Friday, July 9, 2010

Kat DeLuna - Push Push

~Pop Song of the Day #57~

Meet Kat DeLuna, a 22 year-old American pop and r&b singer of Dominican heritage, who is currently signed to Universal Motown Records. There is not much information in her Wikipedia biography, since she really has not made it in the music industry yet (in the US, at least). Her debut album, 9 lives, was released in 2007, but did not achieve mainstream success. I remember when I listened to her CD, I liked half the songs and disliked the rest. She has achieved chart success with her singles in numerous other coutries (like France, Belgium, Finland, etc.) though- just not in the US. Perhaps with a 2nd album on the way, Kat DeLuna will be able to change that. The 1st single from the coming album was released about a month ago, and it is really catchy and dance-y.

The Gentlemen's Alliance Cross by Arina Tanemura

~Book Review #6~

This post is a tribute to what is one of my favorite manga series of all time. And despite what you may think, I have read a TON of manga (mostly shojo), and I have never liked a series so much that did not have any fantasy elements in it. Most of the time, when I read a non-fantasy book, I'll say "it would have been better with magic" or etc. Well, this series is perfect exactly the way it is. (NO spoilers below.)

To start off, The Gentlemen's Alliance Cross is a shōjo manga series written and illustrated by Arina Tanemura that was collected in 11 tankobon (volumes). Rather than summarize the series myself and ruin something for non-readers, here's some info from Wikipedia: The series revolves around "15 year-old girl named Haine Otomiya, a student at the elite private Imperial Academy, who was sold to foster parents for fifty million yen. She used to be a Yanki (girl gang member), but reformed when she met Shizumasa Togu, who told her to live life how she wanted to. She fell in love with Shizumasa and entered the Imperial Academy to try and win his love. Shizumasa is the Emperor of the school. Being the president of the student council and the only member of the gold class, he is the one who everyone looks up to. Through various circumstances Haine is tricked by Maora, a student council member, into becoming his bodyguard and joining the student council. However, Shizumasa claims not to know her and is unexpectedly cold towards her."

Yeah, so it may sound like a typical shojo manga series, let me assure you that it is far superior to many. The school is (of course) very different from normal high schools- starting from the ranking, the student council, and many other things. But, this manga deals with a lot of mature themes (which is why it is rated at 16+). It doesn't show anything outright violent or sexual (honestly, I think that it should be rated 13+), but a lot of stuff is implied. Like the fact that Haine is a former Yanki (a real thing in Japan) means that she was part of a gang and probably participated in illegal activities. Stuff like that is implied, but definitely not shown, which is why it's rated 16+. Overall though, the series is very light-hearted and comical, and I fear that I may have over-emphasized the mature themes too much. It's a really a nice balance of funny and serious moments, and the writing is spectacular. I never expected some of the plot twists that occurred in later volumes.

The art itself is spectacular. Arina Tanemura may use more screentones in one chapter than other manga artists use in an entire volume! Just search for her art on Google images, and you'll see how truly beautiful her art is. It's like hang-on-your-wall type beautiful, seriously. I think she has several art books out. Anyway, so she's a great writer and artist, so this manga has everything. If you have never read anything by her before, be sure to check this series out! Tip: another series translated into English by her is Full Moon wo Sagashite- which keeps up the quality of the art and writing Gentlemen's Alliance Cross. If you read any further works (like Time Stranger Kyoko or earlier), the art will not be up to par- though it's still very readable. I can't wait till they translate some of her more recent works into English.

5 out of 5 stars. Completely Recommended!!

Photo credit: A Gentlemen's Alliance Cross image by Arina Tanemura.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Tings Tings - Great DJ

~Pop Song of the Day #56~

Meet the Tings Tings, a British, Ivor Novello winning and Grammy nominated indie pop duo composed of Jules De Martino and Katie White that formed in 2007. Their most successful single so far "That's Not My Name", debuted at number one in the UK Singles Chart in 2008. I <3 this band. I think I first heard their music on Gossip Girl, and when I listened to their debut album, We Started Nothing, I realized how unique their brand of pop music was. You won't see any mainstream act with such unusual but super-catchy songs. They seem to have currently lost some of their popularity in the US, but that's soon to change with a new album on the way!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Keke Palmer - Friend Me Up

~Pop Song of the Day #55~

So I'm pretty sure you already know who Keke Palmer is. In case you don't, she's a 16 year-old American actress and singer who currently stars in the Nickelodeon TV show- True Jackson, VP. (That show seriously suffers from the bad jokes. A few episodes are seriously funny, but for the majority, it's like the writers went on vacation!) Anyway, like Selena Gomez (who I featured recently), Keke Palmer is a current teen star who I <3. Her 2007 album is seriously underrated and ANY reader of this blog should listen to it! It's not exactly pop, it's very r&b, and ALL of the songs on the album are awesome and extremely catchy. I think listening to it was what caused me to start listening to r&b more. Definitely one of my fave albums ever & can't wait for her next one!!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

~Book Review #5~

So I never thought that I would read a comic book on DC Comics' Vertigo imprint- besides for Fables. And after I stopped reading Fables after volume 6 or 7 (because it was getting very boring with the long texts and the storyline), I thought that I was done with comics that were rated for adults. Well, I read a preview of The Unwritten online at some comics website or something like that. And I really like the premise of it.

WARNING: I would definitely not read this comic if you can't handle adult material. There's swearing, super violent stuff, etc. And normally, I don't read that kind of stuff either. Like I don't watch rated R movies because I'll most likely get nightmares and be afraid to step outside my house. However, I think I was so interested in the story of this comic that I just skipped over the bloody and gory parts to get the actual plot.

So the basic story is that a father (author) based his famous book character on his own son, Tommy Taylor, and named it after him. The character is a boy wizard, but this is not a Harry Potter rip-off. The books become best-selling, but then the author disappears. Meanwhile, the son grows up and is sick of trying to live up to the storybook character that the whole world knows him as. When characters from the books start appearing in real life, it makes Tom question his origins. And that's where the story begins. According to the author, the book is based more on Christopher Robin (the real one, whose father based a character on from Winnie-the-Pooh) 's auto-biography than Harry Potter.

The story is definitely interesting, although gory as mentioned before. And I can't wait to read the next volume. (I just finished reading the first graphic novel.) Hopefully they will make the series short so that I can find out the ending soon; but I have a feeling that's not going to happen.

Recommended. 4 out of 5 stars.

Katy Rose - Overdrive

~Pop Song of the Day #54~

Meet Katy Rose, an American singer, songwriter, producer, musician and actress (according to Wikipedia). She's very punk rock (like early Avril Lavigne), and she worked on her debut album, Because I Can, for a major label at the age of 16. Her debut album was released in 2004, and after a less wide-spread release of her second album, Katy has sort of disappeared. Like a lot of other pop singers that released one or two albums, she has been talking about releasing new albums for a while now- but so far nothing's happened. I really hope she does though, because she's ONLY 23 and her first single, Overdrive, is amazing.