this is not a gimmick

this is not a gimmick

Super Nintendo Classic released

Due to the popularity of last year’s NES Classic – a miniature version of a Nintendo with 30 games pre-installed ­– Nintendo released the Super Nintendo Classic on Friday, an $80 adorable miniature with 21 classic games, including Donkey Kong Country, Star Fox, Super Mario Kart, Super Mario World, Super Metroid, A Link to the Past, and many other childhood favorites.

Like other older millennials, the SNES is the console I grew up with, so my nostalgia meter went off the charts upon receiving one of these bad boys in the mail. I spent an entire afternoon playing through the games list, running through levels on games that were much more difficult as a child. The added feature of save states is a perk, being able to load up the game from any previous stopping place. I was pleased the system had so much playability, which is a danger when releasing a novelty item such as a the SNES Classic. “Retro gaming is a lot more fun in theory than it is in practice,” the AV Club points out, and most of the time, it’s hard to disagree. We all like the idea of having this tiny, adorable console displayed on our bookshelf, but actually turning it on and playing? Especially when the sort of in-depth, near-lifelike games being released on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 is just a few clicks away? That’s a tough sell.

However, I predict this won’t be the case with the SNES Classic. The Super Nintendo is more than a novelty item – it’s a showcase of Best in Class for a lot of these game franchises. Super Metroid, A Link to The Past, Super Mario World, and Super Mario Kart, to name a few, were groundbreaking when originally released, demonstrating the depth of a 16-bit system from the early 90s. While all of these games have gone on to produce successful franchises, their Super Nintendo releases arguably still remain the pinnacle of their gameplay, before being forced to grapple with the third dimension of the Nintendo 64.

It’s one of the rare moments where I think a nostalgia-fueled, collectors-edition sort of item might be good for more than collecting dust. You’ll turn this one on and play it, I’m sure, if only to finally beat a game your 11-year-old self couldn’t.  

Miley Cyrus returns with Younger Now

Too old for the appeal of Hannah Montana, I was never really a Miley Cyrus fan. Her pop-stardom sort of aggravated me, especially the insufferable “Party in the USA” that everyone was singing back in 2009. But when Miley returned in 2013 with Bangers, a solid CD with the controversial (but slamming hit) “We Can’t Stop,” I couldn’t help but give in. I enjoyed her hot mess persona and her unabashed party girl aesthetic. After Bangers and a strange, weed-fueled free album release called Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz, Miley took a break and became sober, reconciled with her ex, Liam Hemsworth, and did a lot of yoga and meditation.

This “return to her roots” phase of Miley is showcased heavily on her newest release, Younger Now, a twangy, grassy album that hangs up the bear costumes and glitter for an Elvis ‘do. While some critics have been calling the record boring, bland, and almost naïve in its effort, I’m finding myself really enjoying this new sound. We can’t have twerk-era Miley forever: Miley reveals in a Billboard interview that the “materialism and sexualization of women pushed [her] out of the rap scene.”

While some of the lyrics on Younger Now are uninspired, (ex: “what goes up must come down”), and some of the songs are painfully twangy, the cohesive sound of the record reflects a pop star who has matured and is unafraid to release “radio-safe” pop music. It’s hard any time a musician dips into a new genre; there’s a danger the music will feel gimmicky – the listener’s suspicion that the artist engaged in change for change’s sake, or for controversy, or for record sales, can often cloud the experience. But Miley, who clearly doesn’t care much about record sales (given she released her last album for free on her website), is less likely to be doing this as a gimmick and is releasing, what she feels, is the most honest portrayal of her life as of late, even if it isn’t groundbreaking.

Also – a big factor on why I’m now on the Miley train – she’s been putting in serious effort on her vocals and showing that her pipes are just as big as Pink, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, or any other pop star unafraid to strip down to acoustic version of their songs and show chilling vocals.

Take Miley’s Howard Stern Interview, which is worth the 90+ minute listen, if only for the acoustic studio performances of her biggest hits. And her odd but beautiful version of Dido’s “No Freedom” on The Tonight Show with Adam Sandler (Yes, that Adam Sandler). There’s something wonderfully fresh about her re-emergence back into music, if only for the way it sets her apart from her peers and shows that a former Disney star might have staying power.

Check out Miley’s newest effort for yourself on Spotify.

BONUS: Rest in Peace, Tom Petty.

Listen to a "Best of" playlist of Tom Petty favorites curated by NPR.

header image: "super nintendo controller," dineshraj goomany / flickr

“How can we get away from this?” – Showtime’s <i>Active Shooter: America Under Fire</i>

“How can we get away from this?” – Showtime’s Active Shooter: America Under Fire

gone fishing (down rabbit holes).

gone fishing (down rabbit holes).