Can TikTok Create Talent?

You’ve definitely seen them: The teens (and even some adults) dancing and lip-syncing their way through fifteen seconds on an app that sprung up in the wake of Vine’s death. If you live under a rock and don’t know, I’m talking about TikTok.

In a short time, TikTok has become the new It app for a strong majority of today’s teens and young adults. Of course, this means there’s a whole new genre of influencer, one that, essentially, seems to have even less substance than the infamous YouTuber, or even an Instagram star.

So, why is it that musicians are using TikTok (and other questionable forms of social media) to launch music careers? Why are there so many articles out there telling them how to do so (really, Google it!)?

Obviously, transmedia has always had opportunities when used in a traditional marketing sense: Post some pictures and short videos on Instagram, put concert dates on Facebook’s events, and Tweet a few snarky comments to make yourself seem more relatable, and you’ll have fans. But apps like TikTok are an anomaly. What do fans get out of watching their favorite artists flossing (The dance kind, not the tooth kind. I’d be even more confused by the latter.)?

Before finding the answer in the present, we have to dig into the past.

If you’re around my age (21), you’ll likely remember when YouTube and Vine were the main sources of entertainment, and, as a result, the influencers that came from them. Yes, I’m talking about MAGCon.

I’m not here to make fun of the people who enjoyed MAGCon culture (or TikTok, or anything, really). In fact, I’ll admit it: I attended DigiTour, and I had fun! Yeah, some of the influencers didn’t really have a talent, and they just jumped around onstage, but there were some acts that I really enjoyed thanks to their charisma, comedy, or musical talent.

But, many people were there because they wanted to see those seemingly talentless influencers, the ones jumping around onstage. Why?

The answer is simple: They felt connected.

This could be the key to the TikTok phenomenon, too. When someone—especially a young, impressionable person—feels like they know someone’s personality online, they will want to know them in person, too. They will want to support this person, to feel like the relationship goes two ways. For many of these lucky fans, it can. For others, a “concert” is enough of an illusion to mask the true distance between creator and consumer.

So, we can understand this: People will support a creator with whom they feel a connection. But what about musicians on these apps? Would people still enjoy their music if the social media connection was severed? Should these performers stick to the apps, or expand their brand and play live?

From my own experience, and in my personal opinion, no—unless they’re extremely well-practiced and prepared to put on a show, not just a performance. The thing that breaks many social media-based artists in my mind is a lack of differentiation between a performance on an app, and a live show.

The perfect example is Brothers Page, a popular Instagram/TikTok team of brothers. Please take my critiques with a grain of salt, and remember that they are just that: critiques. As a music reviewer, this is my job, and it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy someone’s music.

And I do enjoy Brothers Page’s music! I think they have great voices and a lot of talent within the mashups they create on social media. Their vocals are very well-blended, trained, and suit the songs they choose to sing. I can definitely understand why they have (at this moment) almost forty thousand followers on TikTok and over a million on Instagram. I think it would be fair to say that they are, objectively, talented people.

That being said, I would not think so if I was only exposed to their live show. When I was first introduced to Brothers Page, it was via their opening act for Hot Chelle Rae’s Burlington, Vermont show on December 5, 2019. While it was mentioned that it was Brothers Page’s first live show, it was also completely obvious (at least to the trained eye) that they were completely unprepared. I can understand nerves and a lack of polishing for a first show. Heck, I can even sympathize with a train wreck. But it is my strong belief that bands who are not ready to play live should not do so until they are as bulletproof as possible, at least in rehearsal.

That’s not to say Brothers Page was a train wreck: Their vocals sounded very much similar to their social media videos, and nothing went explicitly wrong. But—and this is the Big But—they appeared as if they were performing for a phone camera, not a ballroom full of people. Marching in place and swaying back and forth may give videos a great sense of movement and presence, but it does the opposite on a large stage. Unless a social media musician understands this, their show will likely feel staged and small, much like this one.

That’s not to say that musicians who get their start online shouldn’t perform live. They should, but they should also keep in mind that live music is a whole new ball game.

In some ways, TikTok and other forms of social media can also truly benefit beginning artists, and this should be acknowledged. In fact, many artists that we know and love (Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, and Alessia Cara, the list goes on) gained fame because of social media. In fact, without TikTok, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” might have never gained popularity: Its viral success as part of the “Yeehaw Challenge” is what put him on the map as an artist. It will likely do the same thing for countless others before a new app replaces its fame.

Social media is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the music industry, to the point where, in coming years, I could see apps like TikTok becoming the place for fans to discover new music, and for artists to primarily create it. We’ll all just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, check out Brothers Page and decide for yourself:

Instagram
TikTok

 

A Day in My Life as a Music Blogger

Ever wonder how exactly my posts are made from start to finish? Whether you’re a curious reader, an aspiring writer, or a musician interested in submitting your work, it’s understandable that you might want to know a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, writing takes time, and so does running a blog with a scope like this one. I’m excited to give you a short behind-the-scenes look at my daily life as a music blogger!

Obviously, not every day looks the same, especially since I am a student. Below is a typical day during the semester for me, as accurately portrayed as possible….

8am: Wake up and leave for my first class around 8:45. I get there ridiculously early so my butt is in my chair for when class starts at 9:30, but I can get a lot done before the professor even arrives. If a post is being published, I typically send a link to the artist and do my social media promotion for it during this time frame, including writing the text, creating the graphic on Canva, and researching and adding hashtags. If I am publishing a Wednesday feature, I copy and paste the text and Canva graphic that I created earlier in the week for the post.

9:30am – 4:45pm: I am typically in class during this time period, depending on the day. If I have breaks during the day, I will use them to check my email and respond to artists or companies that may have contacted me. If time permits, I will also begin planning a post for the next week, or updating my calendar. Social media work also takes place during this period; I try to engage with other users by liking and commenting on their posts and following a few to make them aware of my account and the work I do. If I am running a promotion or need more artists to review, I will also post in music-related Facebook groups about it and potentially network a bit in my favorite group, Girls Behind the Rock Show, before logging off for more class time.

7pm: After dinner, I will choose to either focus on homework or write a post, depending on the day. I try to set a day to focus on each music review, particularly when it comes to album reviews, so I have ample time to really get into the sounds of each. I will listen to each track about three times, so reviewing can be pretty time-consuming before I even start writing. That being said, it’s a pleasant way to spend all that time!

11pm: After I finish writing, I’ll typically spend some time doing something else to relax and decompress after working all day. I try to get ready for bed and be attempting to fall asleep by 11, but my work never really stops: before bed, I tend to check my email once more and do a bit more work on social media before I go to sleep.

Obviously, weekends and workdays at my marketing job look a bit different, but my day-to-day life as a music reviewer is relatively consistent when it comes to what I do each day, even if the times change. If you’re interested in becoming a music blogger (or any kind of writer, honestly), consistency is the best thing you can do for yourself!

What does your daily life look like? I hope you enjoyed getting a peek at mine!

I’m 21!

Twenty one years ago today, the world gained another music reviewer: Happy birthday to me!

For most people, a 21st birthday is a big milestone: They can get into any concert, they can get a hotel room, and, most importantly, they can drink legally. For me, that last one doesn’t really matter.

As some of you may already know, I don’t drink. It’s a personal choice that I am proud of, but that I am questioned on a lot. Personally, I don’t like the taste of alcohol, the loss of control getting drunk entails, or the thought of putting something into my body that could result in harming myself or others, long or short-term. That being said, other people have their own reasons for their choice to be sober, and it isn’t always a great idea to ask. Just respect it!

The music industry often seems as if it revolves around alcohol and other drugs. Unfortunately, we have lost many talented musicians and others in the industry due to substance abuse. So, for my 21st birthday, I would like to make my readers aware of some great organizations that are working to change things for the better when it comes to drugs and alcohol in the music industry or the world as a whole.

The Amy Winehouse Foundation 

The goal of The Amy Winehouse Foundation aims to empower young people by showing them their true potential without substances. Through music therapy and direct support, the foundation helps them flourish.

Rock to Recovery

By helping musicians and non-musicians embrace the healing powers of music, Rock to Recovery sets people on a path that changes lives. Founded by Korn’s former guitarist, Wes Greer, the organization matches recovering musicians with others currently going through the process to create bands and produce real, heartfelt music.

Face the Music

This organization uses music to help heal. By increasing understanding about addiction, directly helping addicts to get clean and sober, and assisting in long-term recovery and maintenance, Face the Music wants to offer everyone a second chance.

Road Recovery 

Founded thanks to a tour manager’s own recovery, Road Recovery works to educate young people about addiction and create a strong peer support network.

 

Please consider donating to one of the above groups if you have the means! Thanks for reading!

 

Bad Ties Makes Poetry Cool(er)!

During my freshman year of college, one of my favorite professors invited me to read at an event called “PoJazz.” If my freshman self had ever heard the musical creations of Bad Ties, I’m sure she wouldn’t have hesitated at all to join in!

Based out of Asheville, North Carolina, since 2017, Bad Ties takes PoJazz to a new level with their experimental mix of spoken word, jazz, and post-punk to create a brand new style of beat poetry. The work of Garland Wells (Poet), Jacob Moran (Producer), Billy Reed (Bass), and Jason Chrisman (Tenor Sax) is truly one of a kind.

The band’s latest release, titled Music 4 No One Vol. 1, is their fourth LP. The record, mixed and mastered by Sid Saravanan, focuses on themes of heartbreak, displacement, and substance abuse, and was released on December 14, 2019 at a celebratory hometown show.

“Just Goofin” plays with tempo and empty space in a way that crafts an utterly unique listening experience. Mixing white space with a dragging, stilted melody, the instrumentals of the track add a lot to the poetry’s lyrical twists and turns, creating layers of rhythm that the ear races to understand: “Tenuous, terrible, / Marble faced shame! / Ride along, bridal song, / Warbled mouth dame. / Step away, entry way / Nothing was the same. / Nonsense words, all preferred, / All parties were game. / Simmer down, abandon crown, / Gyges is dead. / Staccato walk, bravado talk, / Disregard what he said. / The ring was turned, Republic burned, / I’ve died a hundred times. / A monster’s life, this constant strife, / I’ve lied a hundred rhymes.”The saxophone outro takes the staccato backing and turns it on its head, producing a flowing, mellifluous contrast to give listeners a lot to think about.

“Critical” continues the flow of the ending notes of “Just Goofin’,” allowing Garland’s storytelling abilities to shine over a bed of twinkling notes. He tells of a kind of self-doubt and failure artists know all too well, and the sense of hopelessness that comes with it: “We found out on the long train ride back from Brooklyn, /  Reeling from a show that only sold seats / To staff and ghosts. And / A fear hits me in the chest / That grows from marble to fate / And all with the flick of a baton. / Were we doomed? / Is this early reaction a kindness from peers? / Do I see the words about to burst, only for them to ring all hollow? / What the hell are we doing here?”

“Critical” is one of those tracks that makes you wish you could come up with lines as nuanced as Garland’s. It’s easy, as a writer and a music lover, to appreciate just how much thought and skill was put into every word.

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[Image by Ivan Basil]
“Allure of the Abyss” continues the musical themes found in the previous tracks in the form of rhythmic white space and slightly off-beat instrumentals that create an ideal level of dissonance. Instead of storytelling, “Allure of the Abyss” focuses on character development. Avoiding cliches and relying heavily on metaphorical descriptions, the lyrics paint a picture of a woman in specifics: “She’s no believer, /
But she’s deeply spiritual. / She prays to her stones, / A rock solid miracle. / She says they enlighten her, / Clear away fog of mind. / Deep down she’s just lonely, / She has far too much time. / She’s a corpse during sunlight, / She’s radiant in the moonlight.
/ She hums arcane melodies, / Reads death dates for fun. / She struts down back alleys, / Dances down by the docks.” The characterization in “Allure of the Abyss” creates a woman I want to learn more about in future songs.

“Cigarettes and Coke” is another well-produced track that illustrates the offbeat talents of Bad Ties. Featuring the bass in prominence, the instrumentals are deep and psychedelic underneath dreamy spoken-word vocals. On the surface, “Cigarettes and Coke” is a strange and perilous journey into strangeness. When analyzed further, patterns emerge in the seemingly random musicality, all driven by the relationship between the bassline, following instrumentals, and rhythm of the vocals. “Cigarettes and Coke” is the perfect Alice in Wonderland track for poetry and music fans alike.

To many bands, a song the length of “A Lifetime Position” would be a throwaway interlude. To Bad Ties, it’s a whole new story, this time a rhyming ode to the life of a poet set to the deep drone of a bass: “I implore to you all, / Raise me up like Lazarus. / Though I have to warn you / This small man is hazardous. / Loud, quiet, / Sunk low, stuck in this canyon. / Committed for life, / The poet D’Artagnan.” The exploration of the speaker’s life juxtaposed with that of their peers creates a lovely dissonance within the track.

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[Album cover designed by Quin Terry]
The beginning of “Gods on the Fritz” features a 90’s sitcom-style voice over, including a laugh track. What follows are clubby wavelengths, overlaid by the story that reflects the title, which invokes many allusions and plenty of mythology: “Burnt to a crisp / Icarus carrying the sun. / You can call me Copernicus, / Party of one. / Fly me to Hermes, / I’m feeling this brandy. / Shrug on me, Atlas / I’m feeling Ayn Randy.” I enjoy the poetry of “Gods on the Fritz,” but the well-placed chaos in them makes the track one that I, personally, wouldn’t be able to just listen to without purpose.

“Wicked Eyes” brings back the slower flow of some previous tracks that I enjoy. Smooth, warbling instrumentals guide the song through its 1:40 running time, their continuity reassuring as we move through the story within the poetry. The delivery of the lyrics of “Wicked Eyes” is truly what makes the track unique. Garland’s intonation and attitude are clearly practiced, every bit of emphasis well-placed, especially through lines like “There are couples everywhere / These two, those two / Whose Boo? That’s MY Boo. / How can I be sipping / This witches brew? / At what point in the trajectory / Did I stray askew?” Songs like “Wicked Eyes” are great to really show a band’s personality and make listeners feel more connected to the group and their work.

The dark bell tones that kick off “Funeral” create a dramatic setting for the building of tensions within the song. The description of setting stands out within the poetry of the song: “The coffin coma, / An oft rotting aroma / The ropes creaking slowly, / The submerged bed eternal. / The 6’ by 2’ hole, / Was drowned in a flash, / The crowd disengaged, / The proud priest enraged. / The dirty river vertical, / My lost love now lateral.”Mournful, twisting saxophone notes emphasize the tangle of feelings found within the lyrics, a perfect combination and one of the most effective uses of the instrumentals of the album.

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[Image by Luke Gura]
“Soul and Time” brings back the rising and falling instrumentals and plodding beats of previous parts of the album. The slow, jilted rhythms and depth within the bass notes create an interesting ambiance for the vocals. Long lines and well-phrased lyrics make for a solidly-paced track with an abundance of rhetorical questions such as “Are you my Cleopatra? / Does venom flow within your pretty veins? / How does this love pretend to function? / How does her memory paint me in her mind? / Be it a charming villain? / Floundering nebbish? / Cynical fool? / And how did your portrait fare?” Bad Ties’ exploration of love and loss is definitely a deep one.

“Outward Hands” is the final track of Music 4 No One Vol. 1. White noise and birdsong lead us gently into lyrics, followed closely by a tense, deep thrum at the heart of the song. Although most albums typically end with a track that wraps things up nicely with a bow made up of the previous themes of the album, it is clear that Music 4 No One Vol. 1. is not meant for that. Instead, measures of gentle saxophone, the flutter of a page flip, and dark vocals leave us, all at once, both satiated and and starving for more.

Bad Ties plans to tour for Music 4 No One Vol. 1 throughout 2020. To catch a show in your area, stay tuned on their social media for updates!

Facebook 
BandCamp

***Like the majority of my reviews, a submission fee was charged for this post.***

It’s No Surprise that Wasting Moonlight’s New Single is a Hit!

It’s no surprise that Wasting Moonlight’s new single is a hit! The four piece alternative rock band based out of Freehold, New Jersey was founded in 2018 by Brandon Glovich(Vocals / Rhythm Guitar) and Luciano Catuogno (Bass), soon joined by Joe Smith (Lead Guitar) and Dominick D’Aversa( Drums) that November.

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[All Images by David Garcia]

In November 2019, the group took their next big step with the release of a music video for “No Surprise,” the introductory track of their debut album, Honestly, I’m Just Angry, which was released December 21, 2019.

The video’s organic aesthetic is highly complementary to the track’s clean, honest rock vocals. With the camera’s positioning and smooth movements throughout the video, it feels like fans are at a show, watching Wasting Moonlight perform live.

“No Surprise” is definitely a track that would shine in a live setting; its catchy, classic instrumentals provide a solid backing for clean, clear vocals, making it easy for fans to follow along with the lyrics (“You take my hand / Guide me to the river / Watch me drown now / I can hear the voices serenade me….). Like most good rock bands, every piece of the puzzle works together to make the track solid as a whole, but each has their own individuality when listened to carefully. In the case of “No Surprise,” the complementary guitar tones were the first detail that caught my attention. The full-feeling rhythm guitar sets a solid foundation, twining with the growling bass to allow the lead guitar its time to add the perfect ratio of climbing riffs into the mix.

The rhythm section was also solid: The measured cymbal hits and energetic kick drum throughout the track blended well with the bassline. Although simple, the bass part does a good job at bridging the gap between rhythm and melody and plugging the gaps in the guitars with well-placed fills.

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As the song progresses through its 2:30 running time, the decay of the band in the video does, too! The little touches are what truly matter in a music video, and the gory makeup being layered on is definitely a great way to make a relatively simple performance into something unique and special for the band’s audience.

Perfect for fans of classic, alternative, and punk rock music, Wasting Moonlight’s single is sure to be a crowd-pleaser when played live, or even over the radio.

Connect with Wasting Moonlight:

Facebook
Instagram
Twitter
YouTube
BandCamp
Spotify

***Like the majority of my reviews, a submission fee was charged for this post.***