INGRID MICHAELSON’S “HUMAN AGAIN” TOUR: A CONCERT REVIEW

There’s an incomparable sense of community at an Ingrid Michaelson concert.

Last Thursday, Ingrid ended her spring tour with a homecoming show at Terminal 5 in New York City. Unbeknownst to the 32-year-old singer/songwriter, her management distributed glow sticks to all the audience members upon their arrival. The instructions were to keep them hidden until the encore and wait for the cue to take them out.

“This is going to be our last song,” Ingrid told the audience with a wink. “And by that I mean you’ll clap and we’ll all come back out on stage and sing a few more,” she teased before breaking into an explosive cover of Rihanna’s “We Found Love” – disco balls, strobe lights and all. #HipsterParadise indeed.

Moments later, the crowd started chanting Ingrid’s name to beckon her back. At this point, a member of the tour crew came on stage with a giant sign to tell the audience that now was the time to whip out their glow sticks. All of a sudden, flashes of neon pink, yellow and green waving in the air interrupted the darkness of the venue.

Upon Ingrid’s return to the stage, her genuine surprise was written all over her face. And she was still choked up when the encore’s first song, “Maybe,” began to play. It was the type of reaction you see from friends when you ambush them with a gift that only someone who knows them really well would know to get. Except this time around, it was one person getting that surprise from 3,000 devoted people at the same time.

If you think about it, the synchronized display of glow sticks is a true testament to Ingrid’s artistry. After all, nobody expects thousands of strangers to group together and quietly choreograph a visual tribute to them.

Yet Ingrid’s music and lyrics are so accessible and introspective that it’s a huge challenge not to feel a personal connection to them. Her metaphors are simple but the imagery they evoke is usually so rich and vivid, it’s as though she’s holding a microscope to her listener’s soul. The desire to physically express the uniformity of her message is one that her fans can’t help but have. Even if it is in the form of a tiny gesture like keeping a glow stick in your pocket for an hour and a half and then taking it out at the same time as everyone around you. Her fans have always felt at one with Ingrid. It was time for her fans to show her that she was at one with them too.

This sense of community, however, did not end with the unspoken agreement about the glow sticks. Ingrid told personal, funny stories to the crowd just as you would gossip with your friend on your living room couch. And each time she told another one, it was like she was getting closer to everybody in the room.

“Only in New York would people scream ‘who are you?’ while you’re singing,” she recalled about performing at last year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. “And I was like ‘bitch, I’m on a float. That’s who I am.’” The crowd broke into uproarious laughter. “And this one guy kept shouting it but as I approached closer to him he was like ‘oh alright but you hot, you hot’ and I stopped glaring at him because I was very flattered.”

The laughter continued until Ingrid began to play the opening notes of “Blood Brothers” on the piano. She was letting her audience get to know her outside of her music and for a moment, it was like she was friends with everybody crammed inside the sold-out venue.


For the quirky and sweet “You and I,” Ingrid brought her opening act, British folk/rockers Scars On 45, back on stage along with her own entire band and tour crew. Together, they all stood in a semi circle and took turns signing lines of the song as Ingrid stood on one end strumming away at her ukulele. When they sang the line, “baby how we spoon like no one else,” the vast group of people on stage piled on top of another and had to pause for a moment to regain composure after an outbreak of laughter. It was a moment that celebrated the six weeks of the tour together as much as it celebrated the comraderie of the evening.

When the house lights went on after the show had ended, it felt like the end of a party. Ingrid didn’t just stand up on stage and sing a collection of songs from all throughout her musical catalog. She invited her audience into her world and for those couple of hours, we all stared wide-eyed at her – some inspired, some with tears, and some with resentment towards their girlfriends for dragging them to this show.

But no matter how they felt about her music, every audience member walked out of that venue feellng as though they had gotten to know Ingrid better. That’s a true feat in our contemporary pop culture psyche that values spectacle over connection. Luckily for her fans, Ingrid Michaelson doesn’t play by those rules, and the result is unlike any other concert-going experience I’ve had since … well, the last Ingrid concert I went to.

Ingrid Michaelson’s latest album, Human Again, is available now.

Originally published on PopBytes

INTERVIEW WITH RYE RYE


If Rye Rye isn’t on your radar yet, the release of her hotly anticipated debut album, Go! Pop! Bang!, is about to change all of that.

Over two years in the making, Go! Pop! Bang! finally hits stores today. An amalgamation of cleverly crafted hip-hop, explosive club bangers and dabs of trip-hop, the record is a welcome slice of bedazzled sunshine sure to make you drip sweat this summer. And with current single “Boom Boom” recently having crept its way into the Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Songs chart, you might need to start reaching for a towel even sooner than that.

I caught up with the 21-year-old electro-rapper to chat about the album, her peers in the female hip-hop world, her unique fashion sense, why her mentor M.I.A. compared her to a “lost member of Destiny’s Child,” and more.

ALEX NAGORSKI: Where does the title, Go! Pop! Bang! come from?

RYE RYE: Those are lyrics in one of my songs and when we were naming the album, we were looking for words that stood out to describe my energy. And those three words stuck out because they were comic book words and they make you feel excited.

In the past, you’ve described your sound as “hood” meets “hipster.” Can you elaborate a little bit more about what you mean by that?

Well, I do a lot of dance music but I come from the hood and I put a lot of things into it that you wouldn’t normally find on dance tracks. It’s me be bringing my flavor to the hipster world but with hood attitude.

How would you best describe your sound to someone who’s never heard a Rye Rye song before?

There’s a lot of bass and crazy lyrics. I like to experiment in different sounds. It’s just really fun. And definitely dance-y.

In what ways has your sound evolved from the release of your mixtape to the release of Go! Pop! Bang!?

I feel like my mixtape was more Baltimore. I was there for more of it so the music hit home. But for my album, I couldn’t be there because I had to be making my album. On my mixtape, I said what I wanted to and I did whatever. But on my album, I actually made songs. The genre of my music changed as well because it’s not all club music. It’s influenced by other high-energy stuff that fits better into the mainstream market, but with my flavor – versus my mixtape, which was straight underground.

Are there any distinct Baltimore flavors that can still be heard on Go! Pop! Bang!?

Bass. I’ve stuck to the repetition of the bass. On some of the tracks, I’ve stuck in that lane except I was using 808’s to make it more dance-friendly. It was important to me to make music that would just make me want to dance. And of course, my flavor on a track makes it automatically more Baltimore in general – my flow, my everything.

There’s been a significant increase in the number of female hip-hop artists over the past few years. How do you feel your music distinguishes you from some of your peers like Nicki Minaj?

I think it’s cool. I’m glad that all these females have their own sounds and I support every female artist out there. But we’re all different in our own ways and I feel like that plays a major part. Your fans love you for what you do and if everybody sounded the same, it would kind of take away from that. I think it’s really awesome that we’re all different and we all have our own flavor.

You’ll be working with a few of these ladies on the upcoming remix to M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” (along with Missy Elliott and Azealia Banks) and have collaborated in the past with Iggy Azalea on your mixtape, so I definitely get the impression that you support one another’s work.

Yeah well, when we were created the mixtape, the songs sort of seemed like they were all going in the same direction so I wanted to freshen it up. On that song with Iggy, I sampled a track by Kanye and Jay-Z and I did a straight, hard remix to it. But then I kept wanting to get someone else on there. At first I wanted to feature a guy but then someone was like, “this song is so strong already so if anything, you should put another girl on there.” So I thought Iggy would be cool because I like her flow and she’s doing that type of hood stuff I like and I thought she’d be good for it.

In addition to M.I.A., Go! Pop! Bang! features collaborations with a wide variety of artists, including Robyn, Akon, Tyga and Porcelain Black. If you could record a duet with any contemporary musician, who would it be and why?

Missy Elliott, definitely. She’s one of my favorite artists. She’s just so interesting and is someone I would totally love to work with. Especially because she’s so visual. What she does in her videos is so creative and is so based around dancing, which is my first love. So I was always into that. And Kanye West is one of my favorite artists too.

You and M.I.A. have been friends for a long time. You appeared in the music video and on a remix for her hit “Paper Planes,” you became the first artist signed to her record label (N.E.E.T.), you’ve toured together and she collaborated with you on a few tracks from Go! Pop! Bang!, including the lead single, “Sunshine.” What was the best mentoring moment she gave you over your years working together?

When I first started touring with her, her style rubbed off on me. She always told me, “you can wear anything but you’ve got to wear it with attitude. If you wear something with confidence, nobody can really tell you anything bad about it.” When I would go back to Baltimore, a lot of people were really close-minded. So if I’d wear something in my style, they would look at me and think I was crazy because they weren’t exposed to that swag culture yet. But what M.I.A. said about that really stuck with me. She told me to be myself and work with and embrace what I was wearing, so I ran with it. Then there was other stuff like if record labels were ever doing something that I didn’t want, to always put my foot down and stay true to who I was and to stay true to Baltimore. Those are the two main things that have stuck with me to this day.

Another thing that makes you stand out is your incredibly unique sense of fashion. Can you tell me a little bit more about where you draw your style inspirations from?

I love being street but for grownups. Back in the day, I used to wear a lot of baggy clothing and a lot of street clothing. M.I.A. used to say to me “oh no, I don’t want you to wear heels. You look like a lost member of Destiny’s Child!” But now that I’m older, I like to wear things like heels with streetwear and outerwear, like t-shirts or leggings. I really just have my own style. I like taking risks and I’ll wear anything. I like things that are bright and patterns that pop.

You’ve been associated with various fashion designers such as Prabal Gurung and Jeremy Scott. If you were to come out with your own clothing line, what would be some of the signature looks?

I’m a big fan of crop tops. I feel like that those are the types of shirts you can wear anywhere – to the store, to the club, wherever. Plus they’re comfortable and also fashionable. I’m also a big fan of leggings. I wear leggings all the time and I feel the most comfortable when I’m in them. And I love latex stuff now too. I’m getting into a lot of rubber dresses, so I’m into a lot of different styles.

This year, you also made your acting debut in the box office smash 21 Jump Street. Is acting something we’ll be seeing you do a lot more of in the future?

Yes! I would love to. I’m working on it. I love it. I don’t have anything lined up right now but I’m working on setting it up.

Now that your album is finally being released, can your fans expect a tour in the near future?

Yeah! I’m putting together the tour. I’ve got a couple shows lined up but I know for sure we’ll be hitting up New York and Portland – but I don’t really know the rest off hand.

What’s something your fans most likely don’t know about you that would surprise them?

I’m very sensitive about real life stuff. Like, seeing homeless people is like heart failure for me. I take that very seriously and I always say I want to open up a shelter for them. I really care about people a lot. I’ve got a lot of crazy energy and I like to do my thing and people know me from the club scene, but I really have a heart.

You turned 21 back in November. How did you celebrate this milestone birthday?

Prior to that, I was in Vegas doing some shows with LMFAO so I was celebrating days in advance. I really didn’t do anything on my actual birthday though. I stayed in because I was on tour. And being able to perform and being on the road and doing what I love was already a celebration for me. I was celebrating the whole time.

And for my final question, what about the release of Go! Pop! Bang! are you most excited about?

I’m just relieved more than anything because the album’s been such a long time coming. I feel like now I can finally breathe because I don’t have to wait for it anymore.

Go! Pop! Bang! is now available on iTunes.

Originally published on PopBytes

INTERVIEW WITH PROMETHEUS’ LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN


You’ve already watched him capture audiences as a central character on TV shows like 24, Dark Blue and the teen phenomenon of yesteryear, The O.C. You watched him lead revolutionaries in Julie Taymor’s big screen Beatles musical, Across The Universe. You saw him struggling to survive while trapped in an elevator with supernatural forces in M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller, Devil. But as one of the stars of the upcoming summer blockbuster Prometheus, Logan Marshall-Green is ready to kick his career to the next level and become a household name.

From director Ridley Scott (the visionary filmmaker behind such contemporary classics as Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator), Prometheus is without question one of the most eagerly anticipated motion pictures of the year. And while much about the film has been kept under tight lock, audiences won’t have to hold their breaths much longer to experience this cerebral science-fiction adventure of what looks like monumental proportions.

Also starring Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce and the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace, Prometheus hits theaters on June 8th. Gearing up for the film’s release, I chatted with Marshall-Green about working with Scott, the roles of religion vs. science in the film, how the movie will impact the science-fiction genre, the already rumored sequel, and more.

ALEX NAGORSKI: Have you seen Prometheus yet? What were your first reactions coming out of it?

LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN: I haven’t seen the whole movie yet. I’ve only seen snippets here and there.

AN: What was your favorite sci-fi movie growing up?

LMG: I loved Alien and Aliens. I would say both of those movies were my favorites.

AN: So as a fan of both of those films, what is your response to the flood of rumors that Prometheus is interconnected with the Alien franchise?

LMG: If it is, cool. If it’s not, cool (laughs). It’s a win, win situation for me, which is great because I love the original. And if they’re not connected, it’s great too because it makes Prometheus the original. I don’t care how people look at the movie as long as people look at it.

AN: Prometheus is a film thirty years in the making. Why do you think now is the right time for it to finally be released?

LMG: Because Ridley Scott has an impeccable sense of timing.

AN: How did you physically and mentally train for the role of Charlie Holloway?

LMG: Physically, I got into a plane, flew to London and that was pretty much my training. Mentally, I think it was just about juggling the incredible amount of stimulus that you get walking onto set. I mean, I got to go to work dressed in a spacesuit! And really, being an actor, a character and a fan all at once is very enthralling.

AN: What was the best piece of direction Ridley Scott gave you on set?

LMG: I don’t think there’s a specific direction that stuck with me but what I often think about was his trust in myself and everyone to go big. To make big, real choices. And he would waltz you back in if need be. But for me, I loved his sense of play and his trust in everyone to do their jobs – especially in the acting department.

AN: There’s so much hype surrounding Prometheus that the film already has a bit of a cult following, even though it hasn’t even been released yet. As an actor, how does that type of pressure impact your creative process?

LMG: It doesn’t impact it at all. I’m certainly not thinking about the hype that others will attach to the movie when I’m doing my job. It’s all about what’s happening in front of me and what’s happening in front of me is a fully built world that makes it very easy to settle into and act in. I don’t think anyone during the making of the movie – and I think I speak for the entire cast and crew – was worrying about what people would think going into it. We were just having an absolute blast making it.

AN: Can you talk a little bit about the roles of religion versus science in the film?

LMG: I think the movie strikes a good balance in that argument. There are some characters that represent faith and some characters that represent science and fact. Charlie Halloway is one of them. I certainly think there are going to be a lot of religious groups that are not going to agree with certain philosophies and ideologies that are in the movie, but I don’t think we really care. The world that Ridley created is a religion in itself and I think in many ways, it’s even bigger than religion (laughs). Let’s just say, I think more people will go to our church.

AN: With a title like Prometheus, the film seems to have an obvious root in Greek mythology. What parallels does the movie have with the original myth of the same name?

LMG: Well as most people know, Prometheus was the god who gave humans fire and sewed in them the seed of hope. If there’s a context with God, that’s what we’re looking for. But I don’t think you should read too much into the parallels of the mythology of the name “Prometheus.” Really, it’s just the name of the ship and the story of that ship and the crew that’s on it.

AN: Ridley Scott is well known for pushing the boundaries of sci-fi. What type of lasting effects do you think Prometheus will have on the genre?

LMG: I hope it invigorates it. It’s a genre that Ridley built and created. I think he’s just looking to tell a great story. It just so happens that this story is in the genre of science fiction and it just so happens that it’s in a genre that he created. But I hope it pushes movie making beyond classifying what genre a film is in. It’s shot, composed and articulated fully in 3D. It’s realized in 3D. We’re not trying to just make another 3D movie. We’re trying to create a 3D experience that hasn’t been had yet. For me, it’s more about inhabiting a movie and not having a movie thrust upon you, which I think many 3D movies do. A lot of 3D movies, by the way, are just cut later on into 3D. They’re not shot in 3D.

AN: So given that Prometheus is the first 3D movie you’ve been in, how different was the process of shooting the film compared to what you’re used to?

LMG: I’ve always acted in 3D so I didn’t do anything differently. There were a couple cameras that were a lot different and technical aspects that needed to be taken care of – which I’m sure seem tedious after four months, but they have to be done if the movie’s going to look good. But in terms of the acting department, we’ve always been in 3D (laughs).

AN: I imagine that working on such a vast and detailed set provided for lots of opportunities for the cast and crew to play some fun pranks on one another. Did you and/or any of your fellow actors take advantage of this during filming?

LMG: No, Ridley did all that. He’s known to get real, organic reactions out of his actors and he did it again in this piece. I won’t tell you exactly how but you’ll see. And I think you’ll agree that the reactions you see on screen are pretty real. But yeah, if anyone was a prankster, it was Ridley.

AN: There have already been rumors about a Prometheus 2. If you were offered to reprise your role in the sequel, would you accept?

LMG: Yeah, of course. If Ridley says jump, I’ll always say, “how high?” It would be an interesting sequel for my character (laughs). Nonetheless, yeah, I would.

AN: What was the moment you made the decision to commit to being an actor? Was it a specific performance by another actor or was it something else?

LMG: It was probably one of Anthony Sher’s performances of Cyrano de Bergerac at the Royal Shakespeare Company. There was a specific moment in that performance that I won’t get into but it made me understand live performance and stagecraft in a way that made me want to pursue it for the rest of my life. That’s when I knew that I wanted to be a stage actor. I can’t tell you when I wanted to be a TV or film actor. I consider it all kind of the same because you use so many of the same tools. Also, growing up, musicians like Mike Patton set the foundation for me to want to be on stage and to want to govern emotion and laughter every night. And that’s why I do so much theater.

AN: As an actor who works both on stage and on screen, what do you find to be the biggest fundamental differences between these mediums?

LMG: One’s live and one isn’t. One allows for there to be mistakes and one erases them. For me, the mistakes are what make great actors. It’s not about whether they make them or not. The great actors are the ones who pick themselves up and work on their form. And they do that in front of a live audience.

AN: Do you have any theater work lined up in the near future?

LMG: I’m not sure. There are a couple things buzzing, but nothing that I could tell you for sure. But I try to always stay somewhat around the orbit of the New York theater scene.

AN: If you were personally attacked by an alien species, what would be your warfare tactic of choice to fend them off?

LMG: I mean, I think I would absolutely go down like Hudson. I think everybody would go down like Hudson. I think I’d want to go down with a couple of great lines like, “you want some of this?” If I’m going down, I’m going down like Hudson. Know that.

Originally published on PopBytes

“EVERY SINGLE NIGHT” BY FIONA APPLE (SINGLE REVIEW)

When Eliza Dushku’s character Faith was introduced to the smash television series, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, she started off with a massive bang. She was mysterious and clearly a force to be reckoned with. Her attitude was fearless and her blow was lethal. This was not the girl whose bad side you wanted to get on. Because when Faith was scorned, her driving hunger for revenge came from a place so dark that she would make it her mission to completely desolate those who had wronged her.

The same can be said for Fiona Apple. From the moment she released her 1996 masterpiece debut album, Tidal, Fiona asserted herself as a powerhouse presence in the music industry. Here was a young woman with a shattered heart and an unapologetic appetite for vengeance. And not in an Emily Thorne or Taylor Swift #whitegirlproblems kind of way. Fiona’s lyrics were an outlet of raw self-expression – one in which she could both attack and reflect. They were equal parts vulnerable, hurt and angry. Listening to that album, one can almost see the bloodstained knuckles pounding away at the piano as her songs knocked out the men responsible for her internal bruises (check out my list of top ten essential Fiona Apple classics here).

But like Faith, Fiona’s debut did not launch her into a series regular. Instead, she became a reoccurring character who would pop up less and less frequently. Yet each time she did, her swings were just as brutal and were met with feverish applause from critics as well as a rabid nearly cult-like fan following. And even though she would vanish from the spotlight for what seemed each time like an eternity, Fiona would always come back in the last inning with a stake in her hand and an eagerness to punish evil.

After being in musical hibernation since the release of her controversial 2005 album, Extraordinary Machine, Fiona is officially back with her first new material in seven years. Having premiered last week, “Every Single Night” is the first track to be released off of Fiona’s upcoming fourth album, The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do. And while the record’s 23-word title might feel overly high-strung and like you need to come up for air, its lead single is quite the opposite: simple, mellow and to the point.

On “Every Single Night,” Fiona’s claws are as sharp as ever. But instead of using them as weapons against another opponent, she redirects them inwardly – as it’s the 35-year-old chanteuse herself who is the catalyst of pain in this scenario.

“The rib is the shell and the heart is the yolk and I just made a meal for us both to choke on,” Fiona laments on the track. “Every single night’s a fight with my brain. I just want to feel everything.”

It’s not just the lyrics that are exposed to showcase the troubled core of Fiona’s situation. Musically, “Every Single Night” is framed by a skeleton of acoustic instrumentation that does more to guide the melody rather than to carry the song as a whole.

The spotlight on Fiona’s bare vocals evokes a feeling of struggle, almost as though she’s about to topple over. It’s a feeling that masterfully emphasizes the importance of music as a narrative tool, as this minimalist approach to orchestration perfectly compliments the fragile story woven by the song’s somber lyrics.

“Every Single Night” is not an evolution in sound for Fiona, but it’s certainly an evolution of her character. A song at this level of self-awareness is clearly an indicator of a far more mature songstress. It’s the same type of lesson in growing up as the one Faith learned when Angel helped her rejoin the good side after falling into a dark spell. It’s a lesson that warns against losing sight of yourself and teaches that honest introspection is the only way to begin to improve your faults. Even if that does mean needing to take yourself down a few notches.

Welcome back, Fiona. We’ve missed you.

Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do hits stores on June 19 via Epic Records.

Originally published on Hard Candy Music