It doesn’t take a genius to see that there’s something about Beyoncé‘s history, persona and business model that is different from your average pop star. She’s not always a chart topper, nor is she always the most talked about (although when she is it’s with zeal from both fans and detractors) but Beyoncé is an undoubtedly powerful force, and indeed widely considered more socially and culturally influential than some of her more pervasive contemporaries. It’s little surprise to us then, that doctoral student Kevin Allred has begun teaching a course called “Politicizing Beyoncé” at Rutgers, as a means of dissecting and analyzing the Beyoncé story and positioning her as a culturally important figure both in terms of gender and race studies.
“She certainly pushes boundaries. While other artists are simply releasing music, she’s creating a grand narrative around her life, her career, and her persona,” says Allred. He also notes that, “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.” Raising critical awareness of the media through education seems ever more pertinent, as celebrity culture (especially given the advent of Internet celebrity), is increasingly saturating our everyday lives. Allred’s course covers issues like control, sexuality, empowerment, race and femininity in terms of Beyoncé’s behemoth persona. We’re not sure about you, but we’re ducking out to buy some school supplies on our lunch break — we want back in the classroom!
Adopting a split personality for the sake of sensationalizing an image is nothing new in the pop industry. Recent notable alter egos include Beyoncé‘s Sasha Fierce, Lady Gaga‘s Joe Calderone and Nicki Minaj‘s Roman Zolanski. While these characters have allowed these pop stars to explore other aspects of their persona independent of their regular self (also possibly giving them carte blanche to make mistakes, all the while acting as a great gimmick to draw fans into a narrative), they are usually an afterthought to the performer, and are put on and taken off the same way one wears a hat.
However, in the case of Lana Del Rey, her alter ego is more widely known that her “real” self. (We’re not going to get into existential arguments of what’s “real” or not, but suffice to say that “real” in this context is who she was born as/lived her life as until she became Lana Del Rey.) As thousands of bloggers have noted, she was born Lizzy Grant, and even recorded an album under that name, an album that was released in January of 2010 but then quickly pulled from the shelves, adding to her mystique. Lana is currently in Europe promoting her new album Born To Die, and during an interview with the BBC, she noted that she’s planning to reissue her Lana Del Rey A.K.A. Lizzy Grant album, and we’re officially intrigued.
With the Lana Del Rey hype monster so engorged, is the overnight sensation now using her new found fame to promote the art she made and believed in prior to her transformation into tortured chanteuse? Will she reissue the album as Lana Del Rey, or will Lizzy Grant act as Lana Del Rey’s otherly doppelganger? Is the next chapter of the Lana Del Rey story going to be a nostalgic expose into the heart of Lizzy Grant, or just another great marketing stunt? And moreover, will audiences, critical blogging fingers at the ready, ever be able to reconcile the two conflicting sides of the Lana Del Rey coin?
It Was a Perfect Length
Before Game 5 of the 1968 World Series, Puerto Rican singing sensation, Jose Feliciano, delivered a lengthy improvisational version of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” which not only irked various fans, but made Detroit’s starting pitcher, Mickey Lolich, get cold in the bullpen, causing him to give up three runs in the first inning (Detroit, however, ended up winning the game and eventually the series). Steven Tyler’s version of the anthem caused no players on either team a disruption in their pre-game rituals.
Why do musicians record albums in a studio? Because live sound in a stadium sucks. When Steven Tyler was singing the anthem, I’m sure he not only heard his voice, but 17 different echoed versions of it, which makes it impossible to deliver a pitch-perfect performance.
Azealia Banks Has The 2.55, Performing At Karl Lagerfeld’s House
Apparently it’s not the “212″ that Azealia Banks has, but the 2.55. Banks played at Chanel Creative Director Karl Lagerfeld‘s house in Paris and got all those very serious Parisian fashion types dancing. Yep, they even fist pumped. [Complex]
Disney Discontinues Joy Division Inspired T-Shirt Disney controversially released a t-shirt inspired by Joy Division‘s Unknown Pleasures album, with the original visual skewed into the shape of Mickey’s face. Under mounting pressure from fans and commentators, Disney has now pulled the t-shirt from sale to review the situation further. [Time News Feed]
“Keep in mind I’m not here, I’m from a different world.”
That line is from the chorus of “Different”, the lead single from Ximena Sariñana‘s recent self-titled album, and it speaks volumes about where she is as an artist at the moment. Her debut LP, Mediocre, was released in her native Mexico in 2008 and performed well both commercially and critically, earning her two Latin Grammy nominations, but when it came time to record her second record, she was faced with a dilemna. “Either stay in my country, where everyone knows who I am, or start from scratch and convince people that I’m worth it,” Ximena was quoted as saying. Well, she chose the latter, and her efforts are just starting to pay off. She was named our You Oughta Know artist last August, she played a gig for a couple of hundred die-hard fans at New York City’s Mercury Lounge last night, and she was able to land a highly-coveted spot at this year’s Coachella Festival, too.
Ximena’s set last night was a mix of songs from her first two albums; she sung three songs in Spanish, and the remaining seven were in English. The 25-year-old stood confidently center stage, singing and playing her Nord keyboard (accompanied by a guitarist, a bassist, a drummer and a percussionist), and slowly sipped from a single glass of whiskey throughout the course of the show. “I’m totally drinking whiskey instead of water,” she bantered. “It’s like the worst thing for a singer, but it’s either my voice is better, or my general mood and perkiness.”
London band Graffiti6 released their debut album, Colours, two days ago, and the video for the first single, “Free”, off the LP, has us hooked already. “Free” is a song about passionate, all consuming love, and the visuals display both a sense of desperation and hope. Set against a hazy city skyline, it features front man Jamie Scott taking to the streets and the foggy rooftops of tall buildings to fight his inner battle, while his gorgeous model-esque love interest luxuriates in a bed. With a sense of frustration ringing true in the lyricism, the visual compliments the feeling by moving between the minimalist bedroom scene and the quiet streets at odd camera angles, always focusing on Scott’s pained expression. The video gets an injection of whimsy from animated colored geometries that appear across the screen at different intervals, and acts as a brilliant precursor to the wonderful album.
If you’re looking to inject your day with a dose of pretty we suggest listening to singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson‘s cover of R.E.M.‘s classic “Nightswimming”. Michaelson took the piano-led original and infused it with her own magical vocal on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Layering her voice and putting the various melodies on loop, Michaelson was her own full a Capella band, radiating a cool charm as her mesmerizing voice melted like honey over the dynamic vocal backing track. And it’s not only Michaelson’s a Capella that’s amazing, her album, Human Again, is doing well too, sitting pretty at number one on the iTunes charts.
What’s more valuable to 50 Cent: his jewels or, um… his jewels? It seems that maybe neither are that important to him, as he’s willing to wager both on the Super Bowl result. Over the weekend, 50 Tweeted that he’d be willing to post a picture of his special bits to Twitter if the giants lost:
Where the first Tweet trails off the challenger says that if the Giants win, she’ll post a photo of her more northern regions to Twitter — so 50 clearly isn’t the only one laying down high stakes. But late last night 50 upped the stakes even higher, throwing a cool one million into the mix:
The bet comes after the high rolling over the weekend where 50 bet $500,000 on the Giants and won, which was followed by Birdman putting down a whopping $5 million on the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl. So 50 is challenging Birdman with his million dollar bet, and we want to know if hip hop beef has officially spilled over into sports, or if this is an entirely new genre of beef? One of these guys is going to lose — and we can only hope they can afford to part with the money, although it seems with 50′s recent flaunting (see Twit Pic above) he’s got at least a few stacks of cash laying about.
It’s on — with the Super Bowl looming ever closer, everyone is talking about that half time show, and what the Queen Of Pop, Madonna, will bring to the stage for the momentous occasion. Never one to do things by halves, suspicions that Madonna’s show will be spectacular are well founded, with reports flooding in that she’ll appear with special guests M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj, and that she’ll be “bringing gay” to the performance. Now, will.i.am has got everyone in a flap by commenting that seizure-dance club kids LMFAO will be joining Madge for the show. In an interview with UK radio station Capital FM, will.i.am said, “I’m going to the Super Bowl this year to see my group LMFAO perform with Madonna. Check that out, will.i.am Music Group is pretty freaking two for two, one year the Super Bowl, the next year another group part of the Super Bowl in collaboration with Madonna. That’s still happening.”
We’re not casting an aspersions on will.i.am’s integrity, but it does seem like a very odd pairing. Yes, “Party Rock Anthem” was a chart topper, but LMFAO’s high energy, doof-blasting dance music doesn’t even come close to being similar with Madonna’s perfectly curated pop sound and image. And from what’s been leaked of MDNA, for instance, the demo to “Gimme All Your Luvin’” it doesn’t seem like Madonna is going down the euro-trance path with her music either. So what would they even play together? Are we looking at a mash-up of the two artists’ music? Or has Madge got something else up her sleeve — a secret collaboration perhaps? And will Nicki and M.I.A still be there? What’s going on? will.i.am has sure ruffled our feathers this morning, and we need answers!
Happy Invasion Australia Day! For those of you who have never had the immense pleasure of visiting the land down under (where this particular music writer was both born and raised), you could be forgiven for thinking it’s all about koalas, surfing and barbeques (although you’re definitely not forgiven, please read a book or something). Not only do Australians play with koalas, surf, throw shrimps on barbies, and relish in promoting untrue cultural stereotypes overseas (it’s so easy), they also make some really good art from time to time, and music is no exception. This isn’t a boast, but: Men At Work, Crowded House, AC/DC, Olivia Newton John, Kylie Minogue, Cold Chisel, Daryl Braithwaite, Rick Springfield, INXS, Air Supply, Paul Kelly, Nick Cave, Natalie Imbruglia, Savage Garden, Silverchair… And that’s only a scratch! Australia is still turning out some amazing artists, with 2011 being a big year for the Aussies. Here are seven artists that rocked that great southern land last year, and that will soon be rocking the rest of the world (that means YOU!):
We’ve already introduced you to Gotye, whose track “Somebody I That Used To Know” is taking the world by storm. In the tradition of Australia Day, Australia’s premier radio station, Triple J, known for launching new talent, runs a Hottest 100 show, as voted by listeners. “Somebody I Used To Know” came in at number one, but it’s no surprise really; the track was the highest selling Australian song of the year, the video has 50 million views on YouTube and is sitting comfortably at 21 and 58 on the UK and US charts respectively. Gotye also won an ARIA (Australia’s answer to the Grammys) for Best Male Artist and Best Pop Release, as it soon to be VH1′s featured You Oughta Know artist (squee!) so watch this space… Read more…