Remember when Rutgers University offered a class on the theology of Bruce Springsteen? That was pretty wild, right? Well now the university that brought you insight into the Boss is giving interested students the chance to dissect “American race, gender and sexual politics” through Beyoncé’s music and unfolding career.
“This isn’t a course about Beyoncé’s political engagement or how many times she performed during President Obama‘s inauguration weekend,” explains Kevin Allred, the Ph.D student who will be teaching the class. The course will take a look at music videos, lyrics, and the strategy behind Beyoncé’s portrayal of her music. “It’s important to shift students away from simply being consumers of media toward thinking more critically about what they’re engaging on a regular basis.” Allred said.
In what seems to be a new trend, the school will also offer a course for Jay-Z fanatics titled, “The Sociology of Hip-Hop: The Theodicy of Jay-Z.”
I feel like I might still be watching the Grammys. Is it still on? I can no longer distinguish the Grammys from reality. It was so long that the much-hyped finale, featuring Dave Grohl, Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails, and Fleetwood Mac‘s Lindsey Buckingham, was like a minute in when the producers lowered the curtain in the form of promo ads for Delta and Hilton before running the credits and then just cutting out entirely. That was ridiculous, especially for those of us who hung in, thinking, ‘well, at least there’s still the finale to see.’
Do you know how many awards they give out during the telecast? I think it was fewer than 10. And it took them just under four hours to do it. YOU ARE OVERBOOKING, GRAMMYS.
There were a lot of performances, but the standouts alone would have sufficed. For my money, they were:
1. Daft Punk with Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers, and Stevie Wonder, “Get Lucky.” In addition to the quality performance (Stevie Wonder should guest on all songs by all artists from now on), they had easily the best stage set in, I believe, Grammy history. It was a sick-looking ’70s-era recording studio, in which the robot duo appeared from behind the control room glass. Inspired.
2. Imagine Dragons with Kendrick Lamar, “MADD City/Radioactive.” It’s easy to imagine dragons while listening to this band, cause you’re usually asleep and dreaming 20 seconds in. But with Kendrick Lamar to fire things up, this was a blistering co-performance.
3. Beyonce with Jay Z, “Drunk In Love.” No surprise here, this was a solid show-opener.
4. Sara Bareilles and Carole King, “Beautiful/Brave.” With a simple dueling piano setup, these two harmonized beautifully on a mashup of their two songs. Carole King continues to prove that she’s still a musical force, after over 50 years in the business.
Other: Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr reunited on a new Macca song “Queenie Eye,” which is hardly the best song on his new album. Ringo played drums alongside Paul’s (amazing) drummer Abe Laboriel, so it was really more of a photo-op than anything else. The way it’s been hyped, you’d think these guys haven’t played live together since 1970, but they have performed together several times over the years. Ringo also performed his ’70s hit “Photograph” (a nice plug for his new photobook), befuddling teenagers everywhere.
Kacey Musgraves performed her hit “Follow Your Arrow” as though she were at the Grand Ole Opry circa 1983, complete with light-up boots and shirts and neon cacti. I thought it was actually kind of a cool throwback, considering what popular country music has become. To wit, she beat Taylor Swift, who hasn’t actually released a country album since she was like 15, for Country Album of the Year.
Gary Clark Jr. and Keith Urban – this was nothing special musically, except that they are both great guitarists and each injected some much needed, old fashioned guitar soloing into the proceedings.
Okay, we’ve got to at least mention this Beyonce-NASA beef.
Beyonce’s new release, her self-titled “visual album,” includes a song called “XO,” which incorporates audio from a NASA spokesman speaking directly after the devastating 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, in which the shuttle exploded shortly after liftoff, killing all seven people onboard.
In the sample, which starts the song, NASA public affairs officer Steve Nesbitt says, “Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation…Obviously a major malfunction.”
Both NASA and representatives of the astronauts’ families have been highly critical of the use of the sample.
“We were disappointed to learn that an audio clip from the day we lost our heroic Challenger crew was used in the song ‘XO,’” said June Scobee Rodgers, widow of Challenger Space Shuttle CommanderDick Scobee. “The moment included in this song is an emotionally difficult one for the Challenger families, colleagues and friends. We have always chosen to focus not on how our loved ones were lost, but rather on how they lived and how their legacy lives on today.” Continue reading ‘Beyonce’s “XO” And The Challenger Disaster’
About a month ago, after One Direction dropped theirlatest release, Midnight Memories,most reviewers couldn’t help but point out the album’s shameless knock-offs of some of the biggest pop hits of the ’80s including “Jessie’s Girl,”“Pour Some Sugar On Me,” and pretty much any song by Asia, just to name a few. And, yes, while the songwriters behind the squeaky clean boy band’s smash singles make their musical points of reference pretty obvious to any listener older than 12, they also manage to pull off some patently ingenious lyrical references that slipped by most recaps of the album – mostly because that was precisely what they were designed to do.
Upon a first listen, the first verse of “Better Than Words” sounds like pretty standard fare for a One Direction song: a just-generic-enough description of crazy, undeniable love that sweeps you up in its whirlwind of affection and excitement.
Better than words But more than a feeling Crazy in love Dancing on the ceiling
To be clear, this is not really about Beyoncé’s new album. It’s not about her incorporation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s feminist TED Talk on the track “Flawless.” It’s not about her anti-marketing strategy. And it’s definitely not about judging whether the music is “overrated” or not.
Because beyond any of the numerous aspects of the album’s production that Beyoncé had under her control – the probably insane non-disclosure agreements regarding the album’s release, the video treatments, the feminist lyrics, the genre-spanning production – what is just as fascinating about the new album are Beyoncé’s fans reactions to it, and the repeated hyperbole that they use when they talk about her, especially in contrast to their own lives.
It isn’t news to anybody that Beyoncé’s fans elevate her to the level of royalty, and, most of the time, to the level of a goddess. It’s become just as commonplace for the casual fan to refer to Beyoncé as “Queen Bey” as it has for some of the press’ most respected music critics. But if you comb through enough tweets and status updates about Beyoncé, you’ll see another interesting trend: that, in their veneration, her fans repeatedly tend to openly highlight their own supposed personal insignificance and lack of achievement to the pop queen’s grandiose accomplishments.
Here are some anonymous Beyoncé-related samples from the recent Twitter archives:
“I can barely make my bed in the morning. @beyonce is on a world tour and puts out an album and a shit ton of videos. what am i doing?”
“Beyoncé made more money in the past hour than I have in my whole life.”
“I don’t want to sound like a crazy stan, but listening to Beyonce’s new album is why we were put on this earth”
“Let it sink in that 2-year-old Blue Ivy Carter already has a verse on a Beyonce song, once again proving she is more powerful than us all.”
We’ll have more on Beyonce‘s surprise self-titled LP later this week, but Billboard is reporting big numbers and predicting bigger – speculating that this will be 2013′s biggest debut by a female artist.
Beyonce debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200. Three factors to consider: first, the album is available exclusively through the iTunes Store until December 20th. This could be seen as hampering what might be even larger sales, but at the same time carries a unique exclusivity to offset that challenge. Second, there are no singles available for purchase as yet – you must buy the whole record. This would obviously contribute to larger LP sales numbers. Finally, the “visual album” comes with 18 music videos, a bonus at the average cost of an album, $15.99.
For comparison, the second biggest female debut was Katy Perry‘s Prism, at 286K in its first week.
Christmas came a little early this year for Beyoncé fans. Dropping her self-titled fifth album exclusively through iTunes this morning, Beyoncé says about the surprise 14-track album, “I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it. I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There’s so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans. I felt like I didn’t want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready and from me to my fans.”
The album features collaborations with husband Jay-Z, Frank Ocean, Drake, and more. View the track list below. As a bonus, you can now see preview video clips of each song, uploaded by Beyoncé to YouTube. And you should, since the singer is calling this a “visual album.”
What do The Beatles, Lorde, Cher, and Lady Gaga all have in common? No, this isn’t a bad joke. In fact, it’s pretty cool. The iconic superstars will be just some of the mega-acts contributing to a new relief album for Typhoon Haiyan. Coming in at a whopping 39 tracks, Songs for the Philippines is available on iTunes, with all proceeds being donated to the Philippine Red Cross. View the track list below and donate here. Continue reading ‘Lorde, The Beatles, Lady Gaga Contribute To Philippines Relief Album’
Earlier this year, pop diva Beyonce released the hip-hop leaning single, “Bow Down/I Been On.” The song quickly made the rounds on blogs then slipped back into the ether of pop music. Bey didn’t even bring the song out on her Mrs. Carter tour….until now.
Performing in Houston on Monday night, Beyonce surprised fans by adding her trunk-rattling anthem of female dominance to her hit-littered setlist. The stage fell black, images of young Bey appeared on the screen, and then the stage lit up and all hell broke loose. Fans went wild, Beyonce and her gang of dancers jumped around in stilettos, and America’s R&B queen proved her dominance. You can view the performance here.
News that George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges related to the death of Trayvon Martin has sent ripples throughout the country. Whether you consider yourself political or not, you’ve probably found yourself pulled into a new conversation about this trial, and now that a verdict has been reached, the reactions are filling the evening news. Some have protested, others have responded with violence, and in Tennessee, Beyonce held a moment of silence while surrounded by thousands of fans.
Performing in Nashville, Tennessee’s Bridgestone Arena on Saturday (July 13) Beyonce opened her show with a brief tribute to the fallen teen. “I’d like to have a moment of silence for Trayvon,” she said, beginning her concert just 30 minutes after George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the fatal 2012 shooting. After a few beats in a quiet arena, Mrs. Carter segued into the chorus of Dolly Parton‘s “I Will Always Love You” before diving into her originally planned performance. You can view a video of the tribute below. Continue reading ‘Beyonce Holds Moment Of Silence For Trayvon Martin In Tennessee’