Now Now Lonely Christmas

'Lonely Christmas': Now, Now's Sad, Synth-y, Single Anthem for the Holidays

Christmas music isn't my thing, aside from "All I Want for Christmas Is You" - which we are absolutely streaming until we get Mariah Carey her No. 1 this year, darlings - Britney's "My Only Wish (This Year)" obviously and, of course, Hilary Duff's masterful debut, Santa Clause Lane. (Speaking of, have you heard the Legends Only track-by-track listening party yet?)

I just have a fairly low tolerance for merriment. A somber Christmas song, however? Now you're sobbing my language.

Now, Now is a group I learned about, uh, approximately now, now - but I'm glad to have arrived at the party. They're an indie-rock duo, formed in Minnesota between KC Dalager and Brad Hale. (Great name, Brad.) They've also been putting out music for at least a decade or longer. Again: late, but happy to be here.

"Lonely Christmas" is the name of the duo's new single, following the release of their critically acclaimed 2018 record, Saved. And if you too are in the market, knowingly or otherwise, for vaguely '80, nostalgic, wistful, Christmas-themed MUNA-slash-HAIM-slash Carly Rae Jepsen synth-pop, you're in luck.

“This song came about because I always get really lonely and bummed out during the holidays. I try every year to overcome that, so writing this song is another attempt to reclaim the magic of the season," KC explained of the song.

“I had the initial concept idea for this song two years ago while sitting in my car by myself listening to the Christmas station on the radio. The world around me was sparkling and cheerful but I couldn’t feel it. So I wanted us to capture that feeling and write a song for anyone else out there who may also be experiencing that. I always loved the freedom in Christmas music. Nothing is too much. Nothing is too far. Nothing is too joyous. Nothing is too desperate. I can openly plead with someone to not break my heart in the name of Christmas.”

And really, what's more festive than sitting alone in a parked car in your hometown during the holidays doing some deep breathing and silently reflecting on the State of Things to the sound of jingling bells and saxophone flourishes in the background? A relatable holiday anthem, if I've ever heard one.

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Tinashe Save Room For Us

'Save Room For Us': Tinashe Sparks Joy in Japan

Tinashe is truly living her best life.

From the moody mixtape days of the early '10s (can you believe that's a thing we can say as we enter into 2020?), to the major label era of Aquarius onward, to a return to her DIY roots, the 26-year-old entertainer's come full circle with her career - and she looks like she's fully in her groove again.

While her time at RCA wasn't all bad (Nightride forever, still), if Songs For You is an indication of anything, it's that Tinashe operates best when she's fully got the reigns in hand as an independent artist. In terms of actual artistry, she's smooth sailing again after hitting some speed bumps along her joyride.

Among the varied tracks on her new LP, the warm, pulsating "Save Room For Us" with MAKJ was an obvious standout from the start. Like "Dancing On My Own," and so many classics of the Crying at the Discotheque genre before, you really can't go wrong with a little jealousy (and wishful thinking) on the dance floor.

Smartly, Tinashe's catered to her base - the track is the most streamed song from the album - with a "thank you" in the form of a music video shot in Japan.

The Stephen Garnett-directed visual appropriately feels just as free as the artist herself does these days, as she serves up some carefree moves and stunts in some stylish looks in the streets and subways of Tokyo. There's not much to it, plot-wise: it's just Tinashe and company (REFERENCE) having some fun bopping around the city. (Very jealous of the idea of getting to explore around Tokyo, by the way.)

Why Japan for this song? Unclear. Tokyo always makes for a gorgeous music video backdrop. Or, perhaps she binged Tidying Up With Marie Kondo earlier in the year, which compelled her to KonMari method her own music career, discarding what no longer serves her to make room for that which still sparks joy.

In any case, it's working, and seeing Tinashe do it her way again is as much of a treat as it was years ago.

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Pabllo Vittar Amor De Que

'Amor de Que': Everybody Wants a Piece of Pabllo Vittar

Aside from soybeans, crude oil and iron ores, there are few hotter exports to come out of Brazil than Pabllo Vittar.

She's so hot, in fact, that every boy in town wants a piece of Pabllo.

The 25-year-old Brazilian baddie-turned-international drag icon - arguably the most globally renowned drag queen since RuPaul (Vittar's Drag Race needs to happen at some point, by the way) - has had an incredible past few years: from bumping bundas with Anitta and Diplo in the desert, to striking a pose for the cameras with every 20-something popper-sniffing, douche-carrying gay's Queen Charli XCX, to becoming the first drag queen to ever receive an award at the MTV EMAs.

She's big.

Now, Pabllo is expanding the Vittar Cinematic Universe with a flirty new visual for the sultry, horn-y "Amor de Que," featured on her 111 1 EP, which was released at the end of October. (It's called 111 1 because it's a part of a trilogy, as she prepares her trilingual third album in Portuguese, Spanish and English. Her mind/mente!)

As it stands now, "Amor de Que" is floating around as Brazil's third most played song (!), already racking up over 2 million views just hours after the music video's premiere on Wednesday (December 4).

The music video, filmed by longtime friend and collaborator João Monteiro inside of São Paulo’s Mogi das Cruzes, is described as a representation of "the freedom to love freely in any form." In other words: mama is getting around town. And why shouldn't she? Who could possibly resist the charms of Vittar?

Director João said collaborating with Pabllo, their tenth time working together, “has always allowed me to innovate and create new worlds. This time, after two hits marked by studio videoclips with American pop language, we decided to bring Pabllo back to this very Brazilian atmosphere. With a clever camera game, the guys who interact with her are exchanged, which reinforces the idea of a diverse and free love."

"We wanted to use her looks to portray exactly the profile of that Brazilian woman who is free, empowered and who sees no problem in relating to those whoever she wants. We also rescued that girl from the interior of northeast, which brought Brazilian elements, such as tiny shorts, high heels, crochet top and jeans look," added stylist João França Ribeiro.

“I loved recording this video, it has a different atmosphere from my last jobs. I hope the fans enjoy it as much as I do. This song is very special to me," Pabllo says of the clip.

Far from the sillier, tongue-in-cheek offerings from so many drag stars - which, no shade, everyone's got their own artistry and style - Pabllo really indulges in an unabashed Main Pop Girl fantasy in her music videos, especially with "Amor de Que": she looks stunning, commanding the attention of every guy in the room while serving looks, seductive moves and generous amounts of butt shots. There's a real superstar wattage and power to her femininity and flirtatiousness - however fleeting one's personal time with Pabllo might be.

"It's just that there are so many handsome men in the city / And I'm in the prime of my life," she cautions in the (English translated version of the) song.

"I don't want you to get attached To my love - a whore love." Hey, don't say Pabllo didn't warn you.

Get in that one-on-one time while you still can before she fully takes over in 2020.

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Photo credit: Ernna Cost


The Pussycat Dolls Are Back

If you or a loved one are experiencing frequent, inexplicable urges to loosen up your buttons, or if you suddenly find your legs lifting upward at random intervals, or if you feel an overwhelming assurance that you are hotter, freakier, rawer and more fun than the girlfriends of those around you, fear not. There's a perfectly logical scientific explanation: The Pussycat Dolls are back.

Yes, that's right: PCD managed to stage a reunion before the release of Her Name Is Nicole, now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Granted, it's not quite all of the Dolls.

Leading up to the announcement of their return, a verified Pussycat Dolls account popped up on social media, which was following seven people: founder and professional girl group wrangler Robin "Ringleader" Antin, Ashley "Butterfly Effect" Roberts, Nicole "Hot as a Stove" Scherzinger, Jessica "Show Me" Sutta, Kimberly "High Kick" Wyatt, Melody "Even if I'm not featured..." Thornton, and the American-Israeli legend herself, Carmit "Don't Call It a Carmback" Bachar.

Upon a reveal of the original PCD logo art, the girls all switched their profile photos to match the new account - except, of course, for Melody who, in 2009 The Circus: Starring Britney Spears fashion, kept hers the same, keeping that same "even if I'm not featured..." energy a decade later.

Hours later, the (pussy)cat was out of the bag: PCD is back, and heading out on a UK reunion tour in April 2020. (Yes, of course I'm going, but more on that later.)

The group will, however, only be reuniting as a quintet: Melody opted out, with the girls vaguely citing "prior commitments" and music obligations as the reason. Her disinterest in participating in a reunion is perhaps not a surprise to a majority of pop fans who even had a passing interest in PCD.

Melody famously chose to voice her disdain for the group's configuration, which was effectively Nicole and her back-up dancers, by...sometimes going rogue on the mic.

And in keeping on the subject of girl groups, good ol' Chezza shared some incredible thoughts about the Dolls...and Nicole...and Britney...at the time.

PCD was a unique scenario: Nicole was unsubtly positioned as "the Beyoncé" of the group, but more than being the lead vocalist, she was almost exclusively the only vocalist on most of their songs, and certainly during their live performances. (Well, minus the Melody outbursts.)

They also did better than you might even remember: in a four year span, the Pussycat Dolls sold over 54 million records, making them one of the best-selling girl groups of all time.

But by the time Nicole's chart-evading solo non-hits of 2007 came and went (#JusticeForWhateverULike), as well as "Jai Ho!" and "Hush, Hush" in 2009 - infamously billed as The Pussycat Dolls Feat. Nicole Scherzinger at the time - Melody, and later, the majority of the Dolls, had basically had it.


They've all since gone on to do various things on their own, with most finding success overseas releasing solo songs and doing variety and competition shows - standard fare for post-peak girl group members. But despite all of the emphasis on Nicole throughout the girl group's existence, and despite her perfectly solid solo pop - "Don't Hold Your Breath" alone, hello - she never managed to break through in America...not without the Dolls by her side, anyway. (I also reserve a theory that at least part of the reason is that her last name was deemed too difficult to pronounce/memorize.)

As it turns out, a decade mends a lot of wounds...as does the promise of cashing in on nostalgia. And speaking of throwbacks: let's talk about the return of Carmit Bachar - or, as she was born, Carmimmaculate Bachalmighty.

For those of you less versed in all things Pussy(cat): Carmit is one of the founding Dolls, dating all the way back to the group's 1995 origins as a fledgling burlesque group in Las Vegas. She's danced for, like, everyone - from Aaliyah to Jennifer Lopez, and even in Janet Jackson's infamous Super Bowl 2004 halftime performance.

Her return is welcome, to say the least: she is a PCDeity.


With the announcement of their reunion came a string of promotional interviews, in which they mostly elaborated on how much time has passed - they've got husbands and babies now! - and cited the Spice Girls reunion as inspiration for their own. (At one point, Nicole iconically points out that they outsold Little Mix in the UK.)

Now, I'm no body language expert, nor am I trying to instigate doll-on-doll drama - as I genuinely want this comeback to stick(witu)- but Nicole Scherzinger's facial journey throughout some of these interviews is fascinating. She did stress the fact that she was working on three shows across three continents at the time, and rehearsing for their upcoming performance. But is she just...tired? Serving Grand Dame regality? Bored of the same questions over and over? Or coming to terms with the fact that she's been stuck back in a girl group once again?

No matter, because their comeback performance on the X Factor: Celebrity finale on Saturday (November 30) made one thing very clear: the Dolls are coming back strong.

This is how you stage a genuinely fantastic comeback performance after a decade.

The drama of each girl rising to the stage. The oh-so-Britney-esque purr of "Are you ready?" That hype mix of "Buttons."

Yes, Dolls. Yes!

Pussycat Dolls X Factor Celebrity

Serving "Pretty Girls" 2015 Billboard Awards looks, the ladies looked as fit and fabulous as they did a decade ago - better, even.

The hair flips! The stage dive! The windmill arms! The #SomethingMoreUrban mix of "When I Grow Up"! The pyrotechnics! The absolute audacity of Nicole Scherzinger declaring "I'm a hot topic" in the year 2019! The YELP note!

Points deducted for skipping the iconic dance break - but then points immediately won back for the revival of the Juicy Couture-biting peak mid-'00s aesthetic glittery PCD hoodie for "Don't Cha."

And then, just when they've got us edged properly with a million man dance break, the big reveal: a new song.

They tricked us! New material from PCD already?! The song's called "React" - and it sounds GOOD - especially when accompanied by a Flashdance water drop and a fierce-as-fuck final pose. The signature Kimberly leg lift is back!

Pussycat Dolls X Factor Celebrity

I'm overcome by all of this, truly.

Sure, the other girls still didn't sing, nor were they featured. They weren't singing or featured on those old records and performances in the first place! Of course it's still The Nicole Show! Get with the program!

But really: whether the non-Scherzy members of PCD even want to be featured more prominently on the vocals remains unclear. One would assume that if they’ve gone through the trouble of reuniting, they’re all in agreement about how the band works.

What we actually need is a Red Table Talk conversation with all the members sharing their candid thoughts about their past and present formation.

As for the comeback performance itself: this is pop! Girl group glory! Dancing! Hair flips! Choreography! Hello! In the year 2019, when everyone's mumbling and fumbling their way around the stage! We don't deserve it, but the Dolls came through for us in our time of need, anyway.

Now go bid on a PCD hoodie on eBay, start stretching out those legs, and I'll see you all at the Pussycat Dolls Tour in 2020.

Oh, and ladies? Drop "React." Now.


Billie Eilish Everything I Wanted

Billie Eilish Got Everything She Wanted, For Better or Worse

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cm0MGnuRnH0

"I had a dream. I got everything I wanted. Not what you'd think. And if I'm bein' honest, it might've been a nightmare."

There was a Vanity Fair video that came out last year, called "Same Interview, One Year Apart" with Billie Eilish. The concept was exactly that: an interview with Billie, featuring the same questions, filmed exactly one year apart.

The end result is, well, eerie: the draining effects of the following 12 months on the 15-turned-16-year old singer are there written all over her face, in her mannerisms and in her words. It's as fascinating as it is disturbing. The video now has over 57 million views.

At best, fame is difficult to handle for young stars. At worst, it's all-consuming and, potentially, lethal. That's no new tale: from Michael Jackson to Amy Winehouse to Britney Spears to Demi Lovato, we've all seen what the media, the music industry and fans have done to many of these people amid their own personal struggles. And although the conversation around mental health has evolved over the years, so have other things, like social media, supplying direct access to celebrities...and so, so many unsolicited opinions.

I remember seeing Billie for the first time at the beginning of 2017, performing an acoustic set in front of journalists and assorted industry types in a room at Soho House in New York City. And while it's easy to say I always knew she'd be a star from that point forward, I...did, although, admittedly, not to the degree that she took off within months.

There was something so mesmerizing about the hushed and vulnerable way she sang and kept the room pin-drop quiet, clinging to each quivering note. I remember thinking about how, in spite of how jaded I'd become in general with showcases and new artists and all of that, I was genuinely entranced during the performance - by a 15-year-old, no less. Afterward, she flitted around the room in some kind of green fur, if I remember right. I might have said hello, but I was intimidated. By someone half my age.

Since then, it's not a stretch to say Billie is on track to become the voice of her generation, if she isn't already.

The charts and streams speak for themselves - she's got the best-selling North American debut album of the decade - as do the sold-out tours, the TikTok memes, the Takashi Murakami and Justin Bieber collaborations, and everything in between. She's massive, and having seen her in concert a handful of times since that showcase years ago, it's clear how much she means to her young, impassioned audience.

That is all to say: she got everything she wanted. Or did she?

"everything i wanted," Billie's first new song since releasing When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? released on Wednesday (November 13), seemingly addresses all that's come with her astoundingly rapid ascent to superstardom.

The gorgeously grim track was recorded both at her home studio in Highland Park and on the road on tour this summer with her older brother and sole collaborator and producer, Finneas.

"We started writing it because I literally had a dream that I killed myself, and nobody cared, and all of my best friends and people that I worked with basically came out in public and said, like, 'Oh, we never liked her.' In the dream, the fans didn’t care. The Internet shit on me for killing myself, all this stuff, and it really did mess me up," she explained to Annie Mac of the meaning behind the song.

"My brother is my best friend, and I have these dreams and these things happen, and no matter what happens, he’s gonna always be there for me, and it’s the same the other way around."

That same worldweary, depressed girl featured in the Vanity Fair video might as well be the one narrating this song: "It feels like yesterday was a year ago, but I don't wanna let anybody know / 'Cause everybody wants something from me now, and I don't wanna let 'em down," she confesses. It's a cry for help, frankly.

The cover art for the single features a stylized version of the Golden Gate Bridge designed by English artist Jason Anderson, which has a reputation for being the second-most used suicide site in the world. She directly references that suicidal dream in the lyrics: "Thought I could fly, so I stepped off the Golden / Nobody cried, nobody even noticed."

The one thing that keeps her tethered to reality, and to the core of this very song, is Finneas.

"And you say, 'As long as I'm here, no one can hurt you / Don't wanna lie here, but you can learn to / If I could change the way that you see yourself, you wouldn't wonder why you're here / They don't deserve you'" she sweetly croons her big brother's supportive words on the lump-in-throat inducing chorus.

In the song's final moments, she ponders whether this was all worth it: "If I knew it all then, would I do it again? / Would I do it again?"

For any musician, "everything i wanted" would be considered a moving meditation on fame. For a 17-year-old girl, it's downright heartbreaking.

Mercifully, she's not by herself: she's got her big brother right there along with her for the ride. But perhaps this song, beyond being one of the most arresting tracks she's ever released, will serve as a reminder of her humanity.

Here's hoping for healthy professional boundaries, time off when needed, and a supportive team in place to keep Billie grounded during a time in her life that is anything but normal.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCTMq7xvdXU

"everything i wanted" was released on November 13.

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Cheryl Makes an Aloud & Proud Appearance on 'RuPaul's Drag Race UK'

I miss Girls Aloud with every fiber of my biology.

As anyone else who worshipped at the altar of the Almighty Aloud can attest, life has only progressively gotten colder with each passing day ever since the TwitLonger disbandment tweeted 'round the world in 2013. (It's too soon to talk about, still.)

And while the ladies have not yet given into the nostalgia machine like their fellow boy banders and girl groupers and put together a reunion (though their 20th anniversary is in two years, just saying), every now and then, there's something kinda ooooh that gives me the Aloud fix I need.

In this case, that happened this evening (November 7) when Cheryl, formally known as Cheryl Tweedy Cole Fernandez-Versini Almost Payne Now Cheryl Just Cheryl, returned to the telly as a guest judge on RuPaul's Drag Race UK.

Granted, Cheryl's also on TV doing a dancing competition called The Greatest Dancer - but this time, she was surrounded by drag queens, which is basically just a rhinestone short of a full-on Aloud reunion. (On a related note: Queen Nuhdeen as a contestant for Season 2, please.)

For those who haven't been watching RuPaul's Drag Race UK: it's a stellar season that prioritizes funny over fashion, first of all. But also, they've name-dropped Girls Aloud at least a handful of times in the past few weeks, especially during the last week's girl group challenge, which resulted in its own silly excellence in the form of the Frock Destroyers - now found on the UK Singles Chart with the Leland co-produced "Break Up (Bye Bye)."

And since the name "Girls Aloud" is usually met with a stone-faced silence here in America, seeing real human beings discussing the girl group is still surreal to me. They weren't just a figment of my imagination in my teen years, after all!

I was admittedly slightly nervous for Cheryl's appearance after watching Geri Horner née Halliwell strangely misfire in a swear word-averse, conservative turn as a guest judge just a few episodes back. My beloved Ginger has sadly, noticeably lost her snap.

Chezza, however, is clearly still game for a good time, especially as a self-professed Drag Race super fan. She's the face (err, scalp) of EasiLocks hair extensions, for God's sake! She knows a thing or do about getting dolled up. She also spent years grooming the world's next top pop stars on The X Factor. Therefore, who better than to be a guest judge on the show...with a contestant named Cheryl Hole, no less?

Although she oddly contributed little, if nothing to the actual runway segment as the queens were coming out on stage, which are usually just a processional of puns, she provided plenty of feedback during the actual girl-by-girl evaluations.

Highlights were fast and frequent, including her very first response to RuPaul's introduction to the show: "Love made me do it, Ru." Gasp! Stars: they REFERENCE just like us.

The real moment that everyone was waiting for, however, came a few minutes later: Cheryl Hole, meet Cheryl (Formerly) Cole.

Ms. Hole, the Dancing Diva of Essex, was understandably overwhelmed by the mere presence of her beloved idol, but that didn't stop her from briefly dragging Chez and the rest of the girls for disbanding after Ten, which left her "absolutely devoed," resulting in a hilariously guilty "sorry..." from Cheryl. Yes! You should be!

Later, in a most unexpected turn, Cheryl provided a deep reference as she marveled at Cheryl Hole's metallic ensemble.

"This is like something Girls Aloud would wear. Honestly, that's like how we should have been styled for 'No Good Advice,'" she remarked to an incredulous Cheryl Hole.

A "No Good Advice" reference on television in 2019?! Dreams that glitter, indeed.

Cheryl also provided some helpful explanations about local slang for Ru - "chippy" is "fish and chips" - and, incredibly, got into it at one point with Michelle Visage over the brand of Ms. Baga Chipz, providing a most cutting "I think it's just you" to Michelle, followed by an icy down-up glare that could kill.

To her credit, Cheryl's done this gig for several years too. She knows how to state an opinion and hold her own when questioned, which was delicious to watch, as opposed to the usual nervous-but-happy-to-be-here demeanor of most special guests.

As is often customary with guests of the musical variety, Ru selected from Chezza's back catalog of hits for the Lip Sync For Your Life, and opted for the Wideboys remix (!) of "Call My Name." Of course, I had my fingers crossed for "Sexy Den a Mutha," but the choice was a welcome one nonetheless. It was delightful to hear that absolute 2012 banger being acknowledged once more - although it's a real shame neither of the girls attempted the swan dive.

In short: Cheryl did a wonderful job. She looked absolutely gorgeous in that neon number with a sparkly eye lewk, sassed Michelle, invoked the holy name of Girls Aloud, and likely introduced an entire population of baby gays to "Call My Name." If that's not the very definition of Gay Rights™, I don't know what is.

If you're craving more, Ru and Michelle also talked to Cheryl for their "What's The T?" podcast, in which Chez talks about her ever-expanding last name (and has a sense of humor about it!), girl group inner workings, the reality of the Girls Aloud disbandment, solo music, baby Bear and becoming a mother, and her struggle to cope with immense fame overseas. It's a great listen.

Despite the public's criminally lukewarm reception of her (excellent) latest single "Let You," here's hoping that whatever goodwill that comes from this appearance will result in a much-needed Cheryl solo album and tour sometime in the next few months. And a Girls Aloud reunion tour and album, while we're at it.

Cheryl Hole and I will be absolutely devoed if you don't, Chez.


Dua Lipa Don't Start Now

Dua Lipa Is Having a Genuinely Exciting Disco Moment

Back in early 2016, I pondered whether a newly debuted singer named Dua Lipa could Be The One.

It's nearly 2020, and she's now a Main Pop Girl™.

But with great chart moves comes great responsibility. Accordingly, the pressure was on for the 24-year-old star to deliver with "Don't Start Now," the official kick-off to the forthcoming #DL2 era. And she's done so, spectacularly - with a disco beat, no less.

"Don't Start Now" feels like a natural continuation of the house music groundwork laid with 2018's "Electricity" with Silk City. Incorporating bright piano chords and a bassline built for sidewalk strutting (complete with a bit of cowbell, for good measure), Dua's gone full Disco D - or, more appropriately, Dua Ellis-Bextor.

That's not to say it's a direct lift of anything our "Murder on the Donce Floor" Queen Sophie Ellis-Bextor's done before, so don't get it twisted. It just sounds like something Sophie could have easily served up in all of her chilly goodness.

"Don't show up. Don't come out. Don't start caring about me now."

Not only is "Don't Start Now" an especially empowering kiss-off that only gets better with each listen, but the fact that Dua's one of the industry's leaders of the moment means that she might effectively bully the rest of the pop girls into putting a little mmmph into their music. (Gay Rights!)

Am I a Basic White Gay for craving real dance music from a pop star again? Sure, fine, I'll happily take the condemnation. Whatever gets us out of this largely depressed, moody, down-to-midtempo Xanax-pop era. I'm over feeling meh, and I know I'm not alone in that.

Beyond just being a win for the dance floor at large, "Don't Start Now" is a massive win for Dua as a performer: if you happened to watch the 2019 MTV EMAs on Sunday night (November 3) in Seville, you'd already know that.

What Dua did on that stage, aside from arguably delivering the performance of the night, felt like nothing short of #JusticeForDua, both in terms of proving the haters wrong and in justifying her positioning as one of the girls on top.

As if a direct response to the countless Twitter memes dragging her dance moves, Dua and her creative team developed a sleek, chic routine that excellently catered to her abilities. Who cares if she's not Janet Jackson? The choreography felt fierce rather than forced, and plenty of our most beloved pop goddesses, like Kylie Minogue, have proven that attitude, sophistication and even subtle movements go a long way. And not to get too lost in the mix of the visual spectacle: the voice was entirely on point, too.

She looked every bit as assured and in control as "Don't Start Now" feels, easily making this one of Dua's best live performances ever. What a way to kick off a new era! Now, bring on the rest of the upcoming record.

"Did the heartbreak change me? Maybe...but look at where I ended up."

Not to wish ill of her love life, but if this is the kind of prove-'em-wrong pop star transformation that occurs post-breakup for Dua Lipa, then, well...tread lightly, Anwar Hadid.

"Don't Start Now" was released on November 1.

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Utada Hikaru Shiina Ringo

Hikaru Utada & Shiina Ringo Reunite With 'Roman to Soroban'

The last time Hikaru Utada and Shiina Ringo got together, they were taking a trip into outer space for a brief, but necessary two hour vacation on Fantôme's "Nijikan Dake No Vacance" in 2016.

Having returned back down to Earth - or, more likely, arrived at some far-off planet accessible only to Japanese music industry titans - Hikki and Shiina are reuniting on a record once more.

This time, they've come together for - what else? - a round of sexy Tetris set to the sound of their jazzy collaboration “Roman to Soroban," a new song featured on Shiina's upcoming greatest hits album, Newton no Ringo ~Hajimete no Best Ban~, which is out on November 13. (The title translates roughly to "Romanticism & The Abacus," but it's called "The Sun & Moon in London" on Apple Music. Go figure.)

The stylish, chic black-and-white clip finds the singers alternating between crooning Shiina's introspective thoughts together at vintage '20s/'30s-style standing microphones and playing a giant game of Tetris as glitzy dancers twirl around on poles in the background. Pop star cinematic crossovers and strippers? It's basically like a classy Japanese take on Hustlers.

Every set-up is gorgeous, especially when it looks like they're on the set of a '60s musical variety show. Very Barbra and Judy singing "Happy Days Are Here Again," really.

"Experts, amateurs, and everyone else… all have their pros and cons / So give me the foolishness to play it safe / I want to keep practicing new techniques, each and every time," they sing. (Translation courtesy of Lyrical Nonsense.)

The song is noted as the "LDN ver," likely due to the fact that the London Philharmonic Orchestra (!) recorded for the track at Abbey Road Studios. That said, perhaps there are more location-themed versions coming. RT for Brazil version, please?

As with Hikaru and Shiina's Fantôme collaboration, there's a real chemistry between the two performers - both on the track and in the video. They might not be very similar in their respective musical styles, but their real-life friendship and mutual appreciation is palpable, and witnessing two icons at work is truly a sight to behold.

Or, as director Kodama Yuichi reportedly remarked: "Please take a look at the gods flirting."

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Sugababes Flowers

The Sugababes Are Back, And They've Brought Us 'Flowers'

Mutya Keisha Siobhan no more: the Sugababes are officially back.

It's been ages - over six years, officially - since we last heard anything from any version of the 'Babes.

But as of Friday (October 18), the original line-up of the Most Successful All-Female Act of the 21st Century, individually known as Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan Donaghy - are releasing music together again.

Finally.

The briefest of summaries, just to catch everyone up to speed: after well over a dozen chart hits across the span of two decades - everything from "Overload" to "Push the Button" to "About You Now" (and, of course, "Get Sexy") - and three member switch-ups, the very first version of the British girl group reunited in 2011 as MKS, named after themselves. They surely would have liked to have gone with Sugababes, but the name was still registered with the already defunct Sugababes 4.0 which, at that point, consisted of zero founding members of the band.

Little did the Origibabes know, they'd have to grapple for half a decade to secure the rights to their own brand again.

Their first (and only) release as MKS, "Flatline," came out in 2013. It also happened to be the best single of 2013.

Life imitated art a bit too literally, and the song itself flatlined, stalling at No. 50 in the UK charts, as did the group itself. Over the next five or six years, bits and pieces of their planned project leaked as each member vaguely promised in various interviews that it wasn't truly over. There's now well over an album's worth of Mutya Keisha Siobhan demos like "No Regrets," "Boys" and "Drum" floating around on the Internet, produced by the likes of Dev Hynes, MNEK, Richard X and William Orbit among others. Devastatingly, it all sounded extremely promising.

Nevertheless, they persisted: they won the name back. They hit the studio again. And now, the artists formerly known as Sugababes-then-known-as-MKS are rightfully, known as the Sugababes again. Sorry Heidi, sorry Amelle, sorry Jade.

For their first move in their re-return to the music scene, they're revisiting a 2000 UK garage classic called "Flowers" by Sweet Female Attitude, recorded for DJ Spoony's Garage Classical album.

Given that "Flowers" is a previously existing hit, it's not a stretch to say it...sounds like a hit.

The difference, of course, is the vocalists at hand: there is arguably no modern girl group in the game more equipped at heavenly harmonizing than the Sugababes. They just work together, so gorgeously, despite being three entirely distinct, entirely capable vocalists in their own right. (Mutya, rightfully, was ranked No. 2 Best Girl Group Member of All Time on Michael Cragg's great Guardian list.)

Every good girl group has their own je ne sais quoi: The Spice Girls came crashing in with their feisty, '90s bubblegum pop and "Girl Power" rallying cries, Girls Aloud dominated with their spike heels and skintight jeans and sleek, Xenomania-produced electro-pop bangers, and when it came to the 'Babes (at least, up until the Sweet 7 era), their appeal had everything to do with their slight rough-'round (round)-the-edges-style-meets-Soul Sound - it was always about vocals, vocals, vocals.

The track is such a welcome return from the 'Babes - that very first "I'll bring you flowers..." alone? My heart!

If there's even the slightest shred of pop justice remaining in this world, they'll soar higher than "Flatline" with this one - and, hopefully, stick around for a while this time. They truly are one of the best groups to ever do it, after all. Who knows? Maybe they can even salvage a few (or all) of the long-since leaked tracks as a bonus collection of sorts - they do deserve to see the official light of day.

"We are happy to finally be able to give a little something to our amazing supporters whilst we prepare for 2020. We hope you like it! Love Sugababes x," the girls wrote on their newly relaunched Instagram.

Let this be just the beginning of a legendary comeback for our most deserving and talented Sacred Three.

"Flowers" was released on October 18.

This song is featured on the MuuTunes Spotify playlist. Subscribe!

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Photo credit: @official_mutyabuena


Jennifer Lopez Shakira Super Bowl

Here's How the Jennifer Lopez & Shakira 2020 Super Bowl Halftime Show Should Go

Jennifer Lopez and Shakira are co-headlining the Super Bowl 2020 halftime show, officially.

This decision is, of course, derechos gays - or "gay rights!" if you're Jennifer Lawrence.

In all seriousness, this is going to be an incredible show, and the honor is more than deserved for both of these Latina legends.

I've given it some thought, and I've come to the conclusion that this is exactly what should happen during the show.

Considering my expert opinion and insider knowledge, I can also assure you that this is exactly what will happen, so please...don't be mad that I've spoiled the whole show in advance.

Without further ado...

THE 2020 SUPER BOWL HALFTIME SHOW

[STADIUM LIGHTS DIM]

ANNOUNCER (PROBABLY PITBULL): She's a singer. A dancer. An actress. A soon-to-be Academy Award winner. The dictionary definition of a Triple Threat. People Magazine's Most Beautiful Woman In The World. The reason Google Images was invented. She's J to tha L-O. She's Jenny from the Block. And now, she's here...to rock the Pepsi Super Bowl halftime stage. Ladies and gen--

JENNIFER LOPEZ'S VOICE, SOMEWHERE BACKSTAGE: "Wait, wait, wait! Hold up! Don't start the show yet! Has anyone seen my shoes?!"

ASSISTANT: "These, Jennifer?"

JENNIFER LOPEZ: "No, not those!"

[SOUND OF SHOES BEING TOSSED AGAINST A LOCKER]

JENNIFER LOPEZ: "You know, my shoes! The shoes! You know the ones..."

ASSISTANT 2: "You mean these, Jennifer?"

JENNIFER LOPEZ: "No! Oh God, this is a nightmare. Not those!"

[SOUND OF MORE SHOES BEING TOSSED AGAINST A LOCKER, A CAT YELPS]

JENNIFER LOPEZ: "This is so bad. I'm going to be late. For my own halftime show! Wait - here they are. Hey, guys! I found them! My..."

[ALL LIGHTS GO OUT]

JENNIFER LOPEZ, ECHOING: "Louboutins."

[STAGE EXPLODES IN A RING OF FIRE AS A 20-FOOT TALL RED-BOTTOMED SHOE DESCENDS FROM THE AIR.]

"Louboutins (Extended Version)"

Jennifer Lopez, wearing something expensive and sparkly, arrives to the stage atop a giant Louboutin. She jumps off the shoe and sticks the landing in a moment of redemption from the 2009 American Music Awards performance.

THROWBACK MEDLEY

Jennifer puts on a baseball hat. A 6 train pulls out onto the stage.

"If You Had My Love"
"Get Right"
"Love Don't Cost a Thing"
"Jenny from the Block"
"I'm Real" (Ja Rule and Ashanti cameo)
"Control Myself" (LL Cool J cameo)

MOVIE MEDLEY

"Anaconda" (Nicki Minaj)

Dance breakdown. Backup dancers form a giant snake and chase Jennifer around the stage. Jon Voight gives a thumbs-up reaction shot from the audience.

[THE CELL VIDEO MONTAGE, A POLE RISES]

"Criminal" (Fiona Apple)

Jennifer slips on a fur coat and recreates her Hustlers strip-tease. Dollar bills featuring Jennifer's face rain down across the stadium. All royalties from the song's usage go to refugees, and the J.Lo bucks are redeemable for one free bottle of her new fragrance, Super Bowl Glow.

"Como La Flor" (Selena tribute)

[SMOKE FILLS THE STAGE]

Shakira rises onto the stage next to Jennifer. The two have a stare-off, leading into an intensely sexually charged hip-shaking showdown.

DUET MEDLEY

"Hips Don't Lie"
"Beautiful Liar"
"Booty"
"Inevitable New Shakira-Jennifer Lopez Collaboration, To Be Released Sometime Before February 2020"

Jennifer exits the stage.

SHAKIRA, SHAKIRA MEDLEY

"Ojos Así"
"Estoy Aqui"
"Whenever, Wherever"
"She Wolf"

GIRL POWER MEDLEY

Rihanna rises from the stage, wearing Savage x Fenty lingerie and Fenty shades.

"Can't Remember to Forget You"

In the final moment of the song, Shakira and Rihanna are just about to kiss. Conservatives everywhere clutch their pearls. Instead, Rihanna grabs a bottle of Fenty Gloss Bomb in shade Fu$$y from her back pocket, leans in and applies it to Shakira's lips. She gives the camera a wink before disappearing offstage. R9 drops at midnight, along with the announcement of Rihanna's headlining performance at the 2021 Super Bowl halftime show.

Becky G, Belinda, Lali, Thalia, Paulina Rubio, Gloria Estefan and Fey rise up from the stage to join Shakira, holding shirtless dancers on leashes, Return of the Spice Girls Tour "Holler" performance-style.

"Men In This Town"
"Las de la Intuición"

Jennifer returns to the stage to join the ladies.

"Ain't Your Mama"
"Let's Get Loud"
"Conga" (Miami Sound Machine)

BRIEF MALE MEDLEY

Maluma rises from the stage.

"Chantaje"

At the end of the performance, Shakira grabs Maluma's waist and pulls at his tearaway pants. He's meant to be wearing a jock strap, but instead he's naked, wearing a football-shaped cock ring in a 2004 Janet Jackson Reverse Warholian Experience. The Federal Communications Commission fines Pepsi and the NFL for $600 million amid outcry, except no one's career gets canceled. A court somehow later determines that Justin Timberlake must pay the fine.

Bad Bunny rises from the stage.

"Te Guste"

Pitbull flies into the stadium on a "Mr. Worldwide" helicopter.

DALE MEDLEY

"Rabiosa"
"On The Floor"
"Love Again"

FINALE

Everyone's on stage, including their families.

"Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)"

Sure, it's technically a soccer theme song, but who's counting? Jennifer and Shakira wave goodbye to the crowd in a colorful, multicultural explosion of flags and confetti and joy. But it's a fake-out.

[STADIUM GOES DARK]

Electricity noises.

VOICEOVER: "Warning: System Overload. Warning: System Overload."

Alarm sounds.

[GREEN LASERS SHOOT OUT ACROSS THE STADIUM]

Jennifer rises up on stage again in a superhero-meets-pop star version of the Versace jungle dress.

"Waiting For Tonight (Hex's Monumentous Radio Mix)" (Intro)
"Waiting For Tonight (2020 Remix)"

Jennifer strikes a final pose. Green fireworks erupt. The audience roars. Straight men are visibly weeping.

The halftime show, originally planned as a 12-minute performance, turned out to be a two-hour long concert. The rest of the game is canceled.

The New York Times calls the performance "the stuff of legends." Time Magazine hails it as "indisputably the best Super Bowl halftime show ever." Stan Twitter declares "ok they did that, tea wbk." It is the highest-rated Super Bowl of all time.

See you in Miami.


Mandy Moore When I Wasn't Watching

'When I Wasn't Watching': Mandy Moore Returns After a Decade

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5yM8lHoOAk

"What I became when I wasn't watching..."

After over a decade of craving, crying, hoping, lifting our hands and praying with nothing but pennies in our pocket, Amanda Leigh Moore has returned to us - as Mandy Moore, The Singer - at last.

Barring a smattering of TV and movie contributions, like the Tangled soundtrack and, more recently, a cover of "Willin'" by Linda Ronstadt for the soundtrack of This Is Us in 2017, "When I Wasn't Watching," out on Tuesday (September 17), is the first real - so, so real - single from Mandy Moore in ten years...and an especially meaningful one at that.

"Spent a whole life waiting patiently, convinced it all would come to me..."

For those fearing a "return-to-roots," country-pop return based on the final few records before her extended hiatus - after all, Wild Hope yee-d so Joanne could haw - fear not: this isn't that. It's also not a return to the bubblegum pop-era "Candy" Mandy, either, but then, Mandy's been musically steering clear of that material since 2003's Coverage.

"My favorite version of me disappeared, through longer days and shorter years..."

Instead, "When I Wasn't Watching" - produced by Amanda Leigh collaborator Mike Viola and co-written with Jason Boesel and her husband Taylor Goldsmith - finds the now 35-year-old singer-songwriter-turned-Emmy Award-nominated actress taking inventory of the life she's led thus far, not straying far from the contemplative lane she paved for herself years ago with Wild Hope and Amanda Leigh, but dwelling into dreamier, '80s-tinged adult contemporary territory, with a nostalgic opening that vaguely recalls Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time."

"The fear of what I'm facing in the mirror stops me cold and leaves me here / A little lost, a little rough, the lack of answers all add up..."

Like fellow actress-who-sings Leighton Meester and her gorgeous, overlooked 2014 record Heartstrings (one of that year's best albums), Mandy finds her sweet spot - like candy, if you will - in the sound of dreamy, reverb-y guitar, punchy drums (it's got a bit of a kick to it, mercifully) and pleasant harmonies. Mandy sounds lovely and restrained throughout - that chorus is an earworm too, especially those low notes.

Mandy's return to the spotlight feels authentic to her artistry, and makes sense as her next step. And when modern acts like Post Malone are giving us melancholy guitar music, there's arguably even more of a place for Mandy's sound now than in the years of her absence. It's a refreshing way to begin again.

The return of Mandy also represents more than just a pop star rebooting her singing career.

As you might already be aware, Mandy, along with a group of other women, came forward with allegations of misconduct and manipulation against her ex-husband Ryan Adams in a New York Times article back in February. Ryan discouraged her from working with any other producers, and told her she's "not a real musician" according to Mandy, who claims his controlling behavior "essentially did block my ability to make new connections in the industry during a very pivotal and potentially lucrative time."

She effectively stopped releasing music after their marriage. This comeback is about pushing past self-doubt and doing the damn thing, anyway.

"It’s been ten years since I’ve released music and to be able to confidently step back in to this world with some of my very favorite humans and artists beside me (@taylordawesgoldsmith, @themikeviola, @dawestheband and @herbadams) is something else all together. I’m thrilled to share the first track from my forthcoming record. It’s been a bit of a winding road to get here but so worth it," she wrote on Instagram.

Welcome back. Love always, Mandy.

"When I Wasn't Watching" is featured on the MuuTunes Spotify playlist. Subscribe!

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Hustlers Movie

Yes, 'Hustlers' Really Is That Good

Hustlers Movie

"It's all a strip club. You have people tossing the money and people doing the dance."

As hoped, my most anticipated film of 2019, Hustlers, is great.

It's so great, in fact, there's even genuine Oscar buzz around the movie following its critically-hailed Toronto International Film Festival premiere last week.

As someone who genuinely and unironically stans Burlesque, I legitimately have no idea what qualifies as "good cinema" from a critical standpoint. Lord knows, I love me some Low Art.

But I can say, definitively, that if you're a pop star enthusiast, a Jennifer Lopez stan (and/or fan of any of the queens in the film, including Cardi B and Lizzo), someone in the market to see strong women pumping cash out of Wall Street blowhards, a gay, or perhaps and most likely all of these things at once: you should see this movie.

I don't want to give away too much of the plot, partly because you can just Wikipedia that yourself, but mostly because you'd already know much of the story if you read the 2015 New York Magazine article The Hustlers at Scores by Jessica Pressler on which the movie is based.

Hustlers Movie

Perhaps the most crucial thing you need to know off the bat is that - last chance to turn back, spoiler alert, you were warned! - the movie is primarily set in 2007, at least for the first half of the film.

As a result, there is one scene in particular in this movie that features Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu sitting in a car, turning on the radio, and discovering Britney's "Gimme More" playing. Jennifer yells something like "I fucking love this song!" - Jennifer Fucking Lopez delightfully shrieking at the sound of Britney - and the two thrash along in the car (which turns out to be parked in a dealership, in front of everyone), leading into a montage of all the strippers grinding to the sound of the Blackout masterpiece.

It is phenomenal usage of "Gimme More" in a film - and, quite frankly, gay porn. You just bought a ticket to see this movie now, didn't you?

In fact, for being a movie about female strippers, a bulk of the film feels like the Erika Jayne "I'm gonna give the gays everything they want" GIF, especially the music: from being bookended by Janet Jackson musical moments ("Control" and "Miss You Much") to that Britney, bitch sequence, to scattered samplings of Rihanna ("Birthday Cake"), Lorde ("Royals") and Kelly Rowlegend ("Motivation"), there is ample appreciation of the True Gay Icons™ on the Hustlers soundtrack. (And yes, just to throw it back to the mid-to-late '00s, a joyous Usher moment too...with a cameo by Usher, no less.)

To kick it all off, there's an unbelievable opening striptease to introduce the audience to Ramona (played by J.Lo) set to the sound of Fiona Apple's "Criminal" - a licensing first for Fiona, who approved the request and will be donating the royalties to refugees. It is genuinely jaw-dropping in its display of Jennifer's sheer athleticism and sexuality in a barely-covering-the-bits string ensemble. Please, dear God, let her do this at the Super Bowl.

HUSTLERS Movie

If you didn't go hard for Jenny before - it's truly been a summer of stanning La Lopez for me personally ever since attending the It's My Party Tour - you most certainly will after watching her work the pole after only six weeks of training prior to filming this movie. She is unreal.

Every J.Lo ensemble is also gay-gasp worthy, from being draped in furs (sorry, PETA) as the cigarette-smoking bad ass Godmother to a series of elevated, scantily-clad looks while showing the new girl Destiny (played by Constance) the ropes of The Art of Seduction. She's 50 years old. Impossible. And inspirational.

Watching all of the Hustlers women interact feels like a special crossover event you never knew you needed: Cardi plays, well, Cardi, and tends to steal all her scenes by being, well, Cardi. Seeing her grind on J.Lo as they teach Constance how to properly deliver a lapdance? Glee-inducing. The backstage riffing about boys and sex while getting ready, from Lizzo playing her flute to Cardi wielding a dildo? Heartwarming. I want to be them - only, not entirely.

You see, seducing men for their money - and, eventually, hatching a plan to effectively start a girl gang (or cult, kinda!), fish for vulnerable sugar daddies and max out their credit cards - isn't all fun and games. The shit eventually hits the fan, and their lavish lifestyle abruptly comes to an end. Paired with tense, emotional flash-forward interviews with a buttoned-up 10 Things I Hate About You queen Julia Stiles, whose character is modeled after the author of the original article, we're told early on that the fun won't last long.

As Keke Palmer said in her WSJ interview about representing the lifestyle of sex workers: "I liked that it was balanced because it either goes one of two ways. Either it’s like super, super sad, sad, sad or overly glamorized. When I read this, I felt like it was a balance of both."

HUSTLERS Movie

Hustlers makes a case for most of the characters' various moral dilemmas: of having the cards stacked against you, by being kicked out or being abandoned, wanting to provide for yourself and your loved ones, and being presented with a less-than-legal quick fix ("a shortcut") of a way out. As a result, no one's necessarily painted as heroic, although you can't help but anxiously root for the girls as they score and scam their way to Louboutins and chinchilla fur coats - until the operation starts to become too sloppy, anyway.

The movie was directed by a woman, Lorene Scafaria, starring an entirely all-woman cast of main characters, and primarily produced by women, including Jennifer - and it absolutely shows in its lack of male gaze-iness. Of course the men are pigs in the movie, but one of the things that particularly stuck out was how tastefully the camera danced around the dirtier moments, both onstage and in the private rooms. Yes, there's toplessness and suggestive girl-on-girl action, but for the most part, it felt less exploitative and more about storytelling - just enough to get the point that, yes, these are strippers. But when it was overtly sexual, the women were always in control, and the men were merely the means to an end.

"Lorene was really serious with the DP on getting those specific shots, those specific angles that you only see men have. It was just like, 'Man, girl, thank you for those details. Not only does the script have heart and soul, but visually you’re going for this, you’re giving us a cinematic look. You’re making these women look cool!” That was all specific to show us in powerful positions," Keke said in that same interview.

"Not even sexy, but powerful. It’s not a slow-motion strut starting from the heels going up, showing the body. It’s the women themselves," added Riverdale star Lili Reinhart, who manages to surprisingly be a bit of a comic relief of her own as a perpetually anxiety-induced vomiter. Physical humor!

At the same time, there's a scene involving an unconscious rich dude, and a fleeting shot of his soft dick as he's carted off to the hospital. Pathetic, passed out dick! On screen! In fact, men are almost exclusively painted as weak idiots throughout Hustlers - easily seduced, drunk and dumb on their perceived power, fearful to confess after being duped - which I can wholeheartedly say is accurate to the male experience. More women should be telling the stories of men.

"This film says something about the inequality that we've been yelling and screaming about for a while now and kind of making some headway. And I hate saying that so broadly because I love men and there are so many great, supportive beautiful men in the world. But there is this thing that exists that we can't deny," said Jennifer in a recent interview.

Hustlers Movie

The movie is refreshingly free of girl-against-girl wars over handsome idiots, or catty competitions to become The Best Dancer in the club. Almost immediately, the Queen Bee herself Ramona is assisting newbie Destiny to make her a better stripper. Granted, once the recession hits and the club starts bringing in Russian models, the atmosphere gets a little less friendly. But even after a betrayal of loyalty at the very end as everything unravels (more moral dilemmas!), that underlying love never dies - even years later, after their opulent dreams abruptly did.

Hustlers is, as expected from a movie about strippers, fun and sexy and scandalous. But for the most part, the real thrill is watching a diverse cast of powerful women team up, both in front of the camera and behind-the-scenes, make their own rules and get their way in a man's world.

Come for the soundtrack and the stripping. Stay for the sisterhood. And yes, of course, give Jennifer that Oscar.

Hustlers hits theaters on Friday (September 13).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUG2U-IxPx0

Photo credit: Alison Cohen Rosa / Barbara Nitke / STX Films / EPK.tv