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Brittaney’s Beat from Episode 12 of Medulla Talk

Celebrating a centennial – my favorite story from this week’s segment is about a great-grandmother from Houston who turned 100. I am always in awe of people who have lived so long and have seen an incredible amount in their life. Their experiences are so valuable and this great-grandmother – is a hoot! Also back in the news – R. Kelly. Are those cult allegations affecting his tour? Plus, actress Keke Palmer gets real about the pressures from society to maintain a certain image.

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Working in Harmony

My next adventure at the Rodeo was covering Fifth Harmony’s debut. The quintet was actually down to four following the departure of former member Camila Cabello.

I was familiar with their following but didn’t understand how huge their fanbase was until I saw the fans (mostly pre-teen to teenagers) with their parents. I knew their two biggest hits, Work From Home and Worth It (courtesy of Hershey’s – and I have to admit, I’ve definitely wanted to dance around eating chocolate after that commercial). Outside of their two most popular songs, I didn’t know what to expect. But it was fun to experience the homecoming for two of the members, Normani Kordei (from Pearland) and Ally Brooke (from San Antonio – so technically, more of a Texas homecoming). Kordei is currently on Dancing with the Stars and the group managed to work that into the show, too.

Another member, Dinah Jane, really soaked up her rodeo experience and hopped on a horse. Fans with a keen eye rushed over to the area by the stage and caught a glimpse of that moment before the show.

 

See what other antics Fifth Harmony was up to here or check it out below.

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More than 64,000 fans showed up to see Fifth Harmony make their RodeoHouston debut Friday night at NRG Stadium, and the group told their “Harmonizers” early and often just how much it meant to see them there.

“I want to thank you guys so much for your continuous love and support from the beginning,” member Normani Kordei said. “I mean, there were five girls with a dream.”

Kordei was referencing the number of people in the group before former member Camila Cabello exited last December, making Fifth Harmony a quartet. But Kordei’s current bandmates, Ally Brooke Hernandez, Dinah Jane Hansen, and Lauren Jauregui, didn’t let her linger on that long as they surrounded her on stage to make an announcement that their fans probably already knew: Kordei is competing on the 24th season of Dancing with the Stars.

What “Harmonizers” likely didn’t expect to see was Kordei’s DWTS partner, Valentin Chmerkovskiy, join them on the stage. He won the Mirrorball trophy with gymnast Laurie Hernandez last season, so we’ll see if he can make it two in a row with Kordei when the new season premieres Monday night (March 20) on ABC 13.

Chmerkovskiy posted a video on Twitter twerking with Kordei’s grandmother backstage at the Rodeo and it appears the Fifth Harmony member learned some of her dance skills from granny.

But before going to the ballroom, Kordei had some unfinished business at the Rodeo, even as her bandmates wished her well on the competition.

“We knew from the day that we met you how phenomenal a talent you are, especially an incredible dancer,” Alley Brooke Hernandez gushed. “We can’t wait to see you on that stage doing outstanding and killing it just like you do out here with us.”

Memories of Selena

To kick things off, Fifth Harmony seemed to throw it back to the legends. Queen’s “We Will Rock You” blared through the stadium as soon as the lights went down and after close to a minute of hearing Freddie Mercury, Fifth Harmony rolled in on a horse-drawn carriage. It reminded me of Selena’s entrance to her RodeoHouston concert at the Astrodome in 1995.

But after that, Fifth Harmony kept the hour-long show focused on their music, performing songs including “That’s My Girl,” “Miss Movin’ On,” “Sledgehammer,” “Boss,” and “All In My Head (Flex).”

Backed up by an all-female band, Fifth Harmony took a timeout from dancing to get personal on “Brave, Honest, Beautiful,” written by Meghan Trainor, who is also featured on the song.   “I want you to always feel loved, to always feel important because you are, and right now I want you to repeat after me: I am brave, I am honest, I am so beautiful,” member Dinah Jane Hansen said.

Fifth Harmony saved their biggest hits for last, cueing “Worth It” and then dropping an obvious hint about what was coming next. “Our Harmonizers have been ‘working with us.’ We actually have 9 awards because of them,” Hansen said with a smile.

“Work From Home” was the closing song, and no pun intended, but it has worked for the group well. It’s been certified quadruple platinum. It also got the crowd on their feet.

Homecoming for two members

Fifth Harmony’s first performance at the Rodeo was a homecoming of sorts for two members of the group. Hernandez is a Texas native, hailing from San Antonio, and Kordei lives in Houston.

Fifth Harmony wrapped up on the same message they began on: gratitude to be in front of fans, especially in the Lone Star State.

“I’m so blessed to be here. It’s because of you guys we get to go up here on this stage and do exactly what we love to do,” Kordei said. “I’m so grateful and I wouldn’t choose any other place to represent.”

And “Harmonizers” will likely be watching to see how far Kordei makes it on DWTS.

How soon Fifth Harmony will be back in H-town remains to be seen. Their 7/27 tour starts March 25 in Asia.

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Set List:
That’s My Girl
Miss Movin’ On
Sledgehammer
Reflection
This Is How We Roll
Scared of Happy
Write On Me
No Way
Big Bad Wolf
Boss
Not That Kinda Girl
All In My Head (Flex)
Brave Honest Beautiful
Gonna Get Better
Worth It
Work from Home

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Alicia Keys Returns to the Rodeo

After a busy last couple of months, I’m doing some much-needed updates to my website. I’m starting with the performances I had the opportunity to cover at this year’s Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

The first show I went to was Alicia Keys. This was her first time back at the Rodeo since 2005 and judging by all the fans singing every word, she was definitely missed. She created a special, intimate moment when she asked everyone to get out their cell phones and light up the stadium.

You can read my full review here on CultureMap, or if you’re nice and cozy on my site, check out the full recap below!

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The power of Alicia Keys could be felt the moment she stepped onto the stage at NRG Stadium. Keys hasn’t performed at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo since 2005 and judging by the attendance of 73,660 at this year’s show, she was sorely missed.

Clad in black leather from head to toe, she owned every song as the headliner on Black Heritage Day, starting with the opening number “Karma.”

Keys had the audience moving to a medley of hits including “28 Thousand Days” and “Unbreakable” to the more recent “Pawn It All” and “Blended Family (What You Do For Love)” from her sixth studio album, Here.

I already knew Keys was talented but hearing her live for the first time reminded me of what I like about her as an artist. She brings raw emotion to every word, and I never realized that more than listening to her live on the piano. Each note flowed beautifully into the other as she made an atmosphere that could potentially feel isolated because of the rotating stage seem like she was playing a show for a small circle of friends.

“We’re having a really intimate basement party tonight. And I feel like, if we were in my basement right now, I would want to play a song that sounded like this,” Keys said as she led into “You Don’t Know My Name.”

Keys weaved upbeat songs into the mix, but let’s face it, fans who are familiar with her know, she’s good at getting into your soul on those ballads.  “If you’re with me tonight, and you’re here for love, I was wondering if you could help me illuminate the sky with your phones,” Keys said. “Put a light in the air because life is precious.”

The stadium instantly glowed and that’s when she started playing “Like You’ll Never See Me Again.” She took her time with it and from the cheering, it sounded like the crowd appreciated the chance to hit those high notes with her. You know those times when you’re really into a song and you have to hold your ear and raise your hand in the air just to reach the note? It was kind of like that.

She followed up with “If I Ain’t Got You” and later, the song that first put her on the map, “Fallin.’”

Keys turned up the energy – and the heat – with one specific observation about the Bayou City. “That’s what I like about Houston. It’s all warm and toasty, kind of sweaty and sticky,” Keys said playfully, using that as a springboard to dive into the tropical and Latin-beat influenced “In Common.”

“Let’s dance. I want everybody to just dance with me. Be free. Let it go,” Keys added with a smile.

Indeed, every move she made reflected the joy that comes from someone who loves what they do. That passion was fed right back to her from the audience as Keys launched into “Girl on Fire” and “No One,” two songs that I even heard people in the packed Press Box belting out.

Keys also worked in “The Gospel,” “Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart,” and “Work on It” before ending on “Empire State of Mind,” giving a nod to Houston where she would normally pay homage to her own hometown, New York City.

Right before Keys left the stage, she had one final thing to say. “I want to thank you for your love. I want to thank you for welcoming me here to your beautiful town.”

And if a full stadium is any indication, fans were happy to have her back.

Set List:
Karma
The Gospel
28 Thousand Days
You Don’t Know My Name
Unbreakable
Pawn It All
Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart
Like You’ll Never See Me Again
If I Ain’t Got You
Work on It
Fallin’
Blended Family (What You Do For Love)
In Common
Girl on Fire
No One
Empire State of Mind

 

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Derulo’s Debut

Since I didn’t make it out to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo last year, I knew I wanted to check out the show this time around. I reviewed Jason Derulo‘s concert (my first concert review since high school!) on Black Heritage Day. It was his debut at RodeoHouston. He came riding into NRG stadium on the back of a pickup truck and left like a true cowboy  — on horseback. It was a rocky ride (a friend working closer to the stage told me Derulo accidentally kicked the horse, causing it go faster. Hence, a look of shock, or maybe terror?, was spotted on his face as someone helped catch the horse.) Read here or below to find out what other moments left his fans on Twitter talking!

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Shirtless Jason Derulo searches for H-Town’s ‘It Girl’ and gets the party started at sexy Rodeo debut

Jason Derulo made it clear early in his debut at RodeoHouston: If you didn’t come to dance, you were in the wrong place. “We came all the way to Houston to party, and I heard this was the hottest party in Houston, tonight,” he shouted out to an excited crowd of 59,236 on Black Heritage Day at NRG Stadium Friday night.

The sexy 26-year-old singer kicked off the show with “Trumpets”, “Wiggle” and “Get Ugly” before turning the stage over to his dancers.  Fans were on their feet, but it seemed the dancing didn’t really get started until he roared back with “Whatcha Say,” his 2009 debut single.

And for the fans who’ve followed Derulo’s career, he had another treat. “Single ladies that love Jason Derulo make some noise. If you’re not single, I bet by the end of this song, you’ll be riding solo,” he said.

What can I say? The man knows how to work a segue between songs. But it was enough to get a laugh and keep people moving well after his break-up anthem “Ridin’ Solo” was over.

Derulo wasn’t alone for long, though. He hopped off the rotating stage to touch fans’ hands and get one question answered.“All these beautiful ladies over here, and I was wondering if my ‘It Girl’ was in Houston, tonight,” he said.

For the purposes of this segment, she was. The strobe lights, glass-breaking sound effects and dance-offs mid-song all faded into the darkness as the spotlight shined on the fan he pulled from the crowd.

However, it left me thinking, how could I do that? I want to be the “It Girl.” Are these girls vetted?  But I digress.

The chosen fan did exactly right: She milked the moment, sneaking in kisses (on the cheek). At one point, she and Derulo were so close, I began to wonder if I should run out to the floor and offer breath mints. My favorite part of the serenade was how supportive the crowd was, cheering her on the entire time.

On that note, Derulo moved into an acoustic version of “Don’t Wanna Go Home,” but it was brief.

He brought back the dance party and upped the sex appeal in a way that many fans knew had to be coming. He ripped off his shirt. I don’t think you could say his chest was sweating. It was more of a glisten. But the fans didn’t seem to mind as he transitioned into “Talk Dirty.”

Derulo set up his finale in a way I thought was meaningful and believable, despite him being half-naked. “This next song is a celebration, and I want today to be a celebration of life.  Let’s celebrate our health. Let’s celebrate that we can get up and do what we want to do,” he said.

That part made me think. I’d wondered if that celebration of life was a nod to the near-death experience he had four years ago, when a neck-injury sustained from dancing could have left him paralyzed.

Derulo spoke with humility about his journey and success from the moment the show started until the final thank you, when he introduced his hit single,“Want To Want Me.” (He and Luke Bryan did an excellent karaoke version of that song. Maybe Derulo should make a cameo appearance at Bryan’s RodeoHouston concert on March 10. Can we make this happen?)

Derulo ended the show shirtless on horseback and rode off into the sunset – or rather, backstage. Gasps could be heard (or maybe that was just me?) when the horse sped off, catching Derulo off guard. But he laughed it off.

Overall, I found Derulo to be a talented, high-energy performer who mixed the hits fans love (“In My Head,” “The Other Side,” “Cheyenne”) with the vocal range he reminded everyone he has (“Marry Me”). Add in the snippet of “Broke” – a collaboration with Keith Urban and Stevie Wonder – and Derulo may have just danced, glistened, and ridden his way to another Rodeo.

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Rockin’ Out in the New Year

I’m kicking off 2015 with rock, jazz, soul, hip-hop and Latin music.   That’s the type of variety you’ll find at the Springboard South Music Festival.

Between a new job and several other changes, I’ve finally managed to get my hands on the TV show I hosted at Houston Community College that highlighted what this event is all about.

Below you’ll see how a year of preparation by the festival’s organizers came together to produce a showcase aimed at helping budding musicians get their foot in the door of the music industry.

Find the original post I wrote about Springboard here.

 

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FH5: Lebanese Elegance and Walking with Dem Boyz

The final night of Fashion Houston started off with a little help from the NFL. Houston Texans running back Jonathan Grimes played piano and sang back-up vocals on the slick, white runway for Taylor Crowley, who gave her own jazzy renditions of songs like Sia’s “Chandelier.”

Houston Texans running back Jonathan Grimes showing his musical skills off the gridiron
Houston Texans running back Jonathan Grimes showing his musical skills off the gridiron

With that, the first collection swept the catwalk with some of the most gorgeous gowns I’ve ever seen. They were from Lebanese designer Rami Salamoun. His work featured dresses that were lacy, daring (thanks to the high slits, low cuts and conveniently placed details over certain body parts)  and literally sparkled on the models. His bridal gowns almost made me wish I was getting married. Almost.

Salamoun also played up his pride for Lebanon — the lights went down and came up again to reveal a model wearing a robe of the Lebanese flag. Lebanon’s national anthem rang out during the display, which garnered applause from the audience.

Someone else who used music to send a message through his show was Haitian designer Fabrice Tardieu.

685During my interview with him, he gushed about his love for Houston — so much so that he’d consider moving here! FH5 also wasn’t his first rodeo (had to put that in there!). He showed in 2012 as co-owner of the brand Bogosse, which was a business he shared with his brother. This time around, he brought along his line of luxury jogging suits (think sets blended with leather and Japanese denim) floral prints and shirts with a print of Benjamin Franklin. He also dropped a hint to me during our chat: pay close attention to the music. It comes from artists who have worn his eponymous brand.

So, what tune helped give models their swagger during his show? Wiz Khalifa’s “We Dem Boyz.” And it looks like the models were taught well — Tardieu did his bow or should I say, dance,  to the song, too.

While the crowd bounced to the beat (myself included), the musical hint reminded me of something a friend of mine used to tell me all the time: miss a moment, miss a lot.

Stay stylish!

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More Than A Sign

Can you feel music without hearing it? Would you be able to follow the rhythm or the beat? Would you know what notes are high and low or what instruments are being played without hearing them?

These are the ideas that Amber Galloway Gallego uses to bring music interpretation to life. The long-time American Sign Language instructor has found a way to make sure that those who are hard of hearing or deaf never miss a beat.

Her skills went viral when someone posted this video of Gallego interpreting during Kendrick Lamar’s performance at Lollapalooza last year. Since then, she’s appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and been featured in numerous magazines, including Rolling Stone.

But Gallego says the fame is just a by-product of the awareness she’s trying to bring about the deaf community.  By the way, this is not your average sign language instructor. She covers every detail of the songs she interprets (dirty words included!).

Learn how Gallego got started, the process she goes through to customize every song she interprets, and why what she does bridges the gap between the deaf and the hearing. See it all below!

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A Taste of Angola in Houston

Houston is such an international city, and I love showcasing that diversity on “Is It Art, Yet?” That’s why I invited singer, songwriter and musician Vivalda Dula to perform on the show.

She hails from Angola and is now sharing her gift of music in the Bayou City on her album “Insanidade Mental” (Mental Insanity in Portuguese). Vivalda also plays a mean “Djembe” drum – watch the show below, and you’ll find this instrument actually has a pretty interesting background and meaning.

Her music combines soul with the influences of Africa – it’s hard to stay still while listening to it! Vivalda performed with her band consisting of MV-Robert, a classical guitarist and Tomas Gallego, a bass guitarist.

Aside from multiple appearances at international festivals around country and the world, releasing new music and producing/directing plays for Houston Community College, Vivalda is also actively involved with a special movement against child labor, sponsored by the International Labor Organization.

Learn more about this multi-cultural artist and how her music is spreading a powerful message.

“An NFL Combine for Musicians”

Artists trying to break into the music industry, or at least navigate it if they’re already in it, may want to mark their calendars for June 19-22. That’s when the Springboard South Music Festival and Conference kicks off in Houston.  With events and performances taking place at the George R. Brown Convention Center and Warehouse Live, 120 artists and  attendees will have the opportunity to network with industry professionals, receive mentoring and critiques, plus experience intensive training and development sessions at the Band Mall and Bootcamp.

Springboard is the brainchild of producer, composer, songwriter and publisher Barry Coffing. His music has been placed in TV and film and he’s worked as a musician both in Los Angeles and Houston. I interviewed Coffing on my show, “Is It Art, Yet?,” about this initiative and another organization he’s created to help connect individuals in the music business, WeGetNetworking.

The show wasn’t all talk though! Jazz musician Dean James performed with Nick Greer and the Gs and up-and-coming rapper Len.Knox.

Sidenote: Designer Alfredo Saucedo let me wear some of the items from his collection throughout the show. Below is a pic of the rack he brought for me. He somehow managed to fit everything in his Volkswagen Beetle and hauled it to our studios!

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When South Park Meets Sesame Street

 

I’ve mentioned before that I host a program called “Is It Art, Yet?” The show promotes fine arts by operating similar to a master class where the instructor helps the students refine their craft and break down a technique. I’ve recently added a co-host, Kathleen Knight (whom I like to call our resident fine-arts expert). She has over 40 years of experience in theater, music, and performance.

Our latest show spotlighted the musical, Avenue Q. This show is politically incorrect in that it says everything everyone else is afraid to and touches on some pretty sensitive topics such as racism and homosexuality. The Sesame Street comparison comes into play with the use of puppets, although in this case, the audience completely sees the puppeteers. The other similarity is with the character names Rod and Nicky (Bert and Ernie) and Trekkie Monster (Cookie Monster). The likeness ends there. Let’s just say, the show is not kid friendly, but I think that may make it more realistic.

To promote HCC’s upcoming performance, students from the musical were guests on the show.

Here are some pics from the set.