Contributing writer for The Artifice.
Has Pop Music Simplified Over Time?
In numerous studies, people are finding that pop music is homogenizing, both harmonically, stylistically, and even in vocal variety (i.e. very similar sounding artists being appreciated). Some claim that pop music is being "dumbed down" by becoming harmonically and melodically simplified. While pop music nowadays may be more harmonically and melodically simple, are there other factors that make it more complex/varied? Should we judge music based on these factors, or should we appreciate other aspects of the genre? What are those factors that we should appreciate?
Can Musicals Transfer to the Screen Effectively?
Into the Woods, The Last Five Years, Les Miserables, Rent: in the past few years alone, there have been multiple movie musicals released, often with mixed receptions. Is it possible for musicals to move from the stage to the screen and still retain their magic? What might some challenges be? (i.e. target audience; musical fans perhaps disliking casting when people who are not traditionally "singers" are cast – think Hollywood actors rather than Broadway, cutting songs for the sake of time, sound editing causing the magic of a live performance to be lost, etc.)
Parental Figure Deaths and Superhero Origins
Losing a loved one is a life-changing event. In comics, it’s common that the death of a parental figure is the catalyst for becoming a superhero. Batman, Spiderman, and Daredevil are just a few examples. Is there a reason that this plot point continues to be reused? Has it become overused, or is it just an accurate representation of the extremes to which the death of a loved one can push you? (Obviously, we don’t tend to become superheroes, but I’m speaking metaphorically.)
Books to Movies or Books to a Television Series?
Game of Thrones, Outlander, Netflix’s Jessica Jones, and Netflix’s Daredevil: these are some examples of books and comic books that are now being put into a television series rather than a film. It seems to be a new trend. What are the merits of having a book series represented through television rather than a single film (such as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings)? Is one better? Is this a natural progression of the new trend of splitting a book into two or three movies (think Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows or The Hobbit)? Is the age of one-book-to-one-film over? If so, is that a good thing?
BDSM and Fifty Shades of Grey
While the quality of its prose is generally considered substandard, E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey has topped bestseller lists around the world. The book is also the subject of controversy when it comes to its portrayal of relationships and BDSM, but that doesn’t seem to have impeded its popularity. What does the popularity of the book say about society and its views of BDSM? Does everyone secretly harbour a repressed desire for sexual domination? Is that the cause of its popularity?
What Characteristics Cause a Song to Reach the Top 40?
Looking at the current USA Singles Top 40, what causes a song to be a huge hit? Are there similar musical characteristics? Does it have to do with marketing? Are certain themes prevalent? Based on these popular songs, what would you say the "formula" to having a hit is? If the songs share many characteristics, would you say that this is positive or negative?
Jessica Jones and Kilgrave as Mental Illness
Netflix’s Jessica Jones was released in November 2015 and has had a great response over the past few months. Mental illness is something the protagonist struggles with in the form of PTSD. The villain, Kilgrave, has the power to control the minds of others. He is also the cause of Jessica’s PTSD and haunts her through just the knowledge of his existence. To what degree is Kilgrave representative of various forms of mental illness? Can the metaphor of Kilgrave=mental illness be extended to depression, anxiety, attachment issues, schizophrenia, etc.? Are certain aspects of mental illness shown in the show through him? (I.e. No one believes in his existence=mental health stigma, people who have been "kilgraved" constantly fear his return, etc.)
What is the future of opera?
Opera houses are closing all over the world. Audiences are becoming increasingly smaller (and older). There is also a certain stigma surrounding opera, possibly because it is now considered somewhat elitist. Opera has been around since 1597; is it possible that this art form is no longer relevant? Is it doomed to die out entirely?
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