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Is Beyonce a feminist? Better question: Is Jay-Z?

Posted by Scott Kearnan January 31, 2014 09:00 AM

For one of the more boring award telecasts in recent memory, the Grammys sure have kept people talking over the last week. Most of the conversation has revolved around the song "Same Love" and the televised mass wedding of straight and gay couples that accompanied it. (Why? Not for the reason you probably assume. Here's the deal.)

But as the week wore on, chatter grew about the opening performance: Beyonce's "Drunk in Love," for which she strutted, preened and wailed before hubby Jay-Z swooped in with a rap verse. So it was sort of like "Crazy in Love," except with fewer horns and more references to wife-beating.

You see, the lyrics include Jay-Z asserting that, ”I’m Ike Turner Turner/You know I don’t play/Now eat the cake, Anna-Mae/Eat the cake Anna-Mae.” It nods to a violent scene in the Tina Turner biopic What's Love Got to Do With It, which details the singer's abusive marriage. Though controversy started bubbling after the release of "Drunk in Love," watching the hubby and wife actually perform it together live was more impactful than hearing words on a radio. The issue achieved greater resonance. Now plenty of people are calling into question Beyonce's feminist credentials, and less than a month after her essay on gender equality had seemed to settle the matter of whether Beyonce assigns them to herself.


The Grammys' gay wedding earned some tone-deaf backlash

Posted by Scott Kearnan January 27, 2014 01:19 PM

Have you ever heard a cell phone ring at a wedding? It's horrible. The worst. Everyone cringes. You can roll your eyes and shrug off the interruption during a movie or a work meeting. But a wedding? There's no worse reminder of the device's most grating quality — its arrogant assumption that everyone has something very important to tell you right this very minute — than the loud intrusion of something unnecessary on something very meaningful.

There was a mass wedding at the Grammy Awards on Sunday night when, during a performance of "Same Love," the pro-gay marriage rap anthem that became an unlikely hit last year, Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert, Madonna and Queen Latifah presided over the mass nuptials of 33 diverse couples — gay and straight men and women of various ages and races. There was also a noisy cell phone: The social media reaction. Most people, like the tear-dabbing newlyweds and celeb attendees on TV, seemed moved by the sentiment of the gesture. And there was the expected right-wing backlash about a televised attack on "traditional families." But more surprising (though not really) was the small but loud online response from some gay rights supporters, including those within the LGBT community, that the ceremony was horrible — worst thing ever, if you think about it, really. You see, there was a certain amount of hand-wringing about a straight white guy endorsing gay marriage while accompanied by other straight people. It reeked, said certain critics, of head-patting patronizing by privileged folks appropriating the struggles of minorities. (Erm, hey: LGBT nonprofits? Shut down those ally-building initiatives you've launched. We don't really want them.)

This was when I wished the ringers went off. It was the I'M GONNA LET YOU FINISH BUT… interruption of the moment.

(You can watch the full performance here.)

Not that it wasn't predictable. No sooner were rings on fingers than tapping fingertips were ringing with opinions — Thoughts! Perspectives! Vital rumination! — that must be heard, tweeted, RT'd, shared, liked. Right now. Your opinion. On all these people. Their motives. You have one. It's vital. Listen! But don't tell the truth. That's boring. "Well-Intentioned Equal Marriage Statement Has Problematic Elements But Was Overall Pretty Cool," is not click bait for your personal brand. NEEDS MORE: pop culture contrarianism. It's a brave new world! Counter discourse is the new discourse!

The Grammys were the Straight White People Give Each Other Awards for Doing Black Music About Gay Rights Better Than You Convention, according to a Jezebel piece that crops Queen Latifah out of its accompanying picture and neglects to mention that Mary Lambert — you know, the woman who sings and co-wrote "Same Love" — is a lesbian. ("O SURE BUT…") That description sums up the prevailing knee-jerk assumption (directed to a lot of things lately): that everything must be wrong and horrible because it's also not perfect. That said, the whole Grammys wedding stunt absolutely raised some very reasonable and important questions:


Lisa Marie Presley Talks Music and Family History Before Natick Show

Posted by Scott Kearnan January 10, 2014 12:00 PM

If he was trying to make his mark in the music world today, would Elvis Presley have needed American Idol?

"I would hope not! But it does kind of seem like we're heading that way in the world today," answers the legend's only daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, when I ask her about the current state of the music industry — where success increasingly seems reserved for stars with the biggest media blitz and strongest PR team, not the most talent. Four years ago Presley relocated to rural England, and says that country's curiosity and respect for history — including musical heritage — was part of its appeal. "I don't know if people really know where anything started anymore, or how it began, unless it's on American Idol," she says. "Which is not to discredit American Idol. It is what it is. But it's funny to me that sometimes other countries really appreciate what we've exported more than we do."

Photo: Joseph LIanes

And in fact, though she's direct descendant of the King of Rock and American music royalty, it took that move to England to inspire 2012's Storm and Grace, the Memphis-born crooner's most Southern, roots-y, downright swampy album yet. She kicks off this year's supporting tour tonight at 9 p.m. at the Verve Crowne Plaza in Natick. (tickets are $20 or $150 for a meet-and-greet, available here.)


Secretary of State Dennis Rodman screams at CNN from North Korea

Posted by Scott Kearnan January 7, 2014 02:31 PM

Does anyone understand?? Does anyone understand??

Evidently, CNN's New Day host Chris Cuomo does not understand. Basketball star, Celebrity Apprentice darling and one-time Madonna beau Dennis Rodman is in the middle of repairing global relations with North Korea with the help of ten guys — TEN GUYS! — some of whose names he may recall. He will do this by sharing the international language of basketball at next week's very special birthday game for dictator Kim Jong-un, whom Rodman fondly calls his "friend." (Who will win? Tune in to the state-run news to find out!) And Cuomo? All he wants to do, as he hides like Rapunzel up in his ivory tower of pansy microphones and whatnots, is talk about North Korea's horrifying history of human rights violations, last month's execution of Jong-un's once powerful uncle, and the continued detainment of Kenneth Bae, an American Christian missionary serving 15 years of hard labor over a sketchy conviction that he was plotting to overthrow the North Korean government. (The White House has been calling for his release.)

So what does Rodman do? He unleashes a can of grade-A, 100-percent certified Come-At-Me-Bro. Watch.

Highlights include: the Red Sox cap (naturally), the delicate cherry blossom wallpaper, Rodman's insistence to his more lucid teammates that he's "got this!" and the no-you-don't-please-stop shoulder rubs that result, more delicate cherry blossom wallpaper, and the hushed, reverent tone he takes at 2:20, when he goes from EATING YOUR FACE to sounding like an audiobook about the value of Kundalini meditation.

"Basketball diplomacy." Cool.

About this blog

Scott Kearnan (@thewritestuffSK) is a Boston-based writer, editor, and communications consultant focusing on lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment. He's also a part-time smart aleck and buffalo wing connoisseur. "Media Remix" is where couch potatoes meet pop culture criticism. More »

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