Is Pepsi Getting Political?

is pepsi getting political by ari kellenThe current political situation in the United States has left many people upset and disillusioned, with just about everybody and every brand getting political.  The Women’s March back in January was a gigantic protest event that truly rocked the country, with one out of every 100 Americans taking part.  During the Super Bowl, one notable Budweiser commercial told the story of founder Adolphus Busch, which explored his early years as an immigrant with a subtext critical of Trump’s harsh anti-immigrant stance.  Even Pepsi has taken a stand in their most recent commercial featuring Kendall Jenner, yet this was pulled almost as quickly as it was released.

If you haven’t seen it yet, the commercial features Kendall Jenner, half-sister of Kim Kardashian, leaving behind a modeling shoot to join a vague protest march.  By handing one white police officer a Pepsi can, she’s able to bring everybody together.  In the background, Skip Marley’s song “Lions” plays.  The song references the Lion of Judah, a symbol in Rastafarian ideology meant to save Africans and the diaspora from the colonial powers (i.e. rich white people like Kendall Jenner’s family).  

One thing that’s always fascinated me about commercials is their ability to create unique worlds and events, if only for about 30 seconds to a couple minutes at most, that in the real world would never happen.  This new Pepsi commercial is definitely one of those, yet it’s also kind of tone-deaf.  The protests to which this commercial pays homage started out against Wall Street and the inequities of capitalism, exemplified by gigantic corporate giants (like Pepsi).  

It might seem like a complete lack of self-awareness that Pepsi would try to make itself a champion of the protestors, yet at the same time this follows one of the basic tenets of advertising: go where the money goes.  It follows a trend that various other big brands are going: Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Burger King and even the Fearless Girl statue set up by the State Street fund.  For those who are concerned about the direction of big business and our country as a whole, such moves can seem refreshing; a way to say “we’re on your side”.  But at the same time, it’s difficult to decipher whether or not they’re sincere, and whether or not these big corporations are doing the same thing they’ve always done: try and make more money, just this time with a different tone.  

from Ari Kellen | Musical Minded


Goodbye Jersey Boys

Goodbye Jersey Boys by Ari KellenJersey Boys, the smash hit Broadway musical that tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, has been entertaining audiences since it first opened on November 5, 2006 to critical acclaim.  It’s won the Tony Award, adapted into an underwhelming film and weathered more than 40 seasons on Broadway.  Like Wicked, Lion King or Phantom of the Opera, it didn’t seem to be going anywhere.  But it has since announced its closing date: January 15, 2017.  There’s still some time until then for those who haven’t yet seen the show, but that ending date reminds us that even the most popular shows don’t last on Broadway forever.  

By the time it ends, Jersey Boys will have played 4,462 performances, making it the 12th longest-running Broadway show of all time.  Although four longer-running Broadway shows are still playing – The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, The Lion King and Wicked – that’s still pretty impressive, especially when you consider that Jersey Boys has seen more than 400 Broadway shows open and close during its tenure.  Arguably the best of the so-called “Jukebox musicals”, which use modern pop hits instead of original scores, Jersey Boys is able to to use a biographical structure to avoid the problems faced jukebox musicals before it.  Presented as though the Four Seasons were singing in concert, the songs don’t express inner thoughts of the characters singing them, like songs are “supposed” to in traditional musical theater.  Yet despite breaking such rules, the show worked, setting the standard for other jukebox musicals since.  

Before the Beatles hit the shores of America, the Four Seasons were the most popular rock band in the US.  Featuring Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi, they took the country by storm when founded in 1960, and are one of the best-selling musical groups of all time.  Jersey Boys tells their story, from obscurity to superstardom.  It’s a great story and a great show, filled with great songs and wonderful pageantry.  

from Ari Kellen | Musical Minded

10 Most Annoying One-Hit Wonders

Figuring out what makes a “hit” has been puzzling artists and record company executives since the start of the industry.  Plenty of hits are catchy, well thought-out pieces, written by respectable artists or a breakout musician on their path to greatness.  Yet not always; many unfortunate musicians fall under the category of “one hit wonder”, as they fail to follow up their one radio smash hit and spend the rest of their professional careers playing the same tired song set in front of a gradually diminishing crowd.  While plenty of one-hit wonders are great songs, others aren’t so much, and we can be all too happy that their makers became footnotes in the book of music history.  Here is a list of what are, in my opinion, some of the most annoying one-hit wonders:

Blue (Da Ba Dee) – Eiffel 65: The sci-fi-video-game-themed video, featuring blue aliens in crude and choppy CGI, is so dated that watching it feels like a time portal to the start of the millennium.  Yet if you do choose to watch this video, be sure to mute it, otherwise the music will kill any nostalgia you thought you had for the 90s.  The lyrics seem to just list off objects that are blue, and the chorus is literally “I’m blue da ba dee da ba di”, as if the writer couldn’t think of anything to say apart from the fact that he was blue, and even then his insight was astoundingly limited.

Who Let the Dogs Out – Baha Men: The only good thing you can say about this song is the clear energy behind it.  Having been active since the late 1970s, the Baha Men sing this song with the gusto of a group realizing that their fifteen minutes of fame could end at any moment.  Yet that end couldn’t come soon enough.  Anybody who remembers late 2000/early 2001 could tell you how their blood boiled hearing this song come on the radio for the 10th time in the day.

Friday – Rebecca Black: The story behind this song is a tragic one.  In all fairness, this wasn’t supposed to be a hit; it was released by the Ark Music Factory, a company where rich parents can spend a few thousand dollars to put their child in a heavily-autotuned song.  Plenty of these tracks, such as “My Jeans” or “Chinese Food”, have gained Internet infamy for how bad they are, yet none have reached the level of “Friday”, a song where the bridge literally involves naming off days of the week.  Yet when it did go viral, “Friday” quickly earned the wrath of the Internet, forcing a thirteen year-old Rebecca Black into a negative spotlight which will most likely haunt her forever.

Barbie Girl – Aqua: While the Norwegian group Aqua were definitely in on the joke of making an annoying song about one of America’s most iconic toys to parody the greed and shallow materialism of American pop culture, they got pretty carried away.  Stylized as a sort of dialogue between Barbie and her boyfriend Ken, the creepy growl of Ken’s singing makes you want to shoot your radio, while Barbie’s screeching vocals make you carry out the act.

U Can’t Touch This – MC Hammer: Sampling a much better song (“Super Freak” by Rick James”), packed to the gills with unwarranted braggadocio and backed by an uninspired music video of MC Hammer dancing in front of a bunch of women, this song represents almost every reason people were hostile to rap when it first hit the mainstream.  Yet what makes this stand out from so many other brag rap tracks was MC Hammer’s storied ill-advised financial decisions after his success, making him some sort of Greek tragic hero in a tale about responsible spending.  Such outlandish spending decisions as putting 200 people on his payroll, building a $30 million house for himself and buying 19 thoroughbred racehorses, despite the fact that he failed to follow up his one hit, meant that Hammer quickly went broke.

Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice: Much as I hate myself for saying this, as one of the first white rappers with a mainstream audience, Vanilla Ice is actually somewhat historically significant.  And if at the height of his career (i.e. this one song) Vanilla Ice were to die in a sudden motorcycle accident, he would possibly be remembered as such and earn a sort of cult following.  Yet luckily, history was kind.  Vanilla Ice didn’t die, went on to star in the mercifully forgettable film “Cool as Ice” and fade into obscurity before fate could turn him into a James Dean-esque hero for young rappers.  People have since been able to look back at “Ice Ice Baby” and realize that solidly mediocre rapping about a shooting you witnessed as a teenager and how good you are at rapping, is nothing worth remembering.

Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm – Crash Test Dummies: Despite Brad Roberts’ delusions, he’s not a particularly good singer.  Don’t believe me?  Listen to this song.  When Roberts isn’t trying to croak his way through possibly (but probably not) meaningful lyrics, he’s starts humming “mmmmm”, as if he ran out of things to say.  It almost sounds like some sort of highly conceptual Campbell’s soup commercial, where Roberts is trying to hum “mmm mmm good”, but arrived at the recording studio too hungover to actually record a decent version of it.

Achy Breaky Heart – Billy Ray Cyrus: Before jump starting Miley Cyrus’ career as part of a desperate stunt to regain relevance, Billy Ray Cyrus created this uninspired schlock that takes a trope of country music and distort it into a Frankenstein monster of sorts that represents everything wrong with both country music and the 90s.  Country music is like horror movies: there’s some fantastic work, but you have to wade through a lot of garbage to find it.  Billy Ray Cyrus is definitely the latter.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Deep Blue Something: Catchy as this acoustic tune is, the lyrics are astoundingly stupid: a woman, fearful that she and her boyfriend have nothing in common, is contemplating breaking up.  Yet he recognizes that they both like the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, which he claims is enough to save their relationship.  The sentiment is nice, but it seems doubtful that one two-hour movie from the early 1960s is enough to save a relationship.

Butterfly – Crazy Town: With their frosted tips, lack of shirts, obnoxious piercings and even more obnoxious tattoos, the band Crazy Town look exactly like the kind of people you hate.  And if their appearance didn’t turn you off enough, the cheesy lyrics to their one hit, rich with enough obnoxious terms of endearment like “butterfly”, “sugar” and “baby” to make Johnny Bravo blush, certainly will.

from Ari Kellen | Musical Minded

Musical Therapy

Music is a wonderful thing. Beyond tapping our toes and moving our feet, the healing power of a pleasant tune has been known to improve learning, increase cognitive response, and combat the symptoms of some diseases like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. But what are some of the other hidden benefits of music? How can your favorite songs be used to effectively combat pain? A random study conducted in Germany and published in the Deutsches Arzteblatt International holds the answer.

Researchers randomly selected 84 patients undergoing palliative care, or care to manage excessive levels of pain. One group was given music therapy to help treat their pain, whereas the other group conducted verbal relaxation exercises. The music therapy group was treated to two sessions of live music performed on classical wood and string instruments. The discovery the researchers made surpassed even their expectations.

Ari kellenAll the patients that took part in the music therapy reported less pain and discomfort, along with decreased levels of stress. Astonishingly, the effects go deeper than their own responses. The scientists found that the patients exposed to music therapy were showing signs of decreased fatigue, and increased peripheral blood flow. Medical jargon aside, these results mean patients were more alert and in less pain.

Patients that experienced this treatment were not only treated to regular concerts of relaxing music, but relieved of their pain. A result that anyone in their shoes would be happy for, music has proven yet again to be one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. Whether fighting chronic pain or stemming a tide of symptoms brought on by a virulent disease, music can make a difference. For more on the subject, click here.


from Ari Kellen | Musical Minded

File-Sharing Fiasco

Music is a precious thing. A universal form of communication and a source of enjoyment for millions, music is a resource that all can love. However, what happens when someone intends to steal that resource? If you were born during the internet age, you’re familiar with the music industry’s battle against file-sharing and illegal downloading. After that last battle with Spotify recently came to a close, another contender for the crosshairs has announced their entrance to the file-sharing game.

Aurous, recently announced and already a target for lawsuits, has its work cut out if it hopes to survive. A $150,000 fine levied at the young company looks to stop the sharing before it can begin. Next in a long line of dubious downloading websites, Aurous is equal parts Popcorn Time and BitTorrent.

Aurous is still young in its development lifespan, but it may never get to spread its wings if these lawsuits are successful. Designed to be competition for the litany of music-based listening apps, questions abound if Aurous is necessary in a world flooded with listening programs.

Many of these questionable services stand on their options to pay, with commercials occasionally to offset the legality of their music library. Like Netflix,Ari Kellen many of these services offer their selection of music for little to nothing when compared to the price of acquiring all the necessary albums. However, Aurous lacks the influence to motivate advertisers into joining them, and their library of songs is gathered from pirated files on Russian websites.

Though still too early to tell, it’s something to see the boom of file-sharing services, and the impact they’ve had on the market. In a time where purchasing content has become a bygone tendency, the free-market has learned many lessons through Napster, Limewire and now Bittorrent. We may see the first preemptive strike in the history of this long and bloody media war, and the target is Aurous.

from Ari Kellen | Musical Minded

Music and Health

Music is powerful. The urge to produce a beat, to communicate through song and dance is as old as primitive man. Whether with drum and bass or rock and sticks, music has an interesting power over us as listeners. Altering our mood, allowing us to relax or conjuring old memories, Music potential is limitless. A special bond between performer and listener ensures that no two people will feel a song the same way and that phenomenon is more far-reaching than you think. What are some of the ways music can be healthy for us?

Ari KellenIn recent studies, Neuroscientists have discovered that listening to music has a quantifiable reaction in the human brain. Activating the reward centers of the listener’s brain, music can and will heighten positive emotion, and release dopamine to elevate our emotional levels to that of near elation. Conducting scans of patients’ brains while listening to music also revealed that almost no centers of the brain are immune to music’s touch. It should come as no surprise that culturally, music has been used in tribal rituals as a gathering tool and for healing. The thrumming power of live music has an entrancing effect, connecting whole swaths of people in joy-fueled reverie. Modern medicine, adopting the tricks of ancient tribes, have begun flirting with using music to aid in the recovery of certain procedures.

Music has a scientifically proven ability to reduce anxiety-induced increases in stress hormone. Able to sooth a climbing heart rate or calm skyrocketing blood pressure, music literally combats stress. Another fascinating study has shown that patients receiving hernia surgery have demonstrated a drop on cortisol levels, but only after listening to music post-surgery. Music’s ability to reduce stress has shown to be more effective for some patients than orally-administered anxiolytic drugs.

The medical benefits of music continue even further when a study conducted with 272 premature babies revealed staggering results. While the children recovered in the neonatal ICU, parents or performers played music for their young and fragile audience, and the infants demonstrated not only increased activity but an affinity for lullabies sung by their parents. From fighting disease to managing pain, music has a very real power over much more than our feet.


from Ari Kellen | Musical Minded

Apple’s Latest Music Service

Apple is set to launch the latest version of the popular subscription based music platform, made popular by the likes of Pandora and Spotify. Now music labels are lining up to court the large corporation into negotiating a piece of the per-month subscription revenue. Sources are saying music industry negotiators are looking for anywhere from 60-70%of the $10 subscription fee. This is significantly more than the average split established services offer music providers, 46% according to Ernst & Young.Unknown

Of late, music labels are looking to regain revenue they may have been losing to such streaming services. Renegotiations may be coming for established services as labels are looking for high percentage of revenues.

Apple has made a habit of perfecting products and services before entering each new market. With this being their latest venture, many are being led to believe that this new market will see the success Apple has had in previous ones. This is putting the pressure on music labels to ensure a profitable deal be made with Apple in order to sustain their revenue streams.

By the end of next year, streaming music revenue is expected to top out at $1.6 billion for the total industry and labels are set on making their living on a piece of that total. This is marking a possible shake up in the streaming world. Apple has yet to sign a deal but all eyes are already fixed upon them. Keep your eyes and ears open for the latest streaming tunes come June. The move comes as Apple has seen their download revenue slip over the fast 3 years from $2.5 billion to $1.5 billion.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple is confident in their development of a top notch service and will continue negotiations with labels until an agreement has been reached.

To read the original article, please click here.


from Ari Kellen | Musical Minded

Rock and Roll, Not Just For Kids

Rock and Roll has been widely considered to be a music of a young generation. In the late 1960s it was pegged as a teenage musical movement. Every generation has one of course. As a source of rebellion towards authority. But what was widely considered to be common knowledge for decades may turn out to be a fallacy.Beatles

Teenagers did love rock and roll, it defined their youth and still is blasted by all the members of the Boomer generation I can think of. But what was once thought as music that their parents turned their noses up to, is now being brought into question. It turns out the older folks of the time, who are often portrayed as buzz-kills telling children to “turn that racket off”, were listening and enjoying as well.

TIME was the original magazine to publish the demographic target of teenagers back in 1965 for rock. Now they are speaking to the elders who, in vast majority, said, “Yeah we liked it, it was awesome”(not a real quote).

Record labels were said to know of this adult “underground” of rock and roll fans from looking at their sales and numbers over the years. Folks who grew up listening to the likes of Elvis Presley never outgrew him, but enjoyed rock and roll as well. This does not surprise this writer as I have seen first hand how one can enjoy music of the past and present, even a mixture of the two.

Some interesting facts from research is that in today’s day and age, primarily teen targeted music is consumed by people over 20, 40% of the total consumption market. This goes to show that the “music of the youth” might be purely a facade as everyone enjoys good music no matter age, or time of release.

To read the original TIME article, click here.


from Ari Kellen | Musical Minded

80′s Labeled Least Diverse Music Decade

A new computer program has been launched with its sights set on charting the evolution of pop or (popular music). The algorithm, generated by a London based team, has shown that American pop has remained unique in each decade over the past half century with one gaping discrepancy, the 1980’s.80-s-Pop-Stars-80s-music-3599146-320-213

Every generation has a proud link to the music of their time. Assuming that their youthful musical variation trumps all that came before and that will come after. This algorithm has been able to identify a reasoning for that thought process. Each decade is groundbreaking and unique in its own special way….except the 80’s. During this decade the spectrum of creativity was the most narrow across the 50 year period, essentially saying that all 80’s music sounds the same (something I have been trying to tell my dad for years). While its stylistic scope was finer, its not to say that the music from this era was not good. It merely just means that less songs were as catchy as other decades.

What is truly interesting about this study is that certain musical themes recur over time highlighting certain compositions. For example loud, high tempo music reigned supreme in 1966, and then again in 1985 with hair bands. Also, piano and orchestra complimented music peaked in the 80’s and 90’s then went into a wane period until the 2000’s.

Three years in particular over the course of the study (50 years) showed radical creative turns in musical style, 1964, ‘83, and ‘93. The 60’s boom may have been the most rich and complex with rock, soul, disco, mostly due to the British Invasion and the emergence of the Beatles.

In the 1980s synthesized percussion sounds came to forefront revolutionizing loud, robust sounds and launching them into our ears. Phil Collins, Motley Crue, Van Halen, REO Speedwagon, Queen among many others used this to bring a completely new sound to music fans.

The most modern change to the fabric of music occurred in the early 90’s with hip hop and rap coming to the masses. Providing the 90s with a completely different musical genre, the spoken, rhyming music scheme set to looping beats opened the door to so many great songs we know today.

To read the original and full article, click here.


from Ari Kellen | Musical Minded

Beale Street Music Festival A Success

This weekend many music fans were “Walking with their feet 10 feet off of Beale” as the 2015 Beale Street Music Festival went off without a hitch in Tom Lee Park in Memphis, Tennessee. Headlining performers drew huge crowds to see the likes of Ed Sheeran and Hozier on the last day of the festival. Historically in any festival, Sundays are the slowest and least crowded due to it being the day before the work week begins. Such was not the case this year in Memphis as beautiful weather and great musical talent kept the crowd and the energy plentiful.john-fogerty-Ari Kellen

The organization who put the festival on is called Memphis in May recalls years past where attendance and atmosphere was not up to par due to the weather. Having great weather makes all the difference with sunny skies making the Mississippi River look as majestic as it can.

This year, acts ranged in genre and target audience as the festival drew crowds from all age groups. John Fogerty on Saturday brought in many 20-50 year olds, while Paramore and Sheeran drew in younger teenagers to the festivities. Festival organizers thought the acts out well as they appealed to not only age groupers but also home town supporters of the music show. A local group, Star & Micey played hometown favorites with their harmony and energy.

There were not only local and domestic band playing as the UK was well represented at the festival. Debuting at the stage at the UK centered venue was Britains Kaiser Chiefs, followed by Ireland’s Hozier and Ed Sheeran on the Bud Light Stage.

In all the festival was an utter success leaving an experience in the attendees mind of complete satisfaction and good vibes.

To read the original article, please click here.


from Ari Kellen | Musical Minded