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Hi, I'm Danielle Oliver.

I'm a Writer in Los Angeles, CA. I've worked at TuneWiki, Daily BR!NK, Thought Catalog, and a few other places. I'm interested in Digital Publishing, Digital Media, and more. Check out my skills and interests below, then send me a message and let's collaborate!

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Behind the Lyrics of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”

By Danielle Oliver

[Example of an SEO-based lyric breakdown for a popular musician. In this case, Lady Gaga]

Lady Gaga’s songwriting inspirations can be attributed to the mingling of two creative forces: her own artistic sensibilities, and the power wielded by millions of devoted fans to whom she feels profoundly connected. Currently in the lead for most Twitter followers (at over 16.4 million), it’s impossible to deny her overall popularity, but it’s Gaga’s most intense fans, her die-hard “little monsters” that she feels so akin to. In the HBO special of the Monster Ball Tour in Madison Square Garden, a tearful Gaga speaks of her desire to please those fans, to be “what they need her to be.” It is rare for Gaga to give an interview without mentioning their influence on her music, and any lackluster interview response (she seems to be over the “Meat Dress?!” & “What Do You Sleep In?” questions) is replaced by genuine enthusiasm at an opportunity to praise them. It was no surprise, then, when the debut, title single from her new album hit airwaves last May; “Born This Way” is less of a song and more of an anthem written to celebrate her inspirational little monsters.

So let’s look at the lyrics.

Gaga starts the song off by telling us, It doesn’t matter if you love him, or capital H-i-m. Just put your paws up, ‘cause you were born this way, baby. One of the most vocal LGBTQ rights advocates within the music industry, Lady Gaga has consistently attributed her success to the early support of her gay fans and has spoken openly of her own bisexuality. This brief prelude establishes the song’s manifesto: celebrate and accept yourself for who you are – you were meant to be this way, and you certainly don’t need to change.

The next lyric, Gaga confirms, is an actual memory from her childhood. My mama told me when I was young, we are all born superstars. She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on in the glass of her boudoir. Gaga occasionally mentions her mother in interviews – always dressed smartly, elegantly. The image is an intriguing one; a kid Gaga – at that time, a young Stefani Germanotta – getting dolled up in her mother’s makeup, in costume, having no idea that she’ll be one of the most famous and powerful figures in pop music by the time she’s a mere 23 years old, an artist made even more famous by her eccentric makeup and costumes.

The chorus is the most memorable part of the song. I’m beautiful in my way, ‘cause God makes no mistakes. I’m on the right track baby, I was born this way. Don’t hide yourself in regret. Just love yourself and you’re set. I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way. The words feel so much like a proclamation that it’s hard not to imagine Gaga’s thousands of screaming, crying fans at a Monster Ball show chanting the lyrics in unison, each person taking the words as their own. It’s this very image that seems to have inspired Gaga specifically; she’s often explained that Born This Way was written after seeing the faces of her fans in the crowd night after night, and starting to view them as their own “race of humanity” – one of no prejudice, no evil, that is “blind to hatred and discrimination.” Lady Gaga has consistently stressed the importance of honoring her individuality, and “Born This Way” urges every listener to do the same.

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Daily BR!NK Intros

By Danielle Oliver

[*These are a few short intros written for interviews at Daily BR!NK)

If you’ve been on the internet in the past three months, this author is going to need very little introduction — but we’d hate to cut out the preliminaries. Allow us to present Adam Mansbach — novelist, teacher, and author of the “children’s book for adults” and viral success, Go the Fuck to Sleep. Managing to vault to the #1 spot on Amazon.com’s bestseller list a month before it was even published, and sitting snugly atop the New York Times’ Hardcover Advice & Misc. category of best sellers, the book has created less of a buzz and more of all-out ruckus. Adam spoke humbly to Daily BR!NK about the insanity of it all — from 90-year-old tap dancers to Samuel L. Jackson’s, er… vocal support.

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There is something oddly misleading about Max Schneider’s modeling portfolio – that moody, (though charming) troubled stare seems completely second nature to the performer, but an encounter with the man himself shatters the deception. Max is a bubbly, quick-witted, and positive young man (startlingly young – a second deception!) who is rapidly taking the entertainment industry by storm. Featured in a Dolce & Gabbana ad campaign alongside Madonna and having made his Broadway debut at age sixteen in Jason Robert Brown’s 13, Max is proving that being a triple-threat is a thing of the past; why stop at singing, dancing, and acting when you can also add modeling, songwriting, and African drumming to your skill set? In the midst of his success, he doesn’t disregard his belief in giving back, and reminds himself often of his “I Am,” and “I Will.”

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Marc Maron, in most respects, is far BEYOND the BR!NK. As a stand-up comedian, he performed on Late Night with Conan O’Brien over forty times and recently made his debut on Conan’s new TBS show. He’s been featured on Comedy Central Presents and HBO as a stand-up, and on Air America (the short-lived but influential progressive talk radio network) as a personality and a writer. And furthermore, he’s toured far and wide to entertain thousands in comedy venues (large or tiny, clean or seedy) for over twenty years. The man is quite the successful entertainer, to put it lightly. So, why are we featuring him? Here’s our answer in three little letters: W. T. F.

In 2009, Maron began recording a radio show of his own – a podcast, aptly named: WTF. The episodes feature interviews that Maron conducts with various guests – typically, fellow comedians and entertainers – following an opening few minutes, solo, of stories, musings, and often piss-your-pants-funny responses to fan email. Not even two years old, the show now has 440,000 downloads a week and is consistently one of iTunes’ ten most popular podcasts. Last month, both the New York Times and Rolling Stone recognized Maron as one of the best (and funniest) of his class; the NYT article cites his uncanny ability to uncover a sense of “vulnerability” in his guests, and it is exactly this quality that makes his approach to podcasting unique, and quite revolutionary. You certainly don’t need to be a comedian to listen to the WTF podcast; to relate with the content is to relate with anyone else who is trying to self-realize by connecting with others.

Maron invited Daily BR!NK to the infamous garage of the Cat Ranch, where – after meeting Boomer and Monkey face to face – we sat down to speak with the man himself (sort of, he remained mostly standing as he answered our questions – sometimes adjusting papers or shelved books). Below are a few excerpts from the interview, but alongside our traditional transcript, we’ve decided to remain true to WTF style and post the entire audio interview. Excuse the quality – it was recorded on an iPad, and you can oftentimes witness Maron riffling through papers on his desk, hear his cell phone beep, and, once, listen to a garbage truck roll by. It’s no WTF Pod, but we hope you enjoy our interview with Marc Maron – his honesty and candor are models of what you’ll find on his revolutionary and BR!NK-worthy podcast.

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Let's Quit Using the F Word

By Danielle Oliver

[published on Thought Catalog]


One of the most frequent complaints of vocal feminists is that many people have the wrong idea about what feminism really is. In college, we all took the gender classes that reiterated the same thing: Feminists are not anti-male, sexist man-haters who believe in female superiority and dominance over men. Or rather, feminist ideology does not dictate that this is so. It’s all about equality – equal opportunity and equal respect. While common knowledge now, I remember that this news was a surprise to me. I’d always been a strong individual, a strong young person who never paid any heed to external limitations on my selfhood because of my femaleness. So why had I not known the truth about feminism? My mother was (and still is) a freight train of a woman, who, in retrospect, never treated me like a girl; in fact, I realize now that I was raised with very little gender-focus at all. She never indicated that I was any more or any less or different than each boy and girl I went to school with, and I can’t think of a single decision my mother made because of my sex. Equality was evidently a value my mother raised me with – consciously or not. Yet she had never mentioned feminism to me, and I was left to know feminism like a good portion of the country sees it still: falsely, negatively, and as an ideology less associated with equality than with womanhood.

So this is a problem. Feminists want to truly be known for what they stand for, and struggle every day to change (or rather, clarify) the perception of their community. The root of their problem is simple: the commonly-accepted meaning of feminism is something other than what it, by definition, is. Somewhere in the course of the word’s cultural history, it was robbed of its original purpose. The falsity may have been a result of sexist backlash to the movement, or of the media only presenting the most extreme individuals – the “man haters” we’ve come to characterize who claimed feminism as their own. Or it might have been derived from simple ignorance. But what matters is that it happened, and this must be acknowledged.

Words evolve for the better or worse. They are born and then they live in our mouths and then, often, they die. Resisting these life cycles is as futile as resisting our own. Tell as many people as you want that “impactful” isn’t a word; you can’t stop it from flooding our vernacular and becoming, in its recognition, exactly that: a word.

Feminism, it can be argued then, has developed another meaning. If I had gone through life without taking a feminism class and without reading several feminist publications on a daily basis, I would still be part of a large number who define it differently. You could counter my argument by saying that if I use a word incorrectly and never looked it up in a dictionary that I’d still be using it erroneously. But that’s only partially correct. Because if a large enough group uses that word incorrectly… give it a few years. You’ll see my “incorrect” definition underneath (or in place of) the original faster than you’d believe. In other words, meaning is influenced by usage, not just origin.

You could also argue that while words evolve, ideologies don’t. “Sexism means the same thing it’s always meant. So does capitalism.” Yes and no.

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At 21, Jekyll‘s Raymond Moves Beyond Performance

By Danielle Oliver

(From lastagetimes.com)

“Prodigy” is one of those words thrown around to the point of vacuity, but it’s difficult to push it out of your head when you’re face-to-face with Chris Raymond. He’s 21 years old — tall, slim, and smartly dressed — and it’s easy to imagine the whiz kid he must have been at 13.

Born and raised in LA, he started his musical career incredibly early. By the age of five, he was skilled at piano, percussion, voice, guitar, and clarinet. The clarinet, he says, was his least favorite — an instrument he was pushed to play by his parents and of little interest to him. Raymond’s parents are classical musicians, but he laughs and explains that everyone in his family is a classical musician — either that or a doctor; there’s no in-between.

Regardless, his musical training was not forced upon him. He loved it from the beginning, studied intensely, and began to incorporate jazz and rock into his skills alongside classical. By the time he was 10 years old, he was writing music and had his own rock band.

And then, at 15, Raymond had an audition. “That’s how I started working with Jason,” he notes.

The audition was for young musicians to play in the new musical, 13. The “Jason” to whom Raymond is referring is Jason Robert Brown, the acclaimed musical composer and lyricist (Parade, The Last 5 Years, Songs for a New World), who wrote 13. Raymond describes the all-day audition as a “last-man-standing sort of thing.” Instruments were strewn about in the middle of the room, and the teenage musicians were asked to sight-read whatever was thrown in front of them. Raymond was one of the last men standing, and he went on to play keyboard and guitar for the production. After a 2006 workshop at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, 13 opened at the Mark Taper Forum in January 2007.

Raymond loved the process of the musical, and he soon realized that this was what he needed to be doing with his time. He graduated from high school two years early to more actively pursue both his musical education and his career. His next step was to enroll at CalArts, but his time there was short-lived. 13 was going to the East Coast, first to Connecticut and then to New York, and he took time off from school to do it again. When he returned, he was attending classes in the day and performing each night, plus composing on the side.

“There came a time when I had to choose between college and work. And [CalArts was] not too happy with me. I started out with a great, fantastic scholarship, and the more time I was taking off, obviously it was wearing on them. So I left.”

But it wasn’t long before Raymond made another drastic change. After a few more projects, including a tour, he called it quits — his performance days were over. “Part of it was just from exhaustion,” he says. “Touring like crazy, traveling all around. And I really wasn’t fully able to express myself as a performer. I was never able to make the impact I wanted to make. I was going to musically arrange and compose — that was all I was going to do. And I’ll play if I’m also musical directing, but I’m not just going to perform.”

With that decision made, Raymond began pursuing jobs that would give him more creative control. With a resume that reflected only performance experience, he realized that a little BS went a long way. “People would say to me — well, do you have experience? And I’d say, yeah! Sure!” He laughs. Little experience aside, it worked. He liked the shift in involvement right away. He had always been highly opinionated, often voicing (inappropriately, he admits) his thoughts about the performances of fellow musicians. His new position gave him the liberty, and just cause, for criticism. However, he also notes that watching the effective way Jason Robert Brown spoke to his musicians in 13 rehearsals now prompts Raymond to utilize humor alongside his critique.

Raymond has worked on various productions the past few years, including The Playground, which he orchestrated and musical directed. During early rehearsals, he was waiting to pick up some scores that were being copied when he had a chance conversation with Marco Gomez, artistic director and co-founder of DOMA Theatre Company — a company focused on young talent. Gomez and Raymond were quick to collaborate. For DOMA’s Songs For A New World, which opened in May, Gomez directed, and the initially announced musical director (and DOMA president) Dolf Ramos turned over his duties as musical director to Raymond, who also conducted. Raymond is very proud of that production, and he says the outcome was more than positive.

Right now he’s in production for DOMA’s Jekyll & Hyde, the Musical, which opens Friday at the MET Theatre. Raymond says it’s a show Gomez has wanted to put up for years — that Gomez relates strongly to Jekyll. A big-deal production of the show will arrive at La Mirada Theatre in September and at the Pantages next February, and DOMA is trying to give it a run for its money. “This is a pretty crazy thing to do at a 99-seat level. Massive set, moving pieces. 30 actors on the stage. I re-did all the tracks, and they sound really phenomenal. It’s just going to be this really exciting show.” Is there a different take on it? “There’s a bit more contrast between the two sides of Jekyll. As opposed to just having modern, poppy singing — Jekyll is sort of classical, and it’s really beautiful, and Hyde has rock guitars, and it’s rock, and edgy. It’s going to be a spectacle, that’s for sure.”

Raymond differentiates between the “purely spectacle” and spectacle that supports a great story, which is how he views Jekyll & Hyde. Generally, he doesn’t think too highly of musical trends on Broadway. “I’m not excited. I think it’s total shit. I haven’t heard a great musical theater song in I don’t know how long. I think Stephen Sondheim came along, and he was such a brilliant guy, total genius. And he changed musical theater in a really big way — in that you don’t have to have these tight forms anymore. The melodies can be much looser — which, if it’s in the right hands, it can be the greatest thing ever. But most of the time it’s not in the right hands, and I think that’s what’s happening.”

So, musically, what would he like to see emerge? Someone who really has an ear for melody, he says. “There’s a lot of great music that hasn’t been written. The kind of music that I want to write is sophisticated but memorable. Just because it’s sophisticated doesn’t mean it can’t be for everybody.”

It’s clear that Raymond is headed toward writing more of his own material. He’s currently writing a show with Gomez based off a book by a well-known author. He doesn’t give too much away, but he says it’s a dark rock opera about opera singers. “It’s a very modern, rock take on it. It will be very edgy, very exciting. Very dramatic.” He also has written songs for a musical that Ken Werther would produce, but the book hasn’t been written.

Raymond cites what he observed watching Brown compose 13: “Between the original production of 13 and Broadway, more than half the show — the songs — were rewritten, so it was really interesting to see what works and what didn’t work in a musical. And he was an experienced guy, and even for him… it’s so interesting to see somebody who’s so talented struggle for the show.”

Raymond is, indeed, very young, but there’s a sense of experience that you witness when he speaks. Perhaps this is a maturity that real prodigies exhibit. Has he ever run into problems when people realize his age? He laughs. “I’ll work at theaters where they have meet-and-greets, and I meet the funder, and they go, “Oh, who’s this?” and put me in front of the piano wanting me to sight-read. One person made me do it for like an hour. But not much anymore. I won’t really put up with it. I know what I’m doing.” Yes, he certainly seems to.

I ask Raymond, more out of personal curiosity than anything else, what he does in his free time. He looks belabored. “I sleep about three or four hours a night. In order to get all the musical directing stuff done, all the contracting, the studio stuff that I need to do, the writing… there’s just not enough time in the day. I have a girlfriend,” he says. “She’s my free time.”