A Star is Born Review

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I couldn’t help but go GAGA over this one, folks.

Rating: 🎤🎤🎤🎤🎤🎤🎤🎤🎤

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Top Ten Anime Opening Songs of All Time

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In all my years, this might be the slowest summer I can remember. There’s nothing going on. The NFL training camp storylines are all boring, repetitive, or depressing. Baseball is just kind of there until the playoff race. NBA free agency came and went. The only major story is the Ohio State situation which…..yeah I think I’m good on that. The real world’s been pretty dry, too. No crazy fast food items, no funny science articles, no nothing. As a result, I’ve been quite bored. And in my boredom, rather than try new things or make progress on my theoretical career, I’ve turned to an old friend of mine, G Gundam. It’s my favorite show of all time, and I’ve watched it in it’s entirety at least seven times. But I just can’t get enough. It’s silly, it’s over-the-top, it’s melodramatic, and almost definitely wouldn’t be put on the air in 2018. Really the only thing you need to know is that there’s a giant horse robot that’s piloted by an actual horse. But every few years, I’m drawn back to it. Yes, it’s a ridiculous super-robot show about gundams fighting for control of the universe, but’s it’s so much more than that. It’s a story about love, loss, and that human moment where you learn your parents/ the people that raised you aren’t perfect, after all, and it has one of the best casts of characters you’ll ever find. And it totally leans in and embraces the absurdity of itself. I could literally talk about G Gundam for days on end.

But on to the topic at hand. Among the many reasons why I love G Gundam so much (alongside the beautiful character designs, countless emotional scenes, and the fact that it’s one of the rare cases where the dub is far superior to the original Japanese) is that the soundtrack is pure heat. Every song and composition is an absolute banger, and that includes both of its opening songs. It got me wondering if both songs would rank in the top ten of anime opening theme songs. So, I decided to introduce yet another segment literally only I care about, the Top Ten Anime Opening Songs of All Time.

Before I begin, I must make it clear: I’m only including shows I’ve seen. I’m sure that one random show you watched on Crunchyroll the other week has a fire opening song, but I haven’t seen it, so it’d be disingenuous for me to include it. And while I’ve likely watched more anime than the average person, my knowledge is far from encyclopedic. So, again, that show that no one watched but you loved isn’t on my radar. Sorry. As for actual criteria, it’s pretty simple: is the song good? Is the song catchy? Does the song insert random English words? If the answer to all of these is yes, odds are it’ll make the list. The quality of the actual show doesn’t matter. As with all of my lists, if you disagree it just means you have incorrect opinions.

10. Outlaw Star

A criminally underrated member of the Toonami class of anime that aired in the early 2000s, Outlaw Star‘s opening song is a slice of late 90s music that concludes with a deliciously forced English phrase. I’m a sucker for space operas so I was naturally drawn to Outlaw Star, but a song that made me want to go to a Lenny Kravitz concert every week didn’t exactly keep my devotion at bay. Could have benefitted from a second season, though.

9. Death Note First Opening

Finally, a song for all the teens out there that no one understands, especially not their annoying stepfathers. God, this song is angsty. Almost too angsty for the list, but I included it, anyway- mostly because it’d be hard to find a song that fits a show’s general vibe more than this. Death Note is a pretty basic bitch answer when it comes to best anime (is the plural anime or animes? I never know), but that’s because (the first half) is great and everyone should watch it. Just hide the sharp objects during the opening.

8. Seven Deadly Sins First Opening

Seven Deadly Sins is a goofy-ass show (yes, and manga. I know 90% of these are based on manga that I haven’t read. Don’t be that guy) that’s essentially a send-up of classic fantasy tropes while also being a pretty standard fantasy story. It also has a flaming hot opening song. They changed it halfway through for reasons I don’t fully understand, but it’s really just bad luck that this song isn’t much higher. Guess it’s true what they say: there’s a lot of good music out there.

7. Attack on Titan First Opening

Need more choirs in my opening theme songs. I’ll say this: no show’s theme song has ever made a show sound as important as Attack on Titan‘s. Feel like the fate of my non-Titan infested world is at stake just watching it. Like if I don’t press play on that next episode evil wins. That’s a powerful incentive to keep watching.

6. Digimon (Japanese Version)

I know, I know. The “Digimon: digital monsters” song holds a special place in my heart, too. But the Japanese version is objectively 100000000 times better. I’m neither a sub nor dub purist, but when the American versions of shows take out fire openings like this it makes me wonder why you’d even bother airing the show, in the first place. I’ll save my thoughts on why the Digimon show universe is far superior to the Pokemon show universe since I realize I can only go so deep into my own brain before I lose everyone completely.

5. G Gundam Second Opening

“G Gundam is only number five? I thought you just went on and on about how good the music was!” Fear not, friend. As I said, G Gundam has two opening songs. Be patient and enjoy some truly elite-level English phrase insertion. Most anime theme songs go for intensity or ear-worm-ability (is English actually my second language, too? You’ll never know), “I Trust You Forever” hits you with the sentimentality. Get you a show that does absolutely everything.

4. Cowboy Bebop

A little different than pretty much every anime song ever, I love Bebop‘s jazz-centric soundtrack. Really gives it that noir-feel. Cowboy Bebop is an absolute must-watch if you haven’t seen it already. It’s pretty much Firefly if Firefly wasn’t on network TV and wasn’t bound by the shackles of live-action. The opening theme fits in perfectly. A memorable and influential song for a memorable and influential show.

3. Death Parade

Death Parade is a decent show about the afterlife. Death Parade has an absolute BANGER for their opening theme. It’s absurd how catchy this song is. I want to live inside this song because it’d be so much fun. It’s the biggest gap between opening theme quality and show quality in television history. Actually, no it’s not. That title goes to….

2. Pokemon First Season

I’ve probably gone into this before, but I hate the show. Ash SUCKS and I want Pikachu dead. I guess I’m too big of a game purist. That being said, only the staunchest hater and biggest stick in the mud can deny the power of the Pokemon theme song. It’s the GOAT English song opening in anime history, and is probably in the top ten for all TV. The remix from the first movie is scalding hot, as well. If only Gary was the main character (this might not be the last Pokemon related content of the summer. Hmmmmmm).

1. G Gundam First Opening

Let me tell you about how dominant the G Gundam soundtrack is. If I was to make a list of the top ten ending songs in anime history, guess which show would have two in the top ten? The answer is G Gundam, if you couldn’t tell. This is the unquestioned GOAT opening theme in television history. I won’t listen to any arguments to the contrary. It has it all: it’s catchy, it’s upbeat, it has a ton of random English phrases. I put the full song because it’s so hot, but the shortened version that’s paired with the video is iconic, too (mostly because it spoils large portions of the plot). Actually, I’ll just include that, too.

It’s just the best. Period. End of story. Nothing will ever top the G Gundam opening theme song. Did I mention that Domon Kasshu, the main character, is thicc as hell, too?

I can’t think of a better set of endorsements for a show than what I’ve just laid out. If you don’t want to watch G Gundam after all this, I don’t know what to tell you.

God, I’m lonely.

Is Mamma Mia 2 the Greatest Movie Sequel of All Time?

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So I saw Mamma Mia 2 over the weekend. Loved it. Love me some ABBA. Love musicals of any kind, really. But I’m totally sucked into the Mamma Mia-verse. I’m blasting ABBA all day and night. I’m dreaming of trips to fictional Greek islands. I’m falling in love with the cast. Hey, Lily James, I hear you like overweight guys with no money or self-esteem, ‘sup? You should take a chance on me (that’s an ABBA joke, folks). I briefly wondered which of the Big Three I’d be before realizing that, in both looks and personality, I’m nearly identical to young Bill.

Who’s who? I certainly can’t tell. I loved it so much I’m researching how much money it would take to purchase the IP rights to the franchise so I can start my own Jukebox Musical Cinematic Universe (look out for It’s My Life, the angsty coming-of-age story of a New Jersey teen struggling to connect with his new stepfather, featuring the music of Bon Jovi, in 2021). More than anything, though, it’s got me wondering where it ranks among the best movie sequels of all time. Gotta be near the top. I knew I needed to parse it out. Now, before we get started, there are some important qualifiers we need to add. First, this is second movies, only. No part threes, no Episode Sevens, only direct sequels. This was mostly a way to keep myself from putting Fast 5-8 as the top sequels and also narrow the field a little. Second, this only counts movies I’ve seen. Now, I’ve seen a lot of movies, but, sadly, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials didn’t make the cut for that reason. Third, while ranking individual pieces of any art form inherently defeats the purpose and robs them of their artistic value while also ignoring the different effects they have on each person, you should just assume that my word is law, here. Trust me, I know better than you. I thought about ranking every sequel ever made from 1-89,371, I decided to shorten it a little bit. Without further ado, the Official Top Ten Movie Sequels Ever Made:

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10. 2 Fast 2 Furious

I’ll be honest, 2 Fast 2 Furious isn’t that good, but it would be really off-brand if I didn’t include a Fast and Furious movie in my top 10. Think of this as a stand-in for the greatness that comes later in the series (yes, I realize how stupid it is to include a movie I don’t like all that much because of my own self-imposed, arbitrary rule. You don’t need to tell me).

Rating: 🚘🚘🚘🚘🚘

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9. Pokémon The Movie 2000

I’m probably too concerned with my personal #brand at the moment, but who cares? Even though I’m on record as a Pokémon show h8r, I’ve spent too many words on the Pokémon universe not to include this in the ranking. Probably couldn’t tell you what the plot of this movie is or why Ash and Pikachu are the only ones who can save the day, but Lugia is always money and the opening short was high quality. There’s so many terrible sequels out there, anyway, so what’s one more wasted darkhorse pick?

Rating: 🔴⚪️🔴⚪️🔴⚪️

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8. The Expendables 2

Just one of the most preposterous movie franchises ever made. In one of the greatest strokes of genius in Hollywood history, Sly Stallone decided to create a universe with every old action hero that’s still alive plus Jason Statham plus some random other guys and make himself the star. The plot isn’t that deep, but you know what? It’s pure. These are movies made for action movie junkies, and you can feel the genuine passion they put in. The Willis-Arnold airport scene will go down in history.

Rating: 💣💣💣💣💣💣💣💣

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7. Godfather Part II

Listen, Godfather 2 is amazing. One of the greatest movies ever made. I prefer it to the first. But it just shows how deep the top part of this list is. Plus, the entire second act is a slog and my attention span isn’t good enough to make it through all the trial scenes and understand all of it.

Rating: 🛶🛶🛶🛶🛶🛶🛶🛶🛶

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6. Toy Story 2

If you ever really want to get in your feelings, watch a Toy Story movie after going through puberty. Essentially (I think) an ode to parenthood, the fact that a children’s movie franchise has its main characters constantly fear no longer being useful and being outgrown by the person they’ve dedicated their lives to is pretty heavy stuff. Also, I had a pretty sweet Zurg toy when I was a kid, so I’m pretty biased.

Rating: 🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠

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5. The Dark Knight

It just celebrated its anniversary, so I’m sure you’ve seen various takes floating around the internet in the last week or so. In recent years it’s become the In thing to try and pick this (and all the Nolan Batman movies) apart and point out the flaws and make it sound bad purely because everyone likes it and the Internet is a stupid place. Don’t listen to them. This movie rules. One of the best theater experiences I’ve ever had and spent a long time as My Favorite Movie. It’s not perfect, but unless you’re actively trying to not enjoy it to show everyone how cool you are, it’s a blast.

Rating: 🦇🦇🦇🦇🦇🦇🦇🦇🦇

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4. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

I dare you, I dare you not to come out of this movie with a smile on your face. It’s impossible. So many dynamite songs, so many dynamite dances. If you actually go into Mamma Mia 2 concerned about the plot you’re missing the point entirely. The plot only exists to shepherd us from one musical number to the next, and each one is better than the last. Cher is a legend, Andy Garcia is a legend, everyone involved with this picture is a legend. (Mamma Mia 2 Song Power Ranking: 1. Fernando 2. Why Did it Have to Be Me? 3. Dancing Queen 4. I’ve Been Waiting For You 5. My Love, My Life)

Rating: 🤰🤰🤰🤰🤰🤰🤰🤰🤰

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3. The Empire Strikes Back

Decent movie. The best Star Wars movie IMO and probably the most culturally important, Episode V is nearly a perfect movie. Not much else to say about it, really.

Rating: ❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️

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2. Lord of the Rings The Two Towers

I’m a LOTR stan. I can’t help it. It’s in my blood. I’m not who I am today without LOTR. Two Towers would be on this list no matter what because of that, but guess what? It’s one of the best movies ever made, and it’s not even the best in the series. The Uruk-hai “I’m starving” scene (the real ones can recite the entire thing from memory. Or maybe that’s just me) is one of the greatest ever committed to film. Helm’s Deep is the G.O.A.T. battle, and Treebeard is the G.O.A.T. tree. Only a truly iconic movie could prevent this from being the top second movie of all time.

Rating: 🗼🗼🗼🗼🗼🗼🗼🗼🗼🗼

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1. John Wick Chapter 2

There was never any doubt.

Rating: 🕯🕯🕯🕯🕯🕯🕯🕯🕯🕯

So, to answer my question, no, Mamma Mia 2 is not the greatest sequel of all time. But number four ain’t half bad. Movie sequels are often bad and rarely original, but the good ones are pretty darn good. This may come as a shock to everyone, but there’s a lot of quality movies out there, so picking the top ten in any movie list is harder than it should be. What I’m saying is if I didn’t mention your favorite sequel don’t get #MadOnline about it. Get better taste. And try to tell me Mamma Mia 2 isn’t the most fun movie ever.

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Countdown to 2018

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Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone. Welcome to the second annual Countdown of Countdowns, where we go through a bunch of random power rankings to celebrate the changing of the calendar. Makes sense, right? If you’re old enough to remember, last year there were sixteen countdowns to commemorate 2016. Well, stay with me here, this year there’s going to be seventeen as we say goodbye to 2017. Before we begin, it would feel disingenuous if I didn’t mention that, despite how great the Countdown of Countdowns and random New Year’s Eve concerts are, New Year’s Eve stinks and I’m glad I’ve reached the point in my life where there’s starting to be less pressure to go out someplace way too crowded, spend way too much money, and have no fun. Anyway, now that you know I’m a New Year’s Scrooge, let’s dive right in to the CoC.

Top Five Movies from 2017 Based on Brian’s Den Scoring

  1. John Wick 2– A true cinematic masterpiece
  2. Dunkirk– Best war drama since Fern Gully
  3. Fast 8– I still can’t get over the Rock pushing a moving torpedo with his non-dominant hand
  4. Logan– That Wolverine/Professor X sex scene was wild
  5. Captain Underpants– Only sophisticated senses of humor will understand

Top Five Movies I Didn’t See but Will Say I Saw Come Awards Season to Sound Smarter

  1. Call Me By Your Name– Classic “look up the plot on Wikipedia so I can always act like I know the plot” kind of movie
  2. Darkest Hour– I’m a big Gary Oldman guy so I’ll probably get to it eventually
  3. Lady Bird– Literally have no interest whatsoever
  4. Mudbound– Sitting here wondering if it’s problematic or not that I haven’t heard of this
  5. Phantom Thread– Heard Daniel Day-Lewis plays a spool of thread. Impressive

Top Five Video Games I Played in 2017

  1. Persona 5– Played through this game two times in a row so that tells you how cool I am
  2. Pokemon Ultra Sun/Moon– Pokemon games are always top five. Sorry
  3. Nioh– Finally made me believe that, no matter where you are, a white guy can be the hero
  4. Horizon Zero Dawn– Bashes you over the head with its social message, but the gameplay and visuals are top notch
  5. Assassin’s Creed Origins– After playing this I was surprised to learn that Moses did, in fact, look just like Christian Bale

Top Five Songs of 2017

  1. “Despacito”- Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Beiber
  2. “Despacito”- Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Beiber
  3. “Despacito”- Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Beiber
  4. “Despacito”- Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Beiber
  5. “Despacito”- Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Beiber

Top Five TV Shows I Watched in 2017

  1. Stranger Things– I’ve been #teamSteve since season 1
  2. Game of Thrones– Even a disappointing season is better than most things on TV
  3. Black Mirror– If you love introspection and hate technology, this is the show for you!
  4. Wallykazam!– Most complex depiction of a troll in recent memory
  5. Super Bowl 51- I didn’t really watch much TV this year so I’ll just throw this here

Top Five Athletes of 2017

  1. Tom Brady- Not much explanation necessary
  2. Kevin Durant- He’s got a whole army of fans on social media that will go to bat for him
  3. Pablo Sandoval- Was somehow the worst player in both leagues
  4. Quavo- The new Jim Thorpe?
  5. Maya Moore- She went to UConn, you know. As did I, if I haven’t mentioned

Top Five New Fast Food Items of 2017

  1. Taco Bell Potatorito
  2. Taco Bell Dollar Stacker
  3. Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chips
  4. Taco Bell Naked Egg Taco
  5. Burger King Farmhouse King

Top Five New Year’s Eve Concerts

  1. Kid Rock- Spirit Center, Kansas City, MO
  2. Migos- Red Rocks, CO
  3. Diarrhea Planet- Rough Trade NYC, Brooklyn
  4. Sting- Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas
  5. Celine Dion- Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas

Top Five Villains in Movie History

  1. Gothmog, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King– Best voice of all time
  2. Hopper, Bug’s Life– The Charles Manson of the bug world
  3. Palpatine, Star Wars– PPPPPPPOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ULTIMITED PPPPPOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWEEEERRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!
  4. Darth Vader, Star Wars– The OG
  5. The Night Slasher, Cobra– The greatest acting performance in history

Top Five Things I Love When Other People Do

  1. Shovel snow
  2. Wash dishes
  3. Fold laundry
  4. Taxes
  5. Pick something to watch on any streaming service

Top Five Fast Casual Tex-Mex Chains

  1. Chipotle- Sorry I’m not mentally weak enough to let a little food poisoning scare me away
  2. Moe’s- Best chips going
  3. Pancheros- Most underrated by far
  4. Qdoba- Can’t believe they got rid of their old cactus logo
  5. Del Taco- It’s no Taco Bell

Top Five Colors

  1. Fuschia- Violet or lavender could also substitute
  2. Sky Blue- Compliments my eye color nicely
  3. Turqoise- Just feels like a tropical breeze
  4. Burgundy- Maybe the classiest color along with mahogany
  5. Magenta- Sorry if you don’t like feeling warm and fuzzy inside

Top Five Fictional Animals to Have as a Pet (Before you say anything, Pokemon are partners, not pets)

  1. Pegasus- Riding a horse typically looks cool, but then the horse unfurls its wings and takes flight? Yes, please
  2. Direwolf- Only if you lived in isolation. Which is my dream
  3. Owl- This means Harry Potter owl. I know owls exist in real life
  4. Dragon- From any story. Pick any dragon in recorded history and I’m down with having it as a pet
  5. Jackalope- A good conversation starter

Top Five Condiments

  1. Maple Syrup- I’d have to turn in my “Vermont native” card if I went with anything else. Yes, I have drank maple syrup, and yes, it was amazing
  2. Chick-fil-a Sauce- Arguably the greatest innovation in fast food history
  3. Mustard- All mustard, but specifically deli mustard and spicy brown
  4. Sweet chili sauce- Underrated and pairs with any meat
  5. Ketchup- Can’t ignore it altogether, but if ketchup is your favorite you have plebeian taste

Top Five Gemstones

  1. Garnet- My birthstone, so you know it’s the best
  2. Red Diamond- Most expensive gem in the world
  3. Emerald- I’m a sucker for green
  4. Alexandrite- Love stuff that changes color
  5. Opal- Just looks cool

Top Five Kinds of Bread

  1. Semolina- If cookies weren’t a thing I’d say the Italians had this whole cooking thing figured out
  2. Sourdough- Regular sourdough, not (I repeat: NOT) vaginal yeast sourdough
  3. Wheat- Lets me pretend I’m eating healthy
  4. Cinnamon Raisin- Using cinnamon raisin bread for french toast >>>
  5. White- Old reliable

Top Five Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2018

  1. Avengers– Gonna be the greatest movie since the last greatest movie ever
  2. Taco Bell’s newest specialties- Who knows what they’ll come up with next?
  3. Getting one step closer to the end of the world- About time the planet hit the reset button
  4. Kingdom Hearts 3– Just kidding. It’s never coming out
  5. Another year of The Brian’s Den- 2018 is gonna be BIG. I can feel it

Unpopular Opinion: Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red is the Best Christmas Album of the Last 33 Years

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As many of you certainly know by now, we’re smack dab in the middle of Christmas SZN, which means it’s prime time for Christmas music. There’s a lot of great Christmas music out there, and, if you’re somehow new to the genre, it can be a little overwhelming. The market is pretty darn saturated (it’s still one of my biggest dreams to record a Christmas album. That’s how I’ll know I’ve made it. Just imagine the cover of Brian’s Den Home for the Holidays), and it’s very easy to go down the wrong path. Luckily, I’m a bit of a Christmas music expert, and, in the spirit of the season, I’ll gladly give my two cents on what kind of Christmas music you should be listening to. Now, you can go anywhere on the Internet and find Christmas album rankings, and all of them will have the same five ones and it’ll just be the most famous ones and all that. But here’s a little tip you can only get here: Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red is the greatest Christmas album of the last 33 years. Why 33 years? Well, 33 years ago, this was released:

Enough said. With some notable exceptions, the majority of Christmas music was written before “Last Christmas” came out. So, for the most part, it was an even playing field for everyone who released a Christmas album afterwards, unless they felt like experimenting and releasing a new song. Some of these new songs worked. Most don’t. So, in the interest of creating the biggest pool from which to draw inspiration, only albums released after 1984 should be considered for the true connoisseur. Sure, there are some high quality pre-Wham! Christmas albums, but if half the songs you know and love haven’t even been written yet, what’s the point? I’d feel like I was cheating you, Christmas music neophyte, if I suggested a Johnny Mathis album that didn’t have a cover of “Santa Baby” included. Feel free to listen and enjoy, but some of the older albums have a much purer, more concentrated Christmas feel to them. Most of the time, only the more seasoned Christmas music listeners can handle the hopeful, more innocent, less cynical sounds of Bing Crosby and the like. We all know better than to feel optimistic about stuff these days, right? Every day was sunshine and rainbows for the folks in the 50s, and their Christmas music reflects that. So, modern=better.

I know what you’re thinking. “There must be a million Christmas albums released since 1984. What makes Kelly Clarkson’s the best?” Well, I’ll get to that shortly, but first I need to give out some honorable mentions, because there’s a lot of good Christmas albums out there. Two things to remember: 1. This is albums, not songs. I’m sorry I didn’t touch on your favorite song even though it’s really popular. That just means the rest of the album stunk. 2. This is non-religious only. There’s some hot, hot religious-only albums out there, but I figured I’d stick with the mainstream, mall soundtrack fare (for posterity’s sake, my top five religious Christmas songs: 1. O Holy Night 2. Oh Come, All Ye Faithful 3. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing 4. Angels We Have Heard On High 5. The First Noel). Most Christmas albums worth their salt have at least one religious song, anyway, so the singer can show off their range. It goes without saying, but if you like “Dominick the Donkey,” “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” or “Do They Know It’s Christmas” you should be euthanized.

Honorable Mention

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Mariah Carey-Merry Christmas

Need to give a shoutout to Mariah for the unquestioned GOAT secular Christmas song. “All I Want for Christmas is You” is somehow both the most overplayed song of all time and the one song in the world that never gets old. It’s a musical triumph. I’ll be totally honest, I’ve never listened to the rest of the album, so it could either be horrible or I could have picked the wrong album to base this whole post around. I’m gonna assume it’s just okay outside AIWFCIY, so I think it’s fine putting it here.

Best Song:

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Leona Lewis- Christmas, with Love

Man, I thought Leona Lewis had next in 2007. She’s got some serious pipes and I have no idea why she’s not the biggest star in the world now. Oh, well, at least she released a great Christmas album. Three original songs seems like a little much when two of them aren’t great (“One More Sleep” is my jam), but the rest of it is pure heat to warm up even the coldest of winter nights.

Best Song:

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*NSYNC- Home for Christmas

If you don’t like “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” you can go ahead and stop reading this right now.

Best Song:

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Michael Bublé- Christmas

I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t mention the unofficial voice of Christmas, Michael Bublé. Somehow he only has one Christmas album despite the fact that you can find a Bublé cover of essentially every Christmas song ever made somewhere online. Pretty sure 90% of the Bub-god’s salary is made in late-November and December, and for good reason. This is a classy album that perfectly serves as inoffensive background music, but definitely lacks the kind of spiciness other albums have.

Best Song:

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Various Artists- A Very Special Christmas 2

This kind of represents the entire Very Special Christmas franchise. Despite my hatred of of “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” I’m a sucker for star-studded ensembles. Very Special Christmas is essentially just a Christmas music greatest hits album, so it’s kind of cheating a little bit, but it’s still great. Very Special Christmas 1 is disqualified for having “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” on it, but 3 is also excellent.

Best Song:

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Michael Bolton- This is the Time

Michael Bolton is a god who came to Earth to give soulful, sultry ballads to the masses.

Best Song:

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Various Artists- Christmas on Death Row

Just the album cover alone gets this a mention.

Best Song:

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NewSong- Sheltering Tree

Just kidding.

Best Song:

Alright, enough of the also-rans. Let’s get to the reason you’re here: Kelly Clarkson Wrapped in Red. What sets it apart? Why is it so great? Well, for starters, it’s a prime time name. Wrapped in Red just screams Christmas. It’s a miracle it hadn’t been taken before 2013. Next, the album cover is perfect (see top of page): simple, elegant, festive. That’s all you need. The back cover brings it too:

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Before purchasing this Christmas album, I wasn’t really in the spirit of things, but now that I’ve seen this picture of Kelly Clarkson playfully blowing snow in my face, I’m definitely ready for Santa to come down my chimney! But what really matters is the music, and folks, it doesn’t disappoint. Full disclosure: I’m a huge Kelly Clarkson fan and am almost definitely overrating this album, but I trust my own objectivity to know good music when I hear it. And there’s a lot of good music here. The title song isn’t great, which, admittedly, kind of throws a wrench in things, but it quickly picks up. “Underneath the Tree” is criminally underrated. Sure, it’s only four years old, but it has to be put in the same category as the modern classics.

So good. Then, if your spirits are riding too high, you can slow things down with another good original, “Winter Dreams.”

Just makes me want to cuddle up with that special someone (theoretically, of course). I like my Christmas songs to either get my toes tappin’ or to be slow and a little melancholy-but-not-really-since-everything’s-happy-during-Christmas. Wrapped in Red does that throughout. When it comes to covering the classics, it’s really just about song selection. At this level, everyone can sing, so as long as you just pick good songs and don’t try to “make them your own” (see: Christina Aguilera “O Holy Night”) you should be good. “White Christmas,” “Silent Night,” Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” are all elite Christmas songs. Kelly Clarkson could smoke a hundred packs a day, never sleep, and drink a gallon of coffee a day for the next year and still have a dominant voice, so when she gets ahold of your favorite Christmas hits good things happen. No, not every song is perfect. But the bad songs are like 6s or 7s out of 10. Still decent, and it just makes the great ones stand out more. I think I’ve made a pretty convincing argument, but if you still don’t believe me, go and sit by your Christmas tree. I don’t care what you do. Read, watch TV, just look at your phone, whatever. Just as long you put this album on. If the combination of Kelly Clarkson and Christmas trees doesn’t get you in the most festive mood you’ve ever been in, you’re a bigger grinch than the Grinch himself. Wrapped in Red is the perfect Christmas album. Kelly Clarkson: GOAT of American Idol, and now, GOAT of Winter.

The Greatest YouTube Video of All Time

Hope everyone had a good holiday weekend. I know I did. Ate tons of food, which is pretty much all I care about. Only thing is, I got so carried away chasing Black Friday deals I somehow wound up in the middle of Nebraska. Not good! I had to hitchhike my way back, and, along the way, I spent a lot of time on YouTube. And whenever I say I’m spending a lot of time on YouTube, I mostly mean I’m watching this video on a loop.

Easily the greatest video I’ve ever seen. Celine Dion, who I openly stan for, and *NSYNC, a titan of late 90s/early 00s pop, performing “That’s the Way It Is,” maybe a top ten song ever written and the unquestioned GOAT Grocery Store Pop song (grocery store soundtracks always feature 80s, 90s, and early 00s soft/contemporary pop). It’s just a combination of everything good in this world. This video has 34,000 views, and at least 17,000 of those are from me. It’s time more people joined the party. Every second of this video is amazing, so I figured I’d just break down everything you need to know about the Greatest YouTube Video Ever Made.

0:02- I honestly have no idea what the context for this performance is. I’m assuming it’s some kind of awards show? Maybe the Grammy’s? The CBS logo is there, so it was on TV. I think I’d be happier not knowing where this takes place. Keeps the intrigue going.

0:12- Fatone. Look at this hair. Look at this leather suit. This was how pop stars looked in the late 90s, and everyone was okay with it.

0:15- Love this keyboardist. You can feel his passion.

0:17- Celine might be the worst dancer of all time, but I respect her willingness to experiment. You can see the gears turning in her head every time she tries out a new move, and she almost always realizes it wasn’t good.

0:26- I say almost always because she just discovered this point. Remember it, because it’ll come back later.

0:39- Lance Bass might secretly have a top 5 life ever. Guy has no musical talent whatsoever but somehow became the second most well-known member of the second most important pop group of the 21st century, then added in a few TV show appearances for good measure. Legend.

0:57- How do you get this gig? Like how do you become the drummer for a Celine Dion/*NSYNC mashup? Does it pay well? Did he brag to his friends and family about landing this? Need to know more about this guy.

0:59- I’m almost certain she’s lip syncing the whole time, but who cares? Celine Dion earned the right to lip sync a long time ago.

1:00- I need this leather suit. Someone put me in touch with Fatone so I can get it from him.

1:04- The camera loves Bass and Fatone. I, for one, am not surprised.

1:09- “I can’t wait to fire my agent.”

1:13- What is this outfit? A white trench coat? No wonder Chris is the forgotten member.

1:16- Point counter: 2

1:18- I feel bad for JC. He had some serious pipes, but had the personality of a cardboard box. *NSYNC should have had two post-*NSYNC stars, but JC got left behind. Sad!

1:30- Name a more iconic duo. I’ll wait.

1:38- This is her sweet spot. Standing in place and raising her arms. Not sure anyone has ever had better ballad posture.

1:57- The people’s drummer showing his versatility.

2:01- How do they let Timberlake go out there with such an ill-fitting coat? Who was in charge of wardrobe for this thing?

2:02- Is this drummer secretly the sixth member of *NSYNC? He’s soaking up screen time.

2:10- Point counter: 3

2:12- JC reminds me of the captain of the Titanic. He knows his career is a sinking ship when Timberlake leaves, but he’s still giving his all because that’s the only thing he knows how to do. A true professional.

2:14- We need to start keeping track of everyone that’s getting more screen time than Chris. Right now the drummer and keyboardist both have significantly more.

2:16- Maybe the most electrifying dance moves I’ve ever seen in my life.

2:25- If you look closely you can see the seeds of the breakup being planted in Timberlake’s mind.

2:27- This touch was not in the dress rehearsal.

2:37- Can’t stop looking at JT’s neck. It’s like a turtle who doesn’t know whether to go back in its shell or not.

2:47- Timberlake is swimming in that coat. Did they not have tailors available? Also, this is why I assume it’s the Grammy’s or something in winter, because there’s no other reason to wear a coat like this in a climate controlled environment.

2:51- Timberlake should have taken Joey with him when he went solo, because he’s honestly got more stage presence than everyone else combined.

2:57- The real reasons behind *NSYNC’s success.

3:05- So the drummer, keyboardist, and now backup singers all have more screen time than Chris. Is that pre-Idol Ruben Studdard?

3:11- Can’t imagine what it’s like being in the presence of a Celine Dion power note.

3:16- I actually think there’s two drummers. Both have more screen time than Chris.

3:23- At this point, Chris has to fight somebody or go off script or something to get back on camera. It’s about pride, now.

3:25- Point counter: 4

3:33- Never seen a bigger pity wide shot to get Chris back on screen.

3:34- Celine sure is comfortable around Lance. I wonder why?

3:37- Point counter: 6 (this high difficulty point counts as 2)

3:48- You know she was thinking about this wink the whole time, and it didn’t disappoint.

3:53- Final point counter: 7

4:00- gecko hawaii. Never seen this logo before or since. But somehow they got ahold of this footage, so I’m always in their debt.

Sadly, the video ends after that. Well, it ends assuming you don’t have it set on repeat, which would be a pretty curious decision to say the least. I’m sorry if I got you addicted, but I just wanted to share my affliction. I will never get tired of this video, and I thank the Internet Gods every day for delivering it to my doorstep.

I think the Weeknd might be a Virgin

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This might seem like it’s coming out of nowhere, but last night, as I was driving home, “I Feel It Coming,” by The Weeknd featuring Daft Punk, came on my radio. While it wasn’t the first time I heard it, I hadn’t really thought about it much until then, and I had two initial thoughts. The first is that it’s a blazing hot song and I couldn’t wait to listen to it a million more times. The second is that The Weeknd literally talks about sex and drugs in every single song. Who does that? This isn’t the poker scene from 40 Year Old Virgin. No one cares about your sexual escapades, man. The people who talk about how many chicks they’ve banged or how high they get are always the ones who’ve done the least. Then it hit me: I’m pretty sure The Weeknd is a virgin. Or, at least he was until he got huge.

First off, Wikipedia tells me he started doing drugs when he was 11. The source for that? The Weeknd himself. Hmmmm. Pretty convenient to be your own biographer. Second, The Weeknd is, by a country mile, the worst stage name ever created by man. You can’t be a solo act and call yourself The Weeknd. That’s a band name, and a bad band name at that. His real name is Abel Makkonen Tesfaye. That’s a sweet name. Go by that, not The Weeknd. If I was a self-respecting woman, and someone introduced themselves to me as The Weeknd, and had this hair:

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I’m telling him thanks, but no thanks. He also has no stage presence. Ever watch him perform? He’s like a rotting 2×4 up there. And he’s like 5’8″. I don’t care how smooth and velvety your voice is, or how many jams you throw out, that’s a lot to overcome. I just did some quick research, and he talks about drugs or sex in 100% of his songs. It’s like when guys get $200,000 sports cars or huge Hummers. Everyone knows what it really means. My man Abel is just trying to fit in at the cool table, so he’s just telling stories about his favorite porn videos. I’d love to spend a weekend with The Weeknd (get it?) just to see what he actually does. Actually, I probably wouldn’t since he’s got one of the most boring personalities of all time. But that’s just a side effect from all the “drugs,” right?

I mean, at some level, I get it. I’m not the “coolest” guy you’ll ever meet. I don’t do the drugs and, somehow, I’m still single. I can see how you’d want to stretch the truth. But people know, man. Just look at the patron saint of the Brian’s Den, George Michael. Once he stopped pretending be something he wasn’t, he became a legend. Not everyone can be a Barry White love machine. The world needs ditch diggers and boring people, too. Maybe it’s time for the real Abel Tesfaye. Let’s get some tracks about staying in on Saturday night or playing a bunch of Minesweeper on your computer. It’s about time we get some nice R&B about not finding anyone to go with you to that new restaurant you’ve been meaning to try or binge watching Big Bang Theory. That’s when your career will really take off.