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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist w/ over a decade of experience. Lover of good music, fringe movies, day baseball & chicken shawarma. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Jade Starling Continues To Dominate Dance Floors
Wednesday, August 20, 2014

In today’s rapidly changing music industry artists have two choices – evolve, or fade away. Jade Starling, of the 80s group Pretty Poison, chose the former, and it’s put her right in the middle of today’s vibrant EDM scene.

Read the full interview at Arena.com.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 1:32 PM   0 comments
A Martial Artist’s Mixed Views On Mixed Martial Arts

This past week an MMA fighter who goes by the name War Machine (not pictured) was arrested for beating his 5’3’’ ex-girlfriend, Christy Mack, so badly she was unrecognizable. As much as the entire incident saddened me, I can’t say it surprised me, as I viewed it as the logical progression of what has become an industry that has stripped the martial arts out of its craft, but kept it in its name.

I began studying the martial arts as a child, for a myriad of reasons that aren’t all relevant to this article. What you should know is I’ve been a practicing martial artist for nearly 30 years, and currently hold a fourth degree black belt in Kempo.

The concept of MMA, and specifically the UFC, when it began, was intriguing. It seemed as though it was a test of skills to see how practitioners of different martial arts would fare against each other. It was almost like a tournament where styles from all corners of the world could be involved.

With popularity, however, has come problems.

Even from the beginning the UFC pitched itself on the violence aspect of what they were doing, and when they debuted The Ultimate Fighter, their now long running reality series that they use to build up to big fights, and develop new stars, I immediately saw the negative effect when one of the fighters, Chris Leben, boasted that he wanted to break another fighter’s jaw. This was no longer about the martial arts, this was just about fighting. The UFC was living down to their name, rather than up to their potential.

The martial arts are more than just a set of moves used to protect oneself, and, if necessary, disable a person. There’s a philosophy, and a history, behind each of the martial arts, and what I began to see on The Ultimate Fighter was that many of the competitors knew the moves, but seemed to have little knowledge, or care, regarding the philosophy, and history, of the skill they were developing. What they were, and are, doing amounts to nothing more than fighting.

Fighting gives us boasts about breaking jaws. Fighting gives us Nick Diaz attempting to brawl with Joe Riggs in a hospital following UFC 57. Fighting gives us guys like War Machine, who advertise t-shirts that say “I Do Alpha Male Shit,” and beat their ex-girlfriends senseless.

None of the people mentioned, at least in my eyes, are martial artists. They’re fighters, and bullies, and they’re the end result of an industry that has played up the violence aspect of their sport, and completely ignored the history, and philosophy behind each of the martial arts involved.

The popularity of the UFC has led to MMA schools being opened. These are places where the entire goal of the students is to learn moves for in-ring (or in-cage) competition. This is the complete opposite of the goal of the martial arts.

Yes, I realize there is sparring at every tournament, and as I noted earlier, I’m perfectly fine with martial artists wanting to test their skills. The ring, or the cage, however, should never be the goal. Once that becomes the goal, it’s no longer the martial arts, it’s just fighting, and when people are just fighting it becomes something that attracts people like War Machine, and we end up with a 5’3’’ woman with 18 broken bones in her face, a fractured rib, and a ruptured liver.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are a plethora of real martial artists involved in the UFC, and other MMA companies. In fact, I’m a fan of quite a few of the competitors, including current UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman (OK, maybe that’s partially because we’re both Hofstra grads). This is why my feelings on the current state of Mixed Martial Arts are so, well, mixed. I think there are some great people involved, but I see the path which the sport is being led down, and it’s a path where stories like War Machine’s will be frighteningly commonplace.

When we bow in my dojo the left hand covering the right fist represents “peace over war.” I find this to be a perfect illustration as to why someone who goes by War Machine, and people of his ilk, aren’t martial artists at all, and why I continue to distance myself from the term MMA.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM   0 comments
NYC Scene Report - Salme Dahlstrom, Shilpa Ray, & more
Tuesday, August 19, 2014

This week’s edition of Neighborhood Watch: NYC features the dance pop of Salme Dahlstrom, the retro-soul of Shilpa Ray, chilled out indie pop-rock from Free Time, and something to get dance floors “Burnin’” by AIMES.

Read the full column at Arena.com.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 1:14 PM   0 comments
Billy Danze Antes Up With New Label Venture

M.O.P. once famously told everyone to “Ante Up,” and now, fourteen years later, Billy Danze of the Mash Out Posse is looking to ante up in a different way, with a new label, and a goal of changing the current landscape of the music industry.

Read the full interview at RapReviews.com.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM   0 comments
Pop Shots - A Look At The Charts
Monday, August 18, 2014

Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week Pop Shots is hitting you with some Billboard singles chart analysis, as Top 40 radio has been featuring a whole bunch of fresh voices, along with some new music from veteran acts. The chart positions I’m using are from the Billboard Hot 100 as it was listed on Billboard.com this past Thursday, and since this is Pop Shots, you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.

13) Clean Bandit w/ Jess Glynne - Rather Be


Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” might be the most original song on Top 40 radio today. With the band’s mix of electronic, and classical, music, the foursome, who have no lead singer, but instead work with a different singer for nearly every song on their album, have a truly fresh sound. They also have a video that features a cute girl, a helpful cat, and a fish market. During my interview with Clean Bandit’s violinist Neil Amin-Smith he joked about the latter, saying that when it comes to videos of fish markets, “That traditional area of YouTube does awfully well.” He also told a funny story about the first time he heard “Rather Be” on the radio, which happened in a taxi, and must now seem like forever ago, as the song is now on its way to breaking into the Top 10.


15) Iggy Azalea w/ Rita Ora - Black Widow


Everyone who was hoping Iggy Azalea would be forgotten about as soon as summer ended is going to be REALLY disappointed, because “Black Widow” will be keeping her around a little bit longer. Actually, we may be experiencing the beginning of a mini era of Iggy, as her team has found the perfect formula for her music – write a killer chorus, and have a singer who’s on the cusp of fame, but not there quite yet, sing it, so while everyone sings along, they still think of it as an Iggy Azalea song. On “Fancy” that job belonged to Charli XCX, who quickly followed it up with a gigantic hit single of her own. This time it’s Rita Ora, a singer whose career has flirted with fame for years now. After “Black Widow” I wouldn’t be surprised to see her finally find success on her own.


17) Becky G - Shower


I’ll say this for Becky G’s team, they’re a persistent bunch, as they’ve been trying for years to get her known. I remember first hearing her back in 2012 on Cher Lloyd’s single “Oath,” and now she finally has a hit of her own with “Shower.” Here’s the problem, although Becky G isn’t bad, she doesn’t sound like a pop star, she sounds like a kid imitating her favorite pop star (dare I invoke the name Kidz Bop?). Partly it’s the simplistic production, partly it’s her vocals, which sound very tween-ish. All that said, I’m not surprised “Shower” is doing well, because it’s the exact kind of song that every tween and young teen can sing along to while thinking about their current significant other. There’s an innocence to it that’s befitting her age (which is 17). As an aside, I can't help but think it was a little cruel to give a girl with a noticeable lisp a chorus with such prominent s-words.


18) Ariana Grande w/ Zedd - Break Free


Ariana Grande has reached a height of pop stardom I had previously reserved only for Taylor Swift, and that’s my personal “Can Do No Wrong” category. How do I define that category? It’s easy, they’re the only two pop stars whose albums I will go out and buy without hearing anything more than the radio singles, because I know the rest of the songs will be great. Grande’s vocals are always incredible, and the producers she works with are phenomenal (Babyface did half of her first album. Nuff said!). Her latest single, “Break Free,” is distinctly more EDM, with Zedd handling production, but it’s still right in Grande’s vocal wheelhouse. The video for “Break Free” is a little strange, as it seems like it was created by people who did a lot of drugs and then decided to watch Star Wars and Xanadu back to back. To put it another way, enjoy the boob rockets!


43) Echosmith - Cool Kids


The first time I heard “Cool Kids” was over a year ago. I was prepping for the 2013 Warped Tour, and wanted to know more about Echosmith since they were one of the up and coming acts on the tour that were starting to generate some buzz. I dug the song. It has hints of 80s pop, and lead singer Sydney Sierota has a really nice, expressive, voice. I saw them on Warped Tour that year, and interviewed the band when they opened for Tonight Alive later that fall. Since then Echosmith has basically lived on the road, hopping on tour after tour. Maybe that’s why the rest of the world is finally catching on to “Cool Kids,” the band’s ode to outsiders. I know I speak for quite a few folks when I say, ABOUT TIME! It should also be noted Sierota is the same age as Becky G, and songs like “Cool Kids” are why I feel it’s OK to hold young singers to high standards.


66) Katy Perry - This Is How We Do


I think Katy Perry has reached the stage of her career where she basically lives in her own Katy Perry Land, and that’s perfectly OK. It’s clear she knows who she is at this point, and she’s not about to screw around with what’s made her successful as a pop star. Her latest single, “This Is How We Do,” probably wouldn’t work if any other artist attempted to do it, but because it’s Katy Perry it not only works, it’s going to be a gigantic hit. The song is ridiculously silly, sounding like it’s the logical follow-up to “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” and the video features a litany of crazy visuals, my personal favorite being the twerking cartoon ice cream cone at the end. The entire clip is a prime example of Katy Perry enjoying her own little world, and occasionally inviting us in to see what goes on there. Hey, all I can say is the visits are always nice!

And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM   0 comments
Vid Pick: Brzowski - I'm The Atlantic
Friday, August 15, 2014

Brzowski is one of my favorite hip-hop artists to see live. A ridiculously talented emcee who doesn't just love to rhyme, but also loves to perform, Brzowski is always both dope AND entertaining (believe it or not, that can be a tough combination to find).

This Saturday Brzowski is scheduled to hit my favorite local venue, the newly renovated Acoustic Cafe in Bridgeport, CT. The last time he performed there the night was so hot they had Fla-Vor-Ice pops at the bar, and when one found its way onto the stage, Brzowski responded by shoving it down his pants to cool off in a way I'm not sure the Fla-Vor-Ice company originally intended.

In honor of Brzowski's return to Bridgeport, this week's Vid Pick is his 2012 video for "I'm The Atlantic," which is off of his 2011 album A Fitful Sleep. Check it out, and if you're in town, head to the show tomorrow night.

UPDATE – I have just learned that Saturday's show at Acoustic Cafe has been cancelled. I'm sorry if you already marked your calendar, as I did mine.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM   0 comments
Briana Layon & The Boys Have Attitude In Abundance
Thursday, August 14, 2014

Briana Layon experienced her indoctrination into NYC’s hard rock scene very early on, as she notes, “My very first show, I had a girl, I’m not sure what was going on with her, I think she was on some sort of drug, but she threw a wicker chair at me.”

Read the full story at Arena.com.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 2:02 PM   0 comments
3PM Leads A New Generation Of Pop Punk Bands
Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pop punk has always been a youthful genre of music, so it only makes sense that of the three members of the Baltimore, Maryland, pop punk band 3PM, only one of them is old enough to order from the bar.

Read the full interview at Arena.com.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 2:07 PM   0 comments
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