Archive for April, 2015

Reba’s Return To Country Music

When a singer is forty years into a musical career that has produced more top ten hits than any other woman on the country chart and she’s tied with Dolly Parton for the most #1 singles by a woman, it’s hard for songs to sound original.

But, on her 27th studio album, “Love Somebody”, Reba McEntire sounds original and familiar at the same time.

Reba Love Somebody

In its first week, “Love Somebody”, Reba’s first new album since late 2010’s “All The Women I Am”, debut at the top of the Country Album chart and at #3 on the Billboard 200 (a ranking of all musical genres) selling 62,000 copies.

This is her 12th number one country album and her ninth Top Ten album on the Billboard 200.

The first single, “Going Out Like That”, is now up to #25 on the Billboard Country Singles chart.

“Love Somebody” comes in two versions:  a standard 12-song album and a deluxe Target exclusive that features two additional songs.

Hopefully when you bought the album or you buy it, you give yourself time to listen to it without interruptions.

When I listened to it for the first time, I was driving and got only two or three songs into the album before real life forced me to start listening to it again later.

That was a disservice to Reba’s efforts on the album and for my listening pleasure.  Because of that, at first listen, I thought the album felt disjointed.  That is far from the truth.

Upon devoting proper time to my idol’s heartfelt gift to her fans, I realized how much the album is classic Reba and how much I’ve missed hearing new music from her.

While the first single, “Going Out Like That”, which kicks off the album, was released four months ago and is slowly gaining traction at country radio, there’s no talk publicly of the second single.

As you explore the album for possibilities, the clear cut winner would be, “Enough”, the second cut on the album, which is a duet with Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland.

This song tells the story of a married woman hoping her man finds enough about her to stay while “the other woman” is hoping for the same thing.

Earlier when I said the album sounds original and “familiar” at the same time, “Enough” will have you flashing back to Reba’s Grammy Award-winning, #1 smash duet, “Does He Love You”, with Linda Davis, from 1994.

Reba has always had her finger on the pulse of people (mostly women) going through breakups and dealing with heartbreak, people hoping to find love, and for people finding that love.

“She Got Drunk Last Night” and “I’ll Go On” both satisfy the breakup and moving on theme.  “I’ll Go On” reminds me a lot of one of my favorite Reba songs that was never released as a single, “He Wants To Get Married” from 1992’s “It’s Your Call”.

In 1991, following a very dark time for Reba, she released a very personal album, “For My Broken Heart”.  The title track and first single and the last song on the album, “If I Had Only Known” are alive in this album’s “Just Like Them Horses”.

The beautiful song is stunning.  It’s about one person facing the reality that their time on Earth is over and they convince a survivor that they’re ready to go and that have to say goodbye.  They do it with grace, dignity, and respect.

When Reba got the song, she thought of her father, Clark, who wasn’t doing well.  When he passed away last October, Reba sang it at his funeral.

Reba 2011

Finding love against all odds is a strong point for Reba and through my 25 years of being a fan, she’s given me hope when I didn’t think there was any.

On this album, “That’s When I Knew” would give any man or woman faith that love is right around the corner and it’s my favorite song on “Love Somebody”.

Reba excels at upbeat anthems, too, and there are many on “Love Somebody”.

“Livin’ Ain’t Killed Me Yet” and “Until They Don’t Love You” are great, and then there’s the simplistic beauty of the mid-tempo, “Promise Me Love”.

When there’s a new Reba album, I admit that I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t a song that doesn’t truly rip your heart out and bring you to tears.

On her recent efforts, “Moving Oleta” (from “Room To Breathe”) and “Roses” (from “So Good Together”) come to mind.

On “Love Somebody”, that song is “Love Land”.  After I got over the mindset that the mother didn’t want her daughter to have a child outside of marriage, the message song brought me to tears — first, of sadness and then, happiness.

Reba Love Somebody

“Love Somebody” is a solid album and it makes you realize how much Reba has brought to country music over the past forty years.  It also makes it clear how much she could offer country music radio if it looked beyond ageism.

This is Reba’s best album since 2004’s “Room To Breathe”.

GRADE:  B+

My favorite tracks:  “That’s When I Knew”, “Just Like Them Horses”, “Promise Me Love”, “Until They Don’t Love You”, “Going Out Like That”, and  “Enough”.

Here’s a Reba bonus.

Last summer, before it was announced that Reba was working on “Love Somebody”, she released “Pray For Peace”, featuring her good friend, Ronnie Dunn, of Brooks & Dunn, and her daughter-in-law, Kelly Clarkson.

It’s featured on the new album.

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Movies For A Rainy Day

Unseasonably cool weather has taken over the Midwest the last few days and with rain Friday night and for much of Saturday, here are a few movies suggestions if you’re in the mood to rent movies and just listen to the falling rain.

“THE IMITATION GAME”

“The Imitation Game” was a fantastic lesson of one of the true heroes of World War 2 that few know.

It’s tragic how pathetic British laws were back in the 1950s persecuting people for just being themselves. Benedict Cumberbatch was very touching as a tormented genius that helped to bring the Germans down.

While definitely an Oscar worthy performance from Cumberbatch because I couldn’t take my eyes off him, I still think that Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything” deserved the Best Actor Oscar and I’ve seen 4-of-the-5 performances.

GRADE: A

“THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING”

Speaking of the Oscars and Eddie Redmayne, I’ve seen four of the five Best Actor nominees from last year.

Without seeing Bradley Cooper in “American Sniper” and as much as I love Cumberbatch, Eddie deserved his Oscars hands down playing ALS-stricken theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

Eddie was so believable as Hawking as he met the love of his life that would become his wife and then find out that the debilitating disease would, in just years, take his life.

The most heartbreaking scene in the movie for me was a dinner scene with Hawking, his wife, and close friends, but I won’t spoil it for you by describing it.

Redmayne succeeds and Hawking was a winner in real life.

GRADE:  A-

“BEYOND THE LIGHTS”

When this musical drama came out in theaters late last year, I didn’t have any desire to movie house prices to see it.  I guess America didn’t either.  The $7 million dollar movie earned only $14.6 million at the box office.

However, I definitely wanted to see it on DVD and what a pleasurable movie it is.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who earned rave reviews in the 2013 period piece, “Belle”, was excellent as pop star Noni Jean, who just won a Billboard Music Award and is getting ready to release her debut album.

But, an incident on a hotel balcony railroads her path to success.

“Beyond The Lights” has great music, a good storyline, a hot love interest played by hunky Nate Parker, and an incredible performance by Minnie Driver as an obsessive stage mom.

If you’re like me, it’ll be hard to watch some of the movie and not see Rihanna (and Chris Brown).

GRADE:  B

“MAPS TO THE STARS”

2014 was a great year for Julianne Moore.

She won rave reviews, her first Oscar, and a Golden Globes award for “Still Alice”.  She also won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for another Golden Globes award for “Maps To The Stars”.

In this satirical drama (although Moore was nominated in the “comedy” category for the Golden Globes) from acclaimed director David Cronenberg, Moore plays an aging actress, who’s trying to win the dream role of playing her late mother (a famous actress) in a movie remake.

Needless to say, Moore’s Havana Segrand is messed up and out of touch with real life.  I’m not saying all in Hollywood are. 🙂

But, she’s calm and collected compared to Agatha Weiss, played with perfection by Mia Wasikowska (who also played Moore’s daughter in 2010’s “The Kids Are All Right”).  She has many issues, as does most everyone in this movie.

“Maps To The Stars” is a very strange, but riveting movie.

GRADE:  B

“A MOST VIOLENT YEAR”

New Year’s Eve may not be the best time to release a movie if you want people to see it.

This drama takes place in early 1981 New York City during a very violent period when several oil trucks were being hijacked.

Oscar Isaac, who was amazing in the much better “Inside Llewyn Davis” that I wrote about earlier this year, is the owner of Standard Oil, an up and coming oil company.  Several of his trucks are taken and one of his drivers is almost beaten to death.

The movie follows his quest to find out who’s behind the violence.  At the same time, he’s being investigated for price-fixing, tax evasion, and other charges by the city’s assistant district attorney.

Academy Award nominee and Golden Globes winner Jessica Chastain, played his powerful, domineering, and heartless wife, Anna, the daughter of a mob boss.  She’s incredible and needed to be in the movie more.

GRADE:  B-

“INTO THE WOODS”

My 13-year-old daughter has seen this Disney musical, from the man who brought us the Oscar-winning 2002 musical, “Chicago”, several times and she loves it.

I, on the other hand, did not care for it.

It was too long and tried to serve too many children’s stories without much cohesiveness.

When Meryl Streep was on-screen as “The Witch”, the movie soared.

But, I don’t know everything.  The $50 million production has now grossed more than $204 million worldwide.

GRADE:  C

“NIGHTCRAWLER”

I was excited to see “Nightcrawler” with Jake Gyllenhaal, but I had to suspend belief while watching it since I’m in the news business.

A casual viewer would rate the movie higher.

However, I know it’s IMPOSSIBLE to just walk into the news studio of the #2 market in the country saying you have video and seeing the news director working with the editor on how to put a story together.

The movie paints the news business as very unscrupulous (and some stations and networks are, hi Fox News!).

Gyllenhaal is so creepy in the movie, it could have been called “NightCreeper” or “CreepyCrawler”.

GRADE: C- (to a non-news person: C+)

“RABBIT HOLE”

Here’s a fantastic flashback if you can find it.  It only took me more than four years to finally see it.

This little seen 2010 movie directed by the incredible John Cameron Mitchell (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Shortbus”) stars Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, and a younger Miles Teller (“Whiplash”).

The drama follows the lives of husband and wife, Howie and Becca (Eckhart and Kidman) after their 4-year-old son was struck and killed by a car when he ran out into the street chasing their dog.

Kidman earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her sad and incredible performance.

Not a happy movie, but very powerful.

GRADE:  B+

Enjoy your weekend!

Anthony