Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Awesome People You've Never Heard Of!

Our culture is very media based and an extension of this is that we are flooded with images and movie trailers and okay music and viral videos that really don't amount to much or get us thinking critically about the world. Because of this, it takes some real work and research to find artists who aren't in your face as pop culture is and more often than not these artists are much more authentic and creative. For today's blog I want to talk about some of these artists, whether they be totally obscure or fairly popular, and share with you why they are worth your while. This list is in no particular order.

1. Charlie Simpson
Charlie Simpson started out in the pop punk trio called Busted, a popular U.K. band in the early 2000's. Busted is known for their boy band look, guitar-centric pop and typical teenage boy lyrics. But in 2005 Charlie decided to leave Busted and much to fellow Busted members Matt and James, the group disbanded. Charlie went on to another band called Fightstar but began a solo career in 2010. In my opinion, Charlie's solo career is what has taken him from typical rocker to a serious musician. He has now released two brilliant albums titled Young Pilgrim and Long Road Home. Both albums carry very folksy vibes with raw and fresh lyrics. Charlie is not only on this list for his creative brilliance as a musician bu also for his growth. I was never a huge fan of Busted and never expected any of the band members to have this much potential. Not only that but Charlie is continuing to create great music while Busted members have teamed with McFly, another popular British boy rock band, to form the really gut-wrenchingly awful McBusted. It is nice to see that Charlie has matured from simple guy wants girl lyrics to genuinely interesting and new lyrics that hold a lot more depth and musical ability. Seriously, check this guy out! He is definitely one of my favorite artists.

2. Elizabeth Olsen
Possibly the most known person on this list, Elizabeth Olsen is an actress you will most likely associate with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen because she is their younger sister. But while Mary-Kate and Ashley have shown little to offer artistically since being the typical child stars and fashion designers, Elizabeth is different. She is by far the best actress I have seen in Hollywood in a long time. You have your Meryl Streep's and Jennifer Lawerence's and Anne Hathaway's and Amy Adam's and...too many others to name. And I believe Olsen can definitely be roped into this group. She is set to star in the new Avengers film and was also in the Godzilla remake which I have not yet seen. She also stars in two of my favorite films - Liberal Arts and Martha Marcy May Marlene. Martha was the first film I saw her in and it is brilliant. Not only is Olsen's performance intricate and solid but the story is good and the way it is set up is even better. If I could only recommend one of her film's it would be that one. Seriously, go buy it now on Amazon. It is by far one of the best films I have ever seen in the past 10 years. And be sure to check out Olsen's other films. You will not be disappointed by her performances!

3. Justin Lee
Justin Lee is an author, speaker and founder of the Gay Christian Network. Yes, that's right. You just read the words "gay" and "Christian" in the same sentence. Lee's book Torn has been one of the best books I have read about faith and culture in the past three years. The book document's Lee's coming out story and discusses the gay vs. Christian debate, arguing that the Bible is not against homosexuality.  I've only read one other book on this topic and it could not stand up to Lee's work. Torn is part autobiography, part theology and part persuading. Lee not only establishes his expertise being a gay Christian man but legitimately writes a good argument for acceptance within the church. Not only that but he has extended his outreach to conferences and even has a podcast discussing different issues within the gay Christian debate and community. He is very tolerable of people who don't agree with him and encourages open and civil communication. He is definitely someone you don't want to overlook because not only does he have important things to say but is very creative in going about his mission.

4. Christina DeCicco
Out of all the people on this list, Christina DeCicco is the only person I can say that I have met. Well, actually that isn't entirely true. She is the only person I've met multiple times on this list. DeCicco is a musical theatre actress who deserves way more credit than she is given. Of course, please don't confuse the word credit with praise because praise is about the only thing she receives when people review a show she is staring in. I say credit because she is not nearly as recognized as Broadway actresses to which she easily measures up. Her high energy and personal acting style mixed with her powerful voice is just magic on the stage. She has acted in many musicals. Most recently she played Arachne in the Spiderman Musical and was the understudy for the title role in Evita. Other roles include Glinda in Wicked, Betty in Sunset Boulevard (my personal favorite role of hers), Belle in Beauty and the Beast, Maria in West Side Story, Eponine in Les Miserables and more! Not only can this girl act and sing but you can tell she is a master at her craft and a very down to earth and humble person. Seriously, keep this woman on your radar. She is destined for great things!

5. Doug Walker
Doug Walker is fairly well known in internet world. Most will recognize him as the Nostalgia Critic on YouTube but he also does many other videos and collaborations. Now I know the Nostalgia Critic isn't something new but I've recently become obsessed with the show. Not only do I love the comedy and the commentary on filmography and thinking critically, but I love the creativity put into each review. No review is ever a simple man sits in front of camera. Walker brings on guests and plot-lines and even sometimes has musical numbers. And these additions aren't random or silly but actually reveal a lot of truth and set Walker's reviews apart from most others. Plus, Walker is a very genuine guy. His points, while overly exaggerated on the Nostalgia Critic, are very well thought out and intellectually driven. If his critique is influenced by his emotions he usually addresses this fact with some comedy or simply calling himself out. It is obvious he knows the balance between taking his art and art itself seriously but not taking himself too seriously. This is also obvious from his simple man and camera vlog reviews where the Nostalgia Critic is stripped away and he speaks honestly about how he felt about a film. I would highly recommend watching the Nostalgia Critic. And shameless plug, his videos inspired me to be a critic of my own - the Literary Critic!

6. Marilyn Sewell
There is a documentary on Netflix called Raw Faith and sits in the faith and spirituality genre. I am all for this genre but more often than not the content is stale and cliche and dumbed down. I've watched a few documentaries in this category said to be really good but overall disappointing. For this reason I was very hesitant to watch Raw Faith but I made myself press play and thank God I did! Raw Faith is a documentary about a Unitarian Minister named Marilyn Sewell. Marilyn walks us through her day to day routines, talks about her life growing up, and tells us why she enjoys being a minister. But there seems to be something missing in her life and that is intimate companionship. Raw Faith has to be one of the best documentaries on spirituality I have ever seen. It truly is as it's title presents - raw and authentic faith.
Marilyn is a very fascinating person and is a voice that needs to be heard not just be people who identify as Christians. She has released a few books and used to host a podcast called Raw Faith Radio which I have been thoroughly enjoying. I would highly recommend you to check out her documentary and all of her other projects.

7. Ron Hansen
For the longest time I believed that Christianity in fiction would never amount to anything but Lifetime movie clones or atheist leanings. Luckily I took a class on Christian fiction in college and was introduced to many great authors who incorporated their faith into their fiction without shoving it down the reader's throat. One of these authors is Ron Hansen. Now, to be clear, I have only read two of his books. The first was Mariette in Ecstasy which I read for my class and really loved. Read my review here. The second book was The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. I wasn't a huge fan of this one but that isn't because of Hansen but my dislike of western's and this mafia-esque story line. But regardless, Hansen's writing was ridiculously good in this book! Read my review here. Hansen always brilliantly captures his characters and the setting of his story. I would compare my reading experience to that of drinking fine wine. He is a brilliant writer and one I would recommend to all lovers of books and words.

8. Wesley Blaylock
Wes Blaylock may be last on this list but he is certainly not least. I was introduced to him my first semester of college in 2009 when I heard his band Deas Vail's track called Birds. I ended up listening to the whole album on YouTube and fell in love. To this day Deas Vail remains one of my favorite bands. Their lyrics are incredibly poetic and their sound is very indie yet interesting and lovely to the ears. Wes is the genius behind this though, writing most of the song's lyrics and music.
What I love about Wes and Deas Vail is, like Ron Hansen, their ability to write about their faith without shoving it down your throat. They have even stated in interviews that they don't outright say they are a Christian band because they don't want to negative connotations that come with that. They want to produce good music and naturally their faith becomes apart of it because it is who they are. Wes has a YouTube channel where he posts cover songs and has also released a solo EP. Be sure to check him out!

No comments:

Post a Comment