The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Mary Anne Bodnar Page 1 of 12

The last arena: Mockingjay Part 2

We both know that if you haven’t yet seen The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, you probably aren’t going to. What’s that? You ran out of breath trying to say that title out loud? What a shame, but like it did for the few remaining fan girls who went berserk for the release of the most recent and final installment of The Hunger Games franchise, homeostasis will quickly regulate your breath back towards normalcy.

Mockingjay Part 2 marks the end of yet another micro-era of a drawn out narrative that our generation has grown accustomed to investing in every few years. It’s a fun process because each movie release allows us to follow actors on talk shows and reflect on how our perception of their characters, and thus ourselves, has evolved over time.

I have been at a point in my life a huge fan of The Hunger Games, and this film quenched many of my desires to see certain scenes brought to life. All the passages that you read over and over as a teenager wearing you hair in a Katniss-style braid are played out word for word. The battles, political chicanery and love triangle all find their way to the amplifying big screen, but somehow it all feels less impactful and emotional than its corresponding prose.

The mise-en-scene is as expectedly commercialized as it would be in any blockbuster, but since a consciousness around media and mass publicity lies at the center of this story, producers have ensured that the film is steeped in a genuine and refined glow. The film does exactly what it seeks to do; it tells the story exactly as it appears in the book and save cinematic audacity for another film.

The film’s most poignant moments emerge from the undeniable talents of Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Banks and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, and are cradled between scenes by a seething Jenna Malone, (scaled back but still) drunken Woody Harrelson and a sickly looking Donald Sutherland. One of Jennifer Lawrence’s most notable gifts is how adoringly ugly and inappropriate she can be, and Mockingjay Part 2 allows ample space for her to be so sympathetically unattractive. She lets us see her, the hero that never wanted to be a hero, drooling on herself while sobbing the way many of us do once a semester in the second floor library bathroom when “it all becomes too much to handle.” There’s an internal tranquility that anchors her displayed near-insanity. She knows what she’s doing, and she knows we don’t question her talents.

The acting is not the only admirable component of this movie, and it’s important to note that the film itself isn’t a crime against filmmaking. It’s a predictable studio blockbuster that mercifully allows a star studded cast to melt their talent and potential into long dried out studio molds of characters doing their best to fight a war we’ve already seen. Finnick Odair (Sam Clafin) says it himself after being shown a projection of the way the villainous government has mine trapped the city, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the seventy-sixth Hunger Games.” Well, that’s exactly it. This story is a newly CGI enhanced, city version of the first two movies in the franchise.

For starters, it’s awkward when one book in a series is so well suited to be made into a film and the others less so. It only makes sense that studios see the franchise, of which the first two films were quite engaging, to its grey, mature and resolved end.

In the genre of ultimate novels split into two film components, questions that might guide filmmakers are: where to cut the films and how to make each section seem like its own complete story. Where the filmmakers split the movies might seem to divide a tedious narrative into delightfully robust plots, but the truth is that this particular chapter of the narrative never really begged to be made into a film. Mockingjay is itself a novel that more so meditated on its own plot than it does yank us into a swarming new arena. But at least in the movie there are some talented and beautiful people to watch the whole time.

The Martian review: Absence of fear

There are few things more humbling to a choreography student in the process of making a piece about solidarity and loneliness than to watch an astronaut stapling his own stomach wound together minutes after being left alone on Mars. In The Martian’s tightly knit collage of interstellar conundrums, this is just one of many scenes where Mark Watney (a sweetly-sarcastic Matt Damon) rapidly repairs the situation instead of being paralyzed by the intense realization of impending death. The Martian sets a high velocity from this early scene and follows through on its promise for the next two hours. Like all the scientists in the film, viewers are constantly on the move, eliminating time for the sadness of isolation to sink in.

It’s not a particularly maudlin viewing experience, in part because Watney’s narrative refuses to let anyone around him feel defeated. From humorously morbid computer logs to using choice expletives in an internationally broadcast messaging communication with Earth, Watney’s candid humor keeps both characters and viewers on their toes.

The movie is more than accessible – dare I say enjoyable – to a variety of audiences because of its balanced presentation of boggling explosions, brilliant fools, executive tight asses, shiny space toys and existential crises. Surprisingly, it never overindulges in its own grandiosity. Recent critically-acclaimed movies such as Gravity and Interstellar hit audiences over the head with their own pride for tackling the expansiveness of space with a manufactured grace. The Martian doesn’t let the intimidatingly foreign terrain of the unknown dominate the viewing experience; instead, it puts the story of one small man at its center and allows for a compact series of events to unfold around that point. The film actually assumes that we’re an accepting and observant audience. It’s not obsessed with its own tools, allowing moments for talking boxy robots to share the screen for a few minutes and drop half-witted comments that acknowledge their own incapacity for human emotion.

Many of the film’s softest edges come from the series of ironically comforting vistas of Mars’ foreign terrain. Just as with space suits and spaceships, these vistas aren’t laid out triumphantly as the winning science fair project of the CGI department. The landscapes let us drift from one incomparably disastrous situation to the next, mirroring Mark’s own steadiness in circumstances that would be paralyzing for the average human.

It’s easy to compare movies that exist in space because of their shared requirement to deal with existential questions, but The Martian has its own agenda and somehow manages to keep itself to a refreshingly compact group of characters.

Jeff Daniels appears in a familiar costume, bearing a desperation for authority eerily reminiscent of his character Will McEvoy in HBO’s The Newsroom. Unfortunately, without Aaron Sorkin’s rapid writing, he comes off as just your average executive trying to exercise more power than anyone wants to admit he has.

A notable element of The Martian is its lack of an antagonist. There are no humans or even bug-eyed aliens actively trying to sabotage Watney’s return to planet Earth. The conflicts stem from Mother Nature herself, and humanity’s challenge in asserting its dominance where it naturally doesn’t make sense to survive.

Without an antagonist, there is still plenty of conflict, and time flies as Watney gets closer and closer to a return trip home. The film passes easily, but didn’t make me shudder out of fear of the unknown future in the way that Interstellar did (even though I watched Gravity on a flight last year and should probably give it a second chance, I’m not planning on it anytime soon). But perhaps that is the film’s greatest blessing: the absence of an antagonist and the absence of fear. The astronauts face terrifying situations throughout the film, but what actually helps us leave this world for two hours and drift willingly into theirs is that they don’t allow this fear of the unknown to cloud our perception with overbearing emotional experiences. It’s honest about its own existence, which the emptiness of space should incline us to admit about ourselves more often. We watch the story unfold, because after all, that’s all a movie is: a story.


A Pop Shoppe pilgrimage

Pop Shoppe pic

A scrumptious meal at the diner. MARY ANNE BODNAR/THE BATES STUDENT

“That is the best home fry I’ve ever had,” said Laura Pietropaoli ’17 of her steaming plate of food that had quickly found its way to our table. She’s kidding, sort of, but extreme expressions of appreciation for diner food are the norm when visiting Pop Shoppe. I’ve never quite been able to tell whether the food or the circumstances are what make this experience so enjoyable.

Situational deliciousness might be the case for many Bates students who visit Pop Shoppe, but that’s to be expected at a school where we take weekend brunch quite seriously. I’m just going to pencil in “can’t live without brunch” in my ever expanding list of reasons for why Commons has ruined any hopes I had for being a self-sufficient cook after I graduate in the spring.

While some might think that your decision to go to Pop Shoppe might reflect all too honestly on last night’s decision making, rapid service and a complete menu of comfort food in a casual, intimate setting makes the case for Pop Shoppe as a reasonable dining choice for many brunch occasions. Word searches on the place mats, immediate coffee refills and reasonable (read: not embarrassed to be an American) serving sizes are all details that keep students and community members coming back.

“Every town needs a good diner,” said Maya Cates Carney ’16, and it’s important to emphasize that Pop Shoppe is indeed a community staple. My visit to Pop Shoppe was at 9:00 a.m. (which is an arguably unbelievable time for twenty-somethings) on a Saturday morning, and the space was filled with locals enjoying a favorite haunt.

The menu also helps to eliminate any taste of pretension from the premises. I can guarantee that any combination of the words “smoked salmon,” “aioli,” or “sea salt crystals,” have never, and will never, appear on the menu. That’s not to say that all three of those foods wouldn’t make a fine brunch dish at another place, but it is sometimes nice to know that the simplicity of the menu will mirror your sub-par brain functionality.

What’s funny about Pop Shoppe is that the menu isn’t very different from what students can get in Commons for “free” on weekend mornings. There’s the usual assortment of eggs, pancakes, waffles, etc., which suggests that the experience of slugging out of bed, meeting a friend on College Street and trying not to bump into each other as you both stumble down Frye in various states of awareness is the real attraction to this experience.

You don’t go to Pop Shoppe to eat the best home fries in Maine. You go to feel like you’re part of our community by participating in an unspoken tradition that nourishes us. If Pop Shoppe wasn’t around the corner, I’m sure life at Bates would go on and other weekend rituals would take its place, but it’s nice to have a home kitchen just a few steps from campus.

Common Ground Fair

A vendor selling her wares at the fair. DREW PERLMUTTER/THYE BATES STUDENT

A vendor selling her wares at the fair. DREW PERLMUTTER/THYE BATES STUDENT

The sun was shining and the weather was comfortably crisp this weekend at the Common Ground Fair. Held annually in Unity, Maine, the fair is hosted by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and attracts roughly 60,000 people every year (and about three-quarters of Bates College). Located on a huge field with tents spanning across acres, there are hundreds of vendors with numerous items to keep people busy for hours.

Once the car is parked, and you have waited in the long line to purchase your ticket, the fun begins. The fair is somewhat organized, with areas to purchase food for later – like cheeses and wild blueberries – another area to buy food that you will eat immediately – such as fish tacos and chai tea – an animal section, and many smaller sections filled with merchandise.

By far, the food areas were my favorite: I sampled and purchased an assortment of cheeses, yogurts, and fruit that were organically grown and produced by local farmers – something I really like to support. When I ventured to ready-to-eat foods, I found myself at the restaurant Harvest Moon’s tent, where I happily indulged in some ricotta and spinach wood-fired pizza. I also passed by Indian cuisine, ice cream, lots of seafood, smoothies, and foods that accommodate allergies and restrictions. “It’s really nice to see such a variety of food options, especially for people like me who have food allergies,” Sarah Wainshal ’16 said.

After overeating, I explored the tents containing things like jewelry, art, herbal medicines, and teas. I was in awe of the skill demonstrated by artists at the fair. Women were knitting sweaters and hats on site, making quilts, basket-weaving, making jewelry, dreamcatchers, etc. There were materials to purchase, like yarn and fleece, if you wanted to create your own, or you could purchase an already-made scarf or hat. The fashion pieces were very unique, no one like the other. I actually ran into a photographer I met at a fair in Bar Harbor, and purchased a photo of a moose for my father (don’t tell him.) The local talent and skill is truly amazing.

Lured by the smell of lavender, I visited the tea/home remedy tents. I smelled many essential oils and herbal remedies, and while I can’t tell you if they work or not, I can vouch for their great smells. I also sampled many vegan/organic lotions and have never had softer hands. There was a dried flower tent near the remedy tents, where I purchased a cup of delicious citrus tea, and dried lavender from a familiar face, who I realized was the same man who pierced my ear earlier this week on Lisbon Street. He is not the only person I ran into. The fair, full of families and people of all ages, also had a fair number of Batesies that I loved meeting throughout the day.

Though I must say, I ran into the most people at the animal portion of the fair. There were chickens, geese, goats, sheep, and an overwhelming number of bunnies (I’m not complaining.) I spent a large segment of my afternoon near the bunnies – not only for their cuteness, but also because of the incredibly large and fluffy bunnies, which were unlike anything I had ever seen before. I would go back to Common Ground Fair next year for the sole purpose of seeing those big, fluffy bunnies. My only criticism is that there were bunnies for sale for anywhere between $20 and $100, meaning I had enough cash in my pocket to purchase a bunny. It took unbelievable self-restraint to leave the fair without one. “It was great to see the young and young at heart taking delight in the bunnies they had for sale,” James Erwin ’18 said.

Would I go back? Absolutely. The fair is a really great way to spend your day and explore what Maine has to offer. It is virtually impossible to see everything that the fair presents, so returning either the following day or year is a must. “The fair had so many different tents and things to see that even after walking around for three hours I felt like I had only scratched the surface,” Amanda San Roman ’17 said. “My favorite part was probably seeing all of the different animals and learning where they were from. It was a perfect day to be at the fair and so much fun seeing students and families all enjoying it together.”


Ryan Adams makes Taylor Swift enjoyable for everyone

Last fall, Taylor Swift dropped her fifth album, 1989. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. With singles including “Blank Space” and “Bad Blood,” Swift was topping the charts. But not everyone was a fan. Take my brother, for instance: pop music is not his genre of choice. As such, he didn’t listen to the album at all (this turned out to be a problem, because I constantly blasted it from my room). It’s completely fine if Swift is not your cup of tea, but maybe you should give 1989 a chance. Especially since now there’s a way for everyone, including my brother, to enjoy it.

Ryan Adams is a well-known rock/alternative musician. In other words, he is the antithesis of Taylor Swift. For reasons I don’t know (but am extremely grateful for), Adams decided to record a cover album of 1989 – as in he recorded, and put his own spin on, every single track on the record.

To be honest, when I first heard about this, I wasn’t expecting greatness. Why would we need more versions of Taylor Swift’s music? Sure, I like it, but I really couldn’t see how anything more could be done with these pop songs.

Well, Adams’ album came out last week, and I will admit I was wrong. Adams turned 1989 into an entirely new album. The covers are simple, just Adams and a guitar, bringing listeners back to the alternative music of the ‘90s. Stripped of synthesizers and heavy beats, this album lets us fully absorb the lyrics. With Adams singing, we really hear the raw emotion. This has become his breakup album, after splitting with Mandy Moore earlier this year.

This version is so clearly Adams, it is enjoyable to his fans and T-Swift teenyboppers alike. While Swift’s 1989 is perfect to pump yourself up or blast at parties, I would not recommend listening to Adams’ remake before going out. It is definitely a downer of an album; you can hear the heartbreak in his voice. The “Blank Space” cover is melancholically lovely, and features some wonderful finger-picking. “All You Had To Do Was Stay” surpasses the original, subtly conveying the hurt of a breakup. “Clean” rounds up my top three picks from the album, getting to the heart of a classic rock song.

Swift’s 1989 is a bit hard to find unless you buy it. It’s not available on Spotify, and the tracks are only on YouTube if there are accompanying music videos. Adams’ 1989 is much more accessible. Spotify, YouTube, you’ll find it anywhere. Take advantage of this, because this is not a cover album to miss.

One thing to keep in mind: this album is still Taylor Swift’s at heart. She wrote and produced it. Adams is just coming in to put his own spin on it. So if you decide to take a listen to it, and end up liking it – I’m looking at you, brother – remember that this wouldn’t have happened without T. Swift.


Performance Artist Sara Juli shares Work in progress with Bates

This past Friday, performance artist Sara Juli performed a forty minute excerpt of her new work “Tense Vagina,” which will be performed at Portland’s Space Gallery on October 23rd and 24th at 8pm.

The piece is a harvest of Sara Juli’s experiences as a mother, and is thus a work aimed at parents. While it might be arguably easier for parents to empathize with some of the references in Sara Juli’s work – such as offering the audience snacks, explaining how and when to open said snacks, singing Disney princess karaoke, etc. – the students who watched the showing were laughing uproariously. Not all audience members may know what it’s like to be a parent, but we never forget what it’s like to be a kid – or at least to have an adult talking to us as if we were still a kid.

While some might understandably wrinkle their nose at the prospect of hearing about “tense vaginas” for an hour, Sara Juli’s unexaggerated gestures, genuine interest in the audience, and fluid compositional style allow this subject matter to be the Disney-princess-powered glue linking everyone in the audience to one another and to her experience.

Towards the beginning of the piece, when she confesses to having recently visited the Pelvic Floor Rehab Center of New England, I thought “this can’t be true, it’s just too funny.” However, it was true, and realizing so filled me with a sense of awe and appreciation for the performance that is rarely established so early on in a performance art piece.

Hannah Fairchild ’18 wrote about this unique relationship between Sara Juli and her audience: “The beauty of experiencing her performance was that she made me laugh, and she made me want to cry. Sara Juli’s piece shares a deeply personal medley of experiences and emotions from her life as a woman and a mother for which I experienced an overwhelming feeling of empathy that tugged painfully on my heart as I watched her. To me, one of her truest talents is her ability to grab the audience– everyone in the audience, no matter where they come from, who they identify as, or how little one may think they will be able to resonate with the stories she spills onto the stage. The rawness of her stories and movements that fluctuate from silliness to pain make for a helplessly-gripping experience for the audience to witness.”

This was not the first time that Sara Juli has come to share an excerpt of her work at Bates and receive feedback from students and faculty. During short term, she garnered feedback for a duet that she collaborated on with veteran choreographer and comedienne Claire Porter, which was performed at the world renowned American Dance Festival in July.

Sara Juli began her showing with a series of endearing disclaimers, and at the end highlighted how important the May showing was for cultivating feedback and finessing the final art product.

Laura Pietropaoli ’17 was able to be at both showings and shared her reflections over e-mail: “Sara Juli’s performances in general tend to be very rooted in her personal experiences. She tells real stories about her life that are relatable; everyone in the audience has felt all of emotions that she conveys, even if no one has gone through exactly what she is depicting. I’ve never even heard of the Pelvic Floor Rehab Center of New England, but I found each section that she showed accessible and frankly hilarious. She is an incredible storyteller who knows how to engage her audience through well-known cultural references in order to drive her narrative home.”

Not to give any spoilers for the performance, but just know that I will never look at the song “Chandelier” the same way. If any Batesies are here for October break and looking for a bit of culture, check out “Tense Vagina.”


Moonstruck: Reflecting on the Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

 A supermoon lunar eclipse (also known as a bloodmoon) occurred this past Sunday night, September 27, 2015. This astrological event last occurred in 1982 and will not occur again until 2033, making it the talk of many members of the Bates community and beyond. Though lunar eclipses are not uncommon, a bloodmoon, like the moon seen this past Sunday, has some very special qualities. Specifically, the moon appears full and is at the closest point in its orbit around the Earth, making it a “supermoon.” Supermoons are known to be brighter and larger than full moons. In addition, on Sunday, a lunar eclipse also coincided with the supermoon. This means that the Earth aligned directly between the sun and moon, causing the moon to fall in the shadow of the Earth. Some may still wonder why the moon appears with a reddish color during this time. The “blood” of the moon derives as a result of the light reflecting off the Earth’s atmosphere, giving the celestial body its unique color.



Despite the fact that the supermoon lunar eclipse paints a shadow, the event appeared to illuminate something intangible. Whether students trekked up Mount David for a different vantage point, sat outside on the library quad, or stepped out onto the porch of their Frye Street house, the moon brought the campus together to share in the uniqueness of an astrological sight that will not occur again for many years to come. Thoughts of awe, significance in the wider world, and general feelings of wonder crossed many individuals’ minds as the night unfolded. The next time a bloodmoon will be visible, our lives will be fundamentally different than they are presently. Lastly, what perhaps struck me the most was the thought that those who chose to watch the eclipse participated in something that not only was an experience shared among our peers and friends but also a moment that we shared with individuals across the globe.


Album review: B’lieve I’m Goin Down

Imagine a Mojave Desert dive bar, blacked out windows, ringed by creosote and tumbleweeds. Inside there sit lonely cowboys, empty sheriffs, outlaws, and nobodies. Think belt buckles, boots, six-shooters, and Marlboro smoke. Sitting atop of a bar stool, brown shoulder length hair, jean jacket, and an electric guitar in hand, is our hero Kurt Vile.

He begins with his best Tom Petty impression – the dark, delirious, and writhing “Pretty Pimpin.” His voice is quick and tight, verses are growled and barked. Like any good rock song, there is a small electric solo, reminding us that Vile still believes in a good ol’ fashion bruiser.

The album is desert rock, rural and spacey, but always moving and alive. The guitar, both acoustic and electric, are the stars of the show, but along comes the banjo for a song or two that gives the album the glow of earthy folk-country. The banjo is especially prominent in “I’m an Outlaw.” The shaky plucky brightness reflecting the empty boasts of a modern day wild man – or as Vile might say, “a regular badass.”

However, Vile never strays too far from his psych roots. The slow-burning and wicked hangover ballad of “Dust Bunnies” features a healthy heaping of echoing electric synths. The final song, “Wild Imagination,” is tapped along by an almost out of place drum machine. Kurt’s voice is never without a little dash of reverb following along, just enough to recreate some canyon and cavern emptiness, but never open sky spacey.

For a sonic moment, the desert heat and light evaporate from sight. A shadow has passed over the crowd; outlaws and cowboys alike look down into their drinks, at their hands. This is the gentle intermission of the album. Kurt appears at the piano, laying down a cautious little heartbeat. Vile is not a piano man, it never having appeared on any of his previous music. He has always been a rocker, upright, guitar in hand. Rockers don’t sit. But here he is knees bent, fingers poised into a singer-songwriter stance, never assumed before.

The underlying piano pattern, though his first attempt, is my favorite bit of the album. A string of warm apprehension, each note building up to something big, but never getting to the finish line. Imagine a boy gathering his courage and his strength to say hello to his crush, but each time shying away: the momentum is gone, victory is never claimed. It is sad and sweet and achingly persistent. That is the song “Life Like This,” mourning the deaths of dreams never reached, bemoaning the men and women who don’t commit to the act of living. The subject is tough to linger on, but luckily the piano sticks around for the rest of the album.

“Wild Imagination” is the closer. It is gentle and pretty, like the sun coming up over the mesa to reveal dew on the cactus spears. A shivering rattlesnake drum track guides along a lonesome but content guitar and Vile’s meditative lyrics. His poetic being interrupted by chants of “give it some time.” It’s comforting; an acoustic hug that pats you on the back and reminds you to try your best, that everything works out in the end.


Fresh faces in the theater department

This year at Bates, the Theater Department is lucky enough to have two visiting lecturers. These new arrivals, Sally Wood and Cory Hinkle, are sure to contribute new and refreshing ideas that will enhance the department.

Sally Wood is a jack-of-all-trades; she directs, acts and even choreographs fight scenes. From the very beginning Wood was always a sort of misfit, but in an interview she recalls that “theater was the place where [she] felt loved and respected and valued.” Finding her niche allowed Wood to excel and gave her the confidence to succeed.

Directing fight scenes is a very unique aspect of Wood’s repertoire. Fight scenes on stage differ greatly from those seen in movies. During a live performance, the cast and crew have to be safe, aware, and completely in control the entire time. Wood notes that she “love[s] designing fights because it requires two very different things from the actors involved. One: they have to have immense energy and passion. Two: they have to use absolute precision.” These two components are crucial for the fight to look authentic and be safe for the actors.

This awesomely fun aspect of theater – while looking great on stage – takes time to perfect. Wood says, “Even with good, experienced fighters, you need about five hours of rehearsal for every minute of the fight.” While this is a long process, the end result flows fluidly onstage and the audience is none the wiser. This intelligent trickery is one of the many theatrical illusions that a seasoned pro like Wood knows how to use to her advantage.

Wood has high hopes for her stay in our community. She wants “to bring a strong sense of enthusiasm and passion for the art.” To her, theater is a two way street between the actors and audience. The more the actors engage with each other, the more the audience will enjoy the performance. Furthermore, Batesies in her classes teach her through “courage and humor new ways to tackle problems and to be present in the given moment.”

Cory Hinkle comes to Bates as an accomplished playwright and theater artist. From an early age, Hinkle was surrounded by boisterous family members telling amazing stories. It was through this storytelling avenue that Hinkle developed his interest in writing plays.

One opportunity that really helped Hinkle jumpstart his career was receiving a Jerome Fellowship at the Playwright’s Center in Minneapolis. In an interview, Hinkle reminisces that while in this program he lived with eight other writers and together they co-managed a theater company. He remarks that the greatest asset to his career was “by creating [his] own work, by co-creating work with others and by producing [his] own plays.”

Furthermore, Hinkle thinks of himself “as a writer who is knowledgeable and capable of putting up and producing new work, and it’s this background that makes [him] want to work with students.” With so much experience and success, Hinkle offers a lot to Bates.

In only three short weeks here, his students are already positively affecting Hinkle. He hits his stride in the creative process when he gets to “work through teaching.” Batesies in his classes have exceeded this expectation

As a lasting impression, Hinkle hopes his pupils will use all the resources he has to offer. Throughout his years participating in different fellowship programs, writing plays, and immersing himself in the theatrical world, Hinkle learned a great deal about the theater industry. For his students, the biggest lesson he wants them to absorb is “you always learn the most and grow the most when you take a big risk, fail, and then keep trying to make better work.”


“Beauty Behind The Madness” by The Weeknd

The best art is the often most confessional. It is the darkest and deepest corners of the mind that give fruit to the most compelling literature and music. These works challenge us to look within ourselves, and confront our deepest fears and demons.  “Beauty Behind the Madness,” the new album by R&B singer/songwriter The Weeknd (born Abel Tesfaye) is a work that attempts this.

Delving deep into the mind of its creator, the album provides a compelling image of a deeply conflicted superstar. Cocky yet insecure, tender yet sexually depraved, the man presented on the album is at once despicable and sympathetic. The record, containing the intimacy of a diary entry or a therapy session, is made universal by the singer’s pop sensibilities and stunning vocal capacity. It is a complex character analysis in the guise of a mainstream R&B album.

When listened to on a superficial level, The Weeknd’s music often comes across as arrogant and vapid. He boasts about his drug use, his sexual conquests, and his fame. He employs casual misogyny in his discussion of women, and overall exhibits the attitude of a care-free party boy. However, when listened to closely, one can sense loneliness behind the singer’s empty boasts.

On the song “The Hills,” which tells of a late night hook up, he sings lines like “I just f**cked two b*tches before I saw you” and “drugs start to feeling like it’s decaf,” giving the impression of a braggadocios, drugged-up womanizer . Later, in the chorus however, he sings “I only love it when you touch me, not feel me/when I’m f**cked up, that’s the real me.” This leads one to believe that the hedonistic pursuits of the song come from a desire to escape one’s life, instead of from a more narcissistic place. Instead of being put off by The Weeknd’s inflated ego, the listener becomes sympathetic to the emptiness and futility of the singer’s lifestyle.

Musically, the song follows a similar trajectory. Echoing ambient sounds provide a lonely, late night feeling in the song’s verses, while the aggressive bass drum of the chorus exudes pompousness. Overall, the song works on many thematic and musical levels, reflecting the complex nature of The Weeknd’s character.

Even the album’s lightest moments contain signs of inner torment and struggle. The hit single “Can’t Feel My Face” is upbeat and funky in a way that is reminiscent of Michael Jackson. Upon listening closely to the lyrics, however, one can sense the same desperation and despair. “I know she’ll be the death of me, at least we’ll both be numb,” he sings, in a clear reference to using drugs to cope. The evident frustration of the song is continued in the chorus when The Weeknd sings “she told me you’ll never be in love.” It is clear from lyrics like this that there is a deep need for love and connection that is going unmet.

While the album may be too self-involved for some listeners, “Beauty Behind the Madness” is novel in the way it uses a pop format to provide a nuanced and honest portrait of deep fears and insecurities. It is a thrilling musical experience that fosters an intimate relationship between artist and listener.

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