music

Remembering Prince and How His Music Helped Save My Life

April 30, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

Remembering Prince & How He Helped Save My Life

In the summer of 1984 I turned 16. I had a year of high school behind me and was living on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific. My dad was a military chaplain, and we’d moved to Okinawa, Japan the previous summer. For several months we lived in a house in Okinawa City, and the top floor consisted only of my bedroom and a wraparound balcony with a view of the ocean. Aside from the occasional gecko scurrying across the ceiling, it was a sanctuary of solitude for this eldest of four boys.

I had a pretty good first year of high school, as years of high school go. My grades were good, I made the tennis team, and had a solid group of friends. I’d even been voted “Cutest Couple” with a girl who I happened to be dating when the votes were cast, though soon after reverting to friend status.

By the summer of this story, we’d moved onto Kadena Air Force Base. Military housing is typically bland, but here was accented with island flavor: a clay tile roof, palm trees growing from the patio, poinsettia bushes along the side of the house. I hadn’t yet attained high school party-attendee status, so weekend nights were spent walking to the movies or bowling alley, days at one of the beaches scattered around the island.

At the end of that June, I bought Purple Rain at the BX. Over the course of the summer and into my sophomore year, Prince’s magnum opus was the soundtrack of our collective youth. Blasting from cars and boom boxes, on every Walkman, every track (and some B-sides) played nonstop at school dances.

Like Thriller the year before, Purple Rain crossed lines of gender, race, and genre. But it went even further, delving into and mixing sex and spirituality. This was exemplified most in the album’s two biggest hits. “When Doves Cry” dripped with sensuality, while “Let’s Go Crazy” sang of the afterlife with raucous, unpious fervor. The latter was a revelation for this preacher’s kid struggling not only with faith, but also with my sexuality… and what that meant for my own afterlife.

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‘Snapdad’ Creates Adorable Masterpieces While Baby Sleeps

January 12, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

One of the first things new parents learn is the art of getting baby to sleep. And by “learn,” I mean reading books, scouring the Internet, texting your friends, calling your parents… and then winging it out of panic. Whether it’s naptime, nighttime, or OMG-WHY-IS-HE-AWAKE-time, getting an infant to sleep (or back to sleep) can be a harrowing, tedious, mind-numbing experience.

Then there are new dads like Lukas Costeur, AKA SNAPDAD. Since the birth of his son Felix, Lukas has been using Snapchat (and his creativity) to capture the special moments spent lulling his wee one to sleep. With nothing but the Snapchat drawing tool — and a willing subject — Snapdad has begun a whimsical gallery of pop culture baby pics.

snapdad

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The 50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time: #1-10

December 31, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time

At long last… the Top 10. As with much of the list, this final batch is a mix of expected crowd-pleasers and personal favorites. I toiled long and hard on it, so if you take issue with some of my rankings, please be gentle.

Without further fanfare, the final installment of the 50 GREATEST SUPERHERO TV THEME SONGS OF ALL TIME!

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10. TEEN TITANS / TEEN TITANS GO!

2003-2006 / 2013-present

Anime-inspired Teen Titans balanced fun and sophistication, as did its retro-cool theme song. Cancelled after its fifth season, the show was reborn in 2013 as Teen Titans Go! Though the spin-off features the same heroes voiced by the same actors, that’s where the similarities end. As an appeal to a younger audience, everything was shortened: the length of the episodes, the characters’ stature, even the theme song. The Teen Titans theme was chopped and remixed, now buzzing with frantic layers of electronica — a perfect fit for this over-the-top send-up of young superhero life.

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The 50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time: #11-20

October 22, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time

We’re getting so close I can taste it — and it tastes like…spinach?!? It’s the penultimate chunk of the 50 GREATEST SUPERHERO TV THEME SONGS OF ALL TIME!

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20. SMALLVILLE

2001-2011

“Save Me” appeared on the Remy Zero album The Golden Hum, released around the same time as the Smallville premiere — and it was a perfect fit. All jangly guitars and pleading lyrics, “Save Me” not only spoke of those looking to be rescued by (not yet) Superman, but of Clark himself, in his constant quest for love, acceptance, and the deets on his alien heritage.

Fun fact: This is the only song on the list not written specifically for the show it was on. A few other faves featuring pre-existing songs that didn’t make the cut: “How Soon Is Now?” a Smiths cover by Love Spit Love from Charmed; “Echoes” by The Rapture from Misfits; “Short Skirt, Long Jacket” by Cake from Chuck.
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The 50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time: #21-30

October 7, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs

No intro this time… let’s just jump right into the action of the 50 GREATEST SUPERHERO TV THEME SONGS OF ALL TIME, part 3!

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30. BATMAN BEYOND

1999-2001

Batman Beyond was a big departure for the Dark Knight franchise, as it placed Gotham City into the future, with a retired Bruce Wayne mentoring — nay, controlling — a new Batman in the form of teenager Terry McGinnis. The show tackled darker themes and grittier emotions, which was also reflected in its techno/industrial opening theme song. The music and the show were both pretty kick-ass, and I can’t wait to get to the future, where (like in nearly every interpretation of the future) it’s just one nonstop rave!
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The 50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time: #31-40

September 29, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs

Before you do anything else, go read Part 1 (#s 41-50). Done? Alrighty, let’s keep going.

What makes a superhero?

There are as many ways to define a superhero as there are cast members in the last X-Men film. For the purpose of this list, I considered any person/animal/robot/being with super/supernatural powers who does good/fights evil OR a regular person/animal/being/robot who does good/fights evil that is super/supernaturally-powered. I omitted shows that fit snugly in the sci-fi genre, because that could be a whole ‘nother list in itself. And because I have other things to do besides watch TV all day (though I wish I didn’t).

Even with my methodology, these weren’t easy to narrow down. You’ll notice this batch of 10 is actually 12, but who’s counting? Oh yeah, I am…

Welcome to Part 2 of the 50 GREATEST SUPERHERO TV THEME SONGS OF ALL TIME!

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40. IRON MAN: ARMORED ADVENTURES

2009-2012

As with the show at #41, Iron Man: Armored Adventures debuted following the hugely successful film version of its title character. Throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s, DC Comics pretty much ruled the cartoon superhero realm. However, bolstered by their big screen dominance in the last two decades, Marvel has created some truly spectacular animation… and some truly spectacular theme songs. Iron Man: AA pulls out all the stops in this cool, catchy opener.

Fun fact: The Iron Man: Armored Adventures theme song is performed by Rooney, which (apropos of absolutely nothing) is named after Ed Rooney, the principal in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
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The 50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time: #41-50

September 22, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs

We are in the midst of a TV superhero renaissance. While super-powered heroes and villains have been part of the television landscape from its beginning, recent years have seen a marked increase in not just superhero shows, but good superhero shows. Between network, cable, streaming, and online, there are over 20 programs currently featuring live-action or animated heroes. And with as many as a dozen new shows planned in the next year, superhero fans are singing a happy tune.

Yet the one thing most modern superhero shows lack is a kick-ass theme song. Gone are the action-packed earworms of old. No “Here I come to save the day!” or “Thunder-Thunder-Thunder-Thunder-Cats!” Not even a “Na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na, BATMAN!”

Instead we’re left with an assortment of indistinguishable instrumentals that do little to set the tone (or tell the story) of their shows — with nary a memorable melody among them. Can you hum the intro to Gotham, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Arrow? Didn’t think so.

But rather than harping on what’s lacking in the current bumper crop, I want to celebrate the rich, raucous history of where campy TV, catchy jingles, and spandex-clad heroes collide…by making an EPIC LIST. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be ranking the TOP 50 SUPERHERO TV THEME SONGS OF ALL TIME! My choices are based on popularity, catchiness and cultural impact… with a heaping dose of personal preference. I welcome your criticisms, your praise, and your suggested omissions!

But first, let’s kick things off with a BANG!, a POW! and a penis-shaped car!

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50. THE AMBIGUOUSLY GAY DUO

1996-2011

These animated shorts aired only 12 times during a 15-year period on Saturday Night Live, but this questionably close pair of heroes certainly left their mark. Ace and Gary (voiced by Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell) poke fun at Batman and Robin’s oft-rumored homoerotic relationship, while both the animation style and silly/serious theme song ape the ‘toons of the 1960s and 70s. Kudos to creator Robert Smigel for crafting a jingle from such an unwieldy mouthful of words.
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DMK Releases First Original Song, ‘Pale Blue Dot’

May 22, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, POP CULTURE

DMK — the incredibly talented (and adorable) Depeche Mode cover band from Bogotá, Colombia — has written and recorded their first original song, “Pale Blue Dot.”

Dicken Schrader, daughter Milah (11), and son Korben (8) have been performing as DMK for the last 5 years, putting their creative touch on “Enjoy the Silence,” “Black Celebration” and half a dozen others Depeche Mode classics. They’ve gotten to perform live for crowds all over the world, and even ventured beyond the kids’ bedroom into more creative video productions.

Their latest is an all-new, original family project, with Dad on keyboard and kazoo, Milah playing the ukulele and recorder, and Korben tackling the xylophone and accordion. “Pale Blue Dot” was inspired by Carl Sagan’s book of the same name, and is a simple, sweet song about being connected on this “pale blue dot” we all call home.

A more detailed (and bittersweet) explanation of the song, from the band’s YouTube page:

It was written by Dicken and dedicated to Milah and Korben — who will soon move outside the country to live with their mother — to remind them that our planet is just a tiny speck of dust in the vastness of space and so it doesn’t matter how far away we go, we will always be together.

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GMCW Concert ‘When You Wish’ Ticket Giveaway

February 10, 2015 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE, THINGS DAD DIGS, THINGS MY KID DIGS

WHEN YOU WISH GMCW CONCERT GIVEAWAY - disney songs

Who wants to see me on stage as a dancing bear?

You’re in luck, because I sing with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC (GMCW); our next concert is When You Wish, featuring music from animated films and TV shows… and I’ve got FOUR TICKETS to give away!

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Happy New Year from Designer Daddy, Depeche Mode & DMK

December 31, 2014 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES, POP CULTURE

Early on in Designer Daddy’s existence, I learned about DMK — a Depeche Mode cover band from Bogatá, Columbia. If you’ve never heard of them, do yourself a favor and check out my Q&A from a couple of years ago with lead singer/video producer/dad extraordinaire, Dicken Schrader. He and his kids Milah & Korben (the “D,” “M,” and “K”) have added another Depeche Mode classic to their growing catalog, a whimsical cover of “But Not Tonight.”

The production and special effects are certainly more involved than their early, simpler videos. However, it still maintains the innocence and joy this family still seems to have performing together.

I thought the lyrics of “But Not Tonight” and DMK’s accompanying video were a fitting soundtrack as we reflect on the end of one year and the dawn of the next.

The stars in the sky
Bring tears to my eyes
They’re lighting my way tonight
And I haven’t felt so alive
In years

The moon
Is shining in the sky
Reminding me
Of so many other nights
But they’re not like tonight

Wishing you and yours a bright, peaceful, magical, Happy New Year.

Much love,
Brent
Designer Daddy

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Be sure to check out Designer Daddy on Facebook & Twitter for lots of exciting/silly/sappy stuff in the coming year!

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