Author: Elena Christensen

Music On Trial : Soundtrack set to a typical day in the life of an Ole

In life, there exists a school of thought that each and every person’s life is a movie, and that people are the stars of their own movies. Well, I say we are no exception, and, as Oles, we have our very own special soundtrack. While our lives vary from day to day and person to person, there are some experiences we share here at St. Olaf and thus, some songs that have the potential to hold meaning for many of us. So here it is – a playlist to connect you with each and every person you pass on your frigid trek from dorm to class to Buntrock to work to wherever else you spend your days here on the Hill.

7:00 a.m. – Rise and shine! Sure, it’s early, but gosh darn it you need to get to the Caf before class… ha… ha ha… kidding. May the chorus of snoozed alarms echo from Thorson to Kittelsby as we all pretend 8 a.m. classes, five days a week, aren’t steadily killing our collective spirit. Thank goodness for dance music, because Basshunter’s “Please Don’t Go” will give you the energy to get up and put on some deodorant please do this while still appreciating your desire to be back in bed.

8:00 a.m. – All right, you made it along with about 80 percent of your classmates. Way to go, team. But getting there is just the beginning, and if anybody wants to stay up in class, you’re going to have to support one another. So in the spirit of solidarity, “Keep Together” with Hunter Hunted. I do hope you’re not in such a morning rut that you have to resort to High School Musical…

10:30 a.m. – Thank goodness you have a break from class, because skipping breakfast has your stomach rumbling, and that is a problem that desperately needs fixing. Whether you’re working in the Pause or just swinging by for a slice, I recommend getting a little nostalgic with “Stack That Pizza,” an old favorite by Brass Camel. Unfortunately, the band members graduated last year, but if you ever heard the song, I guarantee it is still buried somewhere among the biology and literature scattered around your brain.

1:00 p.m. – It’s test day. I am so sorry. But, to cheer you up, I have a fact and a song. Did you know that listening to music, but specifically unfamiliar music, can boost productivity? Unfortunately Meghan Trainor or Kanye might not cut it if you know the lyrics back to front, but “Dreamsickle” by Muus is a brand new folksy tune that will keep you focused for at least the first couple listens. Though you’ll have to switch it out of rotation once it becomes your new favorite. I know it’s mine.

2:00 p.m. – Your test is over. You’re so happy. You’re practically belting out “Beautiful Day” by Michael Bublé because it feels so darn good. It’s all you can do not to dance down the hall, and you’re smiling like a goon, and oh… my… goodness…

2:01 p.m. – There they are. You met at a party once. It was very “Call Me Maybe,” by Carly Rae Jepsen. But neither of you ever called because you felt awkward and embarrassed the next day. And now it’s progressed into Jepsen’s new tune “I Really Like You,” and it’s pretty awkward. But just wave and smile – no, not like that, that’s a creepy, creepy smile! There, much better. Now you’re one step closer to remembering each others’ names.

4:00 p.m. – Uh oh… your phone is ringing. It’s your parents. You love your parents, but that test today left you feeling a little stressed and you really don’t want to talk about it. It’ll be all “I Bet My Life” by Imagine Dragons, and in the end it will be okay, but it’s just not what you want to do right now… but you pick up because it’s rude not to. It’ll be over soon. Plus, if you’re lucky, they’ll sympathize with you and send a care package. Yummy.

6:00 p.m. – Two hours later and that call with your parents still has you a little shaky. Unfortunately, they didn’t promise to send a care package. They just wanted to tell you that the dog got into the pantry this morning and needed a serious bath. “Don’t you know, it was just a real mess. I spent my whole morning phone call with your Aunt Barb cleaning Special K off the floor.” Despite this incredibly mundane call, you find yourself stressed about everything. “Bills” by LunchMoney Lewis is playing on repeat in your mind and you hate everything. TGIF and there’s a Pause dance tonight…

8:00 p.m. – After deciding that the stress isn’t worth it, you’re feeling like trolling a little, and as part of your Pause dance pre-party, you’re working your way through the Lonely Island’s entire discography. “Threw It On The Ground” is resonating especially hard right now, because you know it takes a really special mood to know that that’s not your dad… it’s a cell phone.

11:00 p.m. – It’s finally here. You can relax, and the rest of your night is “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars… until you crash into bed, of course. And then you can start over again tomorrow morning.

christeg@stolaf.edu

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Music on Trial: Popular artists are all about that bass, and lyrical freedom

Miley, Britney, Kesha and Justin Bieber are widely controversial artists. They have each had their ups and downs, including run-ins with law enforcement, questionable personal choices and provocative projects. Many people recognize the influence of celebrities and heavily criticize those who put forth a negative image.

It seems quite logical that the more popular an artist, the more widespread his or her message will be and the more influence it will have on the general population. The phrase “it takes a village” holds truth in that everyone has some impact when it comes to shaping Generation Z. But should impact necessarily mean responsibility, particularly in a society that values so highly rights to speak and act freely?

In arguments against publicizing negative celebrity viewpoints, critics often cite the popularity of certain artists as reasons to be careful of the images and ideals they put forth, but what this criticism fails to recognize is the volatility of the music industry. Can you say you knew Meghan Trainor six months ago? “All About That Bass” is controversial in many ways, and yet it has been near the top of the Billboard Top 100 for 18 weeks, while Miley isn’t on it at all.

Let’s take a second to talk about why “All About That Bass” is arguably problematic, for those of you who are shaking your head saying, “it’s a beautiful song about body image; what’s your problem?” One of the lyrics mid-song says, “I’m bringing booty back/ Go ahead and tell them skinny b*tches that . . . No, I’m just playing.”

So, yes, she took the time to acknowledge that she shouldn’t be skinny shaming, but there are two problems. First, “no, I’m just playing” is so quiet it is practically background noise – an afterthought – thoroughly undermining the work it does to save Trainor from her own implied prejudice. Second, it is sort of like saying “no offense.” Has anyone ever done that to you? “No offense, but… you could stand to participate/exercise/work harder/do better/etc.”

Trainor did not expect the song to go anywhere and wrote the “skinny b*tches” lyric as a joke. So how do we account for negative messages that are spread by artists who had no idea how popular their songs would become? What responsibility do musical artists have to the community? It’s a tough question to address, but let me try.

Music is art. If we lump music in with other arts, rhetorical and visual, we should treat it as such. There are paintings and novels galore that tell gruesome stories, use vile language and depict sexual activity or violence. Other media explore elements of sexual and physical subjects through erotic poetry, nude figure drawing and even pornography. The complexity of, and emotional reactions to, this provocative subject matter lead artists to continually experiment with it in their work.

The music industry is primarily different from these other media because music gains popularity in a way that no other medium does. It is easily accessible via the Internet, the radio and almost any store’s PA system. Musicians are the face of their art like no other creator. We make excuses for actors, because, generally, they didn’t write the film. Authors tell stories which rarely have visuals, and books are not often forced upon people we college kids are in a special, controlled environment.

Given the freedom of speech and art of expression, along with the fact that no other industry operates quite the same way music does, I think it is only fair to allot musicians the same artistic freedoms other artists receive. If you don’t like the music, you can choose not to listen. If something like “skinny b*tches” stirs the pot, as it has, we all have the opportunity to express our opinions on the matter in order to learn what to watch out for the next time a well-intentioned artist with a foolish lyric or two comes along.

christeg@stolaf.edu

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Autonomy prevails when choosing natural solutions or ADHD medication

When I was young, I was a pretty successful student. Around fifth grade, however, I began to struggle. I couldn’t concentrate on anything for more than twenty minutes. Hypochondriac that I am, I was convinced I had ADHD. My parents, whether they agreed or not, refused to get me checked out, fearing that a diagnosis might lead me to make excuses for not doing my very best. Having discussed this choice with many of my friends, I have heard several different reactions, ranging from “wow, that is so smart” to “that is incredibly irresponsible.”

I have always been a proponent of choosing natural solutions over medication and chemical intervention. Just ask anyone who has ever encouraged me to “just take an Advil.” When it comes to pain, I’ve always felt that I should feel my pain to its fullest so I always know exactly what my body is trying to tell me. In many ways I feel that mental health and neurological disorders should be dealt with in the same way, at least whenever possible.

Recent neurological research has proven that a diagnosis of ADHD refers to someone whose brain is wired differently than are the brains of general population. People who are diagnosed with the disorder have reduced functionality in the reward centers of their brains. Because of this, they must seek more adventure and novelty to feel the same excitement as those without the disorder. But who is to say that this is a problem?

There are many differences between how people’s brains and bodies function. What feels cold to me might feel rather warm to someone else. They may be able to taste spices that I myself just cannot detect. I do not think that necessarily makes me disordered, and I am certainly not going to medicate myself for it. The same goes for ADHD and the concept of medicating it.

If I can’t taste as well as others, I may recognize that I probably should not choose a career in cooking, as there are others who are predisposed to do the job better. Those who have ADHD can choose to live their lives in such a way that works with their “disorder” instead of against it. They may be far more successful journalists, travel writers, military employees or bomb squad technicians than those who do not have the same affliction, because they thrive on the excitement and novelty of those careers.

That is not to say I think having a disorder such as ADHD should dictate one’s life choices. If those with ADHD want to work behind a desk in accounting or administration and Adderall or Ritalin will help them achieve those life goals, that may be the right choice for them. Just as there are ways to relieve some symptoms of anxiety or depression without medication, there are ways to relieve some symptoms of ADHD. But nobody should be told that they have to take medicine to be considered “normal.” If that is the way their brain is wired, then they should be able to choose whether they want to chemically change that to fit in with the majority or embrace it for the unique abilities it provides them.

Given the rise in prevalence of the disorder, people should be able to choose, and widespread institutions should make some effort to accommodate that. High schools have advanced classes for students who are more academically adept and others for students who require a bit more attention. As I see it, it only makes sense to design additional classes for students who have more energy and interest in novelty.

ADHD shouldn’t be stigmatized, or even necessarily classified as a disorder. It should be embraced, and just as those who are challenged with an excess of anxiety are given the option to “treat” their unique way of dealing with the world, those with an excess of energy should be given options as well.

Elena Christensen ’15 christeg@stolaf.edu is from Cottage Grove, Minn. She majors in English with concentrations in Nordic, Film and Media Studies.

Graphics Credit: ETHAN BOOTE/MANITOU MESSENGER

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Music on Trial: Hunter Hunted opens at Skyway and steals show

After the happy accident of being introduced to Los Angeles-based Hunter Hunted at Summerfest last June, I obsessively stalked their webpage in search of a Minnesota performance. Finally, my chance came when they opened for Twenty One Pilots at Skyway Theater in Minneapolis on April 17. Despite not knowing anything about Twenty One Pilots, I jumped at the chance to see Hunter Hunted. They were amazing as expected – something I will get to shortly – however, I was pleasantly surprised to find remarkable talent and spectacle in Twenty One Pilots as well.

To begin, Twenty One Pilots had dazzling, albeit blinding, light displays I was still seeing spots while writing my notes for this article. Beyond the technical fascination, the performers had a great sense of humor, and their showmanship, including costumes, physical activity and crowd participation, was electrifying.

The lead singer was constantly jumping off of sets and instruments, and all I could think was, “Good heavens, I hope that piano isn’t on wheels, or the audience will become one with the stage,” which more or less happened, oddly enough. In an unexpected turn of events halfway through the performance, the stage crew hauled a drum set on a platform out into the audience, and the drummer played atop the crowd. While all these brilliant bits came together with exciting, high-energy music and an altogether great show, it still couldn’t quite live up to what I went for: the opener.

To be honest, I’d never heard of anyone attending a concert for its opener before. Although I’m sure it does happen heck, it just happened to me, everyone in the audience seemed just as perplexed as I would expect. Pushing through the crowd 15 minutes before the show, my friend and I apologetically whispered over and over, “We are just here for the opener. We will leave as soon as they do. Sorry, excuse me, sorry.” When questioned, we had only to show them my well-worn Hunter Hunted T-shirt and threaten ourselves with an angry mob of concert-goers “If we don’t leave, feel free to push us out!”. We actually made quite a few friends this way, who offered to let us stay up front even after the band left the stage. Golly, I love Minnesota, but that’s beside the point. On to the music itself.

I am clearly biased about Hunter Hunted. I was there for them, and I listened with rapt attention for their 45ish-minute set. But even if I were a concert/music/Hunter Hunted noob, I would have to give them some serious props for this performance. They managed to maintain a thoroughly indie-alternative sound with the anticipation and drive that comes with a dubstep beat drop.

You read that right: indie-alternative sound meets dubstep exhilaration. While some of this is due to the cleverly written songs, it is primarily because of the dynamic energy the band consistently radiates.

Lead singer and songwriter Michael Garner moves to the music like you wouldn’t believe, throwing himself into every note and knocking out any reservations you might have about singing and dancing along. He is in it to win it, and you should be too. The rest of the band emanated the same vigor throughout, fueled by the rousing music and their obvious chemistry.

In addition to their stage presence, they also displayed a great sense of humor in between their songs. After greeting the crowd, Garner stumbled a bit, “What are you guys called? Minneapolismensmen? And women?,” provoking giggles throughout the crowd. “You guys are in for a f***ing great night, by the way,” he added, winning over those audience members who were so excited for the headliner they just couldn’t get into the opener You know you’ve been there.

So despite the obligatory concert scents of sweat and pot and the bass that might have been cranked a little too high No concert is perfect, my friend and I found ourselves at one of the best performances we’d ever experienced. Our concert résumés collectively included Imagine Dragons, Muse, Eric Hutchinson and The Fray. Hunter Hunted, the unmentioned and, in my opinion, unremarkable NONONO and Twenty One Pilots brought together an unforgettable show that I wish would come back just so I could show all of you.

For those interested in Hunter Hunted, band member Dan Chang told me afterward that they are releasing a full-length album in late fall, so keep your eyes peeled at hunterhuntedmusic.com for details. I also highly recommend their EP, which is already available on iTunes. So get going, music-lovers and hipsters alike: This band is on the rise and definitely worth your while.

christeg@stolaf.edu

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Music on Trial: Heartening anthems for every type of vacation

Spring break is almost upon us, which means paralyzing distress for some and a much-needed, relaxing break for others. Some may even have the contradictory experience of feeling both. Trust me, I understand. Regardless of how you are feeling or what you are doing, however, there is a way to make your break more pleasurable. You guessed it – music. So whether you are scheduled to interview for your dream job, swim with the dolphins or do something in between, there’s a musical sidekick to keep your mind off of your recently completed midterms or maybe your gasp upcoming graduation.

Activity: Ole Spring Relief OSR

Musical counterpart: “To Ohio” by The Low Anthem

Okay, so I know OSR is not going to Ohio, but regardless of destination, “To Ohio” is the ultimate chill road trip song. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a time to blast Macklemore or Nicki Minaj through the car and yell along, chucking up deuces at passing semis, but there comes a time on every long drive when you just want to lean back and take it all in.

Activity: Twiddling your thumbs at home

Musical counterpart: “#SELFIE” by The Chainsmokers

Don’t try to tell me you won’t say or think a single one of the following while you are sitting at home with your high school friends, trying to look like you’re having a kickin’ spring break: “Can you guys help me pick a filter?”; “I wanna look tan”; “What should my caption be? I want it to be clever”; “I only got ten likes in the last five minutes.” Instagram, Twitter and Facebook don’t lie – the truth will come out.

Activity: Partying anywhere but here

Musical counterpart: “Hey Now” by Martin Solveig & The Cataracs feat. Kyle

With its irresistible beat and fun lyrics, it is easy to jam out to this song’s happy vacation sound. Part of the chorus is “We’re the kings of the playground,” which is precisely how I think anyone on vacation should approach their time off. You are the kings of the playground, and you had better enjoy that title while it lasts, my friends. Party on.

Activity: Job or graduate school interviews

Musical counterpart: “On Top of the World” by Imagine Dragons

Whether you’re trying to pump yourself up for an upcoming interview or keep your spirits high while waiting to hear back, this song will keep you feeling on top of the world. Nothing can hurt you while you are on the musical drug that is Imagine Dragons. Just hold your head high and try not to check your Gmail every six minutes.

Activity: Lounging on the beach a.k.a. being hated on by those who can’t

Musical counterpart: “Tipsy in the Sun” by The White Panda

A fun mash-up of Weezer’s “Island in the Sun” and J-Kwon’s “Tipsy,” this song will keep you bobbing your head behind your wayfarers while you casually sip on whatever delicious cocktail your beautiful, all-inclusive resort has to offer. What? No, I’m not spiteful. Not even a little bit…

Activity: A culturally stimulating family or school vacation

Musical counterpart: “Keep Together” by Hunter Hunted

Hunter Hunted is an indie-rock band with a very happy, relaxed sound, and this song in particular has been featured in “Vampire Diaries” among other shows. These guys are grabbing attention nationwide, so keep your ears and eyes open. I’m a little biased because not only is this the category I fall into, but Hunter Hunted is also my favorite band on the rise. Spoiler alert: They are coming to Minneapolis next month with twenty one pilots and you, dear reader, are going to hear all about it. Get excited.

Activity: Staying on campus

Musical counterpart: “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” from the movie “Frozen”

Honestly, I haven’t seen “Frozen,” but I have heard this song countless times. Have you? Let me tell you some of the lyrics: “Do you wanna build a snowman? / Or ride our bikes around the halls? / I think some company is overdue, / I’ve started talking to the pictures on the walls.” You are going to be stuck at school in Minnesota. While I am sure the scholars on the walls of Rolvaag would enjoy the company, think about getting up and out and doing something – although we in ResLife do frown upon hall sports, so maybe not that.

Now that you are full of musical ideas, hit up your favorite music site or software. Whatever you’re doing this spring break, don’t forget to jam out a little – you deserve it.

christeg@stolaf.edu

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