Panel 5: The eggs are revealed.
Look At My Eggs
Panel 5: The eggs are revealed.
SAIC on the Oscars
The SAIC community reacts to the 2023 Oscars by sharing their thoughts on the winners, movies, fashion, and Hollywood. In this video, several issues are broached: whether the Oscars are still relevant, how race plays a role in modern-day Hollywood, and how this year’s Oscars was ultimately historic. Watch and find out about how SAIC reacts to one of the biggest nights in Hollywood!
Video by Amanda Reid for F News Magazine
Music by dotsound
UChicago Grad Students Unionize with Overwhelming Majority
For almost 15 years, graduate students at the University of Chicago (UChicago) have been organizing to form a union.
Although once seen as a far-fetched reality, the students are finally closer to their dreams as on Mar. 16, 92 percent of the graduate students voted to form their union, UChicago Graduate Students United (GSU) with United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), making it a historical win for the students who have been fighting for better treatment in the workplaces on campus.
“This victory belongs to the thousands of workers on this campus who turned out to vote. It was made especially possible by hundreds of organizers who built a campaign led by graduate workers from every division,” the union wrote on its Instagram account after the results of the elections were announced. “This victory belongs to our relationships that we sustain and grow by doing walkthroughs, lab visits, and town halls; by having one-on-one conversations, phone calls, socials, and committee meetings; and by sending texts, emails, and newsletters,” they add.
The election for union recognition was held by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Jan. 30, and Feb.1. According to the NLRB, 1696 students voted YES, whereas only 155 students voted NO.
Neomi Rao, the co-president of GSU believes that this overwhelming support shows the faith the student workers have in the union.
“The overwhelming support is a testament to many generations of dedicated organizing of student workers at UChicago that has culminated in the landslide victory. It also shows the resonance of the issues we have been talking to our co-workers, who know that a union is the way to secure living wages, and affordable healthcare, and making grad school accessible and equitable for parents, international students, and marginalized students” Rao, a third-year Ph.D. student in political science told F Newsmagazine.
With this win, UChicago GSU joins the huge unionization wave that is happening around the campuses as graduate students organize for better wages and fair treatment. This includes institutions like Northwestern University which recently voted to unionize with UE, as well as several other universities including Yale and Harvard.
However, for the student workers at UChicago, getting union recognition wasn’t an easy victory.
Although GSU was formed in 2007, it was only after a decade of organizing that their efforts saw some progress as NLRB finally held elections for them to unionize with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
During this election in 2017, the graduate students voted to unionize with a 2-1 majority. Still, the student workers weren’t able to unionize, primarily because of two major reasons. Firstly because the university administration appealed the certification of the election results. Secondly, they themselves withdrew from the NLRB process as they feared that the appointment of conservatives to the NLRB board during the Trump administration would backfire and rule against their right to unionize.
Yet regardless of all the roadblocks, the student workers continued to mobilize their resources and brought a couple of changes including a yearly increase in stipend for doctoral students, elimination of Advance Residency tuition, and many more. Furthermore, citing the reasons for wanting to form an independent union, the students eventually decided to disaffiliate from AFT and chose UE as their parent union, last year.
Now, with the recent victory, the union members said they are grateful for the support shown by the students and are hopeful that they can work together with the administration.
“I hope the administration should follow the law and bargain with us in good faith,” Valay Agarwal, GSU’s communications secretary told F Newsmagazine.
While in the past, the university administration slowed down the unionizing of the students, this time things look a little different.
In an email sent to the University community, Provost Ka Yee C. Lee assured that the administration will work with students and “bargain in good faith”.
“I am thankful to everyone who engaged in this process, especially the students who voted, whether they voted for or against unionization,” she wrote. “I congratulate GSU-UE on their successful advocacy in this process. The University will bargain in good faith with GSU-UE with the goal of supporting the continued academic success of all graduate students.”
Union members say the next step is to form a bargaining committee that will work to build a fair contract.
According to GSU, an election is scheduled from Mar. 20 to 23, to select the representatives who will represent the 3,000 grad student workers of the union.
“We are in the process of electing our bargaining committee and looking forward to meeting the administration at the table. The graduate workers will collectively bargain for better pay, better health insurance, equitable policies that include robust grievance procedures, international student support and so much more,” Agarwal said.
Bollywood 101: 10 Indian Movie Songs That Are Better Than ‘Nattu Nattu’
At the 95th Academy Awards, “Nattu Nattu,” from the Telugu movie “RRR,” made history. It became the first Indian movie song to win the Oscars for Best Original Song.
Composed by M.M. Keeravaani and written by Chandrabose, this electrifying song, which plays during a significant scene in “RRR,” has become a global sensation. The Western audience, in particular, has been blown away by its energetic choreography along with the peppy beat, which can automatically make most people shake their legs and hit the dance floor.
But after its win an important question has been circulating among Indian movie fans; is it the best movie song India has ever produced?
A simple and plain answer is: no.
While “Nattu Nattu” did highlight the rich Indian musical heritage to a global audience, there are Indian movie songs that are way better than this, which should have won Oscars before, or at least which are worthy of your attention.
Here are some movie songs I would suggest you watch and listen to if you liked “Nattu Nattu,” and are craving more and/or better Indian movie songs.
1. “Chaiyya Chaiyya” (1998)
In 2002 when the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) did a poll on the top-ten most popular songs of all time, “Chaiyya Chaiyya” secured the ninth position.
Composed by A. R. Rahman, and sung by Sukhwinder Singh and Sapna Awasthi, “Chaiyya Chaiyya” is popularly known as the “train song” among Indian movie lovers. The song is from the movie, “Dil Se,” which features the most celebrated Hindi movie actor of all time — Shah Rukh Khan.
What makes this song beautiful is its poetic lyrics written by Gulzar as well as its outstanding but nerve-wracking choreography, as the whole song takes place on top of a moving train.
Trust me, there’s a reason why this song is so popular among Bollywood buffs. I wouldn’t be surprised if you start playing this song on your phone the next time you catch a train.
2. “Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya” (1960)
When K. Asif, the director of the epic “Mughal-e-Azam,” shot this song, its budget was believed to be more than the entire movie. I mean how couldn’t it be? Just look at the video of the song. The elaborate set designs, the mirror works, the extravagant costumes—everything screams of royalty and heritage.
However, that’s not the only thing that makes this song iconic. Over the years, the song has regained cult status for being the song of lovers, as in the movie, it is performed during a crucial scene, when a courtesan, Anarkali declares her love for Prince Salim — a union that is destined to be doomed.
“Pyar kiya koi chori nahi ki. Chup chup aahein bharna kya. Jab pyar kiya toh darna kya. Pyaar Kiya toh darna kya.” (You’re in love, it’s not a crime. Why should you hide and sigh. Why fear if you’re in love.)
This is sheer poetry.
3. “Chalte Chalte” (1972)
Another classic, “Chale Chalte” from “Pakeezah” (1972) is poetry in motion. The beautiful Urdu lyrics of the song which Kaifi Azmi wrote are a short story in itself. Featuring the lead character Nargis (played by Meena Kumari), the song is a Mujra performance, a traditional dance form of the Mughal era. In this song, Kumari, a tawaif (an entertainer), is expressing her longing for an aristocrat through this song.
And what a beautiful expression it is. Not only does she use her body to express her emotions, but her eyes also do a lot of talking as they show the pain she is suffering from.
Just to witness the magic that acting, music, and dance can bring on the celluloid, I would suggest you watch this masterpiece.
4. “Piya Tose Naina Lage Re” (1965)
No doubt the choreography of “Nattu Nattu,” was rousing, but was it as graceful as Waheeda Rehman’s performance in “Piya Tose Naina Laga Re” (1965)? Perhaps not. Because in this song Rehman epitomizes beauty and elegance. Her beautiful aura and stunning dance performance light the whole screen, making viewers instantly fall for her.
And yes, there are beautiful intricate costumes, hundreds of background dancers doing the same steps, and extravagant sets in this song, making it a classic Indian song.
5. “Naadan Parinde” (2011)
This is a personal favorite song of mine. I find this piece of art by A. R. Rahman so powerful that my whole life journey appears in front of my eyes when I listen to it.
To give context to our readers, this song was a part of “Rockstar” (2011), a love story based on the life of a troubled musician with an inflated ego. As the story unfolds, he reaches a self-destructive stage of his life: he loses his lover, and his life goes haywire.
This song is so impactful because reflects his self-realization — he understands that there’s no going back from this shithole called life. Trust me, again. And go and download this song on Spotify!
6. “Ami Chini Go Chini” (1964)
Satyajit Ray was one of India’s finest filmmakers whose body of work has traveled all over the world. One of my favorite movies from his rich filmography is “Charulata” (1964), a story of a homemaker who falls in love with her brother-in-law.
There are so many beautiful scenes throughout the movie that capture the chaos happening inside the lead character’s heart. However, a particular scene that stood out for me is when the brother-in-law plays the piano and sings “Ami Chini Go Chini” for our lead character who has fallen for him but has to control her feelings. Such a poignant way of expressing emotions through a song.
7. “Koi Kahe Kehta Rahe” (2001)
In Bollywood in 2001, a first-time director, Farhan Akhtar, made a classic called “Dil Chahta Hai,” which still rules people’s hearts. An urban edgy drama that explores the roller coaster of emotions brought by love and friendship, this movie features one of the best soundtracks produced in the Hindi film fraternity.
However, “Koi Kahe Kehta Rahe” is my favorite. It’s a youthful song, filled with a vibrant energy that every time I listen to it, I want to hit the dance floor and be happy about the life I have got (even if I spend the whole next day crying over it).
8. “Uyire Uyire” (1995)
Are you the kind of person who plays a song when they miss someone in their life and act as if they are the main character of a movie? Then, my friend, this song’s for you. Especially on days when you are low and are missing someone in your life, you should play this classic, which A. R. Rahman composed for the movie, “Bombay.”
Besides giving you goosebumps, I am certain that this song will make every inch of you sad. It is that powerful. So, next time if you are near the lake, on your phone, and want to play a sad song, this is an option for you.
9. “Urvasi Urvasi” (1994)
The actors of “Nattu Nattu,” are great dancers, but they can never compete with the OG of Dance in the Indian movie industry—Prabhu Deva. A famous movie choreographer, Deva made many special appearances in Indian movie songs where he flexed his dancing skills.
The way Deva can move his body, makes me think he doesn’t have bones — his body is made of elastic. Nevertheless, the song is engaging, and joyful and captures the youthfulness of its time.
10. “Dola re Dola” (2002)
Honestly, if you were impressed with “Nattu Nattu’s,”‘ grandeur, then you will be blown away by the opulence of “Dola re Dola.”
Featuring two of the most popular Hindi actresses of all time — Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan—this song is loud, colorful, and feminine in all the ways it can be. Also, the amazing dance performance deserves special applause as the hip movements, the hand gestures, and the popular hook-step, all are done with ease and grace, making it one of the most memorable songs in Indian film history.
Hi, friends. I am Ankit Khadgi, a Bollywood buff and also the Managing Editor of F Newsmagazine. I am starting a new column called Bollywood 101. Through this column, I want to share my love of Bollywood with our readers, offer movie suggestions, and bust the myths people have about the Hindi film industry. I hope you will enjoy reading my work.
Notes on SAIC’s updated mask policy
Dear SAIC Community,
Thank you for your continued diligence in following SAIC’s COVID-19 protocols. Though it’s been nearly three years since the pandemic began, navigating these mitigation efforts can still be a challenge, and we’re grateful for the care you’ve shown for one another and the entire School community.
This paragraph is not objectionable in and of itself, but the use of the word “challenge” here sets up later issues in wording.
Throughout the pandemic, we have continuously monitored COVID-19 data and reviewed our campus policies in consultation with public health expert Dr. Terri Rebmann. Recently, Dr. Rebmann noted that while Saint Louis University did not require masks this past fall, only a small percentage of their community cases were traced to classroom transmission. The vast majority of infections occurred off campus. This evidence, which correlates with what we’ve seen in areas of SAIC’s campus where masks have not been required, informed our decision to update our Make Together protocols.
The email here posits that the “vast majority” of cases at Saint Louis University occurred off-campus; reading this paragraph and watching the video, it becomes clearer that the cases were not traced to on-campus causes. This does not necessarily mean that they did not originate on campus, only that they could not be traced there.
For the winter term, we will continue to require masks in our instructional spaces. However, at the start of the spring term—on January 26—individuals may continue to wear masks, though they will no longer be required in any on-campus space except at the Wellness Center. At this point in the pandemic, we’ve all adopted mitigation strategies that work best for us individually, so if you feel more comfortable wearing your mask on campus, you are fully encouraged to continue this practice. If you choose to wear a mask, a tight-fitting surgical mask, N95, or KN95 will offer the best protection. Such masks provide good protection even when those around you are unmasked. Please note that masks will not be available at security desks beginning in the spring term.
The consistent use of community — SAIC community, School community— clashes here with the sudden shift of responsibility onto the individual. Not included anywhere in the email is this addendum, which can only be found by navigating to a hidden page using the small sidebar on the Make Together site:
“As we continue to take care of one another, please remember that there are members of our community who are vulnerable to a severe infection or who live with or are caring for a vulnerable loved one. Please consider showing care for the well-being of others by wearing a face mask when you are interacting with someone who is wearing a mask.”
Simply placing the above into the campus-wide message would have tempered some of the upset responses seen in the aftermath of the mask mandate removal. It is unlikely that most busy students, faculty, and staff would take the time to trawl SAIC’s website for long enough to notice this page.
Likewise, it would go a long way toward seeing support and acknowledgment offered to immunocompromised or otherwise at-risk community members. As it stands, the email neglects to mention them altogether.
As a reminder, one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and others from illness is to stay up-to-date on your vaccinations for both COVID-19 and the flu. COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be required for all students, staff, and faculty.
While vaccination is one of the most effective ways to protect oneself from illness, it works best in tandem with other strategies; masking, distancing and isolating when actively sick. The vaccine protects the individual, but reduces transmission; while the infected or asymptomatic person may not be a super-spreader, they can still pass COVID-19 on to their close contacts.
For more information on this policy and the data that informed it, please watch the following webinar from Dr. Rebmann.
[Video of Dr. Rebmann]
Below are some quotes pulled from the informational video:
“[P]reliminary data on BQ 1 and BQ 1.1 indicates that both of these new subvariants [of COVID-17 Omicron] are able to evade…natural immunity […] if you have previous infection and vaccine-induced immunity including the new bivalent booster.”
The message here appears to be that COVID will be mild for young, perfectly healthy people, but they will still be able to contract and carry it. In other words, being vaccinated still does not stop you from being ill or contagious; it reduces the severity of symptoms and prevents hospitalization.
“[T]his is the worst flu outbreak that we’ve seen in the past decade. It started early, it’s particularly harsh this year, and it’s causing some health care surges across the United States. So between COVID-19 and flu hitting at the same time […], there are individuals that are co-infected.”
This is a strange data point to include in this announcement, which seems to have the overarching message that health protocols have moved past masking. Perhaps particularly as influenza is another virus that causes painful symptoms in the lungs and throat, and is a highly contagious respiratory illness—characteristics that make it less likely to be transmitted between masked individuals.
“[A]t this point in the pandemic, […] I don’t know of a single university that continues to have a mass mandate in place at this time…”
F Newsmagazine listed some schools which continue to have mask mandates in a previous article: Rhode Island College of Design, Columbia College Chicago, Pratt Institute, San Jose State, and Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
“[T]he vast majority of universities have moved towards individuals taking personal responsibility for protecting themselves against severe illness. So that means staying up to date on vaccination and then choosing to wear a mask or a respirator when you’re in public places with others.”
The information here seems to be saying that any individual who wants to protect themselves against “severe illness” will be fully vaccinated and wear some form of face covering. Odd to include here—ironically for an announcement removing the mask policy, its presented facts seem to support continued masking.
We will continue to consult with Dr. Rebmann and monitor local trends, making adjustments as warranted, including by reinstating required masking if the need arises. As always, the most up-to-date information on our COVID-19 policies can be found at saic.edu/maketogether.
Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs
Vice President for Campus Operations
Executive Director of Campus Security
The use of the phrase “if the need arises” casts this decision into confusion. Wasn’t the mandate supposedly removed for lowered caseload? As a matter of fact, that does not appear to be a deciding factor, or at least not one shown here. The only cited reason is lowered transmission on campus, not lower caseload; while the numbers may have dropped, it is never mentioned outright.
So: what would constitute a “need arising”? Would it be caseload in the SAIC Community, or only if the city of Chicago reinstates its mask mandate?
The Make Together: Update On Mask Policy email is ineffective at providing a clear message, encouraging continued masking where necessary, and even simply supporting its own main points. It includes only partial information and links to contradicting or outdated information. The choice to be vague and make generalized statements such as “the vast majority of infections” and “the vast majority of universities” suggests an element of guesswork reminiscent of a student’s under-researched essay — compounded by the fact that other statements (“I don’t know of a single university…”) show a distinct lack of even cursory searching. All together, it paints a picture of apathy, rather than the carefully-considered decision community health deserves.
SAIC’s online Make Together webpage no longer contradicts itself in terms of mask mandate, as it did up until the first week of February. The Contact Tracing webpage still claims that students identified as “close contacts” can ask for a surgical mask at campus security desks —something discontinued at the very start of the semester.
The linked SAIC COVID-19 dashboard received its last update on March 8th; 17 total positive cases, 12 students and 5 employees, all within the previous two weeks. Only 2 out of that total— one student and one employee — are in isolation.
The COVID-19 dashboard illustrates its data as seen above, including for its semester summaries, which does not help visualize the totals or overall data trends.
Below, I’ve graphed the student cases, staff-slash-employee cases, and the average caseload per month (of the semester).
The graph above uses exclusively data from the Make Together dashboard, which is an issue for several reasons:
- At the top of the Make Together page, it reads: “[t]hese figures include only cases that have been reported to SAIC among community members who are working or living on campus.” This means that all data was collected by voluntary reporting, which contributes to a commonly known sampling bias.
- Visitor cases are not included, since the numbers were so low.
- There is no data publicly available about how many people were on campus at these times.
- This data cannot reflect the numbers of infectious but asymptomatic cases; by definition, people need to notice before they can self-report.
- As Dr. Rebmann suggested, it’s possible that many of these cases came from off-campus activity. However, with COVID-19 having unpredictable onset, effects, and symptoms that differ between individuals, no real conclusions can be drawn.
Zine Not Dead: A Night of Living Comics
Zine Not Dead is a comic reading series that is hosted quarterly. The most recent Zine Not Dead was hosted on Feb. 26th at the Archer Ballroom. There were performances from Audrey Gallacher (BFA 2023), Kelly Wang (BFA 2022), Gabriel Mason Howell (BFA 2018), Lenny Jooce, Caroline Cash (BFA 2019), Alex and Hannah Larson Hall, and Tommy Parrish.
This was Tessa Gould’s (BFA 2023) first Zine Not Dead. Gould shared, “I wasn’t sure what to expect from Zine Not Dead. I was most excited to see how the artists were going to be presenting their comics, and I was not disappointed!”
The Sky Talks: Pisces Season Brings Joy
Kabbalists say that there is a phrase that says: “mishenichnas adar marbim b’simcha” which means, “when the month of Pisces enters, joy multiplies.” Pisces is the month of joy, but paradoxically we do not see this in reality. Pisceans are known to be more gloomy, more melancholic, so why do Kabbalists attribute joy to this month?
It is important to understand that , despite appearances, Pisces is not a sad month, but being happy during this period requires effort. And the one who makes the effort — both Pisces for life and all of us during the Pisces cycle — can achieve great joy. It is not a coincidence that the Kabbalistic feast of joy, called Purim, takes place in Pisces. It is not by chance either, Carnaval and St. Patrick’s day also always falls around this time. The energies of celebration and joy are present here, and attract these happy events.
As it happens, Saturn entered Pisces on Purim, ending its Aquarius-Capricorn cycle of the past five years. And we want to see the positive side of that. Saturn is very favored when it is in Capricorn and Aquarius, as it is the ruling planet of these two signs. But, like it or not, Saturnian energy is more difficult, tense, and cold in these positions because hardness is an intrinsic characteristic of this planet. When Saturn entered Pisces on the 7th of March, it gave us the opportunity to enter a warmer, artistic, psychic, sensitive, spiritual, and empathetic mode. With Saturn’s ingress in Pisces, there is a lesson to be learned. Just as Saturn in Capricorn taught us great lessons during the pandemic about the economy, work, career, and home office, and Saturn in Aquarius taught us the strong connections we have with all of humanity, Saturn in Aquarius came to teach us that we are all one. If something happens anywhere in the world, the whole world is affected. Saturn in Pisces comes to teach us the lesson of empathy. This year, therefore, the Pisces cycle is special because it inaugurates two and a half years of learning empathy, warmth, affection, intuition, and love.
When Pisces energy enters, we connect with unity and mercy. But it is always necessary to balance these forces. The condition for helping someone is that the other person wants to be helped. If you’re just being merciful to a person who always hurts you, and you look at the situation with pink glasses and think “Okay, you can keep hurting me because I want unity with you,” then something is wrong. The idea is that we can only help people if they are helping themselves. Pisces don’t wait for the others to help themselves; Pisces wants to save the world. Saturn in Pisces for the next three years creates the energy of spiritual people who want to save the world. This will not happen. We are not going to save the world. We need to first sense whether the other person wants help before jumping in to save them. If you are not comfortable confronting someone because you want to be too spiritual, then what can happen is that the situation will come back at you. Nobody is asking you to save anybody, you are not a martyr. We cannot fight or die in the name of God. We need to connect with a higher level of spirituality. Having a greater desire, but a detachment on the same level. If someone comes to ask you for help, then you can help. A person needs to have the merit to change: if she didn’t deserve it, it won’t happen, it’s not in your hands. We also need to have the merit of being saved. The solution will come to you when you have the merit.
The great question is that we don’t know how much we need to do and how much is in the hands of the universe. The higher your level of consciousness is, the less you have to do, and the more the universe can do.
Sun and Moon are close to Saturn on this previous New Moon, and they mark a new beginning for this lunation. Saturn, the God of time, is making the final push. It’s time to know if what we are doing in life is actually working, what structures are good for us, what we want to keep, and what’s not working. Pisces is two-sided, at the most advanced level, if we are asking questions, we will receive answers and divine inspiration. By asking for help, we are already doing our part. We are creating a desire for the solution to come. How much am I willing to let go of what isn’t working for me? Let’s make small changes, and show the universe that we want to change. If we want to see the truth, the truth will show itself. The question is, do I really want to see the truth, even if it’s painful? If yes, then divine inspiration will come, and we will receive divine messages from the subconscious. They will reveal themselves, and they will present themselves. We have to have the merit to see the truth.
According to Kabbalah, the planet that governs Pisces is Jupiter, even though in modern astrology it is associated with Neptune. This means that we will have the opportunity in the month of Pisces to connect with the planet Jupiter, after three months since Sagittarius. Now we emphasize the energies of Jupiter, and we want to meditate so that we can balance the harder energy of Saturn with the expansive energy of Jupiter.
In addition to being a visual artist, Diana Motta is also a Kabbalistic astrologer. She spent fourteen years immersed in kabbalah studies and graduated at the renowned Academy of Kabbalistic Astrology. She works as a professional astrologer with personalized chart reading services and as a columnist for Harper’s Bazaar Brazil. You can follow her Instagram profile for more astrology tips at @dika_astra_eng.
Starr Ramone #9
Chicago River turns green for St. Patrick’s Day
Every year, since 1962, the Chicago river turns green in the honor of St. Patrick’s Day.
Thousands of locals and tourists, some drunk and dressed in their best green attire, visited the River yesterday, to rejoice in the tradition, which was started by the members of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union who dumped 100 pounds of green dye into the river. Since then, the city has marked the tradition of dyeing the river green every Saturday, before St. Patrick’s Day, coinciding with its annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Here are some pictures of this year’s celebration.
New Year, New Us
Album Review: Trapped on ‘Cracker Island’
Gorillaz’s eighth studio album, “Cracker Island” had the potential to be the culmination of years of practice, development, and an overall knowledge of how to craft sound. However, this album plays like a last resort cash grab for the dying corpse of a washed-up hasbeen. “Cracker Island” is a long 37 minutes of very similar and unenthusiastic beats that feel disingenuous.
Gorillaz are a virtual band of cartoon characters made by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett. Albarn writes and records music, and Hewlett creates the art and storylines for the characters. They formed as Gorillaz in the early 2000s and started making both music and complex storylines that mostly revolved around the same four characters which comprise the fictitious band. Since then they have continued to release music and other forms of media fairly regularly.
The first track “Cracker Island” (feat. Thundercat), also the title track, is alright, but it never evolves to anything greater than fine. In spite of the lack of clear thought within this song, there are some redeeming qualities. For better or for worse this song is a complete earworm, and the bass feature from Thundercat is one of the only positive elements working for this song. The track is extremely repetitive, and not in a way that feels like a warranted or even a wanted creative choice. Unfortunately, this repetitive and boring track is not the only one on this record, and it sounds like this song is the embodiment of this entire record’s sound. It’s hard to imagine how such an uninteresting and generally bleak song became the sound for the entire record, but nevertheless, Gorillaz ran with it. However, there is an element of silliness in this song, an element that can often be found in the Gorillaz discography which is potentially the only positive to this track.
“Oil” (feat. Stevie Nicks) is, at best confusing and questionable, and at worst extremely boring and borderline unlistenable. The choice to feature Stevie Nicks on any Gorillaz album, but especially “Cracker Island,” is exceedingly strange and completely unnecessary. One can only imagine there are better uses for Nick’s time than however long it took her to record this song. It’s easy to see why a collaboration between a ’70s rock legend and Damon Albarn pretending to be a group of cartoon characters would be jarring, but it’s completely disappointing that neither party felt it necessary to sound even somewhat interested in making this track.
Moving on to the fifth track, and second single, “New Gold” (feat. Tame Impala and Bootie Brown) there is an undeniable increase in quality. This song taps into what made older Gorillaz tracks work without copying their exact tone. But it is unquestionably the result of the featured artists’ influence, as the main sound of the song is much closer to the catalog of featured artist Tame Impala. There is something to be said about allowing the featured artist(s) to make their feature stand on its own, rather than forcing them to conform to the predisposed sound for the record. The combination of Gorillaz, Tame Impala, and Bootie Brown works well and distracts from the overwhelming disinterest displayed by Gorillaz in making this record.
“Baby Queen,” track six, is without a doubt one of the worst examples of the dreary displayed across the board in the album. It raises the question: were Gorillaz held at gunpoint in the studio? A rhetorical question, because fear or any sense of emotion would have been an improvement on the bland nothingness that this album presents.
“Tormenta” (feat. Bad Bunny), track eight, is the burst of life this record was in desperate need of. Once again, the featured artist is the only thing keeping this track together. The track starts with an intro by Gorillaz that is anything but good, but it’s thankfully taken over by the voice of Bad Bunny, who manages to emote more in a single song than Gorillaz could in the rest of the entire album. The tragedy of this track is that Bad Bunny’s take on the style set up by Gorillaz, makes it clear that this album and its concept had potential, but it was completely wasted by Gorillaz total lack of energy. In this one track, Bad Bunny was able to match the indie lo-if style this album presents while still being able to have peaks and valleys with his performance: a task Gorillaz failed at accomplishing. . Listening to this song embodies the feeling of spending the day with a cool uncle and being left behind at the end of the night with inattentive and unhappy parents.
The final track of the album, “Possession Island” (feat. Beck) is a rough closer for a very weak-around-the-edges record. It makes an attempt at creating a more somber but uplifting ending to the journey that is “Cracker Island,” but this track doesn’t accomplish any sort of closure. It leaves the audience with no real sense of payoff. It’s unfortunate to end on such a weak note because even through the worst of it, this wasn’t a completely terrible album
Throughout the record, Gorillaz struggled with a myriad of weak or just generally strange choices that felt both unwarranted and unnecessary. For example, the juxtaposition in sound between the ninth and tenth track makes no sense narratively, and accomplishes nothing past being jarring. The foundations for a good album are there, there are redeemable qualities to most of the tracks off the album, but almost fall completely short of their potential and commit the extreme sin of being boring. Why waste time listening to the underdeveloped “Cracker Island” when older Gorillaz records accomplish everything this album wants to without nearly as much filler.
The real tragedy of this record is that it could’ve been good, but it just isn’t.
Album rating: 4/10
Luma’s World — Sunset Frets
Panel 1: Luma is sitting on the floor swaddled in a blanket and staring at her laptop. There’s a fish tank behind her with a goldfish. Her fish asks, “Luma, you have been staring at your laptop all day.” Luma yells back “THE WORLD IS ON FIRE!” The fish, worried and maybe a little annoyed, says, “…Just go take a walk.”
Panel 2: Luma is not outside her house. The house is a brick townhouse. The sun has just set, and there is a lamp post next to Luma. A few small fireflies are above her head, but she doesn’t seem to notice. She thinks to herself in a thought bubble, “Will a walk help?”
Panel 4: Close up of a glowing firefly.