music, Politics, pop culture, Things Happening RN

IMPORTANT NEWS FROM AN IMPORTANT PERSON—Feminism, Politics, Music

So I went over to my friend’s college last night, we got out, I got turnt (away from the Lord) and so I’ve spent today just, like, chilling and centering myself and Zen-ing out and just writing in my dream journal and dreaming in my writing journal. But since I have to put out a blog every Monday and Thursday (and a recap on Friday and sometimes on Tuesday or Wednesday, depending upon the circumstances, you get it) to fulfill my end of a Picture of Dorian Gray-type bargain, here goes nothing.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. Some women celebrated by not working, to show how much women contribute to our society. Others wore red. The Empire State Building in New York City went red for the evening. How do I know this? I’m very rich and I live like a pigeon in the Chrysler Building and could see it.

I found some great quotes from some great feminist writers, poets and politicians and thought I would stick some below.

“Your silence will not protect you,” Audre Lorde, a queer writer, civil rights activist, and a Black woman.
“To all the little girls who are watching, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams,” Hillary Clinton, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State and New York Senator.
“No woman should be told she can’t make decisions about her own body. When women’s rights are under attack, we fight back,” Kamala Harris, California Senator.
“I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian novelist, short-story writer and speaker.

And I know I make a lot of jokes and cut emotion with humor, but I want to say this unironically. Thank you, thank you, thank you, to the women in my life and in our world who inspire me and countless others, who use their strength to help others find theirs, who are selfless, unapologetic, and resplendent in their femaleness. Thank you for all you do, just by refusing to be anything but your whole self.

THE LATEST IN TRUMP NEWS

This probably won’t be the latest, because even as I do anything, Trump manages to punt another scandal into the media.

Also, sidebar, media: how about learning from your mistakes and instead of frothing over the latest scandal, try to look beyond the smoke at what Trump is distracting attention away from. Seems like it might be worth a try.

source

Source: Giphy

In addition to accusing Obama of illegally wiretapping his phones (oh yikes), Trump has threatened the GOP lawmakers with a “bloodbath” if the repeal-and-replace of the Affordable Care Act fails. GOP critics cite among the reasons for their dissent the new plan (let’s call it Trumpcare, to grind his gears) very similar to the ACA, but keeps Medicaid expansion (very expensive and draining) among other things, and leaves a lot of people without coverage. So this is drama.

MUSIC

Lorde dropped “Liability,” the second song off her new album Melodrama. It’s slower than “Green Light,” but is super dope.

 

TELEVISION 

Game of Thrones dropped its release date for the new season—mid-July. Real Housewives of New York dropped the teaser trailer for their new season. And the first 20 minutes of the newest RuPaul’s Drag Race season were leaked and the show (which is moving from Logo to VH1) looks amazing.

 

OTHER 

I met a lot of my best friend’s college friends, and kept referring to myself as “very hot.” No one, bless, corrected me and I want to thank y’all for that. It meant more than you will ever know.

*****

okay, I think we’re done. BYE.

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music, Politics, pop culture, Things Happening RN

THINGS HAPPENING RN: OH LORDE, KELLYANNE CONWAY, AND DISNEY’S GOING GAY (apparently)

I was writing a piece about body image that wasn’t flowing, and I have to get this piece up, so I figured I would just round up a few pieces of news and talk about them. So leave me alone, k?

THINGS HAPPENING RN:

1). LeFou Is Revealed To Be Gay in Live-Action Beauty and the Beast:

I think what bugs me so much about this is not that LeFou—Gaston’s little sidekick—is gay but that everyone is lauding this as a watershed moment. Yes, this will be Disney’s first gay character. However, they’re describing him as “openly gay” while in the same breath saying that, “He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings.”

JUST REALIZING your feelings is not being “openly gay.” And going beyond the insulting semantics, the fact that the first LGBTQ character in a Disney movie will be the goofy sidekick of a misogynistic and abusive villain, and that on top of that, LeFou admires and lusts unfulfilled after the heterosexual Gaston, means that Disney is expecting applause for baking a cake when they’ve given the queer community a crumb.

In the case of Love It or List It, I’m gonna List it. Even Frozen did it better, y’all.

2). Jeff Sessions Recuses Himself from Russia Investigations:

Yesterday it was revealed that Sessions had had contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. While he was not directly associated with the campaign yet, he was supportive of Donald Trump and, under oath, claimed to have no knowledge of contact between Russia and Trump surrogates—not true. And a big problem since Sessions, as Attorney General, is the one looking into seeing if there was any illegal activity re these contacts. Sessions faced pressure to either resign or recuse himself from the investigation. And of course, the Trump White House had a million different responses to it. This morning, Press Secretary Sean Spicer that Sessions had no reason to recuse himself. So today, Sessions held a press conference to announce that he would recuse himself from the Russia investigations.

On a side note, he looks like Yoda, no?

3). Lorde released, “Green Light,” the first single off her sophomore album, Melodrama:

YES. Instead of waiting forty days after Ash Wednesday, hunny, our Lorde has chosen to resurrect the day after!!!! The single, described by Lorde, will “make you dance.” It’s fast, loud, weird and beautiful—totally different than the slow-bops Lorde graced us with on her debut album, Pure Heroine. I’m feeling like this might be a 21-25 album set, where the second one is all about how much Lorde has grown in her absence. Very excited—but definitely thought that “Green Light” was a reference to The Great Gatsby, but maybe that’s on me.

 

4). Kellyanne Conway won’t face punishment for ethics breach when she advertised Ivanka’s clothing line:

The real crime is probably that clothing line, but that’s not important right now. Weeks ago, after Nordstroms announced it would drop Ivanka’s clothing line, Trump was upset and on-air, Conway said that she was giving the line a “free commercial” and encouraged everyone to go out and buy it. that’s, like, a no-no. Federal employees are forbidden from using their public office for commercial endorsement. Conway was noticeably absent from the TV for a few weeks. White House deputy counsel Stefan Passantino wrote to the Office of Government Ethics that Conway had acted without “nefarious motive” and did the endorsement inadvertently. Like, k? But hon, that’s still a breach of ethics.

*****

Okay babes, that’s all I could rustle up. Maybe eventually I’ll workshop that body article, or maybe I’ll let it languish in the dust of my document folder. Who knows?

Please check out Lorde’s new single—it’s vital—and also spread the word about my blog so that someone rich/powerful finds it and helps me out. THANKSZ.

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music, pop culture

THE GRAMMYS 2017

(i tried to make the header look like a golden plaque? idk don’t judge)

I’m not a music journalist, so I can’t give you all the deep tea on the Grammys, or what each award stands for. I actually didn’t watch the awards show because I don’t have a TV and honestly I can find the performances later. Isn’t that what’s most important?

Rolling Stone released an article, “Grammys 2017: Who Will Win, Who Should Win” by writer Keith Harris, that’s really helpful in understanding the individual nuances of each category.

There are essentially only a few categories that anyone is/should be interested in. “Album of the Year,” “Song of the Year,” “Record of the Year,” and “Best New Artist.” There are other ones: “Best Solo Performance,” “Best Pop Vocal Album,” and on and on until the only person left standing is CeeLo Green because apparently he’s a robot now.

The way Rolling Stone broke it down for the first three categories is this. “Album of the Year” relates most to album sales. “Song” is about the written-ness, and “Record” relates more to performance and singing. In each of these, it was a toss-up between Beyoncé and Adele for Lemonade and 25, respectively.

Adele ended up sweeping all three, with Beyonce winning “Best Urban Contemporary Album” (before the cameras were rolling, apparently they hand out a bunch of awards because the Grammys are long enough as it is).

If we’re going by the Rolling Stone outline, then it makes sense that 25 won Best Album. It sold 3.38 million in the first week of its release; 17.4 million copies in 2015; 20 million copies sold total. That’s, like, historic. So Album of the Year; that makes sense.

And if “Song” relates more to the written, then Adele wins that too. She writes all her own stuff (probably with some help) but whatever. She wrote “Hello.” Yes, done.

But “Record of the Year” should’ve at least gone to Beyoncé. I think that’s what’s so hard about Adele and Beyoncé. I LOVE BOTH OF THEM. Not even out of some deluded idea of “fairness” because—let’s face it—these awards basically mean nothing monetarily to these two queens. They’ll still be fucking incredible, no matter what some group of voters decides (there’s an allegory in there somewhere).

And this is the part that confuses me—does the voter group take into account public perception? Because of the two, 25 and Lemonade, the latter was more—in my small, tiny, chic opinion—the more influential. It brought police brutality into the national dialogue when Beyoncé wore a Blank Panthers-inspired outfit to the Super Bowl; when she released “Formation,” the music video of which invoked Hurricane Katrina, black womanness, police brutality, and Black Lives Matter. She did that.

It seems like that should be accounted for: the amount that Beyonce contributed to, affected and influenced our country’s dialogue about race. Lemonade was powerful in its own right—as a visual album and experience, and the songs that touched on the intersection between Blackness and Womanness—but it also impacted 2016 in a major way. A way that seems not to be recognized by the Grammy voters.

Adele, in her acceptance speech, said that Beyonce should’ve won “Album of the Year,” which maybe is true and is a nice sentiment, but kind of bullshit. I LOVE ADELE, so this is not shade, but there’s underlying condescension in the notion of “You should really won this (but I won this) but you should’ve!” I don’t think, honestly, Adele meant it that way, but actions speak louder than words.

Justin Bieber, Drake and Kanye West made the action to skip the Grammys, despite being nominated in several categories, because they felt the award show did not accurately recognize the contributions and accomplishments of black artists. According to TMZ, they thought it was kind of irrelevant. And after watching Adele sweep every category against Beyonce, I have to agree.

We’re in a tough place because it’s two QUEENS against each other, but Lemonade was iconic in 2016. Not just because it was good, but because it was important. And as heart-rending and evocative and emotional and lovely as 25 was, it wasn’t important and necessary in the same way that Lemonade was. There was pain in the voice of Adele, and in the eyes of Beyonce, when Adele dedicated her award to Beyonce. Because at the end of the day, they—and all artists—recognize the value and depth of each other’s art. Now if that could just be accurately represented, that would be killer.

I just need to reiterate that I love Adele, and writing this has physically hurt me, but I have to honor my truth.

ALSO CONGRATS TO CHANCE THE RAPPER FOR “BEST NEW ARTIST” YOU COMPLETELY DESERVE IT!

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music, pop culture, Sports

CONGRATZ PATS (?)

Most of the people I know are queers, cynics and ladies (and some various combinations of the three) so I was largely unaffected by the Heterosexual Roman Triumph otherwise known as Superbowl LI. Super Bowl? Super-Bowl?

*googles it* Super Bowl. But now all I can see is “super bowl” like “Gee, what a great bowl!” And I don’t mean to brag, but I know my way around a super bowl. Have you ever been to Paint Your Own Pottery? I’ve been. Twice.

I watched the Super Bowl in the way God intended—I made Moscow Mules, ate dip and kept saying to my friends, “I can’t believe it starts at 6:30.” Because seriously, I get that it was in Houston, but that’s a long time. By the time 6:30 rolled its lazy ass around, I was two Moscow Mules-deep and had accidentally chipped my nail polish on a tooth as I vigorously ate a tortilla chip.

Also full disclosure: I left after Gaga performed, was asleep by 10 p.m. and then jerked awake at 2 a.m. and checked my Twitter to find out that the Patriots had come from behind (gay) to beat the Falcons in OT (overtime) 34 to 28.

I first was very confused because my entire Twitter feed was just, “THE FALCONS WON THE POPULAR VOTE” and I had just woken up so the joke didn’t translate for me. But then I went on my Twitter moments and understood the ref. Funny (?).

I am very petty, so my immediate reaction upon waking up and finding out the Patriots had won was deep, unbending anger because that means that the annoying people I go to school with (i.e. everyone who isn’t a cynic, a queer or a lady) would be happy. I am very petty. If I were a Golden Girl, I would be Petty White. Also I’m very much over the Patriots doing so well. How can you root for someone like that?

Side bar: my mother expressly rooted for the Atlanta Falcons because she “loves an underdog.” So some of my pettiness is probably genetic.

While watching the game, I was overcome with confusion and I had tried to learn as much as possible before the game. I didn’t even make any jokes about the position “wide receiver.” But as soon as the game actually started, all my learning went out the window. First of all, I didn’t realize what I was watching was the game until about a minute into it. Secondly, it’s kind of impossible to figure out what’s the game and what’s just a replay. Like, are they trying to make it more confusing?

Thirdly, I find it offensive that they disregard time as a concept so flippantly. Sure, it says “20 minutes on the clock” but those 20 minutes could be forty minutes. They took a “break?” “pause?” “time-out” with three seconds left on the clock. Could anything happen in that time, or couldn’t they just take those three seconds to get comfortable before the (what’s the in-between time called? Rest period?) started.

Gaga’s performance was very good. Very surprising, because I assumed she would play a lot more Joanne than she did (she just sang “A Million Reasons”). But Gaga is always subverting expectations, and instead of playing to the Texas crowd with her rock-folk-country album vibes, she served vintage queer Gaga.

She also subverted expectations by not going full-throttle political. A story circulated the week before the Super Bowl that the NFL was trying to muzzle Gaga’s political speech. Whether or not that’s true, we’ll never know, but the performance was very patriotic. And some reactions I’ve read online say that that was the most political and radical thing she could’ve done. That she could’ve softballed it and gone crazy-divisive and angry and scorched-earth. But instead she praised American unity and set the message as “We stand together.” That shows a lot of intelligence and restraint on her part, to not give into the anger of the people and to stand for something greater.

God, I love her.

Literally that’s it. Congrats Pats, but can we limit the masturbatory praise to this week? I don’t feel like avoiding articles about how amazing the Pats’ comeback is. Like, they’ve been in the Super Bowl forever; it’s not that amazing. It’s kind of expected now. They could take a leaf out of Lady Gaga’s playbook and give us something unexpected. And they could totally incorporate her football gear into their uniforms.

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music, Review

THINKPIECE: LADY GAGA’S METHODOLOGY

There’s something oddly alien about the stripped-down façade of Lady Gaga in promotional shoots for her latest album Joanne. Without the elaborate wigs and geometric makeup, her architectural cheekbones sweep along her face like foreign objects. Her full lips and sharp nose have a heavy, hawkish feeling. It’s jarring, because everything we’ve known of Gaga was the theatrics. And we have to wonder: have we ever known what she actually looked like?

In comparison to her peers, Gaga’s motives in her musical choices have been inscrutable. It’s hard to predict what she’ll do next. This difficulty in analysis is in part due to how we analyze her. Her fans and critics take her discography as fact, as a timeline. We do this because that’s what’s always been done. As artists age, their albums reflect that.

We analyzed her like this because that’s the framework we’re given. It’s worked for other pop artists, like Beyoncé and Adele. It’s possible to track the change from I Am…Sasha Fierce to Lemonade as Beyoncé became more confident and solid in the duality of femininity and power. 25 makes cohesive sense when in collaboration with 21 as Adele grappled with her rapid rise to stardom.

But Gaga’s choices don’t make that same sort of sense. And if you use the sequential model to analyze her discography, her discography makes even less sense. Because she’s not like other artists. She doesn’t work sequentially, she works laterally.

For Joanne, Lady Gaga’s fifth studio album, she took an earthier, cigarette smoke-wreathed image. She’s wearing white t-shirts and mom jeans, her blonde hair pulled back tightly into a bun or capped underneath a wide-brimmed pink hat. The music shifts from rock to a country twang easily. It’s partially a reflection of the Americana genre, but Gaga feels more grounded in this album.

Joanne centers around the theme of familial ties. “Joanne” is Gaga’s real middle name, but it is also the name of her father’s deceased sister. And so while this is another experimentation on the part of Lady Gaga, the themes—more personal than on her previous albums—makes Joanne her most deeply revealing album yet.

The sound of Joanne was a direct response to 2013’s ARTPOP, her previous solo studio album. In the wake of ARTPOP’s, Gaga took a more stripped-down tone, relying on her powerful voice rather than theatrics. It’s evident in her 2014 jazz album Cheek to Cheek; it’s present in her performance of songs from The Sound of Music at the 2015 Oscars.

Gaga said that she was inspired and influenced by country music. But Joanne is not a country album. And Lady Gaga knows that. It’s apparent particularly in “John Wayne.”

The song begins with a click of a needle hitting the record on the player and the slightly garbled, nouveau “cops and robbers” vibe starts crackling, all underneath Gaga’s voice. “It’s like, I just want a cowboy,” she says, and you can imagine it’s directed at a friend as they sit in a dim, mahogany bar, dirty gin bottles clinking against the lips of dirty glasses. “I know it’s bad but, like, can I just hang off the back of your horse and can you go a little bit faster,” her voice squeals as, we imagine, the horse takes off and Gaga is whisked away into the fantasy of a cowboy romance.

Gaga sets the scene. You imagine that it’s her fingers that put the needle onto the record, and it’s her listening to “John Wayne.” She’s listening, but we’re listening too. Gaga knows that we could never believe she authentically arrived at a country album. But by indulging us, and proving that she’s aware that this is a musical experiment, she stitches us into the narrative. We, like her, begin to experience the country influence. We, like her, want a cowboy. We immerse ourselves in the country genre with Lady Gaga as our vehicle.

“Come to Mama” feels particularly apt for the political climate. “So why do we gotta fight over ideas?” asked Gaga. “We’re talking the same ole shit after all of these years.”

A boozy, raucous throwback, with a bold “free love” ‘70s kind of vibe, the refrain says it all. “Come to mama/ tell me who hurt ya/ There’s gonna be no future/ If we don’t figure this out.” It’s a reference to Gaga’s role in her fandom as “Mother Monster” but tailored to her current image. She’s not the mother of a ravenous fandom. She’s a big, boisterous mother; she takes no shit, she’s tough love, but she ultimately wants everyone to be together.

“Come to Mama” is hopeful and loud and rousing. It’s probably the folksiest Gaga gets on her album, and digs into the dive bar-loud instrumentals aspect of performing. The music is as important as her lyrics and her harmonizing over the saxophones and snares.

A lot of the same ideas appear in Joanne as in her previous albums. “Dancin’ In Circles” details masturbation and female sexuality. “Perfect Illusion” talks about botched loves with men. But so much of the album resides under the framework structure of “family.” “Joanne” laments the death of Gaga’s aunt, who died before Gaga was born, but whose spirit lingered in the family mythology. “Sinner’s Prayer” pleads for understanding and forgiveness for a blinded-by-love sister.

Gaga is known for being chameleonic in her discography, each album grappling with different issues, built on the core of her identity. Her debut album The Fame was a foray into the positive aspects of celebrity, the initial sweetness of fame. Her follow-up reissue, The Fame Monster, was celebrity’s bitter aftertaste. She characterized it as her interest in the ‘decay of celebrity.’

The Fame and The Fame Monster illustrate that, even in the nascence of her career, Lady Gaga knew the pop machine.

In the music video for “Paparazzi” off The Fame Monster, Gaga is thrown off a balcony by her boyfriend. As she lies paralyzed on the rocks below, paparazzi crowd her and newspaper headlines fly across the screen. “Lady Gaga Hits Rock Bottom.” “Lady Gaga is Over.”  The video moves on, Gaga starts in a wheelchair and slowly recovers. Eventually, Lady Gaga manages to kill her boyfriend. And as she is carted off to jail—after confessing to the crime—newspapers begin to flash across the screen. “She’s Back!!!” “We Love Her Again.”

The message of the song criticizes celebrity culture. She exists for them to devour her and then build her back up. She is an object to them, as immobile as someone in a wheelchair. And she will exist in that way until she can, effectively, kill celebrity culture. She knows how the culture works, and thus operates outside of that.

She touches upon that in “Angel Down.” “I confess, I am lost, in the age of the social,” she sings as the opening line. The song functions as her break-up with celebrity culture. In indulging it in, we lose touch with humanity. Rather than let it consume her, she would rather seek out people, ergo save an “angel down.”

Her third album, Born This Way, was arguably her most successful and cohesive body of work. It was her first album to reach number-one on the Billboard 200 chart, selling over one million copies in one week. The songs touched upon feminism, individualism, and religion. This was peak-Gaga.

Her fourth album, ARTPOP, was—according to her—a Warholian experiment to bring art culture into pop culture. Warhol is famously an inspiration of Gaga’s, and his attempts to bring popular culture into the art world had a decided impact on her artistry. ARTPOP brought in influences from the fashion world—“Donatella” lauded Versace—classical art—“Venus” invoked Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus—and film—“Applause” emulated Black Swan in its music video.

ARTPOP is also Gaga’s biggest miscalculation. The songs felt at some points unfinished, and the music videos weren’t cohesive. Even for “G.U.Y.”—a personal favorite—the portrayal of the reality television celebrities from the network Bravo as a pseudo-Greek chorus and television host and personality Andy Cohen as a god and an almost Bladerunner-esque vibe felt trite rather than revolutionary. Something wasn’t landing for Gaga; maybe it was too big of a reach too soon. Maybe it was just a few years too early.

Gaga’s process of making music wasn’t revealed to us at this point. ARTPOP seemed like the mad manifesto of someone addled by celebrity. If you follow the trajectory of her discography, it’s a series of peaks and valleys. The Fame covered the adoration of fame, followed closely by the negative aspects of it—The Fame Monster. Born This Way was the resurgence and affirmation of individuality. And the descent into entirely incomprehensible “genius” is ARTPOP.

In 2014, Gaga released Cheek to Cheek, a jazz album, in collaboration with Tony Bennett. In 2015, she wrote and sang the song “Til It Happens to You” for the documentary The Hunting Ground, exploring sexual assault on college campuses. And in 2016, Gaga released Joanne, discarding the last vestiges of her crazy assembles and opting for something more dirt-road country.

And it takes being in 2016, looking at the full scope of her work to realize that Gaga is not working sequentially. Her discography is not reflective per se of a journey. It’s not trackable, like Beyoncé or Adele. Each album is a distinct and separate artistic endeavor, but work laterally to form an image of Gaga.

Lady Gaga is driven by a deep love for music. On making Cheek to Cheek, Gaga said she was inspired to preserve jazz standards for the next generation. That small remark, preserving music and celebrating music, echoes through her entire opus. In that light, each album could be seen as honoring different styles of music. The Fame and The Fame Monster celebrated dance-and-synth pop. Born This Way evoked rock and roll, heavy metal and disco. Cheek to Cheek was jazz. Joanne is Americana soft rock. Whereas some artists have a gradual shift from genre to genre—Taylor Swift’s evolution from country to pop—Gaga made a concentrated effort to constantly subvert genre expectations.

Lady Gaga doesn’t work sequentially. She doesn’t tell the story of her life like other artists. But each album reveals another layer of Gaga. Her avid adoration with celebrity. Her quick disgust with it. Her desire to leave its clinging embrace. Her sexuality. Religion. Her devotion to her family. They don’t work sequentially because they work laterally. Taken as contemporaneous pieces of the puzzle, they make much more sense; they paint the picture of a musically intelligent, passionate artist who, like many people, has a lot of different sides to her at any given time.

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