Sunday, February 11, 2018

Pheaturing Alicia Keys

Hey there, kids, welcome to the Phile for a Monday. How are you? Right now I'm like... HOLY NERDGASM, BATMAN. Lucasfilm announced that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, creators and showrunners of "Game of Thrones," are moving to a galaxy far, far away to helm their own Star Wars movies. Are you ready for a crossover episode? This new saga is set to be separate from The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson's new trilogy, which itself is separate from the core Skywalker story. People are freaking out about the news, both for better or for worse. Many people are skeptical, noting that the addition of EVEN MORE wars in space borders on overkill. A lot of people are upset that the Star Wars universe, like the universe we live in, continues to be controlled by white dudes. And others simply don't want to see "Game of Thrones" set in space. I have never seen "Game of Thrones" but I was too there is incest on the show... There is already enough incest in Star Wars. While these spin-off movies don't have synopses or release dates just yet, one thing's for certain: the future is dark and full of Star Wars.
While the repressive Democratic People's Republic of Korea only sent 10 athletes to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeonchang, the score of 230 cheerleaders more than makes up for the dearth of athletes. As "New Yorker" staff writer Jia Tolentino so eloquently writes, there is a deep absurdity in witnessing "one of the world’s most repressive, totalitarian nations attempt to deploy two hundred and thirty smiling women as a diplomatic shield." Fittingly dubbed The Army of Beauties, the massive squad of matching young women are slated to root not only for the North Korean athletes, but those of South Korea as well. The young women are all hand-picked from top colleges in North Korea, and undergo severe backgrounds checks to insure their faithfulness to the regime. Unsurprisingly, Kim Jong Un also placed attractiveness near the top of the list of requirements. While the "army of beauties" is militantly dedicated to Kim Jong Un (lest they be sent to prison camps), the uniformed image of smiling young women presents a stark contrast to the dictator himself. They present, in effect, a brilliant and terrifying propaganda technique to normalize the regime. Given the massive size of their squad, and the stylized and manicured uniforms, the pictures of them feel uncanny. Check them out...

The same characteristics that make this gathering of 230 women a beautiful and fascinating spectacle, also make them a terrifying force for propaganda. But dang, those outfits though.
Yesterday Kim Jong Un extended a historic invitation to South Korean Leader Moon Jae-in. The handwritten letter was delivered by the North Korean leader's sister Kim Yo-jong, and formally invited Moon Jae-in to the first meeting between the Korean leaders since 2007. Regardless of the outcome in coming months, Saturday's meeting represented the most significant diplomatic meeting between the two countries in more than a decade. This Olympic meeting marks the first time leaders from the North's ruling dynasty have visiting South Korea since the Korean War, which ended in an armistice in 1953. Moon responded warmly to the invitation, adding that the Koreas should "make it happen," and furthermore urging the North to push for negotiations with the U.S. While an official date for the summit has not been set yet as far as I know, BBC reports that Ms. Kim's invitation offered up "the earliest date possible." "I hope Pyongyang and Seoul will become closer in the hearts of Koreans and will bring unification and prosperity in the near future," read the letter delivered by Ms. Kim.
The Olympic Torch lighting the Olympic Cauldron is an iconic symbol recognized worldwide, but many people feel that this year's lighting ceremony might have come off just a bit pornographic. The Opening Ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea ended with figure skater Yuna Kim transferring the flame of the torch to a large metal coil that climbed up a structure and eventually lit the cauldron. But many people are saying that the slowly erecting metal coil looks like a flaming robot penis. Hey, this is supposed to be a family show! If you have a dirty mind, you'll get it...

Personally, I don't see it! I looks more like fiery doom rollercoaster to me. But then again, I've also never seen a flaming robot penis, so... People on Twitter were definitely not shy about calling it like they see it. What do you think? Giant, fiery robo-dick or just a totally innocuous object that happens to be cylindrical?
Okay, enough with the Olympics talk... back to the Super Bowl... As far as I'm concerned, there were two winners of the Super Bowl this year... 1) The Philadelphia Eagles. 2) Ryan McKenna, the 13-year-old who crashed Justin Timberlake's halftime show and became a meme known as selfie kid. In case you missed it, Ryan became a viral sensation after he was seen fiddling with his phone and trying to take a selfie with Justin Timberlake as he sang "Can't Stop the Feeling" to close out his performance at the Super Bowl. McKenna then did what most other newly-minted Internet stars do... he went on "Ellen." At first, Ellen treated McKenna's appearance like any other interview. They talked about the Patriots (Ryan is a hardcore fan), his terribly slow iPhone 6, and how Ryan's dad surprised him with tickets just weeks before the big game. Then Ellen hit him with a surprise of her own. As soon as Ryan figured out he was about to talk Justin Timberlake, his eyes welled up. "Oh, my God!" McKenna gasped. "I can't believe this!" But the biggest surprise came when J.T. invited McKenna and his family to see him perform live in concert in Boston with VIP tickets. Ryan instantly broke out into tears. "Ryan, I look forward to meeting you," Timberlake said, "and our second selfie together."
There are some Olympians worth watching the games for. Because they're very attractive. For example... Kailani Craine, Australia, figure skater.

Have you ever ran into a celebrity and what you're wearing is a coincidence, or related? It happened to this kid...

Okay, that's just plain stupid. That's as stupid as this...

Hahaha. Meanwhile, in China...

So, ever have real bad luck? I'm sure it's not as has as what happened here to this person...

That sucks. Hey, so, did you see the new poster for that new Hugh Jackman movie?

Haha. So, if I had a TARDIS I would like to be on the Titanic for one day, but knowing my luck I'll get there just a little bit afterwards...

Valentine's Day is a few days away, and you might be looking for a sweet card to give someone. How about this one?

Awe. That's so sweet. Before we continue I have to say something... On Friday we lost someone in the Foghat family... Craig MacGregor passed away from lung cancer. He joined Foghat in 1976, on the album "Night Shift," and stayed with Foghat through the mid-1980s. A few sporadic stints followed over the ensuing decades before he rejoined for good in 2005. His last show with the band was in 2015, and the last time I saw him play with Foghat was in July, 2015 at Sea World. Craig will be missed by friends and family, and Foghat fans.

Okay, so, my son and I were talking about how we used to watch "Sesame Street" when he was little. I'm glad he's not little now because that show sure has changed over the years...

Kermit infiltrates a feminist camp and stealthy injects paprikas with ricin.

This one might be a little hard to spot, kids. But it's there. If you spot the Mindphuck let me know.

Okay, so, in the past I had invited a comedian on the Phile who is trying to work on his craft, and to add a few laughs to the Phile. The problem is he is just not funny. Well, it turns out he has been working on new ,material and says this time he will be funny. So, I thought why not, invite him back. So, once again please welcome to the Phile...

Me: Hello, Ollie, how are you doing? Bene performing lately?

Ollie: Hi, Jason. I recently did a show where I consistently got both the name of the venue and the city I was in completely wrong. But I was funny.

Me: Okay, that's good. So, we're ready. Make us laugh.

Ollie: Valentine's Day is coming up so... roses are red, violets are blue I've got Alzheimer's cheese on toast.

Me: Ummm... that really makes no sense at all, Ollie. Try again.

Ollie: How do you make a plumber cry?

Me: Hmmm... I don't know. How?

Ollie: You kill his family.

Me: Ollie, that's how you'll make anyone cry. That's so stupid. You have one more chance. Make it count.

Ollie: The WNBA.

Me: What about the WNBA?

Ollie: That's it. The WNBA.

Me: Ollie, get out of here, and don't come back unless you have new funny material. Ollie Tabooger, the man guy who doesn't know how to tell a joke, everybody.

Hahahaha. Hey, wanna play a game?

So, which one is it? Potato or Amy Schumer? And now for some sad news...

John Mahoney 
June 20th, 1940 — February 5th, 2018
Good. Now we can finally throw out that stupid chair.

The 75th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

Bruce will be a guest on the Phile a week from tomorrow... next Monday. And now for some...

Phact 1. After Col. Shaw died in battle, Confederates buried him in a mass grave as an insult to leading black soldiers. Union troops tried to recover his body, but his father sent a letter saying, “We would not have his body removed from where it lies surrounded by his brave and devoted soldiers.”

Phact 2. When J. R. R. Tolkien sold the movie rights for "Lord of the Rings," he forbade Disney from ever becoming involved ”as long as it was possible to veto anything from or influenced by the Disney studios for all whose works I have a heartfelt loathing.”

Phact 3. Frank Goldsmith, Jr., a Titanic survivor who later lived near Navin Field (Tiger Stadium) in Detroit, never took his children to baseball games because the roar of the crowd reminded him of the screams of people dying in the freezing water.

Phact 4. Though offered a scholarship to Princeton, Ralph Nader’s father forced him to decline the offer on the grounds that the family was able to pay Nader’s tuition and the funds should go to a student who could not afford it. Nader graduated magna cum laude in 1955.

Phact 5. Hugh Jackman worked as a birthday clown named Coco and made just 50 bucks. Jackman admits that he had no magic tricks and was even told off by a 6-year-old that he is terrible.

This is really, really amazing... today's pheatured guest is an is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, pianist, actress, and activist. Her latest releases "HERE," and "Vault Playlist, Vol. 1" is available on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify and she will be one of the judges on the new season of "The Voice," with Kelly Clarkson. I have no idea why she's on the Phile, but she is. Please welcome to the Phile the one and only... Alicia Keys!

Me: Hey, Alicia, it's so cool to have you here on the Phile. How are you?

Alicia: Hello, Peverett Phile. I'm taking over the Peverett Phile blog. I'm cool.

Me: I love your most album "HERE." Did you write all those songs yourself, Alicia?

Alicia: That whole album "HERE," was a collaborative record that was really done in a collaborative way. I purposely wanted to go further inside of myself that I ever went on and I wanted to create a strong group of energy and people. It's a small group but a strong group that would be willing to go there with me. There was a comfort there, and a knowing there, a familiarity there that allowed us to explore further into the insides of all of ourselves and so that's what started us into a dialogue driven conversational communicable process that led to these songs. So, towards the end to actually work with another school group of people was Illangelo, who produced the single "In Common," Billy Walsh, who's a poet, myself, and on "In Common," is a young female writer named Taylor. So, this is cool, on this album I worked with people I knew for a long time and people I just met who were also willing to go layers deep. And so it was very cool.

Me: So, where did "HERE" get its name, Alicia?

Alicia: It's very cool how things happen, you never know how it's going to happen, how it'll involve so I love what it is because even my own personal journeys have been accepting my work in progress. My flaws, my humanity, my humanness, that's what the album is exploring... us as people, that you must be messed up too, that kind of acceptance. We're all kind of screwed up out... here. We are all trying to figure out how to get there, how we are going to improve, how we are gonna stop making the same mistakes we keep messing up. it's very cool just to be able to say that and be honest.

Me: I love the line in the song "In Common," which I can relate to... "if you like somebody like me you must be messed up to." Is that true?

Alicia: That didn't come from me, that came from Taylor. I identified with that so much, I was like man, this is crazy. I even tried to fight it, thinking we should say something different like "we are just alike," and I tried to find this other line that maybe we are more alike as opposed to being messed up. After I walked away from it I'm like, no, that's not it. It's interesting what I tried to fight.

Me: Did you always write with somebody else or did you start off writing alone?

Alicia: It's weird? It's true for so long I did write by myself, or I wrote with my partner Crucial who I had for many years... many of times it was just he and I or just me by myself. I think what I learned I was very worried writing with other people. I was scared of it maybe because I felt there was such a vulnerableness about it, to share that with somebody I didn't know very well was awkward to me. I was like who does that? Then I was learning when I do that of course I wanted to get to know people and I wanted to have a kindred spirit of some sort. It's like when I perform in front of ten people I know, I'm more afraid of performing in front of people 100 I don't. So, I think there might be a bit of that, there's something to the fact that finding the way to almost unveil myself with people. It's challenging but it kinda brings me somewhere.

Me: I love the new EP of you just playing at the piano... just you yourself. Do you write that way, Alicia?

Alicia: It depends. With "If I Ain't Got You," for example, happened all at once, really quickly, in once sitting, with one concept. I remember writing it on a plane, and then I landed, and I got to the hotel, I always have a keyboard in the hotel, and I tried to work out the chords what I worked out in my head. Then like a song like "Diary," I remember I had this piano riff and every time I sat down at the piano I played that riff. I must've played it for MONTHS, but no lyrics or no anything of relevance made any sense and then one day I sat down and something came.

Me: How do you come up with some of the ideas for your songs, Alicia?

Alicia: It's like somethings are just pieces of words or thoughts. That's kinda how it happened on "HERE," it was a lot like I know I wanted to write about addiction... what did that mean? Addiction to what? It started to develop like what are we addicted to? For different people, it's different things. Some people are addicted to drama, some people are addicted to drugs, some people are addicted to attention, some people are addicted to sex, some people are addicted to love, some people are addicted to the idea of love. So, it started to become this whole conversation like what are YOU addicted to.  I was asking people what is your addiction, do you feel like asking yourself that. It's a difficult question when you're asking yourself that sort of stuff. Then it was like what does that mean, then we wrote this song called "Illusion of Bliss," that is crazy, it's one of my favorite songs ever. Interestingly enough it's the conversation that brought us there. What are you addicted to, Peverett Phile?

Me: I'm addicted to iced mocha. Haha. Your music is often a mix of so many different styles. Is that done on purpose?

Alicia: I didn't realize it was, but this mixture of in the beginning the four people that was the main core team that wrote the majority of "HERE," a great writer and producer named Mark Baston, another writer named Harold Lilly, who wrote a lot of things with me in the beginning on my first two records, and Swizz, my husband... each person had their own thing. Mark had this jazz moments, slash big band with a high piano style, I had this more classical piano style with a very soulful style of writing, Harold has a very traditional old school, bluesy soul, then Swizz has a very original hip hop Bronx gutter rugged... so it was almost like these four different human beings with all different perspectives, when we come together would crash.

Me: A lot of your music also has a New York theme and vibe, New York must be a big part of your, right?

Alicia: Yeah. So, you'll hear songs called "Pawn It All," which is very bluesy, like Muddy Waters, raw, the blues bluesy. So, that kinda collision with the hard New York drums and the vocals become very New York because the majority of us have been from New York, so you feel it in the kinetic energy of it. At the same time there is so much more too, so yes, there is an ode to the essence of New York, a love affair to New York in other ways too.

Me: I know other musicians use notebooks to write ideas down and lyrics, what do you use?

Alicia: I use a notebook as well. I document melodies with my phone, but for an album I always write in a book. I love paper, I love pen. People write on computers, and people write on their phones but I don't feel comfortable that way.

Me: You have a song called "Diary." Did you write in a diary?

Alicia: Yes, I did, and recently I thought I need to do a diary again. Even if it's just five sentences. I write a lot just like I talk a lot, and I think we get so caught up with having it be the full idea. I wondering if there's a trunk kid version I can do, that I can generally jot down so I don't have to feel so pressured in case I can't finish to tonight.

Me: I love your song "Girl On Fire." How did that song come about, Alicia? Were you on fire? Hahaha.

Alicia: It was a collaborative record in a different way. I think at that time I was really searching for my independence and I wanted to see what happened when I collaborated with anybody on planet Earth that I wanted to. That was good, it really brought about some interesting pieces of work and it was really fun to do that. For so long I worked with one main collaborator which was really good, and we had a strong connection that was so much of the body of work that I have. Then I wanted to see what happens if I do something so totally different. That was the beginning but this was something that was more kinda consistent, that's what "Girl On Fire" is.

Me: I love the chorus on that song, Alicia. You must be proud of it, right?

Alicia: When we created that I was like, oh my gosh, yes.

Me: You did a song with BeyoncĂ©, I think. How was that experience? Did you or her write that? 

Alicia: It was called "Put It In A Love Song." Majority it was written by myself, but with Swizz too. You can notice him on the music, especially the beat. We were doing a lot of collaborating. My piano playing was his drums and it kinda evolved. I remember that night, it kept evolving and evolving. When we brought it to Bey she really liked it and we went in and crafted that together like her vocals and her singing it. It was just fun, it kept growing and growing every time we added a new piece to it.

Me: When did you first start to write songs, Alicia?

Alicia: The first time I wrote I was eleven. Then when I started to get some ideas of what it really should be like I was probably more like fourteen.

Me: And when did you start to play piano?

Alicia: I started at seven. That was great, it was really good to learn and I hated and it made me so angry that I would have to practice so much. It was so frustrating, it was the summer and everyone was out playing and I was like not fair. I couldn't be more grateful to be independent like that. I never have to wait for anybody to express myself. I'm grateful that I figured that out.

Me: Who were your influences, Alicia?

Alicia: Stevie Wonder! Every single thing is like a chord you never heard before. He might as well play with three fingers and somehow the way he figured the voicing out... how did he do that? That's always a beautiful way of playing so I always wanted to have the capacity of both... that I found eventually on the line, but in the beginning it was studying reading music and played what I read. That very technical stuff.

Me: Your first hit was "Fallin," were you surprised it was a hit?

Alicia: I never thought. It turns out a lot of my songs are like that actually. "Fallin'" was kinda different and just kinda stuck with people, and I knew it too. When people hear it they love it.

Me: Was "Fallin'" written on the piano?

Alicia: Yes, that was straight at the piano, yes.

Me: Your music has a very gospel kinda feel, Alicia, did you grow up in a church?

Alicia: A lot of people think I grew up in a church but really didn't. But gospel and spiritual music I feel has always been inside of me, and it does show itself. Even my kind of singing, it's more where I'm always going first, it's my first instinct. It's all kinda wound up there together and I like it.

Me: I LOVED your performance of "Hallelujah" you did on "SNL" a few years ago. Was that an easy song to learn?

Alicia: The chords are so simple and so beautiful. It goes to these places... I really love "Hallelujah," and people really responded to that, so it's cool.

Me: I also love "The Empire State of Mind." That should replace "New York, New York" as the official song for New York City, don't you think?

Alicia: Hahaha. It was unbelievable. That song is officially what I call a monster. It was such a monster that when we were strategizing putting out the record, because I remember the "Element of Freedom" came right after that, we had to be careful of "Empire." We had to get out of the way from my own thing as it would crush my own new shit. It was such a monster and it never ended which is amazing and as you can see still to this day before love to and relate to it. Like their dreams, their hopes, their faith and believe in themselves... you just don't know what's gonna happen to a song.

Me: Who wrote that song, Alicia? You or Jay-Z or someone else? How did that song work out? 

Alicia: I think in this particular case it was interesting because it was written in different sections. J was working on it for a minute, and I think the idea came to him in some kinda incarnation and he was like interested in this, and he had his magic on and kind a passed to me. When it has different incarnations and grows and evolves it tends to be more interesting in a variety. It doesn't always work but this song really, really did.

Me: I have to ask you about "Million Dollar Bill" that you wrote for Whitney Houston. You wrote her last hit, Alicia, what do you think about that?

Alicia: Wow. Yeah, I couldn't believe it because you know first of all I loved her my whole life... I looked up to her and her voice like she was the only voice in the whole universe. She came up to me one time at Clive Davis' Grammy party... she was very bold, very loud and direct, and I'm like quiet and soft. She came up to me and was like, "I want to you write a song for me." I was like okay, why not? Why wouldn't I? She said, "Alright, let's figure it out." I was like what the hell am I gonna write for Whitney Houston? Then Clive who has been very dear to me and has been such an incredible guiding light in both our careers doesn't take no for an answer. He would ask, "Where's my Whitney record?" Swizz and I were listening to those south soul records, that were a really cool part of right when disco became almost too disco... it was just kinda in that zone. So, we just started to get used to that catalogue and exploring the sounds of it. There were a few different styles that he and I wrote at the time just for fun. When "Million Dollar Bill" happened he said this might be... and I said, "I think you're right." So, we got her in the studio and I spent some really cool days with her. Getting her comfortable, making sure she felt good, and we created a real sisterhood over that time of making that record. I was really grateful of that. I never expected to get so close with her and I cared about her very much. She was very kind and always checked in on me, and I remember being on tour in some random European city and she as like I'm coming to see you. She was just a genuine beautiful, beautiful soul. I felt so blessed that we were able to do that.

Me: That's so cool. Alicia, I love the new EP, and can't wait for new music from you. Thanks for being here on the Phile, Alicia, this was really cool.

Alicia: Thanks, man. Thank you for your questions.

Me: One last thing, tell Kelly she needs to come onto the Phile when you see her.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. I don't know what to think. Hahaha. Thanks to Alicia for a great interview. The Phile will be back tomorrow with Dan Gillespie Sells from The Feeling. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

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