Definitely maybe not right
September 21, 2020

What's with the Brit-pop stars and masks-denial?

Noel Gallagher

The Oasis pop star Noel Gallagher announced his suspicion of masks last week proclaiming - “There’s no need for it… They’re pointless”. Former Stone Roses singer Ian Brown declared: “NO LOCKDOWN NO TESTS NO TRACKS NO MASKS NO VAX”. Tommy Scott of Space, did not disappoint. “I do not believe in any germs. If they are real, and there’s loads, why don’t they have a smell?”. Guardian tries to explain the "reasoning" behind - "it is asking a lot of the Britpop stars of yesteryear to believe in laws. Dominic Cumming’s [chief adviser to UK prime minister] lockdown drive to Barnard Castle, undertaken to 'test his eyesight', eroded the rules". Plus, it's not really their field of specialties...

Paper's white, but the notes are black?!?
September 10, 2020

Great video: Is music theory just kinda racist?!?

Another great video by Adam Neely about white supremacy and music theory. A great topic to talk about (whether you agree with the thesis or not), starting with a comparison of Lady Gaga and Tchaikovsky.

All that race
September 07, 2020

Georgia Anne Muldrow: Jazz IS about race

Fewer than 10 percent of the students who graduate with jazz degrees from American universities are Black, although they make 12,7% of general population, and in 2017 only 1 percent were Black women (over 6% in general population), New York Times reports about the issue of race in music, jazz in particular. It says that "over the past 50 years, the music has become entrenched in academic institutions. As a result, it’s often inaccessible to, and disconnected from, many of the very people who created it: young Black Americans". Georgia Anne Muldrow, a student in the jazz program at New York's New School, goes deeper with her insight about the very character of jazz taught in schools: "At the center of the teaching would always be the idea that jazz is not about race. And it absolutely is. It was absolutely about where people weren’t allowed to go, which made them travel in their music".

"When I was a kid, I had all sorts of options for cultivating my rap palate in a way that fell under the rules my parents had... As an adult, I’ve carried on the no-cursing rule in my own house. But despite an explosion of ways to hear music — between streaming services and YouTube, any song you can imagine is at the other end of typing its name — my kids’ options are even more limited than mine were... It’s hard to listen to rap with my kids. Unlike when I was coming up, edited rap music is much harder to come by" - Level author wrote about lack of edited versions of rap albums in times of supposed diversity.

The Maccabees

NME's Mark Beaumont is pissed with VICE's article 50 Greatest Landfill Indie Songs, because, well, they're utterly wrong: "The ‘00s UK rock scene was as exciting, energised and unpredictable as Britpop or punk, and far more varied than both. It was a golden age for indie rock as bright as any before or since and you were lucky to be there for it, not least because the shadow of ‘landfill’ has since crushed the opportunities and exposure granted to alternative rock, to the point where current generations are rationed to one or two new breakthrough guitar bands every couple of years".

NPR wonders how are listening future will look like, taking two of the biggest services as examples: "Spotify and Bandcamp could not be more opposite. Where Spotify highlights playlists, most often of its own creation, Bandcamp sticks to the album. Where Spotify pays royalties according to little-understood formulas that can only be analyzed by reverse calculation, Bandcamp lets artists and labels choose their own prices. Where Spotify requires working through a limited number of distributors to access their services, Bandcamp is open to anyone. Where Spotify has revenue streams dependent on ads and data, Bandcamp operates on a simple revenue share with artists and collects no information on its users".

NME NME published an interesting (and funny) text about expectations and freedom, inspired by Russell Brand's video on Cardi B's 'WAP' where he suggests "that Cardi and Megan aren’t feminist because they’re trying to emulate a masculine trope of being brash about sex and sexuality, rather than carving out their own". But - "why does it even have to be feminist? It is, by the way, in that it’s two women singing about whatever the fuck they want to, and not hurting anyone" NME writer says, adding "maybe Cardi B just thought about writing about sexual desire, having great sex and being turned on and made – let’s face it – an absolute banger. Part of equality is not always having to fight the cause. Remember: you can just enjoy things".

British TV series 'I May Destroy You' is well-received by the critics, and it's the music that "adds surprising emotional depth and valuable cultural texture to author Michaela Coel’s haunting and remarkably nuanced story", LA Times writes. The soundtrack is a mix of oldies and current hip-hop, R&B and electronic music, and it made musicians like it - Adele called the series “the best thing I’ve seen on British TV for yeaaaarssss”. The music is used, the co-director Sam Miller says, to "sort of counter-punctuate - trying to take you away from the emotional thread of the story and keep you on edge”. So it's about how the music's used - Rev. Milton Brunson's old gospel song plays while the main character exits the bar where she has been drugged, Daft Punk where there in a romantic scene, new English bands Ramz, Paigey Cakey and Arlo Parks add tonal colour to London, etc.

TikTok has 85 million American users and it is a hub for creativity of all kinds, especially for musicians, The Forty-Five reports on impact of politics on music. From the hopefuls to the viral hit makers to the bona fide superstars, TikTok has become the best tool for music promotion. If the American ban on TikTok activates the American users would be kicked off the app and US companies would no longer be able to advertise on there. It is now owned by a Chinese company, if their American operations are bought by an American company before September 15, American TikTok users will remain active.

"The movie theater business could come back on with a flip of a switch," Audrey Fix Schaeffer, a spokeswoman for the American National Independent Venue Association tells Variety. Live music is much different - "it will take at least four months for touring to be scheduled and for all the venues to be able to have a calendar, because it is such an intricate process". Livestream and socially distanced gigs aren't the solutions either: "The economics don’t work for the vast majority of it, whether it’s streaming, or whether it’s a socially distanced thing, because it costs so much in the overhead that you cannot make it".

Acclaimed rapper CeeLo Green has spoken out against music created by Nicki Minaj and Cardi B who he suggested are crying out for attention at any cost. “We are adults. There should be a time and a place for adult content. As adults and artists, we should at least attempt to be each other’s accountability partners in some regard. The stereotypes that are celebrated and perpetuated, ultimately make the perception a reality. It is disenfranchising and it has caused a great deal of problems” - he told Far Out Magazine. “Attention is also a drug and competition is around” he adds - “Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, they are all more or less doing similar salacious gesturing to kinda get into position. I get it, the independent woman and being in control, the divine femininity and sexual expression. I get it all but it comes at what cost?”.

"Bandcamp’s artist-first mentality trickles down to the zealousness of their userbase. Their comments and music collections are just as important as the money coming in, establishing a connection, and encouraging digital diggers to explore and expand their palettes "- DJ Booth argues in favor of the lovely music service / social network (rap has been a more of a Soundcloud kind of genre). There's good music there, and - "in a world kept separate by the still-raging coronavirus... Engaging with musicians breeds a different kind of intimacy".

Alt TikTok is a TikTok sub-scene that is exerting growing influence on the music that becomes popular on the app. Generally, it's weird, excessively creative stuff, more artsy and punk than the Straight TikTok. The music preferred by members of Alt TikTok can be bizarre, abrasive, unruly, headlong, and it's also more open and accessible to different groups of people. And what everyone’s seeing now is that bigger things can come from Alt TikTok than Straight TikTok

Rina Sawayama

"If we are looking at the charts as a barometer for nationwide popularity, non-English-language music rarely features... Yes, Despacito reached No 1 here, but it was only after Justin Bieber appeared on it" - the Guardian analyzes UK music taste. First of all, the British are the third least likely nation in Europe to speak a foreign language. That's not all, people of color like Samm Henshaw, and women that don't fit the norm (white complexion) like Rina Sawayama, won't have the same success as their white counterparts. Guardian argues it's due to "so much systemic hostility, xenophobia and outright racism in this sector".

It certainly hurts music
August 07, 2020

Would Kanye West's candidacy really hurt Joe Biden?

It is widely believed that Kanye West's American presidential candidacy serves one purpose - to take potential Joe Biden's votes, black and young ones, and make it easier for Donald Trump to win. Billboard argues it just might not happen like that. African Americans tend not to vote for candidates solely because they are Black, while West’s status with Americans age 18 to 29 is actually more unfavorable than favorable - said David Jackson, a political science professor at Bowling Green State University whose research focuses on the links between young people’s entertainment and political preferences. It’s also possible West could actually draw support away from Trump, since he’s been an outspoken supporter of the president in the past.

"Gone are the days when a musician could afford to take all the time they need to carve and craft the next ‘Loveless’ or ‘OK Computer’" - NME's Mark Beaumont writes, looking back in anger to Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek words that “you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough". But, there is a solution - streaming platforms like Spotify should "work with the labels to reconfigure their increasing profits to ensure that all artists get the fair share they deserve from their streams and can continue making and releasing music as and when they want".

Hachalu Hundessa / Diamond Platnumz / Bobi Wine

From Senegal to Kenya to Algeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a new generation of artists is giving voice to the grievances and aspirations of hundreds of millions of people - Guardian says in an article about African musicians fighting oppressive rules. Hachalu Hundessa was a popular Oromo singer and activist in Ethiopia, who was murdered last month. Tanzania’s highest-selling artist, Diamond Platnumz, had songs banned and was arrested. Rapper Falz from Lagos raps about country’s political class. Bobi Wine is a popular reggae star and opposition MP in Uganda and will release a new album next month that addresses “the real issues people are facing – the injustices, corruption, high taxation, misrule, abuse of human rights, dictatorship”.

"Men dominate music: the making, production and selling of it, office and studio spaces, live performance, its media – they do so both physically and financially, so what would stop some of them from abusing their power?... Claims about men in the music industry tend to follow a clear pattern: use your access and privilege and take advantage of the power imbalance to get your end away, with very little risk of consequence" - music publicist Michelle Thandekile wrote in the Guardian, years after she was raped while working in the music industry. Why did she keep silent about it? - "I’m a black woman in an incredibly white section of the music industry. I had to be strong to get as far as I am to cut through that ceiling. At the risk of sounding like a martyr, my trauma seemed insignificant when compared to being an example for more young women of colour to join me".

"In just over a decade it changed the record business completely. Twice. It also paved the way for streaming – all streaming, not just music streaming – to become the default way to, drawing on the industry’s own terminology, 'consume' 'content'" - the Quietus argues in an essay about the importance of MP3. It's, tQ is convinced, more influential than vinyl because - "all formats before the MP3 were designed specifically to plump up the profitability of the music business; the MP3 ripped it to shreds".

NME's writer Mark Beaumont looks back on "cancel culture" debate, and the shift in "Twitterworld" discourse: "You defeat a virus – and bigotry and racism are viruses; festering and dormant, largely unseen – by studying it, understanding its transmission methods, its cellular make-up and how it multiplies, and then developing antidotes designed to cure, not kill, the host. But that takes skill, composure, thoughtfulness and – y’know what? – a tiny amount of respect for your opponent".

"Although free speech remains the fundamental bedrock of a free society, for everyone to enjoy the benefits of freedom, liberty needs to be tempered by two further dimensions: equality and accountability. Without equality, those in power will use their freedom of expression to abuse and marginalise others. Without accountability, liberty can mutate into the most dangerous of all freedoms – impunity... When reason, respect and responsibility are all under threat, accountability offers us a better foundation on which to build a cohesive society, one where everyone feels that their voice is heard" - musician and activist Billy Bragg wrote in Guardian on the issue of "cancel culture", after an open letter that is decrying cancel culture, signed by 150 academics and writers, has been published. Actor Ricky Gervais joined the discussion saying there are “outrage mobs that take everything out of context” and that "some people have lost their sense of irony". Gervais pressed that free speech was not the same as criticism-free speech - “some people think freedom of speech means, I should be able to say anything without consequences and it doesn’t mean that”.

Thanks to the United States’ current perfect storm of dire and radical socioeconomic conditions, the country music industry must immediately broaden its social perspective. For both the genre’s economic preservation and, more importantly, to highlight an intrinsic, industry-wide acceptance of the empathetic kindness needed to define America's future, it's necessary - The Boot argues in a brave text about unity.

"This past week alone, the hip-hop world loudly celebrated Black voices at the BET Awards, in popular interview podcasts, and during Monday night’s Verzuz battle. But the industry continues to be silent on its own transgressions: Those same platforms have also conspicuously amplified the voices of men accused of abusing Black women. In reflexively offering praise and visibility to such figures, hip-hop institutions implicitly condone their alleged behavior. This support reflects a pattern apparent across the music industry of protecting, and even uplifting, men facing serious allegations of assault against women - particularly against Black women" - The Atlantic brings out a serious issue.

Forrest dance
July 08, 2020

Illegal raves are sweeping the UK

Across the UK, young people are ignoring lockdown, strapping on bumbags and making for woods and fields. With the coronavirus pandemic having closed bars and clubs and cancelled or postponed festivals, raves are sweeping the UK - Guardian reflects on illegal raves being held in the UK. There were plenty already - 4,000 people in Daisy Nook; 2,000 people attended a “quarantine rave” in Carrington; 1,000 people raved in Brookhay Woods, near Lichfield; hundreds of revellers danced to house music in a forest near Kirkby; 1,000 people gathered in Stokes Croft near Bristol; police shut down a rave in an underpass of the M1 motorway in Leeds; hundreds gathered in a courtyard in Moss Side in Manchester. One raver Katie, who attended an illegal rave in a forest near Glasgow, summed it up pretty close: “I had this feeling of: wow, people really will go far for a party, won’t they?”.

DJ Flight

Women currently only make up 5% of artists signed to records labels or publishing deals in drum & bass - Beat Portal writes in their praiseworthy article about women in drum & bass and jungle. But, at the start of the genre there were plenty of ladies. DJ Rap released one of the best-selling drum & bass albums of all time with 1999’s 'Learning Curve'. DJ Flight mixed drum & bass dubs on BBC Radio 1Xtra for five years - from its launch in 2002 until 2007 - while touring the world as a Metalheadz resident. Empress and Reid Speed have been playing drum & bass at raves in America and around the world for over 20 years. Metalheadz is widely considered one of the most influential imprints in drum & bass, with Goldie being the symbol of it, but it was Kemistry & Storm who actually introduced Goldie to jungle before the three of them founded and ran Metalheadz together.

“Pop music tends to smuggle in a lot of contraband lyrically. Words that would cause outrage if spoken often get a pass or go unnoticed when sung" - Record producer Ian Brennan told Rolling Stone about racially violent songs. He pointed out 'Brown Sugar' by The Rolling Stones - "almost undoubtedly, the majority of their audience would claim to be ‘liberal’ and ‘not racist,’ but 60,000 people singing along to those words is not an entirely innocent act. That it is tolerated or dismissed is yet another smaller, but nonetheless meaningful example of systemic racism”. Brennan, who’s written several books about racism and inequity, says The Rolling Stones’ well-known track glorifies slavery, rape, torture and pedophilia.

"The UK government’s idea of gigging in the age of coronavirus is an unworkable shambles. And no wonder. It’s an experience and an industry of which they have as much first-hand knowledge as a maggot does of mountain biking... Have you seen a Conservative attempting to enjoy music? It’s like watching a drunk goose try to water-ski" - NME's Mark Beaumont writes about his government's plan to save live music venues. There's a real solution - "Luckily the Music Venues Trust, backed by 500 grassroots venues across the country, have come up with their own roadmap to reopening. It’s a far simpler affair, consisting essentially of just two steps. Step one, the Government provides a £50 million fund to ensure all venues can survive until October, the earliest many envision being able to put on viable gigs. Step two, they fuck off out of it".

The gemstone
June 27, 2020

The 100 Rick Rubin albums

"I’ve always liked doing the stuff that I like" - super-producer Rick Rubin told about the way he chooses albums he produces. There were hip-hop albums, metal, pop-superstars, classic rock - The Ringer listed 100 of those, from best to worst. "If Rick Rubin had assisted no superstars and done absolutely no work in the previous two decades (Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Slayer, Johnny Cash, 'Blood Sugar Sex Magik') or the two decades or so to come (Dixie Chicks, Avett Brothers, Adele, Black Sabbath, 'Yeezus'), his superproducer rep would still be assured for "I’m thinkin’ we start '99 Problems' a cappella alone" - The Ringer writes in a profile.

Let a hundred flowers bloom
June 26, 2020

LGBTQIA artists' influence on music

Janelle Monae came out as pansexual in 2018

REDEF has set up a praiseworthy thread about the LGBTQIA community's influence on popular music - From jazz and blues to punk and disco to pop and techno, the past century of music is all but impossible to imagine without the influence, inspiration and point of view of LGBTQIA artists. Even when their lives were invisible, their music was loud and clear and everywhere.

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