Friday, October 21, 2022

Domerberry Album Review: Midnights

Dear Reader, 

At times in my blogging career, the expectation that I would review every Taylor Swift album has felt like a burden. It's an entirely self-imposed one that I could ignore at any time, of course — and oh, I have (lookin' at you, Evermore) — but still. Taylor is not my #1 favorite artist, as controversial as that may be. And as blogging has faded increasingly into more college-days relic than active, current hobby, it has sometimes felt unappealing to dust off the ol' DB just for a TSwift review. 

With Midnights, that reluctance is gone. Folklore and Evermore were fun experiments, and while this record does have its echoes of the Album That Must Not Be Named (Reputation. It's Reputation.), it mostly gets back to good, old-fashioned pop Taylor — and that is a thing worth blogging about.

If Lover was happy pop Taylor, Midnights is it-is-what-it-is pop Taylor. The album isn't sad per se; that's what the last two were for. But it is heavy. Throughout my first listen — which I did, in fact, stay up late for, thanks to the head start afforded to me by living in Central time — I was struck by how mature it sounds. Not only has Taylor's physical voice matured over time (something we can track most acutely by listening to Taylor's Version re-records of numbers we're used to hearing a teenager sing), but her themes have matured, too. She alludes to disordered eating on this album and to mistreament by an older lover. She talks about high people in ways that imply she's actually been around some. She centered the whole record around insomnia, for Christ's sake, a move that seemed mature even before the music came out, considering that Taylor's cat-lady persona seems more the type to be in bed by 9 than to be up all night agonizing over her struggles and flaws. 

Let's be clear: This album is still commercially ear-wormy pop, and it's still Taylor giving us what she knows we want, which is to have a whole lot of fun when we listen to her. But it's Taylor as an adult, and a pretty actualized one at that — just like we, her age-mate fans, are becoming. 

Of her recent albums, Lover has traditionally been my favorite, but Midnights is giving it a run for its money. Now, that's not an official declaration. (After all, as one of those aforementioned adults, I had to log into my job this morning at 9, and after staying up til midnight for my first listen, I could only squeeze in one more pre-work pass after getting my mandatory several hours of sleep.) Even from my limited listening, though, I can tell this album is special, and I am delighted to walk with you through its highlights.

Lavender Haze: She starts us off with a catchy one, folks, and one that reveals several new ways in which Taylor the Celebrity Is Just Like Us. First off, there's her interest in the color lavender. Hi, fellow girlies who had pastel purple childhood bedrooms! Secondly, there's her dis-interest in marriage. I assumed she was into the concept after "Paper Rings," but this number tells us that she and Joe are just fine unmarried, thankyouverymuch. As someone who's been with her boyfriend-not-husband almost as long as Taylor's been with hers, I agree: one-nights and wives are the only kinds of girls people see — and what a shame. 

Anti-Hero: Quick brag here: I started my second listen at 6:53 a.m. today, and therefore, I got to Anti-Hero at the exact moment that its video was premiering on YouTube. I popped over to the Tube, naturally, and wow, that vid was a delight. Put John Early in more things! 

Oh, and yeah, the song's great too or whatever. If you don't relate to "it's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me," I have bad news: You are, in fact, the biggest problem.

Snow on the Beach: This song having a jingle bell backing track is Taylor giving us the Christmas song we all wanted with "'Tis the Damn Season" but, like, very thoroughly did not get. 

Midnight Rain: It's been established on this blog that my cheap behind uses the free version of Spotify. Because of this, I'm used to deeply discordant ads blaring at me in the middle of albums, and I cannot lie to you, that's what I thought this song was when it started. Taylor's gettin' a little sonically weird, people! She's also once again getting anti-bride, and while it is a bit "okay, we get it," I'm on board. Neither Taylor nor I have ever heard of gender roles.

Vigilante Sh*t: GUYS. Guys. 

From the first line — "draw the cat eye sharp enough to kill a man" ?!?!?!?! — I was obsessed with this one. It's perfect. The sultry slow-jam vibes are perfect, the rage is perfect, the sudden and inexplicable pivot to crime reporting is perfect...everything is. I'd describe my fashion lately as more "dressing for a sweatpants convention" than "dressing for revenge," but this makes me want to change my ways. For, like, maybe an hour. With this edgy-lite track, she really fed all of us who worshipped emo bands in high school while also being too scared to enter a Hot Topic.

The only problem here is that Taylor (rudely) released this too late for it to be included in the "Diana on the warpath" season of The Crown coming next month. After all, if Taylor is positioning herself as the current queen of revenge dressing, it's possible only because the onetime actual princess of it is no longer alive.

If this is not your favorite song on the album, you are wrong, and I'm not sure that we can be friends. 

Bejeweled: This is just a really nice, catchy little number. I'm very into it, particularly the lyric suggesting that "I don't remember" is an acceptable, not-unhinged way to answer the question, "Do you have a man?" It's not a manifesto of badassery like the last track, but it's fun — and it gives a delightful bit of retroactive lore to Taylor's (already frankly iconic) dress from this year's VMAs.

Karma: Remember when people theorized that Disney made a movie called Frozen so people would stop seeing results about Walt cryogenically freezing himself if they Googled "Disney frozen"? This song is Taylor's version (Taylor's Version™️) of that. For those who don't know, there's a rumor that Taylor has an unreleased stray album called Karma, which was written around the same time as Reputation. And now, here she comes with a song called "Karma." HMMMM. 

Her bury-the-rumor cause is aided by the fact that this song is a bop. It's fun to listen to, it has fun lyrics, and I envy the kids who can dance to this at their college parties this weekend. Can't wait to it at my 10-year college reunion, I guess. *insert the sound of my creaking, ancient bones*

Mastermind: She had me in the first half. I was listening to this and thinking, "What if you told me you're a mastermind?" Girl, we know! We been knew! I truly was baffled at the concept that her Machiavellian scheming could be a secret to anyone, even if I did love that she was addressing it so openly. But then — classic Taylor the Storyteller — she gave us that twist at the end where it turns out the guy she's addressing knew all along. That, my friends, was more like it, and it proved once more that our girl Tay truly is the mastermind she claims to be. 

Bonus Tracks: It should surprise no one that I did not stay up late enough for Taylor's "3 AM chaotic surprise," so I've had less time to digest the bonus tracks than the original 13. But we need to address the instant scorched-earth classic "Would've, Could've, Should've." First of all, J*hn M*yer is Public Enemy No. 1 (you're off the hook for now, Gyllenhaal), and we need an oral history of his Taylor-related misdeeds, stat. Second, though, let's say this: Notre Dame kids will think that this song is made for them, because religion. They are wrong. It is made for people who are three years out of Notre Dame and have finally encountered their first romantic partner who is either A) an atheist or B) a jerk, but like a secular one, not a jerk who hides behind "I go to daily Mass" nice-boy energy like their exes. This is for the good girls who've been exposed to someone bad, with all the complicated baggage that entails. It is...frankly an extremely dark piece of writing hiding in the guise of a catchy pop tune. Pair this with Sam Smith's Unholy for a double feature exploring all the frontiers of your Catholic guilt.

In summary, folks, Taylor has done it again. This album is banger-filled, it's emotional, and it's adult — just like her and just like us. I can't wait to keep playing it as I go about the business of my 30-year-old-lady life: the parts where I'm working on intimidatingly prominent newspaper journalism and the parts where I'm sitting in my apartment reading two witch-themed romcoms in the span of one October. As Tay Tay would tell us, it's all about balance.


Saturday, December 12, 2020

Domerberry Album Review: Chromatica

Oh, I'm sorry — were you expecting something else here today? Did you come here looking for a review of another volume of sad songs by a soft girl in the woods from me, a notoriously woods-averse girl who is soft only in ways pertaining to body fat? 

Honey, no. The new Taylor album is one moderately inventive "Goodbye Earl" reboot, one decent bluegrass number plucked from a discarded Sweet Home Alabama: The Musical soundtrack, and 13 other songs that will make a fine replacement for Mumford & Sons someday when I'm looking for a rainy-mood album that, instead of reminding me of my carefree days as a college student abroad in Britain, calls to mind the worst year in modern human history. What a treat! 

What we will be discussing today, my friends, is not Evermore but another album. One that represents a return to form for a beloved pop artist instead of a turn away from it. One with the ability to lift you out of your quarantine depression instead of spiraling you so far into it that you become a sentient cross-stitch of a cursive swear word. 

We will be discussing Chromatica. 

For those who do not know, Chromatica is the sixth album of Academy Award-winning recording artist Lady Gagรก. Released in May after a seven-week delay brought on by the misguided belief that seven weeks would be enough time for the whole coronavirus distraction to blow over, it is a dance-pop album with three separate orchestral intro tracks and appearances by Elton John and the megastar girl group Blackpink. It is lightly alien-themed. What more could you want? 

I am the rare Gaga fan who generally enjoyed her countryish Joanne era, but Chromatica marked a triumphant reprisal of the weird, disco-centric Gaga we all know and love. To use a Swiftian metaphor, it was like the relief of hearing Lover after two years dealing with Reputation. "That was fine," we thought, "but thank God she's back." 

For me, the album also carried personal resonance. Thanks to the thin walls in my old apartment and the gays with interesting piercings who lived in the unit above me, Chromatica was my version of Italian people singing to each other from their balconies. I played this record constantly in the month of June, and so did they. As it slowly dawned on us all how long we might remain in lockdown, thumping Gaga beats provided an unspoken social connection, reminding me that, if I couldn't spend time with people, at least there was Stefani Germanotta to share. 

That same thing happened two months later with "WAP," but here on this God-fearing family blog we will pretend that it did not. 

So without further ado, let us travel to the planet Chromatica, one off-kilter club banger at a time. 

Stupid Love: Do you like to dance? Do you want to watch a music video where the premise is essentially Legends of the Hidden Temple in space? If you answered yes to either of those questions, then Chromatica's lead single is for you. This number took me straight back to the days when my dormmates and I would stay up late learning Born This Way choreography — and that, my friends, is a good place to be. 

Rain On Me (with Ariana Grande): We are immeasurably blessed to have gotten albums from both of these women in 2020, and unsurprisingly, this center of the Chromatica/Positions Venn diagram may be the best of the two-album bunch. The first shining, post-COVID day when I get to dance to this song in a club will be the happiest day of my life, and I will not apologize for nor recant that statement if/when I eventually get married. 

Free Woman: Much like Lady Gaga, I was not single when this came out and am not single now, but this song makes me feel like I am. It's a female empowerment anthem. It's fun to sing. It is the reason my top song in Spotify Wrapped this year was finally something cool instead of an obscure duet from a Pasek and Paul musical.

Fun Tonight: This is an upbeat dance song about how much fun the narrator is not having, featuring the lyric "this moment's hijacked my plans." Could there be a better theme song for this hell-year? Despite your best efforts, Taylor "Sad Girl" Swift, no there could not. 

[Side note: those four songs are tracks 3-6 on Chromatica, and had Gaga released nothing but those, she still would have had the best pop album of the year. I said what I said.]

Chromatica II: Twitter is full of jokes about how great this song is for leading into any number of other songs or activities, and that's fine. But I contend that you haven't truly appreciated "Chromatica II" until you've heard it on a Spotify Free account that transitions straight from those anticipatory final chords into an overly enthusiastic commercial for Chex Mix. Give it a try sometime.

Sour Candy (with Blackpink): If I ever decide to become a K-pop stan, blame this.

Babylon: When I say Weird Gaga is back, y'all, I mean back. This finale song is a voguing number about a gossip battle, featuring a gospel choir, set in ancient Mesopotamia, and it is still a bop. I would say that your faves could never, but genuinely, I would like to see them try.

To be clear, Evermore is a fine album, just like Folklore was. It certainly proves that Taylor Swift can do Bon Iver even though Justin Vernon could not do Lover. Taylor deserves credit for that, and she is getting it, all over God's green internet. 

But when I listened to music this year, it was because I wanted to sing loud and dance at my desk like I'm at one of those (what's that word again?) parties. Lots of pop girls helped in that effort, but in my opinion, none did it better than my one true queen: Mother Monster.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Domerberry Album Review: Folklore

Well, friends, you asked for it — seriously, people really do ask — and now the time has come. Taylor Swift has an eighth album, and I, her indentured fangirl with a blog that gets dusted off for use once a year, have a new product to review. 

I'll start with this: Folklore is great! It's definitely my new favorite Sufjan Stevens album! 

As a Taylor Swift album, though, my feelings on it are mixed. Don't get me wrong — it is undoubtedly one of her best creative works so far. The lyrics are back to absolute peak Taylor, the songwriting is superb, and the whole thing is an astonishingly good first foray into a genre that she's never touched before. The fact that she whipped the album up during a pandemic and the global shutdown of nearly all industries makes it even more impressive. But it isn't quite to my taste. I prefer the happier, poppier Taylor that Lover epitomized so well last summer — so, while Folklore is great, it's unlikely to unseat her prior albums on my list of personal favorites. 

Oh, and she's doing the lowercase-only thing again. Whatever. We'll be ignoring that here, to no one's surprise, and looking forward to the day when both Taylor and Ariana Grande realize that capital letters are not the enemy.

For now, though, let's get to reviewing some songs in album order so we can all the more quickly make our way to "Betty." 

The 1. Ahhh. I already told one person this, but truly, when I hit play on this song on Thursday night, it took me exactly eight seconds to have my eyes closed, my chin on my hands, and a closed-lip grin on my face like a smiley baby at a photoshoot. This is a charming little number, and one of the few on the album that doesn't sink me into a dark depression. Cool! 

The Last Great American Dynasty. On my first couple listens to this song, I was unimpressed. I didn't like the "Taylor Sings About Rich Old Ladies" genre when she tried it out with that Kennedy song eight years ago, and I didn't figure I'd like it now. But this one is a bop! And it's about one rebellious, socially-shunned woman giving way to another! I can get behind this. Please inquire if, inspired by this song, you would like to join me in dyeing someone's dog green as a prank.

Exile (feat. Bon Iver). Listen. Did I nearly throw my computer across the room when this song started and the voice issuing forth was some ~dude~ instead of Taylor? Yes. But have I turned out to actually enjoy it? Also yes. "You're not my homeland anymore / So what am I defending now?" is a real gut-punch of a lyric and, coincidentally, also what I plan to adopt as my life's mantra when I someday manage to move from the United States to a country that believes in science. 

Mirrorball. You know that TikTok where the girl is wholesale sobbing but still busting out a choreographed dance? That's me listening to this song, which is technically about a disco, but in a sad way. 

August. This album should have come out exactly one week later, and this song is why. You give us one song with Instagram caption potential, and it's about a month that hasn't started yet? Taylor. Come on.

Illicit Affairs. Zero Taylor Swift fans in history have been involved in illicit affairs. Taylor Swift has not been involved in an illicit affair. But this song has made chain-smoking, jilted mistresses of us all. I do want to scream, "Don't call me kid, don't call me baby!" I've totally done drugs that only worked the first few hundred times! (Disclaimer for my mother and the FBI agent inevitably monitoring my activity online: given that I can't even handle beer, that is very clearly false.) This number has some of the best storytelling on the album in my opinion, and that bridge is Taylor's Golden Gate. Mainline this song. 

Invisible String. The ultra-rare happy Folklore song emerges once more! This too is a charming little number, and I became a human :') emoji when I noticed that someone doing a Twitter thread of "Folklore songs as Mamma Mia" described this one with a picture of Donna and the Dynamos. I don't know about a golden thread connecting romantic partners, but I sure felt my invisible strings being pulled on Thursday night when texts from friends about this album started pouring in. I'm interpreting this number as a friend love song, and I want more of those. 

Mad Woman. Guys, did you know that Taylor says the F-word on this album? A lot?! This angry piece has the best F-bomb of T. Swift's career, and my jaw truly fell on the floor when I heard it. I will not rest until there is merch based on that line. 

Peace (presented out of order for what will soon be obvious reasons). Setting aside the fact that this song references Taylor one day having children — an inevitability that extremely-childless me is NOT ready for — I found this song to be one of Tay Tay's best ruminations yet on her current relationship. You have mentioned, Taylor, that dating you is sewww hard, given that you're a paparazzi-ridden hot person. You mentioned it on "Ready For It." You mentioned it on "The Archer." But, in this instance, the straightforward question format drove it home in a really genuine, simple way.

A bonus advantage to this song is its rich array of potential rhyming parodies. Stay tuned for the Weird Al spin-off for lactose intolerant people, "Would it be enough if I could never give you cheese?" 

Betty. TOP FIVE TAYLOR SONG OF ALL TIME. Maybe top three. I love that this can at least be interpreted as queer, I love that it throws a bone to Kaylor truthers, I love that it's old-school Taylor with a guitar — I just love it. Whatever they paid that harmonica player, it wasn't enough. The American national anthem will probably be cancelled sooner or later, and when it is, I propose "Betty" as a replacement. 

On a serious note, I want to make clear that this album ("Betty" excluded) makes me sad. The sound of it is bleak and moody, the lyrics even more so, and frankly, extra sadness is not what I need in this no-good, very bad year. I'm going to continue listening to Folklore, but I'll probably take breaks from the darker corners of the record — and, if you're feeling at-capacity for bummerdom, I'd suggest you do so, too. The album will still be there next year when we can leave our houses and see our friends again. And in the meantime, you can always go back to laughing at Reputation. 

Overall, though, I'm thrilled that our benevolent queen gifted us with new music. What a piece of news to wake up to in the middle of this summer from hell! The last time I was surprised with Taylor news this good was 2015, when I won tickets to a concert of hers via Tinder (yes, really). I was job-hunting then just as I am now, and the surprise joy of that 2015 ticket win was followed a few days later by the extra joy of a job offer. Let us hope history repeats itself this year, and that when it does, the new job is signficantly less depressing than this new album. Fingers crossed!

Adios 'til the next album, readers. Don't forget your masks.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Let's Talk

Like so many others, I am heartbroken by the slaughter of George Floyd and the mistreatment that black people face every day in this country, particularly when it is meted out by those who claim to "protect and serve." 

Moreover, I am disgusted that these inequities remain with us after decades of protests and countless calls for change. In the midst of our current unrest, I stand in unwavering support of those who feel that, to make their voices heard, they have to scream. 

However, I have struggled with what to say with my own voice in these historic times. As much as I may try to educate myself, I am not an expert on racial justice, nor will I ever know firsthand the trials of living in a black body in these United States. Though we should all speak up, it is crucial that we listen most to those who are experts and who have experienced those trials. Moreover, simply posting on social media doesn't feel right for this moment either — it's a start, but it cannot be all we do.

So, with that in mind, I want to share three things. 

First, the words of our 44th President, Barack Obama. Read them. Internalize them. Act on them. 

Second, this guide to how we can take our activism off of the internet and into real life, where hopefully, one day, we can effect real change. 

And third, an invitation. We can't change anything if we refuse to talk about it. So if you want to talk, I'm here to listen — whether we agree or not. 

Stay safe. Take care of each other. Let's get through this social studies textbook of a year together.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Domerberry Movie Review: Cats

Well, friends, you knew it would happen.

Ever since that horrifying trailer hit the internet so many months ago, I have known that I would, at some point, be going to see the Cats movie. How could I possibly not? Movie musicals are my entire personality. I love abominations against mankind. Taylor Swift is in it! Yes, I knew I would go to see Cats, and a few days ago, it occurred to me that this would be the perfect opportunity to resurrect the Domerberry Movie Review.

I am pleased to inform you that I was very, very right.

Tonight, I took myself on a solo date to Logansport's one movie theater to see Cats. (Shoutout to the Price fam for witnessing this extremely normal night in the life of a mentally stable 27-year-old woman!) It was beyond my wildest dreams.

I'm going to return to that godforsaken trailer for a moment, because if you haven't watched it, I need you to go and do that now.

Did you do it? Excellent. Now, how many questions do you have?

The answer is likely "thousands." What size are these cats? Why do they have human hands? What poor animals are skinned to make the fur coats of fancy society cats?

I need you to know that none of these questions are answered in the film. I came into this movie with so, so many questions, and yet I emerged, somehow, with even more. I'll get to that in a minute, but for starters, I will make two small points of praise for this harrowing cinematic experience.

First, the dancing in it is great. Basically the entire cast except for the big-name leads are professional dancers, and a lot of that work was cool to watch. It reminded me that I should really go watch more professional dance. Second, Jason DeRulo, who played a cat that essentially was Jason DeRulo (right down to singing its own name repeatedly), was a delight. I have no notes for you, Jason DeRulo. Be in more musicals.

Unfortunately, my friends, that is where the delight ends!

I should begin with a quick overview of the premise of this film. Cats is a show about a group of cats who get together for a large party at which a wizened elderly cat will choose one of them to die. That's it! The chosen cat gets "reborn" into a "new life" in a magical land in the sky called the Heaviside Layer, and only one cat gets to go there each year, so naturally, all of the cats are clamoring for it. This raises some very interesting questions about what happens to every other cat in the Cats universe when they die, but whatever. What you need to know is that they throw a ball to figure out who gets to go to cat heaven, and they compete for that death-prize by singing songs about themselves. That is all that happens. Since the only plot element, therefore, is who gets chosen to go to the Heaviside Layer, I will leave that out and talk freely about everything else, since the "plot" is unspoilable save for that one thing.

Another thing you should know is that a lot of very famous people are in this movie. I don't know how. I don't know why. But Idris Elba, James Corden, Jennifer Hudson, Rebel Wilson, and Ian McKellen and Judi Dench (!!) all make an appearance in this thing, and it's all just too much to bear.

With all of that in mind, let's dive in to a few of the most distressing parts of the film.

Rebel Wilson, for instance. You may have noticed from the trailer that some of the cats in Cats wear human clothes and others waltz around naked. That's weird enough. But Rebel Wilson's character starts out looking like a regular, non-clothes-wearing, furry cat, and midway through her big number, she zips off her skin to reveal a second, rhinestone-studded skin WITH HUMAN CLOTHES WORN ON TOP OF IT! I cannot overstate how much I would not advise seeing this movie if you are prone to nightmares.

Making matters worse, Rebel's song is backed up with a giant chorus of singing cockroaches, each of whom also has a human face. Did I mention she's the first cat to sing her intro song? Because hoo boy does that set things off on the right foot for the rest of this monstrosity.

The next thing I suppose I should bring up is that these are ~sexy cats~. The internet has been talking about this ad nauseam. I will leave it to you whether you want to open that particular can of worms, but it bears at least mentioning that these cats are making eyes at each other for the duration of the film and it makes me uncomfortable. "What is this rated?" I thought to myself as the lead cat, dropped at the start from a previously high-society family life, immediately and vehemently attempts to seduce every slightly-sketchy street cat she sees. "Is this supposed to be a family film?" It's weird throughout the movie, but it's especially weird when Idris Elba (the criminal cat) finally sings his song. Idris's cat spends the entire movie slinking around the background looking mysterious in a large fur coat and hat, but when it comes time for his musical debut, he strips those and performs in the cat-nude.

Thanks, I hate it!

It's also worth noting that, even if the cats weren't depraved and even if the cat-human-hybrid animation was well done (it isn't), there's something a bit scary on its face about that many cats wandering around.

Remember that time when I went on a fox hunt in Ireland and ended up literally surrounded by a sea of identical hounds? Every group scene in Cats was like that, but worse — because while those dogs' owners were around and they therefore could not hurt me, I'm not at all sure that those cats won't hurt me (psychologically) for years to come.

Next, I feel I must turn to poor Jennifer Hudson. J.Hud sings "Memory" in this movie — that one Cats song that you've heard of, and possibly sung in voice lessons. She did a lovely job. What a voice! Classic Jen.


You know how Anne Hathaway won an Oscar for taking that one song that teenage theater girls like from Les Mis and turning it into three minutes of rip-your-guts-out emotion-fest? J.Hud tried to do that with "Memory" too. But Les Mis is an emotional show. Cats is a 101-minute trip on the sparkly catnip drugs that Taylor Swift doses the other cats with near the end of the show. (YEP.) A random gut-wrenching belted high note in the middle of Cats will not an Oscar make. Someone give Jennifer Hudson another role, please. Any other.

There are many, many more things I could bring up about this movie, but I'll stick to the three remaining items that have stuck most firmly in my psyche.

First, a brief thought: The fact that Taylor Swift landed a role in what may be the biggest dance movie ever made is proof that 2019 is the year of the scam.

Caroline Calloway is shaking.

Second: This movie ends with the Judi Dench elderly cat staring straight into the audiences' souls and explaining to them how to speak to cats. Phoebe Waller-Bridge did not cancel the fourth wall for this!! If there's anything worse than the cats staring at each other suggestively, it's the cats staring at me in any capacity at all. Tom Hooper must be stopped.

Anyway, dear readers, there is one thing that has left me reeling from this film more than any other. I think humans, in the Cats universe, do not exist. The thing is set in London, yet businesses around the city are renamed with cat references. "The Grand Feral Hotel." "Milk Bar" — and not the Christina Tosi kind. There's evidence that humans existed at some point. Their trash is everywhere. But I get the distinct feeling that something sinister has happened to them. The buildings are all decaying. One entire scene takes place in a mansion that appears to have been abandoned Roanoke-style, table still set for dinner and drawers left half-open. They reference Queen Victoria constantly, yet the setting seems to be the 1920s.

Something terrible has happened to the human race in the world of this movie. Watch your housecats, people. It's coming for us next.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Domerberry Album Review: Lover

When I left my apartment for work this morning, I discovered a charming surprise outside my neighbor's door. Sometime in the 12 hours since I'd last walked past, a vase full of pretty pastel flowers had been delivered.

On a normal day, I might be jealous of such a sweet little gesture — but not today. Because I also had a pastel-colored, lovey-dovey surprise delivered overnight last night, along with everyone else on earth: the seventh studio album of one Ms. Taylor Swift.

Friends, this album is good. Because of my years-old contract with Satan stating that my blog must come out of hiatus every time Taylor releases new music, I would be writing this post even if Lover were bad. But fortunately for us all, it isn't. Lover is a g*sh d*rn delight.

Back when 1989 came out, I feared that the all-pop Taylor lacked the songwriting oomph of her country days — and Reputation hardly assuaged my concerns. Did I spend the better part of $200 last year on tickets and costumes for the Rep tour's Chicago show? Yes. Did I still feel like the whole era was some Babysitter's Club version of a goth fever dream? Also yes. I could tell from the first single that this TS7 era would have the friendly, vintage-Taylor aesthetic I'd been missing, but the jury was out on the music. Seven years after Red, would this finally be the Taylor album I could sit back and enjoy?

The answer is yes — and not a minute too soon.

The recession people have been talking about? That's cancelled. The patriarchy? Done. The old Taylor came to the phone today, and when she answered, she said "GAY RIGHTS." Like Marianne Williamson at the presidential debates, girlfriend, this album has a message, and that message is love.

In the midst of our long national nightmare, Taylor Swift has decided that happiness is back.

I Forgot That You Existed. I love this song. I cannot listen to it enough times. Some people are calling it a roast, and, like, sure. Calvin who? I get it. But it's also just relatable. It's a great feeling to finally move on from someone who used to ruin your life! This song made me grin, and, as we know, I am not a grinner. The theme of this number may be indifference, but I am not indifferent to this jam. It is fantastic.

Lover. Listen, when this was released as a single, I was pretty neutral on it. It grew on me more once the video came out, and now that I hear it in context, it's grown even more. It's a love song! It's a cute little old-Taylor love song, and I for one accept this return to form with open arms.

That said, the meme of that girl trying kombucha for the first time is now all of us who must bounce between Thank U, Next-era Ariana Grande (set your boyfriend on fire!) and Lover-era T. Swift (tattoo his name on your face!). It's a confusing time.

The Man. Has she mentioned she's a Democrat now?

Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince. As someone who dated exactly zero people as an actual teen, this song (a bop) is a great way to pretend I understand adolescent love. It also, given the title similarity to Half-Blood Prince, has intoxicating potential for Harry Potter crossover case you're wondering why no one in high school wanted to date me.

Paper Rings. This is another great song. A jam and a half! We love an upbeat pop moment that also includes casual references to waking up in the night to watch someone breathe. In seriousness, this is one of my favorites on the album, though you've been warned — if you invite me to your wedding in the next three to six months, I will make you swear on Gender Trouble that this song didn't peer-pressure you into matrimony.

London Boy. I said it in 2017 and I'm saying it again: WE GET IT, TAYLOR. BRITISH GUYS ARE HOT.

Soon You'll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks). I know people have been loving this one, but I'm not gonna lie...I was hoping the Dixie Chicks collab would be a little Dixie Chicks-er. Call me in a few weeks when y'all have recorded a remix of "Goodbye, Earl."

False God. This song exists already, it is called "Take Me to Church," and I refuse to listen to any imitations. Moving on!

You Need to Calm Down. This feels like a good time to mention that, for me, Taylor's newfound activism is pretty satisfactory. It's not perfect — this video in particular felt a bit convenient to release mid-Pride — but I think it's a net positive that one of the biggest pop stars in the world has decided to use her platform for a cause or two. And if you disagree, well, Ms. Taylor has a song title for you!

ME! (feat. Brendon Urie). You guys. A Panic! at the Disco collab that also includes an interlude about spelling is about as on-brand as you can get for Sarah Cahalan. I know that most people didn't really like this song, but those people are incorrect. Also incorrect is the album's decision to omit the line, "Hey kids! Spelling is fun!"

Daylight. :')

My only complaint with this album is the last 45 or so seconds. The voice memo she ends this thing with is painfully cheesy, and, being who I am as a person, I fundamentally disagree with her premise. The things I hate are absolutely what I want to be defined by. In fact, that's kind of my whole schtick.

But, right now, being defined by love is Taylor's. And I don't hate that at all.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

9 Reasons Why Justin Bieber Should Marry Me Instead

Hello, everyone. As usual, it's been a number of months since you last saw me here on the blog, but the magnitude of the news this week has compelled me to return.

What news story is she referring to?, you may wonder.

The Supreme Court pick? No. My only comment on that is that I wish it had been one of the Notre Dame grads on the shortlist so I could have finagled a work trip where I got to breathe the same air as RBG.

Those Thai kids in a cave? Also no. Elon Musk was involved, and when I hear the words "Elon Musk," I stop listening.

No, friends, the news I'm referring to is the biggest news of all: Justin Bieber's engagement. Suspending whatever good judgment he had left, the Biebs proposed this weekend to his girlfriend of roughly three minutes, Hailey Baldwin. Hailey is apparently a model, but mostly, she is a Baldwin. I wish them all the best and everything, but let's be honest — if Justin Bieber was going to get engaged, it shouldn't have been to Kendall Jenner's Friend. It shouldn't have been to Selena Gomez, either. It should have been to me. I have a longstanding relationship with the Biebster, and I firmly believe he should have chosen me over Generic Blonde Person. Here are my reasons why.

My beloved roommate on our first day together: May 5, 2012.
1. Justin and I have lived together for more than six years. Can Hailey say that? No she cannot. Talk to me when Justin's constant presence in the corner of your apartment has scared all of your family and friends, Alec's Niece.

2. I live in a relatively small town. Justin apparently likes hanging out in those, shopping at Target, eating fro-yo, dodging the paps. We could do all of those things in South Bend. It's fate.

3. My sole connection to Selena is that time I saw her from across the stadium at a Notre Dame game, when she mostly was an obstacle blocking my sight line to Taylor Swift. Not saying Hailz is necessarily more connected to Selena, but like, statistically, he's a whole lot less likely to run into her or her friends when hanging out with me.

4. I, too, have heard of Jesus. The only thing Justin is a Belieber in these days is Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I spent several weeks in elementary school teaching my classmates how to say the Lord's Prayer in Ubbi Dubbi. We are meant to be. Hailey is apparently also a baby Christian of some sort (having recently begun attending Justin's nightclub church, Hillsong), but I've heard that same phrase used to describe Donald Trump, so clearly it doesn't mean much.

5. My hair is distressingly similar to Post Malone's. Posty is Justin's best friend; Justin clearly likes frizzy-haired brunettes; I am one of those. Next.

6. I really, really want Canadian citizenship, oh please God, Justin Trudeau, let me in away from this dumpster-fire-on-the-deck-of-the-Titanic of a country. I haven't figured out yet how this benefits the Biebs, but it is one of the leading ways in which the Biebs benefits me.

7. I'm a journalist! This may sound like an anti-reason, but what I mean is that I have a strong enough hold on journalistic ethics that I would never leak/sell our personal matters to tabloids. That said, I make no promises for the ethics of the dozen friends and random acquaintances I tell all of my secrets to.

8. You need someone older and wiser, telling you what to dooo-oo. This poor mess of a child clearly needs some gender-swapped "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" guidance in his life from a somewhat responsible older woman, and, as a 26-year-old who occasionally recycles, I can provide that. I will tolerate none of his DUI nonsense. And, unlike the supposedly helpful older party in the Sound of Music song, I actually hate the Nazis.

9. I have no particular desire to get married. Want to come to your senses and bail before the wedding day, Justin? Look no further than lil' old marriage-skeptical me. Truly a match made in Scooter Braun's dreams.

Watch out, Less Totalitarian Ivanka Lookalike. You just got Despacitowned.