Shawn Mendes: A Review

Shawn Mendes: A Review

Introduction:

Shawn Mendes is one of the many burgeoning success stories that comes from internet content creation. The Canadian Mendes was discovered in 2013 when he began posting covers on the social networking app Vine. In 2014, he was signed to Island Records and released his EP The Shawn Mendes EP, followed in 2015 by his debut album Handwritten. Later that year he released a “revisited” edition of the album. In 2016, Mendes released his sophomore effort Illuminate. Both albums were certified platinum by the RIAA. His third, self-titled effort was released on May 28, 2018.

1. In My Blood

In the opening song, Mendes crafts a very emotional portrait of anxiety and self-doubt. The lyricism of the single is absolutely mesmerizing, coupled with his emotional performance and superb production, which utilizes pop drums and electric guitars in a melancholy anthem for the anxious. It’s a fantastic start for this pop effort.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

2. Nervous

The guitars are smooth and chill at the outset as Mendes’ relaxed vocals detail a story about attraction at first sight. His vocals are stellar. The organ-ridden production and flirtatious lyricism join together to create another spectacular single. It’s very catchy and well-written. It’s another perfect song on this record.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

3. Lost in Japan

The second single released is just so well-made. The groovy bass and gentle piano riffs couple together for a very smooth and exotic production. His vocals are smooth and flirtatious again. Shawn Mendes is such a powerful songwriter that can craft such catchy hooks, but also deliver emotional and human stories.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

4. Where Were You In The Morning?

The mix of electric and acoustic guitars is gorgeous and underscore Mendes’ vocals excellently. The songwriting is spot on once again. Mendes delivers another great song for, so far, an unbelievable record.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

5. Like To Be You (ft. Julia Michaels)

Shawn brings the wonderful Julia Michaels on this one. Mendes’ signature electric/acoustic blend is gorgeous, especially when his and Julia’s vocals merge over the top. The two singer/songwriters deliver a very beautiful vignette of star-crossed lovers. The two blend really well together. The songwriting is very sweet and emotional and matches the gentle and flowing production. The two deliver another perfect song for this outstanding record.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

6. Fallin’ All In You

His vocals are stellar yet again and the production underscores it nicely. It’s Mendes’ “Perfect”. The steady building drums and guitars carry Mendes’ emotional vocals in another solid entry for this incredible album. It’s another lovely vignette.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

7. Particular Taste

We finally get a faster, more upbeat tune from a normally very peppy Shawn Mendes. His lyricism is again great. The production incorporates whistles and slide guitars in unique ways to give this a really funky edge. It’s a great addition.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

8. Why

Over the halfway hump of the album, you begin listening for signs of fatigue or burnout, but nothing like that is exhibited. Mendes delivers another emotional ballad with a wonderful falsetto and trance-like production. His songwriting is sincere and well-crafted. He doesn’t waste his words and delivers another hit for the album. The only reason I scored it lower is because I probably won’t revisit this specific track often personally.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

9. Because I Had You

I can think of only one other artist working today who can write and sing and produce songs of superior quality consistently on a record like this. The guitars and production are so smooth and sweet. His songwriting is just outstanding as he crafts an emotional farewell to someone special. This is a masterfully crafted song.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

10. Queen

The song has a real California vibe to it. The guitars and production is angrier and has a kinda summer sensibility to it. The angrier, scornful song is very different in a story sense from the rest of the record and it’s absolutely genius. Mendes delivers yet another excellent song for the record.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

11. Youth (ft. Khalid)

The third single is just outstanding. The smooth guitars and hopefully production is wonderful. The collaboration between Mendes and Khalid is a match made in the musical heavens. Singing about ambitions, the pair deliver great performances and a great song. It’s yet another perfect addition.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

12. Mutual

The acoustic ballad is lovely. The peppier song is no doubt a guaranteed hit. Mendes presents his signature vocals and couples it with catchy melodies and masterfully produced lines. It’s another perfect addition to the record.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

13. Perfectly Wrong

The slower piano ballad is a perfect showcase of Mendes’ falsetto and melancholy songwriting. The emotionally charged performance is electrifying, underscored by equally exhilarating production. It’s a perfect penultimate song that is truly special.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

14. When You’re Ready

The final song of the album has a Hawaiian sunset sort of vibe. It’s a sweet farewell that feels like a warm campfire the beach while the sun sets. It’s a genuine treat to the ears and gorgeous final song. It signals that Mendes has done something nye-impossible: he’s delivered a near-perfect album. The songwriting is superb and Mendes proves why he is and should be heralded as one of pop’s shining stars.

Conclusion:

Shawn Mendes is the American version of Ed Sheeran, with just as much talent and charisma. The singer/songwriter deals in very emotional topics and shares a similar style to the British singer. Mendes even delivers an outstanding album, much like Sheeran did a year ago with Divide, that presents 14 vignettes that deal with love, rejection, desire, anxiety, ambition, attraction, and dislike. Mendes’ record is filled with emotion, colorful and distinct lyricism, smooth and indie-like production, and a true passion for the craft. Shawn Mendes is a shining star in pop music and has a very bright future ahead of him.

Album Rating: 9.7/10

Grade: A+

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Shoot For Teams: Behind The Music

FeaturedShoot For Teams: Behind The Music

This article is co-authored by Carlos Williams, Mike Myslinski, and Steven Widman.

Introduction:

It started out as an idea. We had all known each other for a while. Carlos and I met back in 2012 when he did a show at The Rock. I met Myz when he asked Los and I to open for him at The Ember in 2013. I met Steven when we both found out we liked Andy Mineo in choir class and went to his St. Paul concert in 2016. After C-Los finished produced Steven’s mixtape in November, he had the idea of the four of us coming together to do a single (which would later become “Tuesday”) and that expanded into forming a group and making an album. After three months of recording, writing, mixing, and getting the project mastered and marketed, The Forks released our debut album Shoot For Teams on February 16, 2018. We’ve been blessed with this opportunity and we felt it would be a fun experience to write a commentary piece about the album. Without further ado, The Forks presents…

Shoot For Teams: Behind The Music

1. In The Presence (ft. MyzBeatz & C-Los)

This song was written to be hype for getting into God’s presence! Time with Him is essential and irreplaceable in the life of a follower. Living water will flow through us and effect others; we engage when we spend time with Him. We have Him leading from our quiet place together. That’s what this song is about! – M

This song evolved from an idea from another song. “Coram Deo” is the key phrase in this one. It simply means “to be in the presence of God.” Myz and I wanted to communicate the importance of being in God’s presence. For me, my decisions should flow from that place. Favorite Line: “You’ll never be in His presence if you just come for presents, but if came to feel his presence, you might get a present.” If you anticipate God’s presence and not just the benefits it brings, you get all those things. But we worship God, because He’s God. – C

2. The G.O.A.T. (Ft. SW & 2K)

I think this song was just for fun, just to get into the studio and show what God has given us and knowing that we do it all through him. Nothing that I have is from my own power or my own strength. – S

Steven and I each took a song to come with conceptually. Steven took the other song, and I came up with this one. From the moment we heard Los’s beat, I was hooked. It was big and bold and fast and I knew we needed to write material to match that. And then the idea came: if our God is for us, than who can stop us. We took that premise and built the concept of the God of All Time. Steven and I each wrote our verses and would meet once a week to touch base, and then break off and keep improving, which is resulted in an escalation of us wanting to bring our best and the best out of each other. I’m very honored by and proud of this song. – K

3. Let Me Go (ft. C-Los & MyzBeatz)

I’d just got back from Guam. I spent a few months out there for work, and I had a pretty nice vibe out there while I was making music. The song itself sounds like you’re on the beach or poolside hanging out! But truth be told, I had a moment where God just started speaking to me through the hook I wrote for the song. I think we all have a moment in life where you question God and whether or not he cares for me, because a lot of the things that were going on in the world around me, happening to people who looked like me. I’m also always thinking about making sure my family is being taken care of to the best of my abilities and how I can insure their future. God told me not to worry about it. So I’m trying to do that! – C

This track is about the battle of mind games and defeating doubt. Instead of letting the enemy defeat us in our mind, we need to remember the truth in Christ and His promises for us about who we are! It’s a real battle at times, but He never let’s us go. – M

4. Nomads (ft. SW, 2K & MyzBeatz)

Nomads was more of an encouragement song for our fellow brothers and sisters who are sharing the Gospel and sometimes may be unmotivated to do so, or sometimes have a hard time sharing. We’re just giving some encouragement for that. – S

Myz, Steven, and I were brainstorming over at Myz’s apartment and he had the idea of it sounding like being in a desert and the idea of wandering like the Israelites. We each came to that with a different perspective. I came with the viewpoint of modern day Christians feeling like they’re wandering and lost because of ridicule or discouragement that they might be feeling for their faith. My favorite part of this song is absolutely Myz’s vocals when he sings “This for the Nomads/Never going back.” – K

This song is about continuing to share Jesus even though it is difficult at times. We can feel like wanderers or drifters in our lives and feel like we are the only ones carrying out the faith! But Moses and other biblical characters were faithful. This track is built to encourage those to keep sharing their faith no matter how many rejections you’ve faced or how difficult it can be. – M

5. Stuck in a Trap (ft. SW & C-Los)

Stuck in a Trap was just a message that I wanted to share. I’ve had a few people in life that aren’t saved that have told me that they feel too tainted for God’s love and God’s grace, and it’s something that hurts to hear. But also, Jesus can give them the hope of what the Gospel actually says about this situation. With this song, even in the process, there was a time where I was going through a difficult time with my own walk and I listened to this song and it actually spoke to me in that time. I truly hope and pray this song changes somebody’s way of thinking. God will do the work. – S

I’m starting to like trap music. Not the lyrics that most rappers rap over it, but the style of hip-hop itself. I think SW and I did an exceptional job of making sure there was substance in our lyrics for this one. This may be the more important message I want people to hear from this album. Falling into temptation often seems like repeatedly falling into a trap. It’s a lot harder to see God in dark places, but He is in fact there and ready to pull you out of the trap you can’t seem to break free of. – C

6. Step Yo Game Up (ft. SW & 2K)

“Step Yo Game Up” was more of a competitive song as well as a message of what I’ve been seeing lately as far as people worshipping things that are worthless. But there’s definitely a competitive aspect that says “I have this God-given talent, and I have what it takes to be good at this.” I just need to prove it, and I do it through music. – S

Steven took point on this one. We approached it as a sort of sequel to his song “The Reason” from his Reminiscent mixtape. I always thought of it being like us saying “look what God has given us and what we can do through him”. It’s also us talking about the idea of false idols and that we need to step our game up in recognizing them and helping others find the truth. – K

7. Tuesday

When Los brought up the idea of doing a song with all four of us, I was excited. It was going to be a cypher of sorts, a way to get in and out fast and show off skills. So I approached the first verse of Tuesday as an opportunity to introduced myself and the group at the end of the album and I wrote just that, an introduction for the finale. – K

“Tuesday” was just a blessing to be a part of. It was originally C-Los and Myz’s song, but they allowed us to be on it. I just wanted to contribute the best I could! The message was just more of a “don’t sleep on ‘The Forks’ crew because we have God-given talent and we’re gonna use it for Him.” – S

This track is just fun and rapping for Jesus. Before SFT, Carlos and I did most of our studio time on Tuesday nights as we worked on music! This is a banner to come together as a group and competitively slay this beat with one another. – M

When we were recording Myz’s mixtape, Phenom4Eons, a lot of times, Tuesday was the only day of the week that he could come over to record. So when we did get together, we had to make the most of it, getting as many quality recordings for as many songs as we could. As believers, we are instructed to give our best at everything we do. For us and the process of creating music, that was a Tuesday. – C

 

Shoot For Teams is available on all digital stores and streamers or right here. You can also find The Forks on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @TheForksRap.

The Oscars 2018: My Predictions

The Oscars 2018: My Predictions

Bold signifies who I think will win. Underlined signifies who I want to win. I will be updating the winners and tallying my score live with the Oscars THIS SUNDAY!

I. Best Picture:

  • Call Me By Your Name
  • Darkest Hour
  • Dunkirk
  • Get Out
  • Lady Bird
  • Phantom Thread
  • The Post
  • The Shape of Water
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Winner: The Shape of Water

II. Best Actor:

  • Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
  • Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
  • Daniel Kalyuua, Get Out
  • Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Winner: Gary Oldman

III. Best Actress:

  • Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
  • Saiorse Ronan, Lady Bird
  • Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
  • Meryl Streep, The Post

Winner: Frances McDormand

**I am also okay with McDormand or Hawkins winning.

IV. Best Supporting Actor:

  • Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 
  • Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
  • Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
  • Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World

Winner: Sam Rockwell

V. Best Supporting Actress:

  • Allison Janney, I, Tonya
  • Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
  • Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
  • Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
  • Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Winner: Allison Janney

VI. Best Director:

  • Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
  • Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
  • Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
  • Jordan Peele, Get Out
  • Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

Winner: Guillermo del Toro

VII. Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • Scott Frank, Michael Green, & James Mangold, Logan
  • James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name
  • Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, The Disaster Artist
  • Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game
  • Virgil Williams and Dee Rees, Mudbound

Winner: Call Me By Your Name

VIII. Best Original Screenplay:

  • Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, The Shape of Water
  • Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick
  • Jordan Peele, Get Out
  • Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

Winner: Get Out

*I want either Big Sick or Lady Bird.

IX. Best Animated Feature

  • Coco
  • Loving Vincent
  • Ferdinand
  • The Boss Baby
  • The Breadwinner

Winner: Coco

X. Best Cinematography:

  • Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049
  • Bruno Delbonnel, Darkest Hour
  • Dan Laustsen, The Shape of Water
  • Rachel Morrison, Mudbound
  • Hoyte Van Hoytema, Dunkirk

Winner: Blade Runner 2049

XI. Best Film Editing:

  • Dunkirk
  • The Shape of Water
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Baby Driver
  • I, Tonya

Winner: Dunkirk

XII. Best Production Design:

  • The Shape of Water
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Dunkirk
  • Darkest Hour
  • Beauty and the Beast

Winner: The Shape of Water

XIII. Best Original Score:

  • Alexandre Desplat, The Shape of Water
  • John Williams, Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Hans Zimmer, Dunkirk
  • Johnny Greenwood, Phantom Thread
  • Carter Burwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Winner: The Shape of Water

XIV. Best Original Song:

  • “Remember Me,” Coco
  • “This Is Me,” The Greatest Showman
  • “Mystery of Love,” Call Me By Your Name
  • “Stand Up for Something,” Marshall
  • “Mighty River,” Mudbound

Winner: Remember Me

XV. Best Costume Design:

  • Phantom Thread
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • The Shape of Water
  • Darkest Hour
  • Victoria & Abdul

Winner: Phantom Thread

XVI. Best Hair and Makeup

  • Darkest Hour
  • Wonder
  • Victoria & Abdul

Winner: Darkest Hour

XVII. Best Sound Editing

  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Dunkirk
  • Baby Driver
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • The Shape of Water

Winner: Dunkirk

XVIII. Best Sound Mixing

  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Dunkirk
  • Baby Driver
  • The Shape of Water
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Winner: Dunkirk

XIX. Best Visual Effects

  • Blade Runner 2049
  • War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
  • Kong: Skull Island

Winner: Blade Runner 2049

XX. Best Foreign Language

  • Lovesless
  • On Body and Soul
  • A Fantastic Woman
  • The Square
  • The Insult

Winner: A Fantastic Woman

XX1I. Best Documentary Feature

  • Faces Places
  • Icarus
  • Abacus: Small Enough To Jail
  • Last Man in Aleppo
  • Strong Island

Winner: Icarus

XXII. Best Animated Short

  • Lou
  • Dear Basketball
  • Garden Party
  • Negative Space
  • Revolting Rhymes

Winner: Dear Basketball

XXIII. Best Documentary Short

  • Edith+Eddie
  • Heroin(e)
  • Knife Skills
  • Traffic Stop
  • Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405

Winner: Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405

XXIV. Best Live Action Short

  • DeKalb Elementary
  • The Silent Child
  • The Eleven O’Clock
  • Watu Wote/All of Us
  • My Nephew Emmitt

Winner: The Silent Child

SCORE: 19/24 (19-5)

Time Out for Sports IV: Bring It Home

Time Out for Sports IV: Bring It Home

Let’s Just Relive This For A Moment

 

Okay now with that out of the way, it’s time to talk about the Championship round!

 

AFC Championship:

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are the obvious choice here. They had a nice showing last week against the Titans. Now, here’s the kicker. The Jacksonville Jaguars are their opponents this week. The Jags are an unstoppable force of nature on defense, absolutely stunning the Steelers last week. It’s the Jags year to play in the Super Bowl and they’re gunning for Tom Brady. Brady is easy to fluster if you can stay in his face and that’s exactly what the Jags will do. I see Sacksonville bringing it and dethroning the reigning AFC champions. The Jags will win, 50-35.

NFC Championship:

The world is on the side of the Vikings now. Case Keenum and the Vikings pulled of a miracle last week (see above video). They are on a collision course with the Lombardi trophy and nothing is stopping them. The Philadelphia Eagles have a good defense, I just don’t think they will be able to shut down this incredible offense. The Vikings defense is also going to ruin Nick Foles and the offense’s day. It’s a Minnesota victory, 28-14.

My Super Bowl prediction remains in tact, so until next week, when we have the official Super Bowl LII lineup, this is Kaleb signing off.

Printable-NFL-Playoff-Bracket-2017-2018

Time Out For Sports III: The Thunderdome

Time Out For Sports III: The Thunderdome

Hello everyone. It’s been an entire football season since I’ve written a Time Out For Sports piece, so what better time to come back and revisit the NFL than with another playoff essay. Today, I’m going to examine the final two weeks of 2018 NFL playoffs and end with my prediction for who will be in Super Bowl LII. I do want to make Time Out For Sports a weekly mini-series until we reach Super Bowl LII. So here we go.

Previously On The Playoffs

At the start of the playoffs, this is what we saw for the playoff seedings.

AFC:

  1. New England Patriots (13-3)
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars (12-4)
  4. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
  5. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
  6. Buffalo Bills (9-7)

NFC:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
  2. Minnesota Vikings (13-3)
  3. Los Angeles Rams (12-4)
  4. New Orleans Saints (11-5)
  5. Carolina Panthers (11-5)
  6. Atlanta Falcons (10-6)

NFC Wild Cards

The Atlanta Falcons faced the Los Angeles Rams in the deciding game that launched the NFC Playoffs. Matt Ryan and the offense led the team to a round one victory over the Jared Goff and the Rams, seeing the defending NFC champions eliminate a fan favorite early on. The Falcons will advance to Philadelphia this Saturday to play the seemingly unstoppable Eagles, under the leadership of Nick Foles.

The second wild card game pit two rivals against each other to reach the frozen tundra of Minnesota. Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints pulled out a narrow victory over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, setting up a playoff rematch between two bitter enemies.

AFC Wild Cards

The AFC playoffs are always rather dull and weird, and this year was no exception. Marcus Mariota led the Tennessee Titans to an amazing comeback victory over Alex Smith and the favored Kansas City Chiefs. The upset Titans team is now poised to play Tom Brady and the legendary New England Patriots on Saturday.

The Buffalo Bills eeked into the playoffs thanks to a Ravens loss in week 17. The team found themselves locked out of the end zone by the Jacksonville Jaguars defense. Blake Bortles and the offense were able to put one touchdown’s distance between them and Tyrod Taylor’s Bills. A last second Bills QB injury resulted in the infamous Peterman taking the field for a late, valiant drive that ended in the game winning Jacksonville interception. The Jags will be traveling to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers next Sunday.

NFC Divisional

The Minnesota Vikings are having their best season since 2009 when Brett Favre led them to the championship game. Coincidentally, the current team will be facing the same team that ended their 2009 playoff run in Drew Brees and the Saints. Led by the surprise MVP candidate Case Keenum, the Vikes are a complete team, marked by the league’s top defense, featuring a murderer’s row including Everson Griffen and Xavier Rhodes, and an underrated offense consisting of a strong WR corp in Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph and a powerhouse run game with Latavius Murray and Jerrick McKinnon. What’s even more impressive? This team is playing on second strings. Case stepped in for Sam Bradford in week 2 and never left. After 4 weeks, Murray & McKinnon got their shot after rookie sensation Dalvin Cook suffered a season ending injury. So just them being this good is a feat. However, they aren’t done. They rematch the team that stopped them from appearing in Super Bowl XLIV, something Vikings fans and players alike haven’t forgotten. The fact that the Vikings are hosting the New Orleans Saints is going to affect a lot. The Vikings are going to pull out the victory, holding Brees’ offense to just 14 points and ending with a score of 28-14.

The Eagles were looking like an unbeatable playoff team. Then they lost MVP QB Carson Wentz to a torn ACL. While Nick Foles is a solid placeholder, he’s not going to lead them to a Super Bowl. At best, he leads them to a first round bye and faceoff with the defending Atlanta Falcons. Ryan’s team will be hyped up from their previous victory and will have rings on the brain. The Falcons will upset the Eagles and land the birds the Philly, 35-24.

AFC Divisional

The Jacksonville Jaguars squaring off with the Pittsburgh Steelers is a matchup many will predict going one way. The Steelers are strong offense with a solid defense. That was until Antonio Brown’s injury. Now the Steelers are in a bad position going into this game, especially against a well-rounded shock team like the Jags. The Jags will upset, holding Ben Rothlisberger to just 14. Final score: 42-14, Jags.

The Patriots are a team everyone has their eyes on. Many assumed last year’s Super Bowl win would have signaled the retirement of Tom Brady and the end of the Pats dynasty. Brady crushed that idea with his return and 13-3 record. The Pats had a solid year, but aren’t a well-rounded team. In fact, the defense is bad. The offense is only good because of Tom Brady. The Titans may not be the most even match, but the surprise upset over the Chiefs could provide the required momentum to stop Brady from another championship. As much as I hate that team, I have to side with the Patriots. 28-14, Pats.

NFC Championship Game

The Minnesota Vikings have a home field Super Bowl on their minds and nothing will stop them from reaching that game. Having defeated them once before, the Atlanta Falcons might be the easiest game left for the Vikings to win, but it’ll still be a fun one. The unstoppable defense of the Vikings will neutralize Ryan’s offense, while the Falcons defense just won’t be able to hold Keenum’s strong offense. 24-7, Vikes.

AFC Championship Game

Here’s where Brady’s season ends. The Jaguars defense will be the MVP of this game, shutting down Brady and holding him to just 14 points. Bortles and his offense will show how weak the Pats defense is and run up the score as much as possible, finishing with a 28-14 win.

Super Bowl LII

The 52nd Super Bowl is an article for another day, mainly next week for updated analysis, but to give a quick prediction, I’m saying a Vikings/Jaguars Super Bowl is on the cards and would be the most evenly matched game of the season. The difference would come down to the offensive game. Keenum’s team will be a difficult one for the Jags to cover as efficiently, while Bortles’ team won’t be able to put up as many points against the top defense. The Vikes will bring home their first Lombardi, winning 35-21. Check back next week for updated analysis and predictions following the NFL Divisional Round Playoffs.

Playoffs Bracket

Blessings: A Review

Blessings: A Review

Introduction:

The first edition of #MusicMonday in 2018 follows Futuristic. Furtistic first came on the scene in 2009 with his debut album The Professor X Tape. He followed that up with The Fly Trap in 2011, Dream Big in 2012, Chasing Down a Dream in 2013, T.G.I.F. in 2013, Traveling Local in 2014, The Rise in 2015, his collaborative album with Devvon Tercel Coast 2 Coast in 2015, As Seen on the Internet in 2016, and What More Could You Ask For? in 2017. Now comes his latest and, possibly, greatest yet: Blessings. 

1. Life

The intro track is rather intense. It feels like Futuristic playing catch-up with his audience while venting his frustrations and worries. This has become standard for rap albums, but Futuristic does a good job. His flow is impeccable and his wordplay is strong. The production is solid. Life is his 44 Bars and he owns it.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: B

2. Benz

The opening is kinda funny. The hook is kinda a flashy dig at his friends. The song is just a flex song. While it’s catchy and kinda fun, it’s all style and no substance.

Track Rating: 6/10

Grade: C

3. Do Too Much

The hook and production are sleek and fun. It’s a groovy jam. Futuristic’s vocals are really solid. Overall, this jam is a really confident and solid one. It’s a step up from the last track.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

4. Talk (ft. Tech N9ne and Devvon Terrell)

This is a really impressive and energetic song. Every single person included brings their A+ game and it’s fantastic. The standout line is Devvon’s lisp-y Mike Tyson. The lyricism and sheer prowess and speed of the song is breakneck. It’s the standout of the whole album.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

5. Clock

Futuristic’s vocals are really solid. The love song about making time is really good. The production is sleek and standout. His lyricism is very solid, but it’s his vocals that shine. It’s a great inclusion on this album. The pianos are a really nice touch.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

6. Lights

If there’s one thing I can say for this album, it’s the production is standout. Another chill and brightly produced is really cool. The song about fame is cool. The inclusion of the clock ticking in the background is a nice touch. Futuristic’s vocals are solid again. His lyricism is fantastic. His flow pattern is what makes him one of the greats.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

7. Not the Vibe

The premise of this song is really smart. The hook is contradictory to the verses. While the hook says none of the things he claims to do in the verses are good or what he’s about. That’s a really cool performance tool. He uses it to be say everything everyone else says in his verses and then clarifies in his hook it’s not right. It’s a solid track.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B+

8. Get It Together

A smooth, guitar driven track is uncommon in rap, making a really great addition to the album. While the song itself is confusing as to what it’s trying to say, the production is excellent. The lyricism is remarkable, but the songwriting is messy.

Track Rating: 6/10

Grade: B-

9. Epiphany (ft. NF)

The first single off the album is haunting. NF is incredible in his feature and meshes really well wot Futuristic. The beat is really cool and the two flow extremely well together. This is a great song. The raw talent and emotion from the two is great.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

10. Change Somebody

The final song on the album leaves things on a positive, uplifting note. The production on this last one is outstanding. The mixtures of horns and vocals and other sounds creates an unorthodox flow, but Futuristic kills it. This is the best one to end this wonderful album. It’s a big finale that works really well. It’s a perfect end.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

Conclusion:

Futuristic is one of the best in business. His flow is something really impressive and his ability to pick good collaborators and write strong rhymes makes him a contender to be an all-time great. The production on this album is ridiculously amazing. This is Futuristic’s best album yet, and he’s got lots of fuel left in him.

Album Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

Godspell: A Review

Godspell: A Review

Introduction:

I had never heard of the show Godspell until it was announced as the musical my senior year. So I figured, what better way to promote my final high school musical than by reviewing the original cast recording. Written by John-Michael Tebelak and composed by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell follows the adventures of Jesus Christ and his band of misfits as they form the most enduring community in world history in the form of playing games, telling stories, and singing songs, leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. Since there are many versions of the show, I decided I’d review the original cast album, which excludes “Tower of Babble” and “Beautiful City” (written for the film).

1. Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

Starting with some obnoxious horns, the opener launches with some stellar vocals from David Haskell, the originator of the roles of Judas and John The Baptist. After his a capella solo, the 70s disco/gospel music kicks in and we have a full cast that gets the listener moving to the grooving disco-esqe number.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

2. Save the People

The second number features pianos and acoustic guitars, arranged in a style similar to Billy Joel. Stephen Nathan, the original Jesus, jumps into a beautiful number calling for God to “save the people” of Earth. It’s beautiful song vocally and instrumentally that is an infectious and catchy tune.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

3. Day By Day

The most popular number from the show, “Day by Day” is a slow burn. While asking for God’s aid in taking life one day at a time is a pretty topic, the song takes a bit to pick up. Once it does, it’s a pretty fun tune.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B

4. Learn Your Lessons Well

An overly exuberant number about memorizing scripture and what you’re taught in Sunday school, it’s a fun tune that slides right into the show.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B

5. Bless the Lord

The soft rock song is pretty solid. It moves pretty well and grooves along nicely. It speeds up and creates a real sense of fun in the show. As a stand-alone song, it’s not great, but it’s solid. Joanne Jonas’s vocals are solid.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: B+

6. All for the Best

This vaudeville-style duo between Stephen Nathan and David Haskell is the best song of the show. With its comical sense of timing and wonderful arrangements, the sixth number is truly a delight.

Track Rating: 10/10
Grade: A+

7. All Good Gifts

This acoustic, Gospel-inspired number is beautiful. Lamar Alford shines vocally. His prowess is truly unmatched. The song about being thankful for the gifts of God is really wonderful.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

8. Light of the World

This disco pop number is the definition of infectious. It’s just a delightful blast that does a perfect job of closing the first act, utilizing dance breaks and unparalleled energy.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

9. Turn Back, O Man

This sleezy showtune is fun gives a real 20s showgirl vibe, which is what they’re going for in the show. Sonia Manzano is incredible and her performance is wonderful. It’s song that is so catchy that you’ll be singing it forever.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

10. Alas for You

This rage-filled 70s rock number is directed as a warning to hypocrites and truly exhibits the performance of Stephen Nathan and his range. It’s a wonderful tune.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

11. By My Side

This slower, more personal number lands better than “Day by Day”, but it’s still rather dull. Overall, the performances are haunting, but the lyricism falls short.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

12. We Beseech Thee

Jeffery Mylett and company deliver a final fun and lighthearted number for the show as the company pretends to be instruments and just jam in the Gospel-Rock blend. It explifies the fun of the show.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A+

13. On the Willows

The song performed traditionally by The Band, in other version Judas, is a tragically beautiful number carried by acoustic guitars as Judas prepares his betrayal of Jesus. While David Haskell doesn’t perform the song in the show, Steve Reinhardt leads The Band in a final tune before we reach the end of our show.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

14. Finale

Stephen Nathan’s acting is once again displayed as he and the company really bring the show home and fill the audience will several different emotions at once: despair at the death of Jesus, anger at the circumstances, fear of the unknown, and hope and joy for the future. It evokes such incredible feelings and closes the show in an incredible way.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

15. Day by Day (Reprise)

While our show does not perform this number, it closes out the cast album. I’m not sure contextually why the song is placed last other than to symbolize Jesus’s resurrection and epilogue the show as they’re continuing the community, but overall, it’s not a good song in the slightest. While faster paced than the original, it’s a sad reprise that doesn’t need to in the show. I can see why they replaced it with “Beautiful City,” a much superior song.

Track Rating: 1/10

Grade: F

 

Conclusion:

The album is fun and the songs are really great. It’s a show that must be experienced in person, with a cast that works for you, and you have the chance to do so Friday, November 17th – Sunday, November 19th at the East Grand Forks Senior High School Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students. Showtimes are at 7:00pm Friday – Saturday and 2:00pm on Sunday.

Album Rating: 8/10

Grade: B+