Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pop Culture Awards 2013

As the year comes to an end, you will start seeing a lot of the "Best of 2013" lists. Some might be annoyed by these lists but I love them.  It reminds you of how much can happen in just 52 weeks.

I could not call myself a pop culture critic if I did not give you the best of pop culture in 2013. And boy, did 2013 give us something to talk about!  From rape lyrics to guys with beards making the gays mad, we had a little bit of everything.  For my last post of the year I would like to present Pop Culture Awards 2013:

Lip Syncing for Your Life Award goes to Mrs. Carter aka Beyoncé.  Some of you might have forgot about this.  President Obama invited Beyoncé to sing the National Anthem at his inauguration.  Beyoncé performed and you know the stans were on Twitter giving their "Yaaasssssssss!!!"  Just a few days later, news hit that Beyoncé lip synced her performance.  Even the Beyhive was ready to come to her defense.  The always tight lipped team of Beyoncé was ready with a excuse reply.  Even though we never got a straight answer it was eventually blamed on the cold weather (Do I need to add that Kelly Clarkson sang live?).  Later on, Beyoncé would perform the National Anthem at a press conference to get back at her haters. 

Rapping about Rape Award goes to the double Ds having Rick Ross.  Rick Ross can't claim most infamous lyrics of all time but he can for 2013.  Back in March, Rocko put out a single titled U.O.E.N.O.  While nobody probably remembers the rest of the song, everyone can remember Rick Ross saying 
“Put molly all in her champagne/She ain’t even know it/I took her home and I enjoyed that/She ain’t even know it.”
For some odd reason this verse was able to bypass all record executives to all major radio stations.  Needless to say, when the controversy hit this version was pulled from the radio.  When asked about it Rick Ross said he was not meaning rape in the verse but he never cleared up what he did mean.  Mr. Ross, I was born at night... not last night.  You do not have to be an English major to interpret what you were saying.  Simple Rick, you can rap about gold chains, fancy cars, or your favorite fried chicken restaurant but let's leave rape out of Hip Hop.

Wanting to Bring Back the Old South Award goes to the butter loving Paula Deen.  During a trial where Ms. Deen was being sued by a former employee for.... well I can't actually remember what the lawsuit was about (apparently the case was dismissed) but it was what was said during the court proceedings that sparked a national conversation.  While under oath, Paula admitted to using the N-word in the past (heck, at this point who hasn't?).  Believe it or not, it's gets worse.  For an event that Paula and her brother, Bubba, were catering, Paula came up with the bright idea to have the black men dress up like slaves.  Because you know, what would a southern wedding be without slaves shucking and jiving and entertaining the white folks?  To add salt to the wound, the southern chef was dropped by her 11 year employer, Food Network.  Even after a very emotional apology,  she was dropped by most, if not all, of her major sponsors.  Paula has been able to make a little of a comeback on a couple of shows, but only time will tell if Ms. Deen will be able to make a full comeback to TV.

Hip Hop's First Public Mental Breakdown Award goes to Kanye West. Mr. West has always been known for being outspoken (Remember the Taylor Swift incident?).  But this year Kanye wanted us all to know that he isn't just the best rapper alive but a creative genius that should be compared to only Shakespeare and Walt Disney. Kanye released an album titled Yeezus. He claimed he named his album this because he is the Jesus of Hip Hop. Major side eye.   He started doing these interviews where it seemed like he was having a dialogue with himself and cameras just happen to be on.  He would go on these passionate rants about how the fashion industry was trying to keep him out.  He even said that him and Kim Kardashian were more influential than the President and the First Lady.  While during Sway's radio show things got really intense when Kanye decided to holler the infamous line "YOU DON'T HAVE THE ANSWERS, SWAY!" at Sway.  The Compton Native let Kanye know that he needed to calm his voice down and Kanye did just so.  I know we haven't seen the last of Kanye's antics.  I can't wait to see what he going to do in 2014.

The Murder of Twerking Award goes to Miley Cyrus.  At the 2013 VMAs, Miley performed her hit single We Won't Stop.  During her performance, she decided that she wanted to single handily kill twerking for everyone.  Nothing or no one was safe from Miley's behind, not even the married 40-something singer, Robin Thicke.  After this performance, the news became obsessed with the new (but really old) dance move.  ABC News even came out with a news story titled (and I'm not joking), The Science of Twerking.  Later, twerking (along with selfie) would be added to the Oxford Dictionary.  I'm not even going to talk about how black women have been "twerking" for years.  Then when Miley's does it (horribly), it makes headline news.  Nope, not going to talk about it.  Anyways, Ms. Cyrus, do your thang.  Ride that twerking train as long as you can.

The Justice System is a Joke Award goes to the state of Florida.  What will be seen as the case of the decade started a conversation around the world about race, gun laws, and hoodies.  George Zimmerman went to trial in June 2013 for the murder of 17 year old Trayvon Martin.  It was an emotional case and had the country divided.  One side was disgusted about how a grown man could shoot an unarmed child and the other side saw Trayvon Martin as a thug who should have went along with Zimmerman's questioning.  What made this case even more bizarre and complex was Florida's Stand Your Ground law.  Under this law, anybody who thinks their life is in danger (even if they follow the so-called dangerous suspect) can shoot first and ask questions later.   Zimmerman was found not guilty.  This was the first time I found myself ready to cry for a family that I have never met.  And this leads me to another award. World's Strongest Women Award  goes to Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother.  Throughout the whole trial, Ms. Fulton never uttered a curse word or anything vile to the public about her son's murderer.  Even when the verdict was given, Ms. Fulton kept her cool.  I will never understand how she was able to remain so strong but she has my complete respect.

Crazy doesn't even begin to explain what 2013 has been.  It has been a rollercoaster ride to say the least.  And  I have enjoyed sharing my perspective with you all.  I want to take a moment to thank you for following my blog.  I know there are thousands of blogs out there but you choose to come by and read this one and I really appreciate that.  This year I have gotten to do some cool things with my blog and I promise to keep it going in 2014.  Again, thank you!

What was your fav pop culture event in 2013?


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Beyonce, a Feminist?

Source: thegrapejuice.net

December 13, 2013, Beyonce dropped an album with no promotion.  This took the world by storm.  The self-titled album, Beyonce, is different from anything that Beyonce has ever done.  One of the main differences is it's sexuality.  Beyonce no longer just wears sparkly onesies to show off her feminine figure.  In this newest album, she paints you a picture of her sexuality. 

Don't believe me? Here is a snippet from the single Blow:
"Can you lick my skittles?
That's the sweetest in the middle
Pink that's the flavor
Solve the riddle"
And let's not forget what will soon become a classic verse:
 "I can't wait to get home so you can tear that cherry out, turn that cherry out, turn that cherry out."
Tear that cherry out?  Sounds extremely painful.

My favorite place to find out what is going on in the world, HuffPost Live, recently had a segment about Beyonce being a feminist.  I was surprised this conversation even came up.  Beyonce is a lot of things: performer, business woman, mother, so on and so forth.  But feminist? 

I feel like the segment I reference above didn't really answer the question about her being a feminist.  I felt like they just praised her for 30 minutes about her being able to drop an album without promotion and about how they didn't want white feminist talking about her.  But they did say some interesting things:  they said her album is "sexually liberating" and it represents "loving your body". 

Why in the last 10 years has feminism been about getting naked in public?  Why is posing nude or doing a video semi-nude feminism?  How is that really helping me as a woman?  How is that helping the younger generation of women? 

Earlier this year when Miley Cyrus twerked (and I use that term loosely) she became a joke on every late night talk show.  No one said that she was taking back a woman's power to choose by rubbing her rear end on Robin Thicke.  But when Beyonce sings about oral sex being performed on her, she is liberating women everywhere?  When rappers choose to put willing naked women in their videos they are demonized.  When Beyonce bares flesh she is teaching women to love their curves?  Nicki Minaj shows her curves and apparently she's setting women back a few years.

In an article for Vice, Kara Brown writes that feminism might mean different things for different women.  I do not recognize myself as a feminist, but I can get how one woman's fight could be against sexual harassment in the workplace but another woman's fight could be about rape culture in the military.  Both of these issues effect women tremendously.   However, can someone please explain to me how Beyonce showing off her curves in every video or singing explicitly about the activities in her bedroom with her husband helps me?  The fact that Beyonce has no problem singing about how she puts its down on Jay-Z is not helping me break the glass ceiling in the business world.  What I'm saying is I always thought that feminism was about moving women further.  How has the album, Beyonce, moved women as a whole further? 

Before the Beyhive attacks me let me just say this post is not to bash Beyonce or her album.  Beyonce has really stepped out of her comfort zone for this album.  And it would be a lie to say that she is not one of the most influential artist right now.  But as much I love to work out to her music, it's hard for me to see her as a feminist even if she herself identifies as one.  I think we have to ask the question how has Bey moved women further and the answer has to be more than dropped an album without promotion.

What are your thoughts on Beyonce being a feminist?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Beyonce: No Marketing Team Required

By now you have probably heard about the album that Beyonce dropped on Friday: WITH NO PROMOS.  And this ain't some 10 song album, either.  This self-titled album has 14 songs and 17 videos.  She even has a song featuring her year old daughter, Blue Ivy.

It has been hard for my brain to process how an artist can put out an album with zero marketing.  And mind you, this album is number one on iTunes in 100 countries. Homegirl didn't do any late night talk shows, award show performances, or radio singles.  She used the power of Facebook and Twitter.  She made US her promo team and we didn't get a dime for it.

Let's just talk about Beyonce's influence for a minute.  After Beyonce's hit half-time show at the Super Bowl, she announced her world tour.  This tour sold out within days.  Beyonce didn't even have a new single out and people were spending rent money on tickets.  But this shouldn't be that shocking because Ms. Bey doesn't have just any type of fan base. She has STANS.  These are fans that attack people for talking about their favs.  These are fans that would buy jars of air because Bey told them to.  They don't need to be told through commercials to buy Beyonce albums, like Nike, they just do it.

This top secret album also brings up other questions.  When did Bey have time to do these videos?  Did she make everyone working on her album and videos sign contracts to not say a word about the album?  Did people have to sacrifice their first born if they did say a word about her album?  In this age of the world wide web, it's hard to believe that a celebrity can do anything and keep it under wraps.  Also, how did this make other pop artists feel?  While they are spending millions of dollars in marketing, all Bey did was send a link out on Facebook.  Even though a lot of artists have sent their congrats on the new music through Twitter, I can't help but feel they are butthurt. 

Regardless if you like Beyonce or not, you have to admit that her influence is strong... Or maybe scary.  I'm not sure if an artist has ever had this type of following before.  Could Michael Jackson do this?  Madonna?  The Beatles?  Rather this album goes platinum or not, she will go down in history for this epic move.

Have you bought the album yet?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Momma Joyce and Her Goons

Source: realityfatty.com 
I could not let this week end without me writing about Momma Joyce and her antics.  Unfortunately, I couldn't do it sooner because I was on a mini vacation and not near free wifi.

While at the hotel, I was in the lobby watching television.  Out of nowhere I see that Real Housewives of Atlanta is getting coverage on Headline News.  For two Sundays in a row, Momma Joyce (Kandi's mom) was a trending topic on Twitter.  Not surprising considering how she has been acting lately.  It is no secret that Momma Joyce is outspoken.  When Kandi made her debut on RHOA she was with her now deceased fiance A.J.  Momma Joyce was not too  crazy about him, but she was chill about it.  She spoke her peace and let it go.

Apparently, Bravo must have threaten to give Momma Joyce the boot because she has up the ante.  It all started when she told Kandi that she doesn't like Todd (Kandi's fiance) and that she felt he was an opportunist.  Momma Joyce even pulled her grandbaby, Riley, into the drama and told Kandi that Riley didn't like Todd either.  But Ms. Joyce isn't the type to talk behind your back.  She tells Todd to his face that she thinks he is using Kandi, accused him of messing around with Kandi's friend, Carmen, and roasted the engagement ring he bought for Kandi.  Even with all of that, Ms. Joyce still had more to give us.

This past Sunday's episode, Kandi went shopping for a wedding dress.  At first it was just Kandi, Carmen, and some random guy.  While Kandi is trying on a dress, Momma Joyce and her goons, I mean her sisters, walk in.  You can tell by the looks on their faces that came ready to rumble.  The random guy was talking about how Kandi looked in the dress and Momma Joyce blurts out that Kandi won't be wearing a wedding dress anyway.  This causes Carmen to call her out on her rudeness and that's when crap hits the fan.

Momma Joyce goes off on Carmen, asking her why she is even there and stands up like she was ready to throw hands.  Then the random guy starts holding Momma back.  This is where I give a huge eye roll.  If somebody is having to hold you back you are not really about that life. Even her sisters get up like they have the strength to fight somebody half their age.  They get Momma Joyce to calm down but not for long.  Ms. Joyce gets going again and this time Carmen calls her a fool.  That was the fire Ms. Joyce needed and she does the most ratchet thing you can do in a public place: take off your shoe and threaten to throw it at somebody.

Again, random guy is holding back Ms. Joyce and the other sisters stand up like they about to do something.  I don't condone violence but don't take out a weapon unless you are going to use it.  If Ms. Joyce wanted to throw that shoe, she could have.  However, she ain't that crazy.  She knew Carmen would jump across that bridal shop on her if that shoe had even came close.

I'm not sure what has gotten into Ms. Joyce.  Maybe she saw how quick Bravo will drop you if you are not colorful (no pun intended) enough.  I have a feeling this is not the last of Momma Joyce and her goons.

What did you think of Momma Joyce and her actions?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Evolution of the Video Girl

While driving to get something to eat, an oldie came on the radio, Da Butt from Spike Lee's movie, School Daze.  Usually I would be in my truck jamming to this song but because of ice on the road I decided that it would be safer to jam in my head and concentrate on avoiding ice patches.  When I got back home, I Youtubed Da Butt and had a jam session.

During my jam session, I couldn't help but notice how the girls were dressed in the video.  Even though the song is encouraging women to shake their large rear ends, these "video girls" were wearing over sized t-shirts with biker shorts.  Extremely different from what we see today in music videos.

I was so intrigued by this that I have decided to explore the evolution of the Video Girl:

Lets start with Soul Train.  I know these women were not considered "video girls" but the show did popularize women dancing on TV.



Dresses, pant suits, and bell bottoms: it was not uncommon to see women wearing these items on TV.  Women of Soul Train were hip, trendy, and most importantly, classy.  They managed to look beautiful and respectful perfectly.  Who knew you could dance with clothes on? 

Now lets fast forward to the 80s.  With the 80's, we got MTV.  Unlike American Bandstand and Soul Train, women were used in a different way.   These women were no longer seen as talented dancers but more as a prop.  Their purpose was to tell a story or to express sexuality.  But even in the early 80s "video girls" were still wearing clothes.
LL Cool J "I Need Love"
A Ha "Take On Me"

These were videos you could watch with your folks.  No cringe worthy moments.  They made their point and yes, they had clothes on.  One might say the above videos were telling a love story and that is why the women are dressed conservatively.  Well, let's take a look at videos that were exclusively about jamming.

Salt n Pepa "Push It"

EU "Da Butt"
This brings me back to the "Da Butt" video.  All the women look like they were called out of a college class and asked to be in the video.  They are not overly made up or in expensive clothing, yet they made a very memorable video.  Now let's examine Salt n Pepa's "Push It video.  We got two women rapping about partying wearing body suits with large jackets.  Even with a lack of skin, they are giving us sexy with a side of funky.  

While the above artists proved that you can make an epic video without baring it all, we still saw a shift in the music video.

Van Halen "Hot for Teacher"

2 Live Crew "Me So Horny"

When we examine the above videos we see a stark difference between these and "Da Butt".  Instead of just singing about the butt, artists like Van Halen and 2 Live Crew had no problem showing women's back side. Using women as a sexual prop has now become the norm and shows no signs of stopping.  Women are no longer seen in pant suits but short skirts and skin tight dresses.  In just two decades, there has been a major change in the definition of "video girl".  

I don't know what caused this dramatic change but I think I know the "why".  When up and coming artists saw more risque artists getting higher sells with raunchy lyrics and even raunchier videos, they realized to stay relevant they had to follow suit.  In the late 80s and early 90s, the music business was about making millions.  Unlike artists like Stevie Wonder and Issac Hayes who live to make music, the newer artists lived to make money.  And to make money meant selling sex.  And selling sex meant you had to have sexy videos.  And sexy videos meant you had to show scantily dressed women. Getting the point?  The "video girl" was now a part of a marketing scheme to sell a product.  

While these men were getting more respect, women were being demeaned at a level that had never been seen before.  BET even had a program called Uncut that showed videos too adult for prime time.  These videos showed nearly (if not completely) naked women dancing provocatively or acting out sexual acts.  Even with videos shown on 106 & Park, women can be seen doing overly suggestive dance moves.  Women are no longer chosen for their trained dance talents but for the curve of their hips.  

Sage the Gemini "Red Nose"
Women are showcased doing the new "twerk"

Artists like Snoop Dogg, Diddy, Rick Ross, Nelly (do not get me started on Nelly), R. Kelly, and T.I. have no shame in showing women half naked.  The hottest song this past summer, "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke, went as far as showing women topless.  "Blurred Lines" is nominated for three Grammys and I'm pretty sure Robin has made a couple million of dollars off of it.  Forget the fact that women were running around topless in the video and let's not even discuss the fact that the song is about the blurred lines between consensual sex and rape.  

Will they change? Why should they?  Artists don't have a reason to change how they portray women in their videos. If anything they are rewarded for it.

Video girls have come a long way.  Unfortunately, they have not gone in the right direction. They have went from being talented showcase dancers to mere sex objects.  It is of great importance that we teach our younger women what it means to be a respected performer.  We must take back the image of the the video girl.  We must instill in them to not let men use their bodies for their own selfish gain.  I'm not saying we have to teach them to wear skirts down to their ankles.  I'm not even saying that we demonize the men of the music industry.  We can't expect men artists to do better on their own initiative but we have to stand up and say no.  The more we say no to being demeaned the sooner they will have to find new concepts for their videos.