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.

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

Throwback Thursday || Stormy Weather

04/10/2012 § 1 Comment

  With today’s gloomy weather in New York, this seemed positively apropos…
As sung by Lena Horne in the 1943 film by the same name.
For more of the beautiful Miss Lena, head here.

Travelin’ Man: Ricky Nelson Tours America

04/04/2012 § 2 Comments

Interestingly, Ricky Nelson was one of my earliest crushes, due to a Nick At Nite childhood spent watching Donna Reed, My Three Sons and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which Ricky starred on with real-life parents Ozzie and Harriet and brother David from 1952 to 1966.  With its 14 seasons, the show remains the longest-running live action sitcom in history to this day.

Sidenote 1: I’d say my crush was “interesting” mainly because Ricky was dead by the time I fell in love with him.  He died in a plane crash in Texas in 1985.

Sidenote 2: When did Nick At Nite cease actually being Nickelodeon at night and start being its own channel?  And why do they now play shows like Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond and not the classic television they used to play? What the Hell! Who approved this?!

Contrary to his wholesome on-screen persona, Ricky was a bit of a hellcat growing up.  He also didn’t have much musical instruction or knowledge until he was 16, when he simply decided he’d like to make a record.  His father indulged him and Ricky’s music became a part of the family show, starting with his performance of the Fats Domino song I’m Walking in 1957, when he was 17.

The best part might be his dance moves.

An early archetype for what would become the modern teen idol, Ricky’s exposure through his music and the Ozzie and Harriet show caused his popularity to surge — between the years of 1958 and 1959 he charted twelve songs, compared to Elvis Presley’s eleven.  He also holds he distinction for achieving the first ever #1 on the newly-created Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1958 for his performance of Poor Little Fool  — a song he actually hated and refused to perform on the show.

  Poor Little Fool: #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1958

  Travelin’ Man: #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961

Hello Mary Lou: #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961.  Ricky actually preferred to play rockabilly songs like Hello Mary Lou, despite the success he had with ballads.

After an abbreviated tour in 1957, Ricky launched a full tour across America in 1958.  Life Magazine sent photographers Ralph Crane and Hank Walker along for the ride to capture the madness, which they did fantastically.  I did include quite a few, I hope you don’t mind.  Obviously I still have a crush.

Fun bit of trivia: the Nelsons are the only family in history to have three generations of #1 hitmakers.  The Ozzie Nelson Orchestra hit number 1 in 1935 with And Then Some, Ricky had his string of hits, and Ricky’s twin sons Matthew and Gunnar, better known as Nelson, hit it in 1990 with (I Can’t Live Without) Your Love and Affection

Sidenote: Would you be very surprised to learn I also nursed a serious crush on Ricky’s sons, they of streaming, flaxen hair, man bangs, exceptionally tight pants and an amazing/ridiculous video for their #6 hit After The Rain?  I suppose my only defense is that it was the 90s, and I was very very very young, after all…

All images via the Life Archive.

A Girl’s New Best Friend

09/02/2012 § 4 Comments

I wonder if anyone uses their Apple TV to watch as many classic films as I do.
Doubtful.

After much deliberation, I finally purchased the Apple TV receiver from the sparkling new Apple Store in Grand Central two weeks ago.  Initially a bit daunted by the tiny black box, its attendant cords and its installation, I was quite pleased to find the process a breeze.  After five minutes of plugging things in and hiding the cords away and two minutes of linking my router and entering my Netflix information, I was streaming media like none other.  A minute after that I blew my own mind when I figured out how to find my iTunes account on my laptop.  It was like a real-life Minority Report!  Ok, not really — but I was rather pleased with myself.

I have been running through the classic films on the instant streaming service of Netflix ever since, which is only $8/month.  My one complaint, if I must have one, is that specific artists can be difficult to find if you can’t guess (or don’t know) the name of one of their films that Netflix has available to stream.  You can’t simply search by actor or director name.  Now departing from my soapbox.  Overall, I highly recommend Apple TV.  It’s kind of amazing.

I recently spent an evening revisiting one of my very favorite films — which also happens the inspiration source for the name of this blog, in fact.  If you have never seen the Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), I will pause for a moment for you to drop absolutely everything you are doing and go watch it.  No, really.  I’ll wait.  Most famous of course for the iconic musical number “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” the film is a madcap romp detailing the adventures of two best friends as they search for suitable mates with suitably fat wallets.  Both actresses are at their archetypal best: Monroe as the ditzy blonde, Russell as the wisecracking brunette.

It’s kind of amazing how every time I watch Marilyn, I discover again how damned talented the woman was.  When made the transition from actor to icon, it became so easy to reduce her to representative symbols: her blonde hair, the billowing white dress, her beauty mark, her voice.  In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes you get to enjoy all that Marilyn has to offer: her spot-on comic timing, her lovely dancing and her singing (mostly, she got a little help on some songs).  It really is no wonder Marilyn’s performance has inspired so many homages, and that none really come close to touching the original.  Even if I do enjoy watching Nate, Dan and Chuck attempt choreography.

The original, 1953.

Madonna, Material Girl, 1985.

Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge, 2001.

Blake Lively for Gossip Girl, 2012.

Also charming is “Two Little Girls from Little Rock.”

Images via Life Archives.

As I visit with old favorites and make new discoveries (Gregory Peck in Twelve O’Clock High was a revelation!) I can’t help but find it a bit humorous that I’ve taken what is the probably one of the most modern ways to consume media and have turned it into a time machine into the past.  Humorous, but not surprising.  In any event, if you like classic films as much as I do, the winning combination of Apple TV and Netflix instant will be your new Best Friend.

But of course I still like diamonds.

LIFE Archives: Glenn Miller {A Nightingale Sang…}

02/09/2011 § 1 Comment

Do you recall I went to Sleep No More a few months ago?  I noted that the production’s music was an interesting oeuvre, spanning decades and genres — but there was one song that I liked most of all, a jazz standard written in 1939 called “A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square.”  About a magical night spent falling in love, this song has been sung by many, but the version I prefer — and the version used in Sleep No More — is by the Glenn Miller Orchestra.


Isn’t it just gorgeous…?

While I was familiar with a number of Glenn Miller Orchestra classics — Chattanooga Choo Choo, In the Mood, Moonlight Serenade, among others — I realized I actually did not know all that much about Glenn Miller himself, and upon a quick LIFE Archive search (which has been down for ages, praise Google for finally fixing the bug!), I turned up a batch of great photos of the band leader and band performing for US troops in Connecticut in 1943.

Between the years of 1939 and 1942, the Glenn Miller Orchestra had 70 — count ’em, seven-zero — top ten hits.  The Orchestra also had its own CBS radio show and appeared in feature films.  Most amazing though, was to find out that in 1942, at the height of popularity, Glenn Miller disbanded the Orchestra so that he could serve his country — musically, of course — in World War II.  Too old to be drafted, Miller joined the US Army Air Force, conducted and modernized army bands and eventually formed the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band.  On December 15, 1944 Miller boarded a Paris-bound plane in order to make performance arrangements for the band.  Tragically, Miller’s plane disappeared somewhere over the English Channel and was never found.

Miller’s story was made into a film in 1954, starring James Stewart.

Ladies watching “The Glenn Miller Story” in the theatre, 1954.

New to Glenn Miller?  This album has all the classics — a great starter.

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