The genre of rhythm video games seems to have been dwindling in recent years. Guitar Hero and Rock Band, once a pair of mighty 3rd party series, faded into obscurity, only to get revival editions that not many people seemed to play, and even recycled songs that had already been featured in the series. I don’t think these series deserve to be left in the dust, however, but a little bit of innovation would help both series bounce back.
Professional wrestling has been a cultural staple in the United States, particularly in the South and Mid-Western parts of the country, for decades. Being a 90’s baby and the son of a huge professional wrestling fan, I grew up watching wrestling during what I believe to be the best time in the history of the sport. During a significant part of my childhood, wrestling was everything to me. I idolized the wrestlers. I collected the action figures (to this day, I still have literally hundreds of them boxed up in my garage). I proudly wore my replica championship belts. I watched WWE programming religiously. Wrestling was my greatest childhood passion.
However, wrestling gradually began to lose its appeal to myself and many other fans. At the time, I blamed my loss of interest on my discovery that the outcome of the matches were scripted and the departure of some of my favorite wrestlers from the sport. My recently rekindled love of wrestling has led me to reconsider this. I believe that a cultural shift and the industry’s attempts to keep up with said shift are more to blame than anything else.
Wrestling was arguably never more popular than it was in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The sport was at its peak during the “Monday Night Wars”. The Wars were actually a competition between the country’s two top wrestling promotions, World Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Entertainment (then known as the World Wrestling Federation) for superiority over one another. The Monday Night Wars led to the beginning of the Attitude Era in the WWF. The borderline vulgar, often profanity-ridden, and violent storylines that came from the Attitude Era are some of the most entertaining content ever created by a wrestling promotion. Not only were the storylines great, but the characters were iconic and the viewer could really identify with them to an extent. Who didn’t want to give their boss the finger and pound beers like Stone Cold Steve Austin? Who didn’t want to have the charisma and swagger of The Rock? Who didn’t want to be as rebellious and controversial as the D-Generation X faction? No other point in wrestling history could even hold a candle to the Attitude Era.
However, the sport took a drastic decline in the years following. After the demise of WCW, World Wrestling Entertainment stood as the only major player left in the world of professional wrestling. This led to a noticeable decline in quality. The crude, bloody action sport that wrestling was gradually declined into a series of watered-down matches between mostly goofy, generic characters. The change was undeniable. Ratings and house show numbers have fallen dramatically in recent years. These loses cant be blamed completely on the decline in quality, however. Even the less violent matches between the lower card wrestlers during the Attitude Era were great. So what is the issue?
I personally believe that much of the problem is the change in culture in the last two decades. Ultimately, political correctness is a good thing. Simply put, it basically promotes common courtesy and respect being expanded to everyone regardless of who they are. It makes the community a better place. But, wrestling is not about that. Wrestling was so great during the Attitude Era because it provided viewers with an escape from all social norms. Fans could live vicariously through the wresters and experience things that are not plausible in the real world. As WWE became more mainstream and family friendly, it strayed further and further away from what made it so great. While trying to move in a safer and more commercially acceptable direction is commendable, this alienates a vast percentage of the sport’s core fan base. The proof is in the numbers. The sport just isn’t the same.
With that being said, it is important to note that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. That light comes in the form of a man named Paul Levesque. Better known by his in-ring name Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Triple H), Levesque was a focal point of the Attitude Era. As a member and eventual leader of, the D-Generation X faction, Triple H played a key role in some of the Era’s most controversial moments. Levesque is also the son-in-law of WWE owner Vince McMahon. Many believe that Helmsley will eventually take over the company. This could lead to an instant resurgence of the things that made pro wrestling the cultural icon it is today.
Only time will tell if WWE will return to its attitude-filled roots, but the future of the sport is certainly bright. Regardless of all of the flaws in the current WWE product I mentioned above, the current roster is arguably more athletically talented than ever before. With the right kind of help from the creative team, the wrestling promotion could easily return to its former glory. While the Attitude Era deeply contrasts what political correct culture is about, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Professional wrestling is scripted and predetermined. It is done for the sake of entertainment. Entertainment needs to continue to push boundaries. The world of professional wrestling can do that by bringing back what made it so edgy and exciting, despite pressure to conform to social pressure. While it does not need to turn to the gory, uber-violent, and often outright offensive content of a promotion like Extreme Championship Wrestling, WWE does need to recapture some of the grit it exhibited during the Attitude Era. This kind of sports entertainment could succeed, and even thrive, in todays culture. It is time to bring the attitude back to professional wrestling and that’s the bottom line…….
Twitter: @ BigRedAFerg
This week, instead of writing about my take on some current event or discussing the state of politics in America, I decided to take a break and write about my other interests. While my Wednesday posts will generally be focused on current events and politics, I’ve decided that once every few weeks, I will post about something entirely different to keep my content fresh and to prevent my writing from going stale. As you can see from the title, the first of these posts will focus on the discography of my favorite artist: Drake. I am a total Drake stan. During my freshman year of college, I wrote a 5-page essay detailing why Drake is the most versatile musician of the 21st century. I understand that I’m practically asking for some heat from a solid chunk of the music community when I say this, but I genuinely believe Drake is the best music artist of this generation. The man has a superb discography, complete with the numbers to back up the hype. Just this week, Drake dropped his two track EP Scary Hours and nearly melted the internet. The lead track, “God’s Plan,” broke Spotify’s single-day streaming record. These new songs paired with their crazy amounts of success led me to consider what Drake’s projects are. So in the spirit of the 6 God’s newest successes, here are all 8 of his major projects, ranked and analyzed.
8. What a Time To Be Alive
Best Track(s): 30 for 30 Freestyle, Digital Dash
Worst Track(s): Scholarships
By normal standards, What a Time To Be Alive ranges anywhere from an average to a slightly above-average album. However, by Drake project standards, his collaborative mixtape with Future is “meh” at best. Outside of “Jumpman”, (a song which I found to be entirely overrated), no particular track on the tape stands out. This can not be said for any of Drake’s other projects. Both Drake and Future exhibit nice flows put on top of a catchy beat on “Digital Dash” and Drake makes use of his underrated imagery skills by giving the listener a glimpse into his lifestyle on “30 for 30 Freestyle.” The rest of the songs on the project aren’t particularly noteworthy. I’d go as far as to say that some (I’m looking at you, “Scholarships”) are downright mediocre. While a few other tracks do have some redeeming qualities that you would expect from a Drake song, they do not prevent WATTBA from being last on this list.
7. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
Best Track(s): 6PM in New York, Jungle, Madonna
Worst Track(s): Used To
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is an extremely interesting album in the sense that it features some of Drake’s most underrated songs, as well as some of his most overrated songs. Some of the most popular songs on the album such as “Energy”, “Legend”, and “10 Bands” are good songs in their own right, but do not deserve a position amongst Drake’s top tracks. The album also features the song “Used To” feat. Lil Wayne which is the absolute worst song Drake has ever released in my humble opinion. His flow on the song is whiny, the beat is subpar, and the song is an overall travesty. That being said, the album does have its high points. I consider both “Madonna” and “Star67” to be in the running for the title of Drake’s most underrated song. “Jungle” is as close as Drake has come to replicating his cultural phenomenon “Marvin’s Room” and “6PM in New York” features some of Drake’s hardest hitting zingers. If I’m being honest, Drake could probably record himself eating cereal and call it (insert time here) in (insert city here) and I would love it because I’m such a sucker for the series. But regardless, “6PM in New York” is still a hot song. Unfortunately, given how overrated I think many of the songs on this album are, it finds itself at number seven on this list.
6. Thank Me Later
Best Track(s): Fancy, Find Your Love
Worst Track(s): Fireworks, Karaoke, The Resistance
Thank Me Later is pop-star Drake at his finest. I would argue that “Find Your Love” should be Drake’s most commercially successful song. If he were to have released it today, at the height of his popularity, instead of in 2010, I think it would have shattered records on top of records. The album also features pop highlights such as “Over” and “Up All Night”, which will almost surely make Drizzy’s Greatest Hits album one day. The album isn’t entirely pop, however. “Fancy” is an extremely underappreciated example of Drake’s rapping ability. On the downside, the album leads with three very underwhelming tracks and pop-star Drake simply isn’t my favorite rendition of him. However, the album is still solid overall.
5. More Life
Best Track(s): Passionfruit, Can’t Have Everything, Teenage Fever
Worst Track(s): No Long Talk, Get It Together
This album was probably the hardest one to rank. I couldn’t decide what to do with it. The good songs are there. The great production is there. The hype is there. It just doesn’t feel like a real Drake album. To a casual fan, me saying that probably makes absolutely no sense. But I think some of the more intense Drizzy fans will agree with me. “Passionfruit” is one of the best songs put out by any artist in the last several years. The song is freaking everywhere. We get glimpses of old school Drake on “Do Not Disturb”, “Can’t Have Everything”, and “Lose You”. “4422” is one of the most unique songs ever put out by Drake and I can’t help but feel the positive vibes it irradiates every time I hear it. I even enjoyed the tracks with Giggs more than most. Everything about this album seems really good. And for the most part, it is really good. A good comparison for this album is actually a meme I saw on twitter recently involving a spoon. We all have that one spoon in our house we don’t like. The spoon works perfectly well and for all intensive purposes, it’s a really good spoon. But we just don’t like it as much as the others. That spoon is More Life.
4. So Far Gone
Best Track(s): Best I Ever Had, I’m Goin In
Worst Track(s): The Calm
The way I see it, So Far Gone is the exact point when Aubrey Graham ceased to exist and Drake was born. He had made music before, but this project thrust Drake onto the scene and the rest is history. This compilation of fire is virtually nothing but bangers. “Successful” is one of the smoothest Drake tracks ever. “Best I Ever Had” is absolutely iconic. “Uptown” and “I’m Goin In” feature Drake spitting bar after bar with nowhere to go but up. There is very little you could say negatively about this project. The only thing holding it back from the albums holding a higher spot is the fact that this is probably Drake’s least musically diverse project. However, it is still flames.
Best Track(s): Weston Road Flows, Views, Too Good
Worst Track(s): Faithful, Grammys
Oh, Views…. What you could have been…..
During the weeks leading up to its release, Views was being hyped up by Drake to be his absolute masterpiece. This led to it being one of the most widely anticipated albums of my lifetime. The album is good. Actually, its very good. What it isn’t is Drake’s masterpiece. However, it is still one of his best albums. I came very close to giving it the number two spot. Ultimately, I gave it to a different album for reasons we will get to later. But for now, let’s dive into Views. “Weston Road Flows” may be Drake’s best example of storytelling. The title song “Views” has some of the best punchlines we had heard from the 6 God since his So Far Gone days. The album also featured two of Drake’s most commercially successful songs in “One Dance” and “Hotline Bling”. Everyone with the ability to hear (and probably even a lot of people without it) can testify to how huge both of these songs were. I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention how good the feels songs on the album are as well. “Redemption”, “Fire & Desire”, and “Feel No Ways” all hit you square in the heart. However, I would argue that the best song on the album is “Too Good” feat. Rihanna. Views released in the prime of Drake’s relationship with Rihanna and the duo was unstoppable. Listening to them go back and forth on the song is awe inspiring. It is a crying shame that Views doesn’t get the appreciation it truly deserves because of the immense expectations that were forced upon it.
2. Nothing Was The Same
Best Track(s): Come Thru, Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music
Worst Track(s): 305 To My City, Furthest Thing
If Thank Me Later is pop-star Drake at his best, then Nothing Was The Same is rapper Drake at his absolute best. Rapping the way he does on this album, Drake could go bar for bar with absolutely anyone in the rap game. Rapper Drake is my favorite version of Drake and he is in his absolute spitting prime here. That is why NWTS slightly edges out Views for the number two spot. The album leads with “Tuscan Leather”, the best opening song in Drake’s repertoire. What follows is a stunning spectacle of Drake’s impeccable rapping mixed with his signature feels songs. “Started From The Bottom” is arguably Drake’s most iconic song. “Hold On, We’re Going Home” would have to be up there as well. If you want to hear the 6 God outshining some of the top artist in rap today, then listen to “All Me” and “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music”. Not only that, but the album also features “From Time”, which is competitive for Drake’s best showing of his sensitive side. Nothing Was The Same would be just about any other artist’s top album. However, it lands at number two on Drake’s discography.
1. Take Care
Best Track(s): All of them
Worst Track(s): None
I will try to keep this brief because I could literally go on and on about Take Care. In high school, I wrote an essay about why this is the greatest album of all time. I can honestly say that Take Care is the only album I can listen to all the way through without even considering skipping a track. “Marvin’s Room” is the quintessential feels song. “HYFR”, “The Motto”, “Crew Love”, and “Headlines” are all iconic. The title track “Take Care” brings together the power couple of Drake and Rihanna to create the best pop song Drake has ever released. This album brings together all of Drake’s different renditions of himself (excluding Island Drake, as he came about a few years after Take Care‘s release) and created the greatest masterpiece in hip-hop/R&B/pop history. In addition to that, Take Care served as my introduction to both The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar, who are two of the biggest icons in music today. Take Care is a piece of musical art, the likes of which we will probably never see again. That is why it is number one on my list.
I’m anxious to se how others feel on the subject. Feel free to comment your list, or tweet it to either me ( @BigRedAFerg) or the Mid American Culture twitter account ( @M_American_C).
We are living in a time of great social change. Almost undoubtedly, America is a more tolerant, progressive place than ever before. It is now easier than ever than it has ever been to speak out about injustices such as racism and sexual misconduct. Inevitably, it has led to many prominent individuals, businesses, and institutions being put on blast by the general public for offenses such as these. While one would be hard pressed to find anyone who believes that increased sexual assault awareness and greater pressure for racial acceptance are bad things, they do create, in some capacity, a moral dilemma in almost everyone. I consistently find myself asking, “Do the reprehensible actions of these people make it wrong to appreciate and enjoy the things they create?”
The most recent example that I can cite, as of writing this article, is the retailer H&M. For anyone who is unaware of the situation, H&M was selling a children’s hoodie with the phrase “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” on the chest. On the surface, this seems innocent enough. I, myself, was frequently called “monkey” as a child by some of the adults in my life. However, further context reveals a much darker side to the story. The child modeling the hoodie is black. In contrast, a white child could be seen found modeling a different sweatshirt, reading “Mangrove Jungle Survival Expert.” The staggeringly different portrayal of these children is clearly problematic. Musical artists The Weeknd and G-Eazy, both collaborative partners of H&M, have both cut ties with the brand following the incident. Countless individuals have called for a boycott of the brand. But is that the right thing to do? Possibly. However, the moral issue is much bigger, and expands far beyond the fashion industry and H&M.
Picture this: You are at a party. Ignition (remix) comes on. Naturally, mamas are rolling their bodies and every man in there is wishin’. This reaction is to be expected because the song is absolutely iconic. Unfortunately, something else must be considered. Ignition (remix) is a song by R. Kelly. R. Kelly has been accused of sexual misconduct (including behavior directed at minors) on numerous occasions. Does this take away from the cultural value of the art he creates? Should his music be vigorously boycotted?
Another scenario: You’re browsing through Netflix, looking for a new series to watch. You stumble upon House of Cards. The intense political drama hooks you immediately. Frank Underwood’s corrupt rise to power is one of the greatest examples of storytelling ever to be put on television. But then you realize the unfortunate reality. Series lead Kevin Spacey allegedly committed heinous sexual acts against a young boy. It is also alleged that he harassed male workers on the set of House of Cards. Do Spacey’s reprehensible acts mean that the sensational story of House of Cards shouldn’t be seen? Do the things he did invalidate the cultural phenomenon that the show was?
These are all incredibly difficult questions. I certainly don’t have a good enough answer. Like most, I find the actions discussed in this article to be repulsive. But, R. Kelly still makes wonderful music. He has been selling out arenas for over twenty years. Clearly, I am an immense fan of House of Cards and it is loved by a vast number of people. H&M still makes affordable, trendy clothing worn by millions, including myself. The moral dilemma created within millions, including me and many of you reading this, has been a cause of conflict for decades. Cultural icons of yesterday and today, as well as the icons of tomorrow, have done bad things. Obviously, opinions have been formed on all of them. However, even those who have the strongest opinions on these matters seem to be at least slightly hypocritical. Many of us struggle to identify where to draw the line between art that is to be appreciated and things that we find morally repulsive.
Ultimately, it is up to each individual to decide what they will and won’t watch, listen to, buy, etc. Additionally, it is on them to decide why they will or won’t do these things. It is also their responsibility to recognize the hypocrisy in blasting one problematic entity while simultaneously supporting another. The problems cited addressed in this piece are just a few out of many. They will almost certainly be an issue which plagues popular culture for a long time moving forward. H&M is not the problem; nor is R. Kelly, Kevin Spacey, or any other individual. They are merely symptoms of a culture that has condoned these types of problems for far too long. While what H&M did is unacceptable, do not forget to target the culture as a whole if you are going to target them.
A look at how a popular Netflix show has altered public perception of a game that has been played for decades.
Stranger Things: Embracing a Stranger Culture
In 2016 we had a phenomenon of “nerd culture” and nostalgia hit us like a ton of bricks when Stranger Things was released on Netflix. It was an immediate hit among people of all ages, young people were drawn in by the story of kids tracking down the bad man and saving the day like in the old sci-fi movies that came out in the 80’s and 90’s, and the show also appealed to people who were the age of the stars in ’84, the year the show is set. The show focuses on a group of kids who are trying to rescue their friend from another dimension that was found by an evil scientist and defeat an evil monster from said dimension
While the show is an insanely good example of excellent writing and the Duffer Bros have killed it with their story. That is not going to be the focus of this short article. At the beginning and end of the first season of Stranger Things, we see the main characters playing Dungeons & Dragons, a game that was incredibly popular among the more nerdy groups of kids in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Since then, the game stayed pretty far away from popular culture, bar a few episodes of Community which also had an eclectic and somewhat nerdy point of view on the pen and paper tabletop game.
Now, with this new phenomenal show, Stranger Things, we have a group of “nerdy” kids playing a nerdy game at the beginning. However, through the course of the season, ideas, terminology, and even strategy from this nerdy game were incorporated into the very real and present danger that was plaguing Hawkins, Indiana (the inconspicuous town where the gate to the other dimension is created). New life was breathed into this game because of the series. And people across the country who aren’t “nerds” began to have a newfound interest in this “nerdy” game of Dungeons & Dragons.
At Lipscomb University in Nashville, I know of at least 5 groups of people who have begun to play Dungeons & Dragons drawing inspiration from the Demogorgon and other references to the game that are included in Stranger Things or Community. And in South Point, Ohio the hobby store is sold out of Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbooks.
While many still aren’t on board with the game or don’t see the appeal, there are a lot of people who used to see it as just a thing for nerds but have gained interest after it was seen in a new way and related to the dangers that the characters faced in Stranger Things. As the show continues and the references to D&D are present like they were in Stranger Things 2 (The Second Season of Stranger Things), I believe that the previously “nerdy and unpopular” game, Dungeons & Dragons will begin to lose it’s “nerdy” label and might eventually become a part of popular culture.
Sawyer C. Stephens