#tbt: zooey deschanel pre-new girl

photographed by hilary walsh

heading back to ’08.

With news of a baby on the way with beau Jacob Pechenik, we couldn't help but be reminded of the ambitious 28-year old we fell in love with before her New Girl fame. Back then—in 2008, to be exact—Deschanel was writing a different list of priorities. But with a capsule collection for Target, a duet with Prince, and a fifth album with her band She & Him under her belt, the singer-actress is all grown up (yet still somehow so adorable). Check out the spread and reminisce with us below about our favorite TV fixture before she was Jess.

A door slams, and suddenly Zooey Deschanel is rushing towards me, her mouth an "O-shaped" silent apology, her eyes round with concern. "I'm late! And it's loud! It's never loud here!" she exclaims, sliding a canvas tote bag studded with colorful band buttons off of her shoulder and slinging it onto the back of a chair. Our meeting place is the aptly named La Conversation, a small French cafe in West Hollywood just around the corner from iconic rock venue the Troubadour, and yes, it is loud: the room is humming with the crash of cutlery and the din of lunch-diners shouting at one another over quiche. "Is it OK?" Deschanel asks, shooting me another worried glance.
Deschanel is wearing a black-and-white striped long-sleeved T-shirt, a high-waisted denim skirt, and black sandals. Her nails are painted a sunny Jackie O.-shade of coral, and a thin tortoiseshell headband glints coyly in her dark hair. Once we decide to stay put, she makes quick work of ordering mint tea--not even cracking her menu--and announces that she's done away with coffee entirely. "I had to stop, just had to. I mean, I liked the ritual of it, but..." A shrug. "Otherwise I don't miss it." She looks luminous and well-rested, and explains that--having recently wrapped up filming a slew of movies in addition to releasing her well-received debut album, Volume One (with raspy-voiced indie balladeer M. Ward under the moniker She & Him)--she's just had her first two weeks off in a year and a half. "I had my teeth cleaned," she says with a grin, "saw friends, caught up on my sleep.... You know, life stuff."
At 28, Deschanel possesses that rare quality of being both ethereally beautiful and damnably cute: On the surface she has a placid, ladylike poise, but it's undercut with a gawky, gamine, aw-shucks goofiness. She strikes me immediately as genuine, kind, and surprisingly normal for someone whose profession is--jazz hands!--entertainment; she has a clever, curious, expressive face (one can't help but think she would have made a riveting silent fi lm star; the kind who would have given original It Girl Clara Bow a run for her money) and a low-ish voice that renders everything she says a little wry. But while she may not look or sound like a typical California girl, Deschanel is Hollywood through-and-through: Her father is Academy Award-nominated cinematographer and director Caleb Deschanel (among other things, he manned the cameras for the legendary Rolling Stones live film Let's Spend the Night Together, which Zooey despairs that she's never seen: "I've been looking for a DVD of it forever--it's so hard to find!") and her mother, Mary Jo, is an actress who starred in Twin Peaks, as Donna's mother, Eileen. "I wish I remembered the Twin Peaks time a little better," she says, wistfully, "but I was too young. My parents would let me see an episode every once in a while, but when you don't know what's going on--well, even when you do-- that show really messes with your head. I'd try to sneak downstairs at night to watch it, but I'd always get caught and sent back to bed." She and her older sister Emily (now best known for her starring role in TV crime drama Bones) spent a lot of time on fi lm sets growing up, which Zooey never enjoyed ("I liked the food. Otherwise I found it pretty boring. I mean, if you're not working, there's not much to do"), but that didn't immunize her from the acting bug. Her first true love was movie musicals--she was enthralled by the spectacle of riotous color and elaborate costumes, the dazzle of artificiality. "My dad has all of these short films he made of me when I was little, and one of them is me when I was two watching The Wizard of Oz," she recounts. "I was just..." she widens her eyes to illustrate, "transfixed. And then in another one I was singing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,' and I knew every word--which is pretty crazy when you think about the fact that I was still just learning to speak at the time." There was no question about it: She was destined to someday make her own kind of movie magic.
"I was really sassy," she says, laughing. "As soon as I could pursue a career, I did. My sister went to college first, but I guess I just couldn't wait." Deschanel began college, too, at Northwestern University in Chicago to study theater--but when she got word that she had landed the role of teen-runaway-turned-stewardess Anita Miller in Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous she decided to take a leave of absence, and never returned. "It was a whim decision," she says, stirring her tea with a dainty spoon. "At first I thought I'd just take some time off, so I made an arrangement to store my stuff in some space outside the city. But when I got there, they had no record of my reservation, so I shipped everything home, knowing I would never go back. It was a big decision that was just kind of made for me."
Since then, she has worked steadily, making her name playing offbeat characters--from sardonic Retail Rodeo employee Cheryl in The Good Girl (2002) to free-spirited hippy Kat in two seasons of Weeds to Sarah Jessica Parker's batshit-crazy roommate in Failure to Launch (2007). She's not afraid to take chances on whatever material happens to intrigue her, whether that be starring in the Sci-Fi Channel's Wizard of Oz-inspired Tin Man series (if only to fulfill her deep-seated childhood desire to play Dorothy) or, more recently, M. Night Shyamalan's unfairly maligned The Happening, which if you watch in the spirit of mid-century horror films like Village of the Damned or Day of the Triffids, is actually quite good. "It's got that super '60s, slightly exaggerated feel," Deschanel agrees, "which I really like." Deschanel herself is something of a throwback to starlets of yore: her nostalgia for the golden era of Hollywood seeps into everything from the sort of roles she takes to her passion for vintage fashion ("I love every decade," she says, "but I think '60s clothes are my favorite. And I love big hair. I'm secretly a country singer at heart"). When asked who she'd most like to appear in a fi lm with, she doesn't miss a beat before answering, "Cary Grant. I love Cary
Grant. And Jimmy Stewart." Her eyes tilt towards the ceiling dreamily. "Maybe they could add an extra role in Philadelphia Story and I could just show up..."
She even seems to experience modern-day L.A. through the lens of someone who has devoted herself to learning about its past: Not for her is the velvet-rope-and-celebrity-DJ scene; her stomping grounds are repertory theatres and supper clubs. When I mention that I'm staying at the Roosevelt, for example, she says, "Oh, cool!" But when I add that the hotel can be noisy, she furrows her brow as if she's trying to remember something. "Yeah... don't they have parties there or something?" Refreshingly, the place where many current starlets regularly faceplant is completely outside the realm of Deschanel's Hollywood. She keeps her private life private and is, she admits, a "homebody," sharing a house with her sister. "It's so good," she  says. "Our dynamic hasn't changed much since we were kids. When she calls me, she always says, ‘It's your big sister!'... She's still very protective of me."
In the coming months, Deschanel will be appearing opposite Jim Carrey in Yes Man (which is based on a memoir by Danny Wallace in which he challenged himself to say "yes" to everything for an entire year), in Gigantic with Paul Dano (whom she describes as "an amazing actor; very thoughtful"), and in 500 Days of Summer with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. She's thrilled with all of them, yet right now her heart clearly lies in her music--when the subject comes up, her whole face brightens, as if a secret she's been keeping for a long time is finally out and she's elated to be sharing it.
"It's a lot easier for me to talk about music," she admits, "because I actually have answers about the finished product. Acting is basically providing a ton of raw material for people: You're like clay. ‘I'm making a bunch of clay for you. Here's a bunch of clay.' And then you leave, and they can make that clay into a whole earth or into a pile of garbage. So sometimes it's like, ‘Hey, I love that sculpture you made from the clay I provided,' and other times it's like, ‘Uh, I'm really embarrassed by that.'" She tucks her hair behind her ear. "With the record, it's like, I know I like it; I don't feel like I compromised my integrity in any way, and it's an incredible feeling to be involved with something from the beginning to the end. That's how I prefer to work, and maybe that means that in the future I need to be more hands-on when I make movies. Maybe I need to direct them or write them, because I enjoy having more control over the process." Her jaw drops as though an idea has just occurred to her, and her voice lowers to a conspiratorial whisper. "Maybe someday I could even make a movie where I do the music and direct it and write it and star in a one-man band!"
She glances down at my tape recorder, which is halfway hidden behind a small china pitcher filled with cream. "Um... I don't think that's turning anymore," she says, poking it cautiously. I pick it up, shake it, and confirm that the device is indeed deceased. "Maybe it's my energy," Deschanel offers, scrunching her forehead in concern. "We all have, you know, electrical fields." She wiggles her fingers in front of her face and makes cartoon-ghost noises, "Woooooh, woooooh..."
It's nearly time for her to go, anyway, so after briefly debating whether or not we should run off in search of batteries, we decide to let sleeping dictaphones lie and just pick up our conversation on a different day. Deschanel scoops up her bag, gives me a wonky high five, and bounces merrily out the door. When we talk two weeks later, Deschanel is on a tour bus with M. Ward and their backing band, which includes her good friend Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond; they're "somewhere," she says hazily, "in Georgia." She calls me an hour late (again, with a flurry of sweet apologies); it turns out that, cocooned in her bunk with the curtain pulled, she accidentally overslept. "It's so hard to wake up on the bus because it's dark all the time," she says. "And my schedule is all crazy. I have to go to bed so much later than I'm used to." She laughs. "Still, out of all of us, I'm usually the earliest to bed and the earliest to rise."
This is She & Him's first ever tour, and Deschanel is loving the communal living and vagabond rock 'n' roll lifestyle. "It's great," she chirps happily. "I really like being around people, so I love waking up and having all my buddies right there. And the girls outnumber the boys on the tour, which is rare, so that makes it especially fun. The crowds have been really enthusiastic and responsive: It's just such an amazing feeling to look out and see all of these people singing along to my melodies." She pauses, thoughtfully. "I'm so, so lucky. Honestly, I am living the dream."
Deschanel has been writing songs for as long as she can remember--alone in hotel rooms while on movie sets, in her room at home with her computer and a four-track--but it took a long time before she had built up the confidence to play them publicly. Not that the world didn't already know that the girl could sing: search YouTube and you'll find footage of her singing "Mr. Big Stuff" on The New Guy (when she was very, very young), performing with friend Samantha Shelton in their cabaret act If All the Stars Were Pretty Babies, and belting out tunes in Elf, Winter Passing, and Raving. Her dulcet back-up vocals graced ex-boyfriend Jason Schwartzman's Coconut Records album last year, and this month she can be heard on Jenny Lewis's latest solo LP ("Jenny has such a magical amazing voice," she gushes. "It's just beautiful. Everything she does has a golden touch"). When she was a teenager, Deschanel would spend hours impersonating old records, training her voice to hit jazz notes like Ella Fitzgerald and croon torch songs like Peggy Lee, which she thinks ultimately played into the singing style she has now. "I was especially good at Anita O'Day and Judy Garland," she says with a giggle. "It was a fun challenge to try to emulate different people. You really learn how to convey different emotions by using your voice in different ways."
She & Him's Volume One bears all the earmarks of someone who came of age under the spell of vinyl classics: Deschanel's songs conjure ghosts of the '20s, '30s, and '40s, while also giving a wink and a nod to the Carpenters, Linda Rondstadt, June Carter, and the Ronettes. Like Deschanel herself, the album is playful, sentimental, and endlessly charming. It's a winsome, broken-hearted masterpiece by a hopeful romantic; and if it were a movie, it would be soft-focus and sepia-tinged. While many actors' musical efforts turn out to be little more than embarrassing vanity projects, Deschanel's record is a revelation of true talent. She has a mastery of melody, a fl air for emotionally evocative lyricism, and a voice... well, like an angel. And anyone who has fallen in love with it will be happy to know that there will be a volume two sometime in the spring.
"I love making records so much," she says. "And now that I've experienced what it's like to stand up there and sing my own songs, I just can't imagine wanting to do anything else. It's something I've wanted to do my whole life."
The next time I see Deschanel, she's onstage at Terminal 5, a cavernous venue in New York, wearing a Roaring 20's-looking spangled white halter dress and a headband with a gigantic white flower onthe side. She's jumping up and down giddily before her favorite songs,doing funny little shimmy dances around the microphone, beamingwith delight at seeing a room full of lips mouthing the lyrics she once held so closely and shyly to her chest. Her joy is so true, so immense,that everyone present can't help but be swept up in it. Tonight Zooey Deschanel is living proof: Sometimes, the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true. -- APRIL LONG


Dragonfire can't melt steel memes

I'm not quite ready to talk about the amount of time I wasted hoping Game of Thrones would live up to its drawn out hype with the series finale, but I am ready to dive into all the memery that came out of the disappointment. And I'm not alone: Maisie Williams—aka Arya Stark—summed up what we were all thinking in one single tweet: "just here for the memes."

After Daenerys had almost as lackluster a death as Cersei, dying with a quick stab wound, it was pretty clear that it would all be downhill. But hey, at least she's reunited with her BFFs Missandei and Jorah in the afterlife.

That opened up the question of who exactly would be king or queen of the seven kingdoms. Poor precious Samwell thinks we should try democracy, but it's not Game of Popular Vote, it's Game of Thrones.

Apparently, everyone at this point had totally forgotten about the fact that Jon Snow actually was a Targaryen, and the rightful heir to the throne. All the characters who, up until this point in the season, had been obsessed with this fact totally pretended it never happened, and never considered him for the new ruler because he... killed the mad queen.

So what do they do? Choose the one person who always said they never wanted throne and that he never even wanted anything: Bran Stark. Arya didn't save everyone's ass from the Night King to be disrespected like this!

And, with all his pre-existing knowledge and newfound power, Bran still just chilled in his chair. Arya is going into uncharted waters, no idea what danger lies ahead? Nah, don't share the information you have on it. Jon is sent off to the Watchers on the Wall just as his younger brother gains absolute power? Forget about pardoning him, Bran doesn't care.

And who would've guessed that Ser Brienne of Tarth would just go and become a blogger, writing anonymous glowing messages about the dude that screwed her over. I'm not a huge fan of the editorial decisions she made while finishing Jaime's story, but I am a fan of the memes made out of the scene.

And back to Jon Snow: All this potential, all this hype on his real name, and once he kills Dany he's shipped off to the Night's Watch like a sad, discarded puppy. There's not even a real reason for the Night's Watch anymore, so he's basically just being sent off to be out of sight, out of mind, for the rest of time.

But hey, at least they finally made right with Ghost. The goodest boy in all of the Seven... or, rather, Six Kingdoms deserved all the pats, and he finally got them when he was reunited with Jon in the North. It almost made me forget all the nonsense that happened throughout the rest of the episode... almost.

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Our favorite collections from 2019's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia

It's hard not to love Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, an annual exhibition of some of the best in resort dressing, that has Sydney's various cityscapes and beaches serving as its backdrop. For five days, we hopped all over the Australian city to check out the Resort 2020 collections from some of Australia's most established designers and emerging newcomers through an assortment of runway shows, presentations, and parties. The result? An extravagant display of beach-ready fashion, elevated streetwear, and signature Australian style.

For those of you not familiar with the resort season—sometimes referred to as cruise or holiday—it's the in-between seasonal offerings of summer garb that typically hits stores in time for the winter months (you know, right about when we're ready to take those vacations we've been dreaming about). And while we're gearing up to head into summer over in America, these collections also serve as the perfect inspiration for warm-weather dressing—even if we won't be seeing them hit stores until much later this year.

From Aussie staples like Double Rainbouu and Alice McCall to emerging brands like P.E Nation, we rounded up the best Aussie collections we saw this week. Take a closer look at each of them, below.


Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia kicked off with a bang, the bang being Aje and its glorious Bloomscape collection. Whimsical pieces inspired by the native flora and natural landscape of Australia made their way down the runway, from billowing, sculptural dresses with hand-painted floral prints to rugged, masculine tailoring inspired by the soil, the trees, and the nation's rocky wonders.

Alice McCall

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Alice McCall has been a longtime favorite in the U.S., known for its whimsical and quirky pieces that never skimp on sequins, feathers, and tulle. For Resort 2020, McCall was inspired by the treasures once found in her mother's "dress-up box" of the late '70s, creating her own take on vintage silhouettes but modernizing them and making them new. The result? Romantic, feminine, and glitzy pieces that are sure to turn heads.

Hansen and Gretel

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Good news for anyone who's into the whole sea nymph thing: This trend is not going anywhere, anytime soon, according to label Hansen and Gretel. The Aussie brand's Resort 2020 collection, Venus, celebrated femininity and womanhood while nodding to this very trend with seashell knit crop tops, slinky slips, pastel summer knits, and plenty of shimmery pearlescent fabrics.

Lee Mathew

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Lee Mathews Resort 2020 runway show was a special one: a celebration of the brand's 20th year. And, with that came a retrospective collection taking inspiration from the brand's archives over the past two decades. The collection presented the perfect mix of feminine and tomboyish pieces, mixed and matched and layered with extravagance. Ruffled, tulle skirts were paired with tailored shirting, while in-your-face prints such as polka dots, brush strokes, and bold stripes were used throughout, showing up on flowing silk dresses and structured, oversized shirting and separates.

Bondi Born

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Resort 2020 saw Bondi Born, the ever-chic sustainable swimwear line based in Sydney, debut its first full resort capsule collection. The brand saw its sustainably produced fabrics take the form of knotted and bow-adorned swimwear, breezy seaside dresses and separates, and clean, simple eveningwear—all stunningly timeless, surpassing fashion trends and to be worn for seasons to come.

Double Rainbouu

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

In just a few short years, everybody's favorite Hawaiian shirt brand Double Rainbouu has grown beyond its playful shirting assortment with apparel, accessories, and more. For Resort 2020, design duo Mike Nolan and Toby Jones were inspired by the hippie travelers of the '60s and '70s, and a utopia where all creatures live together harmoniously. Set in Sydney's gorgeous Chinese Garden of Friendship, the brand's show featured model "tourists" who wore worldly prints, hippie tie-dyes, and plenty of linen alongside colorful zebra prints, sporty polos, chambray jumpsuits, and classic hoodies, making for a playfully diverse, yet wearable, collection.

P.E Nation

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

This season saw emerging Aussie label P.E. Nation present its first solo runway show, Physical Education, for Resort 2020. The brand took its signature spin on sporty '90s activewear and elevated it, incorporating bold, oversized silhouettes, denim, and all of the bold neons we covet. Bonus? The brand announced a killer new collab with Speedo, presenting its vintage-inspired swimwear at the very end of the show. Even bigger bonus? The brand's been upping its sustainability efforts, debuting its first-ever recycled active set, using recycled yarns and organic cotton. It will also be moving to biodegradable packaging by July.

Leo & Lin

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

One of our favorite collection this season came courtesy of Leo & Lin. Celebrating the designer's love of history, the romantic "Imperial" collection was a nod at both ancient Rome and the Victorian era, which saw sweeping, bulb-sleeved and high-necked floral dresses and suiting walking alongside flowing, draped Roman-inspired frocks. A modern flair was also sprinkled in, seen in the form of vinyl trench coats and fishnet fabrics.

Ten Pieces

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

One of the most buzzed about shows this season was Ten Pieces, the contemporary sportswear collection born from the collaboration between founders Maurice Terzini and Lucy Hinckfuss and designer Allan Marshall. For Resort 2020, Terzini was inspired by his time as a teen in Italy in the late '70s and the disco freak era. A bit punky, a bit hippie, and set in the drained pool of Sydney's iconic Icebergs Club with Bondi Beach as its backdrop, the collection's sporty streetwear pieces—unisex, and meant to be mixed, matched, and layered to its wearer's delight—felt more apt for the beach than a bustling city.

Photo by Ari Perilstein/Getty Images for ASCAP

"It makes my ears fucking steam out of my head"

Billie Eilish isn't taking Alabama's abortion ban lightly. Speaking to Variety, the singer said that she has "no words for the bitches in the fucking White House." She continued: "Honestly, I can't even look at my phone," because the news is always so distressing.

Eilish doesn't call out any legislators specifically, but she doesn't have to in order to get her point across, namely, that it's outrageous that people don't get to have control over their own bodies. "It's so unbelievable," Eilish said. "It makes me, like, red. It makes my ears fucking steam out of my head. Women should say, should do, and feel, and be exactly what they want."

"There should be nobody else telling them how to live their life, how to do shit…" she continued. "It just makes me so mad that if I start talking about it, I won't stop." Eilish did conclude though with this simple, powerful statement: "Men should not make women's choices—that's all I have to say."

If you want to help the people who will be affected by the restrictive abortion bans that the "bitches in the fucking White House" are doing nothing about, these organizations could use your help.

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We talk to the pop star about her past, present, and future—and why she spoke out against R. Kelly

JoJo has been through it. Any casual music listener who lived through the 2000s knows what I'm talking about. The singer shot to instant stardom in 2004 with iconic hit "Leave (Get Out)" and released two albums, a self-titled debut and The High Road, which ended up being a fitting description of the journey she was forced to take.

Soon after, Blackground Records refrained from releasing JoJo's third album, resulting in a near decade-long period when she could only put out infrequent singles and mixtapes. She filed a lawsuit against the label in 2013, claiming that her contract was no longer valid under New York law, and when she was freed, her albums were taken off iTunes and streaming services, denying JoJo and her collaborators future earnings and disabling fans from accessing their beloved music. She was finally able to release her third album, Mad Love, in 2016, but there was still a huge part of her career that virtually disappeared—until she took matters into her own hands.

Late last year—on her 28th birthday, no less—JoJo surprised us by revealing that she re-recorded her first two albums and released them online for fans to enjoy once again. It was both the end of a chapter that needed to be closed long ago, and one of the most powerful moves by an artist in the music industry, especially a woman like JoJo who has dealt with a level of power struggles and politics we could only imagine. Below, she opens up about the process of this remarkable venture, her newfound freedom, and her next step.

How did you decide that re-recording these two albums was the right move?
My options were pretty limited. Since I had gotten out of that contract with Blackground, I just realized that I didn't want to reopen anything by trying to have any interaction with them. So I saw what my legal options were and that was to completely recreate these albums and basically cover myself.

How long did that process take? Take me through the process of basically putting everything back together.
My managers and I had been talking about it because we saw it in my comments on Twitter and Instagram a lot, and I just hate feeling helpless. When I saw that there was this demand from my fans of wanting to listen to the first two albums, we called my lawyer and saw what could be done legally from that perspective, and then we just started to brainstorm as to how we could recreate the tracks. I came to the conclusion that what my fans wanted was the nostalgia of the first two albums, of how they found it in 2004 and 2006, so we tried to keep it pretty true to that. The process took, I would say, nine months, from the first phone call to calling my musical directors and have them start the recreation of the tracks, sending them the YouTube link so they could refer back to the original songs, because that's what we had. I didn't have a physical copy of the first two albums.

Were there any songs that you were especially emotional about or ones you connected with when you revisited them?
I definitely got emotional re-cutting a lot of them, particularly "Keep On Keeping On," which I wrote when I was 12. That was one of the first songs that I ever recorded that I had written completely by myself. Just to go back and take in the lyrics that I had written then, it's just still a message that I need to hear. It was just emotional being like, Damn, my little 12-year-old self was an old soul. It was emotional redoing all of them for different reasons because I remembered those sessions so vividly. Especially with remaking "Leave (Get Out)," "Too Little, Too Late," and "Baby It's You," I was definitely freaking myself out with trying to stay true to them but also realizing that I'm a grown person now. I was intimidated by having to hit some of the notes that I hit when I was 12 and 14, like on "Too Little, Too Late," because I'm a different singer, your voice changes as you grow. That made me a little bit anxious [but] I just did it.

You recently spoke out about R. Kelly on Twitter and said you heard stories when you were younger and that people you worked with were also working with him. How did hearing this affect you at such a young age?
To be honest, the way that it was being spoken about in the studio normalized it. I'm looking back on it and realizing how perverse the stories that I was hearing were, about how he'd always have young girls around, how he'd be waiting outside of high schools or he'd be hanging out at the McDonald's. I didn't realize since I was so, so young how very much fucked up that is. He really was just in plain sight being a predator. I was such a huge fan of his. I mean his music is incredible, but at this point, there's just no fucking way to separate him from his crime, and it's just wild. It's just wild that he got away with it for so long, but I think we're in a new era of accountability and transparency and I just think it's definitely about time. But in my comment section, it was like, "Okay, so if you've heard these stories, then why didn't you come forward or say something?" I was a kid when I heard these stories, and I certainly didn't know what to do. I didn't even know how to follow that thought all the way through.

I wanted to talk about the new album you're currently working on. Is there a the direction you're going for?
I want to go back to what comes naturally to me which is R&B, but I think I could care less about genres. I just want to make dope music and release it, whether it's all in one album, one song at a time, however that may be. I'm being super choosy and making a bunch of songs and then narrowing it down from there. I've never been more excited about the music that I'm making. It feels really great, and I think a part of that has to do with closing that chapter of the first two albums, with anything that I did from that time of my career. Now I can move forward and just really be challenged and keep growing and breaking myself down and putting myself back together with the help of my collaborators. It's interesting.

Is your attitude about freedom influenced by the music climate and streaming today? The music world has changed so much since when you debuted.
I guess, but I think, for me, freedom is more of the mental and emotional state. I do think that artists have so many more choices now, whether to be independent, or to do a joint venture like I've done with Warner Bros, or sign to a major but on their terms. I think that there is a lot more flexibility and freedom for us, much of which we've demanded and some that the industry has just had to adapt to. But even when I got off of my former label and knew that I was able to move forward and release music, for many different reasons, I still didn't feel that freedom. I think I was in such a fighter mode that I still felt like I needed to fight things, whether it was myself or... mostly myself.

It's being really hateful toward myself and dealing with a lot of that. For me, this freedom that I'm feeling is just stepping into a new perspective of not recognizing things as obstacles but knocking on them as opportunities, and I think for those who are fortunate enough to be able to get some type of control over their mind, I'm trying to try to do that and to feel as free as possible. I'm excited.

Photo courtesy of HBO.

We made it

It's finally over. We had a great run—even if the eighth season felt more like a PowerPoint presentation of the show than an actual narrative. But perhaps the most frustrating thing about the show was that it left plenty of plot threads dangling. Still, some of the conclusions that the show left us with were shocking in their own right. Let's revisit.

Spoilers ahead...

Cersei actually being dead

I didn't want to believe it, but it's true. Cersei Lannister, the ruthless Queen that everyone sought to overthrow, is dead. Last week, she and her brother-lover Jaime held each other tight in the bowels of the Red Keep as rocks and bricks fell on top of them. I thought that Jaime would die, once again protecting Cersei, and that she would survive the collapse. This would have provided an opportunity for her to be personally killed by list-obsessed Arya Stark or a power hungry Daenerys Targaryen. But no, Cersei did not survive and I was shocked to see her dead face when it was uncovered by Tyrion.

Jon killing Daenerys

Cersei wasn't the only person whose death came under unexpected circumstances. Daenerys' long, epic journey came to an end at the hands of Jon (also known as Aegon Targaryen, and her nephew-lover). Despite following Daenerys all season, Jon was convinced that she had to go after a little pep talk from Tyrion. And so, what else would a Stark do, other than carrying out a death sentence himself? Jon did it with a blade through Dany's heart. At least it wasn't in her back.

Drogon killing the Iron Throne

If there is one character my heart absolutely breaks for, it's Drogon. Daenerys' death left the dragon motherless and brotherless. He took his grief out on the thing that drove her to the very end, the Iron Throne itself. Drogon melted it into boiling liquid metal before flying away with his mother's body.

Bran becoming King

Since the beginning of the show, viewers have made wagers on who would eventually take the Iron Throne for themselves. Through most of the series, Bran, who hasn't been able to walk since the first episode, was an extremely unlikely candidate. But alas, he was the King when the show ended, and he made a comment that seemed to suggest that he'd known this was his destiny. In other words, he let everyone battle it out while he sat and minded his business, knowing it was all for him to come out on top. A shady queen feels like a more fitting title.

Arya heading "West"

I get it, Arya has already been a free spirit and non-conformist. I also understand that she sent most of Game of Thrones motivated by revenge and with no more to be served, there was little left for her in Westeros. But to send her off exploring the world also felt... odd. Arya said goodbye to her siblings, setting her intentions on sailing to see what's "west of Westeros," so that she can find out what's there. It felt way too soon to assume that she wouldn't still be needed in her homeland, but Arya never was one to stick close to home.

Jon and Ghost reuniting

At the end of the fourth episode fans were furious when Jon Snow prepared to head South with Daenerys, bidding fond farewells to friends and fellow soldiers, but not bothering to pet his direwolf. The show runners said the reason for the impersonal sendoff was that interactions with the direwolves cost too much money to pull off and there wasn't enough budget. So we were all surprised to see Jon and Ghost reunite in the final episode when Jon was once against sent to Castle Black. It was a silver lining in an otherwise dreary episode.