Is This The New Default Aesthetic for Music Videos?
Nancy Hoang   |   September 1, 2014   |   Opinion, Videos 

Disclaimer: I’ve taken one film class in my college career so I consider myself aptly qualified to make these assumptions on the creative direction of today’s music videos.

The beauty in music videos for me is being able to pin point the time period in which a video was made. With fashion trends and specific musical genres, being able to guess what decade a music video is from becomes easy — not to mention mainstream media’s tendency to just copy what’s currently working, never really pushing boundaries. (Unless you’re Miley that is.) With that said, I believe I’ve cracked the code for the music video formula of today’s music scene. Ready?

Unforgiving & unsettling eye contact with the camera
random (but slightly relevant) wide angle footage
VEVO masterpiece.

*Emeril voice* BAM! There you have it. The recipe for success. I fell upon this discovery while watching the music video for Troye Sivan’s “Happy Little Pill.” With my poor internet game these days, I’ll openly admit that I’m very late in viewing this music video. If it weren’t for Troye’s BTS showing up in my subscription feed, I would’ve never known the music video for his single was released. But around the 0:23 mark when I found myself face to owl face, it had clicked in my unhinged mind that I’ve seen something like this before.

“But what makes these two videos work so well is that they both directly feed into today’s hipster mindset” A couple of tabs later and suddenly I was staring into Lorde’s pale blue eyes in her music video for “Royals.” Why Troye’s “Happy Little Pill” reminded me of last summer’s smash hit was clear as day once I saw the correlation between the two: random ass footage thrown in willy nilly for what seems like shits and giggles! But what makes these two videos work so well is that they both directly feed into today’s hipster mindset of “I’m trying to make it look like I don’t care and didn’t try when in reality I went through so many Instagram filters for this final product. #nofilter” Troye’s video takes it a bit further by doing what looks like putting on a layer of #b270aa and setting the Blend Mode to lighten. (Hah, Photoshop jokes, amirite?)

Now let me defend my opinions before any Troye fans troll me: I completely understand Troye’s aesthetic with his EP and where his marketing team/label are taking his creative direction. His music career isn’t the same as his YouTube career in the slightest so any previous thought that his humor and YouTube sensibility would make it into the HLP music video is uncalled for and a mistake on my part. I would’ve rather watched a quirky video with more directional input from Troye but that doesn’t fit into today’s edgy & mysterious aesthetic — at least that’s what the labels think. If anything, I’m glad that Troye is self-aware of what he’s doing in the music video: “I’m just looking all serious out of the window and shit like that.” (h/t)

Rest Easy, Robin
Nancy Hoang   |   August 13, 2014   |   Blog 

“I love you with all my heart, with every cell, with every molecule, with every atom. I love you on a subatomic level.”

I’ve never felt such genuine sadness and loss for someone I’ve never met. Your brilliance and talent brought the world so much joy. It was this Christmas gift that first inspired me to pursue science. Thank you Robin Williams for bringing such happiness to my childhood and some guidance towards my future.

Rest in peace.
Make god laugh.

August Playlist
Nancy Hoang   |   August 4, 2014   |   Playlist 


Track List:
1. Where’s the Time – Caveman
2. You Haunt Me – Sir Sly
3. Figure It Out – Royal Blood
4. Superheroes – The Script
5. Suitcase Heart – Jesse Macht
6. Ghost – Ella Henderson
7. Beware the Dog – The Griswolds
8. Racy – Hooray For Earth
9. Happy Little Pill – Troye Sivan
10. How You Love Me (Acoustic) – 3LAU, Bright Lights
11. Working Together – Los Colognes
12. Gold (Betablock3r Remix) – Sir Sly
13. Apollo – Magic Man
14. Latch (Acoustic) – Sam Smith
15. Southern Sun – Boy & Bear

August is here and there is no one happier than I am about it. I loathe summer. New York’s humidity is my awful reality and there is not much worse to me than being sweaty. #WinterIsComing. I will happily trudge through snow whilst wearing layer upon layer because at least when you’re cold, you can do something about it! As the heat cools down and people start to emerge from their air conditioned rooms, it only means one thing: more human interaction. So why not isolate yourself further from society by blasting my August playlist (which you can easily follow on Spotify). Just pop in those ear plugs and put on your best New Yorker face of contempt and go on with your merry day.

mp3: Jesse Macht: “Suitcase Heart”
Nancy Hoang   |   August 4, 2014   |   New Tracks 

I was first introduced to Jesse Macht three years ago when he kindly agreed to answer some questions for an interview here on HT. It was nearly a year later when a live recording of “Suitcase Heart” showed up in my YouTube subscription feed, much to my excitement. It’s been a while since I’ve heard anything from the L.A. based songwriter but while my musical attention span hasn’t been focusing on Macht in recent years, all of the same excitement from 2012 came bubbling up again when a recorded version of “Suitcase Heart” became the leading single for his soon-to-be independently released sophomore album of the same name.

What I’m most pleased about in regards to Macht’s sophomore album is that even two years later, “Suitcase Heart” made the cut. A major part of why I enjoyed Jesse Macht’s music years ago was that it bared a sincerity in its lyricism. Where other artists may find themselves flailing on a generic emotional flatline, Macht operates on a genuine level and it comes off in his music. He’s taken his own tragic experiences and beautifully presents it in a way that holds nothing back. I can’t wait to hear more of that in his full length album coming out on September 23, 2014.

Watch the music video for the single here.

Tour Dates:
08/17/2014 – Colorado Springs, CO @ Jives Coffee Lounge


Jimmy Fallon Scares The Roots with 50 Shades of Grey Trailer
Nancy Hoang   |   July 30, 2014   |   Videos 

Over at 30 Rock, Jimmy Fallon is being a little Dennis the Menace with the beloved Roots and Vulture is just not having it. In what is a minute of complete hilarity, Fallon’s team filmed the Roots’ reaction to the new 50 Shades of Grey movie trailer. But to spice things up, the Tonight Show team put in a pop-up scary face in the middle of the video. Plot twist!

Seeing the genuine fear in the Roots’ faces both made me laugh and empathize with those poor souls. The shenanigans going on at the Tonight Show must be controlled, especially when manipulating a person’s anxiety and terror levels and as Vulture’s Jesse David Fox brilliantly put it, “we won’t stand for it any longer.” The Roots “should sue NBCUniversal,” Vulture says! Fallon must be stopped! He’s gaining too much power!

Well actually, whoever filmed this before getting the okay from Jimmy should actually be put down. Jimmy doesn’t like pranks. But you know what? As Machiavelli once put it, sometimes the ends justify the means. And some overwhelming panic is great for viral videos.

Also how precious is the reaction at 0:54?

mp3: Troye Sivan: “Happy Little Pill”
Nancy Hoang   |   July 26, 2014   |   New Tracks 

YouTuber Troye Sivan announced his debut album at this summer’s VidCon to much excitement. From fellow YouTubers to fans around the world, this news was followed by tons of support and it has already topped iTunes pre-order charts in multiple countries like Sivan’s native Australia, the US and Canada. Sivan announced via Tumblr that “Happy Little Pill” is his “first ever single” and it is definitely not what I expected.

The track comes off with a very mature understanding of life and the dark pitfalls that people can fall into, things I would never expect a 19-year-old to have already grappled with so early on in his life. Singing about “glazed eyes” and “cocaine dollar bills” amidst electronic beats, we get a look into the somber bits of Troye Sivan’s personal experiences delivered in a way that never loses the listener’s attention. Taking such a dark subject matter and transforming it into something so languid and starkly beautiful is really commendable for this young bounty of talent.

TRXYE comes out August 15 and I’m very excited to hear the rest.


Photo Pit Etiquette: YouTuber Ben Brown Edition
Nancy Hoang   |   July 22, 2014   |   Concert Photography, Opinion 

It’s much more helpful when the only credentialed photographers in the pit are those taking the ten minutes seriously. I was watching a vlog (as you do) from UK YouTuber Ben Brown when I noticed some behavior that deeply annoyed me as a concert photographer. In exactly what is 54 seconds in a nearly 12-minute video, I first noticed that Ben Brown and Co. are at an outdoor music festival, undoubtedly meaning that the photo pit will be packed to the brim with photographers. In any concert setting, there are two types of photographers: the proper well-seasoned concert photogs and people like Ben Brown. In festival situations like these where the spot you’re standing in the photo pit will most likely be where you’ll remain for the allotted ten minutes of shooting time, it’s much more helpful when the only credentialed photographers in the pit are those taking the ten minutes seriously.

It’s no surprise that what I deem as inappropriate behavior in a photo pit came from people who are not well-versed in proper photo pit etiquette. This group of five very influential content creators and social media pros are all well respected in their own fields. Ben Brown, the vlogger of this video, is an accomplished kayaker and YouTuber. His mate Steve Booker is a London fashion blogger. Rounding out the group are notable Instagrammers Tyson Wheatley, Timothy McGurr, and Rishad Daroo. While I’m not questioning their abilities to capture beautiful photographs in a concert setting, I do question some of their ability to assess a situation and behave appropriately.

I just wish they realized that because no other photographers in the pit seem to be dancing to Big Boi and André 3000, perhaps they shouldn’t either.

At 8:35 in the video, the set hasn’t even started and yet the photo pit is packed, albeit less packed than the actual fans behind the barricade. I don’t mind Mr. Brown vlogging at this moment. Nothing has started yet, no harm done. It’s at 9:17 that my issue comes into play. Tyson (left) and Steve (right) are seen dancing merrily to OutKast (and why wouldn’t they? It’s freaking OutKast!) but behind them, are a plethora of photographers not daring to look away from the stage because a concert photographer is only allowed so many songs to shoot — three to be exact. I’m then further annoyed when Mr. Brown turns the camera on himself and is also dancing merrily along.

We only see less than a minute of their experience in the pit so I don’t know how they acted for the remaining time. I get it. Trust me I do. Vlogging is Ben Brown’s job and he needs to record these moments as well as record himself in these moments. And with this being a sponsored trip from Canadian Tourism Commission, these guys need to look like they’re having a bloody awesome time and they need to get content to share through their own social media feeds. I just wish they realized that because no other photographers in the pit seem to be dancing to Big Boi and André 3000, perhaps they shouldn’t either. And you know what? Maybe I’m completely wrong! We only see less than a minute of their experience in the pit so I don’t know how they acted for the remaining time. I’ll never know if they focused on getting their shots and stayed out of other photographer’s ways. Perhaps I’m a little insane and too hyperaware of minute distractions that probably don’t bother other people as much?

What I do know however is that this behavior is not what I like to see in a photo pit as a photographer myself. And if I were a fan who had queued up for hours to get a front row spot? I would be pissed! And I know that because I’ve been on both sides. I’ve been surrounded by unprofessional photographers and I’ve had my view blocked by far reaching cameras on either side of the barricade.

So maybe next time any of you find yourselves lucky enough to be credentialed and given access to a festival photo pit, take into consideration those around you.

Blog: Ed Sheeran Surprise Show @ The Paramount (7/5)
Nancy Hoang   |   July 8, 2014   |   Blog, Concert Reviews, Photos 


I think it’s safe to say that I’ve never seen Porto Fino get so much business in just roughly two hours. For anyone not familiar with the layout of Long Island’s Huntington Village, Porto Fino is an Italian restaurant just across from the town’s concert venue, The Paramount. And on this past Saturday evening in Huntington, it was like witnessing a much smaller scaled millennial-filled Beatlemania and I was just too old for their enthusiasm.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Netherlands and Costa Rica had just went into extra time when I received a screenshot of Ed Sheeran’s tweet that he was in my town from my friend (who actually is an Ed Sheeran fan) in New Jersey. It was in that moment that I had to make a decision that would catastrophically determine the rest of my Saturday night. It was a real “To be or not to be…” moment, I’ll tell you that. Alas, I ended up missing penalties and opted for eating garlic knots while in the queue for spontaneous Ed Sheeran tickets. I ended up befriending some hardcore Ed fans who turned out to be 11 years old and already much taller than I am—this ended up in her favor as her tall stature completely blocked my view for most of the show. Thank god for projection screens, right?

“But even more impressed—and appreciative—was Ed Sheeran himself who made it a point to thank The Paramount for putting the show together” Swarms of teenage fans were running from all directions to get in line for Ed’s spontaneous show and it was no surprise that he filled up the entire venue. And the security, by golly, they were just amazing at making sure this last minute queue was efficiently running. The amount of people wrapped around the block was insane and yet these security guards had that shit controlled. Even the exasperated parents who had rushed to get their kids to the venue were impressed with the way The Paramount staff were running this show. But even more impressed—and appreciative—was Ed Sheeran himself who made it a point to thank The Paramount for putting the show together, but more so he thanked the staff. He stated that they decided to put on this show at 6:22pm and it ended up running so smoothly (even if Ed started the show at 9:40). And in proper well-mannered English fashion, Ed Sheeran gave a round of applause for all of the venue staff and security who came from their homes and barbecues on such short notice. Ugh, what a cheeky gem.

Ed performed solo onstage and whether or not that’s how he usually performs, I wouldn’t know. What I do know however is that a one man show starring Ed Sheeran will surely be spectacular—and in a smaller venue like The Paramount? Well it’s just even better. It was stunning to see Ed Sheeran performing live and the lack of extra frills and distracting effects made it greater. And if he wanted the crowd to go quiet, it would go quiet without question. During “I See Fire,” it was eerily silent despite a few angry shhs from serious fans. But during his more popular songs like “Give Me Love” and “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” it was like a freaking sing-a-long in the venue.

As someone who has only ever heard snippets of Ed Sheeran’s songs from TV shows like The Vampire Diaries (that ball scene with Damon and Elena? You know what I mean), seeing him perform in this way became a serious perspective change. I had always known him as that funny ginger on Twitter that was also friends with One Direction and T. Swift but I never really knew him as anything more than that. (And purely because I never put in the effort to research him.) But after seeing Ed Sheeran perform live, it’s no doubt that the immense amount of talent this man has is just amazing. Between his captivating looped vocals and his adorable British charm, his performance at The Paramount just won me over.

At one point during the show, Ed said that he hopes to come back to the Paramount for many more shows. I hope he does too.

Glasslands: NYC Venues Broken Down
Emily Korn   |   July 5, 2014   |   Concert Photography 

 Photography by Emily Korn

As a part of our Concert Photography series, we’ve previously listed all the New York City concert venues categorizing them based on whether or not those venues had photo pits. Now for this next installment, we’ll be breaking down specific venues and including our personal experiences.

Glasslands is a hipster mecca and a music lover’s delight. For years it has featured some of the hottest and most buzzed about artists (moreover, it has proven it’s cool quota through pop culture cameos in shows like Girls). It has also morphed its spaces to accommodate larger crowds and kept current with new light installations and sound systems.

What this means, from a photographer’s perspective is a few things. First, and foremost, be prepared for a low level of light. The establishment used to house a cloud of orange and yellow tones, which (serving as a backlight) made an act seem like they were surrounded by an aura of fire. As seasons changed, these lights were replaced by a cooler shade of blue, housed in tubes and positioned above the stage. While, I’ve never been an advocate of flash photography when dealing with live performance, I rarely cover shows here without coming equipped for the possibility of using one.

The space used to be fairly confined, but has opened up a bit (there is a small balcony, and if you’re lucky enough to nab a spot later in the night, you’re guaranteed great shots, especially as/if the crow gets rowdy).

Overall, this is one of my top recommendations for any photographer looking to start photographing shows in New York City. Here you’ll usually have the leeway to move around freely, use a DSLR, and fire a flash (everything in moderation). If you’re lucky enough, you may also catch the band members loitering near the stage after the show—which could make for some unique portrait opportunities (just remember to be gracious and respectful of the artist if you’re looking to approach them).

Connect with Emily:

July Playlist
Nancy Hoang   |   July 4, 2014   |   Blog, Playlist 

july 2014

Track List:
1. Love Someone – Jason Mraz
2. Dirty Paws – Of Monsters and Men
3. Berlin – New Politics
4. Thnks fr th Mmrs – Fall Out Boy
5. Ain’t It Fun – Paramore
6. Coming of Age – Foster The People
7. River (Acoustic) – LIGHTS
8. Paradise – City and Colour
9. 1957 – Milo Greene
10. Everybody Knows – Vacationer
11. Cherry Licorice – The Felice Brothers
12. Riff Jam – Sea Monsters
13. Melody Calling – The Vaccines
14. Never Gonna Change – Broods
15. Hurricane – MS MR

Happy Fourth of July everyone! May your independence day be fun filled with fireworks (if it’s legal in your state), barbecue, and Firecracker popsicles. My childhood Fourth of July’s were always spent on the rooftop of the local Macy’s with my family watching the fireworks displays and they’ll always be fond memories of mine. And now that I’m older, the joy I get out of the Fourth of July comes from being able to see the excitement and awe in other people’s faces watching fireworks and especially in the younger members of my family.

Growing up, especially with my sense of cynicism and instinct to question everything, I’ve developed a way of seeing the world in a very critical light. With the news always sensationalizing the bad in the world, it becomes so easy to forget all of the wonderful things that exist out there and it’s even easy to forget to appreciate the wonderful things in my own life. I’m constantly looking to the future and planning ahead, and that’s good because I don’t think it’s healthy to live in the past but as cliché as it is to say and even worse to acknowledge, I often forget to step back and appreciate where I am in the present and how great the world around me is. And so that’s why holidays like the Fourth of July are so near and dear to me. Spending time with my loved ones and being able to watch them experience the same amazements I did as a child brings me back down to Earth. And I think that everyone needs that reminder from time to time: what’s ahead for you in the future can wait — at least until the fireworks are over.