Lorde: Yellow Flicker Beat (Kanye West & An-Ten-Nae Reworks)

The Kanye West “rework” (a.k.a. the new word for remix) of Lorde’s “Yellow Flicker Beat” is getting more press, but I prefer this one by An-Ten-Nae…

Women (in Music): Second Class Citizens?

I know I said I wouldn’t post much again until March and I usually don’t care at all about celebrity news, but I feel the need to rant about two recent stories regarding women in the music business…

First and most disturbing to me is the news that Chris Brown allegedly beat girlfriend Rihanna. Many music sites and blogs were quick to condemn actor Christian Bale’s temper tantrum and report on swimmer Michael Phelps’ drug use, even though neither are in the music industry. Yet on Chris Brown, some of the same sites have remained silent. Obviously I haven’t posted about it before either, but this was because 1) I don’t typically post celeb gossip here, and 2) there had been no official confirmation of the story. Since Brown released a statement last week saying he was “sorry and saddened” by the incident and “seeking counseling”, that seems like confirmation to me.

Despite a leaked photo of her ravaged face, the extent of Rihanna’s injuries are still officially in question. Even if he just smacked her without leaving a mark, I think Brown should be receiving much harsher treatment from the media (it’s bizarre that TMZ, TV Guide’s Watercooler show, and Fox News seemed to present the most reasonable reports on the story) and fellow celebrities than he seems to be getting.

Why aren’t more writers, bloggers, and celebrities speaking out for Rihanna? I’ve seen brief quotes from Jay-Z and Mary Wilson, but the rest seem to be supporting Brown or staying silent. Meanwhile, some famous idiots have released statements saying Brown should be “given a break” (Kanye West), “He’s cool, you know” (T.I.), “That’s still my homeboy at the end of the day” (Ne-Yo), and “Chris is a great guy. He’ll be all right. Rihanna knows he loves her.” (Terrence Howard) even after Brown admitted guilt. Rapper 50 Cent apparently parodied the incident in a comedy sketch on his own website, other pseudo-celebs had the stupidity and adacity to blame Rihanna for somehow provoking the attack, and at least one PR company used the story as a sickening way to market their indie band to music blogs. There is obviously something very wrong with the American music industry, but we knew that.

I just wish the above-mentioned morons would say something constructive or simply keep their big mouths shut, because abusers don’t need such support and victims certainly don’t deserve blame. Certainly the story in general should be given more serious attention, if for nothing else than the affect it must have on victims of domestic violence who aren’t celebrities. Think about it… if a wealthy, talented, famous singer like Rihanna is forced into hiding and her attacker receives such indifferent and/or tolerant reaction simply because he is well liked, doesn’t that seem likely to discourage an average, low income (already terrified) woman from seeking help?

In the interest of full disclosure, the first five years of my life were spent in a domestically violent environment. I have no delusions regarding this, I know that witnessing a large man hit and throw around a petite woman made me pre-disposed to automatically hate any man who raises a hand to a woman. I also have close friends who are survivors of various forms of abuse. If these experiences make you doubt the validity of my remarks here, so be it. But I feel just as strongly about cases of racism and animal abuse, with no personal experience attached to either subject.

The news that Amanda Palmer’s single “Oasis” has been banned in the UK due to its lyrical subject matter may seem light-hearted in comparison. But despite the humorous tone of the song, it does address date rape. Palmer herself questions whether the song would be banned if she were a man, or if the song had a more somber arrangement. I wonder if Stone Temple Pilots’ “Sex Type Thing” (sung from the rapist’s point of view) was banned by the same UK channels? Or Avenged Sevenfold’s “Scream”, the lyrics of which also seem to be about a man threatening to rape a woman? It seems acceptable for a man to sing about violating a woman, yet a woman can’t sing about the same topic…at least not in any manner she chooses.

This censorship comes after Palmer’s record label pressured her to reshoot the video for “Leeds United” because they said she looked fat and apparently did little to promote her album since she refuses to imitate pop princesses like Britney Spears. You can read an interview with Amanda Palmer about these incidents at The Guardian, and her own take at her blog.

I wish I had the time and resources to construct this rant into a proper essay…but I don’t. I just felt I had to say something. A good friend who works for a non-profit organization helping victims of domestic violence was kind enough to provide me with the following links:

** The Chicago Tribune does a much better job of covering the Chris Brown/Rihanna story and addressing the issues surrounding it than I have here.

** YWCA’s website has many resources for those (whether affected by violence, rape, abuse, or discrimination) looking for help – everything from shelters and counseling to daycare, job training, and health and wellness programs.

** National Coalition Against Domestic Violence also offers a wide array of resources for victims of domestic violence, including ways to find help in your local area. They even have a program that offers cosmetic surgery to remove the physical scars of abuse. Their national hotline number is 800-799-SAFE.

I don’t fool myself into thinking that anything I write here will change the world. But maybe it’ll help one person. If anyone reading this is or has been a victim of domestic violence, date rape, or any other kind of abuse or discrimination – you have absolutely NOTHING to be ashamed of. There is NO EXCUSE for anyone to hurt or control someone weaker than themselves – no matter what the gender, age, income, or popularity of either the attacker or their victim.

Estelle: Shine

Estelle is a British singer-rapper whose UK hit duet with Kanye West has only recently hit the American airwaves. Estelle’s luscious voice is the big attraction on her sophomore album Shine, but the music also draws attention by sliding through infectious beats and ambient melodies. In addition to West, the album also features guest vocals by its producer John Legend and Wyclef Jean. Estelle was born the second of eight children in West London, the daughter of Senagalese and Granadan parents. A chance encounter with Kanye West and John Legend at Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles (I don’t know what that is, but it sounds good!) in LA led to their professional collaborations.

“Wait A Minute (Just A Touch)” serves as a fine introductory showcase of Estelle’s blend of soulful crooning, throaty raps, and catchy beats. The track samples C & C Music Factory’s “Just A Touch Of Love”, Edwin Starr’s “Easin’ In”, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You”, though only the former is obvious on first listen. The use of George Michael’s “Faith” in “No Substitute Love” seems like a slight misstep, but the tune is otherwise likable.

“Magnificent” and “Come Over” have a light reggae-soul vibe. The former features Kardinal Offishall and was co-written by Amy Winehouse producer Mark Ronson. Wyclef Jean guests on the rhythmic, rap-centric track “So Much Out The Way”, which harvests elements of Grover Washington’s “Hydra” and Bob Marley’s “So Much things To o Say”.

The supercatchy stand out “American Boy” features Kanye West and John Legend. Legend lends backing vocals to several tracks before finally sharing the spotlight on the smooth and pretty duet “You Are”. “Back In Love” glides into a gentle, laid back mood, while the vibrant Cee-Lo collaboration “Pretty Please (Love Me)” mixes retro soul with orchestral strings.

I was not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can hear samples at the links below.

Estelle Official Site

Buy @ Amazon

Common: Finding Forever

Common’s Finding Forever was produced by Kanye West, who co-wrote many of the tracks on the album. West also guests on a couple of songs, as do D’Angelo, will.i.am, and Lily Allen. I’m a fan of both Common and Kanye, so needless to say I love this collaboration.

Finding Forever opens with the soft harp instrumental “Intro” before bursting into “Start The Show”, which layers Common’s rapped verses and Kanye’s chorus with a string quartet. The track is one of many co-written by Kanye West and contains a sample of “The Windmills Of Your Mind”.

“The People” blends a more standard rap – which references India.Arie and Barack Obama among others – with a retro soul groove. Lily Allen sings the chorus of “Drivin’ Me Wild”, which samples “Love Has Fallen On Me”. I’ve seen the video several times on BET, but I’ve yet to hear it on local radio stations.

“So Far To Go” samples The Isley Brothers and features vocals by D’Angelo. Is it a surprise that my least favourite track on the disc was co-written by and features vocals by will.i.am? Even his name annoys me.

The disc gets back on track with the Kanye West duet “Southside”. The song puts a little more emphasis on West’s energetic style, as opposed to the more soulful approach I tend to associate with Common.

Vintage horns and DJ scratches make “The Game” the stand out track. “U, Black Maybe” samples Syreeta – who seems to be the artist that most people are searching for when they stumble upon this blog.

“Misunderstood” is another highlight, winning my love by heavily sampling Nina Simone. Like many of the other tracks, the lyrics of the song blend social commentary with pop culture references. And the album closes with the atmospheric “Forever Begins”, which borrows its melody from Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”.

Common Official Site
Buy the CD or Mp3s