All Articles Tagged "music"

Why We Need More Black Girl Anthems

May 20th, 2016 - By Erica R. Williams
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Young black girl/woman in college listening to headphones/music, Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Nearly a month after dropping a surprise album, people of all races, backgrounds, and socioeconomic classes are still asking for more Lemonade. Why? Well, because it’s probably Beyoncé’s best work. But aside from the infectious hooks, jaw-dropping visuals, and FU given to cheating men, there is a deeper message in Beyoncé’s aesthetic album. This message affects one group in particular: Black women. Beyoncé reminded us (by way of Malcolm X) that “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” And though the civil rights leader said this more than 50 years ago, we needed someone, in the present day, of Beyoncé’s status and stature, to reiterate this sentiment, which still holds true today. We need anthems like “Formation” to remind us that yes, being a Black girl isn’t easy, but there is a power, also known as Black girl magic, in who we are.

Some may argue that songs won’t change the way Black women are treated or perceived in society, but music is a powerful weapon. And while it may not directly revamp the way everyone feels about us, it can help alter the way we feel about ourselves and other Black women. This, in turn, can indirectly initiate change.

It’s a fact that music affects moods, and according to researchers, it even affects the way people perceive the world. Black women have more than enough songs (most times delivered by Black men) that present us in a negative light. Either we’re bitter b—hes who are only good for pleasing a man sexually or we’re not good enough because we don’t fit a certain look or way of being. There aren’t enough songs reminding us of our beauty and ‘badass-ness’; and the ones that are out there, unfortunately, don’t make it to the mainstream airwaves. So when a star of Beyoncé’s caliber makes a visual album that highlights the strength and beauty of Black women, I can only be excited, and you should be too.

Nonetheless, not everyone is buying into Beyoncé’s delivery. Author and feminist bell hooks penned an essay on her website that accuses the pop singer of doing exactly what we are trying to do away with. Though she praises the album for creativity and “multidimensional images of Black female life,” she also says, “much of the album stays within a conventional stereotypical framework where the Black woman is always a victim.”

While Hooks is a respected feminist in her own right, we cannot pretend that Black women don’t usually end up with the short end of the stick. Acknowledging this doesn’t make us victims, but rather, we can relish in the fact that we usually overcome. And look good doing it. This is why songs like the ones Beyoncé is creating now are what we need more of. And while there are plenty of other Black artists who have been offering similar messages far longer than Bey (think Ledisi, Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, India Arie, etc.), we still need those with the most power and influence as mainstream artists to make a concentrated effort to speak up for Black women.

Behind The Scenes: Vivian Green’s “Grown Folks Music” Video

May 2nd, 2016 - By Kweli Wright
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Vivian Green

Vivian Green

Singer Vivian Green dropped by Mommynoire to give us a behind the scenes look at her new video for “Grown Folks Music,” the second single off her Vivid album.

The busy mom also took the time to chat with us about homeschooling her son Jordan all week while booking her shows on the weekend. The Derek Blanks-directed “Grown Folks Music” video took so long to film because Jordan is such a priority in her life. Sound familiar, moms? It’s the balance all mothers strive to achieve.

Mommynoire: Why did you decide to homeschool your son?

Vivian Green: I chose to homeschool my son because in kindergarten he was fragile and I didn’t trust that he wouldn’t get hurt. Playing is a big part of kindergarten and I just wasn’t comfortable with it at all. Once he moved on from kindergarten, I still preferred homeschooling because it turned out to be just perfect for my lifestyle as a recording artist. It allows a lot of flexibility but it’s actually tough. His curriculum is a year and a half above grade level in our state. It’s not fun and games at all, but gives us a certain flexibility that standard school would not.

Vivian Green and son

Vivian Green and son

How have you found balancing your work on the weekends and devoting time to Jordan during the week?

We try to schedule concerts Friday through Sunday, so this way things in Jordan’s life don’t have to change too much. Sometimes there are shows on other days, and because of the flexibility I can take him with me, or leave school-work with my mother. It’s really cool because he has virtual classes online with teachers and other students; similar to college online. So he’s always able to sign in and attend class no matter where I am.

Does he ever travel with you? What’s your support system like?

He travels with me sometimes and he loves it. My mother is my co-parent and she’s wonderful. She was literally there from day one concerning Jordan, so when I need to leave him with her I’m never worried.

What has been a life-saver in finding time to produce your art and also make sure family time is a priority?

My mother (hands down) has been the magic that allows me to balance career and family.

Pick up Vivian’s album Vivid here on iTunes.

Here’s the full video!

 

Michael Jackson Never Wanted To Be White

February 9th, 2016 - By Nneka Samuel
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Image Source: Showtime

Image Source: Showtime

Spike Lee’s Showtime documentary film Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown To Off The Wall premiered last Friday.  As a diehard, straight out the womb Michael Jackson fan, I got my entire life watching mesmerizing clips and giddy interviews of the man himself, conversations with those who personally knew him and the “witnesses” (as they were labeled in the credits) who were touched by MJ’s indelible body of work.  I happily sang along to tunes that will forever bring me joy and gained further insight into the man they called King.

In the documentary, Lee honed in on MJ’s early years and made a conscious decision to focus solely on the music created during that impressionable, history-making time, instead of the myriad controversies and scandals that plagued later portions of Jackson’s solo career.  One of those controversies, which sparks conversation almost seven years after the late singer’s death, is Jackson’s changing appearance over the years.  Though MJ’s legacy lives in the music he created and shared with the world, it’s almost impossible to mention his name without hearing the widely-held belief that Michael Jackson wanted to look and be White. A belief that has made its way back into discussion due to the casting of Joseph Fiennes to play the pop star in the film, Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon. But I think the answer to his physical transformation lies in a note Jackson wrote to himself, which was shared in the film.

Jackson was only 21 years old when he wrote his future into existence, much like Octavia Butler did, as we recently learned.  “MJ will be my new name,” he declared.  “No more Michael Jackson. I want a whole new character, a whole new look. I should be a tottally [sic] different person. People should never think of me as the kid who sang “ABC,” [or] “I Want You Back.”  I should be a new, incredible actor/singer/dancer that will shock the world. I will do no interviews. I will be magic. I will be a perfectionist, a researcher, a trainer, a masterer [sic]. I will be better than every great actor roped into one.”

One of the things that was painfully obvious throughout the film was that executives, producers, businessmen, and directors alike constantly doubted Jackson.  They doubted whether he would have a singing career past childhood, whether he could have an acting career and star in The Wiz (or any other film for that matter), whether he could create his own music and be a solo artist.  It’s kind of crazy, considering that he had already proven himself so many times.  His talent was undeniable. Jackson combined his innate sensibilities with hard work, passion and an unwavering appreciation for and study of artists like James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and the Nicholas Brothers.  He combined those influences into a unique style all his own, yet he kept having to prove himself to people who didn’t share or understand his vision.

Jackson, who admittedly was never satisfied, was a complicated, misunderstood genius driven by an impossible quest for perfection. That quest led to a desire to physically reinvent himself with the release of each solo album, from Off The Wall to Invincible, the last album he recorded prior to his 2009 death.  Reinvention translated to numerous alterations to his nose, a cleft in his chin, his changing hair, and, yes, lighter skin, though induced by vitiligo.  Despite those changes, I don’t think Jackson was seeking to become a different race, that he saw flaws in his blackness, or that he equated whiteness with greatness and perfection.  Different was the name of the game.  He was striving to both outdo himself and to be in a league all his own.   He sought continually to distance himself from his boyhood image, though he longed for the childhood he claimed to have missed.  And he wanted to create an identity entirely separate from his brothers.

I recognize that there are so many issues that complicate this reading.  The fact that Jackson took in three White children, for example, and that he seemed to have body dysmorphic disorder.  He was also rendered untouchable by his exorbitant level of fame, which probably fed into a belief that he could alter his appearance and continue to go about his business without being questioned, like unexplained magic.  Born and bred in the shock value era, reinvention was also a way in which Jackson could remain relevant, or rather, talked about in the public eye.  Which is sad because the only thing that ever really mattered was the music, but that was overshadowed by his persona.

Of course, all of this conjecture is predicated on a single, handwritten note that seemed to play a crucial role in Michael Jackson’s adult life.  But only he knew his innermost thoughts, the real reasons why he changed his physical appearance time and again, and why the changes never seemed to be enough.

Regardless, it’s the music that remains of importance.  I am grateful to Spike Lee for creating a film that didn’t succumb to the easy, “But what happened to Michael’s skin?” trap.  That’s a different film for a different director entirely.  Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown To Off The Wall gave us a glimpse into the makings of one of the greatest, most innovative entertainers to ever grace the earth, an enigma and cultural icon whose influence lives on in countless artists and in the hearts of countless fans.

Have You Heard The First Family’s Holiday Spotify Playlist?

December 26th, 2015 - By Ashley Monaé
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Getty

Getty

If you thought holidays in the White House were astronomically different from your own, think again.

Just like us, the First Family is all about having a good time with family and friends during the holidays. Earlier this week on Wednesday (Dec.23), the White House released Christmas-themed playlists from both the Obamas and the Bidens, as reported by CNN.

The Obamas playlist ranges from Destiny’s Child’s “8 Days of Christmas” to Frank Sinatra’s “The First Noel.”

Continue reading below to see the full “Holidays with the Obamas” playlist:

  • O Tannenbaum, Vince Guaraldi Trio (A Charlie Brown Christmas)
  • Let It Snow, Boyz II Men
  • All I Want for Christmas Is You, Mariah Carey
  • Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, The Jackson 5
  • 8 Days of Christmas, Destiny’s Child
  • Someday at Christmas, Stevie Wonder
  • The Christmas Song, Nat King Cole
  • Silent Night, Ledisi
  • Do You Hear What I Hear, Yolanda Adams
  • Away In A Manger, Kenny Burrell
  • Santa Baby, Eartha Kitt
  • The First Noel, Frank Sinatra
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Luther Vandross
  • Little Drummer Boy, Whitney Houston

Listen to the playlist here.

13 Musicians We’re Still Willing to Buy Albums For

December 24th, 2015 - By M A
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Credit: Rob Rich/WENN.com

Credit: Rob Rich/WENN.com

To convince consumers to actually run out to their local record store (are those even a thing anymore?) or hit up Amazon to actually buy a record is quite a daunting task. But there are a select few artists who will send us in droves to drop $20 for their full-length record. Who are these incredible stars? Here we name the musicians that can still convince us to legally acquire music and not just stream it.

From Rick Ross To Rita Ora: Viral “Hello” Covers And Parodies Adele Lovers Can’t Stop Watching

December 8th, 2015 - By Meg Butler
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Image Source: Tumblr

Image Source: Tumblr

Apparently no one can stop listening to Adele’s megahit “Hello.” And that’s why it’s one of the most covered songs on the Internet right now. From a Korean high school girl’s uncanny cover to Rick Ross’s addition to the smash single, here are the “Hello” covers we love.

The Macarena, The Humpty, And A Few Other Corny Dances We’ve All Done

November 13th, 2015 - By Meg Butler
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Image Source: Tumblr

Image Source: Tumblr

These may be the corniest dance moves out there, but we still love them. Well, most of them. Which ones do you know how to do?

The Link Between Good Music And Good Sex

November 3rd, 2015 - By Deja Jones
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Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Are you the type of person who has a song or playlist for every emotion that you experience? Your turn-up jams and your playlist for a broken heart? What about a playlist for sex?

It’s not uncommon for us to turn off the lights, light some candles, spread some rose petals and throw on some slow jams to set the mood right when it comes to romancing one other. For some, it doesn’t even take all of that. Just the right tune to get things going is enough. But the importance of music therapy can’t be overstressed. It has been known to treat several conditions, from early studies that showed its impact on mental and cognitive illnesses to more recent studies that discovered that yes, music can have a positive effect on your sex life.

Studies show that music can release those pleasure chemicals that turn you on and leave you with that tingly feeling. A good sex playlist has been an essential accessory in the bedroom for many people over the years, and it can increase any and all physical sensations and emotional undertones. But there’s so much more to the psychology of music and how it aids in improving your sex life.

When we satisfy our desire to eat, to sleep, or reproduce, our brain releases dopaminethe “feel good” neurochemical we experience that comes with pleasure and reward. It turns out that this same chemical is released when listening to music. Ever wonder how music can convey exactly what we are feeling at a given moment? Why our “jam” makes us feel so good?

A study conducted at McGill University in Canada showed that listening to certain kinds of stimulating music increases arousal, including our heart rate, breathing rate, and skin conductance. How many times have you listened to a Janet Jackson song, and I’m talking “Anytime, Anyplace” Janet, and played out a fantasy in your mind? Or maybe you felt the urge to call bae or that one constant fella in your life to get it poppin’.

Another study revealed that people who listen to music when they work out feel less fatigue and therefore exercise for longer periods of time than people who don’t listen to music when they work out. Now let’s just apply that same study to the bedroom. I mean, sex is exercise, right? Who wouldn’t want an additional 30 minutes to an hour of fun time? Don’t all agree at once. And don’t underestimate the power of throwing on your favorite aerobic tunes to turn it up a notch. It does wonders beyond the treadmill.

This same study that stated that music could provide more stamina also revealed that music can release enough dopamine to distract you from stress and pain. So if you were wondering how you were able to do the Lotus Blossom position without breaking a leg, but totally regretted it in the morning, there’s your answer.

I say all that to state that you can last longer, feel less tired and apparently, bend like a pretzel into Kama Sutra positions when you lose yourself to music before and during your bedroom trysts. Don’t underestimate the power of a sensual song.

So tell me, what songs get you going?

Stars Who Pulled A “B—h Better Have My Money” Move On Record Companies

October 20th, 2015 - By Meg Butler
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Image Source: Tumblr

Image Source: Tumblr

When it comes to their money, these celebrities who took on their record companies don’t play around.

To Be Black And Unconscious In The World Of Hip-Hop: Where Do You Stand With Trap Rap?

September 29th, 2015 - By Deja Jones
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trap rap

Corbis: (Photo by Xavier Collin/Celebrity Monitor)

Hip-Hop intellectual Eric Michael Dyson once said that “Whether along race, class, or generational lines, hip-hop music has been a source of controversy since the beats got too big and the voices too loud for the block parties that spawned them. America has condemned and commended this music and the culture that inspires it.” And hip-hop remains both controversial and a heavily divided genre. There’s the woke, incense-burning, reparations-demanding, “remember we are royalty” conscious visionaries like Public Enemy, Dead Prez, Talib Kweli, Lupe Fiasco, Yasiin Bey, Common, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar. And then there are the trap kings and queens on the other side, stacking the money, moving that “white girl.” Rappers such as Young Jeezy, Chief Keef, Fetty Wap, Migos, 2 Chainz and, of course, Future.

As a culture, we celebrate the socially conscious rapper for using hip-hop to address political and racial injustice. We praise them for using their platform to give back to the communities in need. We place them on a pedestal as the messiahs who are going to once again redefine the culture of hip-hop and take it back to the days when it was a genre that meant something. To a time when rap told stories. Not just delusions of grandeur stories, but accounts of poverty, drug addiction, broken homes, shattered dreams, and redemption. It was a platform that shared the triumphs and failures of being Black, or Jewish (The Beastie Boys), or Latino (Immortal Technique), or a woman (Queen Latifah).

But in the early ’00s, hip-hop began to shift as rappers started to focus on braggadocio rap. Stories about lavish lifestyles and designer labels. Even Kanye West emerged on the scene as the new voice in conscious hip-hop before slowly transitioning to the top 1 percenter and leaving the rest of us behind. Things and artists changed.

I stumbled across an article from the Huffington Post written in 2012 that accused Jay Z and Nicki Minaj of being part of the problem in this shifting culture. 

What was once a music and culture for and about the struggles of young, urban rebels, who used music, dance and art to express themselves and fight against a system that had forgotten them, has become a culture that glorifies, defends and aspires to be the 1 percent that was once considered the oppressor.”

But after reading this, and hearing a coworker’s claim that NWA somehow broke hip-hop, I started to think, what is hip-hop? How do we define an entire genre based on social and political views and why don’t people do this with any other style of music? (Well, maybe jazz.) James Baldwin once said, “To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant stage of rage” and boy was he right. Us “woke” folk expect every Black entertainer in the industry in the spotlight to be political activists and criticize them if they’re not doing enough. But as much as us “conscious” Black folk love to talk about the system, political warfare and elevating our minds, I don’t think it makes us any less socially or culturally aware if we want to turn up and shake our rumps to some ratchet hip-hop. Variety is the spice of life. 

In his article, “All You ‘Real’ Rap Fans Need to Stop Hating on ‘What a Time to Be Alive”, Complex writer Angel Diaz calls out hip-hop purists for their criticism of Drake and Future’s new collaborative album. He says that if we think that Future, Drake, and similar artists are going to rap about social issues in this day and age, we are idiots. But I don’t think he was prepared for the clapback he received from Talib Kweli, who claims he has been fighting to save hip-hop since it started to decline. Even Wes Jackson of Brooklyn Bodega shared his distaste for Diaz and the music he called “coonery”: 

“And to your point that I should not expect Drake or Future to speak on social issues, I feel bad for you. You claim some sense of awareness of Hip Hop’s history in your piece but I fear that is a front. For if you did, you would realize that standing up for social issues is the very foundation of this culture. It was why Afrika Bambaataa and The Zulu Nation helped create this industry that pays your bills.”

Kweli and his supporters at Brooklyn Bodega shared some thought-provoking points on hip-hop’s history and why it is important that we preserve it with each new artist that emerges. But Diaz made some good points too:

You old head, super lyrical m*********rs need to get over yourselves. Every time some new rap drops you sound bitter. “This ain’t that real s**t,” you scream as you fix your two-toned durag and adjust your NT denim. We can’t enjoy the two hottest rappers in the game dropping a joint tape? What exactly is that “real” s**t then? Turn up music isn’t “real” hip-hop? How so? Was the genre not invented at a goddamn party? Isn’t music about having a good time? I’m dead tired of you cats, man. You make my head hurt. Can’t be listening to Talib Kweli rap off beat and Lupe Fiasco deep cuts at BBQs. I, too, was once like you, but come on, don’t nobody wanna hear that s**t all the f****g time.

He didn’t have to fire shots like that at the end of his statement, but all that aside, why do we try so hard to define “real” hip-hop? Why can’t we be okay with its diversity? Why can’t we go to the protest in our neighborhoods with our fists raised while listening to some of the rap visionaries telling us to “fight the power” and then go out on a Friday night to kick back and act a fool to some trap rap? As stated before, hip-hop is one of the only genres people expect so much from. So, with that being said, are we all a little too awake or are we sleeping a little too hard?