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Recent Entertainment articles from Daily Dot

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    Fuller House is riding the current nostalgia wave all the way to the bank—and a second season.

    Less than a week after the Full House revival debuted on Netflix, the streaming service announced on Twitter that the show had been renewed for season 2. A small video accompanied the announcement, showing the new family—composed of D.J. and her three sons, Stephanie, Kimmy, her daughter, and the dog—preparing for a family portrait.

    Jodie Sweetin, who reprised her role as Stephanie for the show, thanked fans for their support and said that a second season wouldn't have been possible without them.

    While some people have enjoyed Fuller House for nostalgia reasons—the first episode featured a shot-for-shot callback to the original pilot—it’s by no means a critical success.

    The show was panned and ripped to shreds by critics in reviews, with Vox calling it“an inescapable nightmare” and the Washington Post saying “there’s a point where nostalgia becomes more like necrophilia, and ‘Fuller House’ immediately crosses that line.”

    While a second season of Fuller House is still far off, we do know at least one thing that Full House creator Jeff Franklin would like to see: the return of Michelle, played by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, the only original cast members not to return.

    “We’re hopeful at some point in the future, they may change their minds and reprise Michelle,” Franklin said during the Television Critics Association press tour. “We only need one of them!”

    Regardless of whether the Olsen twins finally join that nostalgia train, it’s still running—whether we want it to or not.

    Have mercy.

    Screengrab via Fuller House/Twitter


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    By now, we all know the binge-watching routine: A show premieres on NetflixHulu, or Amazon Prime, and before you know it, you've crammed as many episodes into your weekend as possible.

    But depending on where you live in the United States, you might be more inclined to watch certain shows.

    The people over at HomeSnacks put together a map that tries to illustrate what people are watching based on where they live.

    Since the major streaming services don't publish data at the state level, HomeSnacks used Google Trends to make the map. So each state's winner is really just the most-Googled show for that area, not necessarily the most-watched one. 

    It's super fun to look at regardless.

    Photo via Garrett Heath/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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    Your favorite YouTuber could have a Primetime Emmy this year, thanks to the Television Academy expanding its categories to include digital creation.

    Short-form series will gain Television Academy recognition in 2016 with new categories that don't limit series to the airwaves. The expansion will add four categories for short-form achievement: variety, animation, comedy or drama, and reality/non-fiction. To qualify a series must have at least six episodes at an average length of 15 minutes, and be shown on traditional TV or the Internet. There will also be acting categories specific to short form. 

    “What was clear to the governors is that there is a rapid acceleration in the volume of terrific creative work being done by our members in the space,” TV Academy Chairman and CEO Bruce Rosenblum told Variety. “One of the primary goals for our organization is to award creative excellence. There was no reason why we shouldn’t be awarding creative excellence in short-form digital content as well.”

    The eventual winners will not be the first digital programs to earn Emmys. In 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries became the first YouTube series to win one, a Creative Arts Emmy in the Interactive series category. Normally the Interactive categories honor digital extensions of existing programs, like Jimmy Fallon's online programming to compliment his network show. Longer-form YouTube Red content would continue to compete in existing full-length categories, the same way Netflix and Hulu series do.

    The new categories would break short-form video into the mainstream, although there are other industry-specific awards that have already focused on celebrating the best in online video, namely the Streamy Awards, which made its televised debut in 2015 on VH1. The short-form Emmys won't be televised, however, instead handed out during the Creative Arts program.

    H/T Variety | Illustration via Max Fleishman


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    Just in time for International Women's Day on March 8, YouTube announced that it will launch new initiatives aimed at promoting projects by female creators. 

    The Google-owned video site has partnered with the United Nations and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media for an ambassadors program. The site also enlisted seven of the biggest names on YouTube—Michelle Phan, GloZell,Ali Brustofski, Flavia Calina, Olhos de Nuvens, Ochikeron, and mirellativegal—for a Spaces project that will fund new work by them.

    According to YouTube, the project's goal is simply to highlight the work women are doing both in front of and behind the camera. "Over the last few months," the company said, "creators have filmed on sets constructed specifically for this initiative at Spaces [across the globe], producing over 50 videos that spotlight women’s perspectives."

    The first videos uploaded to the project's playlist cover a broad range of topics. Everything from women's history to "THE WORST DATES EVER!" is fair game. 

    Mitchell Toomey, the director of the United Nations's Sustainable Development Goals Action Campaign, praised the 193 countries that committed to prioritizing gender equality last September by signing the Sustainable Development Agenda.

    "To help champion these goals," Toomey said, "the UN SDG Action Campaign is excited to work with YouTube to bring together these seven female YouTube influencers as new Change Ambassadors."

    The UN ambassadors are Ingrid Nilsen (U.S.), Jackie Aina (U.S.), Yuya (Mexico), Taty Ferreira (Brazil), Hayla Ghazal (U.A.E), Louise Pentland (U.K.), and Chika Yoshida (Japan). 

    The new partnership adds a high-profile dimension to a major human-rights initiative, one that could boost the work of some pretty cool ladies in the process. 

    Correction: The U.N. project is a separate venture from the Spaces project—an earlier version of this story conflated the two.

    H/T Variety | Screengrab via YouTube Spaces/YouTube

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    The Daily Dot is celebrating Woman Crush Wednesday, better known as #WCW on Twitter and Instagram, by highlighting female creators on YouTube whose work we admire.

    A Nashville vlogger’s sendup of another YouTube star’s style has exploded on the platform more than either thought possible.

    In one week, Sara Dietschy has gained over 80,000 new subscribers following her video “How to Casey Neistat a Vlog,” which has over 600,000 views and even received praise and a dedicated vlog segment from Neistat himself. So who is this rising influencer and why is it so important to keep her on your radar?

    Dietschy (rhymes with “peachy”) has always been passionate about filmmaking, but she didn’t consider it as a career option until after graduating high school. Now 20, Dietschy is focused on building a brand around herself and her filmmaking. Her daily blog posts and weekly YouTube videos have given her the opportunity to contract with outside companies drawn to her

    colorful, high-quality, and hella hip aesthetic. Alongside her own travel vlogs, Dietschy’s time is split between two webseries.

    In Creative Spaces TV, the Nashville native interviews artists about their creative spaces and processes including unconventional photographers, 3D artists, music technicians, and more. Season 2 returned March 1, but you can catch up on season one here.

    Then there is #ThatCreativeLife—a crucial resource for filmmakers on YouTube. In each episode, Dietschy tackles varying topics and viewer questions concerning freelance filmmaking. In the past she’s talked about the importance of working for free, her equipment recommendations, and tips for overcoming the “new kid syndrome.” Dietschy even posts a Q&A video following every documentary she uploads in order to walk viewers through how the video was made.

    Her work—reminiscent of Anna Akana and Yulin Kuang—demonstrates the importance of collaboration in an industry that still pits women against each other. It’s not that her Neistat parody was different than any of her other work; everything Dietschy creates is quality storytelling, which makes this moment feel even more special. Because how many times do we get to see a creator as deserving as Dietschy put her name on the map?

    So cheers to you, Sara, and your unwavering commitment to your work.

    Screengrab via Sara Dietschy/YouTube


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    Dreary rainfall, awkward apprehension, and worrying radio reports of a serial killer on the loose create a classic horror setting for Pretty Little Miss—a Reddit work of fiction turned short film.

    The story, written six months ago by Reddit user JeniusGuy, rose to the top of the thread in r/WritingPrompts. The prompt challenged authors to write the encounter of two serial killers—one who kills hitchhikers and one who poses as a hitchhiker, killing the souls that pick her up. 

    JeniusGuy's comment tells the story of Jim and Jean, the latter of whom is more notoriously known than Jim, an apparent rookie murderer targeting hitchhikers like Jean. Little does he know that he picked up the very killer he's a fan of.

    Finishing the story on an ambiguous note, JeniusGuy had multiple Reddit users requesting a sequel that includes further development of Jim and Jean and their relationship. While JeniusGuy denied their appeals, declaring his contentment with the way the story is, another Reddit user delivered in the form of film.

    Published Tuesday, user iFilmThat released his seven-minute short based on JeniusGuy's writing. The video has garnered nearly 20,000 views so far. Unfortunately, it hasn't quite received the same amount of praise and excitement as the written version both on Reddit and YouTube.

    But the book's always better than the movie anyway, right?

    Read JeniusGuy's original story here.

    Screengrab via iFilmThat/YouTube


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    If Fuller House can run entirely on the nostalgia factor, who's to say that that big, happy family can’t work in other genres?

    Bob Saget, Dave Coulier, and John Stamos seem to think it can. Teaming up with Stephen Colbert, they turned Full House into a gritty cop drama. Turning the “good cop, bad cop” trope on its head, Danny Tanner, Jesse Katsopolis, and Joey Gladstone are the good cop, bad cop, and impressionist cop as they gang up on Colbert’s drug dealer.

    They keep the streets of San Francisco safe after the kids go to bed; still offer that comforting-lesson talk to criminals; and, if you’re nice enough, Danny will invite you home to help him raise his daughters—even if it’s as bad of an idea as it sounds. This trio’s got this routine down to an art form.

    #TrueDetectiveSeason3, anyone?

    Screengrab via The Late Show with Stephen Colbert/YouTube


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    Morgan Freeman has narrated everything from award-winning documentaries to your car's GPS  and science shows about helium, but his latest subject may be more perplexing than anything he’s encountered before.

    The tourists on Hollywood Boulevard have always been headscratchers—and often the subject of mockery—for Jimmy Kimmel, and so the late-night host got Freeman to narrate their odd behavior as only he can. Freeman obliged, and we were treated to a more complex view into their lives than anything Kimmel could’ve done. After all, Freeman can do this in his sleep.

    Hopefully Perfect Selfie Paul and Selfie Stick Sam find what they’re looking for.

    Screengrab via Jimmy Kimmel Live/YouTube


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    Joseph Gordon-Levitt is going from playingEdward Snowden to producing a film about the Ku Klux Klan

    The actor will reportedly produce and possibly star in the Amazon Studios film K Troop, which documents the post-Civil War rise of the Klan and the U.S. Army's K Troop, which upended the white-supremacist group's activities in the early 1870s using a network of informants and intelligence-gathering activities.

    The film is based on a still-unpublished story by Slate writer Matthew Pearl. 

    Gordon-Levitt might also play Major Lewis Merrill, the main character, who is credited with devising the strategy to take down the hate group in the South, although it has obviously risen several times since then and is currently dominating headlines thanks to one presidential nominee.

    The film's release date has not yet been set.

    H/T The Hollywood Reporter | Photo via David Brian Photography/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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    Apparently, the band that makes great viral videos together isn’t necessarily the band that stays together.

    As drummer Taylor Hawkins said in an interview with Artisan News in January that, in turn, was published on YouTube on Wednesday evening, the Foo Fighters are going on indefinite hiatus. Hawkins said the decision “was not because we don’t love each other, or don’t want to make music together … We did so much in the last five or six years. We as a band could go into the studio tomorrow and have just as much fun as we ever had, but I think the world needs a break from us for a little while.”

    But for those hoping the hiatus would last into infinity, the band released this video on its YouTube channel on Wednesday night (you’ll have to wait until the end to see the answer).

    That last part of Hawkins’ statement, though, is probably true. On the band’s last tour, it seemed like the Foo Fighters were making a video go viral every night, and only rarely did it have anything to do with the band’s music: Frontman Dave Grohl broke his leg and returned to the stage triumphantly that same evening; some dude from Canada sang a Rush cover with the Foo Fighters and upstaged the band in front of thousands of people; the band put together one of the better Ice Bucket Challenges we saw.

    There was the Sonic Highways docu-series on HBO. There was the surprise EP released for free on iTunes. There was the drum battle with the Muppets’ Animal. There was Grohl playing a Beatles cover at the Academy Awards and making sure the deaths of Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister and Phil Taylor were properly recognized at the Grammys.

    Grohl and the Foo Fighters are everywhere, and in this Internet age, there’s no escaping them. The band is on our computers, inside of our phones, lodged inside our brains like a tumor that very well could be malignant. The Foo Fighters are, indeed, overexposed—this Facebook page says so, anyway—and it’s certainly the right move to step away for a while.

    Go away for a while, and don’t do anything that will make us click another viral video.

    But will the band stay away? It’s doubtful. It went on hiatus in 2012, but by the next year, Grohl and company were playing big concerts again. In 2014, the Sonic Highways album was released, and last year, the band couldn’t stop going viral even if it tried.

    Yet, there is hope. Consider the Hulk Hogan approach: From 1984 to 1993, Hulk Hogan was the top superstar in the World Wrestling Federation, but by the end of his decade-long run, both Hogan and the company that employed him needed a break from each other.

    So, Hogan went to Japan and wrestled there for a while. His fans in this country didn’t see much—or any—of Hogan. And then he returned to World Championship Wrestling, his old boss’s competitor. It was like a chair shot to the back of the head, and it worked for Hogan, who extended his wrestling career for another two decades afterward.

    (It must be noted that the move also worked for the WWF, now the WWE, which could move on without the aging superstar who had become too powerful backstage and which needed new blood to fill the pay-per-view main events.)

    The Foo Fighters need to be like Hogan, minus the racist rants and sex tapes, of course. Go away for a while, and don’t do anything that will make us click another viral video. Give us some space so we don’t break up with you for good.

    In times like these, you have to learn to let us live again without you, so we can welcome you back in a year or two or three. Let us breathe, make us miss you. And if all that fails, just go ahead and hire Phil Collins as the new lead singer.  

    H/T Consequence of SoundPhoto via Elisa Moro/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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    While the NFL is king when it comes to TV ratings and general sports interest and the NBA might have the most global appeal with superstars like LeBron James and Steph Curry, Major League Baseball has proved that it has cornered the market on getting people to watch games on their phones.

    As Forbes writes, 8.4 billion minutes were streamed to the official MLB app, At Bat, during the 2015 season. That's more than the other American pro sports leagues combined. In fact, 53 percent of the minutes consumed by fans of all this country's pro leagues were in At Bat. 

    On some level, this makes sense. Baseball is steeped in the radio broadcast tradition, and the app's mobility allows fans who want to listen to (or watch) a game wherever they want is in the same vein of their grandparents sitting on the porch and listening to the broadcasters describe what was happening on the field. In this instance, streaming perhaps is the newest version of radio.

    But the fact that MLB dominates so much in this category is interesting. And it's not just in this country, where it's been the top-grossing sports app for the past seven years. But in 96 other nations, At Bat also resides in the No. 1 spot.

    From March to November, basically the entirety of the baseball season, At Bat was the most consumed U.S. sport league app by minutes in seven of those 10 months, according to comScore. It also beat ESPN in total minutes consumed from April-September of 2015—At Bat accumulated 6.9 billion minutes compared to ESPN's 6.1 billion—and more than doubled Bleacher Report's Team Stream (3.4 billion) during that time frame.

    More from Forbes on why this is important:

    But if 8.4 billion minutes of streamed content seems like a staggering number, consider that it’s not out of the possibility for At Bat to hit 10 billion minutes in 2016. The reason is iOS 9 iPads support will now split-screen functionality with At Bat. So, minutes of multiple games will be consumed.

    All this ties into ad dollars, on top of subscription fees, and the ability to do other purchases such tickets through At Bat.

    So, even though baseball is no longer America's pastime—and hasn't been for a few decades—it's also become the most important app in America's newest pastime: looking at our phones.

    Photo via Keith Allison/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)


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    Fresh off a performance that might have saved the entire Grammy Awards, it appears that Kendrick Lamar is on the verge of releasing a new album on Friday.

    It was a surprising revelation, and it appears that Spotify has uploaded the eight-song album—which is listed as untitled unmastered.—with tracks that apparently were produced in 2013, 2014, and 2016.

    Lamar previously released in 2015 To Pimp a Butterfly, which was largely considered by observers to be his masterpiece, even though others point to his 2012 album good kid, m.A.A.d city to be his true artistic zenith.

    Yet, if you follow Lamar religiously, perhaps the new music isn't a big shock. He performed untitled never-before-heard songs in the past couple years on The Colbert Report and The Tonight Show, and this is what he told Grammy.com last month. 

    "You see all these performances on these late-night shows—I got a chamber of material from the album that I was in love where sample clearances or something as simple as a deadline kept it off the album," Lamar said. "But I think probably close to 10 songs that I’m in love with that I’ll still play and still perform that didn’t make the cut."

    Maybe you can hear some of those songs on Friday.

    H/T Consequence of Sound | Photo via Gozamos/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0) 


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    Her soothing voice narrates a series of images drawn on her own back. Like magic, strings appear, fluttering over her neck. She reads a letter to her own imaginary daughter that serves as an inspiration to the thousands of young women already tuned in to her YouTube.

    You’ve entered the world of 13-year-old Sonia Mandeville, who was born and raised in Indonesia and shares the intricacies of her life over YouTube as a way to connect with artists around the globe.


    “At times I may feel disconnected to filmmakers in other countries, but YouTube allows me to connect to other creators despite the oceans separating us,” she wrote over email to the Daily Dot. “I love being international, you get to meet such amazing people from all around the world. [Being international] made me go out and look for the art that was already in the country I live in.”

    Mandeville’s videos are far from the vlogger format that has come to define “YouTuber” for her generation. Instead of talking directly to the camera, Mandeville crafts a narrative using visual tricks, calm audio, and introspection that goes beyond a favorite cup of coffee or morning routine. She was drawn to stop-motion as it was the most convenient way to showcase the films she saw in her mind, using supplies from her home and locations along her city streets. To achieve her dreamy look requires one key ingredient: patience.

    “[A]ll the little details, as tedious as they might be, will pay off in the final film,” Mandeville wrote. “I think stop motion really helps you understand how complex film is and where it began. When you are in front of the camera shooting frame-by-frame, you get to know your film inside out.”


    While she’s far from the only young YouTuber taking risks with the artform, Mandeville’s unique perspective has enabled her to bring those inspiring stop-motion clips to a larger audience: She partnered with SoulPancake after she made a video response to one of their videos. In addition to her clips, she says she tries to make her “lifestyle a form of creativity” and involve art in all of her life.

    “I love performance and being on stage,” she wrote. “I love painting, music, writing, illustrating and fashion. I definitely don’t feel limited to film making and YouTube.”

    That said, Mandeville says she plans to continue with YouTube in her future, while adding in short films and a book project. In each, she’ll continue the spirit of openness that defines her YouTube videos and will forge deeper connections with the “collaborative community” she says she has discovered thanks to sharing her art on YouTube.

    “It has been insane for me to talk to strangers who know me so well from watching my videos, but definitely strange in a good way,” Mandeville wrote. “I feel like I am very honest with what I say in my films, so though it can be scary to be public with parts of my life, it is also so exhilarating to know that so many more people can understand parts of me that otherwise would have been so difficult to convey without film.”

    Screengrab via SoulPancake/YouTube


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    With Dr. Ben Carson expected to end his presidential campaign on Friday, Jimmy Kimmel made sure that we remembered him far beyond this election.

    The sleepy Republican candidate is getting his own bedtime story to help him settle in at the end of the day—a mix of the classic book Goodnight Moon and a collection of Carson’s oddest statements.

    It’s a soothing tale—at least until the moon comes in. Or maybe it’s more of a nightmare. Either way, it won’t matter to Carson, because he’s probably already asleep.

    Screengrab via Jimmy Kimmel Live/YouTube


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    NASA astronaut Scott Kelly has a lot to catch up on now that he's back on Earth after spending 340 days in space, and Stephen Colbert is happy to help.

    Kelly is likely aware of the many major national and international news stories that transpired while he was on the International Space Station, so Colbert naturally sticks to the finer stories that Kelly might’ve missed along the way. After all, somebody has to catch him up on the year’s biggest celebrity gossip and memes.

    But there are some things about which Colbert believes Kelly should just remain ignorant. The less said about the 2016 presidential race, for one thing, the better.

    Screengrab via The Late Show with Stephen Colbert/YouTube


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    Kendrick Lamar has debuted new material on the biggest of stages: the Grammys, The Colbert Report and The Tonight Showwith Jimmy Fallon.

    Now he’s packaged those songs together on an eight-song album, Untitled Unmastered, that’s streaming right now on Spotify. It’s so not much a sequel to To Pimp a Butterfly but an addendum: It’s as if he’s giving away for free what could easily be sold as a “deluxe edition” reissue of his critically acclaimed 2015 album.

    Rest assured: These aren’t just scraps left on the studio floor, either.

    "You see all these performances on these late-night shows—I got a chamber of material from the album that I was in love where sample clearances or something as simple as a deadline kept it off the album," Lamar told Grammy.com last month. "But I think probably close to 10 songs that I’m in love with that I’ll still play and still perform that didn’t make the cut."


    If you’re not on Spotify, you can buy the album on iTunes, or check it out on Apple Music and Tidal.

    Photo via MTV News/Twitter


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    BY SAM GUTELLE

    With its latest announcement, DigiTour Media is shouting “spring break!” The company known for producing live events that feature social media stars has announced the Spring Break tour, which will bring a group of digital media influencers to 28 cities in the US.

    As has been the case with some of DigiTour’s other recent events, the creators who will hit the road for Spring Break are a young, up-and-coming bunch who have medium-sized followings online. The most recognizable name within the lineup is Crawford Collins, who is known for making videos with his brother Chris and has 1.6 million followers on Vine. Joining him on the tour will be Mark ThomasLoren GrayWeston Koury, and the members of 5Quad, a fledgling online video “supergroup.”

    The stars of Spring Break all appeared in a video introducing the tour. It can be found on DigiTour’s YouTube channel.

    “We listen to our fans, as a result this line up and Spring Break tour were born from those conversations,” said Meridith Valiando Rojas, DigiTour Co-Founder and CEO, in a press release. “Some of the talent, like 5Quad and Crawford we’ve worked with before and we’re bringing back due to popular demand. Others like Loren Gray, DuhItzMark and Weston Koury we discovered on Musical.ly and YouNow and represent a new wave of talent.”

    DigiTour’s Spring Break will begin on April 1st in Anaheim and will weave its way back-and-forth across the country before concluding in Sacramento on May 5th. Tickets for those two shows, as well as the 26 others that will occur during Spring Break, are available from the DigiTour website. The base ticket price is $25; for fans who wish to get up close to their favorite creators, VIP packages start at $130.

    Screengrab via The DigiTour/YouTube


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    Major League Baseball already dominates the American professional sports scene when it comes to how much people use its livestreaming platform. Now, its players are looking to take over the social-media world, too, through a day of Snapchat photos and videos.

    MLBannounced Friday that it was teaming up with Snapchat on March 11 to publish Snapchat stories while spring training games are in progress. All 30 teams will participate, and unlike the regular season, during which in-game social-media participation is banned, players can record videos and take pictures from the dugout and bullpen and send them to Snapchat.

    The day will also feature the return of SnapBat, which debuted at last season's All-Star game festivities.

    The MLB–Snapchat partnership began last season when they created a weekly story every Wednesday by aggregating photos and videos from teams and fans. Now, the two parties have agreed to a multi-year deal that includes MLB Stories and more access to Opening Day, the All-Star Game, and the playoffs.

    To get a sense of what might happen on Snapchat Day, watch what happened when Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer took over the MLB Snapchat account last week.

    H/T Forbes | Photo via MLB/Twitter


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    BY JOCELYN JOHNSON

    One might call it an “unceremonious outcome,” but after 48 hours in court Ray William Johnson and his legal team bowed out of the fight to win their case against Jukin Media late Thursday. And shortly after closing arguments wrapped, Johnson’s and Jukin Media’s lawyers came together to bargain a settlement prior to the official ruling from the jury. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but a more interesting twist is that the jury had already reached a ruling and a ruling that swept the board entirely in favor of Jukin Media for 40 of the 40 clips in question.

    “We have a variety of different ways we can turn the content on its head and can ridicule the content in a fun and not negative way,” said Johnson during his testimony on Tuesday, the first day of the trial. But as the jury was presented with side-by-side videos of every Jukin Media clip in question, it became starkly clear that of the three videos in an “Equals Three” episode, those pulled from Jukin’s creators were not transformed or edited in any significant way. In many cases the videos ran exactly as they appeared in their raw form, from start to finish.

    Fair use has consistently been the creative community’s get-out-of-jail free card as many, especially Johnson, claim that the content is parodied or criticized and commented on in a particular way. As the juror told VideoInk, the decision came down merely because the videos didn't seem transformative enough to fall into the realm of fair use.

    And now Johnson and the case brought Jukin Media will go down in history as the token example of what not to do and what is not considered fair use in a clip show format on the Internet.

    Read the full article on the Video Ink.

    Screengrab via Ray William Johnson/YouTube


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    On Thursday we got word of a surprise Kendrick Lamar album by way of music streaming service Spotify reportedly uploading the tracklist a day early in error.

    It’s been more than two years since Beyoncé created a shift with pop albums surfacing online completely out of the blue, and it seems music streaming services are still working out the kinks (see also: Rihanna and Tidal). After first appearing on iTunes, and then a little later on Tidal and Spotify, the Lamar album sent the Internet into a tizzy all the same—even if untitled unmastered. isn’t exactly a proper follow-up to last year’s colossal To Pimp a Butterfly.

    As evidenced by the album and song titles, untitled unmastered. is made up of eight unnamed, previously unreleased Lamar songs, the conception of which apparently goes all the way back to 2013. The songs all seem to have come from the TPAB sessions, and the sounds bear that out. The jazz that predominantly populated his previous project—the jittery horns, wandering bass lines, contemplative piano strokes, and drums to light the path—is all here, but this compilation is more free-form than free jazz.

    These eight songs were part of a larger network of music that was eventually cut and edited into TPAB, and it’s easy to see both why they ended up on the cutting-room floor and why they are now seeing the light of day. The songs here don’t quite have the weight of those from last year’s most critically acclaimed rap album, nor the cohesiveness. untitled unmastered. seems to be all the coloring that went outside the lines.

    Some of the same big ideas are present, like blackness, faith, and love—all fleshed out to varying degrees—but taken as a whole can seem more fragmented than a broken stained-glass window. 

    There’s more of an expansive musical palette, but rather than traveling genres and eras to find all the bebop, funk, and quiet-storm soul, the album can mostly be delineated from early ‘90s L.A. hip-hop. The G-funk of West Coast production luminaries Dr. Dre and DJ Quik and the jazz-inspired rap of the underground hip-hop collective Project Blowed are combined and filtered through their offspring (like Thundercat and Flying Lotus, who both did production on TPAB) to make something that isn’t happening anywhere else in rap.

    The guest performers on untitled unmastered. are also interesting. The only vocal flourish from outside Lamar’s camp is from CeeLo Green, the genre-surfing Atlanta crooner. That makes sense since this is basically a collection of unfinished demos, but the in-house studio musicians still serve to both keep the informal vibe and also to show off the talent Lamar’s label, Top Dawg Entertainment, has to provide. TDE’s lone singer SZA appears briefly, sounding even more mature and less imposing than normal. Lamar’s fellow Black Hippy Jay Rock joins him on a few songs, occasionally going back and forth like an old-school rap duo. Even the TDE label head Terrence “Punch” Henderson pops up as a guest vocalist.

    As far as the lyrical content, untitled unmastered. is totally what is to be expected of half-baked outtakes from one of the most verbose albums in recent memory. Some of the same big ideas in TPAB are present, like blackness, faith, and love—all fleshed out to varying degrees—but taken as a whole can seem more fragmented than a broken stained-glass window.

    Lamar sets the stage with a world going to hell in a handbasket and himself as the savior, or at the very least, “chosen.” He appears to wear that crown reluctantly: “See I’m living with anxiety, ducking sobriety/Fucking up the system I ain’t fucking with society.” He’s only motivated and capable of describing the ills, not of solving them. There’s a lot of talk of lost faith, and it isn’t until the song with CeeLo that Lamar finds any hope at all. Safely inside a wall of lush strings, he finds love. Of course, it is not a fairy tale love, and it mostly consists of him showing this woman his flaws and imperfections: “You know the male species can be redundant/I mean we love a woman and think we can satisfy her/Between the sheets, covers, and pillows”

    The immediate standout track is “untitled 07 (2014-2016),” the first part of which has Lamar floating over a skittering trap beat. Here he's leaving behind damn near every vice because drugs, fame, and, “love won’t get you high as this,” while he “Levitate, levitate, levitate, levitate(s).” Lamar’s mindset is summed up thusly: “Me don’t want problems… Me do want dollars.” The second part of the song (which was apparently produced by Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys’s five-year-old son Egypt) is Lamar gassing himself with rapid-fire verses. The third and final part devolves into a jam session with Lamar and a solo guitar as he lands at his conclusion, “Head is the answer.” Obviously he is talking about learning and the power of knowledge, but coming from the rapper who’s biggest rap single contained the line “girl, I know you want this dick,” it could very well also be a double entendre.

    untitled unmastered. is not much more than a collection of outtakes and rarities. Two of these tracks were performed live on late-night television, and people will always want more Lamar music, but besides LeBron James, no one was begging for this. When a secret Top Dawg Entertainment project was announced in an Instagram post earlier this week, many rap fans suspected a release from one of the label’s lesser-known artists. But a Lamar release shifts the whole conversation. Now the clamoring for new music from SZA or TDE-newcomer Isaiah Rashad grows louder, the debates of Lamar being the best rapper breathing start to get reinvigorated, and the label gets a little extra money from all the streaming services. Not bad for a project with no new material that might have been fanboy fodder for another artist with another team.

    Photo via Gozamos/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0) 


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