DOPE Digest is a weekly roundup of pop culture miscellany, with succinct analysis from our contributors.
Ariana Grande – Christmas & Chill EP
syvo: Well, well, well- Merry Christmas! This is a fantastic little surprise. This past week, we read that Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” was somehow unseated this year (by a stupid Shins cover of that stupid Paul McCartney song) as the most-played in-store holiday tune. Ariana, the Mariah faux-tégé that she is, must smell blood, since over the last few years she’s been steadily releasing her own Christmas tunes.
In 2013, she released the Christmas Kisses EP, which featured covers of done-to-death favorites like “Last Christmas” and “Santa Baby.” Last year, she dropped a single and a video for “Santa Tell Me,” her first Christmas original (covered in last year’s special Christmas DOPE Digest). Now comes the provocatively-titled new “Christmas & Chill” EP, featuring a handful of all-original Christmas crooners.
As for the songs themselves, I’m really enjoying this. While not necessary canon-level yet, this is a perfect holiday gift from Princess Ariana. The standout track for me is “December,” which you can hear below.
BK: I just can’t believe she wrote all 13 minutes of this opus in one week! Was she funneling eggnog? Did she crush up candy canes and blow them into her tear ducts? How is this much seasonal joy possible??
Ok, so it’s not THAT Christmas-y – but it is a nice digestible nugget of Ariana which we can always use. I don’t think we have any tracks here that will be making an impression on the Christmas canon, but this is a pleasant, plucky little effort that goes above and beyond the typical covers. The second half of the EP definitely outshines the first. If you’re in a rush, you can skip straight to Not Just One Christmas. The final track ‘Winter Things’ is probably the best of the bunch.
Julia: To her credit, since My Everything, Ariana Grande has crafted a distinct style that has pretty successfully separated her from the obvious Mariah comparisons – even if the cornerstone of that distinct style is lazily under-enunciating her lyrics, as if she was singing through a mouth full of marbles. I like this surprise Christmas thing. It’s about time we had some new quality pop holiday songs – the last good one was by *NSYNC for crying out loud! “Chill” is the operative word, as nothing here has the hyper energy of a bona fide Christmas smash, but in general these 6 songs are a holly jolly good time.
In an ironic twist, I can’t get too excited about this because later today the three of us are going to an all-Christmas concert from her majesty Mariah herself!! She’s going to be sooo sparkly and over the top, waving her hands around and hopefully reaching all the right notes. I own the piano sheet music to her Christmas album; wish I thought to bring it for an autograph. Mariah! Ariana who? Sorry girl, you’ll get there someday.
BK: MARIAH DAY!
Independence Day: Resurgence Trailer
BK: But, DID we always know they were coming back? Did we really, Roland Emmerich? Because to me it seemed like Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum pretty well messed them up at the end of the last Independence Day. With the virus??? With the bombing of the mothership? With the fat lady singing??!
I loved the original ID:4 (as the cool kids called it) and I actually think Emmerich does massive, earth-destroying blockbusters pretty well. But this sequel seems extremely unnecessary. The collective unoriginality of Big Hollywood and the need to build blockbusters on the shoulders of previous blockbusters is nauseating at this point.
I’m sure they’ll get creative with this one, but that lil’ Hemsworth is no Will Smith. I don’t think any amount of Goldbluming will save this flick from itself.
syvo: God, this looks like crap. I refuse to see it. The only question is whether this uninspired 90’s action franchise retread will be slightly better or even worse than Jurassic World. I’m really not sure anything could be worse than Jurassic World.
Star Trek Beyond Trailer
BK: I’m down! I’m down for the Beastie Boys, down for the Chris Pine-ing, and down for the weird ninja gurl with the Ray Lewis face paint.
This movie looks like a total blast to me. I know some folks (syvo, looking at you) were down on the franchise after Into Darkness, but for me Star Trek offers a huge world that I know very little about. I’m also on board for everything Simon Pegg ever does (yes, including Run Fatboy Run) and he’s featured heavily in the series. That accent, y’know?
And thanks to Justin Lin I never have to wonder how they live in Tokyo.
syvo: This looks pretty fun, but I’d be lying if I said I was truly excited about it. I loved the first in this series, but by Into Darkness I was already pretty over it. This third one should be better, if only because the change in director (from culturally respectable J.J. Abrams to Tokyo Drift visionary Justin Lin) represents a certain much-needed acquiescence, a softening of the illusion that there is any longer any meaningful difference between Star Trek and The Fast and the Furious in terms of depth, meaning, and consequence.
Julia: I liked the first Star Trek in this series. Not feeling the music shouting at me during this trailer, but it looks like they’ve set up some pretty good pratfalls and punchlines to entertain people like me who don’t have any Star Trek Brand Loyalty. In the last two space movies I saw, Matt Damon was hanging out by himself on deserted planets, so I assume he’ll show up here too at some point.
Pusha T – “Crutches, Crosses, Caskets” Video
BK: How has Pusha T not been in more videos with nuns?! I suggest he roll around with a squad of nun bodyguards for the rest of his time as President of G.O.O.D. Music. Can’t be too safe I say; or too holy.
And another thing! Pusha T is the best rapper. I know, Kendrick and Drake, J. Cole and Kanye and Big Sean and Mac Miller and whoever else you want to say. I disagree. From the time he was rapping with his brother and The Neptunes as one-half of Clipse until now, Pusha T has continued to get better and better. There is no rap album I am looking forward to more than the King Push: Darkest Before Dawn (and its out TODAY!). And lets make that G.O.O.D. Music Fest happen while we’re at it, President Push.
syvo: “All I see is victims.” Yikes, that line gave me the chills! This video is awesomely creepy, and I love those shots of Pusha hanging off the carousel. Particularly since it’s the Holiday Season, I’m always in favor of Madonnaec appropriation of Catholic imagery for vulgar entertainment purposes.
Unravel story trailer
BK: Nerd time!
We don’t post much for video games around here, and for good reason. Beyond FIFA and Call of Duty (Zombies), I have a hard time getting too amped up about video game releases. I didn’t even finish a couple recent releases that I loved (Batman: Arkham Knight and Shadows of Mordor – I’m sorry! You deserved better) which makes me hesitant to get too invested in another story-based long-term video gaming experience.
But then I saw Yarny – that adorable little string dude from the trailer for Unravel – and now all bets are off. From a few minutes of Googling, it looks like Unravel is an indie development to be released in partnership with EA in February. The trailer gave me the feels unlike even the best movie trailers, and it holds up through multiple views. I know, ‘physics-based puzzle platformer’ doesn’t seem like an emotional roller coaster to me either, but there is no way I can skip this one. Did you see that cute grandma??! C’MON PEOPLE HAVE A HEART!
(Also its only $20. basically stealing.)
syvo: Wow, this is an incredibly gorgeous looking game. I must say, I’m a little stunned by this beauty (and also quite creeped out by how realistic the elderly woman is). I look forward to many hours of siting around and watching you playing this, BK.
Julia: Yarny! This trailer has prompted a number of questions about the saga of this cute yarn dude. Is the other half of the broken heart with the old lady? If she misses him so much, could she just make another yarn friend while he’s gone? And vice versa – why doesn’t Yarny just turn around and follow the trail of his yarn back to where he started from?! Now I’m invested; I will watch you play this too, Braden, likely while analyzing Bravo reality shows with Tom.
DOPE Throwback: Blink-182 – Won’t Be Home For Christmas
BK: Well look at this little nugget of Christmas goodness!
This track combines two of my favorite things – classic three-chord Blink-182 and lonely Christmas (so emo right now). It’s always a challenge to find fresh music for a holiday party but this song will definitely be making my playlist. AND its perfect for the weekend! A regular Christmas miracle if I’ve ever seen one.
And Happy Friday.