Keep your white mouth shut about Beyoncé.

Dear white people,

For the past few years, we’ve lived in a world in which essentially anything Mrs. Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter does is headlining news. She’s performed on the world’s biggest stages (multiple times), and generally speaking, it seems like most of western culture enjoys Beyoncé. Good for her. I’m glad.

As an artist, Beyoncé has been vocal and active when it comes to creating art that advocates for and exemplifies the experiences of Black people in America. Because her intentions are clear, if you aren’t a part of that cultural identity, your opinion on her art (approval or otherwise) doesn’t matter.

 

Beyonce runs her fingers through Jay-Z's new hairdo as he makes a surprise appearance at 2018 Coachella Music Festival in Indio, CABeyoncé’s historic, headlining Coachella performance last weekend was quite the spectacle, in which she paid homage to many aspects of African-American culture that you, as a white person, cannot fully understand or appreciate. That’s ok. Regardless, you people have critiques of her performance (many positive) that fail to do her art the justice it deserves.

Watching Beyoncé’s performance and saying things like “The music was fun. The costumes were sexy. The marching band was a surprising and cool theme.”  really isn’t sufficient. While those things made be held true (yes, she did a good job and it was enjoyable to watch), at this point Beyoncé’s art deserves a more careful critique.

I think about it like this: there are several layers to what she did. Firstly, Beyoncé’s performance captured something that is distinctly American. The college football marching band. This is something Americans relate to because college football is popular and marching bands are practically indispensable to that experience. If you’re American, or have been to a college (or in some cases, high school) football game, you can probably watch the performance and say “Hey, I recognize this theme!”

2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival - Weekend 1 - Day 2
INDIO, CA – APRIL 14: Beyonce Knowles performs onstage during 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Field on April 14, 2018 in Indio, California. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Coachella )

Beneath this readily accessible cultural identity, there’s the (musical/athletic/Greek) culture of HBCUs, a specific type of institution in America. The HBCU is a pillar of Blackness in America, and therefore, can only truly be understood by those who share a cultural history/literacy with collegiate black people. I’d argue that people with a black cultural identity were able to understand/appreciate more of the content in the performance than those without that cultural identity.

Within that layer of context, there is a distinctly Southern black HBCU cultural literacy needed to understand further aspects of the show (Black Greek life, probates, creole-inspired musical arrangements, costumes, and set design). It’s here I’d argue that people who aren’t black should largely keep their opinions to themselves. White people are inherently unable to fully understand black art made for black audiences. Period.

A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

 

Deeper still, there is another cleavage within this racially based cultural identity. For example, black people in Chicago, Boston, or Los Angeles may still have a lesser ability to fully understand Beyoncé’s performance. As obvious as it may seem to state this, there seems to be a lack of understanding that there is no singular black experience in America.

beyoncecoachella12Within the segment of blacks who share a geographic cultural literacy for the performance, we can divide this segment into those who have been participants in this HBCU culture, against those who have not.  Southern blacks who have frequented events like this, performed in marching bands and dance teams, pledged a black fraternity, etc. would have an even deeper understanding.

For instance, even though I am a black person from the South who has spent a lot of time engaging with this culture, I would not say that I have the same cultural literacy as my father who is also from the South, but actually attended an HBCU.

All that considered, I think it’s even more commendable that she did this because this show is really only culturally available to a relatively small portion of the American population. Every cultural aspect of the show was specifically targeted to celebrate a sorely under-represented, rich cultural identity in American pop culture.

So, how then, can you, as a white person approach and engage with art like this in the future? What are some ways that you can work to more fully understand and appreciate black art?

I’ll start with this example: Last year, author Ta-Nehisi Coates explained why white people can’t say the N-word in rap songs.

White Americans live in a country where they can DO anything, BE anything, and SAY anything. Literally. And as far as ownership goes, most property (specifically intellectual, i.e. record labels owning black artists’ music…) is owned by white people.

When black people say “Hey white people please don’t use this word, you don’t have the proper context,” it becomes controversial? White people get upset. It’s as if black people owning a part of the American vernacular is egregiously insulting to ~white power~ (which, in some ways it is, but that shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing).

Throughout history, it seems as though whenever white people are asked to back off  from another culture, they’re like “NOO GIMME! LET ME CONSUME IT!” Like the more you tell a child not to do something, the more enticing that illicit behavior becomes. Ugh.

Similarly, black art, made specifically with black people in mind should be just that. Yes, it can be appreciated from outside that context, but there must always be deference those most culturally literate.

Example: I can enjoy a Bollywood film, but I’ll never be able to understand and appreciate in the way that my friend from Mumbai would.

Context/audience is key. When you put critiques of art black on a public stage (a blog review, tweet, etc), you must be willing to defer to a more culturally intelligent opinion on the matter at hand.

beyonce-destinys-child-coachella-performance-ftr

This is why institutions like The Grammys and the Oscars are increasingly unsatisfying. A predominantly white group of judges critiquing and awarding art made for and by other races seems a bit incompatible, right?

White people can properly engage with black art if they are careful to listen first and be willing to take a passenger seat on the journey of artistic appreciation. The best way to do that is phrasing critiques as questions..Like, “Beyoncé’s performance was legendary, I loved the HBCU aesthetic of the performance. I wonder if she did HBCUs proud?/I want to know what aspects of HBCU culture I missed? etc..”

beyonce-coachella-2018-1

At the end of the day, Beyoncé is a performer. It’s great to simply enjoy the music, and the spectacle at a purely superficial level. (Do not ask me how many times I have seen her 2013 Super Bowl performance. Wig!).

However, if you truly want to maximize your understand and enjoyment with Beyoncé’s (or any other black artists’) work, you can’t simply rely on your own insufficient cultural identity, no matter how much you think you love Queen B.

Sincerely,

Me.

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I Demand Justice for Rita Ora!

Dear United States of America,

Rita Ora has been a consistently C-level pop star in America for FAR TOO LONG! Enough is enough!

Rita vs RihBack in 2012, her mainstream breakthrough came with the single “How We Do (Party),” with critics making comparisons to Rihanna, her Roc Nation label-mate. At the time, Rihanna was off in her own exploratory EDM phase, probably thinking very little of her. The tragic comparisons constantly made between female artists definitely hurt ~Rihta’s initial success in the US market.

Everything, from her voice to her aesthetic, was critiqued as being diet-Rih. At the time, unfortunately, I largely agreed. There was a sense that Rita was more of product than an artist. She shined on songs like the Sia-penned “Radioactive” (2013), but it wasn’t enough to break through into the US. 😦

But as time went on, Rita pop powers grew stronger. Comparisons to Rihanna weakened as Rih flourished into the untouchable pop goddess she is today. And even with ample room for the two of them in the pop sphere, Rita still struggled to find success in the US.

Mired by album delays and label disputes with Jay Z (was she ‘Becky with the good hair’? …No, but the rumor definitely didn’t help her image). Her relationship with arguably the hottest dj in the world, Calvin Harris, birthed the single “I Will Never Let You Down,” which promised us the EDM-infused pop album perfection the world needed.

“I Will Never Let You Down” is one of the best pop songs of the decade, and it did NOT get enough attention. It debuted at NUMBER ONE in the UK, proving that the UK has great taste in music. It peaked at 77 in the US. 77?!?!  Shameful

Rita gave us colorful visuals, CHOREOGRAPHY, and a Calvin Harris- “Motion”-era chorus! Truly iconic! A career defining single! In a tragic turn of events, they broke up, and Calvin took all his songs back and refused to let her perform the song at the 2014 Teen Choice Awards, etc. Total dick move Calvin!

Rita OraBut all was not lost! Rita teamed up Iggy Azalea for “Black Widow” and got some great exposure with that Top 3 hit. She then slid over to Charli XCX’s camp (who was riding high on the “Fancy” and “Boom Clap” waves) for “Doing It”. “Doing It” is another example of a GREAT song that was paid DUST in the US. Didn’t even chart! The gays and the girls were too caught up with Meghan Trainor and Uptown Funk to care, I guess.

Thankfully, Rita never lost hope. She released “Poison” later in 2015, which is also an AMAZING song, with an excellent video, written by pop lyric heavyweights Kate Nash and Julia Michaels!! Again, no chart success in the US. (It was her 8th top ten song in the UK).

You would think at this point the US would’ve wisened up to her, but noooo. Rita, kept chugging, now heavily vying for the US marketing with “Body on Me”, featuring Chris Brown. The R&B-tinged track was a total snooze-fest, and I’m not sure if she knew then, but working with CB was such a bad idea. Poor thing.

After two years of trying very hard, Rita took a pop vacay for a while. She appeared on a couple tracks in the meantime- none worth mentioning here. She focused on acting, appearing in the Fifty Shades franchise and doing that weird ANTM reboot, which is also not worth mentioning here.

And then, BAM! In comes “Your Song” in May 2017. The Ed Sheeran-penned bop was a strong resurfacing for Miss Ora. It received chart success internationally, going platinum in 7 countries, but in the US, NOTHING! AGAIN. Rita and Ed.jpeg

She was coming back into the mainstream with the help of one of most popular (and annoying pop stars). “Your Song” was just a wake up call. In August 2017, Rita came harder with “Lonely Together”, a collaboration with Avicii. Another excellent EDM track that received international success, but nothing in the US. Ugh.

At this point, I had lost all hope. But thank God Rita didn’t! She gave us a follow up to “Your Song” with “Anywhere”. Critically acclaimed, and a pop music reprieve from all the sad garbage on the radio, it was her best song since “I Will Never Let You Down”. I thought for sure “Anywhere” would be her “We Found Love” moment. A chart-busting success that would cement her into the mainstream of the American social consciousness.

I was wrong…again.

That brings us to 2018, in which Rita teamed up with the third-most popular, fourth most vocally talented, and second hottest One Direction member for a Fifty Shades track. “For You (feat. Liam Payne),” arguably the best Fifty Shades song since Love Me Like You Do,  was, in typical Ora-fashion, met with positive reviews, international success, and horrible airplay in the US. It peaked at 76 😦

ritaliam.jpg

Why? Why does the US hate her? I refuse to believe that the majority of pop music aficionados in my beloved country have something against Rita. She’s proven her vocal chops. She’s proven her commitment to pop music! She’s proven she’s fashion forward, fun, and inspiring! She’s survived Rihanna-copying accusations, fornicating with Jay-Z accusations, a breakup with Calvin Harris, AND a horrid collab with Chris Brown!

It is our DUTY to make sure that Rita Ora is given the respect she deserves. I can only pray that you will come to your senses and support GOOD POP MUSIC. It’s so easy. In between streams of fellow Kosovo-born pop star Dua Lipa, give Rita a listen too. Please, I’m begging you.

Sincerely,

Me

Rita Gif.gif

 

 

Thank you, Cardi B(reath of fresh air)

I love Cardi B. I’m still trying to working out why, though. I’m going to be brutally honest here. Cardi B isn’t my favorite rapper, by far. I haven’t heard any song of hers that’s made think, “Wow she’s such an amazing lyricist!” Her singing is ok. Her dancing is less-than-mesmerizing. I can’t honestly say any of her earlier music is the kind of music I listen to on the regular.Cardi_B tongue out

At this point, I’m not confident I’ll be listening to her music in 20 years and much as I’ll be revisiting the catalogues of Nicki Minaj or Drake.

So, what gives? Why do I drop everything to stay up to date with her? Why am I subscribed to her tweets? Why I have I watched almost every single one of her interviews? Why did I stay awake until midnight last Friday to listen to her debut studio album in full?

Miss Belcalis Almanzar’s je ne sais quois comes from her universal, yet deeply personal journey to stardom. Her slice of the American Dream is something we all wish for. Cardi B has not only achieved the American Dream, she’s become an international icon with her feisty, zany, relatable, altogether unattainable gravitas.

Her celebrity lies in how most of the time, it seems like she’s from a world totally unlike our own. She has her own vocabulary and isms, she can contort her face better than most comedians, all while being the beautiful, bilingual, bombshell covergirl. Cardi is one of us, but also not entirely. It’s fascinating.

At this point, it’s no secret that she came from twerking on the sticky floors of NYC strip clubs to the top of every party playlist in the country, as a young twenty-something. Everything she does is a moment. Engaged to the second-most-popular member of the most popular rap group in the world. Pregnant with the world’s most-awaited baby since Kim Kardashian’s surrogate.Cardi B pregnant.jpg

Having broken a few chart records, and on the heels of one the best albums of 2018 so far, Cardi B is truly on a high of success. She’s exactly what pop culture needed- a true breath of fresh air. Over the past year or so, a massive pop culture power vacuum was created for her to swoop in and fill.

Pop artists going political ruined the radio, and the state of mainstream rap was as bleak as the Toronto sky Drake cries under. Nicki Minaj’s sheer ubiquity had become stale, and few were making music that was unapologetically (pun-intended, Rihanna) fun.

In comes Cardi B, with a personality so big, you’ll find yourself short of breath trying to keep up with her through your headphones. Before her, when was the last time you could turn on the tv and be so entertained by a celebrity’s antics? 2010? 2008?

Her viral sensastionalism and reality tv background has definitely groomed her for being a perfect talk show guest. In her music videos and live performances, she relies on her fire flow with costumes and sets that bring her music to life like a seasoned pop star.

Cardi B funny

It’s working. “Bodak Yellow” didn’t change my life. It’s not the best song I’ve ever heard. I don’t even think I’ve seen the entire music video. Even though I’m not in love with all her musical efforts, the celebrity of Cardi B is FAR from unremarkable. Her album, Invasion of Privacy, as a whole, is actually quite good. With several star-studded collaborations (eg. SZA, Chance the Rapper, Migos[obviously], and Kehlani) and a slew of bops to boot, Cardi’s made sure her album wouldn’t flop.

Cardi VMAs

“I like proving niggas wrong, I do what they say I can’t,” she raps on album standout track “I Like It (feat. J Balvin & Bad Bunny).” And yeah, you really can’t argue with her. She’s defied the odds.

Invasion of Privacy is a radio ready, club friendly album, and has a little something for everyone. For a studio debut, it’s great work. Lyrically, she raps (and ~sings~ a little) on themes of success, fame, relationships, and most importantly celebrating oneself. She’s totally right in “Bartier Cardi” when she raps “Your bitch wanna party with Cardi.”

Even Green Day wants a piece of Cardi. I can’t even begin imagine what a collaboration between them might sound like.

She’s anything but a one-hit wonder. She’s now a part of the social consciousness, the zeitgeist. Cardi B is not only synonymous with the American Dream, but with F-U-N. She’s really made music fun again. Since her album dropped, everyone is singing her praises.

Legends like P. Diddy and Erykah Badu:

and even…ummm…Oprah?!?

We should all be thanking Cardi B for her contributions to pop culture. She’s giving us something to be happy about. A story we can relate to. Music we can party to. (Not to mention all the hilarious one-liners)

So without further ado…

Dear Cardi B,

Thank you. You’re a true treasure. You’ve done us all and given us exactly what we needed. Congrats on the album, the engagement, and the pregnancy! I can’t wait to see what you do next! Rooting for you always!

With love,

Literally everyone ❤

Cardi B

 

Don’t be unAmerican, do yourself a favor and stream Invasion of Privacy.

 

 

Every Taylor Swift Single Ranked by Obnoxiousness

I don’t hate Taylor Swift, I swear! And if you’re a reasonable, living/breathing human being, you don’t either. Her entire career is predicated upon the idea that she’s impossible to hate. Saying you hate TSwift is like saying you hate public transportation. Sure there’s definitely grounds for an opinion like that, but at the end of the day public transportation is a “good” thing and it’s a pillar of a large part of our society. And even if you hate it, chances are you’ve probably benefited from it.

Let’s be real though, Taylor Swift isn’t out here “benefitting” all of us. Her career has been sometimes problematic, but mostly she’s been insanely successful. SO SUCCESSFUL. Honestly reading her Wikipedia page gives a headache. She’s also one of the few people who can say (but should never ever do so) that they beat Beyoncé at something multiple times.

Anyway, I personally find her arguably indispensable presence in pop culture annoying. Yeah, she’s got songwriting talent. Sure she’s got some bops. And I’m sure she works very hard at her job. But as a singer, most of her music isn’t aging well and her whole act is just plain obnoxious.

I’ll be honest, Ms. Swift has several songs that I love. Certified bops. Undeniable jams. Some pretty cool tunes. In fact, last year I was outed by a friend as “Closeted Taylor Swift Fan”. And I’d agree. I’m a fan, but a truly begrudging one. I’m not proud of my tentative ~Swiftie~ status, and Taylor’s done nothing to change my mind so far.

Here’s my definitive ranking of all of her singles, from Most to Least obnoxious.

 

58. “Change” (2008)

A promotional single from the 2008 Summer Olympics that might contain some of the most dull and plastic Swift lyrics to ever be sung.

57. “Call It What You Want” (Reputation, 2017)

She really did bring a “knife to a gunfight” with this boring promotional single from Reputation.

56. “Long Live” (Speak Now, 2010)

Apparently this single from Speak Now was a huge hit in Brazil because there’s a version featuring popular Brazilian songstress, Paula Fernandes. Good for Brazil. (Paula is actually very talented).

55. “You’re Not Sorry” (Fearless, 2008)

A throwaway cut from Fearless inspired by- you guessed it- an ex-boyfriend.

54. “Highway Don’t Care” (collab with Tim McGraw, 2013)

tim mcgraw.jpg
This is what Tim McGraw looks like…which I didn’t know until just now.

This song personifies the “highway”? Is that a thing? I guess Tim McGraw sounds good. Whatever.

53. “Two is Better Than One” (collab with Boys Like Girls, 2008)

This simplicity and teen angst of this song will probably make this approximately 0 people’s favorite song.

52. “Out of The Woods” (1989, 2014)

Out of the Woods.jpg
Have you ever heard a song that was so repetitive you wanted to staple your ears shut?

51. “Begin Again” (Red, 2012)

An attempt at a crossover ballad that never really goes anywhere.

50. “Picture to Burn” (Taylor Swift, 2007)

If this song comes on in a bar, I’m definitely leaving the bar. Not finishing my drink. LEAVING.

49. “Should’ve Said No” (Taylor Swift, 2007)

I can’t believe someone told her she’d be a convincing country music artist.

48. “Fearless” (Fearless, 2008)

Wake me up when we get to “Love Story”.

47. “Gorgeous” (Reputation, 2017)

Taylor Reputation.jpg
The baby at the beginning of the song is Katy Perry, right?

 

46. “Girl at Home” (Red, 2012)

The lyrics are so clunky. The falsetto is excruciating. Bye.

45. “Half of My Heart” (with John Mayer, 2010)

I love John Mayer. And this is one of his best songs, too bad the chorus is sung so unconvincingly.

44. “Tim McGraw” (Taylor Swift, 2007)

Tim 2
When I “think of Time McGraw”, yes I do think of you, Taylor. But that’s only happened about 4 times in my life.

43. “Our Song” (Taylor Swift, 2007)

“I was ridin’ shotgun with my hair undone in the front seat of his car”. Who doesn’t love pre-snake emoji rebel Taylor?

42. “Come Back…Be Here” (Red, 2012)

Another song with Taylor pleading for some man she broke up with to come back.

41. “New Year’s Day” (Reputation, 2017)

Legendary pop music genius Jack Antonoff on the piano is this song’s only redeeming quality.

40. “New Romantics” (1989, 2014)

Try describing this song to someone. Go ahead. You won’t be able to. Why? Because this song isn’t about anything.

39. “Style” (1989, 2014)

The verses of this song totally ruin the AMAZING chorus that lie in between. ugh. Props for the neat visuals though.

38. “Everything Has Changed (feat. Ed Sheeran)” (Red 2012)

The whole “I just wanna know, better know you..” thing bothers me. This would’ve been better as a solo Ed song.

37. “The Moment I Knew” (Red, 2012)

Listen to this instead of New Years’ Day.

36. “Superman” (Speak Now, 2010)

I imagine this is the sort of song Henry Cavill listens to when he’s getting in character. Kal-El from Kansas totally loved this song.

35. “If This Was Movie” (Speak Now, 2010)

Watch this instead. (Start at 2:55 if you’re short on time)

34. “You Are In Love” (1989, 2014)

Can you call this singing? I’m not sure, but it’s not horrible!

33. “Eyes Open” (Hunger Games Soundtrack, 2012)

The second-best song on a soundtrack for an excellent little film.

32. “Look What You Made Me Do” (Reputation, 2017)

As a Katy stan, I reject this song and everything it stands for, however, you will find me dancing in the club every. single. time this song comes on.

31. “Sparks Fly” (Speak Now, 2010)

She wrote this BOP when she was 16 and kept it from us for years! Why? Who knows! I’ll never forgive her, I know that much.

30. “Safe & Sound (with the Civil Wars)” (Hunger Games soundtrack, 2012)

The Civil Wars should be awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom for finding a way to blend Taylor’s falsetto.

29. “Wonderland” (1989, 2014)

I want a music video for this song where Taylor falls down a rabbit hole and wakes up in Lagos, Nigeria.

28. “I Don’t Want to Live Forever” (Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack2017)

Isn’t Zayn pretty?

27. “Bad Blood” (1989, 2014)

Selena Bad Blood
“Dark Horse” outsold.

26. “The Last Time” (Red, 2012)

Had you heard of GARY LIGHTBODY OF SNOW PATROL before this song, or after? Me neither. I just imagine the lead singer of The Fray tbh.

25. “Wildest Dreams” (1989, 2014)

Yes, we all wish Lana del Rey sang this, but I’m thankful Lana spent her time sing much better songs.

24. “Teardrops on My Guitar” (Taylor Swift, 2007)

If the South ever tries to secede again, we can threaten to play this song on repeat at every Starbucks as punishment.

23. “Fifteen” (Fearless, 2008)

I tell people this is what my high school experience was like. It’s a lie.

22. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” (Red, 2012)

Like Ever
like…ever

21. “White Horse” (Fearless, 2008)

I sing this song to myself in the mirror after I fail at regularly going to the gym.

20. “Back to December” (Speak Now, 2010)

Narrative. Check. Country-pop crossover sound. Check. Apology for being a horrible person. Check. Good work, sweetie.

19. “The Story of Us” (Speak Now, 2010)

Turn this song all the way up + Jump up and down. = Party.

18. “Speak Now” (Speak Now, 2010)

“WEARING A GOWN SHAPED LIKE A PASTRY” SAVAGE!

17. “22” (Red2012)

This song is good, but trying to escape it on your 22nd birthday is nearly impossible.

16. “Mine” (Speak Now, 2010)

“The Story of Us”, but like better?

15. “Mean” (Speak Now, 2010)

Thank you, Kanye!

14. “Love Story” (Fearless, 2008)

There’s a video that sets this song to film adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” and it made 14 year-old (and 23 year-old) me cry.

13. “I Knew You Were Trouble” (Red, 2012)

I Knew You Were Trouble
Diet Dubstep Taylor is NOT playing with you, gentlemen!

12. “Welcome to New York” (1989, 2014)

I guess this song is important because it’s the first time Taylor acknowledged queer people exist? Thanks?

11. “Delicate” (Reputation, 2017)

One of the better songs on Rep, with arguably the worst music video(s).

10. “Shake It Off” (1989, 2014)

The beginning of her most exciting era. An over-played, cheesy, yet ICONIC song for the millennia.

 

9. “Both of Us” (with B.o.B, 2012)

A severely underrated guest spot on a severely underrated album.

8. “Red” (Red, 2012)

Now THIS is a lyrical conceit I can get behind!

7. “…Ready for It” (Reputation, 2017)

This is one of Taylor’s BEST songs. Chorus is amazing. 2010 Ke$ha is shook. Too bad we’ll never get the video we deserved for it.

 

6. “End Game (feat. Ed Sheeran, & Future)” (Reputation, 2017)

A weird collaboration, in name only, it surprisingly astounds. And the glammed-up video isn’t half bad either.

 

5. “Ours” (Speak Now, 2010)

I have a gap tooth and I am thankful to Ms. Swift for remembering my underserved community with the beautiful bridge she sings here.

 

4. “Crazier” (Hannah Montana: The Movie, 2009)

Leagues better than “The Climb”.

 

3. “State of Grace” (Red, 2012)

The best song from Red, and one of my favorite songs of all time. The acoustic version is also worth a listen.

 

2. “You Belong With Me” (Fearless, 2008)

I wonder what will happen when a teenaged Blue Ivy is caught humming this tune on her way home from school?

 

1. “Blank Space” (1989, 2014)

Taylor’s best single, one of her best songs overall. Iconic visuals, mesmerizing lyrics, everything needed to be a totally not-obnoxious song! Have you ever heard this song and genuinely thought “Wow, can’t wait til this is over?” NO. YOU. HAVEN’T.

 

Nota bene: “Today Was a Fairytale”, “Ronan”, and “Sweeter Than Fiction”, and “I Heart” are not on Spotify and not included in this list. “Today Was a Fairytale” is cute. “Ronan” sucks. I forget what the other two sound like.

Playlist: My Top 100 Most Played Songs

The music that moves me. I make seasonal playlists (Spring, Summer, and Fall). End of the Year playlists, and as occasion demands, themed playlists with anything from “Songs Bashing Trump”, to “Party for 14 Year Olds in 2009”, or even “Every Taylor Swift Single in Order of Obnoxiousness”.

To get things started with this section of my blog, here’s my most played songs of all time (most recently updated last year). It’s pretty pop heavy, with Rihanna sitting atop the rest. 8 of these songs feature her, so it’s safe to say she’s one of my favorite artists.

How am I measuring these plays? Well, I combine my itunes plays with my Spotify plays for every song I listen to, and then compiled the data one rainy Saturday morning. I do this every few months to see how my listening habits are changing. My data goes all the way back to 2008, when High School Musical soundtracks reigned supreme and I owned an ipod.

Suffice it to say, it’s surprising how many of these songs are from the past one or two years. I definitely am guilty of listening to the same song over and over and over again. Fight me about it.

One thing is true about all of these songs though, I remember the first time I heard each of them. What I was doing, where I was, who I was with. And for some reason they impacted me in a profound way. It might seem weird to think, but yes, “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea profoundly impacted me. PROFOUNDLY.

 

Is Twitter making us better communicators?

I think so.

Excuse me

I know, I know. It sounds counterintuitive, right? But hear me out. I feel like too often we hear about the negatives. That could be because the sociologist are right and social media is destroying our culture, but maybe it’s just because the only people writing about this stuff aren’t privy to the benefits. I think social media, namely Twitter, has benefited the way we communicate with one another, and in the long run, is part of the healthy evolution of language. Here are four ways social media is making us all a little more savvy.

1. Concision

Twitter-Character-Limit

Whether it’s a tweet, a Facebook post, or a blog post, social media forces us to make the keep the word count as low as possible. Unless you’re in The New Yorker, no one wants to read your essay. Honestly, I don’t want to read half the stuff I’ve written that’s over 500 words. Some argue that we’re dumbing ourselves down by not reading more long form content, but I think that the ability to find ways to create compelling content in fewer words is a mark of high intelligence.

2. Immediacy

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We have the ability to speak post our minds whenever we want. There are obvious abuses of this (just look Mr. Trump’s twitter account), but even so, we can learn so much about each other when people feel free to speak their minds. I think it’s done the country of a lot of good to see the unfiltered opinions of our communities. Knowing how members of our community feel about issues can help us learn from one another, and create more cohesive communities (e.g. by exposing racists). Much like how marketing professionals use these channels, social media is an excellent tool for measuring preferences, habits, and opinions.

3. Memes?!?

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Memes, emojis, viral gifs- the images we share on the internet are allowing us to relate to one another like never before. For millennia, we’ve had to cross highly complex fields of communication. Most Americans use the internet on a fairly regular basis. These images often remind of us a shared cultural identity, whether it’s a tv show we used to watch, a comic we grew up reading, or the JK Rowling passage we continue to debate the true meaning of. Now we can say a multitude of things with a still from an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants, the treasure trove of memes that keeps on giving. But seriously, we’ve found a way to meld the specificity of language and the universality of images into the everyday. If you and a friend (or better yet, a stranger) can carry on a conversation solely via images/memes, you’ve basically reached the next step in human evolution, congrats!

4. Access

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Don’t ask me how I found this image.

We have access to opinions and perspectives from all over the world.The onus is on us to ng, but never before have had such an opportunity to look outside ourselves and view the world. We’ve recently been warned of the “echo-chambers” we may inadvertently lock ourselves into, but I think that even these seemingly one-track minded echo-chambers are significantly more diverse than what many Americans were used to in the past. I’d like to think that the amount of diversity the average twenty-first century American encounters is leagues ahead of 10 or 20 years ago. Hopefully we’ll continue to see an increase in diversity among communities and not just online.

But hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe mass illiteracy is the future! Maybe the English language is dying and in 50 years we’ll all be mute zombies that communicate solely via stills from SpongeBob episodes (Honestly, that’s a future I’d gladly accept).Maybe emojis will replace the president’s on legal tender. Either way, I’m excited to see how Twitter and other social media platforms continue to push the expectations and limits of how we communicate with one another, for better or worse.

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~A glimpse into the future~

P.S. I’m really proud of myself for finally having an appropriate platform to use the phrase “the onus is on us”. Thanks, Internet!

Is today’s pop music sad…

 

or am I just an adult now? I’m almost 24, born in ’94, and going through a quarter-life crisis. We’re living in an age of emo-rap, purposeful pop, and Xanax-ed covers of last decades’ hits. What gives? The answers might lie in some simple, yet not-wholly-untrue statements like: Kanye is the father of emo-rap. kanye_west-coldest_winter-compressedThe 2016 presidential election cycle made pop stars get political. We miss the music that made the 90s and 2000s great so we look for every opportunity to re-create it. Sure, that all makes sense, but is there more at play here?

For each of those statements that I’m usually quite ready to agree with, I can also think of an example that refutes it. Let’s be real, it’s hard to map a significant link from the enigmatic genius of Kanye West to, let’s say, trash human being XXXtentacion who recently topped the Billboard 200 and has found streaming success. *shudders* And it seems a little too easy to suggest that artists like Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus’ last studio albums were only less interesting/compelling because of Donald Trump’s possibly illegitimate ascension to the presidency. And all those seemingly endless bedroom covers of “Ignition”? The concept of reworking/covering music from previous decades isn’t a new thing, right? And surely not everyone in pop music is sad. I mean, a song literally entitled “Happy” topped the charts for what seemed like far too long in 2014, becoming one of the best-selling singles of all time.

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YIKE!

 

It seems my peers and I largely think of today’s pop as being of a lesser-caliber than the pop excellence we grew up on, with a few expectations (Beyoncé, tysm for being awesome in every decade). Music was so much better when I was younger! Statements like that remind me of the kind of the thing my parents would say about the music I liked when I was growing up. I don’t think there’s anything inherently true about statements like that. In true Chainsmoker’s fashion, we all like to think of the past as some mythic playground where our memories of youth dance around in utopia.

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I googled “sad millennial” to find this accurate representation of how I look and feel when listening to all my favorite music released prior to 2012.

The past was idyllic and the finesse of most facets of society are on the decline. That’s how we’re programmed to think. Buuut maybe, millennials are just grumpy old people who are beginning to realize that we’ve slipped outside of that oh-so-special 18-24 demographic.

Us millennials aging out of coolness isn’t the only factor though. Gen Z is at fault here too. They’ve never known a world without Internet, and have had nearly infinite options for entertainment.  I’m no highly magnified, thoroughly educated pop culture savant expert, but I’d argue that much of their creation stems from the fact that they have nearly instant access to the record of human culture, which might contribute to a general pessimism in the human condition, as well as makes the past so easy for repurposing/restructuring. They’re learning from millennials the dangers of too much narcissism or whatever the baby boomer’s say is wrong with us. They’re using the internet to be more active participants in creating their own culture than any other generation before them. Most of the content that young people consumed before the internet was created and disseminated by old white people men. Now, kids are creating and sharing their own content on their own networks in which old people are basically just moderators. Not to say that corporate execs aren’t in control anymore, but viral content is responsible for so much of the pop music pulse these days. Pop culture is less and less about talent winning. And who knows, maybe that’s for the better?

Millennials’ priorities are changing. We’re in the workforce, owning property, being responsible-ish. With the re-prioritization of growing up comes a nostalgia for the simplicity of the past. Gen Z-ers are disillusioned by the amount of information and culture they have access to, and being so ~woke~ hasn’t allowed for as much blissful ignorance.

So maybe it’s time to give up on the idea that this generation will ever care about the fist-pumping pop, rock, and EDM-infused soundscapes of yesteryear. Fingers crossed my kid’s generation will won’t be such downers.  Who knows? Maybe in my lifetime scientific breakthroughs will give us access to the parallel universe where Hillary won the election and pop music made no room for the down-tempo deluge we live in. A universe where Drake found someone to love him back. A universe where will.i.am stopped producing music after “Femme Fatale” and Miley never met Mike-Will-Made-It. A universe where Little Mix snagged the US market. A universe where Michael, Whitney, and Amy lived. A boy grown man can dream, I suppose.

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Ugh, I guess now I’ll go do my taxes, listen to Teenage Dream, and have a good cry.