Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Talk That Talk

Rihanna's new album, Talk That Talk, is easily the most anticipated album of 2011. It comes hot off the heals of her 2010 release, Loud. What direction will she take? Will she sound like everything else on the radio? Will that Rihanna reign ever let up? Well, she answered all those questions and more when the album dropped on November 20th.

She friggin' killed it! The album opens with her embracing her Caribbean roots on You Da One. It's a fast-paced, love song with spice. She always adds a hint of gritty sexuality to even her sweetest songs. There's a dub-step bridge which is awesome, albeit a little mainstream. Next we have Where Have You Been - an electro-dance-power ballad. It builds slowly and then the European beats kick in and sitting still is impossible. As soon as ask" Are you hiding from me, somewhere in the crowwwwd?" Your shirt is off and you're sweating all over the dance floor. We Found Someone is the lyrically sparse first single. It has taken a really long time for this song to grow on me, but now I can really appreciate the music despite the fact that it feels like there are only a handful of words repeated over and over for three and a half minutes.

RiRi teams up with Jay-Z again on the title track. While Jay's verse leaves something to be desired ("I fly out to Pisa just to get some pizza"), Rihanna's part are solid. It's very tough and commanding, strong with a great beat! Cockiness (Love It) is definitely a contender for the best song on the album. It's just filthy! Rihanna does a little rapping / talk in the verses and it sounds so cool. She starts slow "I want you to be my sex slave" and then quickly add a bratty, abrasive "Anything that I desire...set my whole body on fire". Birthday Cake is only about 78 seconds, but it packs a punch! Another dirty song that would make me blush if I had to listen to it with my parents. Let's just say that she's not talking about cake with flour and sugar.

Midway through the album, she slows things down with We All Want Love and Drunk on Love. Both are good ballads, though her vocals aren't that impressive. Her voice has a distinct raspy, strained-quality that I like. While these songs sound good on the album, I know that I'd be disappointed to hear the live versions. Now let's get back to the sex, please. Roc Me Out is another dirty invitation to spend the night (or at least an hour). She sings naughtily, "I been a bad girl, daddy / Won't you come get me?" It's clear that songs about fucking (not love-making) are her forte. She's no Barry White. Watch n' Learn is the next track. Guess what it's about? Yep, sex! Another fine track. This one is dizzingly busy with a slightly Caribbean beat. The album ends with the epic ballad, Farewell. Is it about Chris Brown? Maybe, who knows? It's the only song on the album that demonstrates some artistic growth.

So that's the end of the standard edition. But who buys the standard edition when a deluxe edition is available? Exactly! No one. Red Lipstick is the first of the three bonus tracks. I've never been to a kinky, sex club that requires you to wear latex. But if I had to guess what a club like that would be like, it would be this song - "Do you right here while the whole world's watching". It's grimy and slow - very sex with a stranger in an alley. Musically, it's amazing. It's strong and confident. Do Ya Thang is a bubbly song about love. It reminds me a little of Nicki Minaj's Super Bass. I like it, but it just lacks the angry sexuality of the other songs. I feel like they could use it for a Pepsi commercial in the summer. Fool in Love is a hauntingly dark love song. This song features the strongest lyrics on the album. It's a perfect closer to a great album.

Is this her best work? No. It lacks the emotional vulnerability and rawness of Rated R. But it's much more cohesive that 2010's Loud. Whereas Loud was all over the place, Talk That Talk is focused. The subject matter is somewhat limited - it's basically love or sex, but it's well-executed! It's catchy as hell and I have no problem admitting that I dance to some songs in my apartment. I like that Rihanna is coming into her own. This album feels like only she could make it. Britney, Katy or J.Lo could not make this album. It feels authentically Rihanna, albeit emotionally shallow. These songs all work because of her voice, personality and style. Talk That Talk is a brash, in-your-face album that begs to be put on repeat. As a member of the Rihanna Navy, I can say for sure that no, that Rihanna reign just won't let up.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Garden State of Mind

Thanksgiving has become somewhat of a deconstructed holiday for me. Long gone are the days of being at home while my parents are in a rush to get the food cooked and table set. Now I go to my sister and brother-in-law's house for a more relaxed holiday. Usually, we make our favorite foods (mine is Michele's buffalo chicken dip) and watch movies or football. This year was a blend of the two styles. My parents and younger sister came up from Pennsylvania, but it was still very relaxed. No formal dining, just great food around an NFL football game. After we all woke up for the inevitable nap, we played all kinds of board games. Balderdash, Racko, and Skippo. We just saw in the living room and LAUGHED! It was so much fun and so casual. On Friday, Kasey and I played Monopoly for at least 2 hours. It's so simple, but so peaceful. I really didn't want to get on the train

Of course it was great to see my family, but I think a huge part of the relaxing atmosphere was the change in scenery. There's something so peaceful about the suburbs of New Jersey. It's not stuffy or pretentious. Sometimes I feel like New Yorkers are stuck-up assholes. The people that shop on Madison or 5th feel so superior to everyone else. It really turns me off to the city. I'm beginning to think that eventually I'll emigrate to New Jersey.

Antonio and I were looking at houses online...just for fun. You can get so much for only $600,000. We could get something with 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and a big back yard. Who could pass it up? Don't get me wrong. It'll be a few years before I ever cross the Hudson permanently. But I can feel it. I'm losing the Empire state of mind and opening up to the Garden state of mind.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I always love watching House Hunters. It's so much fun to see the types of homes you can buy in different parts of the country. We were watching tonight and were super excited to see it was a gay couple looking for their first home in the suburbs of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They were so cute! They were fresh out of college - complete with their collection of American Eagle polos from the local mall. They ended up picking a cute townhouse with three bedrooms and a small backyard. The house they picked was in a small subdivision with views of the woods and mountains. I really miss the country scenery!

The part that always makes me chuckle is that they ended up only paying $209,000, which would only get you a studio apartment in Washington Heights (aka the ghetto) in New York. As I was taking the subway back uptown, I was listening to Just Whitney and thinking about that life. I could see myself living in a cute suburb with a hustling downtown area nearby. Sometimes I miss the things I used to do when I was living in Radford. We'd go to Walmart at any time during the day, shop at the Christiansburg mall, and relax by the New River. It's a really simple, yet fulfilled life.

One of the benefits of working for a company with a large parent company is that it'd be easy to relocate. With just a quick search on my iPhone, I found three Coldwell Banker offices in Mechanicsburg. Obviously it's not about the city, but the lifestyle. I still love living in the city, but I'm sure I'll get to a point when I'll be ready to rejoin America and live in suburbia.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Scantron / Licensed

After helping one of our Eastside agents with opens houses on the weekends, I became more eager to get my license. As a licensee, I'd have more freedom to help him and more help means more money. Having finished the course the week before, I was anxious to just get the test over. I felt like I knew the information so I made the decision to take it on October 28th. I bought two, online practice exams to make sure that I was prepared and I passed each exam on the first attempt. I was ready.

I set my alarm extra early so I could get ready. Of course, I hit the snooze button and ended up sleeping a little late. Oh well, I still made it to Herald Square with a little extra time. Of course, I wasn't thinking and started walking to 132 EAST 36th Street instead 132 WEST 36th Street. I got to the building at 9:06. Damn! So close to being on time.

I walk up to the building and it seems more like a run-down industrial building than a school. I take the stairs up to the second floor - it was actually much nicer inside. I went to the office and told them I was here to take the exam. Now this is the part that made me nervous, but the girl told me everything was fine and that I could go to Room D and just come back when I was done. Huh? There was no proctor. I just sat in a classroom with all my stuff and took the exam. Now, I'm a decent person and wouldn't cheat anyway, but it would have been so easy to take a quick peak here and there. The questions were worded differently than the online quizzes within the course. Most of the questions were pretty easy. A few were a little tricky, but nothing too hard. The math was challenging (as it always is for me) but there weren't too many math questions.

I made sure that I filled in all the questions, but didn't sit around to second guess my answers. I went back to the office and didn't what would happen next. I'm used to taking exams and then waiting a week to get the results. Nope! The secretary took out the scantron machine and scanned my sheet instantly. I'm shaking and feeling my heart race. "Ok. You passed. Here's your certificate. Good luck". Obviously, it was the news I wanted to here, but it was so anticlimactic.

I scheduled my DOS exam for the soonest possible time - November 9th. I felt a strong sense of confidence. I did well on the practice exam and study guides. I really didn't study much in between the two exams, aside from reviewing some of the trickier concepts. I showed up at the DOS building after brief, unplanned visits to the 9/11 Memorial and the Occupy Wall Street band of misfits (I get lost every time I go below 14th street). The room was the same one I had taken my notary exam. I was shocked at how easy the exam was! Well, I thought it was easy. I was the first person to leave. I looked just to see if everyone else was close to being done. The guy was next to me was on question 16 of 75. guys! This is so easy. After double-checking my work, I walked up and handed in my exam.

The hardest part of the exam process was waiting! I'd check for my score every five minutes even though I knew that it could take up to a week to find out. I finally got my score two days after taking the exam! I had passed! I was so excited that it was hard to contain, especially have taking both exams in secret. Tresa was so happy for me. After some paperwork, it was all official. I am now a license, real estate salesperson. Nothing much will change for now. I can't take listings or take on buyers. But I'll get some good experience! Once I'm ready, I'll be in a great position to thrive.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wedding Magic in Maryland

I'm always happy when my friends get married. I was especially thrilled when I heard that Kristen and PJ were getting married. They stayed with me for a weekend when I lived in Harlem. She's so much fun(always has been - all the way back to our Quest days) and PJ was such a nice guy. I knew he was a keeper when he didn't mind going to Splash with us.

The wedding was this past weekend and it was wonderful! Antonio and I took a leisurely 5-hour drive from the busy streets of Manhattan to the quaint, charming town of Frederick, Maryland. The downtown area was so picturesque that it's hard to believe towns like this still exist. The ceremony was in an old, Episcopal church. I loved it! I feel so many wedding are lavish, over-the-top and border of gaudy. This was intimate and classic. It was a sunny day, which put the beautiful stained-glass windows on display. Kristen looked stunning in her sparkly, white dress (which I feel like I helped pick out months ago) and PJ looked dapper and handsome as ever.

After the ceremony we went back to the hotel to catch the shuttle to the reception. The mansion was a very intimate venue - lots of antique rooms and old-world charm. It was nice to see Mark and Theo were at our table. I will admit that I was surprised that they were the only two from Radford that I knew. The dancing was fun! Lots of old-school *NSYNC and Britney. PJ's dad was the best man and did a great job with the speech. I always get choked up when people get emotional. I loved seeing the mother / son dance! His mom seemed so sweet. I was shocked that Kristen's mom knew all the words to Only Girl (In The World) and was in her element on the dance floor. Definitely a fun family! I'm so happy for them and excited for their lives together.

Earlier on Saturday, I had just happened to check-in on Facebook at Panera. By chance, Brandon saw it and told Lora that I was in Maryland. She texted me and we met up for breakfast the next morning. It was SO good to see her! She's one of those friends that you move away from and don't see for years, but can laugh like old times instantly. It made me think about our Sunday evenings with tacos and Desperate Housewives. Or how we thought gluing puzzles and made beer-pong table was classy! Ooh, we were so silly back then. I would say that the beginning of our senior year was one of the best times of my life.

I have to say that one of my favorite parts of the weekend was the drive home. There's just something so fun about being in the car with Antonio. We're just singing and laughing. Even with two hours of traffic, it was so much fun! I love how we know all each other's inside jokes and can usually finish each other sentences with our favorite quotes from Bravo shows. Overall, it was such a fun weekend! Lots of all love all around.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Kardashian Kontroversy

Halloween delivered a very depressing trick when Kim Kardashian announced that she filed for divorced from husband of 72 days, Kris Humphries. It was a media explosion! the newspapers, blogs, and cable news channels focused on nothing but the impending divorce. Before the ink could dry on the paperwork, people began hurling insults and accusations.

The most common claim is that Kim and Kris married for the money. I have to admit that it's seems possible. It's reported that the couple made $17 million from the E! wedding special and the exclusive wedding photos and magazine interviews. However, I feel like the money is the effect, not the cause. I don't regularly watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians, but have been getting into it recently. From what I saw, Kim and Kris made a cute couple. Were they ready to get married? Probably not, but that doesn't necessarily mean they rushed to the altar to cash in on Kim's fame. Kim is famous for her beauty, her branding and her mother's talents as a manager. The Kardashians are on track to be a $1 billion brand thanks to their clothing, perfume, reality show, etc. $17 million is nothing when you look at the big picture.

Kim tweeted a letter to her fans that made a lot of sense to me. She claimed that she got caught up in the hoopla of the wedding. Even as she began to realize that the marriage was probably not a good idea, it was too late to do anything about it. I kinda see a wedding as a freight train. Once you get on, it's very difficult to get off. Imagine everything she and her family had done to prepare for the nuptials - the invitations, the location, the dress, the food. To call it off at the last minute would be humiliating. Add the cameras, contracts and constant tabloid fodder that comes along with being a celebrity to all the standard stress. I completely understand why she felt that she had no choice but to go through with the wedding, not that it's an excuse.

Critics also use the Kardashian wedding as an example of why it's unfair that straight couples can marry, but most gay couple can't. The opposition to gay marriage asserts that they are trying to protect the sanctity of marriage. Regardless of why Kim got married, divorcing after less than three months does little to protect the sanctity of marriage. Obviously, it goes without saying that I am a huge supporter of gay marriage. Given I'm gay and hope to get married one day, I'm in favor of all gay rights.

That being said, I don't see why people are attacking Kim based on federal and state laws that discriminate against gays. Kim is a gay icon - she's gorgeous, fabulous and very supportive of her gay fans. It's a shame that some gay advocates are using Kim as the poster child for failed, heterosexual marriage. I don't think we should blame Kim for exercising her right to get married. I think we should blame the politicians who create discriminatory laws that prevent equal rights for everyone.

At it's core, Kim and Kris' divorce will be a devastating ordeal for both of them. It's sad occasion and shouldn't be used for covers to sell magazines or jokes on late night TV. No one, aside from her friends and family, knows the real Kim. We, the general public, don't know anything about her life except for what she decides to show us. People claim that she's famous for nothing. Wrong! She's famous because millions of people find her beautiful and interesting enough to watch every Sunday on E! If you don't like her then just stop talking about her.