Posts Tagged ‘maddOriginalYo’

Salsa

I’m often told I spend far more time mocking stuff I don’t like than actually highlighting work I do enjoy. Fair point. But it’s hard to have a balance when the overwhelming majority of media output today is pure shite.

Anyway, while this is 4-month-old ad is ancient by web standards, I figured I should share it because while it may not age like fine wine, it’s like the salsa dip in my refridgerator: still pretty good four months later.

Let’s see HTML 5 do this, Steve jobs.

WATCH: And Then There Was Salsa

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Janelle on Letterman.

I’ve heard her blow better live, so I’ll blame this on network-debut jitters. Still brilliant.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And who did Letterman seem more interested in? Sigh.

The ArchAndroid

The last 12 months have seen their share of musical dick-teases — highly anticipated releases from great artists that, despite brilliant singles, leave you wanting. From Maxwell’s BLACKsummer’snight to Sade’s Solider of Love to, arguably, Erykah’s Return of the Ankh (brilliant album, just not quite as incredible as its predecessor), trusted heavy hitters have kinda failed to hit, well… heavy.

Enter Janelle Monáe Robinson, the Kansas native who may well have churned out the best album of the year so far. The ArchAndroid is an exercise in the  familiar — referential without being derivative. It starts strong with “Dance or Die”, a moody workout from the same Afro-influenced, 1980s proto-Hip-Hop realm as Busta Rhymes’ “Dangerous”. As surprisingly unsurprising as it is propulsive, it’s got to be the album’s biggeest highlight, next to “Tightrope”. Two tracks later, the Michael Jackson-inspired “Locked Inside” is introduced with a drum kick straight from “Rock With You”, and grooves with the same exuberance as the Jackson classic.

Not only would Hendrix fans feel nostalgia at tracks like “Mushrooms and Roses”, so will anyone who’s seen the “onstage art class” segment of her stage show. Also familiar to concertgoers is fellow Suite II track “Come Alive”.

Besides the Stevie-esque “Say You’ll Go”, the most eerily subtle yet uncanny references exist on “Oh Maker” and “Neon Valley Street” — records that 1998-era Lauryn Hill would want to make in 2010, right down to the melodic style and meandering vocal runs that echo Hill’s “When it Hurts So Bad”.

And that’s perhaps the most refreshing thing about this album — its contradictions. Yes, she references the greats, but she does so as a truly accomplished student of music — nothing like that damn Keys, who copies off old term papers and gets an A every year because she looks like Little Miss Perfect. And then there’s her look. Finally, after years of waiting, we have a style-driven artist (if her three Vogue features are to be believed) who actually comes with substance. In fact, I’d argue her preference for the B&W tuxedos makes her quite the opposite, in that she chooses to perform in uniform. Either way, most importantly, she’s a style-driven artist who can actually sing. Like, really fucking blow. In the ’80s heyday of Prince, Michael, and Annie Lennox, this may not have seemed like such a big deal. But here we are in 2010, after a decade that brought us everyone from Cassie to Rihanna to Ciara to, yes, the inescapable Gaga, and style and substance seem to have become mutually exclusive in the major-label game.

All in all, it’s a brilliantly written and conceived album, greatly enriched by guitarist Kellindo Parker, with whom Monáe has a special symbiosis. Even the pacing is brilliant in its contradictions. For instance the first three tracks, the album’s most pop-accessible section, turn out to be its least shuffle-friendly. The songs flow seamlessly into one another like in Suite I, but the track-separation points aren’t as cleverly handled. So playing either “Faster” or “Dance or Die” independent of the other ends up in a pretty fractured listening experience — “forget iTunes singles; buy the album.” What it lacks in uniformity of genre, it makes up (assuming that’s a shortcoming) with uniformity of quality. The only possible lowlighht is “Make the Bus”, on which unnecessary guests, Of Montreal, do their best Bowie-as-Stardust impression. (Spoiler: it’s not that good). Still, the song isn’t awful — just poorly executed.

This is one of those albums that become more enjoyable and rewarding with each listen — perfectly achieving the artist’s cinematic aspirations without compromising on plain-old aural stiumlation.

You’ll get her next time, E-Badu.

Following the the brilliant Metropolis Suite I of IV: The Chase EP, Janelle Monáe is set to return this Tuesday with The ArchAndroid, intended as Suites II and III of her Metropolis saga.

I’m excited. You should be too. Here are 5 reasons why: (more…)

Originally posted at Stereohyped in Sep 2008

“I was a little different; I didn’t do what the fast girls do,” Solange says in the opening lines of “I Decided,” the lead single off her sophomore set, Sol-Angel & the Hadley St. Dreams. If you can resist the urge to point out that the fast girls probably used birth control, you’ll find that in many ways, she’s right.

After attempting the fast track to success with a few attempts at R&B-Pop stardom, Solange reinvented herself as the Knowles clan’s in-house songwriter – penning tracks for sister Beyoncé and “sisters” Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams – a dubious honor at best, unless you consider “Get Me Bodied” a high water mark in songwriting achievement.

This is why Sol-Angel is so surprising in its effectiveness and authenticity. In the years since her last album, Knowles’ style and lifestyle choices often came off merely as the rebellion of a teenage girl living in her older sister’s shadow (“Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!”) trying to find her own identity – with all the “be different” earnestness of an angsty teenager.

(more…)

Dexter: Bloody Good

Posted: March 1, 2010 by RA in Race, Television
Tags: ,

Originally posted at Racialicious in May 2008

Dexter

As much as we clamor, beg, and plead for minority representation in the mainstream media, when we get it, it seldom seems to work out as we’d hoped. Many people of color can attest to squirming uncomfortably in front of their televisions, praying for that character of color to finish up and skulk offscreen, so we can return to the idyllic white utopia we enjoyed only minutes before.

Do not adjust your monitors – I really did just say that. While I appreciate the need for children and teens still defining their identities to have (at least) the occasional protagonist who looks the least bit like them, I never quite bought that argument as applied to adults. I (like many consumers of U.S. media) have never had a problem consuming all-white narratives for three reasons: (more…)

Originally posted at Mixed Media Watch in Aug 2006

White SaviorAny self-respecting, gluttonous “Law & Order” viewer here must have seen the previews for TNT’s made-for-TV movie, “The Ron Clark Story.” If you haven’t seen them yet, you absolutely have to.

The movie features Matthew Perry as a white teacher who joins an “inner-city” public school system, whose enrollment is 99%-black (but I’m sure you’ll see a white kid or two— hey, tokenism works both ways). He gladly takes on these students nobody cares about, turning them into… oh, who the hairy hell are we kidding? We come across this exact synopsis every three years or so.

My early pick for Best Line this time?

“Nobody wants them, and I do. So what’s the problem?” (ahh, what a fucking saint.)

Before Antonio Banderas’ “Take the Lead,” the last White Savior flick I remember was some drivel supposedly set to air on Lifetime a few years back (somebody help me out here), but the most successful film in this genre has to be Michelle Pfeiffer’s last hurrah, “Dangerous Minds.”

Still, it seems one of the effects of global warming is an increase in the speed of the earth’s revolution around the sun, because:

  • it’s been scientifically proven that these White Savior movies come around only once in three years,
  • and my cellphone, computer, and even cable box suggest that “Take the Lead” was released just this year. So much for state-of-the-art technology, right?

Anyway, there have been a few Black Teacher versions of this narrative, but somehow they don’t leave me needing a shower quite as urgently as these White Savior flicks. More after the jump…
Why? Let’s look at some of the more memorable examples.

Morgan Freeman in “Lean on Me” (1989): Here, the students, though engaged in stereotypical activities, were much fuller characters– each with his own individual flaws, virtues, etc. Still a treaclefest, but it didn’t set up the students as creatures to be alternately pitied and feared. Plus, Freeman’s Principal Joe Clark is a bit of a tyrannical asshole (with a heart of gold, of course).

Whoopi Goldberg in “Sister Act 2″ (1993): Right. Like these kids were really in any danger.

Samuel L. Jackson in “187″ (1997): Back when SammyJack actually read scripts before signing on to a picture. This is no shlocky tale of a good teacher who doesn’t give up on his “loser” students. It’s a dark film with a near-existentialist outlook on the futility of good works. SammyJack doesn’t exactly care about these kids when he begins teaching in New York, but they’re more than just a means to a paycheck. However, after he is attacked by his own students, he moves to an LA-area school where he begins a zombie-like existence reminiscent of Meursault in Albert Camus’ “L’Etranger.” Sure, he helps some kids along the way, but somehow you don’t get the feeling he really set out to — collateral repair, if you will.

Thus, you see, those movies don’t really count as White Savior flicks—an assertion that is bound to leave many asking the Syzlakian question, “Well if you’re so sure what it ain’t, how’s about telling us what it am!”

To that end, let’s run down a few essential elements of a White Savior flick.

1. Race is NEVER mentioned… at least, not by the Savior:
These kids are… BLACK? Only a racist like you would notice that, for I don’t see color! In “Music of the Heart,” Meryl Streep’s Roberta Guaspari—a violin teacher—has to deal with parents telling her they don’t want a white teacher teaching her son “dead white man’s music.”
The message: “Us whites are the oppressed ones! Left to us, we’d have a color-blind society in a heartbeat!”

2. The Jaded Black Administrator:
Each of these flicks must have someone of color there to devalue the kids, just in time for White Saviorman to cluck his tongue and declare in his/her softest (but most determined) voice, just how amazing these kids are. “Ron Clark” has one of these, and I tell you, I could’ve sworn that scene was directed by Leni Riefenstahl for the “White Savior for Canonization” committee.
The Message: These people are so problematic, even their own have given up on them… but not us! White Man’s Burden lives on!

3. The words, “Based on a true story” :
Whenever these issues are brought up, there is always a mass of people rushing to point out that it was based on a true story. Well, that shuts me up, doesn’t it? To quote Williams and Delli Carpini, “it is not enough for movies to say only that they are ‘based on a true story. For politically relevant media, how far and in what ways dramatic license was used must be made much clearer than is currently the norm.”
The Message: See? That’s how “these people” really are!

I could go on, but why bother?

So yeah, I hate White Savior movies… no fancy ending here.