Monday Morning Bullets

Here goes:

  • Last week, I was listening to NPR on my drive home and heard Michelle (say it with me, now Meeee-shell) Norris’ description of FLOTUS, Michelle Obama’s trip to South Africa.  During her introduction, Norris was sure to mention that the FLOTUS danced with some South African kids.

Did Michelle O’s Dougie spark a minor obsession with her dance moves?  There’s a partial list of news sources discussing FLOTUS dancing here.  I think this is something worth keeping an eye on.  Viral videos of the FLOTUS cutting a rug inevitably raise questions about black spectacle, white consumption, and also about the relatability/likeability of our head(s) of state and his family.  It’s complicated, a very thin line, but worthy of unpacking.

Now, if FLOTUS does The Percolator and/or engages in a footworking contest with Chicago Bulls star, Derrick Rose, let me know, because I will want to see that.

The Weeknd's "House of Balloons": THE REVIEW

You can tell a genre of music is dying when a) it gives too much of itself away to a radio-ready pop sound, and b) it becomes artistically stagnant, with too few of its practitioners willing (or able) to innovate and move the genre forward. With Usher’s lowest-common-denominator Pop&B, as well as Chris Brown’s douchbaggery and Trey Songz’s utter mediocrity dominating the charts, R&B music has certainly been sliding in that general direction over the past few years. These guys can dance and sing (or whine) with the best of them, but their music is just formulaic, thematically bland, and entirely missing any kind of edge whatsoever. Too much watered-down Michael Jackson and not nearly enough Prince, in a nutshell.

Maybe these R&B cats thought they were safe from the kind of utter embarrassment and panic OFWGKTA is inflicting on Hip Hop’s many phony, undercover pop stars. No such luck, sorry. Allow me to introduce you to The Weeknd’s House of Balloons.

Say hello to the dark, smoldering future of Rhythm and Blues.

First Posthumous Michael Jackson Album Gets A Release Date! (and controversy ensues….)

Just over a year after his tragic and untimely death, the King of Pop is back (from the grave) with a brand new album, just in time for Christmas.

A new album from Michael Jackson, entitled Michael (cover art is to your left), will be released on December 14, in the very heart of holiday shopping season. In other words, expect massive sales.

But that’s not all folks; it has been revealed that the album’s first single, “Breaking News,” will have its worldwide premiere this Monday at Jackson’s official website.

Holy shit.

Michael Forever

Earlier this summer, I’d gone to my local Walgreens to satisfy a craving for peanut M&Ms.  As I stood in the candy aisle deciding just how big of a bag I should purchase, a woman and her two small children joined me in the aisle.  The mother stood there looking over the sale items as her two kids, a girl and a boy, argued over candy.  Then, the young one, the boy, suddenly walked towards the magazine rack, and pointed to a picture of Michael Jackson.  He screamed, “Michael Jackson!  Michael Jackson,”  then pursed his lips, started loudly breathing through his mouth, and began what must have been his version of dancing like Mike.

Now, this little boy couldn’t have been more than three.  There’s no way that he could remember Michael the way that you and I remember Michael. Yet he shared such a pure enthusiasm for the MJJ, such a love that I couldn’t do anything but smile at him and think about the ways that Michael continues to live and touch lives.  Little boys rocking out at the sight of Michael Jackson on a magazine cover is exactly what legends are made of. 

On Chris Brown–or Something

It’s a federal holiday.  Which probably means most of you have not just settled into your cubicle to read my Monday morning message.  Not that anyone would actually be reading this if they were at work this morning, but at least I have a legitimate reason–and a federally recognized one–to be ignored.  Initially, I had planned on using this morning’s blog to declare my independence from a variety of things: the NBA free agency conversation, graduate school, Blizzards.  But I realized that recently I’ve been taking this space to list things.  And frankly, I’d be back in line at the Dairy Queen before you could say Benedict Arnold.  So why bother using holiday blog time to reset some of my New Year’s resolutions?

Michael Jackson's "Off The Wall": A Review

A year ago today, the world lost Michael Jackson, undoubtedly the greatest entertainer of the 20th Century (sorry Elvis!). The ascendance of the King of Pop during the early 1980’s represents quite possibly the most mindboggling, immense shift the American (or World) pop cultural landscape has ever seen. At one point in time Thriller was literally selling a million copies a week; music videos for “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” and of course “Thriller” were first-of-their-kind media events, ushering in an MTV-led, visual era in the music industry that we are just now starting to see come to a close. Arguably most importantly though were the racial barriers Michael quite literally shattered. No black artist had ever achieved anything that even approached the kind of crossover success Michael enjoyed with Thriller. The world would never be the same.

Of course, the most successful artist of all time also faced the harshest, most-widespread backlash in the history of popular music as well. And so we could spend all day ruminating over the brutal treatment of Michael Jackson during his life, his strange behavior, or the morbid fascination with his death and sheer opportunism we’ve witnessed since his passing. But I’d rather talk about the music. That is the man’s truly lasting legacy; everything else is really just scenery.

So on the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson, my aim is to move beyond the myths and the scandals by focusing on an album unfettered by the weight of MJ’s incredible celebrity or incredulous detractors; Michael Jackson’s seminal 1979 album, Off The Wall.

Remembering Michael Jackson: Has it been a Year?


I wrote this blog literally a year ago today. It was not a published blog because the Black Youth Project had yet to premier online. Well, I think my thoughts a year ago still resonate today as we honor Michael Jackson’s memory. The title of the blog is, “The Feasting of Michael Jackson’s Flesh: How Do We Honor the Dead?”


I am deeply troubled by the buffoonery of the 2009 Black Entertainment Television Award Show where “blackness” guaranteed BET’s ownership of honoring Michael J. Jackson’s life. Of course, there is an endless laundry list of technical, sexist, homophobic, and simply tone death performances that I could blog about. However, the most compelling issue for me is that we witnessed consumption at “it’s finest” where Jamie Foxx unabashedly highlighted his many upcoming projects and the beauty of his voice, where every five seconds large digital placards of sponsorship appeared before our eyes beseeching us to buy their wares, where Joe Jackson plugs the revival of his singing career, where the infamous golden arches tell our children that they should dream of working at McDonald’s when they “become big kids,” and where we the viewing public further the cannibalization process of Michael Jackson by not turning our televisions off in righteous indignation because consciously or unconsciously we enjoy the thrill of consuming flesh . . . the gossip, the speculations, the betrayals, the “sins,” and yes “if it bleeds then it leads” or in the case of the BET Award Show if it stereotypes black people then it sales.

Janelle Monae's "The ArchAndroid": A STAR IS BORN

Combining the fearlessly experimental, quirky soul disposition of Erykah Badu, the Afro-futurist bent of Parliament/Funkadelic and OutKast, along with a complete mastery of an indefinable, genre-jumping form of pop music (ala Prince, Michael Jackson), Janelle Monae’s The ArchAndroid will at the very least impress the hell out of you.

Clocking it at about 70 minutes, and pulling from practically every and any genre you can imagine, what is initially stunning about Monae is how capably she bends and contorts her voice and persona into such varied musical settings, and yet crafts an album that is cohesive and meticulously organized. The ArchAndroid is a sprawling, jaw-droppingly fresh and relevant debut album from a young artist possessed with an intense reverence for her pop and soul forbearers, as well as the kind of raw talent, charisma and ambition that may see her reach those same heights one day.

It’s hard to call something an instant classic when it’s only been out for a week. But fuck it, I’m calling it now: Janelle Monae’s The ArchAndroid is an instant classic, and I am almost sure that it will be massively influential on the future of popular music.

From Arizona to South Africa: Is there Hope in the World?


Revolution begins with the self, in the self.
Toni Cade Bambara

Given the last six months world events—massive earthquake in Haiti, flooding in Nashville, killings in Palestine and Thailand, corrective rapes of lesbians in South Africa, Arizona legalized racial profiling law, oil spill that will forever effect the Gulf Coast, the lies about governmental accountability from Toyota to the Banking system, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan Tea Party embodied in Rand Paul—one wonders is there hope in the world. Is there ever a time when justice, fairness, and love reigns supreme?

I ask this because right now I feel overwhelmed by all the injustices in the world. My heart weeps. I desperately need to know that change can happen. Not the type of change that jingles in your pocket or the type of change President Obama promised, but I am talking about the type of change that Gandhi and other spiritual leaders speak of . . . a world of peace . . . a world of hope . . . a world that cherish differences . . . a world that does not colonize and enslave with market ideas . . . a world free of oppression. I like trees who need soil to grow need to know that the world can change and that there is hope . . . hope in this godforsaken world of ours.