Friday, August 27, 2010

When will contemporary artists get more respect?

Well, we all saw the VH1 100 Greatest Artists' List and with lists of this nature, there is always going to be controversial. It's ironic that in my last entry, I talked about the Rolling Stones' 100 Greatest Singers list in regards to the C-Tina vs Bey vocals arguments and this list came about. And usual, you have people up in arms over Bey's position in it or that she's even on the list. Well, I have my thoughts on that and you know I am going to speak my mind so here it is....

First of all, congrats to everyone on the list. This list was made by people who are actually in the industry so this shows the respect that these artists have in the industry, both past artists and contemporary artists. Making a list of only 100 greatest acts when there have been 1000s of great acts that have entered the industry is hard. So many genres to choose from.

With that in mind, when lists like these are made, it is usually the 60s-early 90s artists who get respect that contemporary artists won't. Don't get me wrong, these acts longevity and their work have influenced the music that is out today. Okay, I get that. So there won't be much contemporary acts on lists like these. That's the way it goes. And BTW, there are many acts who should have been on the list but were not. Bob Marley not on the list? Barbra Streisand not on the list? Only 11 women on this list? Strange.

However, my problem is that people complain about the comtemporary acts that are on the list. Especially Bey and Jay. It's okay that people want to remember the geniuses of the past and give them their due but ladies and gentleman, both of them are great in the lanes that they are in and big, make that huge influences on the artists of today in their genres. I have said this many times on this blog: Bey/DC is the Sound of the '00s. Contemporary R&B which is a huge part of today's sound is made in her image. That's one of the many reasons why she's the only 3 time Best Contemporary R&B Album Grammy Winner. To diss her credentials for being on this list, whether you like her music or not is silly IMO.

If Contemporary Artists are going to be on it, she should be on it. Like it or not. And as for Jay, the man has more #1s than Elvis and Elvis is always on lists like these. Think about that, people. He has classic albums for Hip Hop, so many it would take me all day to speak on that. I would never defend Bey's husband on here. I am a fan of Bey, first. However, Jay not getting the respect he deserves as an artist after what he has done for his genre is sad. Even if he is not the Greatest MC alive, he's on the short list and if Hip Hop is a viable, respected genre then he should be on this list. Any Hip Hop who wants to be mainstream(and I understand a lot of hip hop heads don't like that) are influenced in some way by Mr. Carter. Like it or not. And this is coming from a Hip Hop fanatic, who knows underground acts as well as mainstream ones, who grew up watching "Beat Street".

But it goes back to my question: When will contemporary artists get more respect? Music didn't die in the early 90s. The industry is still past that era, people. And music will continue to go on until the world ends or whatever. The artists that are coming into the industry aren't just influenced by music from the jazz/blues era to the Michael Jackson, Whitney, Mariah, Mary, and etc era. There were artists, artists who have been in the industry over a decade, from the 90s who are still making music and influence the generation of new artists that are coming out today. That's why I understood it in one MB site that I go to when she said she was up in arms over Bey's spot. At first, I thought: Okay, she's contemporary and older acts gets more due than younger ones. But then I asked why especially consider how much the younger artists has contributed to the industry already? I got what the poster was saying, finally. Why that much deference toward to older acts? Just because it's older don't mean it is better.

Anyways, I don't even consider Bey with those artists, I put her above them because she's been doing this since the 90s. Toni B. set people str8 in the interview in which she also set people str8 on who is more talented between Ciara, Bey and Rihanna with this very thing.( She and Jay and artists like her have the respect of the industry and that's all the matters because they usually know more then critics and the posters on MBs who think that if they name drop older artists that makes them musically educated.

The real question is should be, Why don't female artists don't get the respect that they deserve? Why did only 11 female acts get on the list in the first place. Seems to me that Sasha Frere Jones is right: Young black female singers rarely get past the red rope and into the Genius Lounge—the moody, the male, and the dead crowd that room. ( I know that change is slow, but it seems to me that female artists still aren't given the respect that they deserve. Yet, instead of the fan bases of female artists arguing over the merit of the ones who are on it, they should complain about this. But the beautiful thing is I believe that this attitude is slowly changing and female artists like Beyoncé are helping to make it happen. Hopefully, people will see this and give contemporary artists like her the due that they deserve. I am proud of her and I hope that she always get the respect that the industry has obviously given her.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Christina vs Beyoncé Vocal Arguments.

I am back with another blog entry. This is the first time, I am going to touch on a topic like this. I see this topic and have debated on it 500-11 times. People are going to prefer who they will and that's life. I have learned that you can give facts all day long but people are going to use their opinions to trump fact all the time. That's on them. But yet...I have to vent because some of the things I hear when it comes to discussions like this are unbelievable.

1. Christina fans using the Rolling Stone argument to support their position: It's the #1 pet peeve I have. For one, it's a subjective list made by journalists and people who work with Rolling Stone that used artists to praise their choices. Also, any list that don't have Barbra Streisand on it, and this is supposed to be the "Bible" of the music industry, isn't credible at all. Think about it: Mariah and Whitney are on the list[BTW, C-Tina is rated over Mariah on their list, that alone is pathetic.] and Babs influenced both of them. Yet, she's not on that list. There wouldn't be artists singing "power pop ballads" without Babs blazing that trail. Not to mention, she's one of the greatest technical female singers of all time. Her belts are free without any tension, her tone is one of the most resonant tones in all of modern mainstream music and her musicianship and interpreting of the music that she does is impeccible. She may not do all the adlibbing, melismatic phrasing, howling and wailing but her sincerity to her craft is undeniable. I would say the same thing if Bey was on the list and not C-Tina if Babs was omitted from it. For example, on a youtube video, though many Bey stans disagreed with me, I said that Bey is the bottom half of the top 50 to the top 75 range of female vocalists of modern mainstream music history(any genre, excluding opera/non-secular music). I would put Babs over Bey without hesitation. My fandom doesn't cloud my objectivity. Nor I am one who believe that contemporary artists are always inferior to old school artists. Fair is fair. C-Tina does not have the impact on artists or on the industry as a whole as Babs. To exclude Babs from that list, but have C-Tina on it is a criminal act and every objective music fan would agree with me.

2. "She's a White Girl with A black Girl voice": This argument in itself is pathetic on the whole. It's a sad day in music history that it has to be addressed. My 2nd fave female artists of all time is Teena Marie. She's one of the great soul singers of her time and she's white. Then there are other great white soul singers like, Michael McDonald, Janis Joplin(who was influenced by Bessie Smith, the Empress of Blues), Darryl Hall(Hall & Oates) and many others. I give cred to Adele in terms of contemporary soul artists. I don't feel that an artist has to growl and wail to have soul credibility, yet since C-Tina does these things, it adds to her soul credibility. Not to mention her skin-color. The Blue Eyed Soul dynamic is a long discussion in of itself and C-Tina gets those kind of comments. Here is one small problem: She's Latina not White. There are many soulful Latino/Latina artists and performers. Great in their lanes and have contributed to music and entertainment. Also, C-Tina is as pop as Bey is, in fact more so. When she tries to tackle "soul music", she fails. Why? Because she makes her voice and her ego bigger than the music. Take the James Brown cover at the Grammys. That whole performances was about how many runs she could do, and trying to prove that she's indeed a soul singer. She failed!!!! That high pitched howl that she did? Double Fail!!! James didn't even do that for the original composition and even when he did those things, they were within the frame work of the music. C-Tina seemed not to understand that. She just tried to mimic him instead, and even though the performance as a whole wasn't boring, her doing that took away from what the performance was about: Him. And don't use, "Well, Bey growls and wails too" argument. That fails also. Bey does it for interpretative purposes, and she don't always approach her belts that way. Also, Bey has done authentic and sincere compositions of funk inspired music. Bey and Funk(James Brown's genre) is a match made in heaven. Everyone knows this. C-Tina could never ever do what Bey did at the beginning of CIL on the I AM DVD, and Bey's voice was tired so her tone wasn't even as on point as it normally is. No matter how much wailing and growling she does. One last thing, C-Tina makes her tone sound bigger than what it really is. Her tone thins when she belts, for various reasons, and she makes her mid voice tone bigger to compensate for that so that she have that burly, gospelesqe tone but having that tone alone don't make a soul singer. Tammi Terrell has a light tone, but she had more understanding of soul music and executed way better than C-Tina would ever think to be able to.

3. It's accepted that C-Tina is "The Voice of This Generation in this industry: To me, this is one of the worst arguments of all. For one, about a decade ago when she was competing with the Britneys, the Jessicas, Mandy Moores, her label along with the media push this and so it's the perception that she is indeed, the Voice of this Generation. And yes, C-Tina does get praise for her voice. So does others in the industry, including Beyoncé. I saw on a site that C-Tina gets respect from her peers with her vocals that Beyoncé does not. I did this *blank stare* and *SMH*. Not that I need her peers opinion, Bey gets love across the board in the industry for what she does vocally. From Prince, Patti, Aretha, Smokie, Toni Braxton, Charlie Watts (from Rolling Stones, the group) to name a few from many artists, from numerous producers, critics, and etc, her vocals get numerous love. Not everyone in the industry thinks that C-Tina is the best vocalist of her age group, that's a subjective thing and something that's not stable because one minute you get praised and the next, that same artist might fall off. Both of them have gotten their props as singers/vocalists.

Okay, I know this is a long entry, but I had a lot to get off my chest today. I am a Bey fan and I love her vocals, but I am very objective toward certain things. I know that not everyone is going to like her and that's fine. I also understand her place in music history. Instead of C-Tina fans holding on to titles given a decade ago, they need to hold C-Tina to a higher standard than the music and vocal skills that she has produced especially in the last 5 years. She is squandering her potential, and hopefully her newest album not living up to expectation will allow her to see this. If she wants to truly prove her gift as a vocalist, she needs to go back to the drawing board and do whatever necessary apart from Auto-Tune to fulfill that potential.

Monday, August 16, 2010

*Gasp* Bey says the N-Word....

Here's yet another entry. Two entries within week? Well, as I said a lot of interesting things have been happening and yet again, we have another "controversial" topic in which I felt compelled to blog on. As we all know, The Queen jumped on a collaboration with Kanye and we all know that in Hip Hop, the N word is very prevalent in the culture of it. So Kanye saying the word is pretty much nothing. However, Bey sings it as part of the hook on his song and all hell breaks loose especially in the blogosphere. *mock roll of the eyes*

One of the things I find is the double standard when it comes to R&B singers and Hip Hop Artists with anything. It's acceptable for Hip Hop Artists to "beef" with each other(no matter the gender) but it's unacceptable for R&B singers(no matter the gender) to do the same. I guess part of it is because Hip Hop Artists are expected to be hard, edgy and "hood" whereas R&B artists are expected to be soft, subtle and "classy" with the things that they sing. And back in the day, there was a distinct difference between hip hop artists and R&B until both genres merged and it is big part of music and entertainment today.

Not to mention, women in general are supposed to dainty, and "lady-like" as a whole whereas men are supposed to be hard as an example of their masculinity in society. Nevertheless, saying the N word with all it's connotation of the past is still a very controversial thing in our society and in music as a whole. BTW, Nigga and Nigger are actually two different connotations and reflect two different thoughts. I am from "The Hood", and I am 34 which means I grew up when Hip Hop wasn't even as commercial as it is now, and I grew up hearing Nigga for at least 2 decades and maybe a little before that. I, myself, don't use it but I don't get offended over it because as I said, I understand the difference because being called a Nigga and being called a Nigger.

Not to say, I don't understand the offense of the word. As I said in my last entry, the very fact that we have a discussion about racism, means that racism will never be abolished or eradicated. About 50 years ago, this country had segregated schools, restaurants, and even water fountains!!! It takes time to heal from that and philosophies and the residual consequences from that don't fade away. We should always remember our history so that we can learn from it and hopefully, not repeat the things that our ancestors did before us that weren't right. Not to mention, as I said, in my last entry, there are still racists out there who will twist things to promote their agenda. All the time, you hear: "If Blacks can call each other Nigger, why can't we do it?" You also have misogynists trying to find justification in calling women, the B-Word because some women, call each other that in friendly greeting.

So it's a slippery slope, as far as society goes. Nevertheless, when it comes to performing, and music in terms of the entertainment industry some of the best music comes from reflecting what the culture, sub-culture and pop culture alike is. Not to say that anything should be recorded, but the day free speech is free speech at the end of the day. If the Klan can be allowed to march in neighborhoods daily, then an artist saying Nigga is not a big deal especially knowing that the word is not the same as calling someone a Nigger which is always used in a racial context. So with that in mind, I am sick of the media especially, trying to provoke things for ratings and ultimately money. For example, when Nas wanted to call his album Nigger(which he dropped eventually), the right thing to do would have been to ignore him because he was doing it for attention.

As long as the media is willing to do anything for attention, artists will be the same way. Not to say that Bey did that in this case. For one, Bey has said the word before. Irreplaceable comes to mind. In fact, she has even *gasp* cursed on record. And even though, I, myself, don't curse, I don't believe in censorship when it comes to this. In fact, there are times when a curse in order for a song to be fully expressed lyrically, works. I am not going to say that certain songs suck because there are curse words in it. Big Daddy Kane is my favorite MC/Rapper of all time, he cursed A LOT. His prime was during the late 80s and early 90s. He used Nigga also. It didn't stop me from listening to him and I was a teen then. He didn't influence me in the direction that I am now. Anything that I have done, I have taken responsibility for my actions. I will not blame environment, whether it is music or my "hood" for anything that I have done.

Secondly, the song is not even hers. Not to excuse it, but it is coming from Kanye's perspective and we all know that he, as well as many other rappers/MCs, use the word frequently. [Though Kanye himself said that SHE wrote the Hook while singing it, but Bey don't lyric write at all though. *Chuckles*] Even "conscious" rappers have used it. It's always about context when it comes to comprehending anything. There are people who twist Biblical teachings off of misinterpreting the context of the scriptures, like Slavery for example. Same principle here. Not to say that I agree with everything that she does, or I like everything that she does musically or performing. The breast jiggle thing that she did on the Video Phone Video and The Why You Don't Love Me video, I have to keep from cringing, though especially with the latter video, I even got why she did it[it was done right when with the line: I give you everything you want/Everything you need. It actually fits believe it or not].

I think people have a hard time with it, because Bey off stage carries herself different that she does sometimes on the stage. I feel part of the reason why she spoke on Sasha as being her alter-ego was to show that performing is a completely different dynamic for her as oppose to her everyday life. To set the record the straight when it comes to percieving her art and not trying to confuse her artistic expression with her as a person. Not to mention, to show that a woman can be sexy, even push the line for what society thinks is classy and lady-like and still be still be lady like and feminine. And let's face it, whether we like it or not, the N word is not going away anytime soon. No protests, laws, essays, or dissertations are going to make a dent in stopping it.

Music is a personal thing. You either respond to it or not. If the N-Word offends, it is okay but there are musicians who make a conscious effort not to use it. Bey don't say that word much at all. In fact, a lot of people complain about her being too safe. Also, for as much criticism as she gets for being "oversexualized", she don't sing that often about sex. VP is the only song where she even explicitly sings of sex on IA...SF("You want to see me naked") and even that was teasing, not like other singers and rappers who say whatever is provocative. Bey is not a Lil Kim clone. I am not attacking Kim by saying this, but there are two different artists. Bey can even sing about sex and not approach it the way Kim does.

Finally, I think the whole issue that I am speaking of is about authencity. Certain people have more cred in the things that they do than others. Let's say that Bey wanted to do a whole Country Album, some people would have a problem with this because they would think that she's trying to do something that's she not. I heard someone say this when she recorded Diva, and that the poster said that he/she(don't know the gender), like Ciara's cover better because Ciara is more "believable" in being "Hood". Not realizing that if it was not for Bey and DC bringing Urban Music to Pop/Mainstream Top 40 stations and influencing her, she probably wouldn't have been in the industry in the first place because labels wouldn't think that there was a market for her. Hell, Bey is even influencing rappers, like Trina. She's a big part of Urban Mainstream music, whether people like it or not.

People can't have it both ways. You(general you) can't say Bey is not authentic and allow her to sing about what she wants. People can't complain about the expression of her sexuality, but ignore other facets of her performing. As a fan, I don't have to like everything she does, but I can give her the freedom to be what she wants to project as an artist and not take it personal because she don't always do what I might like or say the things that I don't relate to, or express it the way I would if I was singing the same song. This is how I feel, others don't have to agree but hopefully we can all reason together on this because at the end of the day, it's music and our love of music, Bey's music is why most of us are fans.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My response to Professor Cashmore....

Hello, everyone. It's been a while since I've done another entry and I have to say that a lot of things have happened-interesting things-since then. Lately, there have been a variety of positive blog posts concerning "The Queen" and it goes to show that she's missed and that her name rings bells even when she's on her slumber. Today, I want to respond an article that I came across on a blog.

It was also posted on and I am surprised there weren't a lot of pages concerning the topic. Let me say, it's a good article. It gives her due as a force in her craft and in popular society. I do get his overall point, though I feel feel that it takes it a bit too far and provokes discussions that drift off the point that he is making. I will speak on that in this entry.

I am a "stan", especially concerning her music, but I grasp that she's more than her music and performing. All pop stars are. Yet in that dynamic, it's amazing how well-respected Beyoncé across the board in the industry. Though her musical audience is in the 18-30 year old range, she has fans of all ages, genders, sexual preferences, religions, cultures, and etc. Being a black female pop star and having that kind of impact on pop culture is a wonderful thing to see. Yet one of the things that I believe that articles like his lack is expressing how hard it is to be in that position.

For one, at times, her artistic credibility and integrity get called into question. Not from her peers who know the blood, sweat and tears that she pours into what she does. I'm speaking of those who think it's cool or profitable to attack her, to play off those who get their kicks out of negativity and criticism. In the blog that I was in, the author of it and numerous other posters spent over 100 comments(in a 200 comment thread) criticizing and debating her looks and her "using" them to appeal to a broader audience than artists whose looks can't access that appeal.

Yes, image is important in mainstream entertainment and mon-mainstream as well, and it's paramount to note that, yes Beyoncé's image does appeal to pop culture. However, note that this is only one part of the appeal that makes Beyoncé, Beyoncé. The thing that allows her to have the enduring power that she has is her talent and her passion for her work. Not to mention, for a pop star, she makes a conscious effort to the put the focus on her work. To be professional in everything that she does. Across the board, that's what we hear when others speak on her in the industry. To "Buy into Beyoncé", is appreciate this about her. Without that, she's another disposable face who has little to no impact on the industry or pop culture.

Also, he said that with her success, it opens the door for racist to use her as an example to give the impression that racism is over. The fact that this is a discussion shows that racism will always be an issue and no celeb or powerful figure in society will change or abolish it. I do see his point, especially considering that she comes from an upper middle class family with both of her parents actively raising her, even helping her be successful in her craft. Make no mistake, this is inspirational and relatable. Yet, that doesn't exclude her from backlash and many times, vile hatred toward her. Far from it.

From whites and blacks alike. Some whites hate because they want their own to rule the pop world and will not acknowledge the dynamics of racism in the mainstream media. Some blacks hate because they want her to fully respresent them and since many black families are fractured so she's not relatable to some of them. Now I am not one to call everything racism or to dwell on it, truthfully speaking, she is more polarizing in colorism and sexism than racism.

I spoke of the debate of the blogger and the posters about her looks. It was vile. Discussions of plastic surgery on her nose(Rihanna was brought up also) to make her look "European"(not all Europeans have small noses btw). Attacks on her wearing blonde hair, especially the weaves(it's 2010, people!!!) and even her getting tans to give off "The Tanned White Woman" look. *blank-stare*. It's usually black women who go there. Not to say all black women hate on her. Far from it. But when these discussions take place, it is coming from that place and it reveals their insecurities because in their mind, the media "prop" her up on this pedastal, as the ideal of "The Beautiful Black Woman", and it's because she's light-skinned. Colorism at its finest. Then you have those who loves to criticize her stage image, complaining about how she uses sexuality as a crutch because that's all she has to offer as an artist and performer. Sexism at its finest. Convient sexism at that, forgetting countless performances that showcase nothing but her voice and her music.

Now to be fair, I loved how Professor Cashmore used one of her iconic moments of her career, a performance that showcased her vocal talents to show her impact on pop culture. It's great to see the academics recognize all that she brings to the table. That talent endures further any dream that Professor Cashmore speaks of as Beyoncé's enduring appeal. With casual fans, they might focus on her image and "relatability", and as a pop star, that's the reality and lane that has to be navigated. However, with her major fans which are legion in number, appreciate her gift; her God-given talent combined with hard work, the only real thing that a great entertainer needs.

At the end of the day, this is all that matters. Speaking for myself, all she needs her voice, great music and to perform heart out and I am a fan for life. In that sense, her talent goes beyond her gender, race, background, religion and etc. That's the Beyoncé, I "buy" into and I can safely say that there are millions who agree with me. Thank you for reading this entry and I hope all of you enjoyed it.