Music to make you move faster, harder, longer

Chalene Johnson picks out music for the workout DVDs her company produces. Chalene Johnson picks out music for the workout DVDs her company produces. Chalene Johnson is the owner of Blue Powder Productions in Irvine. Chalene Johnson listens to potential songs for the workout DVDs her company produces. Chalene Johnson is the owner of Blue Powder Productions in Irvine. Chalene Johnson is the owner of Blue Powder Productions in Irvine. Chalene Johnson is the owner of Blue Powder Productions in Irvine. Chalene Johnson lip-syncs and air-guitars to Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'N' Roll" during the Camp Turbo 2010 Do More fashion show on July 30 in Costa Mesa. The show was chock-full of '70s punk and '80s New Wave hits, the soundtrack to Johnson's youth. Vasilliki Karagiorgos, aka Vassy, performs during the Camp Turbo 2010 Do More fashion show July 30 in Costa Mesa. The Australian-born singer's song "History" is included on the upcoming Turbo Kick CD, Round 42. Chalene Johnson is the owner of Blue Powder Productions in Irvine. Chalene Johnson is the owner of Blue Powder Productions in Irvine. Chalene Johnson is the owner of Blue Powder Productions in Irvine. Chalene Johnson is the owner of Blue Powder Productions in Irvine. Chalene Johnson is the owner of Blue Powder Productions in Irvine. Chalene Johnson, owner of Blue Powder Productions, listens to potential songs for the workout DVDs her company produces. Chalene Johnson picks out music for the workout DVDs her company produces. Chalene Johnson is the owner of Blue Powder Productions in Irvine. Chalene Johnson picks out music for the workout DVDs her company produces. Chalene Johnson is the owner of Blue Powder Productions. A Zumba class at Total Woman Gym and Day Spa in Mission Viejo. Music is not only a pleasant distraction during a workout, it can feel like a life-saver, getting us through the dismal drudgery of exercise. Show Caption of Continue Reading

Lyric tackles transgender opera, but themes are universal to all people

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City will present “As One,” a contemporary chamber opera this weekend that follows the journey of a boy growing up and becoming a woman named Hannah. But pretty much everyone involved in the production agrees: This tale transcends transgender issues and offers something for anyone who has struggled with issues of identity. And that, they all point out, is pretty much everyone. “As One” features two performers, a baritone and a mezzo-soprano, portraying Hannah Before and Hannah After, as well as a string quartet. The story of her transformation is told over the course of 15 songs. Mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert is Hannah After in “As One.” Baritone Wes Mason portrays Hannah Before in “As One.” In one of them, Hannah heads to the Lewis & Clark Library — noting that it was named for explorers — to find out more about the “magic word” transgender that she has just heard for the first time on TV. It’s a fitting observational aside given that “As One” is part of the Lyric Opera’s Explorations series, which began in 2016 and features “programs in intimate spaces, with programming that crosses musical borders and experiments with a wide range of lyrical expression.” According to Deborah Sandler, director and CEO of Lyric Opera of Kansas City, there is a clear demarcation during “As One” when Hannah goes from being male to female, yet both performers are onstage performing throughout. Baritone Wes Mason portrays Hannah Before and mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert is Hannah After. Both performers are from New York and will share the stage with The Fry Street Quartet of Utah, which debuted “As One” in Brooklyn four years ago. Mary Birnbaum, a nominee for Best Newcomer of 2015 at the International Opera Awards in London, will direct this weekend’s programs. Sandler has wanted the Lyric Opera to Continue Reading

Young MC looks back on ‘Bust a Move,’ prepares for Phoenix Suns halftime show

Marvin Young was in his senior year at University of Southern California when he wrote the single that remains his mainstream calling card three decades later. A "jam for all the fellas," "Bust A Move" took Young MC from USC to No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. He went on to earn his economics major as well as a well-deserved Grammy for Best Rap Performance.The star, who moved to Scottsdale in 2006, will treat the crowd at Talking Stick Resort Arena to a live performance of his platinum breakthrough Saturday during halftime at the Phoenix Suns game.It's part of “80s Decade Night,” for which the Suns will also bring back players from that decade, hosting an autograph session with those players and recognizing the best Suns moments of the '80s throughout the game."Not his first rodeoHe's done his share of halftime gigs, from Sacramento to Chicago."I get to do a little bit of a newer song," he says. "Then I jump into “Bust a Move” and everybody’s happy."But until this year, he'd never done one in the Valley. This is actually his second local halftime of 2017.In September, he busted a move at University of Phoenix Stadium for a Cardinals game. Now this."Doing halftime after living here 11 years is something I am really looking forward to," he says. "I go to other cities and I do their halftime and it’s like, 'Man, I wish I could do that at home. I wish I could just drive to one.”Young laughs, then adds, "The fact that I can go in and knock out a halftime for my hometown is just very cool."Home is where the halftime isThe rapper checked in from his Scottsdale home to talk about his life in music, from discovering hip-hop, pre-"Rapper's Delight," as a child in Queens, to doing 100 dates a year or more since joining the "I Love the '90s" package tour. Here's what he had to say. Question: What brought you to Scottsdale?Answer: Being in LA for too long. Wanting a bit of a change. I was in a Continue Reading

Everything’s Deja new for ‘This Is Us’ star Lyric Ross

One day you’re an eighth grader in a Chicago suburb and the next, you’ve got a juicy role on one of TV’s biggest hits, This Is Us (NBC, Tuesday, 9 ET/PT).You can imagine the range of emotions 14-year-old Lyric Ross felt on her first day on the Los Angeles set.“I was excited, I was nervous, I was scared, I was happy, I was confused, I was tired,” she tells USA TODAY in her first interview since her character's arrival in the Pearson home in the Oct. 10 episode. But mostly, “I love it. I’m grateful.”Ross, who said she’s wanted to act since she was a toddler, had appeared in minor roles on Chicago Fire and Sirens before she won the part of Deja, a 12-year-old foster child taken in by Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), the parents of two younger girls.When Ross got the role, producers explained Deja’s mother’s legal problems and the girl's harrowing experiences moving between foster homes. “She’s pushing people (away). She doesn’t think she can trust anybody,” Ross says. “It’s the opposite of me.”Ross points out how Deja’s story connects to Randall’s adoption. “It was cool that he wanted to do something like that for another little black baby, but the other thing I thought was cool was that Beth wanted to help an older child get somewhere stable.”Brown, via e-mail, marvels at fledgling actress' skills. "She’s a baby, and to me, it feels like she’s been doing this for years. She is so present, responsive and truthful." Watson admires Ross's wide-eyed sense of discovery. “Lyric is a beautiful young girl. Her personality is so loving, warm and very fresh. She’s seeing things for the first time.”The teen sounds like she still can't believe she works with such actors. “It’s GREAT!” she says. Brown “is Continue Reading

Kacey Musgraves moves forward as country’s latest star with hard-time tales

For Kacey Musgraves, the singer matters less than the song. “It would suck if people said my songs aren’t that strong, but I’ve got a great voice,” she says. “We have so many girls out now who have a huge set of pipes and nothing more. You have to come with something different.” Musgraves does. Her first major-label album, “Same Trailer, Different Park,” established her as the most forthright new country star of the year. The songs flinch from the slick cliches of modern Nashville, favoring instead well-turned phrases and sharply honed points of view. Musgraves’ first single, “Merry Go ’Round,” released in advance of her CD, zeroed in on the most suffocating aspects of small-town life. The song is peopled with characters resigned to their fates. “Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay/Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane/and daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down,” the chorus goes. It’s not the kind of thing you’d expect a new artist to lead with. But Musgraves insisted on it. “The label didn’t want that to be my first single,” she says. “They would have preferred something more upbeat. But I wanted people to know who I am.” The gamble paid off. After its release late last year, “Merry Go ’Round” became a Top 10 country radio hit, selling more than 650,000 copies. That greased the way for Musgraves’ album to go to No. 1 on the country charts this year. The singer has earned opening slots on tours with mainstream Nashville stars like Kenny Chesney and Little Big Town. On Thursday, Musgraves headlines her own gig at Bowery Ballroom. The singer’s tender age of 24, good looks and pride in writing have earned her comparisons to Taylor Swift. But Musgraves’ music has far more twang and her viewpoint is much more adult. It helps that she got an early start, writing her first songs in Continue Reading

What does Becky mean? Here’s the history behind Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ lyric that sparked a firestorm.

"He better call Becky with the good hair."And with those eight words, Beyoncé launched a firestorm Saturday. Who is Becky?  (Not Rachel Roy or Rita Ora, they say.) And who is he?We may never know.What we do know: The name Becky has become a stand-in for a generic woman, generally white, who is familiar with sexual acts.The cultural references date to William Makepeace Thackeray's satirical novel Vanity Fair published around 1847. The protagonist, Becky Sharp, is a social climber who utilizes one of the resources at her disposal -- her charm and ability to seduce wealthy men -- to move up the social ladder. It’s a classic picaresque novel in which a character of low class lives on her wits in a corrupt society. In this case, her wits involve identifying men who stand to gain massive inheritances and convincing them to marry her in secret. She also has few female friends, and the ones she does have she tends to screw over.Fast-forward to 1876, and along comes Becky Thatcher seducing Tom Sawyer with -- you guessed it -- her “yellow hair plaited into two long tails.” Though Becky in Mark Twain’s world is less conniving and more a symbol of an unattainable, beautiful girl, it’s the start of a trend.In 1938, Daphne du Maurier sets up the ex that will haunt us all in her novel Rebecca. Though not the shortened version of the name, the book and the 1940s Alfred Hitchcock-directed film adaptation cement Rebecca in pop culture as the name of the woman who will always be in a man's head.Skip ahead to Sir Mix A Lot, who adds the phrase “oh my god Becky, look at her butt,” to the cultural lexicon. The lyrics to Baby Got Back indicate Becky and her friend are white, somewhat basic, and mildly racist, as they do not understand the appeal of a woman's shapely posterior or wider definitions of beauty than their own. And Continue Reading

Lyric addresses parking, traffic issues at proposed N. College site

Touting a whimsical spaceship-inspired design, three movie screens and a restaurant, the Lyric Cinema Cafe took a step forward in its efforts to relocate to a vacant lot off of North College Avenue.The city held a hearing Monday on the independent theater's planned move from Old Town to 1209 N. College Ave., with word — either denial, approval or approval with conditions of its project development plan — coming within 10 days.Currently, the project's drawings are also in the design development where the architect, multiple engineers, the general contractor and the owner coordinate the various elements of the building into a functioning design, according to Brian Majeski of Urban|Rural Design.In the near future, the design development phase will be complete, and the project will move into the permit documentation phase, Majeski said. Lyric owner Ben Mozer said he's shooting to start construction in September with an opening date sometime in spring of 2017.CREATIVE BUSINESSES: Couple envisions Airport Art DistrictThe 1.6-acre undeveloped lot is the proposed new home of a beefed-up Lyric, one with 11,034 square feet to play with compared to its current 3,600. And, of course, there's parking.The proposed site will have 32 onsite spaces, fewer than the minimum requirement of 81, but Mozer said he's patched together a network of off-site spots at adjacent businesses, including Ken's Muffler and possibly other nearby lots, to make up the difference.David Huntwork, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church at 1201 N. College Ave., expressed concerns about the proposed theater's effects on traffic flow and parking.Citing the small number of parking spaces surrounding the church, Huntwork said he worried about parking being pushed to Grace Fellowship's already small lot. And, though the proposed Lyric site will have a dedicated, but shared, entryway north of Grace Fellowship, Huntwork also said he Continue Reading

Lil Wayne ‘acknowledges’ but doesn’t apologize to family of Emmett Till for offensive lyric

The saying "better late than never" shouldn't always be applicable. Two months late, rapper Lil Wayne has half-heartedly apologized to the family of civil rights icon Emmett Till for referencing the slain teenager in an offensive lyric in the Future song “Karate Chop.” The controversial rapper sent a letter to the family of Emmett Till, addressing the uproar he caused, but never actually says "I apologize." "It has come to my attention that lyrics from my contribution to a fellow artist's song has deeply offended your family," Wayne wrote. Till's family released the letter from the 30-year-old rapper on Wednesday. "As a father myself, I cannot imagine the pain that your family has had to endure. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge your hurt, as well as the letter you sent to me via your attorneys." "I acknowledge" is not the same thing as "I'm sorry," Wayne. The rapper compared a sex act to the 14-year-old Chicago native's violent murder in 1955. "Moving forward, I will not use or reference Emmett Till or the Till family in my music, especially in an inappropriate manner," he continued. Till's cousin, Airicka Gordon-Taylor isn't buying it. "We are aware of Lil Wayne’s statement of acknowledgement of our family’s pain and our disapproval of referencing Emmett Till in his lyrical content," she wrote on the family's Memorial Facebook page. Previously, Gordon-Taylor told the Associated press that Wayne's lyrics caused her family a lot of pain. "It just destroyed me," she said in February. "And then I had to call the elders in my family and explain to them before they heard it from some another source." Epic Records, Wayne's label, has since pulled the song. The company's chairman and CEO LA Reid personally reached out to apologize to the family in February. "I fully support Epic Record's decision to take down the unauthorized version of the song and to not include the reference in the version that Continue Reading

Penn State spikes ‘Sweet Caroline’ from football playlist over concerns about ‘touching me, touching you’ lyrics following Jerry Sandusky sex scandal

Penn State is taking extreme measures to change the culture of its football program following the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal. The atmosphere at the school is so sensitive that Beaver Stadium's traditional sing-along of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" is going to be a thing of the past because of its touchy lyrics. According to the Altoona Mirror, Penn State is eliminating "Sweet Caroline" from its musical playlist for football games this season because the song features the lyric "touching me, touching you." The Mirror's report says that university officials are uneasy about the prospect of a stadium packed with 100,000-plus spectators singing the lyrics as the school tries to move forward from the sex scandal. This accompanies a list of changes made to the program for this season. The football players will wear names on the back of their jerseys for the first time in program history, and the team will arrive to home games more than an hour earlier than they did under Joe Paterno, and they will not be in uniform on the bus. Mark Wilson/Getty Images Jerry Sandusky Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

New Music Tuesday: Wilco’s latest, ‘Wilco (The Album)’ moves forward while giving back to fans

You know you love your favorite band. But do they love you back? Fans of Wilco no longer have to wonder about that. The band kicks off its seventh studio CD with a song aimed straight at the heart of their devotees. "Is someone twisting the knife in your back/Are you being attacked?" front man Jeff Tweedy sings. "Then this is a fact you need to know ... Wilco will love you baby." That's a rarer  statement than it may first seem. While every living musician may state their fealty to fans in interviews, how many have written a song about it? (Not counting cornball teen idols, that is.) It's even more amazing that the serious-minded band who penned this song of succor turns out to be Wilco, who are no one's idea of a warm and fuzzy act. Wilco's most talked about CD  — 2002's "Yankee Foxtrot Hotel" — bathed itself in a remote and unforgiving haze, defined by guitar distortions that only got blurrier and more evasive on their 2004 chaser, "A Ghost Is Born." More recently, Wilco has been trying to make their music clearer. In several ways, 2007's "Blue Sky Blue" returned them to the alt-country sound that launched them a decade earlier. It housed much sweeter tunes and pithier song structures than its immediate predecessors. Now, the new CD — awarded the tellingly direct title "Wilco (The Album)" — tightens and prettifies things even more. It houses some of the band's loveliest melodies, from the Replacements-like pop-rock of "You Never Know," (which also features a George Harrison-style cooing guitar), to "You and I," which achieves the intimacy of the Beatles' "Two of Us" by pairing Tweedy's voice with the whispering beauty of Feist's. Likewise, Tweedy's words find him yearning to connect. On "Solitaire," he sings about no longer wanting to play that lonely game. In "Everlasting Everything," he hopes love can endure, while for "Deeper Down," the character he writes about moves from seeing a kiss as Continue Reading