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Arts and Entertainment

Katy Perry’s “Roar” is more of a whimper

by Henry Monteiro

 

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In the current pop world, few artists can compete with Katy Perry for the title of “modern pop princess.” Both of her previous album releases, “One of the Boys” and “Teenage Dream” were massive commercial successes, with “Teenage Dream” becoming the second album to ever include five number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, the first being Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” 

 

Now, over a year after her last single release, she has released the lead single off her third album “Prism,” in the form of “Roar,” a bland and mediocre power pop song that serves little but to build hype for the album.

 

    Since the song was first released in August, numerous critics have noted the similarities between “Roar” and singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles’s hit “Brave” from earlier this year. Most notably, both use a repeating piano line, a similar drum beat, and the exact same chords. But what’s important isn’t that the songs are similar; what matters is that they are different enough for one to be worse than the other, and in this, Perry loses. While “Brave” actually changes during the song to introduce new ideas with each verse and including additional concepts like a bridge, “Roar” is incredibly stagnant, using the same three chords throughout for two verses and a repeating chorus. But the most important aspect of the blatant copying is in how the copying highlights the major problem of the rest of the song, namely, how lazy it is.

 

    It’s pretty well-established that pop never strives for anything other than to be catchy and enjoyable, but it’s rare to see a Pop song that’s as bland as “Roar.” It starts like you’d expect a Pop song should start. It ends like you’d expect a pop song to end. it swells like you expect a pop song to swell. It’s theoretically a perfect pop song. But in this theoretical perfection, it just comes off as manufactured, built in a lab to be as catchy and inoffensive as possible. And that’s without getting into the lyrics, which are a mix of different cliches thrown together, with lines about “the eye of the tiger” and “floating like a butterfly,” being “held down, but getting back up” and “shaking the ground like thunder.”

 

    “Roar” isn’t a terrible song. It’s not even really a bad song. It’s just bland, easily digestible for people who need music playing without making them think too much. It’s a song you hear played at Target so that the shoppers don’t get unnerved by the lack of backing noise but also don’t complain about what’s getting played. In short, it’s a song, with no adjectives required for its quality.

 

“Prism” is in stores now.

I chose you to review! (A Pokémon X and Y review)

by Lauren Nieto  

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Pokémon has been growing out of control ever since it’s first game release in 1996. So it’s only appropriate to give a proper review of the latest game, Pokémon X and Pokémon Y. Being a highly anticipated game of 2013, it’s to no surprise that Pokémon X and Y was a record breaker in Japan, becoming their most pre-ordered game ever. The release was a worldwide release on October 12 in all regions with many new features that showed off Nintendo’s full potential for their 3DS games.

   With a total of 69 new Pokémon, customizable character options, Mega-Evolutions, even a new type of Pokémon known as Fairy type which balances out Dragon types once and for all. Dragon types were always overpowered and never had a type that would cause super effective hits to it. Nintendo showed off their growth with the Pokémon series in this single game.

   The whole game is in 3D, and your character is now able to move diagonally, which was not available in any other game but this one. A brand-new 3D model of every Pokémon that currently exists was made for this game, packed up with brand new animations for moves. Saving time was reduced to just in Pokémon X and Y saving takes exactly 1.6 seconds. That is way faster than the previous games and makes saving less of a hassle.

  If you want to play and pet and give your Pokémon some love, then this is the game for you. Pokémon X and Y introduces Pokémon-Amie, which allows you to play games, pet and feed the Pokémon on your team. Pokémon are now able to ride in certain areas where terrain is snowy, rocky or if you just want to ride the new loveable goat Pokémon, Skiddo around a pasture.

  While this game has many new great features that show off how far Pokémon has truly come, I have found only two downsides in this game. First is a save game glitch in a city known as Lumiose City, a mock city of Paris, France. It is an unknown what causes this glitch; many forums say it’s saving outside in the city, but saving inside buildings such as a Pokémon Center would be fine. The glitch is known to corrupt your saved game so be cautious in the city. The pathway of your adventure is also very similar to the previous game Pokémon Black and White 2. Similarities include, large city in the center of the region, and the map having the same path as a straight line. This makes the game looked rushed when it comes to new mapping design.  

  The new game has brought the gaining experience to a whole new level. An old item from previous games makes reappearance but has improved ten-fold. The item known as Exp. Share (experience share) which was able to be given to a single Pokémon to share exp. points that the battling Pokémon gained, is now improved to being a key item and able to be turned off or on allowing the whole team to gain experience at the same time.

  Nintendo now allows character customization, which even includes skin tone at the beginning of the game. If your hair doesn’t match you at the start of the game, don’t worry! You’re able to color and style your hair later in the game. But that’s not all, you are able to change clothes and buy new articles of clothing. If you don’t like your rival or friends calling you by your name you’re given the option to give yourself a nickname as well.

  I found myself taken by the new story line of Pokémon for it was truthfully a heart touching story for someone who grew up with Pokémon. I was amazed of how far Nintendo has come with these games. Pokémon-Amie allowed me to play and form bonds with my Pokémon, just like the ones I would always see in the TV show. I felt like I was finally able to connect with these creatures and bring them to their full potential. I never planned on buying a 3DS, but once I saw this game I knew I had to get one to feel the satisfaction of raising my Pokémon and creating a new journey. 

New book reveals the world of substitute teaching

by Christine Ong

 

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 Do you ever give a second thought about the substitute teacher after they have left? Most likely, the answer will be “no,” and that is exactly how Horton, the main character of Emil DeAndreis’ new book “Beyond Folly,” feels about his existence. He feels as though he is never a significant part of a person’s life because of the temporary nature of substitute teachers. The world of substitute teachers is illustrated through a third person narration of Horton’s life. 

 

    The book is structured in a series of short stories or vignettes rather than a continuous plot, and this allows DeAndreis to explore different aspects of the life of a substitute instead of forcing various events into one plot. Connections between the chapters are made from reappearances of certain characters and events. 

 

    The writing style of the book alternate between very strong and bland. Vivid descriptions of distinctive character traits help readers imagine exactly how Horton sees his colleagues, but sometimes the length at which some ideas are expressed can be boring. 

 

    DeAndreis uses some of the most vivid descriptions I have ever seen. “A few warts push from within layers of her facial flesh like half-smoked, hairy cigarettes tucked away for later.” It’s a gruesome description, but it perfectly illustrates how ugly and repulsive the character looks to Horton. 

 

    The characters portrayed do feel familiar. The overweight, yelling gym teachers; the annoying substitute teachers; and the troubled student all evoke memories that can help readers relate to this book. Detailed descriptions of characters and their environment help illustrate Horton’s world and the uncertainty that comes with every new day. 

 

    I feel as though the writing is not consistently strong throughout the book. Some sections discuss an idea for too long or phrase it in such a way that it feels like I am reading an essay. The third person point of view sometimes expresses Horton’s feelings that at times it feels like the limits of point of view are being stretched to suit a first person point of view.  “’YOU KNOW I COULD REALLY USE SOME HELP!’ persists fucking clueless Randi” is an example of this type of stretch. 

 

    Despite not being strong in some places, DeAndreis descriptions and ideas show great promise for the future. 

 

GTA V Review

by Jasprit Samra       

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    “Grand Theft Auto” is a title that everyone knows because of its popularity.  “Grand Theft Auto” is an open world action adventure video game made by Rockstar.  It was released on September 17 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles.  “Grand Theft Auto V” takes place in a fictional state of San Andreas, modeled after Southern California.  Los Santos is the main city of the game and is modeled after Los Angeles.  The game has three main characters, Michael, Franklin and Trevor.

            Michael, a retired criminal who is living in luxury with his family in Rockford Hills, has become bored of his lifestyle.  He spends his days drinking, watching old movies, arguing with his wife and kids and yearns for the thrills of the “good” old days. He is a miserable middle-aged man with a cheating wife, and his kids don’t even want to talk to him.

            Franklin is a man who lives in the ghettos of South Los Santos. He is trying, and frequently failing, to make something of himself.  He has a steady job with a shady car dealership.  He finds himself drawn into a life of crime by his friend Lamar.  He really wants to escape the hood, and then he meets Michael who is like his mentor.

Finally Trevor is a terrifying psychopath and one of the most outrageous, immoral characters.  He lives in a filthy trailer in the desert and cooks crystal meth.  He eventually ends up in Los Santos.  Trevor is the source of much of the game’s humor.  Some of Trevor’s missions are very disturbing.

            The game starts with a bank robbery ten years ago where Trevor thought that Michael had died.  After that, you play as Franklin, who works as a repoman for a car dealership alongside his friend Lamar.  He is asked to reclaim a car from Michael’s teenage son, Jimmy, who is overdue on his loan payment.  Michael, who is hidden in the backseat, puts a gun on Franklin and orders him to crash the car through the dealership.  Franklin is fired, but he and Michael become friends.  When Michael discovers his wife Amanda in bed with her tennis coach, he and Franklin chase the man to a mansion, which Michael destroys out of anger.  However, the mansion belongs to Mexican drug lord Martin Madrazo, who demands money.  They decide that they will be paying their debt to Madrazo using money.  They decide that they will be paying their debt to Madrazo using money earned from a jewelry shop heist.  Trevor hears about the heist and realizes that it could be none other than Michael himself.

            I like how each character has their own separate set of personal stats--things like stamina, driving, flying shooting, lung capacity and strength--that increase as you play the game.  In the game, you can switch between characters anytime.  When you switch characters you can see they have a life of their own.  When I switched to Trevor, I found out I was in a bar fight or with Franklin I was washing my car.

            The pros are that “Grand Theft Auto V” has a huge open world, which is way bigger than the previous game.  In “Grand Theft Auto V” you can do more, like play golf and tennis, rob a store, go hunting, invest in stock, explore under sea or the country, do yoga, get drunk, go biking and so much more.  You can also customize a lot of items like your car, clothes, planes, hair and more.  You can also buy property around the city, like garages, stores and hangars. All the missions were very fun and I really liked the side missions too.  I really liked how ”Grand Theft Auto V” now has a military base, which means that you can try to steal their jets or helicopters.

            The bad things in my opinion are that you can only do heists in missions and not in free roam.  You can’t buy food from Burger Shot or Cluckin Bell or even a food cart the previous game can do that.  The police are too extreme.  If I rob a small corner store police helicopters will come after me.  Overall I would give it 9.5/10 stars.

            

A “Beautiful” future on Broadway is not “So Far Away”

    by Charlotte Woo

 

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    A black grand piano sits on the stage with a single spotlight shining brightly above. A curly-haired woman in a floral blue dress steps onto the stage and takes a seat at the piano as the house lights go out. Let the show begin.

 

    Making its world premiere here in San Francisco, “Beautiful: the Carole King Musical” is a biographical musical telling the story of the first decade of Carole King’s career. King, played by the magnificent Jessie Mueller, was a prominent female songwriter in the 1960s before she began singing her own material.

 

    The show is told as a sort of flashback. “Beautiful” opens at Carnegie Hall with a simple arrangement of her own song “So Far Away” before transporting the audience back to King’s home at age 16 as she prepares for a meeting with record label owner Don Kirshner. Her arrival at the record label’s building is welcomed by “1650 Broadway Medley,” which is made of popular songs written by different popular songwriters of the late 50s. The harmonies are incredible, and the songs chosen for the medley blend together as though they were written for each other. The meeting is successful, and King signs with the label as a songwriter.

 

    The aspect of the production that caught most of my attention in this scene was the set designs by Derek McLane. The dual-level set is extraordinarily appropriate for the time period; textures such as plaid and stripes are well-integrated into the set design. The levels are created by a grid of lit moving set pieces. The set is also well utilized throughout the performance: no space is wasted, and every piece has its purpose.

 

    After her meeting with Kirshner, King meets her future husband Gerry Goffin, played by the glorious Jake Epstein, at college, and they quickly become romantically involved. After finding out King is pregnant, Goffin proposes, and the two perform “Some Kind of Wonderful,” another song composed by King.

 

    After collaborating for six months, Goffin and King write “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” and The Shirelles’ recording of the song goes straight to the top of the music charts. Mueller sings a beautifully melodic and simple rendition of the song. Mueller’s voice sounds as though the song was made for her. The simplicity of the arrangement makes the lyrics shine with importance for the story line.

 

    “Beautiful” features another songwriting couple, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, played by Jarrod Spector and Anika Larsen respectively, who were friends with Goffin and King. Their song “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” performed by ensemble members Joshua Davis and Kevin Duda, is a standout song that foreshadows key pieces of the show’s plot. The vocal ranges of Davis and Duda are awe-inducing with Davis’ deep bass voice and Duda’s ability to hit notes in his falsetto that some women can’t.

 

    The first act ends on quite a bitter note between Goffin and King. Intermixed with “One Fine Day,” written by Goffin and King, the act one closing scene is a turning point in King’s life and in Goffin and King’s relationship.

 

    The bitter note from the end of the first act continues through the beginning of the second act. Goffin has a nervous breakdown due to a chemical imbalance, and the utilization of the set is amazingly dynamic. Staging Epstein on the second story and slightly off-centered, the lit grid set against a black void is dramatic and effective. Goffin’s nervous breakdown causes an unfixable tear in the relationship, and King makes her journey to Carnegie Hall, where the show started with just a piano and a spotlight. The second act passes by very quickly.    

 

    Mueller’s portrayal of King is scarily accurate. Her ability to become King is so believable and is especially evident in her voice. Mueller is able to change her voice to sound almost exactly like King’s voice, and it’s perfect.

 

    Epstein has the smoothest voice I’ve heard in a very long time. It moves between notes with such ease. About halfway through the first act, I finally noticed he was using a slight accent that sounds like a Brooklyn native. It seemed so natural despite his being a native Toronto, Canada resident, Epstein’s natural accent is has a slight midwestern cadence to it.

 

    Though the show is no longer here in San Francisco, it is still very much alive. “Beautiful” begins performances at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on Broadway November 21. The show is in great shape for its Broadway transfer, and I’m excited for its success during the theatre awards season. More information can be found at www.beautifulonbroadway.com.