Blue Ivy to Beyonce, Backstage: “Everybody Say Good Job”

I love this video.

1) Entertainment isn’t a human “need”. But when entertainment’s done well, that doesn’t matter.

It can be a stronger motivator to influence behavior or purchase than practical needs.

2) This is what it takes to make good entertainment.

3) It was Beyonce’s birthday yesterday, and her daughter said “Everybody say good job”.

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Tae-yang’s Music Video launch and what it means for digital marketing

Or how Korean music moguls managed to distill American Pop’s secret sauce, then sold it to the world.

So many people who were born before 1985 wonder why K-Pop is a thing.

To illustrate why it’s a phenomenon, I want to ask you to watch two (2) videos launched this past month.

1) This was the first video launched for Tae-yang’s new single. After he hadn’t released songs for more than a year.

Note that this isn’t the music video yet.

2) This is its music video.

K-Pop industry articles mention that they shot the video first, and THEN showed it to the managers to see what they wanted to do with it.  This is the future of promotion.  Spontaneous, responsive, not old-school branding-heavy.  But still knows how to grab its audience by the ovaries.

It’s the Vevo version of Oreo’s “Dunk in the dark”.

Morning inspiration from Wiz Khalifa

“The bigger the bill, the harder you ball…

The quicker you’re here; the faster you go.

That’s why where I come from the only thing we know is…”

Work hard. Play hard.

Songs like this are why I will always have a soft spot for hip-hop (or rap, forgive me for not knowing the specifically appropriate genre).

It’s the only popular genre (now) that expresses what it feels like to be part of the working class.  That talks about work, the “hustle”, making money.

I also love singer-songwriters of the more “folksy” or ballad sort, but you just don’t see Sara Bareilles singing about how it feels to go to a job every day and make ends meet.

I’m not complaining either (even if it does make me hope for a day where I have the skills to write a song about going to work and office politics haha).  Because, I think there is something about the hip-hop sound that lends itself well to telling experiences of working class struggle.  The same way that singer-songwriter ballads tend to tell syrupy stories of love, longing, pain and loss.

In hip-hop, you have swagger, cities, social issues, money (along with drugs, alcohol and sex, I know).  Stories, voices, rhythms that can resonate with youth from developing nations and hard-up lives all around.

7 Magazine-type blogs: Culture-curation’s really where it’s at now, I guess?

1.  Flavorwire  – “Cultural news and critique

I like the relationship between this cultural news magazine, and Flavorpill, which is their web app to “find events in your city”.

A well thought-out experience, of learning about, finding and going to interesting things.

In fact, I would probably measure the success of a “culture news” website by the number of individual articles I feel like spontaneously opening, plus the number of outgoing links that I also open.

In that case –

Articles:  4

10 Criminally Underrated 90’s songs

Video of the day: If Pinterest were Invented in the 90’s

What’s On at Flavorpill: The Links that Made the Rounds in Our Office

Glowing Night Photos of Urban Grocers

Clicked external links: 4

Jawbreaker Shot Glass

and, from probably one of the most addictingly viral “pop culture news” magazine sites – Buzzfeed:

The Top 10 Most Legally and Illegally Downloaded TV Shows

14 Trends from Coachella 2012 You’ll Probably See More of This Summer

13 Untapped 90’s Fashion Trends

2.  Domus I love this magazine/site.  It looks just immersing and beautiful, and the features are good slices of the art and design world.

3.  Kempt

I like this.  In comparison to hearty (#6 in this list), this is more like what I’m talking about.

Distinct voice, even if isn’t exactly for me.

Feels crowded, but the content seems well-written enough – fresh takes on even “normal”-seeming things.

4. The SuperSlice

Slick and snazzy.

Altogether glossy branding and design.  With the slim category colors and clean serif title fonts.

5.  Social Design Zine

In Italian and English, I think one of the more high-brow and intellectual among this bunch, with reviews of design books and analyses of logos.

6.  hearty magazine

Love their logo, and the look of their header.

Unfortunately, I don’t fully know what to make of the magazine’s “voice”.

Not as youthfully luxurious and fashionably brash as Nylon, but also not as insightful a cultural lens as Thought Catalog.

For me it’s like the “Cosmopolitan” magazine of the web: it’s a bit too full of fluff, I’d rather read a men’s magazine.

7.  The DEFGRIP blog.

Bike culture and art.

I love that it has such a clean and crisp aesthetic for a BMX culture magazine.

Diversity is so beautiful.

Kitty Pryde: This makes sense.

This is Kitty Pryde.

You are going to want to, at least, know about her.

Why?

Because if you want to intellectualize about the state of music and the “blurring of boundaries”, she is a great example to name-drop.

Kitty Pryde has been talked about on ComplexVulture, Fader, Vice, HypeTrak, Idolator, PopDust and other culture blogs.

Even the New York Times has talked about her.

She is, as Fader describes, “the internet’s preeminent coy white girl rapper”, and her video “Okay Cupid” has been making the rounds.

Now, I’m sure her music will get A LOT of flack.

Because, damn it, when I was watching the first 20 seconds, all I was thinking was “whaaaaaaaaat.”

In fact, I’m impressed that the blogs picked this up pretty quickly.  Her main Okay Cupid youtube video only has 85, 475 views, which kind of suggests this topic is at its infancy.  Of the 1,429 people who actually cared to click a button on what they felt about this, 38% clicked the thumbs-down one.

And, she gets comments like:

“what the fuck is this shit”

“omg please stop singing”

and “She’s 17 writing the lyrics of a fucking 14 year old girl trying too hard.”

and, one of my favorites: “its like rebecca black all over again :/ with more.. words.. ”

along with: “i give up on life”

From HypeTrak, there’s also: “Really Hypetrak? so many trill nigggas doin they thing and this is what you post? smh….RIP HT”

So what’s there to like?

I actually don’t enjoy her Okay Cupid song as much as her Justin Bieber song.  Which is actually a response to his cult of fans and the baby-daddy incident.  Listen to it.

But, as usual, I love her in a “meta” way.

What do I mean?

I mean: I love what she represents.

For one, I love the whole “package”, the whole “non-marketing marketing*” approach.

(*Yes, like “no makeup makeup”).

I love that her EP is entitled “The Lizzie McGuire Experience”.

I love that her Bandcamp page has close-up, self-taken pictures of her face with black mascara trails streaming from her eyelashes and showing off her inner lip tattoo.

She is authentic.

Or, at the very least, feigns authenticity.  The kind of current “real-ness” that proper adults and “good values” see as icky.

But, she does precisely what teenagers on tumblr do.

This is the best example to support how one teenage girl (who I interviewed last year) explained her liking Miley Cyrus, as a personality, over Taylor Swift.

Because, she said, Taylor Swift is “less real”.

Her songs are all about love and liking the boy who doesn’t like you back; she beams heart-shapes into the world, which might be relatable for her 12-year old fangirls.

On the other hand, you have Miley Cyrus, who is out there making mistakes, trashing her own name, trying to break out of the mold her parents brought her up in.

Which sounds much more like a 17-year old.

And, I think authenticity especially matters when making music.

In my opinion, successful music is authentic.

Meaning it represents something true about a culture, an image or an experience.
It’s why, for me, although many great songs have universal appeal, the way they sound and the way they’re made is culturally specific.
We tend to laugh at people who just mimic or copy musical styles. But, as it has often been said, good artists steal and we now have a culture where “everything is a remix“.
What gives away that something is just a copy is when it isn’t owned.  South Korea creates successful pop songs, because they embraced it.  They got Western ingredients and made it their own.  They practiced it from childhood and honed their pop sensibilities.

Try to listen to popular songs about the social condition from the 70’s, and from the present decade.

Popular music about society’s ills in the 60’s or 70’s were either folksy, rock or reggae. Sardonic, weary or lashing out.
Now, you have the addition of hip-hop.  Which, I think, also represents society’s ills, like poverty, and violence.
But it has swagger, a gritty machismo not present in the aggression of the 70’s.  A swagger that developed from the earlier years of blues, which was also a form of dealing with slavery and sorrow.
How does this relate to Kitty Pryde?

Because if Kitty Pryde made music any other way, it wouldn’t have made sense.

She can’t rap like Nicki Minaj because she doesn’t talk like Nicki Minaj or live like Nicki Minaj.
It was a lot more valid for Eminem to rap the way he did because he lived in the same kind of anger and survivalist aggression.
It’s probably like how it’s annoying to hear non-American musicians, who try to sound American when they rap, when you know they didn’t grow up talking that way.
It’s just fake.
Kitty Pryde’s songs are about her crush and social media culture, and she ‘raps’ the way she talks because that’s how it makes sense to express herself.
Not everyone’s a songstress, you know.
There have been weirder things — like Miranda July’s spoken-word songs, yet those are considered art.  More on music appreciation in a future post. (Seriously.  If you think Kitty Pryde was weird, you should listen to these.  I almost find them disturbing.)
[Watch video at your own risk.  I tend to get traumatized.]

I guess I’m just not a “hater” when it comes to people who write their own music. I may not always like the songs, but I respect the difficulty in creating them.

Lastly, I like that they actually can’t pigeonhole her.

I think that if they stopped calling her a rapper there’d be much less negativity surrounding her video.

What this means for culture is that her music can’t really be defined as…anything, which is going to be a good description for the media genres of tomorrow.  Hip-hop and rock have crossed over for a while, and I’m pretty sure I recently read an article on the alternative sound of today’s R&B. Or was it the other way around.

This kid sounds like a teenager talking on the phone crossed with a Garage Band track from someone’s basement crossed with frozen yogurt.

I don’t even know what genre you’re supposed to call that.  And that’s why I think she signifies the start of something interesting.  Because this’ll open up doors for girls who just want to sound like they’re talking on the phone, and want to express themselves, but feel pressured by Taylor Swift and Jessica Sanchez.

Link to her tumblr account: kittydothedishes

Random “Top Links” link from Complex: 15 Sexy GIFs of Celebrities Dancing

AWMNOWLS: Fiona Apple’s When The Pawn… and Tidal

Way before Adele blossomed into the scene, I was already so entranced with Fiona Apple’s accounts and descriptions of pain and loss. 

The trouble with purchasing compact discs, cassette tapes, compilations, playlists, etc., as I’ve learned in my job, is the lack of “control” you get over what you’re going to be listening to.  Albums basically make you fork over money for 12-15 items, when you may only really want to consume two (2).

And that’s where artist branding and artist admiration come in, when it comes to driving album or concert ticket purchase.  Or any other element that may breed loyalty to an album beyond sheer liking for its individual songs.

That simple fact is why I applaud albums in which I sincerely enjoy listening to more than half of the songs listed.  And, I feel, you can’t say that for a lot of albums out there.  First, music is deeply personal (just talking about my song choices now, makes me feel kind of psychologically naked).  Second, it’s really difficult to produce a string of 12-15 songs that would all sound great or mean something to a listening individual.

In my country’s language, an apt phrase for something where all elements are valuable would be “walang patapon“, literally nothing wasted or no “rubbish/garbage”.

And, for me, the award for Album(s) with Most Number of Well-Liked Songs would be Fiona Apple’s When The Pawn and Tidal.

Yeah, yeah, it seems like an indie/hipster choice.  But that’s my honest answer.  I’m not going to deny the reality of my music taste – after those Fiona Apple albums, the next ranked albums might be either Offspring, Panic at the Disco or Relient K, then possibly Gym Class Heroes’ The Quilt, then Justin Bieber’s My World 2.0 and Beyonce’s 4.  I’m not kidding.  Yes, Fiona Apple is a few skips away from Justin Bieber.  And Justin Bieber honestly beats out Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill, Lauryn Hill MTV Unplugged, Adele’s 21 or Kate Nash’s Made of Bricks — all albums where I love around half of the songs.  My “award” is a numbers/percentage game anyway: I enjoy listening to 75% of Justin Bieber’s album (especially when preparing in the morning), versus 50% of Lauryn Hill’s Unplugged album.  This is just a long-winded way of proving that the Fiona Apple answer isn’t just me trying to be cool — I really appreciate her music.

Let me give a run-down of why these albums are the “best”, for me.

She has the most emphatic or memorable first lines that I know.  Using visceral, evocative imagery —

I lie in an early bed, thinking late thoughts.

 

So be it I’m your crowbar, if that’s what I am so far.”

 

Once my lover, now my friend,

what a cruel thing to pretend.

What a cunning way to condescend...”

 

Way before Adele blossomed into the scene, I was already so entranced with Fiona Apple’s accounts and descriptions of pain and loss.  I love Adele, too – the way she writes and the way she sounds.  Adele sounds like you or your best friend from grade school.  She’s the “Everywoman” talking about life and love.  Her songs are powerful because they’re intimate and relatable –  almost conversational even.

Fiona Apple, on the other hand, is the crazed poetic big sister.  She’s the neurotic writer girl – probably part of my fondness and fascination for Ingrid Magnussen-type women (from White Oleander).  She will write about losing someone like shimmery black rose petals raining over vanilla buttercream coca-cola and cinnamon cupcakes.  Dark and playful.

 

Nobody sees when you are lying in your bed, and I want to

crawl in with you, but I cry instead.

I want your warm but it will only make me colder when it’s over.”

 

I said ‘Honey, I don’t feel so good.  Don’t feel justified.

Come on, put a little love in my void.’  He said, ‘It’s all in your head.’

I said, ‘So’s everything.” But he didn’t get it.

 

I let the beast in too soon, I don’t know how to live without my hand on his throat...”

 

For years, I’ve been looking for the next “Fiona Apple” actually.  It’s been some sort of music-hunting challenge for me.  Over the years, I’ve found a number of young female singer-songwriters whose lyrics I like, though none yet with the playfulness (both in musical movement and lyrical wit) of Fiona Apple yet.  So far, I’ve liked Sara Bareilles’ Love Song and Gravity, Ingrid Michaelson’s Die Alone, Kate Nash’s Mariella and Merry Happy, Kimya Dawson’s My Rollercoaster and Laura Jansen’s Single Girls.  I really love the Internet, for all of that.  And music streaming and mp3 blogs.  I would have never discovered this whole wealth of songwriting if not for everyone’s desire to share.  So, yay, Internet!

Just a question thrown to the wind – anyone else have suggestions for “no-waste” albums?  Albums where almost every song is worth liking a lot?

Heart, Soul and Rhythm: I am a new fan of A Tribe Called Quest

I am music stupid in many ways.

I was an almost full-time athlete for my formative social years.  Because of spending my third grade to senior high school years in a gym, with 10-12 year olds and middle-aged coaches, I wasn’t exposed to the particular set and variety of music that most people my age listened to.

That’s just a brief disclaimer about why I don’t know a lot of songs that were/are considered well-known in my generation.

Fast forward to last night, where I got to attend a screening of Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest.

I loved it.

I’m a sucker for passion, dedication to craft.  The magic ingredient in Chef of South Polar.  And you also felt that in Beats, Rhymes and Life.  It was real.  Four talented young people coming together, forming bonds, honing talent, and going through the conflicts that do naturally happen since people really have different personalities.

The storytelling treatment didn’t assail anyone, which was amazingly careful of the creators, since they showed the tension that formed by the group’s third album – all without finger-pointing.  In fact, you even saw the steadiness in the group’s bond despite fighting and fall-outs.  Q-Tip, the creative diva of the bunch, knocked heads with Phife, but in the end, there was still concern and appreciation.

They were quirky, they loved music, they were grounded.  Their music is so honest.  That’s what I love about it – it’s honest but skilled.  Like all the best music.  It’s what keeps Benita Applebum and Hot Sex from seeming sleazy.  They’re about sex, but the sound is playful and the writing…the writing isn’t trying to be cool, or macho.

So, wow, A Tribe Called Quest.  I’m sad that I only discovered you now.  But, better late than never.