Dear Hip-Hop: we’re breaking up. And it’s definitely Drake’s fault.

16/11/2015 § 1 Comment

No Drake, you can't have my number.
image via.

**Disclaimer: I’m about to liberally exercise the f-word and talk about sex, which is somewhat out of character for me on here.  If that’s not your thing, I would encourage you to skip to my next post.  No hard feelings.**

Dear Hip-Hop,

What’s good?  I admit it’s been a bit since we’ve spent quality time together, and I’m sorry about that.  There’s just so much music out there and TBH, I’ve been feeling like maybe we’ve drifted apart recently.  And that maybe (PROBABLY) this time its for good.

How did we get to this point?  This new song by Drake, honestly.  You know, “Hotline Bling?”

Yeah, I’m not sure why his phone blings instead of rings either, but that’s not my main concern here.  Neither are the old man dance moves.  First, I want to ask for a bit of clarification as to what Drake is actually upset about in the song.

You used to call me on my cell phone
Late night when you need my love
Call me on my cell phone
Late night when you need my love
And I know when that hotline bling
That can only mean one thing
I know when that hotline bling
That can only mean one thing

Ever since I left the city,
You got a reputation for yourself now
Everybody knows and I feel left out
Girl you got me down, you got me stressed out
‘Cause ever since I left the city,
you started wearing less and goin’ out more
Glasses of champagne out on the dance floor
Hangin’ with some girls I’ve never seen before

Ok, there’s a lot here I want to unpack, but first, is Drake essentially upset because a girl he used to only talk to in the middle of the night — only talk to in order to coordinate sex, mind you, (only mean “one thing”) — is now out on the prowl herself?  Okay.  Okay, great.  So, it’s totally okay for him to only talk to her for sex (in a purely transactional matter), but it’s not okay for her to go out and get in the mix on her own.  And its especially not okay for her to hang out with girls he’s unfamiliar with.  Have I got that straight?

These days, all I do is
Wonder if you bendin’ over backwards for someone else
Wonder if you’re rollin’ up a backwoods for someone else
Doing things I taught you, gettin’ nasty for someone else
You don’t need no one else
You don’t need nobody else, no
Why you never alone
Why you always touching road
Used to always stay at home, be a good girl
You was in a zone, yeah
You should just be yourself
Right now, you’re someone else

And this person she’s “become” – it’s not really herself, because if she was being herself, she would sit at home and wait for Drake to return to town and then be available only to him, right?  Wait, sorry — only available to him in the middle of the night. Because that’s what good girls do?

Ok, glad that’s clear.  My next question is, where does a barney like Drake, who looks like the guy who would offer to do your Algebra 2 homework JUST to get your phone number, exactly get off?  I’m supposed to believe he has so much swag he’s owed this girl’s sexual freedom?  Or even receive a vote on how she should live her life?  GTFOH.  For real.

Hip-hop, this is why we are breaking up.  You used to be exciting.  You used to be soulful.  You used to be angry.  Now, you’re just….Drake-ified.  And the sexist tropes you continue to trot out make it really hard to even casually listen to you.

It’s because your words have power, even if the mouthpieces are whack as hell.  Hip-hop, think of all the people listening to you on the subway, in the car, at home.  Think of a generation of men repeating over and over to themselves that a girl isn’t a good girl unless she stays home and waits to service me sexually, on my terms.  Think of a generation of women, singing along, quasi-endorsing that this is an okay way for men to think about their sexuality.  Because when you say things, either out loud or in your mind, they affect you — your thoughts, your mood, your state of well being.  It’s not a blatant indoctrination, but it just keeps creeping in and I really think it’s affecting the way that we relate to each other, as human beings.

Now, I hear your protestations, hip-hop.  Drake isn’t all that bad!  He was on Degrassi Jr High!  He had a cute Bar Mitzvah video!  And his song isn’t that sexist!  Maybe he also realizes he is really REALLY lame and maybe there was more to the relationship than we are hearing in the song!

Okay, well, as a bookend, let’s take the other hip-hop/r&b artist in the top 5 this week on the Billboard Hot 100: The Weeknd, and his song The Hills.

I only call you when it’s half past five
The only time that I’ll be by your side
I only love it when you touch me, not feel me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me, yeah
I only fuck you when it’s half past five
The only time I’d ever call you mine
I only love it when you touch me, not feel me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me, babe

I’mma let you know and keep it simple
Tryna keep it up don’t seem so simple
I just fucked two bitches ‘fore I saw you
And you gon’ have to do it at my tempo
Always tryna send me off to rehab
Drugs started feelin’ like it’s decaf
I’m just tryna live life for the moment
And all these motherfuckers want a relapse

Full confession: yes hip-hop, I love the music the Weeknd makes — THE MUSIC.  It’s dramatic and interesting and it makes me feel like I either want to punch someone in the face or rip all their clothes off.  I fully appreciate the novel quality of his art.  It really does makes me feel something.

But these lyrics?  I can’t.  I’ve seen concert footage of Abel (The Weeknd’s government name) leading hundreds of people screaming about how they will only be calling at 5:30am, and it makes me sad.  It makes me sad to think about people walking around humming the hook — which is catchy as hell, I admit — and what that might be doing to the way they feel about their relationships.  And I’m a reasonably confident, self-assured adult — can you imagine what these words are doing to younger, more malleable minds?  Are you surprised there are sexting rings in high schools?  You shouldn’t be.  You’re only supposed to touch me, not feel me.

But wait, I hear you complaining hip-hop: isn’t this what the modern age of relationships is?  Isn’t it actually so evolved of us to liberate sex from commitment and empower everyone to do whatever we want and hook up with people at all hours of the night?  Sorry, I’m really skeptical.  While it’s a modern notion to treat sex and relationships more casually, I’d argue it’s probably less evolved.  A lot of people are unhappy, unsure and lonely — even if they are having A LOT of sex.  We haven’t figured out how to feel about these arrangements — much less how to feel GOOD about them, and so we get songs from Drake about being upset some girl isn’t willing to exclusively give him…casual sex? What?

Hip-hop, I am tired of you using sex as a commodity.  A commodity that men own and women spitefully keep from them.  A commodity that men are owed and should receive whenever they decide they want it, however they want it.  A commodity that when spent by women is magically transformed into something slutty.  How are we supposed to teach our little girls to feel good about sex — when sex is the safest and most accessible it’s ever been in human history — when Future is writing bars like “I just fucked your bitch in some Gucci flip flops”? (Side note: Which is a 10-word masterpiece of materialistic, emasculating, slut-shaming misogyny, when you think about it.) (Side note to the side note: Future, do you need a hug?)  The point is, if we keep treating sex like it’s nothing, how equipped are we to handle it when it is something?

You’ve let me down, hip-hop.  You’ve grown fat and lazy and you make me feel rotten.  Where are your songs about actually connecting with someone?  About love?  About respect?  About ANYTHING remotely happy?  Why, hip-hop, have you allowed yourself to become so one-dimensional?  And where the hell did Common go?  And while the circumstances I just described aren’t entirely your fault, hip-hop, this is a boundary I can easily draw for myself.

So, it is with regret (?) that I inform you that we are breaking up, hip-hop.  It’s not me, it’s you.

Well, it’s you and Drake.

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QC Mix VI: Wild Horses

06/11/2013 § Leave a comment

QC Mix VI: Wild HorsesWild horse roundup on Core Island, NC, 1946.

Now, just wait a cotton-picking minute.  Are you trying to tell me it’s almost been a full year since I’ve shared a playlist with you guys…and that one was CHRISTMAS MUSIC?  Horrendous.  Well, not the playlist — no one hates Christmas music! — but maaaaan do I need to get my act together.

Presenting QC Mix VI: Wild Horses — a few songs I’ve had in heavy rotation ever since fall kicked off, a season that always has a bit of contemplative melancholy about the edges.  Perhaps it’s nature’s spectacular descent into winter.  Perhaps it’s the back-to-school feeling you never really outgrow.  Whatever the case, fall has always felt like a time to ponder both endings and beginnings, which might explain the tone of this playlist.  It’s the kind of music I want to listen to on long walks or quiet evenings.  It meanders from singer-songwriter territory to rock to synth to jazz — and I hope you enjoy it.

Of special note is the appearance of my amazingly talented cousin, Ben Carroll, in this mix.  He’s just released his latest album, “Lighting Bonfires,” which was funded by a campaign on Kickstarter and is available for free download on his website.  Hop over!

Sounds of Summer: Cayucas

17/08/2013 § 1 Comment

Sounding a bit like Beck, The Beach Boys and Vampire Weekend had a baby,* Bigfoot, the most recent album by Santa Monica-based band Cayucas (formerly Oregon Bike Trails) is a sparkling bit of sunshine and has been a perfect August soundtrack.  I highly recommend giving it a listen, and if you’re in the New York area, you can catch them at the Knitting Factory on Aug 28!

*Don’t ask me how, I’m not a scientist.

Rock Solid Family Values

26/06/2013 § 1 Comment

Sandy West and parents.
Sandy West, drummer of The Runaways, backstage with her parents at a concert in
Los Angeles, California, 1977/8. Photo by Brad Elterman, found via The Rambler.

Don’t have much to say here, this picture is just rad and I had to share it with you. I’m in the wind today, but I thought I would check in with you — see how considerate I’m being!  Sidenote: Tonight I’m headed to see a couple of great bands at Brooklyn Bowl: The Dough Rollers and Brothers.  So if you fancy a bit of rock ‘n roll (see? see how I did that? amazing.) tonight, drop by!  Tickets available here.

Brothers, “Virginia”

Sounds of Summer: Rhye

15/06/2013 § Leave a comment

Rhye: Woman

I’m a fool for that shake in your thighs
I’m a fool for that sound in your sighs
I’m a fool for your belly
I’m a fool for you love

I wanna make this plain
Oh, I know your faded
Mm, but stay, don’t close your eyes
I wanna make this plain
Oh, I know your faded
Mm, but stay, don’t close your eyes

I’ll admit that Rhye had me going from the opening notes of “Open,” the song you see excerpted above, but when I got down deeper into the honesty of the lyrics and the simplicity of the soul music this Canadian and Danish duo who are currently based in LA.  For me, Rhye takes the best parts of R&B and soul, mixes it with a bit of down-tempo house and creates a sound that at once reminds me of the West Coast, but also something a bit more cinematic.  It’s on heavy rotation lately, and if you have Spotify, give it a try via the player below or this link.

What are you listening to lately?  Would love your recommendations!

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 7 – Listen to Records

07/02/2013 § 2 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

QC Charm School: Listen to RecordsHeavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis listening to a Victrola, 1940.
Taken by William C. Shrout for Life Magazine.

Day 7: Listen to Records
Growing up, I can distinctly remember my parents’ fancy stereo system.  It seems funny to think of its individual units and its cabinet with the glass door where it resided, especially when I consider the way we generally experience music today: increasingly smaller and usually on the go.  It’s somewhat akin to the difference between an iPad and those old computers that used to take up an entire room.  The turntable had a place of honor, atop a special sliding shelf so you could pull out the unit, lift the glass lid and play a record.  It also had its own special accessories, my favorite item being the little wooden handled record brush that looked like a chalkboard eraser.  Records were special.  We kids weren’t allowed to touch the stereo, but we were especially not allowed to take the records out of their protective cardboard sleeves.  Even the records that were bought for us!

I may be dating myself here, but my very first “real” stereo also had a turntable, accessible through a lid on the top, along with a double tape deck and a radio.  At the time, I had plenty of cassettes, but I didn’t have a record collection.  I regarded it as something of a non-essential additional feature until my father discovered an old cache of his records and my mother’s 45s in the garage.  From my mother I got Motown, from my father I got the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and the Doors.  The 12 year-old me was in heaven.

While music recording has no doubt become cleaner and amplification systems have become more refined, there is something irresistible about the sound of a needle being placed on a record — that crackling white noise is almost like a drum roll for whatever aural delight is about to come next.  For today’s lesson, I’d like to suggest that you to round up a few albums and spend some time like Joe in the picture above.  Today I still have a small collection, consisting mostly of classic jazz singers and a bit of Maria Callas.  Spending an evening with them instantly transports me to another time.  Nothing else really compares, not even mp3 recordings of records.  You have to enjoy that unmistakeable sound of the turntable live — just don’t forget your record brush.

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Mix V: Let It Snow

19/12/2012 § 2 Comments

Dean Martin & Frank Sinatra.Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra with their daughters Gail and Nancy, 1967.

I will admit that I am something of a closet Christmas music listener, but only of a very specific type of Christmas music.  Mostly, they have to be the kind of songs that I can picture Dean Martin singing, while he leans over the back of an upright piano with holiday cocktail in hand (and any exceptions to this rule are simply for nostalgia’s sake).  So I’ve thrown together a little holiday playlist on Spotify for you that features Dino, Frank, Sammy, Ella, Bing, Nat, as well as a few newer selections that just felt right.  I hope you enjoy it.  You can access it via the player above or this link.

You can also find my previous playlists here.

Girlcrush || Solange in South Africa

13/12/2012 § 1 Comment

solange.

When it comes to the Knowles sisters, it shouldn’t surprise you that I’ve been a fan of big sister Beyoncé from the very start.  You just knew that those other – and oft rotated – Destiny’s Children weren’t long for this world, that B was itching for her Diana Ross moment in the spotlight.  Now, I definitely love me some divas, but you have to admit that there’s something sort of conventional (and maybe even a bit boring) about the establishment: big hair, red carpet beauty, belted ballads, an affinity for sparkles, etc.

Which is why I think Solange, the younger Knowles, is so much more interesting.  A frequent experimenter with her own personal style and something of a slowly burning girlcrush, Solange has officially evolved into the Knowles sister I’d much rather hang with.  She pretty much sealed the deal with her video for “Losing You,” which was brought to my attention by a good friend who noted that Solange appeared to be channeling me.  Shot in Cape Town, featuring some very dandy Sapeurs (an interesting group of men I mentioned awhile back), as well as a wardrobe that you know I fell in love with immediately, the synth-y groove of the song is almost like an added bonus.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Video directed by Melina Matsoukas.
Photo taken by Daniele Tamagni, via Pitchfork.

Quite Continental Mix IV: Daddy’s Girl

23/10/2012 § Leave a comment

As long as I can remember, my father has always had a guitar in the house.  A member of a garage band when he met my mother, he’d frequently pick at his pretty Guild with its sunburst finish while we watched television that he wasn’t all that interested in, giving our TGIF sitcoms a folksy soundtrack (which we loudly complained about).  But when I was about 13, I decided that I wanted to learn how to play the guitar, too.  My father, delighted, promptly bought me a classical guitar of my own, showed me a few chords and then gave me all of the dog-eared songbooks he had: Crosby, Stills and Nash, The Eagles, Simon & Garfunkel, etc.

Ultimately, the guitar didn’t take, but the music definitely did.  And this fall, I’ve been surrounding myself with the kind of music that reminds me of my Dad — rock with notes of folk and country, singer-songwriters with distinctively smoky voices, and more than a little melancholy.  I’ve even included the first song that my Dad tried to teach me on my guitar: “Helplessly Hoping” by Crosby, Stills and Nash.  Also featuring Dan Auerbach, The Allman Brothers Band, Ray LeMontagne, Ryan Bingham, The Avett Brothers, and The Head And The Heart, among others, it’s just as good for pensive drives in the country to look at the turning foliage, as it is for Sunday mornings with a steaming hot cup of coffee and a big fat newspaper or two.  I hope you enjoy it.

You can find it via the player embedded above or via this link.

Image via the US National Archives.

Throwback Thursday || Autumn in New York

11/10/2012 § 1 Comment

Holy smokes!  Where’ve ya been, kid?

Guilty as charged!  I’ve definitely been quiet this week, and I’ve got to chalk it up to autumn in New York, which is quietly unfurling its beautiful self with cool evenings, hot toddys, falling leaves and flannel bathrobes.  I’ve slipped down a few rabbit holes these last few days, of the cultural, literary, culinary, musical, and cinematic kind, which I am looking forward to sharing with you very soon.  But today, I am forced to beg your forgiveness for being a wayward parent as of late.  I’m hoping a gorgeous rendition of Autumn in New York by Sarah Vaughn might help me win you back…

Autumn in New York
Why does it seem so inviting
Autumn in New York
It spells the thrill of first-nighting

Glittering crowds and shimmering clouds
In canyons of steel
They’re making me feel
I’m home

It’s autumn in New York
That brings the promise of new love
Autumn in New York
Is often mingled with pain

Dreamers with empty hands
May sigh for exotic lands
It’s autumn in New York
It’s good to live it again

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