Monday, February 13, 2017

10 Best 'Album of the Year' Grammy Winners

I make some complaint about the Grammy Awards every year as though I give a crap. This is because they get it right sometimes. Or at least stick to some calculated formula. But more often than not, they just come heartbreakingly close to our expectations.
I complained about Beyonce's Lemonade losing Album of the Year this year because it was the only album nominated that kinda balanced between critical acclaim and commercial success. But of course, her name isn't Adele, and was born to lose.
For the record, Adele's 25 is not a bad album, and is far from the worst album to win the Album of the Year Grammy Award. There have been multiple winners in Grammy history that are honestly just glorified novelty acts (ex: Tony Bennett's MTV Unplugged won 1995, I kid thee not). Adele is a talented modern artist making dramatic modern music; good on her. The fact that the Grammy Academy tries to show that they care about "the album" is why I'll always be interested. And some great albums have won in the past that truly have lived up to their legacy.
Here is my list of the 10 best albums to ever win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year!
-I was gonna make an Honorable Mention list, but it got long.
-Ranking this list was basically comparing tomatoes/tomatos. All great. #1 was obvious.

10 Simon & Garfunkel Bridge over Troubled Water 
This was probably S&G's most accessible album while also using the most diverse influences. Paul Simon would continue this delicate balance on his own. Art Garfunkel said "so long..."

9 Bee Gees / Various Artists Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Sound Track 
If we truly live in a world where cocaine is the only thing that matters, this album should be #1. The artists made these songs in exchange for cocaine, recorded them on cocaine, created bright disco dance floors with colors inspired by cocaine, and we got "How Deep Is Your Love."

8 Carole King Tapestry 
I cannot think of the Grammy's without thinking about this album. We get the base rock instruments cleanly edited to a tee, fronted by the woman who wrote singalong songs for the ages.

7 Paul Simon Graceland 
16 years after his AOTY Grammy for Troubled Water and 11 years after his award for Still Crazy After All These Years, he had to do something completely different. Post-divorce with Carrie Fisher, his mid-life crisis drove him to make the most universally lovable Afro-pop album ever.

6 U2 The Joshua Tree 
I think my two favorite album openers of the 80s have to be "Where The Streets Have No Name" by U2 and "Teen Age Riot" by Sonic Youth. Needless to say, the Grammy Academy definitely prefers one over the other...

5 Michael Jackson Thriller 
All the young dudes reading this will think this album is ranked too low. I highly recommend reading the rest of this list. It's a good list.

4 Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life 
This was the 3rd Album of the Year award Stevie Wonder won within a span of 4 years. A double-LP with an EP attached (that's a 3-disc release, count 'em!), 130 musicians and producers were involved in the recording process, paving the way for ambitious R&B artists to come.

3 Fleetwood Mac Rumours 
Unlike the entire "Saturday Night Fever" experience, Rumours makes drug culture seem a lot less ridiculous. You sleep with your bandmates, you break up with your bandmates, but you stay in the band. You stay synchronized, you keep looking forward, but you keep your visions to yourself.

2 Stevie Wonder Innervisions 
Much like Michael Jackson, the world watched little Stevie grow up. The boy who used to shout "Baby! Everything is alright!" was suddenly making sonically bonkers songs about America's drug habits, inner-city racism, and President Nixon. When little Stevie stopped 5 minutes into "Living for the City" to play a spoken-word skit about cops sending a "nigger" to prison, I'm pretty sure the world got their reality check.

1 The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 
Do you know who won AOTY the year before this album? Frank Sinatra. The year before that? Frank Sinatra again. The crooning hero of the 50's was winning Grammy's in freaking 1967. This had to change. So not only did the Grammy Academy pick a popular album by a modern band, they picked the zaniest, most futuristic, neurotically stimulating album possible. I watch the Grammy's because it's fun to see if they pick the sound of the future... or some old fogey.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

This Blogpost Was Made To Torture Any Given English Or U.S. History Teacher

"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
is an example of somebody who

--Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States (2017)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Women In My Life (kinda)

Some music reminds me of people I know. Some people's personalities remind me of artists I listen to. I think we've all experienced this a little bit. Everybody has their jam that reminds them of their very selves (or at least how they perceive themselves, like this one guy I was in the MTC with who associated himself with "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief," a song about Jesus). I too have personal anthems written by people who have never even met me. An odd habit I have when I hear music for the first time is that before I find personal connection with the song, I heavily critique it as an art. I feel like I have a bad habit of also doing this with actual people.
Here's a quote that kinda confirms this theory.

"How we interact with art is a microcosm of the way we interact with the world" 
--Carl Wilson

So there you go, folks! I'm just a big jerk. Before I try to relate to you, I'm probably just incessantly judging you within. But continuing with this art/real world theory, I think I'm on to something. I listen to a lot of music, but have no one favorite band. I have a lot of friends, but no best friend. I'm always comfortable with this fact until I get reminded by (all) my favorite compatible couples: 
"I married my best friend!"
I'm out, man.
Anyways, once in a while people will ask me what I'm looking for in a girl. And I still haven't actually answered that question. I don't really need to. Simply, if you were to ask me what I'm looking for in an album, my answer is always, basically, personality.
Now, everybody has personalities. And although I don't have a specific favorite artist, there are some I like more than others; artists whom I, Scott E Hall, connect with. Despite my habit to judge, I have a sense of my own interpersonal relationships. It would be stupidly impolite of me to go over the relationships I have with actual individual women I know. And it would be just stupid if I went over my critical relationships with women whose music I listen to. But that-- that second example-- is what I'm gonna do today! Here are five girls I've been interested in lately.
The women in my life.

Courtney is the girl I want to like, but I always find myself falling short of emotional interest. Courtney has a lovably dry sense of humor and has a similar socioeconomic background to mine. She sings about relate-able topics in stream-of-conscious rambling. But every time I think I'm interested, I start listening to her, and I can never add anything to this list. I have this great short list of reasons to like her, but those are the only reasons I have. I wish I could find more, but my ideal falls short by just a couple dynamics. Courtney is always my "almost-girlfriend."
And yes, for the record, she has beautiful blue eyes.

Julia is the girl who's out of my league. I am legitimately intimidated by her world. She has all these complex arrangements and ridiculously studied-out themes. Her voice is so elegant, but too wise to be considered fragile. Not only can she do everything she wants, she actually does everything she wants. She's incredibly smart and I freaking love it. She's just so much obviously more mature than I am. I'd ask her out if I didn't think myself so incompetent in contrast to her.
I kinda feel the same way about Joanna Newsom.

I have a crush on Angel Olsen. I freaking love her voice. Her songs remind me of 60s garage rock, but are also kinda pan-fried... I don't know. It's a cool. And it's weird, because I knew her 2 years ago and I wasn't interested at all! She is somebody totally different! And so am I! We're only human! I just need to know more about her. I know she used to sing with Will Oldham and made some creepy, minimalist country album. Then she got into some iffy lo-fi lounge rock stuff. But she kinda just exploded into my life this year like a missile of passion come down to earth, and I need more.
And yes, okay, she is absolutely gorgeous! How could you not be attracted to this woman? She's only 3 years older than I am, so I'd like to think there's hope for me.

I still remember the first time I heard Solange. I watched her perform "Sandcastle Disco" on Letterman in 2008. It was funky, she had an afro, I loved it. A Seat At The Table is an individualistic statement that proves her independence. She has this righteously outspoken political opinion, and yet as much as she demands to be heard, she can bring me to tears all the same. Solange is the girl who creeps back into my life every couple of years, but can disappear to a new country with a new hairstyle and a new guy any time she wants. (sigh) She's the girl I fall for too easily.

Victoria has a "guy." Unlike the artists listed above, Victoria isn't a solo artist. She's the lead singer of the two-piece dream pop band Beach House. They are one of my favorite bands, and of course the other band member is a dude. They're not dating and they've never dated, but they're always together and I'm jealous. He's practically the perfect guy, but he's an idiot for not making a move on her. I listen to Victoria all the time, and yet, it's like I don't know anything about her. Her life always sounds so mystical and intriguing to me, but her persona comes with a darkness and a distance (must be all the reverb). Some think she distances herself, but to me, Victoria is the mystery I long to solve.

You know, after writing this, I don't think I want to get married. But I'll keep listening to new artists and meeting new people anyway.
That was a really cheesy ending.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

I Am About To Go To A New Year's Eve Dance

Well folks, it's New Year's Ever. And for the 9th time of my life, I am in Jerome ID. And I will be attending a local church dance.
This doesn't sound as bad as it may seem to some of you. There are 2 sides of Scott when he goes to dances. I'm not too proud of either of them. I am either the most reserved, cynical person in the room. Or I dance so maniacally that people question my sobriety. I usually mix a little of both. Here are my predictions for tonight:

--I begin standing by the snack table questioning my existence and why I came in the first place.
--I will then find, like, 2 people I know and chat for 5 minutes.
--After about an hour, the DJ will play a song I actually like and I spend the rest of the night pretending like I love every song and I just overact every terrible dance move beyond all reason, staining my shirt with sweat.
--I'll enter the center of a dance circle practically heaving the floor and the crowd loves it.
--By the time 11:55 hits, I get really tired and forget the members of my central hangout circle.
--I leave at 12:01am and drive home the long way, pondering my New Year's resolutions.

Who knows. Maybe just because I wrote this, I will have the exact opposite experience.
I don't think I can think of myself at dances without thinking of the music of LCD Soundsystem or the many personalities of their main guy James Murphy. When those speakers blast some synthetic beat, he becomes my spirit animal on multiple levels.

"I love you, but you're bringing me down."

"I'll show you the ropes, kid!"


"From this position, I will relax."

Anyways, for all my friends who see my there, please try to help me enjoy leaving my comfort zone! And please, enjoy the sight of me making a fool of myself! I can't believe I'm 26 and I'm still the same guy I was in high school at the same dances that I went to in high school... but here I go again. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Boy-Turned Music Snob Listens to Coldplay Album for First Time in 8 Years

In 2008, I was a teenager. It was the ultimate year for my shifting music taste. My favorite albums from that year came from TV on the Radio and Fleet Foxes... yet I also owned new releases by Nine Inch Nails and Beck... as well as The Killers and Coldplay.
Now I'm in college, and I realize that all my friends are all fans of all these bands. We now live in an era (and I am now at an age) where all this just kinda sounds the same to all alt-rock fans in general. But as a teenager in Jerome ID in 2008, this felt like 3 separate worlds to me! I had my indie friends, my alt-rock chart friends, my adult contemporary chart friends... I eventually enveloped myself in the world of critically acclaimed, kinda-sorta-underground music, and Coldplay quickly faded out of my life. But at the tail-end of 2008, crammed between listens to new Hot Chip and Deerhunter, I enjoyed Coldplay's Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends.

I've been known as both a cynic and connoisseur of modern music these days. Yet this morning, I witnessed the first snow of the winter, and I was brought back to the winter of 2008. For the first time since then, I wanted to listen to Viva La Vida.
Don't get me wrong, I've been know to re-visit Coldplay tracks; particularly songs from this album. In all Coldplay conversation, I call this my favorite Coldplay album. I almost stopped listening to them by 2008, but they released a surprising album! Yet my praise has been kinda just based on memory and taken with a grain of salt. Today was my first actual listen for the sake of listening to it... in nearly 8 years. So here's my up-to-date review!

The Brian Eno Strategy
This album still sounds pretty darn great! The production hasn't aged a bit. Who produced this thing? Arguably the greatest producer of all time, Brian Eno. I always knew this, but I used to not know what that meant. Brian Eno is arguably the greatest producer of all time. He still works on some complex ambient albums and collaborates with underground artists. He has also spent some of the 2000s riding his past successes with radio-friendly faux-existentialist bands, like, um, Coldplay. But I think he and Coldplay needed each other in 2008. X&Y proved that the band was at least willing to make some fan-shifting changes. And Eno hadn't produced a #1 hit in about 20 years. So I mean, what the hey, right?
From the album's very beginning, you can spot traces of Eno all over this thing. The patience of this album's opener is what got me intrigued enough to keep listening to the whole thing. Also, a truly sparkling opening 40 seconds to "Violet Hill" where we hear nothing but ambience. A couple tracks on here were co-produced by Jon Hopkins, who would later go on to make one of my favorite electronica albums of this decade. The weaker moments are when songs feel kinda rushed. The closing hidden track "The Escapist" sounds cool, but jumps in way too soon behind the grandeur of "Death and All fo His Friends." With Eno, the perfect mixing of every instrument is a given. Art like this requires space.

The Less Chris Martin Says, The Better
Nobody should have to care about anything Chris Martin says. Coldplay's first hit was "Yellow," where he literally spends the whole song calling stuff yellow. But here's the deal: It's a GREAT song!
The best songs on this albums have lyrical simplicity. Even with few words, Chris Martin's voice is strong enough to speak for itself. "Lost!" and "Strawberry Swing" are my favorite tracks on the album. Coldplay is essentially a pop band. Part of their purpose is to romanticize the basic. The most repeated phrase on "Lost!": "I'm just waiting 'til the shine wears off." A pretty basic phrase, almost generic, but can be taken in Coldplay's superstardom context behind the song's hefty organ lead and interesting percussion parts. "Strawberry Swing" is, like, legitimately gorgeous. There's a Nico level of senitmentalism behind lines like "I remember," "could be blue," and "it's such a perfect day." And of course, just like "Lost!" there's a some world-influenced percussion and a cool organ backing the song. I like organs.
The album opener "Life In Technicolor" also sounds amazing! It's like a modernized version of Peter Gabriel's "pop" work. How many words does Martin say in this song? ZERO. And the vocalized sequel to this song released in 2009 was pretty good too. You can't even tell what he's saying on hidden track "Chinese Sleep Chant," other than you can tell it's Martin's voice, and it fits the song just fine. Thank you for doing your job, Chris.

God, Only God Knows They're Trying Their Best
The worst song on this album is "Yes." It just kinda exists for the sake of existing. There's all this random middle-Eastern instrumentation that doesn't do anything to it s nature. What is this song about again? Chris Martin feeling lonely? Struggling to get girls? Even if it was about something deeper, it's awkwardly cheeky. Like, Billy Joel cheeky. It's a pretty lame 4 minutes that coulda been cut from the album. You should really read the lyrics to the chorus. It's... not exactly poetry. Martin could have reduced that to a few words.
And what the heck is Chris Martin singing about on "42"? "Cemetaries of London"? Ghosts? Curses? Who cares? I know Coldplay has this whole deal where their songs have even deeper conceptual meaning, but that actually just makes songs like these seem more ridiculous and corny. If anything, the production on these two tracks is pretty cool. Particularly the guitars.

Jonny Buckland Is Underrated 
There used to be this huge cist on Coldplay's shoulders about how they were just lite-weight Radiohead rip-offs for families. The earliest Coldplay tracks are like bare-bones, studio-safe tracks from The Bends and OK Computer. Martin sounded a lot like Thom Yorke and guitarist Jonny Buckland sounded a lot like Jonny Greenwood (he even has the same freaking name). By the band's electronic stage of X&Y, Buckland was criticized like The Edge. But on Viva La Vida, he sounds like Jonny Buckland.
The most enjoyable moments from Buckland are when you hear the raw crunch of his guitar. Aside from this album's lush mega-hit recording, it's rather refreshing. He's the true star on "Violet Hill" with his play-along solo in the middle. The beautiful, kinda South African riff to "Strawberry Swing" is something you don't hear often from radio pop/rock bands. I also love his little memorable fills throughout "Death and All of His Friends," even that 10-second "funk" portion of the song. As mentioned earlier, he saves "42" and "Cemetaries of London" from sounding like uninteresting Chris Martin death-themed jargon to something more like: "Hey, we're a rock band having fun!" In addition to his raw crunchiness, he's conscious about his pedals. There's some interesting stuff on the back of "Lovers In Japan." His solo on "Lost!" is what arena-expanding pop should sound like. His work on "Chinese Sleep Chant" can classify as legitimate shoegaze.

And OK, I Guess It's Kinda "Cool" 
I remember hearing "Viva La Vida" for the first time. I didn't think it'd be popular at all. I did not expect it would be the band's only song to be a Billboard #1 hit. People, this isn't the weirdest song in the world. But it was a huge radio standout in 2008! And yeah, the instrumentation is rather unique. It was a #1 single crammed between Lil Wayne's sell-out hit "Lollipop" and Katy Perry's moderate-climate entry to the radio world "I Kissed A Girl." "Viva La Vida" may not be weird song in itself, but I will always consider it an extremely weird hit!
I know Coldplay have spent their entire career trying to sound weird, like so many bands in alternative rock history. But I admit this album is a pretty unique experience. There's Brian Eno's accompanied aesthetic. There's the album's 3 hidden tracks that actually outshine some songs on the actual tracklisting. There's some expansive genre influences. Maybe it stole from U2, Radiohead, and even (what was then "new") epic-indie-handclap-rock from Arcade Fire... if I had a penny for every time I heard artists imitating these bands...  but it most importantly covers all the bases Coldplay can gather from their entire career. Viva La Vida is their catalog; their greatest hits condensed. Pieces of all their previous and future work can all be found here. If I was a 26 year-old music snob in 2008, I would probably still like this album.
When it comes to all the category of extremely popular rock/pop bands from the new millennium, Coldplay is the best I can recall. My buddy Austin saw them live in SLC on my 18th birthday and was kind enough to buy me a key chain with this picture (below) on it. Ya know, over-serious demeanor aside, we can some times relate to these guys.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Open Thank You Notes to My Esteemed College Professors & Mentors

From CSI

Tony "Uncle Tony" Mannen
Thank you for being a great director and believing in my abilities. I still remember you pulling me aside during a 'Murder Room' rehearsal and going over how I was on my way to having a bright acting future beyond CSI. I doubted you, but that was kinda the norm for me at that age.Thank you for believing in my talents.
And I remember pointing at the booth during the final show as I mentioned a "pale white moon" and you were secretly up there mooning the audience. You were truly an inspiration. Elvis is king!

Jud + Tamara Harmon
I owe a lot to you guys. I always loved working with you, on and off stage. Thank you for keeping in touch over the years.
Jud, thank you for trying to hook me up with that Sun Valley job a few months ago! A guy could always use some more job options! I still remember striking set for 'Othello' with you and you were just cracking up watching me use power tools incorrectly. You told me I'd get the hang of it with every show. Thanks for always sharing that type of optimism. Side note: I will always hold a high regard for your service to our country. It's one of the many reasons we call you "Studly Judley!"
Tamara, I can't help but bring this up now. About 2 years ago, I remember you mentioned on facebook something about conversing dream acting roles with me and a group of old CSI folks. It's a long story, but I didn't know how to react at the time. If you still want to have that chat about dream roles, I'd love to talk about it now! I'll be back in Jerome soon. Hope to see you guys while I'm there!

Guy who taught English 1010 
Thank you for letting me fill out some paperwork and turn in some writing that would get me in to the Northwest Undergraduate Conference on Literature. I still have no idea what that kind of accolade means, but it sounds super prestigious!

Assorted USU Professors & Mentors

Matthew Winters
I haven't talked to you in a couple years! I know you left USU, but I still don't know where you ran off to! I still use your name as a reference on job applications sometimes! Thank you for being a patient and sincere English teacher. It's rare that a guy like me has a professor who doubles as a music buddy. I'll never forget the day you played Godspeed You! Black Emperor in class or the fact that you introduced me to Refused. Also, thank you for hooking me up with your radio promotion manager friend; that might be my future.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to write about music and pointing out both my strengths and weaknesses. I would have never known a lot of aspects of my writing style without your help.

Alex Baldwin
Thank you for caring about your students and being a sincere critic about their work. That poetry class was a tight-knit group. I still have a lot to learn in this field!

Guy who taught US history 
You were a crazy teacher. If anything, I remember standing in line behind you for 2 hours at the Utah Democratic caucus polls so we could vote for Bernie Sanders. Good times.

Kendall, thank you for caring so much about the students in the FAC. We all have weird majors and we need keys into rooms at 1:00 am sometimes. Thank you for helping me out in situations like this and also for your genuine sense of humor.

Cindy, you were easily one of the easiest bosses I've ever worked with. You understood my schedule issues and I was always welcome to work. I understand I still am. I think I'll pass, but it was always great to have your optimistic attitude try to keep me awake and laughing at 4:00 am.

Wade, I cannot thank you enough for the work you've offered me. I cannot work my usual job while working on certain theatre projects. That pocketful of cash I'd get from blowing leaves and shoveling snow comes a long way, where I come from. When I first started helping you, I had no money at all. Thank you so much for those little opportunities. You helped me get through the hard times. Thanks again.


Cathy "Aunt Cathy" Bullock
It's amazing that you still talk with me sometimes. I only had one class with you and that was 3 years ago! But you've encouraged me ever since, even in the smallest ways. Thank you for helping me with my collegiate and career choices.

Matthew LaPlante
Thank you for teaching me the single most important lesson I learned in all my college years:
Good News Writing.

Candi Carter Olson
I sometimes feel like I have a following of people who want to watch me succeed, and you're part of it. Thank you for being a dedicated teacher and for the work you do with your students outside of class.

My Statesman Editors (you know who you are)
Thank you for believing in my work. I never considered myself a talented news writer, but it was always you guys convinced me to keep it up. It was an honor to make the front page that one time. It was an honor to be told I had the most-read article of the week on multiple occasions. Honestly, I spent most of my music reviews just trying to be funny. I still remember turning in my Taylor Swift article thinking I'd be condemned for poor presentation, but instead saw it shared by multiple people (even some I've never met) and personally heard an avalanche of reader feedback. Thanks again for believing in my talents. I may continue writing in the future.

USU Theatre Dept 

Bruce Duerden
Thank you for being the most laid-back dept head in the world, yet at the same time, always motivating me. I still remember that great chat we had after sound design class last semester. A lot of what you said stuck with me. You know I've had my doubts about the major I chose, and you were always willing to help through what's most important. I feel like we will randomly cross paths in the future.

Richie Call
Thank you for being a great director to work with. You answered all my questions and gave me some freedom as a stage manager as well. But before you were my director, you were my Beginning Acting teacher, and students don't forget classes like that. Thank you for listening to me, working with me, and meeting me halfway with my mistakes. The show turned out GREAT.

LuAnn Baker + Isaiah Jones
You guys were there for both shows I stage managed at USU. Thank you for helping me, answering my questions, letting me borrow your stuff, and dealing with all my crap! I usually only have to step into that office when I'm in a stressful situation, and I'm always prepared to walk away even more stressed out, but you guys always pull through! Thank you for being examples of responsibility and self-management. Our theatre department would not function without you. You guys are amazing!

To the USU Theatre Staff
I was in the middle of writing individual thank you notes to all of you, but I was getting tired.
I've worked on shows and taken classes with all of you. I have some random personal experiences I've shared with some of you. Some of those moments were pretty darn fun! Some of them I should apologize for... In any instance, I thank you all for treating me professionally, and more importantly, like a human being. I've learned a lot from this program and I'm glad I got to work with honest, real people in the process.
Also: Shout-out to the Master's students! I can never tell whether you were students or professors sometimes, which means you're doing your job!

USU Business Professors

John Ferguson
I never knew you well, and I failed 3 of the 4 tests I had to take for your class, but your teaching methods are rather unforgettable. Thanks for reminding me how to work hard.

David Parker
Thank you for your offer to our class to ask for your help when we come across any future career options. I will probably take advantage of that. And thank you for your compliments on my chapter 10 re-write! I don't always have confidence in my writing, but if you do get that published, I may add that to my resume forever haha!

David Hermann
Thank you for the advice at the end of the semester. I'll remember to never ask for a rubric and to look for career opportunities within the realm of things I love.

Scott Hall BUS 3810 Final Project: Student Employees

I. Can You Afford to Work for Your School?

Here's an unrelated photo of my brother looking skeptical while wearing a graduation outfit.

Everybody complains about everything. And by "everything," I mean money. It seems like everyone in every financial situation is either complaining about not getting enough from their job or giving too much to the government. Why would we as an American population want more money? Maybe some of us want to buy the newest Ski-Doo snowmobile to add to our collection. Maybe some of us would like simply to afford our weekly stash of Maruchan Ramen. In reality, about 80% of us are just trying to get out of debt.
According to Pew Research, about 80% of Americans are in debt, split between mortgage debt, unpaid credit card balances, car loans, and of course student loans. From the same article, here are the numbers dissected.

Let's zoom in on those student loan statistics.

Okay, so nobody has any money. And college students not paying their tuition costs has a lot to do with that. I'm not even going to argue or go into further detail about that.
I personally can't even complain much about it. I tell people how much student loan debt I'm in and the general response is: "Wow Scott, that's not very much!" Looking at the chart above, this is true. I'm in less than half the amount of student debt as the average Millennial. Only problem is: I have $100 in my bank account.
Even though checking my online banking makes me cry, I guess I can't complain too much. I'm usually working during the school year. I don't think you need a 26-page Pew Research study to tell you that you are more financially stable when you're employed. I've worked a collective 6 semesters at part-time on-campus jobs provided by Utah State University. USU is a relatively cheap school to attend and Logan UT is an affordable place to live. A week away from graduation, I only have a few thousand dollars left to pay my student debt. I often wonder how much I myself benefited from being a student employee. Now I ask all college students: How much do you benefit from being a student employee at your own college?

II. Some Utah Schools
Let's start with my current resident state, Utah. As a USU student, there are no schools I hate more than BYU and The U. So lets compare living expenses, tuition costs, and work benefits between the three schools.

Utah State University
LIVING EXPENSES: Logan 11% below US average
TUITION: In-State $6,250 Out-of-State $18,250
Unlike all the other universities I studied for, I found it difficult to access USU's job classifications online. Luckily I go here. I had to talk face-to-face with the careers services desk and was given a physical printout of this information. Yeah, Career Aggie... nobody's favorite website...

Not sure how to cite all this, so here's me with the USU's student job classification papers

Student worker job classifications are divided into 5 levels.
  • I (Unskilled/Trainee) $7.25-9.40 This has been my bread and butter throughout my college life. Job duties include answering phones, stocking shelves, and physically light manual tasks. Personally, I've made anywhere from $7.25-$8.25 an hour doing these jobs for USU.
  • II (Semi-Skilled) $8.00-10.25 I have a few friends with jobs like these. The duties are more varied and some job-related experience is required. Some examples include data entry, supervised software maintenance, and cashiering.
  • III (Skilled) $9.50-12.00 Duties here are highly complex, and 3 moths of full-time related training or technical experience is required. Related coursework may be substituted for experience. From here, the job requirements become less likely to be attained by full-time undergrad students. 
  • IV (Highly Skilled) $10.75-13.25 The required work experience bumps up from 3 months to 6 months. Work is meant to be prioritized on this level. Example tasks include bookkeeping, graphics, and editing.
  • V (Exceptionally Skilled) Open wage range Minimum qualification for positions like these include 1 full-time year of experience with specific job-related duties. It says these are available to undergrad students, although I feel safe saying this would be an extremely rare occurrence. Exampling job duties include grant writing, database development, and highly technical programming.
As for benefits, student employees can file for tuition reduction. It works like a scholarship

University of Utah
LIVING EXPENSES: Salt Lake City 3% below US average
TUITION: In-State $7,835 Out-of State $25,057
Unlike USU, The U spares me some typing with their nifty online resources.

As for how much student workers get paid, it's not divided into the quartiles mentioned above. The above chart mentions grade minimums and maximums. These are rated from A-I.

I'm safely assuming the "expert" employees are the ones getting paid in the $20/hr area. I don't know where $97/hr comes from, but I think we could all use some of that action! Like USU, The U offers tuition reduction to their student employees, however their offer is specifically for full-time workers.And from experience, I know USU offers free health service visits to students who bring their own insurance. As for The U-- even with insurance-- students still have to pay for on-campus doctor's clinics.

Brigham Young University
LIVING EXPENSES: Provo 8% below US average
TUITION: LDS $5,300 Not-LDS $10,600
I was able to find some specific job titles at BYU listed next to their given wages. However, another BYU link mentions that those working unpleasant hours are usually making $.50-$1.00 more than the minimum.

BYU takes advantage of their being a private college.Every employee at BYU is being paid by the LDS church. Every full-time employee of the LDS church is offered work benefits from a church-owned, non-profit trust called Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators. DMBA offers health and welfare benefits, as well as financial planning. This organization is mentioned on the university's HR page, which is ironic... because BYU student employees are only limited to 20 hours/wk.
It's funny how vague the website is about this. I had to find out via phone call.
BYU offers the same kind of tuition reduction benefits as The U.
You know, come to think of it. I wonder if USU's tuition reduction is solely for full-time workers as well. Their website didn't specify that.  Not too surprised, really.

Choosing which one of these schools has more beneficial student employment than the other isn't exactly rocket science. The employee benefits are about the same for all them. And of course, all on-campus jobs come with the benefit that they're a few steps away from your classes.Looking at the skills required for the higher paying jobs, chances are undergrads like me are going to make the same amount at any of these universities (something close to minimum wage). Therefor, it's basically just better to be a student employee when you're living somewhere cheap. The numbers for living expenses show that Utah is itself a cheap state to live in, but between the 3 schools? Student employees at The U are probably struggling to pay the bills.
Although I can't help but wonder why all these schools have such similar wages, requirements and restrictions. Even looking outside of Utah, all the college I've researched so far are paying the around minimum wage and provide limited work hours. Oregon State University pays students starting at $9.75/hr. The minimum wage in Oregon is $9.75. Harvard University pay their students a minimum of $11/hr, which is $1 more than their state's minimum wage. But even in their instance, paying $59K for tuition and trying to afford living in Cambridge MA... well, that extra hourly dollar is better than nothing.
It's forever up to debate as to whether any of these Universities can afford to give their students higher wages, but there's one thing that they certainly cannot give every student worker: Healthcare.

III. The Affordable Care Act & Beyond
This should go without saying, but getting injured at work is a bad idea. Especially if you're working part-time, considering you probably aren't going to be have any health insurance coverage from your work. I mentioned that BYU will not allow student workers to work over 20 hours/wk. I once tried simultaneously working two different on-campus jobs but was told to quit one because they would have combined to surpass USU's maximum of 30 hrs/wk.
I can already see you smirking as I type this. I'm gonna talk about Obamacare.
Under the ACA, employers are required to offer healthcare to employees who work 30 hrs/wk or 130 hrs/mo. Consider a University full of students. Some of them are paying their own insurance, some are under their parents' insurance, some are wearing knee pads everywhere and go uninsured. I can't really blame them. Their own university can't afford healthcare expenses either. Insuring a single employer, on average, costs about $520/mo.
Also, all universities are required to follow laws of the the Full-time Student Program under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). To quote the U.S. Dept of Labor:

"The Full-time Student Program is for full-time students employed in retail or service stores, agriculture, or colleges and universities. The employer that hires students can obtain a certificate from the Department of Labor which allows the student to be paid not less than 85% of the minimum wage. The certificate also limits the hours that the student may work to 8 hours in a day and no more than 20 hours a week when school is in session and 40 hours when school is out, and requires the employer to follow all child labor laws. Once students graduate or leave school for good, they must be paid $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009." 

So this explains a lot. This even assists my personal story about not surpassing 30 hours of on-campus work. I was told 30 hours max by my HR department because they were referring to combining two separate campus jobs; it's just that no one single campus job can surpass the 20-hour limit.
Now before you start feeling bad for us students for not getting longer work opportunities from our schools, there's this graph beside the text. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost 30% of full-time students are working full-time and almost 30% aren't working at all during the school year. I know this graph is 5 years old, but do you think it's incredibly different in 2016? And would more students be working full-time if more of their colleges allowed them to? 
Despite how relatively minimal student worker wages are, there's a good chance you'll be going into debt if you're unemployed. No statistical backing behind that statement necessary. 
The good thing about campus student jobs as they are often flexible with your school schedule. The bad thing about them is that your classes are 0% flexible with work schedules. 

For more on the whole health care thing, at least most schools offer a health plan of some sort. As I pointed earlier between USU's free doctor's visits in comparison with The U's, some schools' are just cheaper than others. Some schools are just cheaper than others, period. In fact, no matter how much more studying I do on student worker employment, I already know the answer to my initial question. 

Q: Can you afford to work for your school?
A: Probably not, but it's as good as you're gonna get.

If your price of living is low enough, those 20 hours (or a little less) per week at minimum wage (or a little more) could pay your day-to-day bills! I am lucky I live in Logan UT. The only I'm in debt is because I decided not to work a couple semesters... and okay, the out-of-state tuition kicked my butt when I first moved here... (sigh) but on average, most American college students are paying more for tuition, rent and groceries than I am. The fact that 41% of people born in my generation are in $20,000 of student debt is no surprise to me. But as the graph also shows, the percentage of people in student debt decreases with age. Let's hope it stays that way, for my own darn sake.
Even if you can't afford to work for your own school, you definitely cannot afford to work nowhere. It's rather difficult to work and study full-time simultaneously, and part-time jobs are rarely paying something substantially more than a minimum wage. I'd hate to sound nihilistic about the topic, but I say if you're going to work part-time while attending college, why not work for your school? Working anywhere else can't be too different. 
If you find a higher paying job that also fits your school schedule, please jump on that train. 
If you find yourself with $100 in your bank account, USU is always hiring janitors who can work from 4-8am.

Below is my ghetto, yet lengthy and well-used works cited section. Every graph, statistic, or bold statement mentioned above is berthed from the following hyperlinks: 
--Cool graph

FROM SECTION II. "nobody's favorite website" 
--On University of Utah 
--On BYU (and Deseret Mutual)
--Reliable living expenses database Career Trends (ran by Graphiq) 
--Tuition prices
--Oregon State and Harvard numbers

--On the ACA
--US Department of Labor quote
--Cost of insuring employee
--Cool graph