The 2000s Artist Highlight: Eminem

February 15, 2017

On May 21, 2002, Marshall Mathers, known popularly as Eminem, released one of his top-selling albums, “The Eminem Show”. In honor of one of the most influential artists of the 2000s, I have decided to fully immerge myself in the album to review yet another icon of that decade.

Eminem starts off with a 30-second intro called “Curtains Up”, followed by the song “White America”. In it, he talks about the challenges of being a white rapper that the predominant, white culture of America rejects. Another song, “Say Goodbye Hollywood”, sends a bit of an opposite message as he speaks to his conflicted feelings about the fame he achieved up to that point. He mentions past pain and heartache, revealing a vulnerability that, honestly, is refreshing especially compared to the work of many other hip-hop artists. He speaks freely of the importance of his family, whether that is the anguish he feels over the poor relationship he had with his father or the love and adoration he feels for his daughter Hailie. He devotes an entire song to her on this album, “Hailie’s Song”, and features her on “My Dad’s Gone Crazy”, where she sings with him. His most popular song on the album is probably “Without Me” and I will say, I got the ‘feels’ hearing this song, which I have not heard since at least 7th grade. I appreciate this song because there is no doubt that this man has musical talent – or maybe just talent in talking really fast. His lyrics are not only catchy but there is also actual substance to the words, which has been one of the other refreshing things about conducting this review. He closes out with a “Curtain Close”, and that’s a wrap.

Clearly, Eminem is not afraid to rap about controversial topics, something that is true both on this album and in his other work in general. This, combined with his unique voice and musical style, definitely changed the way I thought about rap and the way it “should” sound. I cannot be alone in this feeling because Eminem shook hip-hop for a reason with his approach to music. His beats are simple but his rap is complex, and his talent set him apart from the beginning of his career. Eminem is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea for obvious reasons, but his individual talent and impact on the 2000s is undeniable. Although he may not have the same influence now that he had in the last decade, he remains a household name, thanks in part to his album, “The Eminem Show”. I don’t know about you, but he’s definitely getting me excited about Coffeehouse: The 2000s!

"The Joshua Tree" at 30 - A Reflection

February 9, 2017

I grew up in a Christian home and went to a Christian school during the heyday of MTV, so I was nowhere near U2 while they were establishing themselves as one of the biggest bands on Earth. Little did I know that though they were far away, they were still so close. As I approached adolescence, I had one of the essential music moments in my life, one that I think any music lover can share: hearing an album for the first time that is like an awakening, opening your eyes to what music can be, changing the way you listen from that point on. That moment was the day a friend shared The Joshua Tree by U2 with me. Seeing that it is the 30th anniversary of this classic, some appreciation is in order.

The Joshua Tree is U2’s crowning achievement, a fixture on nearly every critic’s “Best of” album list, and one of the certified best-selling albums of all time with over 25 million copies sold. Living as we do in a fog of digital music that measures success in subscriptions, singles, and streams, it is easy to take this for granted. But The Joshua Tree was the number one album in 20 different countries at a time when full albums mattered. It won the Grammy for 1987’s Album of the Year, and in 2014, the US Library of Congress chose it for the National Recording Registry, a collection of the most culturally significant works in audio recording. As Rolling Stone put it at the time, the album release and subsequent tour was U2’s “all-but-official coronation as the World’s Biggest Rock Band.”

Also at that time, Rolling Stone described U2 as “Christians”, or more specifically “three young Christians and the token nonbeliever”, something that would make many current artists cringe, or at least fear for their careers. But U2’s faith was on display from their earliest albums, including most of October and explicitly on the beloved tracks “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “40” from War. Their faith was still prominent enough by the conclusion of The Joshua Tree that it defined them. One has to wonder, given the “evangelical” quest for a sympathetic pop culture icon, how Christians missed the opportunity to capitalize on the world’s biggest rock band.

Blame the art. The popular singles, “Where the Streets Have No Name”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, and “With or Without You”, are essential pieces in the U2 catalog, with their soaring melodies, Bono’s passionate vocals, and The Edge’s iconic delayed arpeggios. But they are songs of seeking, of tension between faith and doubt, of longing and desire that may remain unrealized. There is hope – ‘I believe in the kingdom come / then all the colors will bleed into one’ – but with the boldness and honesty to admit uncertainty – ‘Yes, I’m still running / I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’. The album opens with “Streets”, a track that builds slowly as a sunrise and bursts like sunlight, bright and full of potential. However, from there the songs are primarily an exploration of difficulty, pain, and loss, with almost every song telling a different story or addressing a particular issue. In that sense, the album moves as though from day to night, with some of their darkest material, “Exit” and “Mothers of the Disappeared”, concluding the album. As they have spoken of at length, U2 selected the album imagery of a Joshua tree in the desert of the American southwest to represent this tension: the barrenness of the desert contrasted with the growth of a tree named for the Old Testament hero, branches raised like arms in praise. The Joshua Tree is their story of America, the nation they saw, and still see, as both a beacon of freedom and yet entangled with problems both home and abroad. Political and military conflicts at the time in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Chile are the backdrop to “Bullet the Blue Sky” and “Mothers of the Disappeared”. They drew parallels between the salt of the earth here and in their homeland of Ireland: the plight of miners in the UK the inspiration for “Red Hill Mining Town”, and a heroin-addicted couple living in Dublin the subject of “Running to Stand Still”, both of which easily translate to the American experience. “Red Hill Mining Town”, my favorite track on the album, is such a beautiful piece of music, and one that communicates the desperation and pain of a laborer faced with the loss of livelihood. If only such an album and such subject matter could have been on the list of budding Christian music stars of the 1980s such as Amy Grant, Sandi Patty, or Michael W. Smith.

U2 is touring this summer to commemorate the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree, playing every song of the album every night of the tour in addition to much of their other music. Most dates have already sold out, but there are still a few venues with tickets available (how about it, Pittsburgh?). Whether you are a longtime fan or looking for something new to discover, The Joshua Tree remains as rich and relevant a musical experience as you will find, the defining work of one of the true living legends in music.



2000s Artist Highlight: Britney Spears

February 8, 2017

Some may argue she’s the ‘Queen of Pop’ or perhaps even the queen of the world, but there is one thing for certain, Britney Spears ruled over the 2000s. From her chart toppers and outlandish fashion statements to her many infamous relationships with the male species, Britney has definitely made her mark on the world.  

As we approach our spring Coffeehouse themed with the decade of the 2000s, it is nearly impossible to merely pass by without acknowledging the ‘queen’ herself. Without further ado, here are a few of the most eventful occurrences of Britney Spears’ career on the 2000s*. 

At the start of the decade, Britney Spears had just finished up her first tour of …Baby One More Time and quickly jumped right into her worldwide tour for the chart topper Oops!... I Did It Again in September of 2000. She rose to fame very quickly and stayed there for quite a while. 

Let us also never forget her 2001 VMA performance of ‘Slave 4 U’ in which she not only shocked the crowd with her iconic blue and green bedazzled ensemble but also with her stage props – the caged tiger and albino python.  

Britney didn’t just stop at the wild animals to prove her untamed persona; it was in 2004 that she proved she really was a ‘Brave New Girl’.  After marrying her childhood best friend Jason, it was only 55 short hours later that she was once again a single woman due to an annulment – and it was just seven months later that she remarried to the notorious Kevin Federline. 

It was in 2007 when Ms. Spears took a razor to her blonde locks and that was also the moment we thought the icon had finally fallen… however, just like the Britney Spears we know and love, in late 2008 when she released her popular album Circus and just like that, she was back on top… Oops, she did it again.  

Through the twists and the turns of Britney Spears’ life, there have always been a couple things for certain: her pop music has brought many people together, and she remains an icon for the 2000s. As we look toward our spring Coffeehouse, we can always turn to Britney Spears for the ultimate inspiration.

Preview: Ben Rector w/ Brady Toops

February 7, 2017

Student Activities invites many artists and performers to come to the World’s Most Exciting University, but getting a “Yes!” from Ben Rector made us happier than usual. Join us on Saturday, February 18 in the Vines Center to see Ben perform with special guest Brady Toops. Here is what you need to know about tickets:

  • Tickets are on sale now. Just visit our website here*, click the “Tickets” tab, and choose the option that is right for you.
  • For you students, general admission tickets are just $15.
  • If you happen to be part of the non-student general public, tickets are $20 in advance.
  • If there are tickets left at the door, the price will be $25.
  • There was a time when you could get floor seats, but that time is past. Floor seats are sold out.

Ben Rector is a nice man with a nice voice. He makes nice songs that are nice to listen to. His style, in his own words**, is “just kinda like pop”, which is true because like most piano/acoustic guitar/possibly an electric guitar pop, it is as easy and light as a spring breeze. The nice thing about Ben Rector is that he is casually self-aware, as evidenced by many of his videos, especially his self-deprecatingly endearing “Ben Rector Hits the Streets” album previews***. That aspect of his personality drives his musical style and allows him to move easily between topics and themes on his 2015 album, Brand New, his biggest release to date. (It debuted at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 that August, but beat all challengers on the folk album chart, reaching all the way to #1.) Yes, the album is predominately light, but there is plenty of space on the album for introspection and reflection, or in the case of a song like “30,000 Feet”, reflection on another character’s introspection. Brand New is much less love song-y than previous efforts and is more of a musician’s travel diary, recalling events and experiences but always with an eye towards goodness that can effect positive change. There is a John Mayer-like quality to Ben’s music, but more of an alternate timeline John Mayer who went through abstinence-only education and actually stuck with it. That is to say, Ben comes across as pure but without necessarily coming across as overtly “Christian”; his lyrics are honest enough to reveal a heart that truly desires change, without stooping to use that honesty in a heavy handed or manipulative way. In a word, he is really nice, and we cannot wait for him to finally headline a show here at Liberty.

Joining him will be former The Bachelorette (season 11) contestant (is that what they’re called?), Brady Toops, whose soulful and smooth voice alone should have been able to woo Britt, but that is just our opinion. Be sure to check out his worshipful album, conveniently self-titled for your iTunes or Spotify searching needs.

Questions? Check our FAQ page to find answers. If that doesn't help, send us a nice email:



**From “Ben Rector Hits the Streets with Brand New”, 2:36 mark -


Meet the Staff: Morgan

February 6, 2017

Morgan Knollinger

Hometown: Orlando, Florida

Major: Business Administration: Communications

One Thing: I basically live at Disney.

Why Student Activities? This department is probably the best on campus. The staff is great, and the events are fun!