SZA Proves Herself As A Musical Force On The ‘Ctrl Tour’

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The singer/songwriter Solána Imani Rowe, better known as SZA, is an R&B/Soul artist who can be best described as someone who is recognized for her tremendous talent and unconventional melodies that captivate listeners almost instantly. When I first sampled the album, I was drawn in by the emotional depth and truth sung through her song “Supermodel” and from there, every song on the first studio album (Ctrl) demanded you listen to better understand her life stories through her unique sounds and vocal range. Upon listening, I knew that SZA was the kind of artist you must see live – because her music comes from within, and live music from someone who creates their own work masterfully shines best when witnessed in the moment.

By the time SZA entered Sacramento’s Ace of Spades, the room erupted with cheers and there wasn’t a single person in the sold-out venue who didn’t visibly become excited to see her take the stage. With songs like “Supermodel” and “Normal Girl”  SZA is given the opportunity to belt the soulful tunes that show a more vulnerable side as well as the complications of her relationships. SZA doesn’t simply sing these songs though, she actually prefaces them by relating to each issue or emotion she felt while penning the tracks – bringing in that element of relatability to her artistry in ways that people are quickly realizing resonates with their own lives.

When it comes to her album, SZA performed the entirety with songs such as “Love Galore” giving SZA the chance to really showcase herself as a performer, dancing around the stage to the bass-heavy beat and singing along to the Travis Scott verses as if she herself is able to enjoy the captivating synth additions and arrangements that set her music apart from other mainstream artists. Despite the venue starting later than usual, SZA made a point to acknowledge she was going to utilize every moment – even going as far as adding a few songs and coming out for an encore performance of “twoAM.”

SZA has (and radiates) the epitome of individuality, as she took the time to dance across the stage feeling unrehearsed and providing that carefree cool factor that makes her a force in the industry when mixed with her musicality. The Ctrl singer has no need to follow traditional paths to gain notoriety being someone who wears what she wants, sings what she wants and spreads messages that promote self exploration and the hardships that sometimes force you to reach that point. This is better told through her song “20 something” detailing her feelings of being stuck in between transition with love and maturing – a self analytical anthem for a generation that was one of her most intimate performances that exceeded any potential studio produced version of her talent.

Aside from some of the slower ballads, SZA has other offerings such as “Go Gina” the jazz-themed song that will inspire you to move to the mesmerizing rasp in the artist’s range. Though SZA has her own distinct voice, her songs all manage to feel entirely different than each track with her eclectic song “Anything” to laidback hypnotizing sounds of “Broken Clocks” and “Doves in the Wind” featuring Kendrick Lamar. As SZA performed the album to the changing neon Ctrl sign behind her, it sparked an epiphany that she is going to become a prominent singer/songwriter for years to come, and if there’s any musical justice in the world – we’ll be seeing SZA receiving much more well earned respect and praise ( my money is on a few Grammys as well.)

If you will be seeing SZA live on her Ctrl Tour, the one thing you should feel is genuine excitement because with an inspiring artist like this, you won’t be disappointed.

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What To Wear: Bled Basics

The Florida based clothing company Bled Basics (established in 2013) is an up and coming staple for simplicity with and an edge. Recently, I was able to obtain a few of the apparel companies tees and thought I might need to give you a little idea of what they have to offer before you’ve missed out and it’s gone.

The first shirt is a white cotton tee (screen-printed by hand) with a ski mask as the focal point. Across the bottom of the shirt is the signature ‘Bled’ name in a 90’s pop culture inspired font with the overall design that feels reminiscent to the film Spring Breakers – so who wouldn’t enjoy a reminder of the party drama starring James Franco and Selena Gomez?

The second is a cotton tee in black (made the same way) with a reference to two things everyone will experience: death and caffeine. The shirt has a grim reaper image centered without being an in-your-face size, holding his sickle and a cup of steaming coffee. The words “even in death” that lie beneath the reaper sum up the gist of the feeling referenced, bringing fun to a more casual tee for those lovers of black everything (shirts, shoes, pants, you can never have too much.)

Bled Basics offers an array of other tees such as multiple tie dye printed shirts with phrases / melty images, or even the clever cropped tee that reads “raindrop, croptop.” Bled Basics is definitely a brand worth checking out and is a solid reminder to support independent designers with fun and casual wear – at the very least you’ll find some fun kickback clothing with a darker vibe and create some fun social media pictures! Check out Bled Basics for more of their designs and watch for upcoming tees in the near future!

For an exclusive 20% discount on your purchase, use the promo code ‘AedanJuvet’ at checkout.

The Betrayal Knows My Name Is An Anime With Drama, Romance and Supernatural Fun

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Anime: The Betrayal Knows My Name

Relased By: Funimation

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Retail Price: $59.99

Once in awhile, an anime series comes along that is full of surprises, and the series The Betrayal Knows My Name is certainly one of those rare instances. Originally based on manga by Odagiri Hotaru, the genre-bending series brings drama, gothic/supernatural and romance into one with sprinkles of action to add even more variety in the series makeup. The Betrayal Knows My Name starts off by introducing us to the meek and “kind hearted” Yuki Sakurai who is a young man who was abandoned at an orphanage and developed a mysterious ability that made him tuned to other emotions via physical contact. It takes a toll on the protagonist, who doesn’t have any recollection of his family or prior life (past lives are an important part of the plot), but his life begins to change after encountering a stranger shrouded in mystery.

Yuki begins to become hunted by “Duras” or evil entities, showing him a side of the world he wasn’t aware existed. With Yuki thrown into new danger and a power that is still growing, the mystery man by the name of Luka becomes Yuki’s best bet to survive whatever is coming and discover what his past life entailed. Shortly after, Yuki discovers he’s one of the Zweilt Guardians intended to protect humanity and demolish the duras. The other guardians have been watching over him, but Yuki is the only one who can’t recall the past — but is viewed as their beacon of hope in the battle against evil. Even though Yuki wants to stay alive and piece his past together, his former childhood friend Kanata has a past that will pit friend against friend.

Now that you have a grasp on the general storyline of The Betrayal Knows My Name, it’s time to elaborate on the series’ recurring elements. The anime definitely caters to an audience that would appreciate two anime directions; the first is drama and or angst. There is plenty of time spent on conversations that may or may not happen — for example, if portions of the past should be divulged or emotions laid bare. The second aspect that would be worth mentioning is the overarching Shounen Ai genre (with innuendos on same-sex romance that sometimes are in the open). It doesn’t teeter into the graphic series that some would be considered (Freezing, Junjou Romantica) but tries to showcase an importance of the bonds between two male characters in multiple pairings. By using Luca as someone who loves by soul/essence, the series tries to abandon concepts of designated sexuality and embrace love in general.

 In a series with many interesting characters, Yuki is probably the least interesting to focus on. He requires consistent saving, makes poor decisions and often endangers individuals without even realizing it. He additionally fulfills cliches and stereotypes, but, despite Yuki’s occasional annoyance, there are actually plenty of others who carry the extra weight with more positive attributes. His romantic interest (though still considered subtext, they say), Luca, plays the opposite bad-boy role because he’s a leather-clad Duras who more than anything and was madly in love with Yuki in his former life as a woman. Even if Yuki is reborn a man (just as female Yuki wished before dying), Luca will do whatever is necessary to stay by his side creating an undying love and respectable loyalty.

 Of the other Zweilt Guardians, the two that could easily receive a spinoff series of their own would be Hotsuma Renjou and Shusei Usui. Hotsuma was abandoned young and viewed as a monster for his fire-starting ability, often disagreeing with Yuki, who has an opposite persona. Being left behind and feeling cut-off, Hotsuma decided he would end his own life feeling completely alone. At that moment, Shusei stopped him from killing himself and was left with a drastic burn scar in return. Feeling entirely connected to Shusei after seeing his feelings, he dedicates his life to protecting his ally and soulmate without deviation. With Hotsuma finally abandoning his feelings of being a monster, a decision is made that adds true drama and suspense that was arguably the best storyline in the anime. As far as the resolve goes, I won’t give anything away, but I will say that Hotsuma and Shusei together are all around the best aspect of The Betrayal Knows My Name.

The animation quality from The Betrayal Knows My Name is striking while welcoming dark atmospheres. The character designs are above average, with the only oddity being the fashion choices for select characters (looking at you, Luca). The Japanese voice cast does their best work in those moments that capture highs and lows of emotions, so there aren’t any gripes with the production value of the anime series. The plot of Betrayal may not have too much invested, and the lead isn’t the best example of the series, but there are enough avenues to explore with memory and particular characters that make The Betrayal Knows My Name an anime that is more than meets the eye.

Overall Score: 8/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

  • I genuinely admired the relationship dynamic between Shusei & Hotsuma; they felt like crucial puzzle pieces to one another and the anime’s success.
  • I would say Luca and Kanata (who were arguably evil by nature) were more interesting than Yuki.
  • Tsukumo and Toko (sibling Zweilt Guardians) didn’t get mentioned above, but I did want to acknowledge the brother and sister were other supporting roles that filled contributed to positive reception from Betrayal.