The Help

This weekend, I saw the much criticized/acclaimed movie The Help. I had planned to keep this a secret, to never tell a soul, and pretend this never happened. But, I wanted to have an opinion about the movie so I bought a ticket to The Smurfs and saw The Help instead (I wanted to see it, but not support it). I refrained from reading any reviews, or any synopses of the book or the film. I wanted to go in with an open mind, and an open heart. But I couldn’t.

Something just wasn’t right. From the moment I first saw the preview, to the moment I walked past the movie poster on my way into the theater. I knew that something wasn’t right. I have slowly begun to build defenses against the biased, narrow and sometimes problematic ways Black women are portrayed in the media but I wasn’t ready for this.

Is Nicki Minaj In An Abusive Relationship?

These days, it seems like all Nicki Minaj does is win, win, win.

Pink Friday is still selling like hot cakes, “Super Bass” is currently the number 3 song on the Hot 100 chart, and (by most accounts) she nailed her supporting slot on Britney Spears’ massively successful Femme Fatale Tour. Even today, news broke that Nicki has signed on to provide vocals for a character in the upcoming animated flick “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” alongside Jennifer Lopez, Joy Behar and Young Money cohort Drake.

Nicki Minaj is the definition of a rising star right now. And that’s only made the persistent rumors regarding a violent, July 12th confrontation with (alleged) boyfriend Safaree all the more disturbing and distressing.

Nicki has denied repeatedly that any abuse occurred. But a 9-1-1 tape that leaked yesterday tells a very different story.

The Era-Defining Legacy of Amy Winehouse

At this stage in the game, it’s really impossible to know the true nature of Amy Winehouse’s legacy. This kind of thing becomes clear with time and distance.
 
It might be easy to compare her with other beloved singers that left us too soon, like Billie Holiday or Sam Cooke. And perhaps we’ll position her alongside her cohorts in the 27 Club, like Janis Joplin or Kurt Cobain. To be clear, I’m almost certain Amy will be looked upon with similar admiration and awe; her voice, style and songwriting were unmatched by anyone else of her generation.
 
But its important to recognize that we experienced Amy in a very different way. There are no youtube videos of Kurt Cobain shooting up heroin. There is very little footage of Jim Morrison’s many disastrous concert meltdowns. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix had more than a few nights out on the town drunk and high. But the paparazzi didn’t follow their every move, and random onlookers weren’t armed with camera phones in the late 60’s. 
 
Yes, Amy Winehouse’s legacy will be very different from theirs because her many highs and lows were witnessed en masse, in real time, via. youtube, tabloids and blogs. We saw practically every moment of it. For better or for worse. And though it may be difficult to admit, there is just no way this won’t influence the way we perceive her life and work.

A Black Woman's Hairstory

A Black woman’s hair is much more than just hair. It can be a source of pride, a source of frustration, a political statement, or a fashion statement. Sometimes it is all of these things at once. From spending weekend mornings at our mothers knees getting pressed, braided, plaited and greased to all day jaunts to the beauty salon, our hair’s importance is instilled in us at an early age. Most Black women work meticulously to maintain their hair, whether it is bone-straight, wavy, curly, kinky, platinum blond, bubblegum pink, or jet black. Some of us have tested every serum, oil and cream in stock at our local beauty supply stores, drugstores and our favorite online boutiques.

From a young age, our tresses are pressed, pulled, slicked and relaxed into submission. These practices are damaging, and not just to our hair but to our psyches. Our hair is taught to suffer in silence, and in a way, so are we. The idea that straight is good is burned into most young black girls from the start. I can’t count the number of times my mother, grandmother or aunt said, “Girl, come here let me do something to that nappy hair” or the number of times I was told how pretty my hair was once it was properly straightened.

The message was clear, straight hair was pretty hair and “nappy” hair was…bad hair.

Does It Matter If Beyonce's 4 Flops?

Beyonce’s phenomenal new album 4 was released this past Tuesday to great critical acclaim, receiving an aggregate score of 72 on Metacritic.com.

Village Voice said “Beyonce’s art is delivery, and 4 is a gorgeous frame for her voice at its absolute best.” Meanwhile, the BBC proclaimed “Beyoncé slips from flirty to fragile to fabulous, and is in terrific voice throughout, reminding us that when she opens up there’s no-one else in the game.” And even the ever-thorny, hipsterrific Pitchfork Media thinks Beyonce’s the shit, explaining “The lion’s share of the album–along with its excellent deluxe tracks–has one of the world’s biggest stars exploring her talent in ways few could’ve predicted …”

So why is 4 already being called a flop? And should that matter?

Well this is awkward…

Sunday night a two-hour Chris Brown commercial the BET Awards happened. Despite a comical performance from Kevin Hart, the most memorable moment of the show was the slip-up of the fan chosen to present the Viewers Choice Award. Rocsi and Terrance (there to provide moral support in what can be a nerve wracking moment), were worthless. Terrance, Captain Obvious, announced, in the middle of the awkward moment, “This is awkward.” No shit, Sherlock. That poor girl had her moment shitted on by BET’s continued incompetence.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-JdL8XG138&feature=player_embedded

And that wasn’t even the saddest moment of the show. The darkest moment of the show was the Best Female Hip-Hop Artist category. And the nominees were: Nicki Minaj (the eventual winner), Diamond, Cymphonique (Lil Romeo might’ve made more sense), and Lola Monroe (yeah).

No, you actually need more people.

An Open Letter To Chris Brown

Dear Chris Brown,

I get it. The public eye isn’t always fun. People watch every move you make. They scrutinize your every word.

You’re only 22 years old. Everyone makes mistakes. I get it.

But here’s the problem. Back in February of 2009, you left your then-girlfriend Rihanna bloodied and beaten on the side of the road.

That was a really, really big mistake, Chris. On many levels.

Beyonce's "4": THE REVIEW

It’s always dangerous when an artist has nothing left to prove.

But after winning 16 Grammy Awards, selling 75 million records worldwide, and inspiring an entire generation of female (and male) artists with her intoxicating brand of 70’s soul-meets-Hip Hop Pop, Beyonce has every right not to.

So what is initially so stunning about 4 is that it does not reflect an artist resting on her laurels. Beyonce has made the ballsy choice to push forward, to reach higher. It may not result in the number one hits and platinum plaques she (still) deserves, but she’s got enough of those.

4 is what happens when a great artist has nothing left to prove. And it is a stunning album.

Rihanna's "Man Down" Video, and the Irrelevance of the Parents Television Council

A couple days ago, Rihanna released the music video for her latest single, “Man Down,” a pop-reggae song that tells the story of a young woman’s guilt and regret after murdering a man that deeply wronged her. Check out the video below.

The cinematic clip fleshes out the song’s storyline, conveying that the root of her actions is a harrowing sexual assault in an alley after a house party. The video is expertly directed and paced for maximum impact; Rihanna is effervescent and gorgeous, interacting with friends and neighbors in her small, island town. She is innocently enjoying her life until tragedy literally emerges from out of the darkness and forces itself upon her, utterly breaking her spirit.

“Man Down” is a heartbreaking, complicated and brilliant music video.

And so of course the Parents Television Council and other useless, opportunistic, media-watchdog groups are “pissed.” Go figure.

Lady Gaga's "Born This Way": The Review

Lady Gaga’s second full-length album Born This Way opens with “Marry The Night,” one of the most epic pop songs you will ever hear. Clearly aimed to kickstart the album with the kind of massive statement MJ nailed with Thiller‘s ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Something,” “Marry The Night” opens with somber church organ and decidedly pensive vocals before erupting into a blast of synths, and never lets up. It sounds like classic Whitney Houston produced by Max Martin, and it is arguably the best song Lady Gaga has ever released. It’s that good.

Born This Way should crumble under the weight of such a masterful opening salvo (not to mention unbelievable hype), but it doesn’t. Not by a long shot.