Third Time’s the Charm for Bruno Mars

By Drew Lacouture

Staff Writer

On his newest full-length album, Bruno Mars increases his stature as a pop icon with more confidence, inspiration and funk than ever before. The talented song-writer/performer mixes influences from previous decades and his pop sensibilities to create a passionate, yet fun listen.

While “Doo-Wops & Hooligans” and “Unorthodox Jukebox” were massive commercial successes, they did not contain enough distinctive qualities to insert them to many yearend lists. “24K Magic” is not a masterpiece, but in comparison there is much more focus and replay value in these songs.

Mars has always presented himself as a love-seeking heartthrob first and a womanizer second, but on this album it is reversed. He is having the time of his life with women, money and luxury. The only sappy song on here is the closing ballad “Too Good to Say Goodbye,” and it reminds listeners why everyone loves this womanizing version of Mars instead.

This new image is presented best in the fantastic opener “24K Magic,” followed by its even better follow-up, “Chunky.” It improves on its predecessor with a more distinctive base line and sensual backing vocals. Both these tracks have the soul and spark that “Uptown Funk” was missing.

It does not end here, for James Brown would be proud of the song “Perm” and every R&B singer from the 1990s will be jealous they did not create the song “Finesse.” The same might not be said for “Versace on the Floor,” which radiates so much cheese from that decade that it is hard to take it seriously at first.

A similar song to “Versace on the Floor” in tone and nostalgia is “Calling All of My Lovelies,” which has a strong 1980s feeling with its gorgeous synth lines and ballad tempo. Mars himself has never sounded more convincing and dynamic himself. Most of those who are skeptical of him will find excitement in this track and “Chunky” without question.

“That’s What I Like” and “Straight Up & Down,” are mid-tier tracks. The trap-flavored drums on “That’s What I Like” do not match the rest of the track but it is saved with several pleasant surprises in the transitions and a sweet bridge. “Straight Up & Down” is meant to be a love-making song, and has the production for it, but it is unclear if it succeeds in that with its awkward chants in the chorus.

On a side note, it is a shame that Mars continues to charge full price for a nine track album. His albums are too short, and it is especially disappointing in this case because it is his best work yet. The man has the potential to be on the level of Justin Timberlake in terms of quality music, but nine songs an album is not going to prove much.

“24K Magic” is not pushing pop music forward in a remarkable way with its crystal clear influences and flaws, but Bruno Mars is surely distinguishing himself from his contemporaries. He has not unleashed his full potential as an entertainer due to some questionable decisions. With that said, he is improving his craft with each release, which alone deserves praise.

The Flyer gives “24K Magic” a 7/10.

 

“Fake news” latest irony of lying press

By Samuel Stevens

Editorial Editor

Corporate media manufactured their latest ploy to discredit alternative information in the past week: so-called fake news. The Washington Post recently published an article with the absurd headline “Russian propaganda helped spread fake news during the election.”

The LA Times featured a similar story about a Merrimack College professor who released a collection site branded as fake news. Deviously, the Google doc (since taken down due to alleged harassment of the author) interspersed sites critical of U.S. foreign policy with media pushing UFO conspiracy theories. Either due to gross negligence or, more likely, malicious intent, the professor equated establishment-critical media with wild speculation about extraterrestrials.

The LA Times story on fake news reported that Facebook and Google would take steps to block fake news sites from utilizing their ad services as well. This is nothing more than a power play to keep major corporate media as the only source of information. Five multinational corporations own all mainstream media, down from 50 in the early 1980s.

Liberals have long been critical of Senator Joe McCarthy’s investigations into Communists in the US government and Hollywood in the 1950s. Now, they use the same excuses to keep the public away from alternative media. They have resurrected the specter of Russian antagonism to push their agenda, when the United States has demonstrably been the aggressor, fomenting war against Russia in Ukraine and expanding NATO.

Further, the leaked Podesta emails proved numerous corporate journalists were essentially Hillary Clinton campaign operatives. Comedian John Oliver, whose show poses as a news program, also took direction from the campaign.

The lying press delivered on their orders from the Clinton machine throughout the election. Trump was constantly attacked and had his words taken out of context. There have also been attempts to tie Trump to white nationalism and the “altright” when Trump is, ideologically speaking, a centrist who has been both a Republican and a Democrat.

Mainstream media spin is not unique to this election cycle, of course. The American press has a long history of complicity with the U.S. establishment.

This is the same media complicit with the outright lie that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction during the Bush administration. They have never raised issue with the Obama administration’s abuses of executive authority. The media claimed that Hillary led in the polls throughout the entire election, yet Trump won the majority of US counties.

U.S. media historically has been openly biased and partisan. Many newspapers began as vehicles of a local party organization. The concept of an “objective” press developed only within the last century. Bias in any kind of reporting is inevitable. The fiction of an objective media gives the establishment narrative credibility.

Social media and the internet have opened floodgates to new ideas and sources. The corrupt media of the establishment knows it is losing ground to alternatives. While many alternative sites have issues, the mainstream press is in no position to claim the moral or ethical high ground.

 

Faulty media divides America

By Riley Fanning

Staff Writer

The 2016 presidential election has finally come to an end and with the reveal of Trump as the winner, almost every article headline reads the same. Over and over are recycled phrases describing the shocking, unexpected and surprising win. The mainstream media is littered with astonishment, as every poll predicting Clinton to be the obvious winner was dead wrong.

The media in America has long been far from objective or unbiased, and the past two years of the campaign and election coverage proves it. Donald Trump won half of the country’s votes, and somehow the media had no inkling of this outcome.

News sources had painted a picture of Trump becoming president as an unimaginable joke. Clinton appeared to be leading by sturdy margins, with polling data to back up the claims. Yet the election polls did not prove to be reliable, leaving many Americans, including myself, in complete bewilderment.

The narrative of America being a liberal progressive country propagated by most media is a delusion. Millions of voters chose Trump, despite his unpredictable demeanor and hate-driven campaign, and despite the media spouting the impossibility of him being elected.

What we have to remember as well is that most voters were not gleefully skipping to the voting booths, with many trying to decide between two very flawed candidates. While some Trump supporters have prejudices, many do not and are just Americans who have been unhappy with the way the government has been run and believe he will bring change.

Both the liberal and conservative media has constantly portrayed exaggerated versions of Republicans and Democrats alike: racist rednecks versus the overly politically correct “social justice warriors.”  The media’s caricature of people is not an authentic reality, but rather a useful way to spread individual agenda and further widen the gap between political parties.

Since the election, nationwide protests have broken out and a growing petition has appeared on social media asking the Electoral College to change its vote in an attempt to have Clinton replace Trump as president-elect. The protests and petition prove just how divisive this election has been and display the fervent anger many Americans are feeling at the moment.

The problem with both of these things is that they are not actually protesting Trump as intended, but rather the democratic system itself. We had an election and just because you do not agree with the results does not mean you can change the rules and outcome after the fact.

While most media outlets are still wary and critical of Trump, a new note of positivity and hopefulness has come to the surface: as a country we should try to be optimistic that Trump will rise to the challenge of the presidency, and we should try to give him the opportunity to prove the predictions of failure wrong.

Media should give facts and the truth, not its own biased version of the truth. The lesson in all of this mess is that the media is not a wholly reliable source, and people will have to dig for the truth themselves. The country is in a deeply contentious state with many Americans either overjoyed or devastated with the election’s outcome.

Take this as an opportunity to use your First Amendment right to the freedom of speech—use your voice to promote values you uphold so that both sides of the political coin can begin a hopefully fruitful discourse.

Marvel gets Strange

By Drew Lacouture

Staff Writer

In their fourteenth film, “Doctor Strange” continues Marvel Studios’ streak of perfect casting, thrilling action and witty humor that all fits nicely into their cinematic universe while being the first film of theirs to introduce magic. While “Strange” is not a game changer by any means, the small risks it takes should be a sign of what is to come in future Marvel films.

Between audience’s lack of knowledge of the “Doctor Strange” comic books and the oversaturation of comic book movies this year, this film would be a tough sell without the star power of Benedict Cumberbatch. He delightfully fits the role and his presence in future Marvel movies will be most welcome.

Similar to Thor and Iron Man in their first movies, Doctor Strange starts off powerful, is humbled and has to fight an evil doer with a love interest in mind. This formula may be getting repetitive for some, but it is an effective way of telling a story. “Doctor Strange” does it well and to some degree executes it better by having him injured and frustrated, something many people can relate to.

The rest of the cast do a fine job with the material they are given. However, the script is exposition heavy and often predictable. During Cumberbatch’s training, a lot of explanations are given of this new world that he is being taught the existence of. While there are some funny lines here and there, the writers could have made the script more unique to match the uniqueness of the magic being used.

With all this said, the special effects and action sequences make up for the hefty summaries. The movie deserves to be seen in 3-D. As soon as Tilda Swinton’s character touches Cumberbatch’s forehead, it is made clear that this is not an ordinary Marvel movie in terms of concepts. The hypnotizing action sequences are also inventive and look phenomenal.

What is also phenomenal are the couple of surprises that are in the movie’s storytelling, one of them being during the climax and another during the post-credit scene. These small distinctions help separate Dr. Strange from other superhero origin stories. The fact that Doctor Strange is a music aficionado also leads to some hilarious humor.

What does not separate this film from other Marvel films is its underdeveloped and replaceable villain. There is just not enough screen time and personality to make Mads Mikkelsen’s character stand out. However, he does pose a moral dilemma in the movie that brings out the complexity of the Doctor Strange character.

Fans and casual audiences will most likely appreciate “Doctor Strange” for more than one reason, rather than just because they are distracted by a star-studded soundtrack (looking at you “Suicide Squad”).  The film is not as strong as this year’s “Captain America: Civil War,” but it is more engaging than “Ant-Man.” We will be looking forward to Cumberbatch and his mystical powers in future Marvel films.

The Flyer gives “Doctor Strange” a 7/10.

Trump victory heralds new order, discredits establishment

By Samuel Stevens

Editorial Editor

Donald Trump’s stunning defeat of Hillary Clinton last night was vindication for many voters. Trump brought many middle- and working-class white voters back into the fold of the GOP, long disadvantaged by the disastrous trade policies of previous Republican administrations. His level-headed rhetoric about Russian relations also captured former libertarians disillusioned with the war hawk policies of GOP neoconservatives.

Most importantly, Trump smashed the feckless campaigning of previous candidates. Rather than grovel and try to beg for support, Trump spoke with uncompromising strength and conviction. Neoconservatives of outlets like the National Review, Wall Street Journal, and Fox News have pushed a message that “respectability” will somehow win elections. Trump has shown that the exact opposite is true.

GOP voters have long wanted a candidate willing to speak plainly, whether they realized it or not. A Hillary victory would have meant the last gasp of the Republican Party as a serious political player. Their issue has always been reaching out to the base they do have, rather than try in vain to bring minority voters into their party.

Hillary Clinton and her supporters have little to stand on after the revelations of the election. The John Podesta emails revealed rampant political corruption as well as other crimes she is associated with. Her campaign relied on her status as the “first woman president” among other inanities. In reality, her policies were a mix of neoconservative intervention and far-left social policies.

Ironically for Hillary’s base, she has had the support of Wahabi Saudi Arabia by 68 percent, according a 21st Century Wire report. Clinton cannot believe in the social positions of her party if she takes the money and support of the most extreme Arab nation. It should also be noted that the Podesta emails showed Clinton took donations from Saudi Arabia in exchange for political favors.

Trump has built countless buildings and a successful company over the decades. Hillary almost single-handedly threw the entire Middle East into sectarian conflict in her tenure as Secretary of State. Clinton and her supporters cannot claim the moral high ground when her career track record demonstrates the exact opposite.

Hillary’s loss will go down in history as the death blow of the post-Cold War liberal and neoconservative establishment.

Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Trump on his victory, and announced he was prepared to resume normal relations with Russia. President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines made a similar announcement, a shift from his recent turn away from close American relations. Contrary to “expert” analysis, Trump has already started to solve the foreign policy messes created by the Obama administration.

In the span of a year, Trump has vindicated decades of work by men like Patrick J. Buchanan, Senator Jeff Sessions, and pundit Sam Francis. With the momentum of middle America at his back, Trump’s electoral victory heralds even greater national success on the horizon.

Making amends after divisive election season

By Luke Wathen

Staff Writer

At long last, the election season is finished. After a year and a half of vitriol, surprise scandals and gaffes from both candidates, the American people have spoken and it appears that Donald Trump will be our next president.

Election seasons seem to bring out the worst in people, whether they be on the left or right. People, for whatever reason, get so enveloped in their candidate’s message that they are willing to sever relationships with people that they have known for years simply for disagreeing with them. This was especially true in this election, as I am sure that we have all felt the need to unfriend someone on social media for repetitive memes about either Trump or Hillary Clinton or posting a slew of insults for whatever candidate you supported.

No matter who won the election, it was always evident that one half of the country would be satisfied while another would be devastated. It did not matter who won—a huge population would lose regardless.

Now that the election is over, it is time to make amends and reconnect some broken bridges.

Whether you were the one who experienced harassment or did the harassing, now is the time to reach out to the friends, colleagues and relatives that you distanced yourself from during this election and put the past behind you. Remember, just because they supported someone you disagreed with or vice-versa does not make them a surrogate of that candidate. This election, like many, boiled down to citizens simply choosing who they felt to be the lesser of two evils.

Trump and Clinton are two of the most flawed candidates in recent memory. The former is an egotistical hothead with no political experience while the latter has had a rather lackluster political career and a laundry list of controversies connected to her name. Frankly, neither candidate is qualified for the office of the presidency, so it seems ridiculous to sever a relationship with someone because of their support for either one.

As previously stated, the majority of votes for Trump on Tuesday night came from decent people who were sick of the political establishment and nepotism that has taken over Washington. Few were sexists, racists, homophobes, xenophobes or any other label for the “basket of deplorables”—they were just regular people who were a bit frustrated.

Those who voted for Clinton were similar in that regard. Few of them were the corrupt elites that allowed her to take the Democratic nomination despite her overwhelming faults, most were yet again decent people who did not appreciate the abrasive leadership that a Trump presidency might possibly entail.

Regardless of your views, just remember that we are all united as Americans. It does not matter what way you personally voted, the masses have spoken in favor of Donald Trump and he will be our leader for the next four years. In 2020, I hope we look back on our actions now as a cautionary tale on the dangers of partisanship and become more cohesive in our beliefs and civil in our discourse.

 

Zeds Dead releases dynamic debut album

By Drew LaCouture

Staff Writer

After years of paying dues and performing, electronic duo Zeds Dead finally release a full-length album that is top-heavy but enjoyable enough to match up against other albums in the EDM genre. DJs Dylan Mamid and Zachary Rovan combine dubstep, hip-hop, house and pop to create a familiar sound with clever delivery.

While these two are not contributing anything revolutionary to their respective genre, they make sure none of their songs overstay their welcome. However, “This is Me” and “Symphony” should have been bonus tracks to give the main album a tighter feel.

Among all of the producer/singer partnerships in music business today, Zeds Dead and alternative master Twin Shadow could and should make an album together because the opener “Stardust” and the enticing “Loneliness” are fantastic. A full album of songs like those two could make for a brilliant and artistic project.

Maybe this is not what Zeds Dead is aiming for, however. The album is pretty simple with “Too Young” and “DNA” being the only songs with clear-cut meanings. Hearing Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo on a track with Pusha T alone is worth paying for, even though the track itself is pretty flavorless. “DNA,” though it borrows from countless other electronic and hip-hop colorations, is a bold banger with some great head-bopping choruses.

Speaking of bangers, the only drum and bass track “Me No Care” is the only track that can carry itself without guest features. “Dimensions” and “Where Did That Go” is where the album starts to slow down in terms of creativity, for it sounds like other groups like NERO and Pendulum could have made them in their sleep.

Dedicated fans of dubstep will appreciate “Already Gone” where abrasive rapper Ghetts is featured perfectly on the equally abrasive track. Diplo’s stadium instincts also make an appearance on “Blame,” which should be their opening track in a live set list. For those looking for something more subtle, Jenna Pemkowski brings her gorgeous vocals on the closer “Slow Down.”

If it is not clear by now, this album is all over the place—however, a minor connection can be traced throughout the album. The music in many ways is mysterious and moody, but the guest vocalists bring a bright and clean sensibility to the songs just like how the Northern Lights on the cover shine through the night sky.

This theme is embodied most significantly in “Lights Out” and “Neck and Neck,” and both will sound solid live. This night sky-themed album could have used more bass overall. Perhaps not so much deep, like the sub-bass that many electronic artists rely on, but more vibrant and thicker bass lines would have made “Frontlines” even better.

Zeds Dead’s smorgasbord of an album demonstrates their talent in blending styles. What the album needed most to be great is more prevalent bass, and for the forgettable tracks to be scratched. At the same time, with good features, a good presence with synths and an ear for pop, Zeds Dead will fare well with their debut. In the meantime, we will be waiting for a Twin Shadow/Zeds Dead album in the future.

The Flyer gives “Northern Lights” a 7/10

 

“The Girl on the Train” movie measures up to novel

By Val Petsche

Staff Writer

“The Girl on the Train” is a riveting murder mystery new to theaters and based on the novel by Paula Hawkins. Throughout the story, themes of lust and adultery largely command the stage, and it is the film’s skillful adaptation that allows for the audience to understand the dangers of reckless seduction.

The story is told through the narrations of three women—Rachel, Anna and Megan—though it largely centers on Rachel, a raging alcoholic. Rachel is the girl on the train, an outsider leading a dark and depressing life as monotonous as the train she rides back and forth every day.

She is imaginative, but in a dangerous way. Soon she thinks about the lives of those she passes, specifically a distraught young woman named Megan and Anna, the wife of her ex-husband.

The entirety of the plot surrounds one fateful night that Rachel, though highly intoxicated, literally falls witness to. Over time Rachel is able to recall the gruesome extent of the events that occurred, and she no longer becomes just a girl on the train.

Rachel’s narration occurs on every odd numbered chapter until 34, in which she remembers one major detail about that night and determines the suspect. At this point, we discover she is not the odd one out but rather a key player in the investigation to uncover the truth.

Hawkins’ thoughtful style of writing subjects the reader to accompany Rachel through her distraught, seemingly endless life of alcoholism. From the surface, she is a hot mess, and one the reader tends to feel pity for. Sometimes she is hard to feel bad for with her drinking problem, though. As the plot unfolds, Rachel finds her strength, and we see her emerge as a persistent character determined to prove people wrong and overcome the one person that sent her down that dark hole of depression to begin with.

The movie contains great cinematography; however, it would be greatly confusing if the book is not read beforehand. Many details go in to make this intricate story come together and thus it is important to pay close attention.

The narrative contains multiple threads with complex subject matter and an even more confusing plot. For example, the reader must follow the lives of each character, although their narrations occur at varying times and locations. Megan’s narration occurs at least a year before Rachel’s, and this becomes confusing as each chapter switches back and forth between characters.

With careful contemplation, the reader is able to piece together the various details alongside Rachel, clinging to her every thought as she experiences flashbacks.

Overall, I prefer the book over the movie. However, the film was a visually appealing piece that I enjoyed watching. Emily Blundt skillfully portrays Rachel, making her the disheveled woman I always envisioned her to be and more.

I recommend reading the book first and then following Rachel through this dramatic story that perhaps only a psychoanalyst could understand.

SU shows civility during polarizing election season

By Luke Wathen

Staff Writer

Political polarization is an unsettling issue in today’s society. Whether drifting left or right to the extremes of liberalism and conservatism, people are becoming more and more drastic with their political beliefs.

Nowhere is this truer than on college campuses. Around the country, college students are blindly protesting things that they have no understanding of and lashing out at anyone who disagrees. When approached with any sort of counter-argument, they genuinely resort to insults or even violence.

Google any college’s name followed by the word protest. You are sure to find hundreds of videos of college students causing a public disturbance, shouting down dissent and, frankly, disrupting the lives of all around them.

These subjects of protest range in topic and seriousness but more often than not are over remarkably trivial issues. The University of Massachusetts Amherst made the news earlier this year because of an event dubbed “The Triggering”: student groups loudly disrupted a speaking panel attended by conservative speakers. Their grievances were astoundingly petty and ultimately boiled down to them screaming that their feelings were hurt.

The University of Missouri also made the news last fall as a result of the campus-wide walk offs that took place in protest over the alleged racism taking place on campus. Again, opposition was shouted down and a professor even advocated for the physical assault of a student journalist who was simply videotaping the event.

This sort of behavior is dangerously harmful and these actions teach a terrible lesson. Colleges are meant to be a bastion of free speech where ideas are supposed to be challenged in a civil and engaging manner. By simply protesting anything that they do not agree with, students are blinding themselves to dissent and robbing themselves of the ability to confront views that they do not agree with.

Worse yet, by allowing these actions to continue undeterred, universities are complicit in this emotional stunting of college students.

Despite the penchant for protesting and overall annoyance that seems to be plaguing college campuses across America, Salisbury University has shown itself as an exception to this rule. No issues seem to “trigger” students to such a degree that they resort to protests or mindless violence, something that most of us should be proud of.

This was made apparent to me during a panel discussion with SU’s political science department on the presidential election and each candidate’s view on controversial issues. Sensitive topics such as terrorism and immigration were discussed at fair length and no apologies were given to anyone who may or may not have been offended.

Astoundingly, no one was phased. No one complained of being “triggered,” there was no disruption and those that disagreed with the panelists engaged in a healthy dialogue with them. It was almost as if they were capable of civil discourse.

That is what colleges today are lacking—civil discourse. By fleeing from opposing ideas and shouting down those that offend them, college students around the country are purposefully stunting themselves emotionally and intellectually. You do not always have to agree with someone, but you should at least be willing to hear why they feel a certain way on an issue.

Let schools like SU serve as an example of how to behave when confronted with a new idea. Rather than fear and hate the opposition, take some time to think about why others feel the way that they do about an issue and reevaluate your own stance. Rather than blindly shouting them down, you may very well find yourself agreeing with them.

Partisan rift grows wider with second debate

By Luke Wathen

Staff Writer

The first presidential debate, despite its hype and controversy, yielded a clear winner in Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump did not even begin to prepare for the discussion and it showed; Clinton was able to stay poised and confident while Trump scrambled to cover himself over past controversies.

The second debate was by no means a repeat of the first which produced an obvious winner. Neither Clinton nor Trump seemed able to take a winning edge over the other, despite the same hour and a half timeslot given to them during their last encounter.

It goes without saying that both candidates failed in the most recent debate but in order to find out why, their past strategies have to be taken into account.

Trump, through his combination of insults, buzz words and ability to boil down complicated issues into simple catchphrases, managed to pull the coveted GOP nomination from a pool of candidates that was tremendously overcrowded. While this strategy let him clench the nomination, it does little good in a one on one debate.

On the opposite end of the spectrum stands Clinton. No stranger to controversy, Clinton appeals to the masses with meticulously crafted speeches and talking points that are carefully designed as to not bring up scandals such as Benghazi and her private email server.

As a result, both candidates were out of their element in the town hall style forum that took place. Trump struggled to give actual answers, instead looking for any opportunity to attack his opponent, while Clinton had to delve into murky waters without the safety net of preparation; she did not know what would be asked and as such, could not anticipate how to respond.

The sheer amount of discomfort was palpable from the first few minutes of the debate. Even before the questions began, both candidates refused to shake each other’s hands upon entering, completely ignoring an age-old sign of civility.

When the questions actually did begin, civility completely went out the window. What followed for 90 minutes was a hodgepodge of name-calling, with Clinton accusing Trump of misogyny over recent revelation of comments he made about women to Trump going so far as to call Clinton “the devil.”

Even when the debate ended with the final audience question asking each candidate to name one positive thing about their opponent, passive-aggression was all too prevalent. Clinton complimented Trump’s children though not the candidate himself while Trump complimented Clinton’s perseverance and record of “never quitting” (though this may have been a subtle jab at her failure to secure the Democratic nomination in 2008).

If a winner has to be declared, by a slim margin I would give the victory to Trump. He offered an apology for his comments years prior, something he does not do often, and seemed a bit more personal in the town hall setting.

Clinton was clearly out of her element. Even without a script, her responses felt artificial and her temper flared more times than she would care to admit.

No matter who won, however, the performance between the two candidates was hardly presidential for either party. Let the night of Oct. 9, 2016 be known as the night that the partisan lines in American politics became deeper and civil discourse was dealt a near-fatal blow.