean Everything to Nothing (“The Only One,” “Shake it Out,” “I’ve Got Friends,” “Pride,” “100 Dollars,” “My Friend Marcus” and “Everything to Nothing.”)

The band also played two new songs, one of which was another soft solo-electric number from Hull, however it sounded rather incomplete as it clocked in at less than two minutes.

The only disappointment for me during the show was the lack of material from the band’s 2006 debut I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child. The band only played four songs including “Now That You’re Home,” “Where Have You Been?” “I Can Barely Breathe” and “Sleeper 1972.” They neglected “Wolves at Night” which was a song they had performed on many late-night talk shows in the past.

Let’s get this out of the way, if you’ve never heard of Manchester Orchestra, or have heard of them, but never seen them live, please do yourself a favor and search YouTube for some live performances of “Where Have You Been?” (For the record, my personal favorite is when they perform it live with Jesse Lacey of Brand New and Kevin Devine which is usually the first live video that comes up on YouTube.)

Not only does the band take one of the best songs of the decade and perform it live, they turn it into a completely different monster on stage.

Tuesday night, they took the six-minute plus song and turned it into a ten minute jam session with, at one point, five drummers on stage including one portion where Hull took off his guitar, handed it to keyboardist and back-up drummer Chris Freeman and switched duties with him in the middle of the song.

The performance of that song alone was worth the price of admission, by far. It’s absolutely haunting.

The band completed their set with “Shake it Out” and left the stage shortly before 8:45 p.m., probably with more fans then they came there with.

Only one video was available on YouTube from the show, but here are some videos to get to know the band and a few songs from Thrice (who I didn't review in this):

"The Only One" Live

"Where Have You Been?"

"I've Got Friends"

Thrice: "Beggars"

Thrice: "The Artist in the Ambulance"

LOST: Jack accepts his destiny

By Mark Podolski

"The Last Recruit" is in the books and while the final season of Lost is hardly a finished product, one storyline is taking shape.

Jack Shephard appears to have finally accepted his destiny on the island. Thank goodness he's no longer following Hurley's lead. Instead, he's on his own, ready to take on un-Locke. Or at least try.

It should be an epic fight to the finish - or death. In the world of Lost fandem, you're not a Lost fan until you have a theory of some sort. I've written in past blogs and discussed on our weekly audiocasts Jack's days are numbered on the island. I still believe that.

To read the rest of the blog and comment, click here:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

LOST: Talking Hurley, Desmond and un-Locke

ust another ho-hum week in the world of Lost.

Yeah, right! Maybe it's just me, but May 23rd, the date of the series finale, can't come soon enough.

TV's most-confusing, yet most-additive show is now officially out of control in so many directions, it can't possibly be explained by mere mortals. (Just kidding, but it definitely feels that way sometimes!)

Especially after Tuesday's episode, "Everybody Loves Hugo."

To read the rest of this blog and comment, click here:

Monday, April 12, 2010

Score one for Team Coco, cable TV

Well, if you had TBS in the “Where Will Conan O’Brien End Up?” sweepstakes, congratulations. You win!

In a surprise move Monday, TBS announced Conan is coming on board for a new show at 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, beginning in November. George Lopez and his “Lopez Tonight” show get moved to midnight.

(I dare you to fake indignation at the thought of Conan returning to late night TV by bumping another host out of his slot – you know, like Jay Leno did to Conan in usurping the “Tonight Show” throne months ago. To draw a parallel between the two situations is ludicrous. Save yourself the embarrassment. And if you can't help yourself, check out this piece from The New York Times, which outlines how instrumental Lopez was in bringing Conan aboard.)

As recently as Monday morning, it sounded like Conan-to-Fox was a foregone conclusion. So how did we get here?

Quite simply, bringing Conan to Fox wasn’t going to be easy. Local affiliate stations make a boatload of money running syndicated programming, with 11 p.m. being among the most profitable time slots. For example, Cleveland’s Fox affiliate, WJW, runs two episodes of “Seinfeld” in the 11 p.m. hour. Putting a Conan show in that time slot would mean Fox telling its affiliates they had to dump a cash cow in favor of more network programming.

It was for that reason that I thought it made the most sense for a Conan-Fox partnership to end up with O’Brien on the cable channel FX. Turns out I was in the right neighborhood, but the wrong street.

Some think Conan faces an uphill battle trying to cultivate an audience on cable. Really? The lines between network TV and cable are getting more blurry by the day, and that genie isn’t going back in the bottle anytime soon.

Look at the sports television landscape. “Monday Night Football” is a flagship for ESPN now. One of Major League Baseball’s league championship series airs on TBS, the NBA’s conference finals air on ESPN and TNT, and the college football Bowl Championship Series is headed to ESPN this coming season. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament, for some 20 years the exclusive property of CBS, seems to have a one-way ticket punched for ESPN next season.

How about non-sports programming? “The Closer.” “Burn Notice.” “Rescue Me.” “Sons of Anarchy.” All successful. All on cable. And the list goes on.

USA, TNT and FX have changed the TV landscape with their original series. TBS, which has been rebranded as the comedy-centric brother of TNT in the Turner family of networks, has carved out a niche. The point is: Cable isn’t the redheaded step-child of television anymore, and it’s archaic to think it is.

“Lopez Tonight,” for better or worse, has been part of that, and it has enjoyed moderate ratings success in the 11 p.m. time slot on TBS since its debut last November. If nothing else, “Lopez” showed a traditional late-night talk show could survive on cable, opening the door for O’Brien to come in. If a critically panned show like “Lopez” can stay afloat, shouldn’t the sky be the limit for an established late night fixture like Conan? (Sidebar: Don’t weep for Lopez. If anything, he should enjoy a bump from all this, getting a nice lead-in from the new Conan show, all while settling into the very comfy role of second banana on TBS.)

Conan is going to have a great opportunity on TBS. He won’t be under the “we want big results right now” pressure from a network and its antsy affiliates. Being on cable, he’ll be able to take some liberties he might not have been able to take on a network.

And, in what I think is the real hidden ace of this deal: He’s only going to be on four nights a week. Having fewer shows to produce means having fewer bad bits to fill airtime – in other words, “all killer, no filler.” Not to mention the fact that Friday is widely considered a terrible night for TV. Taking away that albatross can do nothing but help Conan’s ratings.

O’Brien has done very well to keep his name in the news since leaving the “Tonight Show.” Tickets are moving briskly for his live show tour, which was set to kick off Monday night in Eugene, Ore. He’s milked his newly established Twitter feed for all it’s worth. And here we are, writing about him again, despite the fact that he won’t show up on our TV sets until November.

With Monday’s announcement, you can score a big victory for Team Coco.

- Tom Valentino |

Taking Back Sunday reunion official

By Nick Carrabine

As I blogged about two weeks ago, the Taking Back Sunday reunion with its original members is now official.

I have no words, just insanely high expectations that I can't imagine will ever be met.

Below is a press release from the band's record label, Warner Bros Records:

Reformed Line Up From Band’s First Full Length Release Set To Return
for a New Album, Touring

Burbank, CA – Warner Bros Records artists Taking Back Sunday have
begun work on their fifth studio album. The acclaimed New York rock
band has reformed, returning to the original line-up from their 2002
debut Tell All Your Friends, which has sold over one million records
worldwide, spawned breakthrough anthem “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut from
the Team)" and launched the band as one of the most influential of its

Vocalist Adam Lazzara, guitarist Eddie Reyes and drummer Mark
O’Connell have reunited with vocalist/guitarist John Nolan and bass
player Shaun Cooper, who departed in 2003 after the release of Tell
All Your Friends. “This crazy idea came up and once we started
exploring it and talking on the phone it was almost like all that time
hadn't passed between us,” explains Lazzara. “Given the history and
the years that had passed, I don't think any of us really knew if
hanging out again let alone writing and playing together would
actually work. For it to feel so comfortable and effortless so quickly
made us realize that we had to give it a chance.”

Nolan describes his thoughts in a similar way. “I never would have
imagined that this group of people reuniting would be possible. Since
we parted ways we all went down very different paths and somehow
everything we've experienced individually over the past seven years
has brought us back to a point of genuine appreciation and love for
each other as people and musicians. There's a shared excitement and
enthusiasm within this group that I haven't experienced since the
early days of the band.”

Of the departure of bassist Matt Rubano and guitarist/vocalist Matt
Fazzi, a statement from Taking Back Sunday’s website sums it up;
“Sometimes it takes some time to remember where you were headed in the
first place and the people you intended to go there with. There are
no hard feelings, just the future.” Drummer O’Connell expressed that
the band has nothing but kind words for the departing members. “I wish
nothing but the best for Matt and Matt in the future. I know that they
will succeed in whatever they choose to do.”

Taking Back Sunday will be recording their fifth studio album in Los
Angeles this summer with producer Eric Valentine, who worked on their
previous album Louder Now. Plans are in the works for a handful of
exclusive preview shows in the near future and extensive touring as
soon as the album is finished. “I’m so glad this is happening,” says
Reyes, “because I can already hear something in the songs that reminds
me of why all of us were so passionate about this band to begin with.”

Just the future indeed."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

LOST: Love making a mess of the sideways timeline

Poor Desmond Hume. The guy never seems to catch a break, even after he's reunited with the love of his life, Penny.

That, however, was a long time ago, in Lost time that is. Now, the poor sap is the subject of Charles Widmore's electro-magnetic experiment after being drugged and taken back the island.

Again, we hear the words, "The island isn't through with you yet." For poor Desmond, the island might be through with him alright, but we'll get back to that in a bit.

To read the rest of this blog and comment, click here:

Friday, April 2, 2010

'Damages' in trouble

Bad news, "Damages" fans. It appears the only thing that might save the FX mystery/thriller show is a partnership with DirecTV, Entertainment Weekly reports on its Web site.

The deal with DirecTV, if it happens, would be similar to the current one with NBC's "Fright Night Lights."

For FX, it's a major blow, considering the critical acclaim the show, which stars Glenn Glose, garners during the Emmys. Glose has won two Emmys for her role as ruthless lawyer Patty Hewes.

Ratings, however, have been dismal for the show, and in this business, those numbers, for the most part, are what keep shows afloat.

"Damages" is currently in its third season. Whether it survives to a fourth season remains to be seen.

- Mark Podolski