Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in ‘The Brink’

Stephen K. Bannon drinks Kombucha (who knew?), the fermented tea beverage for health fanatics that tastes like…well, if they ever invented a soft drink called Germs, that’s what Kombucha tastes like. In “The Brink,” Alison Klayman’s fly-on-the-wall, rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-a-white-nationalist documentary, Bannon explains that he likes Kombucha because it gives him a lift; he drinks it for the same reason he drinks Red Bull. At one point in the movie, he jokes that now that his Kombucha habit is going to be outed, the stock will probably drop by 50 percent. He means the stock for Kombucha, but for a moment you think he’s talking about the stock of Steve Bannon. How will it influence his image when the world learns that he craves the pause that refreshes the palettes of lefty progressives?

Bannon, as always, thinks he’s two steps ahead of us. (It’s part of his ’50s-salt-of-the-earth-meets-Goldman-Sachs-meets-The-Art-of-War élan.) “The Brink” is an impeccably crafted verité ramble — an engaging and enraging, disturbing and highly revealing movie that follows the 64-year-old former chief strategist for Donald Trump over the last year and a half, starting the moment he was cut loose from the White House (he got fired on Aug. 18, 2017).

Bannon likes to come on as someone who doesn’t waste time worrying about his image (he’s got bigger fish to fry, like remaking the world). But his “anti-image” politics is, in fact, pure image. It’s there in his softball persona: the way he calls people “dude,” or wears two shirts at once, like flannel armor, or chuckles good-naturedly over the fact that during the 2016 presidential campaign people said he looked like a blotchy disheveled drunk. It’s there in the way he adopts an easygoing regular-guy folksiness that belies his self-styled reputation as a “firebreather,” or in the way he takes pictures with fans, posing a woman in between himself and another man so that he can grin and say, “A rose between two thorns.”

Steve Bannon, in a word, is courtly. He’s all warm smiles and friendly handshakes when he’s saying goodbye to the producer of a London TV news show on which an interviewer just tried to rip him a new one (“God, she’s tough,” he says with a twinkle, sucking down a Red Bull and sounding almost impressed). And when he pitches the leaders of far-right European political parties on the idea that “we help knit together this populist-national movement throughout the world,” he explains that he’s doing the same thing he did at Goldman Sachs, assembling deals that create possibilities, acting like that hip and viral thing, a connector, as he talks about organizing “conferences and stuff.”

Bannon has a way of revealing himself when he thinks he’s not, and “The Brink” opens with a startling scene in which he recalls touring the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau and realizing, to his surprise, that Birkenau was the haunting one; he learns that’s because Auschwitz used the already standing buildings of an old college, whereas Birkenau was constructed from scratch. He goes on, with perhaps a little too much admiration, about the wonders of German industrial design that went into the camp, but then he arrives at what’s supposed to be his PR money shot: the idea that the workers at prominent German companies — Mercedes Benz, etc. — who designed the nuts and bolts of the camps had no knowledge of the forces they were serving. He says, in essence, isn’t that amazing?

The intended subtext of his words is that we shouldn’t think of Bannon as an anti-Semite. He’s in full awe of the Holocaust, cognizant of that horrifying chapter of history. But Bannon, instead, winds up making an unconscious point about how darkness can wind up hiding from itself. And you can’t help but hear that point and think of Steve Bannon.

In “The Brink,” Bannon, after getting booted from the White House, still goes to bat for Donald Trump, capitalizing on his newly minted celebrity as the power behind Trump’s rise. But fate knocks him off his pedestal when he becomes the public face of the Roy Moore campaign in Alabama — and Moore, dogged by charged of pursuing underage girls, loses the election. It’s a bitter defeat for Bannon. And then, just a few weeks later, Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” comes out, quoting Bannon as characterizing a Trump Tower meeting between Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian agent as “treasonous.” Suddenly, he’s persona non grata in far-right circles; he gets fired from Breitbart News and loses the financial backing of his benefactors, Robert and Rebekah Mercer. And it’s this chain of humiliations that leads him to go to a place that can still look up to him as a savior: Europe. For Bannon, it’s like a homecoming. He’s going back to the land of his white-supremacist roots.

Touring the power centers of Europe, Bannon is like a venture capitalist out to fund some new tech start-up, but what he’s funding, in a word, is hate. And he’s doing it by utilizing a time-honored advertising technique: He’s calling it something else. He’s taking racism and rebranding it. He meets with the former leaders of the French National Front party (now called National Rally), like Jérome Rivière, and Filip Dewinter, head of the Vlaams Belang Party of Belgium, and Kent Ekeroth, of the Swedish Democrats. They have a polite dinner party for cultivated Continental anti-immigrant populist nativists, and the fact that Bannon allowed this to be filmed at all speaks to his delusions of grandeur. A self-styled conquering hero, he’s focused on the European parliamentary elections of 2019, about which he says, “We’re gonna run the f—in’ tables on these guys.”

He’s trying to knit together a dozen separate national surges, trying to unify the “populist” strains of Europe into a right-wing supergroup that he calls…the Movement. He offers them things like polling data and “war-room analytics,” but what he’s really providing is the sense that, in his words, “It’s a global revolt. It’s a zeitgeist. We’re on the right side of history.” Talking to Paul Lewis, a journalist from London’s liberal-left newspaper The Guardian, he says, “I’m going to convert 20 percent of your guys.” So cocky is Bannon that when he gets out in front of an audience in Hungary, after all his disavowals of racism and anti-Semitism and his thin pretense that what he calls nationalism is merely an “economic” movement, he lets his freak flag fly. “We are working on building an old-school Christian democracy,” he says. Not much room for Muslims there (and maybe not much for Jews, either). This is no dog whistle — it’s Bannon putting out a clarion call.

“The Brink” is a far better and more penetrating film than Errol Morris’s Bannon portrait, “American Dharma,” which let Bannon bathe in his own aura. Klayman, the up-and-coming documentarian who has made superb films about Ai Weiwei (“Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”) and psychopharmacological drugs (“Take Your Pills”), doesn’t get sucked in by the Bannon “charm.” She captures what a devious actor he is, and hangs around long enough to catch him in those rare moments when the mask comes off (like when the Republicans lose the House in the midterm elections, causing him to fly into a rage at some clueless pollster). The truth about Steve Bannon that “The Brink” nails is that he always sees “the future,” and it’s always about the revolutionary destiny of his cause , his people. Until he loses, at which point he reverts to looking like what he is: an armchair warrior who thinks any political movement built on something other than rage is for wimps.

Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in 'The Brink'

Reviewed a Sundance Film Festival (Documentary Premieres), Jan. 30, 2019. Running time: 91 MIN.

Production:A Magnolia Pictures release of an AliKlay Productions, RYOT Films production. Producers: Marie Therese Guigis, Alison Klayman. Executive producers: Adam Bardach, Halay Pappas, Bryn Mooser, Matt Ippolito.

Crew:Director: Alison Klayman. Camera (color, widescreen): Alison Klayman. Editors: Brian Goetz, Marina Katz. Music: Ilan Isakov, Dan Teicher.

With:Stephen K. Bannon.

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Mum who refused to go on holiday due to weight reveals amazing transformation

A mum who refused to go on overseas holidays  due to fears about her weight has undergone a dramatic transformation dropping seven-and-a-half stone.

“I’d stay down the bottom with the dog and you miss out on things," she added.

It was a health scare that kicked started Mrs Shaw’s incredible transformation, when she realised her size and thyroid issues could lead to other complications.

Mrs Shaw revealed it was her husband who urged her to ask the doctor about sleep apnea during her thyroid check – a suggestion that she initially viewed as laughable.

“I said ‘don’t be stupid, I’m 46.’ The doctor asked me five questions and she said answer and I will tell you at the end. I answered and she said she was going to have to send me for further tests.

“I said you are not putting me in a mask at night at 46. I’ve got three kids and when you look at things like thyroid there is a greater chance of diabetes and cancer.

This was the jolt that she needed to get into shape. Mrs Shaw said she knew that she "needed to do this" and if she was "going to do it [she] had to grab the bull by the horns.”

After that Mrs Shaw joined WeightWatchers, determined to get into shape.

The west Hull woman revealed that initially she struggled to shed the pounds, but it was her group’s coach, Jo Barr, that spurred her onto stop her from falling off the wagon.

“Jo would text me and say ‘don’t give in.’ Some people lose nine pounds in the first week but that’s not realistic for everyone.

"For me in the first weeks it was only a pound and then it was half a pound when everyone else was losing a stone in a month.

“I would be lucky if I lost two and a half pounds but after a couple or months I had gone on holiday and I was still big but I lost one and a half stone."

By tweaking her diet and hitting the gym, Mrs Shaw’s weightloss began to pick up speed.

Now she spends six days per week in the gym and has changed her routine so she can get up earlier to keep healthy.

“I used to come home from work and if I sat down I would be asleep. Usually, I would come in, cook the kids’ dinner then fall asleep and wake up at 9pm.

“I didn’t get a good night’s sleep and that caused a knock on effect. I would hit snooze until the very last moment I had to get up.

"I used to get everything ready the night before so I could get out of bed at the very last minute but now I’m up in the mornings as early as 5.30am because I’m at the gym and when I’m not I’m up at 6.30am."

The mum of three said that she eats three meals a day, changing her portion control to bring her diet into line.

“I don’t snack anymore, You can – and I still can have crisps and chocolate but for me they are the things I used to turn to for comfort and I would eat them in secret," she added.

Mrs Shaw did not say exactly how much she now weighs, but she did reveal that she has dropped from a size 28 to a size 14 since she started her weightloss journey.

Now, she describes herself as "more confident" and has gained a supportive circle of friends.

 “I never would have worn a dress because I would never have really gone shopping," she said.

“I no longer have to buy things that cover me – I can buy fitted dresses and I was never able to do that.

“It has changed my life because I’m not stuck in all the time. I would have gone to work, come home, sorted the kids’ dinner out and gone to bed – that was my routine.

“Now I can be selfish. The kids can make their own meals so they can look after themselves and I think it’s good to be selfish. This is my time now and I want to put time and effort into me.”

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The end of the road for me and Top Gear: Matt LeBlanc

The end of the road for me and Top Gear: Bowing out after his new series, Matt LeBlanc reveals the REAL reason why he left the show

  • Matt LeBlanc, 51, revealed he will not return to Top Gear because of his daughter
  • The Man With A Plan star struggled to balance two full time jobs with family
  • He says starring in Top Gear for three years made him feel jet-lagged 
  • He will be replaced by former cricketer Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness
  • Matt’s life was changed by starring in Friends, he compares it to Man With A Plan

With more twists and turns than an Alpine pass, the Top Gear saga keeps rumbling on. 

First there was Jeremy Clarkson’s sacking for punching a producer four years ago, then his two co-stars James May and Richard Hammond joined him when he defected to Amazon to make The Grand Tour. 

In came Chris Evans, co-hosting the revamped series with former Friends star Matt LeBlanc, but his torturous stint in the driving seat lasted just one series amid claims he and Matt just hadn’t got on.

Matt then took up the reins and navigated his way through two largely well-received series with co-hosts Rory Reid and Chris Harris, but now he too is off after the new series ends, to be replaced, controversially, by former cricketer Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness.

Former Friends Star Matt LeBlanc, 51, revealed his decision not to return to Top Gear was influenced by the fact he misses his daughter, friends and mother

And the reason for Matt’s departure? His 15-year-old daughter Marina by ex-wife Melissa McKnight. 

‘I didn’t decide not to come back until after we’d finished making the series,’ he tells me when we meet in Los Angeles. 

‘When it was all done we had a little celebration. Some champagne came out and we all said, “Wow, that was a good batch of shows.” 

‘I didn’t feel sad because I hadn’t yet decided not to renew my contract.’

It was only when he was back home in California, relaxing on his beloved cattle ranch near Santa Barbara that he shares with Marina, that he had second thoughts. 

‘I’m 51,’ he says, ‘and I’m tired. Between Top Gear and the sitcom I’m doing in LA, Man With A Plan, I was working too hard. 

‘Having one full-time job is a lot of work, so I don’t know how I managed two.


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‘I was jet-lagged for three years! I had some time off, and realised I wasn’t sure about going back to Top Gear. 

‘I’d had time to think and to spend with my daughter and I realised how much I missed her – and my friends and my mother and sleeping in my own bed. 

‘I realised you need balance between work and play, and mine was out of whack. 

‘It was time to move on, which was a great call.’

But for viewers there’s a new five-part series to enjoy, with its familiar mix of hair-raising challenges, fun stunts and impossibly fast cars. 

The first episode finds Matt and Chris in Norway, where they try to prove the 208mph Ferrari GTC4 Lusso and the 190mph Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo can work as family cars. Their wacky trip takes in Vikings, chainsaws and lots of tunnels.

Matt (pictured in Normandy with Top Gear co-host Chris Harris last year) who juggled Top Gear with starring in Man With A Plan, says he felt jet-lagged for the past three years

In the second episode Matt and Chris are in Sri Lanka, testing the versatility and durability of the tuk-tuk motorised rickshaw. 

Disaster strikes when they try to take one up Sri Lanka’s most notorious mountain track. 

Show three finds Chris and Matt in Spain, testing out the new 200mph Bentley Continental GT, while the fourth sees the chaps buying three second-hand classic cars for £6,000 each (then the cost of the cheapest new car in Britain, the Dacia Sandero) – a Mercedes, a Rolls-Royce and a Bentley – and putting them through a six-hour endurance race. 

The final show features still more costly supercars, the £360,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom and the Aston Martin V8 Vantage.

It’s all been quite a journey for Matt but he says he has nothing but the fondest feelings for Top Gear, not least because he’s been dating Aurora Mulligan, a producer on the show. 

‘I had a great experience, which I’ll never forget. 

‘The cars were a lot of fun, and I made some good friends there – particularly Chris Harris, who I spent a lot of time with. 

‘One of the most fun stunts we did together was when we took a Citroen 2CV across a field in Normandy last year, carrying a basket of eggs. 

‘I didn’t know much about that car before that, except that it was made famous in the Bond movie For Your Eyes Only. But Chris owns one and we used his car in the shoot.

Matt revealed going top speed in an Aston Martin Vulcan for Top Gear was one of the scariest times he’s experienced in a car. Pictured: In the Vulcan with The Stig 

‘It’s a charming car, and it turned out that one of the original design briefs for it had been that it had to be able to transport a farmer and his wife carrying a basket of eggs and wearing their Sunday church hats across a field without breaking any eggs. 

‘So we took that idea and ran with it. We took a basket of eggs, and we didn’t do so well because there were eggs everywhere!’

Not all the stunts were quite as much fun as testing the 2CV’s suspension, though, and Matt blanches as he recalls being driven around Top Gear’s Dunsfold track in Surrey at top speed in an Aston Martin Vulcan by faceless speed merchant The Stig. 

‘That car isn’t street legal – it’s way too loud. 

‘But we went round the track in it with The Stig driving frighteningly fast. It has to be one of my scariest times in a car ever.’

As the son of a mechanic, Matt grew up with cars. 

‘We were a very blue-collar family, where everybody wanted to do their own work on their own cars – to modify them, make them go faster,’ he recalls. 

These days he has ‘15 or 16’ cars that he keeps in the enormous garage he built at his ranch. 

‘They’re not all Ferraris,’ he laughs, ‘some are just garbage. I wouldn’t say I’m a collector, more an enthusiast. 

‘A collector just collects, but I drive them all. 

‘I can find something to fall in love with about any car – it could be a VW Beetle on its last legs. Engines are like 3D jigsaw puzzles. 

Matt LeBlanc (pictured with Chris Harris) says he can find something to fall in love with about any car, when he’s not tinkering with cars he’s roaming his ranch 

‘If you take an engine apart and lay it out on the table, it’s just all these inanimate objects; but if you put them together in a certain way, that harnesses an explosion that produces motion, which is still amazing to me. It’s magic in a way.’

When he’s not tinkering with cars, he says he’s contentedly roaming the 1,200 acres of his ranch, which he bought in 2002 and admits he still sometimes pinches himself to realise is his. 

‘It’s huge!’ he beams proudly. 

‘We raise cattle and rodeo cows – we don’t milk those, we just raise them until they’re old enough to go into rodeos. 

‘I love my ranch. 

‘My daughter’s learned all about nature there – we go into the woods and go camping and there are deer and coyote and wild pigs and it’s just fantastic.

‘My parents split up when I was small and for the first eight years of my life, it was just me and my mother living in a small apartment, and the landlord had a little grass lawn at the back. 

‘It was his pride and joy, he had a little vegetable garden and I wasn’t allowed to go on the grass. 

‘I remember as a little boy thinking, “Someday, I’m going to have a big yard.” 

‘And to this day I look around my ranch and think, “Yeah – that’s a big yard.” It’s one of the things I’m most proud of.’

After Friends finished in 2004 he embarked on the spin-off Joey, based on his character Joey Tribbiani, which was panned by critics and ended after just two series. 

Matt had his life transformed after starring in Friends fifteen years ago, he compares the hit sitcom to Man With A Plan. Pictured: On Friends with his co-stars 

He later had more success sending himself up in Episodes with Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan, which ran for five series until 2017. 

In Man With A Plan he plays an old-fashioned husband and father who receives a shock when he’s left to look after the children when his wife goes back to work. 

‘We’re in season three and the writers have really found their feet,’ he says. 

‘It’s the kind of show I like to be on, where there isn’t just one main character, but all the characters are as important as each other. 

‘Anyone can make a joke or be the focus of the story. Friends was like that, and that’s where I cut my teeth.’

Fifteen years after the demise of the show that changed his life, he says he’s as pleased as ever to have been a part of it. 

‘It’s probably the thing I’m most proud of in my whole career. 

‘Recently Netflix was going to take it off their schedule, but there was a big uproar from the fans so they had to bring it back. 

‘It’s been 15 years since the show ended, and 25 years since we started it. It’s amazing it still feels relevant today to so many people.’

Ask him if his daughter is part of the new generation of fans, and he laughs. ‘It’s not her thing!’ he says. 

‘Friends of hers have pointed it out to her – and maybe one day she’ll get into it herself too – but right now I think she thinks it’s a little too much Dad for her. 

‘Now I’m home so much, she thinks she sees me enough for her liking!’  

Top Gear returns tomorrow, 8pm, BBC2.

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Where To Get Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank U, Next’ Album Merch, Because There Are Tons Of New Styles

Since Ariana Grande dropped her latest album Thank U, Next, the singer blessed us with a plethora of Instagram captions and breakup anthem after breakup anthem to blast on repeat in our Air Pods. But now, there’s an entire collection of revenge merch that makes tagging your ex in photos fun — you know, like for those times when you’re feeling extra bored and out for blood. As expected, the offerings include items printed with Grande’s song lyrics and all things pink. Now that you’re interest is piqued, here’s where to get Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next album merch.

To celebrate the release of Thank U, Next and it’s incredible success, Grande announced on her personal Instagram that she had dropped an entire Valentine’s Day collection, including the "Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored" crewneck she posted herself wearing the night before. Prices range from $12 to $55 for everything from mismatched shot glasses to heart-shaped pillows to wearable merch, and even a Thank U, Next-inspired Burn Book to keep track of the ones who taught you love, the ones who taught you patience, and those who taught you pain. Everything is currently available at shop.arianagrande.com.

Scroll down for all the Ariana Grande merch you can wear everywhere from your next date to your next salty Instagram post.

"Thank U, Next" Socks

thank u, next sock pack + digital album

$35

Ariana Grande

I can’t think of a better way to get over an ex than by wearing these pink mismatched "Thank U, Next" socks. The Instagrammable pair is also available in a pink and white tie-dye option.

"Break Up With Your Girlfriend" Crop Top

break up with your gf cropped crewneck + digital album

$50

Ariana Grande

Straight out of an Ariana Grande music video, this "Break Up With Your Girlfriend" long-sleeved crop top would look so cute with some jeans and a high ponytail.

Thank U, Next Album Cover Crewneck

thank u, next cover crewneck ii + digital album

$50

Ariana Grande

You can let everyone know that: I’ve met someone else … her name is Ari, and I’m so good with that.

"Break Up With Your Girlfriend" Crewneck

break up with your gf crewneck ii + digital album

$50

Ariana Grande

Available in lavender, light gray, and dark gray, this minimal crewneck sweater has the cutest conversation heart decal on the chest that reads "break up with ur gf." I promise you’ll never get bored of the compliments that are sure to roll in when you wear this.

"Break Up With Your Girlfriend" Top

break up with your gf longsleeve ii + digital album

$40

Ariana Grande

Or if you prefer, there’s this "break up with ur gf" long sleeve. The conversation heart decal is colored in pink and comes on a black or light pink long-sleeve top.

"Break Up With Your Girlfriend" Crewneck

break up with your girlfriend crewneck + digital album

$50

Ariana Grande

Why say "break up with your girlfriend, I’m bored" when you can wear the words spelled out across your chest?

Still Hoodie

still hoodie + digital album

$55

Ariana Grande

Now you can play peek-a-boo with Ariana Grande in the mirror all day long. All you need to do is get your hands on this hoodie.

"Thank U, Next" Long Sleeve

thank u, next long sleeve t-shirt + digital album

$40

Ariana Grande

I can’t think of a better top to wear on your next speed dating session. Can you?

"Thank U, Next" Dad Hat

thank u, next dad hat ii + digital album

$35

Ariana Grande

Finally, a hat that hides bad hair days, protects you from harmful UV rays, and makes a statement that even your ex will understand. And get this, it’s also available in black, because I know you like options.

"7 Rings" Crewneck

7 rings tag crewneck + digital album

$50

Ariana Grande

The next time you have breakfast at Tiffany’s and order bottles of bubbles, just be sure to dress appropriately. Of course, I’m talking about this black crewneck sweatshirt with a "7 Rings" logo printed on the front.

"7 Rings" Crewneck

7 rings crewneck + digital album

$50

Ariana Grande

You can be saying, "I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it" if you order this crewneck sweatshirt with the "7 Rings" graphic today.

F*cking Grateful Hoodie

f*cking grateful hoodie + digital album

$55

Ariana Grande

Are you f*cking grateful? Tell the world about it in your next Instagram. You’ll be wearing this pink hoodie, your caption will quote Ariana Grande, and the likes will just roll in. I’m so good with that. Aren’t you?

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Celebrity chef and radio personality Asmah Laili dies, aged 78

SINGAPORE – Celebrity chef and radio personality Asmah Laili died on Friday (Feb 15) at the age of 78.

According to a family member, she had collapsed at her Bedok home and was rushed to Changi General Hospital, where she later died. She left behind two children and five grandchildren. For several years, she had been suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, in which scars are formed in the lung tissues, leading to serious breathing problems.

She started her career with Singapore Broadcasting Corporation, now Mediacorp, in 1959 and became its first female TV presenter. She went on to host popular Malay cooking shows.

Hundreds of people posted prayers for her on the Facebook pages of Mediacorp’s Malay radio channels after news of her death.

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Quinn XCII Reveals Why His New Album, ‘From Michigan With Love,’ Is Different From His Last

Breakout artist Quinn XCII just released his sophomore album! Before the singer-songwriter takes off on a world tour & hits all the hottest festival stages this summer, we caught up with him for an EXCLUSIVE chat!

Quinn XCII has a lot to celebrate this week. On the same day that he kicks off his headlining world tour (with a TON of shows already sold out), the Columbia Records singer-songwriter is releasing a brand new album! From Michigan With Love hits streaming services on Feb 15, and the album contains 12 songs of infectious melodies crafted to perfection. However, peel back the layers of Quinn’s work, and there’s a deeper message to be found within his pop-centric rhythms. Yes, his songs are full of quirky, feel-good fun, but they also hold messages of anti-bullying, reminiscence on lost love, and touch upon anxiety. With his follow-up to his debut, The Story of Us, Quinn has definitely learned to avoid the sophomore slump!

Now, the Detroit native is prepping for his massive tour, with a few extra special shows lined up on the side. Quinn will be hitting the festival circuit in 2019, including both Electric Forest and Bonnaroo! As he readies to hit stages across the country, Quinn EXCLUSIVELY told us all about his new album, his dream collab, and why this record proves to be “different” than his last.

From Michigan with Love marks your sophomore record. Would you say it’s going to be different from you first record?

Yeah, I would say it’s definitely different from my first record in the sense that I’m really trying to push the topic and conversation of mental health with this album, and a lot of the music speaks on just anxieties and even depression that I’ve gone through in the past.

I’m venturing in different directions genre wise, and just trying to push the boundaries of my taste as a musician and also challenging my fans views of it too. But yeah, I’m real excited about just kind of show fans the next chapter of where I want to go and create!

Amazing. Do you have a really strong sense of hometown pride would you say? Why that title?

Yeah. I think that my hometown is embedded in me and being from Michigan and the mid-west in general I think travels with me wherever I go. I try and wear that on my sleeve as much as possible and not lose track of where I came from, and stay tuned with those roots that I have, because I think that’s really important and makes me not get too ahead of myself.

Do you have a favorite track from the record?

Yeah, I think my favorite track is always tough because I look at songs and I have a connection to the whole album obviously, but I would say the most I’m excited about is this track called “U & Us.” I’m excited about it because it’s different in the sense that it’s more guitar based. It’s an acoustic record like a folk song. Something I’ve never really showed fans this side of me before, but also just a really sentimental song.

I know that at your release party you said “Life Must Go On” kind of ties the album together. Can you tell me about that?

Yeah, totally. Life must go on which is produced by Jon Bellion, who I’m a huge fan of, and now somewhat friends with I would say, which is cool because I got to work with him and he’s under the same management group as me. It’s cool to share music with someone who I’ve looked up to for a long time. It’s really a super humbling experience. He produced the record as well.

That’s amazing! Is there anyone else that you are dying to work with in the future?

Oh, yeah. I always say I could stay on the phone for hours talking about people I want to work with, but ones that come to mind, I would love to work with Jack Johnson. I would definitely love to work with Anderson Paak.

You’re hitting a ton of festivals this year! Is there one you’re most excited for?

I’m excited for any festival I get to play, I’m always real excited about that because it’s just such a cool atmosphere to be in front of people who are there to have a good time. It’s very positive. Probably for me though, it’s Electric Forest which is held back home in Michigan where I’m from. More than that it’s like a notorious electronic festival that has…It’s basically set in the middle of a forest, hence the name, so everything is lit up at night time and it’s just from what I’ve seen and some friends that have gone there, I guess it’s the most surreal place to go watch music!

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Here’s How To Get A Free Spotify Premium Trial From Starbucks, So You Can Earn Stars

Two of my favorite things ever are coffee and music, hands down. In my opinion, there’s nothing better than turning the radio up and sipping on a hot cup of joe. More specifically, any morning that involves a Starbucks latte and my favorite Spotify playlist is a great morning in my book. If you haven’t hopped on the Spotify bandwagon yet, now’s your chance — because Starbucks is offering an extended free trial of the streaming site for certain Rewards members who give it a go. If you’re wondering how to get a free Spotify Premium trial from Starbucks, take a seat and read on. This is a music opportunity that you won’t want to miss — especially if you’re a loyal Starbucks customer.

Speaking of "loyal" Starbucks customers, let’s talk about who’s been notified about the company’s latest musical offering. According to Starbucks, Rewards members in the "Gold" level were sent an email that invited them to try a complimentary 60-day trial of Spotify Premium. Elite Daily reached out to Starbucks to see if only Gold members are allowed to sign up for the trial, but has not heard back by the time of publication. Whether you’re a Gold member or not, I’ll tell you how to get the ball rolling so you can start listening to Spotify Premium for free.

FYI, Spotify Premium is a version of Spotify that lets you skip and download songs. It also excludes the ads (!!!), which means you can listen to your favorite playlists without interruption. The service costs $9.99 per month, but I think it’s totally worth it.

Now that you know what Spotify Premium is, I’ll walk you through the process of scoring a free trial with Starbucks. According to the company’s exclusive email, you’ll first need to visit Spotify’s webpage promoting the offer, which can be found here. Then, you’ll need to hit the button at the bottom of the screen that says "GET SPOTIFY PREMIUM." That’ll take you to a webpage where you’ll need to sign up for Spotify using your email address. According to Starbucks, the email address that you use should be "valid" — and there’s a perfectly good reason for that.

Starbucks Rewards members who sign up for the 60-day free trial using their valid email addresses will receive a whopping 250 Bonus Stars in return. How will they get those Stars, you ask? Via email, of course. According to Starbucks, Spotify will send Rewards members an email with a Star Code three days after signing up for the trial. That Star Code can then be used to redeem the Bonus Stars.

When you think about it, Starbucks is essentially offering its Rewards members almost two months of unlimited music and a lot of Bonus Stars. It’s a total win-win.

However, there is a small catch. After the 60-day trial is over, Starbucks Rewards members will need to start paying for Spotify Premium. As I previously mentioned, it’s $9.99 per month. If you love music (and coffee) as much as I do, it’ll probably be worth it.

If you agree — and you’re a Starbucks Rewards member, of course — you can go ahead and sign up for your free Spotify Premium trial right now. You’ll have until Feb. 21 to register and receive Bonus Stars, so try not to procrastinate. Free music and complimentary coffee awaits you.

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Who’s The Voice On Ariana Grande’s "Bloodline"? Nonna’s Cameo Has A Funny Story Behind It

Ariana Grande is the musical gift that keeps on giving. Just half a year after her album, Sweetener, dropped, Grande gifted us with Thank U, Next, which boasts some excellent tracks like "Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored," and "7 Rings," but her song "Bloodline" has a really interesting cameo in its intro that many fans are wondering, "Who’s the voice on Ariana Grande’s "Bloodline"? Well, that audio clip is actually her Nonna, and the story behind it is all sorts of hilarious.

Up until now, Grande had yet to comment on her Nonna’s cameo (who is officially credited as Marjorie "Nonna" Grande on the album) in "Bloodline," — so when she went on The Zach Sang Show on Feb. 9 and revealed some behind-the-scene stories from her tracks, the host was visibly surprised with all of her new admissions.

Here’s what went down: On Feb. 9, Grande sat and spoke with The Zach Sang Show and opened up about Thank U, Next while hanging alongside some of her friends that helped make the record. Sang asked her about a handful of the tracks on Grande’s album, but when he brought up "Bloodline," he was shocked to hear the real story behind the words that her Nonna was saying. In case you were wondering, Grande’s Nonna says, "Because I’m trying to do the best I can, and they can’t find something to satisfy me."

Sure, it sounds kind of provocative, but in reality, the context is literally anything but.

"’Bloodline.’ It’s a really powerful record. That starts with Nonna. Does that record start with that soundbite, or does it come afterwards?" Sang asked Grande.

"It starts with Nonna," Grande replied.

She continued, explaining the backstory to the audio clip. "She actually was talking about a hearing aid in that audio," Grande revealed. "She was talking about a hearing aid and how she can’t find anything to satisfy her. My mom was like, ‘You need a f*cking hearing aid,’ and Nonna was like, ‘I can’t! I don’t like it! I can’t find something to satisfy me!’"

Only a grandmother could say those words about a hearing aid, amirite?

"My mom was driving her crazy," Grande said. "So that’s what that audio is about. I was like, ‘This kind of applies to my life, so I’m just gunna stick it at the beginning of ‘Bloodline”. Also because Nonna is the queen an the matriarch of the bloodline."

Holy cow, you guys. Do you realize how differently that song can be viewed now?

Host Sang told Grande that he didn’t realize what that beginning excerpt was about, to which Grande replied, "I broke through that fourth wall for you. You’re going to think of it every time, now."

We certainly are, Ariana.

You can watch the entire clip below, or you can fast-forward to about the 26-minute mark to hear Grande’s story about her Nonna:

Back when "Bloodline" was not yet released, Grande opened up on Twitter about the track after one fan asked her, "What’s ‘Bloodline’ about?" She tweeted back, writing that it’s about "wanting somebody but not enough to have them in your bloodline ksjskjskj."

Naturally, many fans thought that this was a pretty cut-and-dry case, assuming that the song was meant for her former fiancé, SNL comedian Pete Davidson, to whom she got engaged to in June 2018 after a whirlwind romance but ultimately called it quits just months later in October 2018.

Whether or not the song was meant for Davidson still remains to be seen, but if there’s one thing we can take away from "Bloodline," it’s that you should always keep your ears open for some unintentionally sage advice from your elders.

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Colorado Man Who Survived Mountain Lion Attack by Killing It with His Bare Hands Speaks Out

A Colorado runner who fought off and killed a mountain lion who ambushed him is speaking out about the attack that left him with multiple gashes to his face and arms.

Travis Kauffman laced up his running shoes on February 4 and headed out for a 12- to 15-mile jog through the wilderness of Horsetooth Mountain. But not long into his run, the 31-year-old heard the sound of pine needles crackling behind him, and turned around to come eye-to-eye with a juvenile mountain lion, he recalled in a press conference on Thursday.

“One of my worst fears was confirmed,” Kauffman told reporters, according to CBS Denver. “I just had my heart sink into my stomach a little bit.”

The lion — which weighed 35 to 40 pounds, a necropsy later revealed — quickly pounced on Kauffman and sunk its teeth into his arms.

“It was going up towards my face so I threw up my hands to kind of block my face, at which point it grabbed onto my hand and wrist and from there it started to claw at my face and neck,” Kauffman explained, as seen in a video posted by CNN. “And that’s when kind of my fear response turned into more of a fight response.”

Kauffman said he and the animal engaged in a “wrestling match” and fell from the side of the trail, where he was able to clasp down the cougar’s hind legs to keep it from moving. With his right arm still in the animal’s jaws, Kauffman grabbed a rock with his free hand.

“I tried to give it a few bashes in the back of the head,” he said, “but unfortunately I kind of had a tough time swinging [the rock] with my arm still locked into the cat’s jaws.”

Worried that other lions could show up at any moment, and with little to no options left, Kauffman moved into position to suffocate the animal.

“I was able to shift my weight and get a foot on its neck,” he explained. “I stepped on its neck with my right foot and just slowly after a few minutes I thought I would be getting close and then it would start thrashing again — and I had a few more scratches that resulted from those thrashes at that point — and I’d say another couple minutes later it finally stopped moving.”

RELATED: Woman Mauled By Bear in Montana Walks Miles to Safety With Skull Fracture

After he removed his bloodied arm from the jaws of the dead animal, Kauffman ran three miles out of the park, where another visitor spotted him and gave him a lift to a nearby hospital.

“We all feel extremely lucky that this attack was made by a young mountain lion on a knowledgeable runner, otherwise we may have been hosting a very different press conference,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife manager Mark Leslie said during the conference. “These animals are ambush predators, and are trained to take quick and lethal action whenever possible.”

In the initial report of the attack, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said that mountain lion attacks are rare, with “fewer than 20 fatalities in North America in more than 100 years.” In three decades, the state has only seen 16 injuries and three fatalities as a result of cougar attacks.

If you do come face-to-face with one of the animals, you must do everything you can to survive, the agency said in their statement. This includes staying calm, slowly walking away without ever turning your back and trying to make yourself appear larger by raising your hands above your head. If a cougar does target you, they suggest fighting it off with rocks, sticks or your bare hands.

“During the whole process I didn’t really make that many decisions. There was a lot of instinct,” Kauffman told KUNC. “And so there weren’t a lot of decisions to second-guess or a lot of critical moments that I had to rethink or go through and reprocess.

He added: “For the most part I don’t feel any residual trauma from it. And I tend to like to move forward. That’s kind of my personality.”

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I Went On A Phoneless Date Night & Had A Great Time — But Honestly, Kind Of Missed My Phone

As an unapologetic Aries, I am admittedly sometimes too stubborn for my own good. I put a lot of pressure on myself to meet impossible standards of "chillness," which are especially difficult for me to reach as I am decidedly "not chill." Thus, I become defensive. I try to prove to myself that I can do it all — plan an electric date night, then completely unplug in order to fully enjoy it. So, why did I go on a phoneless date night, on Valentine’s Day of all days? Simply to prove that I could!

You know how your parents are always like, "millennials need to get off their freaking phones and face the real world!" They’re definitely wrong, but also, kind of right — us Gen Y-ers can definitely benefit from a little phone-down time. "Having your phone around (even sitting on the table making no noise, or in your pocket) is distracting to your brain," Celeste Headlee, communication expert and author of We Need To Talk: How To Have Conversations That Matter, tells Elite Daily. "Your brain is aware that the phone could ring or vibrate at any moment with a notification, so some of your cognitive energy is set aside preparing to respond. Your phone causes you to exist in a near-constant state of stress." As someone who has a brain that is hyperactive to a fault, this resonated deeply with me.

So, why leave your phone at home during a date night? "You’ll enjoy the date more if the phone isn’t part of your relationship," Headlee says. "The phone is distracting to the person you’re talking to. You might experience withdrawals at first, but you’ll get over it and be able to focus on your date."

I was convinced — a phone-free date night would definitely do me some good. I spoke with my partner about my plan and, as a hater of Instagram and fun, he wholeheartedly agreed. We chose Valentine’s Day for the experiment, hoping it would amplify a day already devoted to love tenfold. Before we set out on our adventure, I asked Headlee for some helpful tips on how to enjoy a night out sans-screen, and she definitely delivered.

Strapped with Headlee’s knowledge, I went into Valentine’s Day night with some much-needed confidence. Our plan was as follows: I had booked a room at the Freehand Hotel through HotelTonight, and we were to meet there at 8:30 p.m. I arrived earlier — the hotel was close to my office, so I went straight there to shower, set up, etc. (Pro tip: If you buy a bunch of candles, remember to also buy a lighter. FML.) We both decided that the date night wouldn’t truly begin until we were together, so I had an hour and a half to scroll through Instagram, sob at a few Valentine’s Day posts, and watch Game Of Thrones on my HBO-Go app (I swear this is not sponcon, I just really love this app). As I heard the door to our room begin to fidget, I knew it was go-time. I threw my phone into my purse, and closed my laptop. Let the games begin.

The first hour was easy. We exchanged gifts (well, he exchanged gifts. Mine didn’t arrive on time. Oops!), read each other’s cards, and spent an hour reminiscing about our first Valentine’s Day together, three years ago. He had planned a surprise dinner for us in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and all I knew was that we had to be out of the door at 9:30 p.m., because our reservation was at 10 p.m. Yes, you heard that right. 10 p.m. It was a very European V-Day.

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NYFW, but make it my cousin’s baby shower

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We watched the clock in our room like a hawk (G-bless hotels, honestly), and left right in the nick of time. It was easy to find a cab, since they seem to flock to hotels. My partner gave our driver the address and Shazam! We were en route. As it turns out, my partner had made a fabulous reservation at a hole-in-the-wall sushi restaurant. I was elated! Unfortunately for us, the entrance to the restaurant was not marked, and without access to GPS or our phones, we were unfortunately very lost. We circled the block twice before realizing that part of the wooden wall that enclosed the building was actually a door. Easy to miss, especially without our BFF, Google Maps.

Dinner was lovely — we nibbled on a prix-fixe tasting menu in this private wooden bungalow and felt rich AF. It looked like we were eating in a tree house! Of course, we didn’t have our phones to constantly distract us, so we engaged in witty banter for two hours straight! Very old-school. Both of us, however, remarked multiple times that we would have loved to have been able to record the experience, or at least take a few pictures to remember it by. I suppose this is an inherent product of becoming reliant on technology — with the present moment being ever-fleeting, we are constantly looking for a way to consecrate our adventures; tangible evidence that we had a life worth living.

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Hey am I doing this right?!?!

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As our dinner reached its conclusion at a hot 12:05 a.m. (on a school night!!), my partner and I geared up to return to our hotel room and hit the hay. Unfortunately for us, the street was totally void of cabs — it was dark and abandoned! Unable to call an Uber, and extremely unfamiliar with the landscape of Brooklyn, we roamed the city for about 20 minutes, searching for a cab or a subway station. We finally found a lone, lurking yellow taxi, which we rode all the way back into Manhattan. I lay down in his lap and fell asleep on the way home.

Hilarious to note: When we returned to the hotel, there was an incredibly loud concert being held on the second floor. Our room was literally shaking because of the bass. I went down to the lobby to complain, and witnessed vomit spread all over the floor. The girl who had just thrown up looked up at me with a half-smile. "Happy Valentine’s Day," she said, before dozing off on her friend’s shoulder. How romantic, I thought to myself. Even then, I wished I could have captured the chaos: The music blasting through the hallways, the guests swarming around the concierge, and the floors shining from the glare of freshly mopped up puke. But my phone was still happily tucked away upstairs, in my purse.

Thus concluded my phoneless Valentine’s Day date night. Would I recommend this practice to friends and foes alike? Perhaps. It was nice to unplug from the performative voyeurism that is social media, especially on a day that showcases love like a reality TV show. It allowed us to focus on what we share together, instead of comparing our connection to other people’s. But if I had to do it all over again, I’d at least do dinner in Manhattan, so I’d be able to navigate my way home. What can I say? No matter what I do, I have zero chill. Just call me BAE — big Aries energy.

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