CTRL. by SZA is our 2017 album of the year

This week in New York City, the opening beat to SZA’s debut album started to play as the crowd began to passionately sing the lines. The singer hadn’t even shown her face yet.

SZA is the voice of so many of us – those who’ve had their hearts broken, mended them themselves, and kept it moving. CTRL. is just that – a memoir of a girl just trying to carve out some space in this world for herself. Her voice seems to put in words what we never can (“Love Galore” is, to many, a testament to SZA’s sheer talent). It’s an album that’s deeply personal, in a way that’s only bolstered by it’s vulnerability. To think that, a year ago, the singer didn’t know if the album would be released – now, it’s certified gold for accumulating over 500,000 in pure sales.

SZA, born Solana Rowe, was raised in a strict Muslim household in the middle of New Jersey. Her strong upbringing strayed her to discover certain things on her own (like Miles Davis), since she wasn’t allowed to watch television for extended periods of time. A few moons ago she signed to Top Dawg, where she’s labelmates with the one and only Kendrick Lamar. She camoed on Rihanna’s “Anti”, dropped a couple EPs, and the rest is history – CTRL. was born.

photo by Tojo Andrianarivo

From the opening lines of “Supermodel” (“I’m writing this letter to let you know / I’m really leaving / And no I’m not keeping your shit”) to the candidness of the last track “20 Something” (“Honesty hurts when you’re gettin’ older / I gotta say I’ll miss the way you need me”), CTRL. is a reflection of black womanhood through and through. The singer collaborated with a variety of producers to achieve her desired sound, like Craig Balmoris, Frank Dukes, Carter Lang, Scum and ThankGod4Cody. It’s already been nominated for four Grammy awards, including Best New Artist – and SZA shows no sign of stopping her momentum.

As to the story behind CTRL.’s name? SZA gave Pitchfork an interesting insight: “It’s elusive. It’s another representation of the ego mind, the want for control because you can’t accept lack of control. Control is not real, and I’m really understanding that every day. It’s about the acceptance of relinquishing control that makes it powerful for you. My anxiety stems from my lack on control no matter what. I will still sweat, shit, and cry before something I am really scared to do,” she said. “But I’m learning how to channel that into something else. I don’t want to talk shit. I don’t want to be bitchy to my team. I don’t want to panic. I don’t want to speak negativity into existence. I only believe in beautiful opportunity and that’s it. I don’t have any control over what actually happens except for that I have full control over my will for myself, my intention, and why I’m there. That’s all that matters.”

Find SZA on Twitter, Instagram, and Spotify. CTRL. is out now.

Vanessa is a music and culture writer. Follow her on twitter.

RELEASE RADAR | Cappa releases music video for “Waste My Time”

This week, we’ve got music videos, singles, EP releases you name it. Check out this week’s hottest new releases from Cappa to James Arthur to Keyon Harrold and everything in between.

Cappa | “Waste My Time”

Cappa is back with a long awaited music video for her recent single “Waste My Time.” The Song is a total ear worm. The catchy beat and hook get under your skin and you can’t help but move with the song. The music video is the perfect visual representation of that. Cappa looks flawless as she tells her former lover boy bye. In some undefined desert area, the music video makes you want to go to the desert and live your best life. WATCH IT.

Best for: Saying bye Felicia
Perfect if you like: Halsey

Follow Cappa on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

The Go! Team | “Mayday”

This jazzy combo is light and energetic. The perfect song for driving to. The horns energize as the song progresses. LISTEN.

Best for: driving on the highway
Perfect if you like: Alabama Shakes

Follow The Go! Team on Instagram | Facebook

Keyon Harrold | “The Mugician”

Following this week’s jazz kick, Keyon’s new Song the Mugician coasts in a relaxed but expectant area. Keyon’s smooth, deliberate voice is the perfect added touch to This amazing piece. LISTEN.

Perfect for: wine and dine
Best if you like: Christian Scott

Follow Keyon Harrold on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Adrian Daniel | “Open Up”

Adrian’s voice was the first thing that drew me to this track. The powerful, metallic sounding beat supports his equally powerful voice. LISTEN.

Perfect for: romantic music with your honey
Best if you like: Zayn

Follow Adrian Daniel on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

James Arthur | “Naked”

This music video is gorgeous and creative. We often see throwback videos of the 20’s but I’ve yet to see an artist explore the iconic 60s talk show era. James’ voice is raw and stunning as usual and the song is a great follow up to his recent hit “say you won’t let go” WATCH IT:

Perfect for: date night
Best if you like: Sam Smith

Follow James Arthur on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter.

Cassandra Violet | “X the Line”

This is my new favorite song off of Cassandra’s EP. The song is equal parts dreamy and badass. Heavier than most of her music, she makes such a great use of guitar and unique percussion. LISTEN:

Perfect for: solo dance parties
Best if you like: Florence and the Machine

Follow Cassandra Violet on Instagram | Facebook

Percival Elliott | Forever

This song is the perfect chill music that consumes you. You know, like your Radiohead’s and bon Ivers. This song is downright pretty but moving a layered as well. I love the strings on it along with the really haunting vocals. LISTEN.

Best for: lounging on a Sunday
Perfect if you like: Bon Iver

Follow Percival Elliott on Facebook | Twitter

Anna Shoemaker | “Bitch Don’t Kill My Cocoa Butter Kisses”

Anna’s cover mash up on bitch don’t kill my cocoa butter kisses is fun, intimate, and pleasantly strange. We get a glimpse into the world of eccentric Anna and her friends. Her stunning voice is of course the main event. WATCH IT:

Best for: girls night out winding down with wine
Perfect if you like: Amy Winehouse

Follow Anna Shoemaker on Instagram | Facebook

Axel Mansoor | “Talk to Me”

Axel Mansoor’s velvety voice leads his amazingly sweet song. The music video is even sweeter. Mansoor taps into the social media courting culture and is a series of snaps where he and his lover have a long distance relationship from LA to NYC. WATCH IT:

Perfect for: your next mixtape for your lover
Best if you like: Niall Horan

Follow Axel Mansoor on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter.

Anie Delgado is an actress, recording artist, and freelance writer in NYC. Press inquiries here.

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PREMIERE | Check out Deva Mahal’s video for “Snakes”

Music videos, like films, should entice us to keep watching and listening. “Snakes” is doing just that.

Deva Mahal released a self-titled EP earlier this year and plans to follow it up with a full-length out in March of 2018. She’s also going to be our #WomenCrushWednesday next week where she’ll be talking all about this video, her passion for body positive messaging for all, and what she’s got up her sleeve in the coming future. Until then, she shares a music video from the EP.

“Snakes” is dark and soulful, a beautiful blend of art and emotion in the way we sometimes can stray away from in the times of big-budget music video producing. It moves you, and that’s what is most important. It also shows the breadth of Mahal’s talent, as well as points to some of the messages that spread themselves across her art as a whole: race, strength, womanhood, and an understanding of it all through a tale of deception.

Check out the video for “Snakes,” premiering exclusively on Popdust, below.

Follow Deva Mahal on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Rachel A.G. Gilman is a writer, a radio producer, and probably the girl wearing the Kinks shirt. Visit her website for more.

Have a female or femme-identifying artist we should profile? Send a pitch email to Rachel.

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THE REAL REEL | Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Delights… And Disappoints

I can’t tell you the excitement I had gearing up to watch this show. My phone blew up with texts from friends who I hadn’t heard from in weeks, months, and many moons. “Rachel, you have to see Marvelous Mrs.Maisel!” And they were right; I did have to see this show. I am a woman, I am Jewish, and I’ve dabbled in stand up comedy (nothing of mention, I only made $15.67 but still, I could relate). I am the gal who is Jewish, tried stand up, and has an extremely progressive view on a “woman’s place” so to speak. So yes, I had to see the show.

This is what I love. I love watching a woman, a Jewish woman, in the 50’s be brave. I love her refusal to “stay in her place” and her gumption or shall I say “chutzpah” to challenge prevailing views of motherhood, womanhood, ect… I love watching her disrupt male dominated spaces, disappoint her family, and even disappoint herself. I love all of the Yiddish, and the Jewy-ness of the show! It’s SO JEWY! I am a Jew, and so much Jewish humor has been dumbed-down to male-oriented jokes or anti-Semitic ones about Jews being cheep, power hungry monsters. The Maisel script is not always “jokey” but Jews across the country are laughing because of all the inside jokes, jokes that are only funny if you are either a Jew, or if you know and love a Jewish person intimately. I don’t mean that you have a Jewish friend or distant relative, but a Jewish person that you share a home with, speak to daily, own a child or at least a pet with ect… If this is the case, you are able to understand these jokes on a whole other level because you get what is simultaneously suffocating and absolutely stupendous about Jewish families. If you count yourself a Member of The Tribe (MOT), this show reminds you of your insider status, the hypocrisies that every ethnic/cultural/religious group has, and teases them out fantastically. I love that the main character is a strong willed woman and really, I mean really really tried to be the strong woman standing behind her man…dimming her light so he could shine. And I love that it didn’t work, that making herself small to make her husband big, was a no-go. I love that her comedy comes from pain, as most does, and I love that she is a mess…kind of.

This is what I don’t love. I don’t love all the money she has access to that hides most of her mess. I don’t love that she lives in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Manhattan, and for that matter the country and has more access to privilege than most two-parent families, let alone single mothers. I am also embarrassed. I am embarrassed, because even though it takes place over 60 years ago, many people still have these stereotypes about Jews, and women, and Jewish women. For instance, upon texting with my Jewish cousin about the show, she reminds me that early on in the season, the club manager literally shoves a woman of color off stage upon seeing Mrs.Maisel enter the club to do another drunken unplanned set. I am not upset that they showed this scene as it likely has happened a million times, unfortunately and likely depicts the racism of that time, and even today. I am upset because that scene wasn’t depicted as racist. I am upset that we don’t get to see how all of this privilege goes unexamined. I get that we are supposed to simply appreciate watching a wealthy white woman get knocked off of her horse and redefine her life…but as a Jewish gal who has seen her parents checkbook get down to $75 and comes from a family of divorce, I cringe at the notion of perpetuating this Jappy stereotype.

I think I am exactly the wrong person, and exactly the right person to review this show. We all know that when one minority does something cringe-worthy, that entire marginalized group feels misrepresented (thank you Bernie Madoff) and when one minority does something amazingly awesome (thank you Sarah Silverman), we all celebrate. I love that Mrs.Maisel shows the world that Jewish women have “chutzpa,” and are more than kvetching nudniks. That we are machers, and menches, and have as complicated lives as the Jewish men we associate with. What I don’t love is being associated with a wealthy, un-woke, unexamined-privilege toting racist, who has no idea what it’s like to live life un-shielded by piles of gelt. But wait, that is how many wealthy white Jews did live in the 50s… and…gulp, some still do today, just as many wealthy people do. So perhaps, until a show about all the “funny” working class Jews gets written, Mrs. Maisel is a marvelous pill I will agree to swallow.

By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, and a BA in Communication & Culture, is a Certified Life Coach, and can often be found hiding in her laundry room from her two children. More about her on her website.

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ROLE PLAYGROUND | Why is Final Fantasy XII so Misunderstood?

Make no mistake, Final Fantasy is one of my favorite video game series of all time. It’s had its issues – up until recently most of its major installments have been questionable in terms of quality. Final Fantasy XIV was definitely one of the most disastrous releases in a long time. Final Fantasy XIII had so many issues that it deserves its own article. But there have been good games – the series didn’t die with PlayStation One.

Final Fantasy XII was a fun, new kind of game for the series. It’s characters compelled me, and its setting had that signature beauty that the series is known for. The battle system had its faults, but in the end, the gameplay had a simplicity and newness that the series desperately needed. It was definitely not traditional, and that both hindered and helped the game.

Now, years later, the Remaster has released and I’ve gotten the chance to try this game again and I can’t help but wonder… why don’t people talk about it more?

Vaan and Penello looking at an airship.supercheats.com


There is a lot going for this game, right off the bat. The License System was an interesting take on the skill tree – getting to choose different jobs that unlocked both unique abilities and stat boosts is not super new, but it’s given a nice little refreshment in the game. And with the remaster, you’re able to dual class, which (if you pick the right combos) can give your characters a ridiculous amount of power. This gives you a really good outlet for strategy, something that I feel got lost in later titles in the series.

Now the battle system, while filled with problems, also has its good spots. First, it’s not turn-based. I don’t hate turn-based combat, I understand why some games use it, but nowadays it really gets on my nerves. The monotony of it just bores me to tears. FFXII uses a different kind of system, and allows to move around the screen feely and attack whenever you want. When you target, you have to let your attack charge, and then you hit. It’s not hack-and-slash, but it’s not turn-based. Another interesting part of this new experience is the Gambit System: You were able to assign characters moves to use, and give them specific circumstances of when to use these abilities. We’ll get into the caveat of this later on, but regardless – it’s useful.

Some battle action!supercheats.com

There’s also a good amount of side quests and opportunities for exploration in this world. There are lots of secret bosses and espers (summoned creatures) that you’re able to fight/collect throughout the game. There’s also a bounty hunting system that gives you pretty good rewards, not just for bounties but for larger bosses that you fight throughout the game. It gives variety that was noticeably absent from FFXIII, and the series’ more linear installments.

And finally, we have the story. The story is typical of a Final Fantasy game, but the strength in the characters. They’re written well enough and acted well enough to carry along the very basic story. The chemistry between this cast of interest characters which features two sky pirates, a wannabe sky pirate, his best friend, a little prince, and a usurped princess. I found myself caring a lot about these people, and that’s not something I can say about every single cast of characters Square Enix has produced.


See, here’s the issue with Final Fantasy XII, and I fear that this may have been the reason for its downfall. You have to pay to use your moves when you want to use them. Through the Gambit System, you are able to assign moves and add qualifiers. Like, if I wanted to have Penello heal, but only when characters are less than half health – I’d be to make that happen. But only if I bought the 50%< Gambit from a store. The gambits are cheap, but it’s annoying when a shop doesn’t have them or you have somehow spent all of your money and need it.

The Gambit System…


And the worst part is that this is everything. Without it, you can’t really trust the game to control your characters for you. They’ll burn through MP, or they’ll attack a totally different monster and leave you in the dust. I feel like they were trying to be too innovative, and change to much for no reason. Why was this necessary? You can’t the question, because it wasn’t.

I can’t think of another issue that I have with the game beyond that.


Final Fantasy XII is a misunderstood that suffered because of one game mechanic that managed to ruin the experience some of the time. Unfortunately, when it comes to video games, you can’t make that mistake. But I will say that this game deserves another play through. You learn to get over the Gambit System – and if you don’t, that’s understandable, but please try to give this a second chance.

It’s definitely does better than Final Fantasy XIII, but I guess that’s not too difficult to do.

Shann Smith is a lover of video games and has played RPGs since he could hold a controller. He is a freelance writer, playwright, screenwriter, and also writes the Video Gay-Mer column on Popdust! If you have any RPGs you’d like him to unpack, hit him up!

THE OPTION | Nicky Franchise

This past Sunday, in what can only be described as a metaphor for Philadelphia sports writ large, Carson Wentz simultaneously broke the Eagles’ touchdown record and tore his ACL. There were other injuries yesterday as well –Tom Savage got hit so hard he had
a mild seizure on the field– but Wentz’s was by far the biggest. A frontrunner in the MVP race and the leader of the 11-2, NFC leading Eagles, Wentz is leaving some pretty big shoes to fill.

Wentz was injured as he dove into the end zone. The play was called back for holding, but instead of leaving the field, Wentz stayed in for two more plays and delivered a strike to Alshon Jeffrey, giving the Eagles the lead.

In the NFL, ACL tears are pretty common. There have been
over 200 in the last four seasons. Unlike concussions however, there’s no protocol or section of the rule book that can really prevent them. There are certain contributing factors. Players are slightly more likely to injure themselves on turf fields than on grass, but the discrepancy is too small for it to really matter. The unfortunate thing about ACL tears, is that they’re completely unpredictable. Even before Wentz went down, this year had been particularly unforgiving. Deshaun Watson’s breakout rookie season was cut short after he blew out his knee in practice. Rookie running back Dalvin Cook tore his ACL just as he was starting to get into the groove with Minnesota. High end receivers like Allen Robinson and Julien Edelman didn’t even get a chance to play this year.

Still, teams move on. They rely on contingency plans and small miracles. Some players are easier to replace than others. The Vikings and Jaguars have thrived despite losing Cook and Robinson (respectively) but when it’s a star quarterback who’s out, the entire offense has to adjust. When the Eagles played the Rams this past Sunday, it was a battle. Wentz had four touchdowns and gave his offense the lead through the first three quarters. Immediately after Wentz left the game, Todd Gurley and the Rams came right back down the field and took the lead back. With 12 minutes left, Nick Foles stepped under center and with a little help from the defense, lead two scoring drives, and left with a win.

The Nick Foles saga is predicated on two simple, incontrovertible facts. 1. Football is chaos. 2. Nothing makes sense. Picked up as a backup by the Eagles in 2012, he started the latter half of his rookie season after Michael Vick was injured. He was, in a word, mediocre. It was Andy Reid’s last season coaching the team and he was more or less phoning it in. They ended the year 4-12. Foles was 1-5 in his starts. No one blamed him. Actually, no one really even remembered who he was. Mike Kafka was supposed to be the backup that year.

Anyway, the 2013 season rolls around, and Chip Kelly is the Eagles new coach. When this season began, the Eagles legitimately thought that Matt Barkley could be a starter. Once again, Vick got injured and after a Benny Hill montage of rotating QBs, Foles got the start in week nine against the Oakland Raiders. This is where it gets interesting. Foles was up and down earlier in the year, playing well against Tampa but horribly against Dallas. There was really no telling what he would do against Oakland.

Nick Foles walked into Alameda Coliseum on November 3rd, 2013 and threw seven touchdowns. Seven. That’s tied for the NFL record. He also threw for 406 yards and no interceptions. He had a perfect passer rating. This was all coming off of a game against Dallas where he threw for 80 yards total and left with a concussion in the 4th quarter. Foles would lead the Eagles to the playoffs in the 2013-14 season, eventually losing to the New Orleans Saints. After an incredible 2013, in which he threw 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, Foles came back to Earth in 2014. He turned the ball over a lot more frequently and ended up missing half the season with a broken collarbone. In 2015 he became a casualty of
Chip Kelly’s spite-trading of the entire Eagles’ offense and landed a job with the Rams. He didn’t thrive in St.Louis and was bounced to Kansas City, where he served as Alex Smith’s backup for a year before resigning with the Eagles in 2017. Now he’s back where he started, filling in for an injured Philadelphia quarterback and trying to keep the ship afloat.

It’s been a strange journey for Foles. Not many quarterbacks have such an up and down career in their twenties. That being said, he did just lead a fourth quarter comeback against a Super Bowl contender, a team that traded him in favor of Case Keenum. Foles is a rare breed of player. He had the highest QBR in the league in 2013. In 2014, he was 27th. His regression is unprecedented and he hasn’t done much to prove himself worthy of a starting position in the last four years. He’s slow and plodding. He’s not even close to Carson Wentz in terms of quarterback IQ, arm-strength, or pure athletic ability. And I mean, come on. He looks like
Napoleon Dynamite:

The chances of Nick ‘The Franchise’ Foles making the Eagles’ Super Bowl dreams come true are unlikely. The Eagles have a great defense and solid offensive pieces around him, but Foles probably isn’t good enough to play against top-tier defenses in January. Still, in all likelihood, Wentz did enough to get the Eagles into first place in the conference. Foles will probably have home field advantage for most, if not all, of Philadelphia’s playoff games this year. The Eagles are going to have to rely on the run game a lot more and will probably stop going for it on fourth down, but maybe, just maybe, their defense is good enough to carry them through. Foles has a history of surprising the hell out of everyone and to the extent that past achievements translate to current performance, maybe Foles has a few tricks up his sleeves. According to Foles, he’s ”
absolutely ready” to start. He has a cushy matchup with the 2-11 Giants this week. Time to see if Nicky Franchise still has it.

POPDUST Picks | Week 14:

  • Denver over Indianapolis
  • Detroit over Chicago
  • L.A. Chargers over Kansas City
  • Minnesota over Cinncinatti
  • Baltimore over Cleveland
  • Washington over Arizona
  • Carolina over Green Bay
  • New Orleans over N.Y. Jets
  • Washington over Arizona
  • Buffalo over Miami
  • Jacksonville over Houston
  • L.A. Chargers over Kansas City
  • Seattle over L.A. Rams
  • Dallas over Oakland
  • New England over Pittsburgh
  • Atlanta over Tampa

LOCK of the Week:

  • Philadelphia over N.Y. Giants


  • San Francisco over Tennessee

Matt Clibanoff is a writer and editor based in New York City who covers music, politics, sports and pop culture. His editorial work can be found in Inked Magazine, Pop Dust, The Liberty Project, and All Things Go. His fiction has been published in Forth Magazine. — Find Matt at his website and on Twitter: @mattclibanoff

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WTWD? | Questions on Season Eight of The Walking Dead: Episode 7

With the mid-season finale fast approaching and promises from producers of a shocking event to unfold, fans of the show are anxiously buzzing with sprawling questions. In episode seven, it appears that the characters themselves are just as scattered and on edge. Just about every community is experiencing a precipitated splintering of efforts and ideas. “Time for After” is permeated not only with wildly rogue, potentially deadly behavior, it is also rife with manipulation and deceit. It surely sets an ominous tone for this next pivotal finale. How does this deceit change specific characters and the war as a whole?

I Am Eugene


Of all the characters that have been on the show, few have told the magnitude of lies as well as crossed lines of betrayal as Eugene has done. Lying about being a doctor and knowing a cure, sabotaging their mission to get to the capitol, and, of course, falling in line with Negan are among his most unforgivable decisions. Despite some positive character growth and small acts of bravery since joining Rick’s group seasons ago, the lies and cowardice of Eugene from the very start are too egregious for the group to entirely forgive and definitely not forget. Even in an apocalyptic world where people with his knowledge and skills are invaluable, his regrettable actions have placed him right near the bottom of the totem pole of power and respect in Alexandria. All things considered, why has his method of operation instead led him to what appears to be power at the Sanctuary? It has become clear that fear is the kernel of Eugene’s motivations and actions. He will sacrifice the safety, loyalty, and friendship of people who have saved his life if it means he can avoid the terror of uncertainty in this world. But, what does this leave him with?

Since joining Negan and the Saviors, Eugene has gained a sense of security and value he has yet to experience in this new world. What does Negan see in Eugene that Rick does not? He definitely doesn’t know about some of the major deceits in Eugene’s past (and apparently not the ones of the present either), and this gives Eugene a clean slate in his new position. Negan, being a staunch pragmatist and a bit of a psychopath so to speak, might not even care much about who Eugene is as a person morally as long as he has unique skills he is willing to put to use. If he can keep his act up with Negan, he can remain secure and retain some power. If he can’t, he will surely endure the utmost of Negan’s wrath. This puts him in a completely unstable and fearful position. His relationship with the other Saviors is even more precarious.

It’s ironic that he has become strangely connected yet dramatically at odds with another character known for his own deceit, desperation, and betrayals: Dwight. Bizarrely, they are more honest with each other than with anyone else at the sanctuary. Perhaps they have an understanding of each other on some level, and perhaps they keep each other’s secrets out of a fear of mutually assured destruction. Either way, his dishonest and manipulative behavior mirrors Dwight’s which is represented by Eugene being stained by the paint on Dwight’s toy soldier chess piece. Eugene is strategizing and playing all those around him, which is what Dwight is also doing. His soldier chess set is representative of this trait in him. While Dwight seems to be edging toward the light, Eugene seems to be taking his place on the dark side. So, is this who Eugene has become? An increasingly amoral and cowardly villain controlled by fear and unravelling with stress and guilt? Does this mean his character arc is complete? With a big surprise coming up in the next episode (and during a finale, it can be safe to assume this means a major character death), does this mean the end of Eugene Porter? Is there anything on the other side of this war for the person he’s become?

Jadis and Rick


The character of Jadis seems to be the incarnation of the kind of amoral deceptiveness Eugene has now approached. It might be no mistake that her name sounds so similar to “Judas.” She is a skilled and capable leader, but she is devoid of any kind of inherent connection, concern, or loyalty with anyone else. This simultaneously makes her a potential vital asset but also a massive gamble. Rick has already been played by her once. At this fractured moment for Rick’s group as well as the rest of his allies, maybe Rick has no choice but to make that gamble and take the risk. How does Rick handle this strange, threatening, and unpredictable character?

He has learned that his impassioned persuasiveness about his vision for the future is a language she does not speak (and almost literally). Bringing her into the fold of his community is a currency he has offered but is one she does not recognize. In fact, she seems to feel superior to him and his emotionally motivated goals for a more humane and unified world. She has continuously smirked at and toyed with him for this, even intimidating him sexually for her own amusement. She takes this demeaning behavior to another level by imprisoning him, sexually harassing him, and, of course, threatening his life yet again in this episode. Despite all this, he still chooses to include her in his plan. Perhaps he is taking some kind of pragmatic hint from Negan. He’s learned that all Jadis is concerned with is the bottom line of survival for her own group. To gain her cooperation, he uses basic reasoning and violent coercion rather than the promise of his inspiring ideals, and he is definitely more successful this time for doing so. And, perhaps including her at this point isn’t really a choice for Rick. With so many of his fighters lost and with Daryl on a bit of a Rogue rampage, she could be a final and necessary hope, albeit a risky one, for his cause. Will history repeat and Jadis betray him again, or will she come through this time? If she does and it leads to a win, what place will she have in this world with Rick and his people after the war?

Daryl Before and After


Referring to Daryl as deceitful just feels wrong, but he is toeing that line. Between his determined but reckless behavior and his defiance toward Rick, it would seem remiss not to at least touch on this character at this point. We’ve already seen him make a liar out of Rick by killing a surrendered Savior to whom Rick gave his word not to kill. He even physically attacks Rick when Daryl becomes impatient with his plan. Not even in Daryl’s surly and tenuous beginnings with Rick have we seen him blatantly clock Rick in the face. And, in this episode, we see him make a deliberate move that very well may have dismantled all of their efforts so far. Yes, he got the walkers inside of the Sanctuary, but he also made it easier for the Savior’s to kill them. Are the walkers still inside the compound wreaking havoc, or are they all dead and the threat keeping the Savior’s tied down eliminated? Why would Daryl undermine the man he has become as close as brothers with and take such unwarranted risks?

Though Daryl seems to have taken a dark and cold turn, it’s important to consider the deep, emotional energy that has always driven this character as well as the traumatic experiences of his distant and recent past. When the world turned, Daryl escaped a life filled with abuse which started in his childhood. Ironically, the loss of the “real” world was actually a gain for Daryl in this way. The consequences of that abuse are manifested in both his strengths and weaknesses, and though he is a formidable survivor and an inherently good person, the damage of that abuse remains. Anyone who is exposed to abuse must cope with the damage it causes, and they are prone to a resulting lifelong struggle with PTSD. When Daryl was tortured at the sanctuary, that torture could not be inflicted on a more damaged person than Daryl. Experiencing this torture and then triggering the emotions and memories of it when he stumbles upon another cell of torture during the war is more than likely what flipped the switch of pure rage in him. And, remember that Daryl currently believes that he closest confidante and connection, Carol, is dead.

Will this rage, though understandable, destroy their efforts — and will it destroy Daryl? Is this shift in his personality and motivations a dark end to his character arc? If so, his legions of fans might be in for a terrible surprise this week. Or, could all this inner as well as outer conflict he is experiencing actually extend his character arc? It is a real toss up, and viewers are on the edge of their seats. What could Daryl’s possible demise spell for the group (and the show)? If he comes out of this war alive and victorious, will this freshen his journey? In what ways will it change him, Rick, Carol, and the rest of the group?

At this point, viewers can speculate almost endlessly about possible deaths and how they might affect others in the next episode. There is intense drama, conflict, and tension among all of our major characters right now, and the stakes are high. What are the stakes, though, for you the viewer? What if a traditionally beloved character such as Daryl does die? How and why would the next death affect YOU?


Other Lingering Questions

    • Father Gabriel has come to fulfill an essential role as a spiritual leader and source of wisdom for the community. Will he make it out of the next episode alive? If he doesn’t, how will this loss affect Alexandria?
    • Rosita learned her lesson about jumping the gun out of anger and emotion when she went rogue and Sasha died. Will Daryl, Tara, and Morgan’s attempt to repeat this history directly result in another major death?

Ciara Cerrato was a projectionist and curator at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, and she currently is a poet and freelance writer in New York.

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RELEASE RADAR | Legends Collective Soul and Pitbull and The Stereotypes both drop music this week

It’s a great week for music…

With the holidays quickly approaching we’ve been hearing from music industry giant after music industry giant. November and December have been blessed with solid new releases from P!nk, to Jessie J, to Taylor Swift, and this week is especially a treat with a new live album out from 90’s sensation Collective Soul. Along with Collective Soul, Pitbull just released a sexy new single “Jungle” in collaboration with Grammy nominees The Stereotypes and a handful of other amazing artists dropped new music and visuals including: Pierce, Kelsey Kerrigan, Ms Banks, Tiny Giant, Wild Child, Dana Buoy, Matt LeGrand, Dylan Schinder,and Given Names. Check them out here…

Collective Soul | Shine (Live)

Play the hits you say? Ok. Collective Soul dropped their live album today. This was preceded by the leading single and one of their most popular songs “Shine” recorded live. The band recorded 160 shows over the course of two years and now release the best versions of their favorite songs via Suretone Records. You can purchase/stream/etc. here. If you haven’t rocked out to this song at least once in a dive bar, you aren’t truly living.

Listen to “Shine” here.

Best for: 10pm, karaoke.
Perfect if you like: well, Collective Soul of course.

Follow Collective Soul on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Pitbull + The Stereotypes | “Jungle”

Everyone knows Pitbull, undeclared king of the 305, but The Stereotypes are just getting a buzz even with their extensive list of accomplishments in the bizz. You may not initially know them, but they are the production and songwriting team behind a number of hits from artists like Danity Kane, Fifth Harmony, Iggy Azelea, and more. Most prominently at the moment is their recent collaboration with Bruno Mars on his album 24K Magic and especially on his hit “That’s What I Like.” This collab landed them three Grammy nominations this year. Their recent single with Pitbull is infectious. In short, it’s a smooth R n B pop song. The music video is a bunch of fun people having a blast on a boat infused with some humor at the top and bottom of the video showing their acting chops off. This one is totally a banger and will make you feel like it’s summer even in the dead of winter.

Watch “Jungle” here.

Best for: Dancing to at your corporate holiday party… hey, it’s only once a year- cut loose.
Perfect if you like: Bruno Mars

Follow Pitbull on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Follow The Stereotypes on Instagram | Twitter

Pierce | 2Scoops Carbomb Remix

If you’re down for some serious trap, check out Pierce’s remix for 2Scoops recent release “Carbomb.” The song is extremely metallic. It gives you some serious futuristic vibes and even more serious adrenaline. Though the song is intense, moving, and jam packed, there are some amazing dynamic and vast moments. This is the perfect song to get s*** done too. Seriously.

Listen to “Carbomb” remix here.

Best for: Getting sh** done.
Perfect if you like: FelMax

Follow Pierce on Instagram | Twitter

Kelsey Kerrigan | “Driving Around”

This song is just what it says, the perfect song for driving around. The soft classic rock percussion adds to the light-hearted bounce of the song. The sweet, simply delivered vocals remind me of some of my favorite music from the early 2000s updated. Think Alanis Morissette meets Tennis with a 2017 twist.

Listen to “Driving Around” here.

Best for: Literally driving around.
Perfect if you like: Tennis

Follow Kelsey Kerrigan on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Ms Banks | “Bangs”

This fire hip-hop artist from the UK recently shared her song “Bangs” with Vevo in the form of a live performance. With the prominence of female rappers and hip-hop artists taking off it’s amazing to see the spotlight on hip-hop queens like Ms Banks. Banks’ presence is powerful, her delivery is percussive, and the song is totally a banger.

Watch her performance here.

Best for: When the late night train is way delayed.
Perfect if you like: Cardi B

Follow Ms Banks on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Tiny Giant | “Thirsty”

Indie pop-rock duo Tiny Giant released a vibrant visual for “Thirsty” this week. Not only does it showcase their musical chops, but it also captures their quirky, assertive, and spunky attitudes. The song itself, a clever commentary on the modern day colloquialism for the word “thirsty” preaches, “I don’t need a reason to feel like this.”Not only is this song a total bop, it’ll also have you saying, “lol true.”

Watch “Thirsty” here.

Best for: Jamming with you s/o or casual fling
Perfect if you like: Courtney Barnett

Follow Tiny Giant on Instagram | Facebook

Wild Child | “The One” (Live)

Wild Child is sweet, soulful, and delightfully simple. Their live performance of “The One” follows suit perfectly. Set at a campfire at a non-defined mountainous and serene location, the two serenade one another. Their harmonies are complimentary and the singularity of the song is refreshing in an industry dominated by heavy production.

Watch “The One” here.

Best for: Breakfast in bed on a Sunday
Perfect if you like: Ingrid Michaelson

Follow Wild Child on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Matt LeGrand | “What Christmas Means to Me”

Just infusing a little bit of Christmas cheer to release radar this week. Loving Matt LeGrand’s poppy cover of the Stevie Wonder Christmas classic “What Christmas Means to Me.” His vocals are lovely and it’s everything you want from a Christmas song.

Watch “What Christmas Means To Me” here.

Best for: Getting in the Christmas mood
Perfect if you like: Michael Buble

Follow Matt LeGrand on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Dylan Schnieder | “No Problem”

Interscope’s newest signing and very first country signing Dylan Schnieder delivers a solid single with a sweet cross country pop sound. His voice is smooth, the song is catchy, and he’s definitely one to watch.

Listen to “No Problem”

Best for: Driving late at night
Perfect if you like: Cole Swindell

Follow Dylan Schnieder on Instagram | Facebook

Given Names | “East To West”

This moody indie pop slow-jam is perfect for blasting throughout the winter.

Listen to “East To West”

Best for: Staying in and blasting with hot chocolate
Perfect if you like: Radiohead

Given Names Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Anie Delgado is a contributor to Popdust and is an actress and musician based in NYC. Follow her on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter and check out her music on Spotify. Press inquiries here.

REVIEW | What “Riverdale” Says About Teen Relationships

Like most teen dramas, Riverdale is an experiment in what would happen if the world really existed as a teenager views it. As with other high school murder mysteries before it, the show relies on treating teeangers’ relationships and emotions seriously, more seriously than most adults do in the real world, and privileging the teenaged point of view as the one that is most often correct. But unlike similar shows, Riverdale doesn’t insulate its young characters from facing real consequences for their actions, creating situations that don’t often get an honest portrayal on television. While the show doesn’t manage to entirely avoid teen drama tropes, it does new and better things with them.

Take, for example, Archie’s relationship with high school music teacher Miss Grundy. The predatory teacher and underage student, portrayed as star-crossed lovers, are an unwelcome callback to the disturbing handling of such themes by similar shows — Pretty Little Liars comes to mind. But Riverdale does slightly better than its predecessors by allowing Archie’s friends to react in a supportive and realistic way when they find out. Jughead and Betty are both horrified by the relationship, with Jughead seeing clearly how selfish Miss Grundy is being. Though scared of doing anything to hurt Archie, Betty ultimately brings the issue to the attention of other adults.


Riverdale also shows a relatively nuanced portrait of teen conflicts with their parents. Admittedly, some of those parents are downright evil — Cheryl, Veronica, and Betty all seem to have semi-monstrous fathers. But the adults in the show are flawed in realistic ways, too. Betty’s parents hide her sister’s pregnancy from her and lie about her mental illness; ostensibly, this is to protect Betty, but it ends up being deeply traumatic for her and seriously damages her trust with her parents. Similarly, when Veronica realizes Hiram Lodge’s crimes have ruined families other than her own, she sides against him to defend her friend Ethel. Riverdale isn’t afraid to show adults making bad decisions, including bad parenting decisions, and kids pushing back against them. Home isn’t a safe place for many teenagers, and these plot lines allow a broader range of possible parent-child relationships to exist onscreen.

One of Riverdale‘s biggest departures from its inspiration, the Archie Comics universe, is that Betty and Veronica are best friends, rather than frenemies who spend most of their time fighting over Archie. Instead of a catty, stereotypical high school mean girl, Veronica is a thoughtful person who feels terrible when she gets together with Archie, and continually checks in to make sure Betty is okay with it. Betty, rather than pining over someone who isn’t interested in her, or holding a grudge against Veronica, moves on and finds her own relationship. Love triangles, or things like them, happen in real life — it’s one of the reasons they’re such popular fodder for drama — but allowing the conflict to resolve in a realistic way, and allowing the young women to remain friends, is an unusual move for the genre.


The show’s positive portrayal of open communication between Betty and Veronica is present throughout the show, as well. Characters keep lots of secrets from their parents, but they almost always share things with their friends (or at least, in Betty’s case in season two, one friend). The few times when characters keep big secrets from one another — like when Archie and Veronica search F.P.’s trailer for evidence of Jason’s murder — there is real fallout, and Jughead almost leaves town. When Archie is cagey with Valerie about his relationship with Cheryl, she ends things with him — and doesn’t change her mind even after he begs her to take him back. Where other shows might allow a romantic gesture like this to work, Riverdale allows Valerie to be open and honest about her emotions, and move on when something isn’t working.

In general, the show gives its teen characters’ emotions more credibility than many other shows about young people, precisely because it provides real consequences for their mistakes. Often, this is just a matter of allowing a character to be upset about something for an entire episode or two, rather than having a conflict be resolved in a single conversation. When Archie doesn’t reciprocate Betty’s crush on him, she stops seeing him for a while to give herself time to sort out her feelings. After Betty tells Kevin’s dad about his late-night hookups in the woods, it takes Kevin time to recover from this betrayal.


It’s also refreshing that Kevin’s conflict with his sheriff father goes beyond the traditional teen drama coming-out narrative. Where many television portrayals of queer teens end, Riverdale begins, with Kevin, a queer character attempting to navigate conversations about safe sex with his dad, and Toni, who’s both confident in her own sexuality and doesn’t feel the need to define herself as only being attracted to men or women. It’s a low bar to rise above, and the show could do a lot better — for example, it has so far chosen not to portray Jughead as asexual, as he is in the comics. But relative to similar shows, at least Riverdale gives its queer characters a fairer shot at being fully realized people rather than sidekicks.

The nuance in Riverdale‘s relationships and emotional conflicts let the show go beyond its melodramatic premise. It’s not just a campy teen murder mystery — although that on its own would already be very entertaining. It’s also a compelling portrayal of the friendships and family relationships in Riverdale, which have notes of real emotional weight. The show’s characters are, in their own completely unbelievable way, kind of believable as they face various moral and emotional dilemmas. Riverdale walks that line between dramatization and truth with uncommon insight, making it a truly fresh addition to the teen drama canon.

Julia is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, NY, who covers politics and pop culture with a focus on labor and gender. Follow her on Twitter.

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Blondie releases politically charged video for “Doom Or Destiny”, featuring Joan Jett

Blondie releases politically charged video for “Doom Or Destiny”, featuring Joan Jett

Blondie have just released the music video for the opening track on their critically acclaimed 11th studio album Pollinator via BMG, starring Debbie Harry and – did you guess it? – Joan Jett.

The video offers some pretty biting political commentary, with Debbie and Joan taking over a news broadcast and going over just exactly what is going on in the social and political globe. With jabs at “fake news”, the President being a Russian puppet, stomping at a banner that reads “the patriarchy”, and dancing women in feline suits with “nasty” written on the front – there’s a lot to unpack here. One could argue it seems a bit too overloaded with headlines and half of the video’s audience won’t understand the biting satirical wit behind it anyway, but in the year 2017, it’s nice to see that Blondie is still around sticking it to the man and giving us another piece of music to feel hopeful to. Written by Debbie and co-founder Chris Stein, “Doom Or Destiny” is a loaded social commentary through a lens that only Blondie knows how to offer.

“We wanted to comment on the bizarre state of media and news in the current political ‘idiocracy’ we are watching play out in real time and create our own news channel that dealt with current issues such as the environmental collapse, fossil fuels, bee population decline, global warming, sexism, patriarchy, Trump and Russia, feminism, consumerism, the marketing of war and more,” says Debbie in a press release. “In trying times we try harder. Politics have become the new pop culture phenomena, but it seems the current landscape of music videos has so little to do with true protest or some kind of social message. It can be truthful, but irreverent, fun and funny. The punk style protest is somewhat removed from today’s modern music,” commented Stein.

Their latest effort, Pollinator, was received well by the music world who deemed it’s jarringness appropriate for the times. Not only does it retain Blondie’s iconic sound, it even goes on to explore some new territory as well, with a little help from contemporary influences like Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, Sia, Charli XCX, Nick Valensi of the Strokes, and more. It was produced by Grammy Award-winner John Congleton (who’s worked with the likes of Franz Ferdinand, St. Vincent, Sigur Ros). It’s considered Blondie’s most collaborative album to date, with a wide range of inputs offering some pretty electrifying and 80s-infused sounds.

courtesy of Blondie

“Blondie – Debbie, Chris, Clem and everybody have been my friends for more decades than I care to admit. They have their own style and were pioneers of the modern age of punk and rock. I am so proud to have been invited to contribute to ‘Doom or Destiny’, I love the music and I love the message,” says Joan Jett. It’s a heartwarming contribution by two women who have contributed endlessly to the conversation that revolves around rock music, which is always political in and of itself. “Doom or Destiny” is a song of the times – it only makes sense that it was brought to us by Blondie, who have never shied away from the provocative and the eye-opening.

Pollinator is out now via BMG.

Find Blondie on Twitter, Instagram and Spotify.

Vanessa is a music and culture writer. Follow her on twitter.