Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Brother...and A Piano

I've been playing piano since I was 3 years old, and my parents enrolled me in lessons. I didn't know better...I practiced, I played, and I fell in love with the instrument. It is what I know, and what I like...from before I even knew what I knew and liked!

I have been teaching piano for over 15 years, and I have an innate passion for the instrument. I think it's beautiful. It sounds beautiful, it looks beautiful, and there is no instrument in the world that can move me like the piano can.

And the only thing I love more than playing the piano myself...is hearing someone else play! The rare occasion when I can catch a live pianist, I'm in paradise. I pay big bucks to hear the likes of a pianist on a grand stage with fabulous acoutics and a fancy brand of piano.

As much as I enjoy classical music and what it represents in the world of piano playing...I ADORE R&B and pop music on a piano. Combined with a strong voice, fabulous lyrics, and lots of heart...there is nothing else I'd rather hear. Absolutely nothing.

In particular, nothing gets me like a brother and a piano. A man behind a keyboard is 100% wonderfulness, as far as I'm concerned. And while Alicia Keys and countless other women can rock the ivories just as well as their male counterparts, it is still a great joy for me to see a man maneuver the 88's with precision.

I'd say John Legend has most recently featured the "brother and the piano" element to R&B, with numerous hits, constant tours, and an impeccable talent. One of my all-time favourites is "Ordinary People" that was like a breath of fresh air to me. Just a man and his instrument. No distractions, no fine-tuning or studio tricks, just natural talent.



One of the most powerful performances I've ever heard was during the memorial service for Michael Jackson, when Stevie Wonder performed a medley of his songs in Michael's honour. To this day, it still takes my breath away.



Another one of the greatest brothers on a piano is undoubtedly Lionel Richie. I love me some Lionel Ritchie! Not only was he a beautiful song writer, but he maintained an element of the instrument in his music at all times. Here's a back-in-the-day clip of him working his magic. Silver glitter jumpsuit, and all!



Another legend...Bruce Hornsby, who to this day can't be contended with some of his classic piano compositions. This is him, this year, performing "The Way It Is."



And how about that David Foster? Responsible for composing some of the greatest love songs of all times, and the most unforgettable piano. For example, the "Love Theme From St. Elmo's Fire."



Here's one I've recently discovered, and an artist I am now gaining growing appreciation for. It's Tank performing "Next Breath"...



Let's not forget everyone's favourite old school pianist, D'Angelo, who apparently "still got it"...as seen in footage from earlier this year, in Europe:



Jamie Foxx is fabulous as well. I caught him live back in 2008 I believe it was, in a comedy/musical performance that had me laughing...and weak in the knees. Talented brother, across the board! Here's a sample of his abilities:



There are so many others, from Elton John to Justin Timberlake. And many pianists behind-the-scenes who can play the instrument, although may not display it as often as they should. Any producer worth his tracks can manipulate a keyboard...and there as so many name-less pianists that stand behind some of our favourite artists for years, who have the same talents...if not greater talents.

There's not much I can say about them...I'd much rather listen. Indefinitely. There is no greater sound, as far as I'm concerned.

In the words of Billy Joel:

Sing us a song, you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we're all in the mood for a melody
And you've got us all feelin' all right!

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

So Over BBM

Ok, so in February of this year I may or may not have written an extensive blog about BBM culture and why it’s taken over the world, and should be a potential subject for collegiate study. I think it’s safe to say that I wasn’t the only one caught up heavily in the essence of BBM-ness. Funny pictures. “Inside joke” statuses. Oh, what wonderfulness and joy BBM once brought to the masses. Oh, the good old days.

But I am 110% over it. While mere months ago I swore by BlackBerry and this fantastic method of staying in touch and fass-ing in other people’s business around the clock…I am officially not interested in BBM anymore. Here’s why.

1) The damn BlackBerry itself is such a nuisance. OK, so it has buttons. I like the fact that it has buttons, but other than that, this dyam phone is faulty, freezy, and if I have to pull out that battery one more time on the road just to be able to free up some bandwidth, I swear…

2) BBM is borderline intrusive at times. People can see when you wake up, estimate when you go to bed, come home from the club, etc. Nothing wrong with changing up the pics though. It can be fun. We all do it. I dig it. But it’s what BBM-ers do with this information that is nuts. Because if you change your picture/status, they assume you’re awake or active or in the mood to chat. If you update your interest-of-the-moment, they use it as a spring board for discussion. If you show them where you’re at, they are all of a sudden upinnayourbusiness. You know how many people have to contemplate putting up a picture or status, because of that ONE BBM-er that they don't want to know wha gwan? Annoying.

OK, forget the list...because even the writing of this BBM blog will potentially inadvertenly offend one of my BBM compadres who may fear they have committed one of the many BBM crimes I am about to mention. So I'll just keep it real generic.

Just say you're out having a good old time and genuinely take a nice picture and want to put it up, you’re also opening up a world of nosiness or potential disappointment on other levels. Why weren’t they invited? Who are you with? How come you’re gone out when you’re supposed to be A) Not feeling well... B) Tired... C) Any other reason you may or may not have mentioned.

Hold on…is it just me? Do I have a problem with BBM, or do I just have a problem with Social Media right now? Because what was once fun and tech-savvy and cutting edge is now annoying, intrusive, and a chore. Yes, a chore. Just like Facebook, and Twitter, and the 101 other outlets (that I use daily, by the way). A promotional and business neccessity...but a personal headache.

Even the previously-entertaining icons aren’t cute anymore. The LOL-ing isn’t funny (was it ever?). The etiquette is gone out the window. The “D” delivered to “R” received isn’t even a freakin issue. Yeah, I read your message and I’m not responding…AND?!

For real doe. I’m ready to just go back to texting people like the good old days. Read it if you want. Answer if you want. And no one has to know what you’re wearing or who you’re with when you do it. Back to basics! Basics like the Nokia. Basics like the Vista. Where you had a sliver of control still over your phone communication!

So the very essence of the BlackBerry is going to be the very factor that destroys its appeal in my eyes. The beloved BBM has become the bloodclot BBM, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who sometimes wishes it would just go away.

I feel no way about deleting people from BBM on a whim now. If you don’t communicate with me ever…then it’s not really a necessity, right? If you only send me broadcasts, and aren’t likely to communicate with me outside of the promotion…then what’s the point, ya know? Real talk.

Am I bitter? Yes! Because I’m slowly and surely contemplating crossing over to Mac world, getting in line at the Apple store (which has been compared to a “Stone Love dance” by my DJ bredren…always ram!) and just getting a damn iPhone already. You ever hear an iPhone user complain about anything? EVER? Of course not. They are satisfied.

The bottom line is...it’s due time to end this BlackBerry relationship, and move onto a situation with some stability and peace of mind. It’s wack! It’s faulty!

So sorry “Team BlackBerry”…but it’s almost time for me to jump ship. If it wasn’t for the damn contract obligations at Cell Phone Company X, I would have gone FROM TIME! So I’ll tolerate you for now. I’ll keep the peace. I’ll smile, be cordial, and I won’t cause any problems if you don’t. But I swear. The day that contract is up, I’m bouncing, and I won’t look back.

It’s time to move on. Blame the BBM. That was the last straw.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Rihanna's Oprah Interview ~ Entertainment Gold

Ooh boy, that Rihanna interview on Oprah’s Next Chapter was entertainment gold! A good night of television, to say the least! So interesting on so many levels.

I can’t lie: I like Rihanna. I like her music, I’ve seen her live and I think she’s a great performer. I have a couple of her albums. I think her videos are always appealing. Her career has been on a constant incline, and her image, her style, and her persona are the prototypes of pop perfection. She’s beautiful. I like her voice. Rihanna is undoubtedly, a star.

Sooooooo to see her get up close and personal with Oprah last night was fascinating, only because I think it’s the first time she’s been this raw…and maybe even this natural. While I would consider myself a “fan” of hers, I’m not on the super “Navy” fan level where I like, read her articles and watch her interviews. If I catch it I catch it, but I don’t know much more about her than the average listener/viewer.

That being said, I knew that come Sunday, August 19, I would find myself on the couch at 9:00pm sharp to catch the interview, because I just LOVE the unfolding of these dramatic media plots. Undercover relationship turned into domestic crime turned into watch-and-wait turned into…another bomb dropping.

She still loves the brother! Juicy shit. And the entertainment news discussion this week will be off the chains, I’m sure.

My thoughts? 99% who cares…and 1% OMG! I can’t believe she just admitted that still loves Chris Brown! Bumbo. Clot. What’s that all about?!

I guess my perspective on their situation this entire time has been that they were both young, both in love, both multi-millionaires, and both somewhat entitled to go off the deep end at some point in their blossoming lives because of the sheer magnitude and craziness of their industry and related circumstances. It was almost inevitable. You can’t have that much sexiness, money, talent, fame, power, and hype, and no drama. Not in Hollywood, son.

So I really did hope that she didn’t go back to him, back in 2009 or 2010 when all the news was still fresh on the wire. I thought about the young fans, and the message it would send even to older abused women. The last thing you need is a reason to stay with someone who’s beating your ass. The last thing anyone needs is to see someone beautiful and rich and on top of the world…still staying with her abuser. So I was pleased to see that they allegedly kept their distance…at least away from the public eye.

HOWEVER…something told me that this story wasn’t done. Too much unsettled feelings, unanswered questions, and that Romeo and Juliet-esq feeling of knowing that they want to be together…but can’t.

And this is the essence of the media fanfare. People liked them together, and want to see them together again…you heard those hot lyrics on CakeCakeCakeCakeCakeCakeCake…! Hot ish! BUT as mature, rational adults (with adolescent fixations on pop stars, apparently), we knew that Chris and Rihanna were better off apart.

So now that she’s droppin’ these bombs on national TV and putting out there that she still loves the brother…things are about to tun up! Insert the next two months of entertainment news stories, Twitter analysis, and speculation.

My thoughts, though:

1) Chris Brown a idiot. Yeah he can dance his ass off. Yeah, the brother can sing. Yeah, he’s a cutie. But the boy is a fool. As talented as he is, he can’t articulate himself, and seems to still be a lil’ boy. Still needs to mature a bit. Still needs to grow up. So yeah, they made a cute couple “visually,” and I’m sure they were the best of friends…but other than two cute pictures of them hugging up in KFC, a couple great performances on music awards…I don’t really see his appeal as a “man.”

2) Little girls and big girls alike do NOT need to see a public figure seemingly forgiving and forgetting and running back into the arms of her abuser. As much as Rihanna may have understood and analyzed the situation…it is what it is. There is a bigger picture here, and the picture has millions of little girl eyes watching it. She needs to take one for the team in this case (the team being woman-kind) and stay away from that relationship indefinitely. Yeah, her father…yeah, she learned about herself…blah blah blah. It is what it is. Not a good situation to return to, regardless of the personal growth and rationalization.

3) She may love him now, but in another 5 years when she’s pushing 30 and grows even more into herself, she’ll realize that the adolescent love affair does not necessarily make a life partner. Right now it probably still stings just because of the nature of the relationship…but in the long run, there is surely a better suited partner out there for her…without the ridiculous baggage.

4) Rihanna still needs to grow. Yes, at 24 you feel like 100% secure in your womanhood. You feel like you know it all, you’re in tune with your feelings, wants and needs. At that point, no one can talk to you. You know what you want, and you’re sure of this. I remember. I was there once…ten years ago. And what can I say now? What I thought I knew at 24, and what I thought was best for me at 24, and what I thought was great logic and advice and perspective toooooootally pales in comparison to what I’ve learned since then. So Rihanna did a noble media thing of confessing her feelings and keeping it real…I ain’t mad at her for that. BUT, she will eventually realize that these thoughts and stomach butterflies and concern for Mr. Brown will be but a distant memory one day. It’s not the end-all and be-all of her relationship life, even though it seems like she’s having a hard time moving on…emotionally.

5) She’s freaking RIHANNA. Yo! Pick and choose, sistren! Pick and CHOOSE! Any man she wants (OK, “except” for Chris Brown) can be hers. Like, move on, and move up. Someone stable. Someone mature. Someone to teach her things. Someone to guide her. Someone to build a legacy with. I know when it comes to matters of the heart, sometimes it’s hard to separate logic from passion…but damn. It don’t get much hotter than this chick. Black, white, athlete, businessman, entertainer…whoever. She’s in a rare but fortunate position that she can just say the name, and I’m pretty sure it’s as good as done. So TRUST ME…love or no love, with options like hers she should be able to soon overcome the love affair that was Breezy…and really step into her womanhood, with a real man. There are plenty of them out there, unmarried, and probably willing. Do I need to make a list? Cause trust me…I’ve got a list! And Chris don’t even come close to the top 20.

Thanks Oprah for the entertaining television. Will I watch Kelsey Grammar talk about cross-dressing and cocaine? Ummmmmm, definitely not. BUT, this one particular Rihanna interview was enough to keep me awake and writing on a Monday morning, and looking forward to watching E! News and Entertainment Tonight for the next two nights for the follow up.

Juicy stuff. I can’t lie.

Entertainment junkie,
SMR