All posts from “February 2012”

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February 27, 2012

Linsane Tracklist: LeCrae, Hillsong, and More

NY Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin likes the former's lyrics and the latter's "mellow" vibe

You can't go online, turn on the TV, or read a newspaper these days without reading the latest "Linsanity" story about Jeremy Lin, the NBA breakout star of the New York Knicks. An outspoken Christian, Lin recently told Fuse what music he listens to before games, especially highlighting rapper LeCrae (mainly for his lyrics) and Hillsong (it "mellows me out"). He says such tunes remind him why he's playing the game in the first place, "to glorify God."

Check it out:

February 22, 2012

Dove Nominations: A Very Crabby Story

Seriously: Jason Crabb and Laura Story top the list of nods for the GMA Dove Awards

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Jason Crabb received eight nominations, including Artist of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, and Song of the Year ("Who Am I?"), when the nominees for the 43rd Annual GMA Dove Awards were announced Wednesday in Atlanta.

And Laura Story picked up six nominations, including Artist of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year, and Song of the Year ("Blessings"). LeCrae got five nominations, while Kirk Franklin, Chris Tomlin, Natalie Grant, Jamie Grace each received four. The GMA Dove Awards show will take place April 19 at Atlanta's Fox Theatre.

Click here for a full list of nominees.

February 22, 2012

Country Club Jesus Meets Juke Box Jesus

And a whole lot more, including a Satan Smackdown, from the wacky mind of Steven Welp

A few weeks ago, I received three CDs, unsolicited, from a guy named Steven Welp in Richardson Texas. I'd never heard of him or his music. I've given the albums a few spins. And I'm still trying to decide whether it's pure genius, or just plain weird. Maybe it's a little of both.

It's just Welp and an acoustic guitar, with the rare harmonica tossed in. It's not great playing. It's not great singing. It's more like rhythmic spoken word, but nothing like rap. It's almost monotonous sometimes. So why write about it? Because for some reason, it's compelling. Maybe it's his strange cadences. Maybe it's his wacky sense of humor. Maybe it's his lyrics, and/or his ability to pack a ton of theology and Scripture into a song. Or the way he alphabetically names 144 denominations in a song called "Juke Box Jesus." Or the way he mocks superficiality in the church in "Country Club Jesus." Or the way he challenges the Devil to a duel in "Satan Smackdown Time," with lyrics that go like this:

It's Satan Smackdown Time,
I'm here to tell ya,
It's Satan Smackdown Time,
You'll rot in hell, yeah
It's Satan Smackdown Time,
There's no place that you can hide
You're gonna burn burn burn, yeah

I hate you Satan
The Father of Lies
I hate you Satan
You kill, destroy lives
I hate you Satan
I'll be so happy
When you finally go to hell
Forever burn in hell, yeah!

You've got to hear it to believe it. Strange but compelling stuff. Welp doesn't have a website, but you can hear samples here, here, and here.

February 15, 2012

'Blue Like Jazz' Gets a Poster and a Big Gig

Upcoming film, based on Donald Miller's bestseller, gets a spot in the SXSW Film Fest

Blue Like Jazz, the new movie based on Donald Miller's book, doesn't release to theaters till April 13, but its world premiere comes a month earlier, on March 13, at the prestigious SXSW Film Festival in Austin.

Meanwhile, the filmmakers let fans vote on the movie's official poster. Here's the winner:

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February 15, 2012

'Amazing Grace' Musical Eyes Broadway

A musical stage play of John Newton's story is picked up by a Tony-winning company

Amazing Grace, a new musical based on the life of John Newton, has been picked up by Goodspeed Musicals, sort of a Broadway "training ground" in Connecticut. The show will run May 17-June 10 at the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT.

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Nineteen Goodspeed productions have transferred to Broadway, receiving more than a dozen Tony Awards. The company is billing Amazing Grace like this: "Storms. Slavery. Romance. Redemption. Prepare to be swept away by this epic musical saga about John Newton, a rebellious slave trader, and the woman who never lost faith in him. While fighting the raging seas and his own despair, Newton's life is suddenly transformed -- igniting a quest to end the scourge of slavery. Based on a true story of the man who penned the world's most recognizable song, it's a powerful musical you will never forget."

Christopher Smith, who came up with the concept and wrote the music and lyrics for the production, says, "We have a chance to impact the culture in a very relevant and positive way, and the Broadway establishment has definitely taken notice of our piece. We have raised over $3 million from business people and individuals who want to see this story on Broadway."

Smith, who has no musical training and is entirely self-taught, was a church youth director and police officer when he came up with the idea of a musical about Newton. He says the process "has been quite a journey with surprising turns of fate, setbacks and victories."

February 14, 2012

After 10 Years Away, Natalie LaRue Is Back

Half of the former brother-sister duo, popular a decade ago, preparing a 6-song EP

The brother-sister band LaRue hit it fairly big around the turn of the millennium, as siblings Phillip and Natalie put together three albums of ear-pleasing pop songs, including a few radio hits.

They amicably disbanded after 2002's Reaching, and Phillip went on to a solo career as well as doing some music production. Natalie, meanwhile, slipped out of the limelight, got married, and started raising a family. Now, 10 years and three kids later, she's making music again, and hopes to release a 6-song EP in the near future. She's trying to raise money for the project at Kickstarter.com -- where many indie artists try to fund their albums.

On the site, Natalie writes: "Ten years ago if you would have asked me where I would be now, I don’t think I could have even imagined . . . So here I am now. Attempting, after a long hiatus, to step back into the world that was once familiar territory. Now I’ve got some new shoes, some old scars, and a lot of perspective. I have songs that have been birthed out of the most pivotal period of my life. The transition from girl to woman, woman to wife, wife to mother. I have lots to say, and somehow, some way, out of the fog of family life -- and with a little nudging from my husband -- I feel ready to say it. I am ready to start a dialogue with words and music in hope that I reach the hearts of people very much like myself: Women. Mothers. Spouses. Cooks. Cleaners. Friends. Sisters. Jesus-lovers. And oh, so much more."

February 14, 2012

My First Trip to the Grammys

Grammy nominee Jamie-Grace, 20, had a blast in LA, even though she didn't win

Guest blogger Jamie-Grace Harper, who recently turned 20, was the youngest songwriting nominee at the Grammy Awards, earning a nod for Best Contemporary Christian Music Song for “Hold Me,” an insanely catchy duet with tobyMac. We asked Harper – who has risen above her struggles with Tourette’s syndrome – to write about her first trip to the Grammys.

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When the Grammy nominees were announced in November, I wasn’t really paying attention. So when my friend and crazy talented singer Mandisa texted me and said, “Congrats, miss Grammy nominee,” I was pretty sure she was pulling a crazy trick on me. But then I went to the Grammy website and saw my song right there in the middle of some amazingly talented Christian artists. I kind of went crazy!

When the big weekend finally rolled around, it was crazy. I had a Friday night show in North Carolina, and then after some crazy early flights and jet lags, my sister, my bro-in law, and I finally landed in Los Angeles. We met up with our parents who were just as excited as we were about one of our first stops: Tommy’s, our favorite L.A. restaurant (best chili burgers everrrr!). After our chili fix, we were off to pick up my custom-made rhinestone cowboy boots -- designed by my actress-friend Sloane Avery – for Sunday’s big event. They were absolutely stunning, and as a Georgia girl that loves southern gospel and country music, it made me feel "at home" to have my boots on.

I also felt at home because my family was with me; I couldn't imagine it any other way. It was like a homecoming in some ways – my dad, my sister, and I were all born in L. A. Plus my sister sang harmony on “Hold Me.” So I needed my family with me to share the moment. So at about 12 noon on Sunday, we walked downstairs in our fancy clothes and got in a limo to head over to the Grammy's. (It still feels like that sentence is fiction!)

Walking down the red carpet was an amazing privilege. I was able to share a word of encouragement by telling the story behind "Hold Me" with EXTRA, Access Hollywood, and grammy.com. I also did the whole "stand here and smile for 15 photographers" thing – I was crazy nervous but unbelievably excited and honored.

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Afterward, my whole family (pictured at right) headed to the pre-telecast. We sat with our friend Natalie Grant and her husband, Bernie Herms, while they announced the winners. My dear friend Laura Story won the award for our category with her beautiful song "Blessings," and I was so excited for her. She and I have written together a few times and she's always so encouraging. I also had the chance to meet Kirk Franklin, Alison Krauss, Steve Martin, and see some friends like Brandon Heath, Dave Barnes, and Louie Giglio, who later introduced me to Chris Tomlin, who is hilarious. Then we headed over to the "actual” Grammys, running into our producer Chris Stevens on the way.

I sat with my mom at the telecast, where I really enjoyed the performances by Coldplay, The Band Perry, and the Tony Bennett/Carrie Underwood duet. And for the first time, I was absolutely speechless in front of someone when Reba walked out on stage. I own a pair of pink cowboy boots and a purple suitcase from the Reba line as well as some 33s from everyone's favorite redhead.

The road from being a YouTube kid to a Grammy nomination for "Hold Me" has been crazy, and I am so grateful. I’m still freaking out that it actually happened. I could not have done this on my own; I’m so thankful for my family and my music family (tobyMac, Chris Stevens), but most of all for the God I serve who put a dream in my heart, and has given me so many opportunities to fulfill that dream.

If I never get to go to the Grammys again, I'll never forget February 12, 2012. Ever.

Check out Jamie-Grace’s interview with Grammy.com here:

February 8, 2012

Super Bowl Ad Winners Believe . . .

. . . in Doritos and, as it turns out, in God. And now they're $1 million richer.

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Nathan Scoggins loves Doritos. Really. He calls himself a "Ranch man all the way," referring to one of their most popular flavors. And now he's one of the proud creators of one of their most popular commercials of all time: "Sling Baby."

You might've seen the ad during the Super Bowl. You know the one, where the whiny kid taunts a grandma and an infant with his bag of Doritos -- and where the old lady launches a plan, and the baby, to nab the chips from said kid. Yesss!!!

Viewers loved that commercial (embedded at the end of this post), and voted it No. 1 in the USA Today/Facebook Super Bowl Ad Meter. As a result, Scoggins, director Kevin Willson, and the team behind the creative commercial have won $1 million from Doritos. Willson says the money will be divided among everyone who made the commercial, and Scoggins says the producers will tithe a portion of the earnings "to a non-profit organization."

Willson and Scoggins (left and right, respectively, in photo) are both Christians who met at Hollywood's Mosaic Church about 10 years ago. (Willson is a graduate of Biola University, Scoggins a grad of Wesleyan University.) Willson runs a production company called Compass Films, and Scoggins is a writer/director at Number 3 Films. (Scoggins wrote and directed his first feature film, The Least of These, which released last year.)

One more cool spin-off from the commercial: The ridiculously fun Sling Baby Game!

Scoggins was a member of the creative team behind the commercial; I did a quick Q&A with him today to learn more of their story:

How did the idea for this commercial come about?

"While we all brought some outside ideas to the table, 'Sling Baby' was a great example of a concept that was created in community. We started with the idea of old people in a nursing home fighting with doctors and nurses over Doritos, segued into an idea about kids fighting with teachers at school over Doritos, then refined that idea down to a baby and a grandmother fighting over Doritos, only to be bested by an older brother who would get the bag, creating a new enemy. We then all decided that we really liked the idea of a grandmother and a baby teaming up, and decided to make that the core concept. Originally it was much more elaborate, but we decided that the visual of the baby being 'slung' through the air was hilarious, so we went with that visual, and a few members of the group wrote it up. It was a very collaborative process -- a great example of what emerges out of community."

How did you and Kevin meet, and will you do more projects together?

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"We met almost ten years ago when we were both going to Mosaic. We first connected at an artists' retreat, and he's one of my closest friends out here. We've frequently collaborated -- he was the assistant director on my first short film, and I've given him notes on scripts and projects. We're always kicking around ideas together. Hopefully when the dust settles from this experience, we'll be able to get back to some of those ideas!"

Any idea how the $1 million will be split up?

"I know the producers have committed to tithing a portion of the earnings to a non-profit organization, and apart from that, I'm not totally sure how it gets split. However, this was a full-court-press effort on a lot of people's behalf, and I know the producers want to recognize everyone's hard work. It's tempting to see 'FRIENDS WIN A MILLION DOLLARS' and assume that we're all showering in hundred dollar bills and getting our teeth done in gold, but the reality is that once we all split it (and Uncle Sam takes his share), we will probably have enough to go out to a nice place to eat."

How does your faith inform your work?

"It's tough to say how faith informs a Dorito's commercial! (I would actually be a little leery of anyone who decided they were going to glorify God by making a commercial.) But I think my faith definitely informs my sensibilities, and Kevin's too. Kevin wants to make comedies that appeal to everyone, and 'Sling Baby' is a great example. Hollywood talks about the power of '4-quadrant movies,' movies that appeal across all demographics, and 'Sling Baby' is a great example of a 4-quadrant commercial. It also adheres to basic storytelling principles -- in this case, two unlikely heroes who overcome impossible odds to achieve an even more impossible goal -- which, come to think of it, kind of sums up the whole 'Sling Baby' Super Bowl experience!

"St. Paul sums up the core virtues of Christianity as faith, hope, and love. I love telling stories that reflect those virtues -- even stories that might be on the dark side. The stories I've been fortunate to work on -- and continue to develop -- are stories revolving around those core essentials. It's not even conscious -- I just can't help it.

"I don't think that's peculiar to Christians either. I met with a prominent producer a few years ago who isn't a Christian, and I asked him what stories attracted him. He said, 'Anything that gives me hope.' As human beings, we're hard-wired for hope, and as a result, I believe that anything that brings us hope, brings us a little closer to God. Even if it's just a baby soaring through the air!"

Finally, do you personally eat Doritos?
Which kind is your favorite? Will you and Kate be serving Doritos at every gathering you host for the rest of your lives?

"I'm a Doritos Ranch man all the way -- not even lyin'. Just saying that makes my mouth water. Might need to make a Doritos run here in a second."

February 7, 2012

Christian Rock Doc Can't Find Funding

'Bleed Into One,' a documentary on Christian rock, falls short of its fiscal goal

Last month, we noted that filmmaker Tim Hudson was hoping to secure funding to move forward with Bleed into One, his documentary on the history of Christian rock.

Unfortunately, the project is looking less like it's going to happen. Hudson had hoped to raise $60,000 on Kickstarter to finish the project, but fell far short of that goal, raising less than $5,000. Bummer, because it looks like Hudson had done a lot of good research on the project. Here's hoping that someday this film does see the light of day.

February 3, 2012

Dobermans Are People Too!

Scorsese's scorn earns Hugo's snubbed guard dog a nod for the Golden Collar Awards

Uggie is going to be facing some stiff competition after all.

Nominated for two Golden Collar Awards by Dog News Daily, the cute Jack Russell Terrier starred in both The Artist and Water for Elephants. Others nominated for Best Dog in a Theatrical Film included Arthur (who played Cosmo in Beginners), Denver (Skeletor in 50/50), and Hummer (Dolce in Young Adult).

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Conspicuously missing from the list was Blackie, who played the Doberman guard dog in Martin Scorsese's Hugo -- and that was one oversight that the veteran director would not tolerate. In a Wednesday op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Scorsese, who noted that he was grateful for the movie's 11 Oscar nominations, said "we've been severely slighted" with Blackie's omission from the Golden Collar Awards. "How could she not be nominated?" Scorsese wondered.

"Jack Russell terriers are small and cute," Scorsese continued, praising Uggie's nominations. "Dobermans are enormous and — handsome. More tellingly, Uggie plays a nice little mascot who does tricks and saves his master's life in one of the films, while Blackie gives an uncompromising performance as a ferocious guard dog who terrorizes children. I'm sure you can see what I'm driving at. We all have fond memories of Rin Tin Tin and Lassie, the big stars, the heroes, but what about the antiheroes? We have learned to accept the human antihero, but when it comes to dogs, I guess we still have a long way to go." Scorsese tongue-in-cheek accused the Dog News Daily folks of "prejudice" against Dobermans and Blackie.

Golden Collar Awards director Alan Siskind agreed to add Blackie to the list of nominees if he received more than 500 write-in votes on Facebook. Blackie reached that milestone in no time flat, and is now a sixth candidate for the award. Winners will be announced Feb. 13.

Justice served! Dobermans everywhere are reportedly quite pleased. So is Scorsese.

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But not everyone is happy. Antonio Banderas says there's another kind of prejudice going on with the Golden Collar Awards: Why is it all dogs? Where are the feline nominations?

Writing his own op-ed yesterday for the Huffington Post, Banderas, who voices the title character in Puss in Boots, notes that "cats wear collars too."

Banderas argues that Puss brought "wit, adventure, dance, and soul to the big screen" and that "his name should become legend. Yes, the dogs have done well this year, but dogs will do anything for a sausage treat, cats do everything out of love." He concludes that "cats have feelings too. Please overcome this anti-feline-ism, Hollywood, and give my dear friend the recognition he deserves. Don't make the cat angry!"

Here's the announcement for the Golden Collar Awards -- prior to Blackie's later addition:

February 2, 2012

Look Who's Making a Comeback!

Eight years after calling it quits -- well, sort of -- Five Iron Frenzy is back from the dead

Back when ska was red-hot, Five Iron Frenzy was too, not just for their style of music, but for their energy (awesome live shows!), creativity, intelligence, and humor. So when they called it quits in 2003, fans everywhere moaned and groaned. Well, good news: They're coming back. They raised an astonishing $200,000-plus on Kickstarter to record a new album, they've already released a new single (free on NoiseTrade), and they're playing a number of shows this spring and summer.

Read all about it on their website, and hear frontman Reese Roper talk about the comeback in the video below -- where you can also watch him eat a handful of mayonnaise. If you want.

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