Nov 17, 2014

One Direction: Four (Deluxe) Album Review

I'm a part of the One Direction fandom. Sure, I'm an adult, and I'm not spending my life savings on floor seats, but I do enjoy their music. And they're pretty friggen cute to boot. 

I appreciate that they don't embody the cheesiness from my boy band era: the matching outfits, the dancing, the themes for every album cover and music video. If you've been to a 1D concert, the boys frolic around on stage, make conversation with the fans and generally try not to accidentally set themselves on fire with pyrotechnics. Since most of them aren't playing instruments, the only way this could be halfway amusing is to have the vocal chops, catchy music and sparkling personalities to go along with it. And they do.

The boys have spent the past three albums experimenting with their sound. Up All Night included monster hits "What Makes You Beautiful" and "One Thing"; their sophomore album included equally major "Kiss You." Midnight Memories, their 2013 release, ventured into more of a folksy realm of music. I like all of their music, but if you're an outsider, you would have been extremely confused by the third album. Was it a compilation of covers? ("Does She Know" could easily have been mistaken for "Jesse's Girl," and "Midnight Memories" was the "Pour Some Sugar On Me" of the bunch. "Best Song Ever" was scrutinized for sounding too similar to "Baba O'Reilly.") Are they going into indie pop? ("Story of My Life" and "Through The Dark" lend themselves to the genre with a Lumineer-like sound.) It was a mashup of different sounds that didn't have a bond, making the overall album less cohesive. Not to say I didn't enjoy it, but critically speaking, it was a bit random. 

I appreciated that they lead the album with "Story of My Life" as the first single, if only because when performed live, people thought, "this is One Direction? I actually like this song!" And they sounded beautiful. But, in my humble opinion, they missed an opportunity by not releasing "Little White Lies" as a follow-up single. It's the one song of the album that sounds different from the rest, and was dub-step influenced, which was huge at the time of the album release. It was radio-friendly and would have had longevity. I'm still scratching my head about that one.

If we're laying it all out on the table, I am surprised they opened this fourth album with "Steal My Girl" as a single. Having listened to the rest of the album, it's not the strongest song on the record. And I was also surprised they went with a ballad for the second single, since "Story of My Life" had a slower tempo and "Midnight Memories" never took off on radio as a single. Right now, the world (or those who aren't massive One Direction fans) only know them by either "What Makes You Beautiful" and "Kiss You" — bubblegum pop at its finest — or "Story of my Life," a simpler, slower tune that doesn't sound unique to their band. 

So, what are my thoughts on FOUR? Instead of a normal review, I'm going to highlight a few songs as recommended listens. 

Where Do Broken Hearts Go
Co-written by Harry Styles
I love this song. When it was "leaked" on Tumblr (I use "leaked" loosely because the sound quality was equivalent to that of a Razr phone), I replayed it for an hour on the treadmill. Replaying songs on Tumblr on your phone takes determination, due to the poor playback options available on the mobile app. This should say something.

It's upbeat, radio-friendly and has a beat reminiscent of an 1980's John Hughes film. What seals the deal for me is the electric guitar — Niall better be shredding this song on tour and during live performances. Speaking of Niall, I love that he takes the first verse of this one. His voice has gotten stronger and dare I say it? Sexy! 3/5 of the boys say it's their favorite from the album. Management, make it a single! 

Change Your Ticket
All boys co-wrote
Easily my favorite. I want to dance around my bedroom and blast this song in my car with the windows down. Maybe I love it so much because it's very, very similar to "Girls" from The 1975. I would love if they made this a single, though. The Afterhrs & Julian Bunetta-produced track has been trending on Twitter for several hours since the album release, so who knows? Maybe the label will see how well everyone is responding to it and put it on the radio. It is a bonus track, however, so it might not have a fighting chance.
I think it would be a great move, especially since this pop track doesn't sound like a cover of an 80's hit, like some of their past 80's-inspired singles have. (Although it is so similar to "Girls.")
And whoever decided Harry should sing, "Watching you get dressed messes with my head... come get back in bed," was using their thinking cap. Kudos. 

Co-written by Ed Sheeran
This is a mid-tempo ballad that shows off the boys' voices perfectly. Granted, they were eighteen like, two years ago in some cases (Harry), so really, why are they reminiscing about young love? Wait until you're 27, boys, before you start kicking yourself for past relationships gone awry! In all seriousness though, I could see this song on a soundtrack. Ed Sheeran wrote it, so perhaps that's why I've gravitated towards it.

Stockholm Syndrome
Co-Written by Harry Styles
Now this is what I'm talking about, boys! Top notch vocals, great beat, catchy lyrics. Yes, the song is about being captivated as a captive (heh) in a relationship. It's 

Night Changes
All boys co-wrote
Originally, I was a bit hacked off that this was the second single. Initially, I felt it deserved to be on the prom episode of an after-school special, but it's really grown on me. The vocals and harmonies are spot-on, and the story of how the song got hijacked from writer Julian Bunetta is interesting.
I like the message, although, I do have to wonder why they are lamenting about how they're getting older when, really, they're in the prime of their life. Perhaps to cater to an older demographic? Regardless, the music video follows each boy on a date, meaning it looks as if the viewer is going on a date with each of the boys. Bravo to whoever came up with the creative on this one (Ben Winston) because you get it. 

Co-written by Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne
"Fireproof" was the free track released prior to "Steal My Girl." I took this as their peace offering: please don't leak the album, here's a free song! It sounds like if Blue Oyster Cult's "Burnin' For You" and Fleetwood Mac's "Gypsy" had a baby. Which means, clearly, I love it. 

Co-written by Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne
There's nothing subtle about this song, and I think that's why it's one of my top favorites. I like hearing the vocal range in all the boys. Harry, known for his deep, raspy voice it belting it out at the top of the track and during the chorus. It's the track with the most rock influence — it has a similar sound to some of Blink-182's tracks or Trapt.

No Control
Co-written by Louis Tomlinson
No Control instantly reminded me of The Killer's "Mr. Brightside." I imagine listening to this on a pier by the beach in the summer and driving with the top down. Louis had his hand in writing almost every song on the album... I'm proud of my fellow Capricorn. 

Side note
It's not a song, but the behind-the-scenes video was cute. I especially loved the bouncy-ball tactic in order to get the boys to look in the same direction. They're like kittens. (:47 mark)

Nov 15, 2014

Can Everyone Stop Hating on Kendall Jenner?

This post is inspired by Can Everyone Stop Hating on Taylor Swift? (from August 2014)

I'm not here to tell you what to do, ladies, but you should really stop hating on Kendall Jenner.

I felt compelled to write about this because so many women give the side eye to Miss Jenner, and it's unsolicited. (Do me proud, KJ and don't mess this up.) Kendall was recently named the face of Estee Lauder. HUGE. One of my top three favorite beauty brands. In just a few short years of modeling, she's working with one of the biggest beauty conglomerates in the world, and I'm sick of reading and hearing, "She's only getting ___________ because of her family."

Many of you probably think, "why would I be bothered to even think of anyone from the Kardashians?" (That's one way to think about it.) Others might say, "I don't like her, but I'm irritated by her."

I'd love explanations for both, only because this young woman is fully relevant in entertainment and fashion. And yes, it might be because her family "knows people," and she got her start as a reality star, but let me break a few things down here.

Reality wasn't their choice.
When Kendall and Kylie appeared on the show, you know how old they were, right? They were 12 and 10. They were barely old enough to have periods. In fact, they didn't — Khloe even talked to them about what would happen when they did go through their menstrual cycle during an episode. (Can't imagine having that out in the world.) 

While I'm sure Kris and Bruce asked the girls if they were okay being on the show, it's not a cognitive choice you can make when you're that young. There are plenty of things that happened in my family around that age that I'm just now understanding and finding out about. They might have understood they were being filmed, but it wasn't their show — it was their older half-sisters'. Point being? Many of you are disgusted with this family because you believe they strive to be famous and in the news without any actual talent, since it was their choice to make a reality show after the infamous sex tape was released. Just remember it wasn't Kendall and Kylie calling the shots on that. And, not to mention, they'd probably get similar opportunities without the show, given their father is Bruce Jenner.

Everyone knows someone.
By saying that Kendall has gotten to where she is because of her family? Sorry, Felicia, but that's a moot point. Everyone knows someone, whether it's through their family or themselves. Some of your favorite people "knew" someone to get to where they are: Nicole Richie, anyone? At the time of The Simple Life, she was merely Paris's best friend. (I find that Lionel being her dad is way more interesting, but it wasn't enough to get her own show at the time.) You know Kate Hudson? Yeah, Goldie Hawn's daughter? Georgia and Lizzie Jagger's dad and mom probably got them an in somewhere, too. And who can forget Destiny Hope Cyrus? Yes, Billy Ray's daughter, Miley, probably had some pull to get her an interview or audition. 

Does this take away the fact that they are talented? Nicole is an amazing businesswoman. (With great style and a hilarious sense of humor.) I have adored Kate since I saw her on the cover of a magazine with her mom, and she is part of some of my favorite films. (Almost Famous!) Georgia May and Lizzie make a great living as models. (Georgia May has modeled for H&M, Chanel and Versace.) And Miley is Miley, but she is talented. 

Oh, and one other thing: you know Cara Delevingne? One of the greatest models of the millennial generation? Her godfather is an executive at Conde Nast - the company that publishes Vogue - and her sister, Poppy, is a successful model. Cara's godmother is Joan Collins.

Cara is stunning in every sense of the word. Those brows! That bone structure! She is on her way to supermodel status. But it wasn't like someone found her in a supermarket. (She was friends with the daughter of Storm Models CEO.) She knows people. Sound familiar?

Fashion isn't an easy game to play.
The thing about fashion is this: designers don't hire just anyone. I'm sure they have met many beautiful women through their celebrity friends. They could be tall, thin and made for the runway, but that doesn't mean they're getting fitted in Balmain the next week. You've got to have drive and something special, and just looking at Kendall, you can see that she has model written all over her. The perfect build. Symmetrical face. She could be androgynous if needed. 

If they were just giving handouts, and I mean this with no disrespect, then we'd see Kylie or Kim walking in these high-fashion shows. Kylie is gorgeous, but she has commercial appeal, as does Kim, which is why she's the one that many of her fans envy when it comes to hair and makeup.  

If you're going to be upset about the Jenner girls getting things due to their family name, get upset about the book they put out, or their collabs with Steve Madden, or the line of hair extensions Kylie has coming out. 

Anyone can write a book, anyone can collaborate on a shoe line and anyone can promote extensions. Not saying you don't need talent to write, design or create — you do — but unfortunately, these industries are more forgiving when it comes to the criteria you need to publish or design. There are plenty of talented people out there who will never get their book published. (Sadly). And there will be plenty of untalented writers making millions off their self-published work. In fashion, you must meet certain criteria to walk down that runway or to be the face of a company. There's no gray area.

That being said, if you are irritated with the success of Kendall Jenner, or any other woman for that matter, look inside and ask yourself, "why?" Why does it bother you that this young woman took a chance to achieve her dreams? If anything, she had more to lose, since she is in the spotlight. She does get great opportunities, but she doesn't walk out of every go-see getting book on a job, either. 

And, frankly, getting irritated by any woman who is finding success on their own terms is not a cute.

Nov 3, 2014

Why Buying Your Followers Should Be Illegal

Do you buy your social media followers?

Shame on you.

I've questioned posting about this, because I know that even some of my blogger friends do it. I would never confront them, because I'm not evil. (For the most part.) And heck, I don't know why they felt the need to do it — it's none of my business — but it's fairly obvious that they do it. None of them had to tell me.

I decided to move forward with this piece because I know a lot of brands and firms can benefit from it. One of my colleagues collaborated with a "style expert" who claimed to have over a 30K following; engagement and views were pathetic at best. She got jipped, and with a little research, you can prevent yourself from wasting money. 

"What do you mean, 'buy your followers?'"

From a blogging point of view, having a strong social following is important, because brands and companies, many bloggers, hosts, actors and the like are purchasing followers to up their counts on Instagram and Twitter. In most cases, you would buy followers to help get more people to follow you — the idea that if someone sees your high follower count, they'll think you're worth following. I get it, but as a blogger, you don't get to see how you're growing organically. It's all muddied once you start purchasing your followers.

Sometimes, people buy followers to seem impressive to companies. For instance, maybe a fashion brand is looking for a mid-level blogger with a following of 50K or higher to collaborate with. Bloggers might buy 10,000 or more followers so they can be in the running for these campaigns.

That's where I get heated — that's lying, and when money is involved, it should be illegal. Buying fake followers might help you land a gig, but it's not giving the brand or the company what they initially signed up for: engagement, a resulting purchase, or brand reach from their collaboration. It's not going to give the brand a good ROI in terms of their contract. It's essentially changing your SAT score and getting into a dream college, which could prevent other people, who didn't change their SAT score, from getting in. 

Are the followers 100% fake?
Sometimes the followers are Twitterbots or spam accounts; sometimes they're followers that have signed up for some kind of Instagram promotion, which gives them gift cards or additional followers of their own by liking and following other accounts.

How can you even tell?
There are a few things. Engagement is the hero here — if you have a significant following, your Instagram likes should be proportionate to the comments. If you get 300 likes on a photo with zero comments, that's an instant red flag. Go through the user's posts and see the average number of likes they get, then see how many comments the photo elicits. Also, look at how many hashtags a person uses in comparison to the likes they get.

Instagram is interesting because there is no auditing service available (yet). However, Twitter does have a service. It's not a Twitter-funded program, but it will survey a group of your followers to indicate how many are fake, how many are real, and give you an audit score depending on those stats. I know many bloggers would argue that Twitter is irrelevant to brands these days, but that's false. Many brands conduct Twitter Q&A's and Twitter parties, which can equal big bucks for influencers. Further, Twitter helps to spread brand awareness better than Instagram does — sure, Instagram has the tagging option and the aggregated explore photos option, but getting a brand mention in your Twitter timeline is far easier than getting a photo seen on Instagram. 

Everyone has fake followers, though, so don't be alarmed if you see that some aren't 100% authentic. It's hard to get a 100% authentic follower rate. It's the amount that matters — my audit shows a 90%, meaning most of my followers are authentic. (Even for my reasonably small Twitter following.) For big players like Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Justin Bieber, they have around 4%-6% of a fake following, which makes sense. These celebrities have plenty of spam accounts following them or fans that create multiple accounts that have little to no following. 


Instagram is harder to detect because, so far, there isn't a service that shows you who has fake followers. InstaFollow, an iPhone app, can tell you about your personal account: who unfollowed you, who you follow that doesn't follow you back; your ghost followers, who has never commented, etc. But it connects to your own account, which does little when trying to figure out if the potential talent/blogger you'll be working with is buying their Instagram followers.

The moral of the story is to not buy your followers. You'll get found out, which could result in more drama (like losing a job and damaging your reputation) than if you just grew your audience organically. 

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