“Oh My My”, One Republic!

People always have certain expectations when an artist releases new material, no matter if it’s a new single or an entire album. Those expectations vary depending on how high the artist is rated by the individual. Naturally, I had very high expectations for OneRepublic’s new record, which is one of my favorite bands. And again, I was not disappointed with what I got. “Oh My My”, their fourth studio album, is a masterpiece I cannot stop listening to and is one of the best releases of 2016 – maybe even the best.

Colorado-native and OneRepublic’s lead singonerepublic-ohmymyer Ryan Tedder (37) is (secretly) known to be a musical genius. Besides the instant classics he wrote and produced for his own band, such as “Apologize”, “Counting Stars”, and “Love runs out”,  he also penned and produced worldwide chart toppers for other artists. Adele’s “Rumour has it”, Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love”, and Beyoncé’s “Halo” were all born in Tedder’s mastermind. In fact, OneRepublic’s breakout hit “Apologize”, a remix of the original version produced by Timbaland, was knocked off the top of the UK singles charts by Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love” in 2007, before OneRepublic’s follow-up “Stop and Stare” reclaimed the top spot.

The “appetizer” single for OneRepublic’s new album, entitled “Wherever I go”, already proved that Ryan Tedder still has what it takes to create an instant classic. Fans of OneRepublic got exactly what they expected –  a melodic, catchy song that gets stuck in your head in an instant. The relatively short song and the follow-up release “Kids”, another harmonic up-tempo tune that boasts a haunting rhythm and melody, are both immediately identifiable as they have the typical “OneRepublic sound”. The newest single off “Oh My My”, the power ballad “Let’s Hurt Tonight”, follows the same pattern.

But if you listen to the band’s newest record in its entirety, you are in for a surprise. While all sixteen songs on the standard edition are clearly OneRepublic, some of them come by with a little more edge than usual and feature unexpected artists. You can even discover some country music-inspired tunes (listen to “The Less I Know”). The choice was tough as almost every song on the album struck home with me, but here are my top five (yet unreleased) tracks I cannot stop listening to:

  1. “A.I. (featuring Peter Gabriel)” – This collaboration with one of the 1980’s most iconic musical artists marries futuristic electronic beats with fast electric guitar chords. My personal highlight: the portion at the end sung by Peter Gabriel alone, which almost seems like a seperate track and resembles the songs on the 1980’s “Miami Vice” soundtrack. You can totally visualize Don Johnson steering his speed boat off into the sunset!
  2. “Choke” – The melodic ballad captures you with its touching lyrics and powerful choral singing. A possible worldwide hit!
  3. “Future looks good” – The song that was already released for promotional purposes starts off with a mellow guitar intro and gradually adds instruments. Additionally, Tedder’s lead vocals become more powerful with every verse, before the song returns to it’s mellow roots at the very end.
  4. “Dream” – The rough, edgy electric guitar and Tedder’s low vocals at the beginning sound unusual for OneRepublic enthusiasts, but they are exactly what makes the song stand out in a good way. Their combination with the electro-pop beats during the chorus make the song unique. A “2016 OneRepublic”!
  5. “Better” – Another song that seems like a contemporary reinvention of the classic OneRepublic sound. Tedder combines a steady rhythm with electronic backbeats and interesting lyrics. Listen to the string-version on the bonus edition as well!

My final conclusion: Ryan Tedder can simply do no wrong.

“Oh My My” was released on October 7th on Mosley/Interscope Records.

Leo’s Powerful Call to Act on Climate Change

Leonardo DiCaprio. When most people here this name, they think about the legendary Titanic, different dream-levels, Wall Street, and a man who climbs naked into an animal carcass to keep himself warm in the freezing North American wilderness. His first and long-awaited Oscar win this year tops a film career that spans more than two decades and has produced many of the most memorable performances, including those in Titanic, Inception, The Wolf of Wall Street, and The Revenant.

Many people who are interested in celebrity gossip also know that he has a preference for supermodel girlfriends and is keeping a close friendship with his Titanic and Revolutionary Road co-star Kate Winslet. And a few might even know that he has German and Italian roots and loves Schnitzel and Spätzle, the German dishes his late grandmother Helene Indenbirken used to prepare for him when he visited her in Oer-Erkenschwick, western Germany.

But Leonardo DiCaprio is not just one of the most talented actors of our time, if not the talented, he is also a passionate environmentalist who established his own foundation as early as 1998. Ever since, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has worked to protect Oceans, Forests, Wildlife, and to fight one of the most urgent threats to our global safety – climate change. An excerpt from the foundation’s mission statement reads as follows:

LDF implements solutions that help restore balance to threatened ecosystems, ensuring the long-term health and well-being of all Earth’s inhabitants. Since that time the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) has worked on some of the most pressing environmental issues of our day.

While Leonardo’s engagement has often been played down by people and media, who still deny the existence of climate change, others have continuously recognized him for his tireless efforts. Two years ago, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon designated him as UN Messenger of Peace for Climate Change. He has spoken at the UN General Assembly twice to raise awareness for the urgency of the problem and attended climate summits.

After producing the documentary The 11th Hour, which was released in 2007 and already broached the issue of climate change, his newest documentary, for which he travelled the globe over the course of the last three years, is called Before the Flood and was released and made available to watch for free globally today. The film that was produced by DiCaprio and directed by fellow Academy Award-winner Fisher Stevens follows the American actor around the world as he meets with scientists, world leaders, and other renown figures to discuss the problem of climate change as well as possible solutions. Among the well-known people Leo visited are the already mentioned UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, indian scientist Sunita Narain, Pope Francis, U.S. President Barack Obama, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The film also shows Leo visiting places that already show the severe effects of global warming, for example Greenland, and places where human action destroys natural habitats, for example the Indonesian rainforest where thousands of trees are uprooted in favor of palmoil plantations.

Despite recent dirt that has been spilled on DiCaprio because of his Foundation’s financial ties to Malaysian businessmen involved in a corruption scandal, reviews of Before the Flood, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, have been overwhelmingly positive. The fact that National Geographic, which the film was produced for, made the film available to watch and stream for free to a global audience, is exemplary. Leonardo himself announced that he was happy that people around the world are able to watch the film and learn about scientific truths and possible solutions to urgent problems.

But Leonardo’s engagement isn’t restricted to producing films, spearheading his foundation, and informing people about truths and action. He also leads by example. He was among the first to drive a hybrid car and bikes around Los Angeles as often as possible in and effort to reduce his personal carbon emissions. Furthermore, his home in California is “green”, meaning that it is designed to be as eco-friendly as possible. Of course, people still criticize him for not sacrificing enough of his personal wealth and lifestyle in an effort to fulfill the expectations his status as a celebrity environmentalist comes with. But the truth is: people who focus on single shortcomings of others in order to discredit their engagement and achievements mostly do not engage in any efforts to solve the world’s problems at all.

Before the Flood is a riveting example of how a celebrity uses his status to raise awareness of issues that affect us all. It doesn’t matter that many people might only watch the film, because it features and is produced by someone with worldwide celebrity status. What matters is that they see it, learn about the facts and what they can do to help, and tell others about it.

You can watch Before the Flood now for the next five days on YouTube following this link. The German version can be streamed at natgeotv.com/de. Find out more about the issue, the movie and ways to watch it in other languages on www.beforetheflood.com.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Academy Awards 2016 Recap: Leo and the golden Man

After sealing myself off from the outside world last Monday, which meant no tv, radio, newspaper or smartphone, in order to avoid hearing all about the Oscars which took place Sunday night in Los Angeles (thank you, time difference!), I finally got to watch the recording Monday evening. (I have to say, you have no idea how hard it is in our digitized, fast-paced, obsessively connected world to avoid news about something that happened on the other side of the world!)

leoblog

(Photo: Wagner)

This year’s Academy Awards were, above and beyond everything else, a relief to all movie goers fascinated by the work of one of the greatest actors of our time. Not everyone may agree that he is the most gifted and hard working of all actors in Hollywood, but the majority of experts and cinematic enthusiasts will agree that Leonardo DiCaprio’s (41) yet incomplete body of work justifies the win of that golden statue crowning the career of every Hollywood star. And this year, after six unsuccessful nominations in previous years, Leo finally received the golden man for his outstanding performance in The Revenant, which altogether received three awards.

Personally, after years and years of admiring Leo’s work from his breakthrough performance in Gilbert Grape and his worldwide success in Titanic to the jaw-dropping Blood Diamond, I couldn’t have been happier about his win. In my opinion, it is representative of all the other times he should have won. But that is just me being the Leo fan that I’ve been for the past 18 years.

Besides that one win, which even the other celebrities in attendance had seemingly been waiting for, my personal highlight was the musical performance by Lady Gaga (29) who, despite not winning the award for Best Orginial Song, gave me chills. The song “Till it happens to you” from The Hunting Ground, which Gaga co-wrote with Diane Warren, broaches the issue of sexual abuse of women and her performance ended with the emotional appearance of survivors on stage.

Another highlight was the overall performance of this year’s host Chris Rock (51), who did not hesitate to criticize the boycott of the show by some African Americans, among them Jada Pinkett Smith (44), who had called on fellow actors to protest the alleged neglect of African American performances by the Oscar jury. In some people’s opinion, he might have crossed a line with some of his jokes and stretched the topic out for too long over the course of the show, but overall he did a great job almost comparable to that of last year’s host Neil Patrick Harris (42).

My fashion highlight this year was the breathtaking blue Gucci dress worn by Brie Larson (26), who won the Academy Award for “Best actress in a leading role” for her performance in Room, which was custom made for her by Gucci creative director Alessandro Michelle.

Last but not least, the award that went to Spotlight for “Best Picture” was the most surprising moment of the night, as everyone expected another victory for The Revenant. The biographical drama tells the true story of a team of reporters from the Boston Globe, who reveal the sexual abuse of children by roman-catholic priests. Thus, this film became number one on my priority list of movies I need to see next.

Overall, this year’s show was not as exciting to watch as the Golden Globes back in January, but Leo’s win alone made it well worth watching.