Music Review: love is not dying by Jeremy Zucker

Often, when listening to music, we tend to only listen to a few songs from one album, but I find that listening to the entire album from start to finish is much more impactful.

I recently listened to Jeremy Zucker’s newest album, love is not dying, and I found that the album, as a whole, is a touching story. The concept of the album isn’t particularly new, as it’s a glimpse at the rollercoaster of love, but the approach that Zucker takes in this album is original and creative—the album is almost like a timeline of phases of a relationship.

There are thirteen tracks in total from this album, which if listened to in order, transition right into one another. The transitions are probably the most well-known aspect of Zucker’s album, however, there is much more to it.

The album starts out with a forty-second track called “still,” which is an intro to the entire album. Next to his apartment in Brooklyn, Zucker samples the everyday sounds of life (birds chirping, a church choir, etc.), which crescendo slowly over the course of the short intro. Zucker says in an interview for Genius Lyrics that “The title came from something that someone said to me once. Everything was moving so fast and everything was so hectic, and this person was like, ‘I just wish we could be still,’ and that phrase really stuck with me.”

Zucker then transitions into a series of songs that represent the ups and downs of a relationship.

The third track, “somebody loves you,” is the start of a relationship. Zucker, through Genius Lyrics, says that the song is about someone he met online and really connected with, but knew that it wouldn’t be the same in real life. Though he feels that he loves this person, he knows it won’t last long, and reassures this person that someone else will love them much better.

The seventh track, “not ur friend,” represents a time where the relationship has become toxic. Using a rhythmic beat and a catchy melody, Zucker explores the concept of cutting someone toxic out of a person’s life and being better for it. He elaborates, “It’s a selfish song, which, in its own way, is a really celebratory thing.”

“not ur friend” transitions right into the next track, “full stop.” The song’s intro is interpolated with a snippet of the pre-chorus of “not ur friend.” The idea behind “full stop” is built right onto the previous track—essentially, what happens after breaking away from someone toxic. Zucker describes the concept as, “Alright, I’ve removed this person from my life, but now what?” The structure is sort of random and nonsensical, as each section of the song is quite different; but somehow it still flows together perfectly. “full stop” is just this complex, spiraling train of thought, which, to Jeremy Zucker, “feels like the sky is falling and the world is crashing.”

The ninth track, “julia,” portrays a point post-relationship where the subject has moved on, and looks back on his relationship without bitterness, finally ready to mentally let go. “julia” was written about a person who many of Zucker’s previous songs were about. According to Zucker, the track was one of the last written about the aforementioned person; as it represents a time of self-realization and closure.

The eleventh track, “always, i’ll care,” depicts a period of time far after the relationship has ended. During the song, through soothing melodies, Zucker sings of the realization that not all of his relationship’s problems were his significant other’s fault. He has moved on completely, and reminisces of memories apologetically, saying he’s still sorry for not being as attentive or responsive as he should have; and promising that he will do better in the future. Zucker concludes that “always, i’ll care” is “me showing how much I care.”

Jeremy Zucker’s love is not dying touches listeners through its gentle tunes. The tranquil sound of poetry shines through in Zucker’s both heartbreaking and heartwarming masterpieces. love is not dying is more than an album—it’s a complete story, calming the listeners with more than just music. This musical story cannot by passed over, being more than just rhyming words set to a tune—it’s an entire story that will completely change the way listeners think of music. Don’t miss love is not dying by Jeremy Zucker; it’s absolutely worth your time.

-Chan T.

Literary References in Taylor Swift Songs

Taylor Swift is undoubtedly a spectacular songwriter and an outstanding singer, but what if she wasn’t? In Vogue’s 73 question interview, Taylor states that if she were a teacher, she would teach English. It’s no surprise that this is the subject Swift would choose, because she’s referenced many literary classics in her songs. Here are some of them:

Romeo & Juliet: It would be hard not to know this one, unless you’re living under a rock of course! in Swift’s song “Love Story” from her sophomore Grammy winning album Fearless, the song follows a romance similarly to that of Romeo and Juliet’s. However, Swift ends the song with a happy ending, allowing the two lovers to get married. The song, Swift said to the Los Angeles Times, was inspired by Romeo & Juliet, and Swift states that “I was going through a situation like that where I could relate.” Though her inspiration from Shakespeare, Swift was able to release a chart topping and timeless hit which peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Scarlet Letter: Swift references this novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne in two of her songs, one of them being “Love Story” once again and the other being “New Romantics”, a track on the deluxe version of Swift’s fifth and Grammy winning album 1989. In “Love Story”, Swift describes her romance as a scarlet letter because of the fact that it is kept secret in shame with the lyric “Cause you were Romeo, I was a scarlet letter.” In “New Romantics”, which peaked on Billboard”s Alternative Streaming Songs at #5, Swift sings “We show off our different scarlet letters, Trust me, mine is better.” Using the scarlet letter as a symbol of one’s problems, Swift explores the mindset that many people have where they believe that their issues are worse than everyone else’s. So the use of this novel in Swift’s two songs interestingly contrasts one another, as in one, the scarlet letter is a symbol of shame, and the other a symbol of resilience and proud struggles. This interestingly fits the novel’s depiction of the letter “A”, which is at first a shameful symbol which represented adultery, but then was later a symbol of the protagonist’s, Hester’s, strength and ability to endure all the pain she went through. Hawthorne’s novel provided a framework for Swift’s ideas, as she states in an interview, “I was a big fan of a fairy tales growing up, and you’ll see a lot of references to like Romeo and Juliet and The Scarlet Letter, and that’s from my reading.”

The Great Gatsby: Swift makes references to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel in two of her songs, one being from “happiness” , Swift’s 7th track in her 9th album Evermore, and the other being “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”, Swift’s 13th track on her 6th album, Reputation. In “happiness”, Swift references The Great Gatsby in a lyric saying “I hope she’ll be a beautiful fool.” This parallels Daisy Buchanan’s line in the Great Gatsby where Daisy acknowledges that there is no hope for her daughter because of the fact that she is a girl and not a boy. Swift uses the line a little differently, telling her past lover that whoever loves him next is “a beautiful fool.” Swift knows that this next lover will have no luck with this man, and she uses the reference from the Great Gatsby to introduce more context into the song. As for “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”, the ode to Fitzgerald’s novel comes in the first verse, as Swift says “Feeling so Gatsby for that whole year,” while describing an extravagant party scene which she hosts just as Gatsby did. This song explores a very similar theme to the Great Gatsby, both being about how being kind to others makes them skeptical about you. In the novel, when Jay Gatsby throws parties for his guests, generously gifts them expensive things, and is willingly kind to them, they do not seem to appreciate him but rather just speculate about his past and make offensive assumptions about him. Swift, who tried her best to be generous with others, let her friends come on stage with her on tour as a nice gesture, threw parties for them, and got them gifts. However, many of her friends turned their backs on her, and when discussing the song, Swift states “It’s about when people take nice things for granted. Like friendship, or trusting people, or being open or whatever. Letting people in on your life, trusting people, respect – those are all really nice things.”

Taylor Swift is clearly a well read singer and songwriter, as these are just three of many literary references in her 100+ songs. Some more of these include:

Rebecca: “tolerate it” “no body, no crime”

A Tale of Two Cities: “Getaway Car”

Alice in Wonderland: “Wonderland”

The Road Not Taken: “illicit affairs”

Jane Eyre: “invisible string” “mad woman”

All’s Well That Ends Well: “Lover”

-Chan T.

Why a Met on Demand Subscription is Better Than Any Other Streaming Service

Have you heard of the Met Opera on Demand streaming service?! Let’s be real, probably not. But I know many people who have Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime to stream from… so I think this is might interest y’all, teens! It’s award-winning, recent, full length, HD performances from the Metropolitan Opera House. And it’s the best thing ever. Stop using Netflix. Cancel that Hulu subscription. Forget your Amazon Prime password. This is all you need in your life right now. Here’s why the Met Opera on Demand is better than any other streaming service.

1. You Can Learn a New Language

Operas are in English, Italian, French, German, and loads more languages! They have subtitles in English, German, French, Spanish, Russian, and Swedish! Opera is slow and repetitive, so it’s a great way to learn languages! If you’re learning German, for example, it might be useful to have English subtitles on an opera like Die Zauberflöte (which side note is a beautiful production… it’s just so pretty to watch, it’s like watching a moving painting). You’ll understand all the German being sung with the English subtitles, and some new vocab might stick in your brain if it’s being sung in a catchy tune over and over. I think learning a language through song is a great way to learn new vocabulary, and get an ear for the language. “Comic operas” like Die Zauberflöte and Carmen even have spoken dialogue. The opera singers’ pronunciation is amazing when singing and speaking!

2. You Can Learn History

Opera loves to take place in ancient times, and tries to be as authentic to the time period as possible! When learning history, sometimes it’s hard to picture the time period. Watching an opera in the time period you’re learning about really helps you picture what you’re learning. Also, many operas are based on true stories. For example, there are three operas about Adrienne Lecouvreur, a French actress who mysteriously died in 1730. Or Boris Godunov, an opera about real events in 1584 surrounding a real Russian tsar. Or Doctor Atomic! It’s an opera about the test of the first atomic bomb. And all of these have full HD videos of the performances! There’s so much history to learn with this subscription.

3. You Can Learn About Books

Reading Shakespeare in school and struggling to picture the action? Well, Met on Demand has you covered! HamletMacbethA Midsummer Night’s Dream, and more are full-length operas that come with this subscription!

Der Ring des Nibelungen (although Tolkein denies it) is the basis for The Lord of the Rings. Don’t believe me?! Watch it on Met on Demand to see the shocking similarities.

The opera Marnie is based on the book that inspired the Hitchcock classic of the same name. (the 60s movie where the lady gets stabbed in the shower to strings going EEK EEK EEK).

There is also audio of operas based on The Great Gatsby and An American Tragedy, which are books titled of the same name.

If you look up the operas on the website, I’m sure you can find more book-related stuff.

4. It’s Relaxing

The Met’s performances are beautiful. The performances are visually dazzling, and the singing is world-renowned. It’s a nice thing to just have on quietly in the background. If the stunning video is too much, there are recordings dating back

-Jessica F.

Theater Review: Dear Evan Hansen

The Tony-winning Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen is currently on tour around the US, and I was lucky enough to snag tickets for a show in Costa Mesa. I had already listened to the soundtrack more times than I could count, but I was ridiculously excited anyway. Dear Evan Hansen is one of my favorite musicals of all time, and it is the second musical ever that I have seen live. And, let me tell you, it was a treat.

This musical addresses one of today’s biggest issues: teen suicide and anxiety. The main character, Evan Hansen, has extreme social anxiety, and his therapist tells him to write positive letters to himself. However, when he prints a failed version one of these letters (it was very pessimistic) out in his school’s computer lab, Connor Murphy, a fellow student, snatches it from him and shoves him. Later, the characters find that Connor has committed suicide, and they find Evan’s letter in his pocket. They think that the letter is Connor’s suicide note, addressed to Evan, and them Evan and his family friend, Jared, get dragged into a huge mess of lies and deception. Evan and Jared write fake emails to Connor to “prove” that they are friends, and they start a huge project to spread awareness for Connor’s death. Evan even gets together with his long-time crush, Zoe Murphy, who also happens to be Connor’s sister.

However, nothing this perfect can last, especially if it is based on a lie. Evan’s mom finds out about the Connor project and how he has been spending almost every night at the Murphys’ home. The whole charade falls apart, Evan eaves the Connor Project, and he and Zoe break up. Although he and Zoe do make peace at the end of the musical, I was still in tears throughout the entirety of Act 2.

Although the soundtrack was very differet from the actual live musical, both are thoroughly enjoyable. Dear Evan Hansen is one of my favorite musicals of all time for its storyline and beautifully written characters, and seeing it live is not something that I will ever forget. This musical is truly fantastic, and I would definitely encourage seeing it if possible.

-Arushi S.

Event Review: The Phantom of the Opera

This past month, my band class played The Phantom of the Opera at our Fall concert and must I say, was it a big hit! In order to prepare for the music piece, we also watch the live musical that was performed at the Royal Albert Hall. The “opera” itself is absolutely amazing. The vocals, the dancing, the acting, the string music, and the costumes–everything about the musical was breathtaking.

The musical was based on the 1910 French novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux. It is basically about an opera house in Paris that is essentially “haunted”. As they are rehearsing for an upcoming play, the backdrop wall falls down frightening everyone. What does not help is that the owner of the opera house suddenly retires… Hmm, that seems a bit suspicious does it not?

The main soprano and star of the play Carlotta storms off the stage in fury as the directors do not seem to do anything about it. Carlotta is soon replaced by Christine Daaé, a chorus girl who is taught by her “Angel of Music” who is actually the Phantom of the opera house who lives under the opera house (creepy isn’t it).

Then everything from that point on goes hay-wire. The opera house continues to have suspicious occurrences because of the Phantom which scares everyone off. Eventually, the Phantom gives up terrorizing the opera house, and everyone continues on with their lives and everyone lives happily ever after.. or so they think so.

The musical is absolutely amazing even though it is slightly creepy. If you enjoy fantastic  singers singing to amazing music, I recommend the musical

-Phoebe L.

“thank u, next” Review

Pop singer, Ariana Grande, released a new song called “thank u, next” on November 3. Though I’m not a huge fan of Grande, I love how her song is not only catchy but empowering and eyeopening.

Ariana became engaged to Pete Davidson not long after breaking up with singer, Mac Miller, in early 2018. Miller died in early September from drug overdose and though Ariana was engaged, she still felt the heavy pain from losing someone she once loved. Davidson and Grande broke off their engagement in October but, Ariana embraced the single life, singing about it in “thank u, next.”

In a society that encourages “clapping back” and stirring up drama, Grande’s song is refreshing and genuine. Rather than wanting to throw shade at her exes, Ariana wants to thank them for making her a stronger individual. They all hold an important and special place in her heart because “one taught [her] love / one taught [her] patience / and one taught [her] pain” and now, “[she’s] so amazing.” Without these past relationships, Ariana wouldn’t be the person she is today.

In my opinion, another important aspect of the song is Ariana’s focus on self-love and self-betterment. While her exes taught her love, patience and pain, she also taught herself love, patience and how to deal with pain, which ultimately made her a better person. Grande explains that she found someone else to love, referring to herself as that “someone else.” Grande promises that the self-love she holds for herself is “gon’ last” and she “ain’t worried bout nothing.'”

Self-love and appreciation is a noticeable trend among today’s youth. Feminists advocate strength and success without the aid of men. Mental health victims strive to put their health and progress first. Social media posts remind individuals (whether they are fresh out of a relationship or have been single for awhile) of their self worth and hype them up. Grande’s song advocates this confident self-love and explains that no one should feel ashamed for putting themselves first.

Grande reveals herself as a self-aware, vulnerable and mature artist through this song, which are rare qualities to find in modern day artists. She teaches listeners that not all relationships are meant to last but they all can teach important lessons. Heartbreak can be a negative or a beautiful part of life and Ariana believes that it’s up to the individual to make it positive.

-Jessica T.

Looking for music by Ariana Grande? Visit Hoopla for an extensive catalog of her music free to download with a Mission Viejo Library card. 

Event Recap: 2018 Billboard Music Awards

In May 2018, the annual Billboard Music Awards took place. The awards were held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, and the show itself was hosted by Kelly Clarkson. I was very excited to watch the show, even though I didn’t go to the actual awards.

There were amazing performers including Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes, Khalid, Camila Cabello, Janet Jackson, international Kpop boy-band BTS, and many more.

Out of the many performances that night, the most memorable for me was the performance of “Youth” by Shawn Mendes, Khalid, and joined by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School choir of Parkland, Florida. The powerful performance showed a strong message against gun violence and paid a tribute to those affected in the event. The  lyrics of the song bestows a touching message saying things like “As long as I wake up today / You can’t take my youth away.”

Some award winners that night were Taylor Swift, winning the Best Female Artist and Top Selling Album, Top New Artist was given to Khalid. International Sensation boy-group BTS winning the Top Social Artist award for the second year in a row was a shock for the viewers and the boys as well. And the Icon Award went to Janet Jackson.

The awards this year was amazing with the performances and the artist as well. I can’t wait for next year!

-Phoebe L.

Familiar by Liam Payne and J Balvin

Now this song is a major Summer 18 banger. If you remember Despacito, this song has a similar vibe, Latin roots etc, yet this one is one hundred times better. Don’t believe me? Have a listen.

So in case you don’t know, Liam Payne is the most successful and most talented (according to vocal range and musical ability) ex-member of One Direction, in fact, he is the only male on the list of “The Only Good Vocalists Born After 1989.” Liam explained numerous times how he wanted all of his fans to have a song of his that they could relate to in a sense, he sang this one for all of his Latin fans. There is a bit of Spanish on this song sung by J Balvin.

This song is just such an upbeat, happy, danceable song. The opening notes just take you to summer and make you want to dance. Here’s a bit of the lyrics from the song.

Can we get famili-famili-famili-familiar? (familiar)
I’m feelin’, I’m feelin’, I’m feelin’, I’m feelin’ ya (familiar)
What’s on your mind for later tonight?
Let me be the one to fill it up
Can we get famili-famili-famili-familiar?
I’m feelin’, I’m feelin’, I’m feelin’, I’m feelin’ ya (feelin’ ya)
What’s on your mind for later tonight?
Let me be the one to fill it up
Can we get

You can just hear how smooth Liam’s voice really is in this song.  So go ahead and give it a listen, so in the Summer when everyone knows it and loves it, you can say you liked it before it was famous.

Let Me by Zayn Malik

This is a perfect song to set the summer mood. It is by ex-One Direction member Zayn Malik (who was the second most talented member and the second most successful member).  Whilee the song is such a carefree, fun song, it has a much deeper meaning.

In case you didn’t know, Zayn dated model Gigi Hadid for 2 years before splitting in March, this song was written before then, and for her, he states,

“I was in love—and I think that’s pretty evident. I was aspiring to be in love with someone for the rest of my life and the rest of theirs, as we all do.”

Here’s a bit of lyrics from the song:

Baby, let me be your man
So I can love you (I can love you)
And if you let me be your man
Then I’ll take care of you, you

For the rest of my life, for the rest of yours
For the rest of my life, for the rest of yours
For the rest of ours

You can really hear what a huge range of vocals Zayn Malik possesses. He is one of the few male singers that can actually hit a high note and it is very evident in this song.

A cool part of the song is the music video for it, it serves as a thriller. It is actually part two of a series of videos, part one being the music video for Dusk Till Dawn. In part one, Zayn is on the run with a suitcase, yet we aren’t sure what is in it, there is a huge explosion and a car chase. Zayn is much past his boyband One Direction days and anyone would enjoy seeing the video.

But now onto Let Me. In part two Zayn has finally reached a destination, but he is still on the run. I won’t spoil it for you, but there is a lot of action but the meaning of the song still hones true in the video (you have to watch it to see)

It is such a bop! It is sure to be a huge chart topper. Don’t believe me? Go and listen to it yourself, you’ll be glad you did.

Musical Review: Les Misérables

This past week, I went to go see a school musical with my parents. Since this musical was set around the French Revolution, I watched the movie musical with Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried, Anne Hathaway and more. I was very excited to see the musical and had very high expectations. The show was about 2 1/2 hours, which didn’t seem that long.

The musical/story, in short, is about a man, Jean Valjean, who was sentenced to 19 years in prison for stealing and attempted escapes. He is eventually released. Many years later, we see him again but as a totally new man-the mayor of the town. He takes in young Cosette whose mother, Fantine, passed from fatigue, stress, and an unidentified disease. Years pass once again, and it’s right before the French Revolution.  By now, Cosette is now much older and is courted by Marius. Jean Valjean can feel his life slowly slipping away from age and decides to go on a “vacation” so that Cosette doesn’t see him passing. He sees the ghost of Fantine and walks with her to see all the people who died in battle, and there the musical ends.

The actors were incredible! All of them could sing so amazingly and had so much emotion evident in their voices. The set designs were on point, all the costumes were so beautiful, and the orchestra pit played so wonderful and added more color to the story. There weren’t any negative opinions that I heard the next day, and I think overall the musical was an amazing success. This was my first school musical and is definitely going to be remembered for a long time.

-Phoebe L.

Les Miserables, in all its formats, is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library