Tag Archives: Madonna

WAP Grammys 2021 Performance is Not Empowerment or Feminism–It’s Misogyny

16 Mar

Visibility is imperative. Pushing norms is progress. But disguising the objectification of women for the male gaze as empowered feminism is super-problematic, and that’s what is happening here. Cardi b and Meghan Thee Stallion’s Grammys 2021 performance was supposed to push boundaries, and shock. And it did! Madonna pushed boundaries of female sexuality with her cones and simulated sex scene prior to this. But I see the Miley Cyrus/Robin Thicke twirking on all the negative YouTube videos for ‘top 10 cringe moments’, ‘celebs that are problematic’, ‘people who got cancelled’, etc, etc… And let’s not forget how Janet Jackson was ENDED over a fraction of a sec of nipple pasty action at the Superbowl. Can you say, double standard?!

Anyway, I keep seeing a lot of arguments for the merits of this song/performance because it matches what men do. Men have scantily-clad women on their videos, demean women as “bitches” (and far worse) in their lyrics, talk about sexual acts in explicit detail, and are “pimps” when they rack up the number of women they conquer. So people are arguing it’s cool that now women can do that too.

Except here’s the thing:

Feminism isn’t doing whatever you want or being as disgusting as men, it is breaking away from objectification, truly empowering the individual self and collective group of women.

Joining in on objectification of women is not empowerment!

em·pow·er·ment (N)- Authority or power given to someone to do something. “individuals are given empowerment to create their own dwellings” the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.

This performance isn’t about women owning their bodies, sexuality, or controlling the narrative. This is women selling their image in a package that men like in order to make money and gain fame in the small niche that female rap artists have carved out.

Women in this patriarchal society have to fit in a box–the Madonna/whore dichotomy. Women in music, already in that narrow box of patriarchy, have to fit into an even smaller box of being a role model to girls while having sexual appeal for the general public. The rap category is an even teenier box a couple of select women have to fit in to keep going. In the end, the box is so small and limited, there is no space left.

People online are praising the performance as visible female sexuality, black women owning their own bodies, and empowerment. Which, I agree might be present (though in this writing, I’ll argue it’s in diluted form). I felt the performance was harmful to women’s progress. What I don’t want to do is add the the terrible narrative that black women’s sexuality is wild/animalistic/scary/out of control that colonialism, racism, sexism, and patriarchy has painted it. I find the performance harmful because it is misogyny in feminist clothing, to borrow the sheep expression.

I know there’s a whole song, and the music video that goes with it. I don’t know much about either so my critiques are based solely on the following video of the 2021 Grammy performance:

My racap of the action:

-A stripper pole-references the men’s domain of the strip club where women take off clothes and dance suggestively for men’s entertainment.
-Cardi B backs up and puts her butt-crack on the pole. Side-note: Butt implants are for men. A women can die getting plastic surgery to enhance her body. Her clothes will fit differently. She will have to move differently, walk differently, lay down differently than she did before putting plastic in her butt. And she may have complications later. Leaking, autoimmune issues, cancer… This is not for a woman’s pleasure–women’s butts are not an erroneous zone, or secondary sex characteristic. A big butt is for men’s pleasure.
-In case the viewer couldn’t put it together, a giant, clear plastic stripper platform shoe flanks the stage. The type of shoe men like to look at, but women have trouble walking effectively in, and certainly running from danger is out of the question in such a shoe. It shows the power dynamic–females are weakened by such a shoe but men get pleasure from them wearing the shoe. Men are in power here. The women are just props for them to use to achieve sexual gratification.
-Other suggestive moves that drive home this is a performance to cater to men’s sexual desire: Splay legs, she grabs/rubs her puss, gyrating hips and doing suggestive humping dance moves. Cardi B elevates and licks her own leg. Countless squats split legged. Laying with legs far apart on the bed. Crawling on the bed. Split legged humping. Laying on her back with split legs. The two women crawl toward each other on bed. They scissor their legs together. [Pet-peeve] this is NOT a thing! I mean, it might technically exist in the way the pile-driver is a thing, but not used in real life, it’s only for porn. This scissoring maneuver is performative and it’s is ignorant/Lesbphobic. As a matter of fact, if two out, butch lesbians did the same move, I’ll bet the reaction would be totally different. Then to finish the show, more split legs.

Here’s the test to know

a) if this is two women owning their own bodies, displaying confidence and empowerment

OR

b) this is a sexually suggestive performance for the male gaze

In the above video and descriptive paragraph, trade out the women for men.

Have you seen men doing a similar performance before? Does it seem like the same type of performance? Would it garner the same reaction?

I’d say fail.

You do not/would not see two men: Dancing on a pole. Licking their own leg. Crawling toward another man on a giant bed. Or scissoring legs together with another man…

This is not women owning their sexuality. This is objectifying & commodifying women for the male gaze.

Research by Calogero has shown that the male gaze can have detrimental effects on women’s self-esteem and self-objectification, leading to increased body shame and a worsened mental state. The male gaze creates a power imbalance. It supports a patriarchal status quo, perpetuating women’s real-life sexual objectification.

So that’s why I don’t like it. I’m not even going to mention being role model for girls, b/c the conservatives always trot that out to shame women. But I will say it would be nice if society was better at recognizing misogyny. I can understand why it’s difficult because it’s ubiquitous and pervasive. But we need to educate ourselves a lot better, because things are still BAD for women. And I would love to see women being successful by truly own their own bodies and sexuality in an empowering way. I hope it happens.

But this was not it.

Album Countdown 2019: My Disappointments (19-28, rather 28-19)

28 Dec

I usually rank all of these artists higher, so I was particularly disappointed in them in 2019.  And can we just talk about how country music is totally off the rails right now?  Like, what the fuck happened to it?  Where has it gone?  It’s really superficial, lacking most of the elements I look for in a good country song.  The closest thing to it is this folksy Americana/roots stuff that Brandi Carlile ran off into.  Roots in fine in small doses.  But I want country, country!  And I’d like Brandi to go back to a more folk-rock sound.  Please and thank you.

 

28. David Gray:
He used to be one of my staples. And I was very excited to see his new album had ‘jazz’ right in the title! I really expected something. But alas, the tunes were quited and meh. And I aborted (which I never take lightly) the song by song review because of boredom.

 

27. Marren Morris
Her breakthrough albums made me an instant fan! I really liked it and had it on heavy rotation for 2 years. So I was excited to see her next effort since she has more fame, clout, money to go in a direction she wants musically. I’d have liked to see more personality on the 2nd album–it was kinda forgettable despite the duets. What a disappointment.

 

26. Madonna
File this one under: Expert Trying Too Hard. Yes, Madonna will always have it. But I could tell she was really trying to get in touch with a moment to better fit the aesthetic of 2019. Like that mom that borrows her 16 year old’s clothes to try to fit it with the kids.
“Extreme Occident” right/left/lost is not strong enough, and I found it to be a political cop-out. Madonna has never shied away from telling us who she is and what she thinks. Also, she has a large following and big audience that she influences. Finally, she’s a bit removed from the chasing fame and certainly financially stable. So what does she have to lose by making a big statement?
“Bitch I’m Loca” speaking part at the end was funny.
“I Don’t Search” very electronic (house?) with kinda dreamy lyrics. I, of course, like the “Vogue”-eske snaps.
“Faz Gastoso” is foreign language (Spanish?) and has an R&B tough-gal sound and a lot of tongue-rolling. It also has that sound given to a lot of 3rd world scenes with the instrumental breakdown and all. As a matter of fact, I felt a sense of dejavu listening to it, and was trying to figure out if it was copied from something…

 

23. Lady Antebellum:
I found the album a little ‘too.” You know overly sentimental and trying too hard.
-”The Thing That…” Nice harmony and nice like echo effect of the singing.
-”What If I Never” I liked how they alternate male vs female vocals on the verse then came together on the chorus. It’s a good concept-the thought that time might not always heal broken hearts caused from breaking up.
-”Pictures” Short and meh.
-”Downtown” Tells a story, with a lot of description.
-”On a Night Like” Is a nice love song.

 

22. Avett Brothers
-ugh! Too much talking! Every song is ruined with talk.
-”New Woman…” good political points/feminism, but I think it must have been written before Trump? It’s pretty optimistic, and the current political landscape and state of feminism is (I would say) bleak.

 

21. Jonas Brothers
The album seems quite generic and boring.
“Used to be” poppy. Just Ok.
“Love Her” is nice with the snaps and la-las.
“Hesitate” I like the sentiment of the lyrics.

 

20. Luke Combs
I was actually pretty disappointed this album was such a let down compared to the prior one that was well written. This one felt more forced and came off as phony to me–not nearly as authentic as the last album. I also thought that deep, resonant singing got lost on this one.
-“Angels Workin…” Has a good beat, is a good tailgate song, and was probably the strongest offering on this album.
-“Every Little Bit..” I like that it’s sad and cheeky. I always enjoy a good break up song, and this one is relatable.
-“Beer Never Broke” is a good tailgate song.
-“Even though…” Daddy? Um no, you’re too old for that, Luke. The song is folksy.
-“Frigerator Door’ is trying too hard to force sentimentality.
-“Mexico” is kinda short and meh-not that notable.
-“Better Together” is just OK. The singing is kinda rough.
-“Lovin on You” sounds like a jukebox song, with a good beat, and love lyrics.
-’Even Though” is too much for me. I put in in the ‘Army Wives’ category.

 

19. Thomas Rhett:
It isn’t the autobiographical catchy tunes of the other album I liked. I found most of the songs felt too short. He did more shorter songs and I wish he had added to each one even if the album turned out shorter.
-”Don’t Threaten me w/a Good Time” party song, fun, jam-band instrumentals
-”blessed” nice love song, only complaint is that it’s too short
-”VHS” is mildly catchy like the other album, but not in a strong way. Watered down summer jam.
-”Notice” is a nice, catchy love song. I like the detail in it, and I like how singable it would be at concerts.
-”Sand” is a summer party song and also a love song. I think the singing is good here-some higher notes
-”Beer Can’t Fix” is the Jimmy Buffet island song of the album. Calypso sound and duet sounds nice for the beach.
-”Don’t Stop Drivin’’ has a nice beat, more poppy.
-”Barefoot” gives a nice mental image. Has some background vocals reminiscent of the other album.

Robo-Music: Countdown of Top Albums from 2015

29 Dec

I’m not certain if it’s this era in music I don’t really care for or if it’s the tastes of Utah.  Here in Salt Lake City, at least, everyone is in to DJs.  And electronic.  And very pop-1980s throwbacks.  It’s nothing live, nothing that has heart.  And that’s the whole thing for me.  I need substantial lyrics and some belting out.  Instrumentation.  The popular music in the Salt Lake City area is computer-generated or superficial.  So I feel like I’m musically starved.  And I hope it’s just this region that doesn’t know the story.  I did manage to scrape up some contenders for this list.

music- robot 2

This list was compiled based on album alone. Catalog, concerts, expectations, hype, and cuteness were not factors.  And as an aside, I posted this before really going through it with a fine-toothed comb, so to speak.  In the interest of time.  I’ve been  notorious in previous years for wanting to perfect these or wanting to listen to ALL the options, then not ever posting them.  Or posting them a year late.  So up it goes, but I may edit or add some things later.

 

DIDN’T Likes (Worst to Don’t Love Listening):

Diddy

What happened to the Puffy/Biggy days when there was a melody or two within the rap?  This is harsh and displeasing.  Almost grating.  I think it’s that electronic influence rearing it’s ugly head again.   Also, rapping was not really a thing (which is the point?) so I didn’t really connect with any lyrics either.  A disappointment.

Sleater-Kinney

Some people might like “No Cities to Love”.  I am not one of them.  But I don’t think this album is bad, it seems well thought-out and well-executed.  It is just not my taste AT ALL.

Sara Bareilles

I have liked her past albums.  Like a lot.  I think she is one of few that speaks for feminists.  And that’s so important, especially in the male-dominated music industry.  This album was barely listen-able for me.  It felt like a cheesy Disney soundtrack or a musical.  Very overwrought and sappy to the point of-barf.  I hope she goes back to her roots.

Matt and Kim

It’s TOO harsh.  I understand they are supposed to be electronic and robotic.  But “New Glow”  is robots in a war.  I need something to sing to, some catchy chorus, somewhere.  All the noise makes that difficult to find.  And even as an exercise album, which I expect substantially less from lyrically, it was too jarring and too syncopated.

music- robot

Blah-Neutral, Try Harder in the Future, and Up and Coming in no particular order (Medium-Passion from Me):

Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell

The first two songs made me think they were going to steal the Grammy from Brandi.  Which, despite a flagging enthusiasm for Brandi’s latest, I most definitely want her to WIN that prize.  So I was horrified, I really liked a couple of Emmylou’s songs.  It’s old country and Americana as the category has nominated her for, but every song was not a winner.  The album lost steam in a few places.  Aside from some boring tunes, it’s a down-home oldy-feeling work of art that a person could listen to one or two times before totally losing interest.

Jason Isbell

It’s hard not to compare Isbell to Brandi Carlile–since they’re up for the same Grammy and all.  But, this artist is ranked under Brandi, because I said I would look at the albums singularly.  And his is a whole different thing.  I think in some ways it is more listen-able then “Firewatcher’s Daughter” in that it makes easy, background music.  I like the gentleness of the sound.  But when it comes down to it, I personally like catchy things sung well and with feeling.  And this album has no hooks or unbelievable vocal range, as Brandi’s does.  But it’s a chill-mood and none of the songs are unlikeable (which I can’t always say about Brandi’s songs).  So check it out–but it BETTER not steal Brandi Carlile’s Grammy if it knows what’s good for it!

Kelly Clarkson

More of the same.  I’ve always liked Clarkson, especially her breaking up songs.  Except, I feel like her albums and sound are becoming more and more of a manufactured machine.  The genuineness is simply  not there.  I think Clarkson should write from her heart and sing from her soul rather then doing mathematical calculations in trying to secure top chart numbers and album sales.  I want to hear her stripped down and authentic–even at the risk of being less corporate.

Tim McGraw

Went skating.  Skating by on prior success, on his image, and on his fan-base.  I thought there was nothing at all special about this album.  I would like to see him strive for the next work–I know he is capable of growth, of branching out, and getting out of his comfort zone a little.  This album was put out for the sake of remaining relevant, and unfortunately, you can tell.

Jewel

On the other hand, Jewel tried too hard.  I can hear that she tried to replicate her earlier success.  But the effort had a disingenuous, forced quality about it that I didn’t like.  The poetry was there, some sweet-signing, and a little discord.  Folk was full-force, but “Picking Up the Pieces” still wasn’t comparable to “Pieces of Me” as I’m sure she intended.  Jewel formerly sold out and went straight pop for the money.  Then she tried to recapture success easily by going to the easier realm of country.  After that failed, she’s floundering–and it shows.  I wish Jewel would forget the record sales and corporate numbers and actually be genuine.  I think she has a place in music–but it’s not going to be  through her own force of will.  She needs to get in tune (pun!) with herself and her story if she’s going to get out of her slump.

Papa Roach

Also offered nothing really special or nothing really groundbreaking here.  I used to like their rebellious sound.  The blend of punk, pop, and rock they had going.  Now, it’s a little formulaic, with no real standouts.  Can’t music forgo corporate manufacture and be real?!

Avicii

“Stories” could be a great album.  But the first album, “True” (?) that I listened to raised my expectations very high so this newest one was sort of a big yawn for me.  After falling in LOVE with the last album, I just could find anything to attach to in this one.  I think it’s still OK, but it hardly equals “True.”

music- electronic

Worth Mentioning (but not a blurb):

Adele-  probably would rank on my list, but no Spotify, no rank.

Christine and the Queens- self titled

Death Cab for Cutie- Kintsugi

The Decemberists- What a Terrible World. . .

Imagine Dragons- Smoke + Mirros

Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp a Butterfly

Luke Bryan- Kill the Lights

Sports- All of Something

music- robot 3

 

AAANNNNNND Top Albums of 2015 Countdown from Good to Very Best:

11 (honorable mention).

Kid Rock

Dave Matthews Band’s Lovely Ladies must have stepped into the recording studio with Kid Rock.  This album is good, but very, very different from previous efforts.  It’s more grown up and country/blues, than rebel rock.  I liked the gospel and southern flair and thought they were appropriate to the tracks.  The thing that would make the album stronger is a little more variation in the songs.  They all started to sound the same to me.  And though cohesive as an album, even the 80’s hard-rock Gods knew to throw in a ballad once in awhile.  There should be something that doesn’t meet expectations in here to really flesh it out.  And fans of the first few albums–prepare your ears–I’m not sure you’re going to like this even a little bit.

 

10.  rebel heart

Madonna

This album would have ranked higher, because the songs that I like, I really, REALLY like.  But there was some electronic/club influence that I’m trying to get away from—as you heard.  My top 10 is all about the human aspect of music.  What I liked was the variability in the album.  It all meshed together, but the songs were distinct and had different feels and influences in them.  We have a broken heart, dancy-club, a Jamaican sound, and of course electronic.  I especially give top marks for this seldom-seen vulnerability in many of the tracks.  It’s a softer, riskier sound for Madonna, and I feel like I know her better as a person because of it.  Of course I also like the stronger side of her personality and artistry, and that’s here as well.  Madonna’s sound has matured and she has leaned tons from her years topping the charts–but she’s still got IT.

9.  firewatchers daughter

Brandi Carlile

Let me just get it out there.  No, I have to soften it a little by saying Brandi is perhaps my favorite artist of the last 6 years.  And her shows are THE best!  She seems genuine and she’s personable, and of course she’s cute.  So my expectations for a new album were SKY-high.  Bear Creek was phenomenal, in my opinion.  The follow-up was sure to be even better.  But it wasn’t.  Not to me, at least–the rest of the world seems to disagree and is finally catching on to MY band.  Washington state, especially Seattle, feel like the band is OURS.  So I very much hate to say “Firewatcher’s Daughter” just seemed to meander too far to the right for me.  I’m not saying it was bad by any means.  But usually I attach to all but 1, or maybe 2 songs on Brandi’s albums.  This time, I only really-liked 2-3.  “These Things I Regret” was good and I think sort of a fan-song.  It was more the old style, the one I fell in love with.  “Mainstream Kid” with its strength and rock-flavor is the other obvious hit on the record.  And “Wherever is Your Heart” shows the band’s range and energy.  Honorable mention goes to “The Stranger at my Door” for most awesome song-ending ever.   The rest?  Too. . .  I don’t know, maybe just not MY style.  “The Eye” is not an album-song.  It’s meant for the live, breath-taking, ‘wow that’s almost a Capella  and look how they blend together as a group’ sentiment.  But even live (at the Gorge) the choruses repeat to the point of boredom and it just got tedious to me.  The Avette Brother’s cover is good.  But it also bothers me.  One, it seems too soon cover them–the Avettes (though their catalog is HUGE) are JUST going mainstream.  Mostly, though it seems (as gleaned from show commentaries and interviews) to be Brandi’s love song to her family and a gay anthem (from her perspective, I gather).  But it’s obviously written (and unchanged) for brothers, or at least siblings.  With the ‘which one of us would Dad be proud of’ stuff.  I want her to tailor it to her needs or really, just leave it to the Avette Brothers.  And “Wilder, We’re Chained” if it’s not a direct Fleetwood Mac cover, it’s MUCH too similar, and with “The Eye” having that same tone, it just feels like a throw away song.  I guess I won’t go into any more specific song detail (because I already wrote that blog) but I feel compelled to justify my options.  I don’t like “going against” my favorites.  Because–I feel guilty for being disappointed.  I am happy Brandi Carlile’s career is finally taking off in a mainstream way and she’s getting some long-deserved media-attention.  But, I hope Brandi Carlile does not continue to scout territory which takes her farther away from her core group of fans.  I liked the former albums–even if they didn’t garner all the attention, hype, and accolades.  Though they should have and I don’t know why she’s just now blowing up–it’s long overdue.  Maybe now that everybody’s watching she can go back to the more rock-folk style that I like better?

8.  Kacey Musgravespageant material

I like it:  A cheeky country gal.  The songs are catchy and foster an independent rebel spirit that I like, and that I think is totally necessary in the still good-ol boys country network.  I think she’ll join modern trail-blazers Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood, and especially Miranda Lambert as the new spunky voice of country women, working to bust stereotypes and get outside of the social norms.  This album gives me an idea of what Musgraves stands for, and I like that message even better then the songs.

7.storyteller

Carrie Underwood

Is back to herself–thank goodness!  I love her bitter songs where she gets feisty and this album has that in spades.  Seeing Underwood sell-out and try to please mainstream (impossible/boring) was sad, so “Storyteller” is all the better.  It offers almost every song as independent woman, talking trash to some loser who mistreated her.  The passion in Underwood’s voice is back to go nicely with her always strong voice.  Love.  And I hope she remains true to her roots from now on.

6.

Mumford & Sonswilder mind

I loved their sound so much.  When “Babel” exploded onto the scene, it was stripped down, featured a kind of country feel, and was completely different.  So I’m a little disappointed the band has chosen to deviate to the sound that contributed to their huge mainstream popularity.  I liked it because it WAS different and not the normal mainstream sound.  But alas, though I’m not sure I’m on board with the band changing its tune (another pun!), but I’m judging “Wilder Mind” by itself.  And it’s masterfully done.  Really, it’s a solid work as a group.  You can listen to the album over and over and it’s a really great work.  There are no real individual songs that pop though.  And as a side-note to the band–get back to your acoustic roots.

5.Mika-1st albumMika

Mika- The Origin of Love

Yes, this album is pretty-pure pop.  BUT it is strong in a socially-conscious way.  Mike SAYS something in this album.  Opposed to Cee Lo’s closet-case, Mike is totally uninhibited gay.  Like, old-school, flamboyant, proud to be a little feminine, gay.  This album is an anthem for all the homos everywhere, even going so far as to ask, “Where Have All the Gay Guys Gone?”  And the songs are catchy and dancy which doesn’t hurt one bit.

4.  The Indigo Girlsone lost day

When I was just thinking about the album, I felt sorry that I was a little disappointed in it.  “One Lost Day” is not an evolution.  Some past albums were much stronger, showed more growth, or talked more of political issues.  But if the Indigo Girls can do anything, they can subtly change their sound to remain relevant in current times.  Just look back at how long they’ve been around.  And just TRY to sound two very similar albums from there—they are all different.  And apparently, in order to be relevant in 2015, you have to have an electronic or strong-pop flavor.  I couldn’t remember any stand-out songs when I thought about the tracks of “One Lost Day,”  and I even thought maybe the new album was a little too pop.  When I actually turned on the songs to hone in on my  list-placement, I remembered why the Indigo Girls are masters at what they do:  The album has a clear ark and tells a cohesive story. Each song contributes to an overall story.   The songs are polished and you know the duo has absolutely perfected their writing/recording process.  But there is always a feeling-invoked and an authenticity about their works.  Yes, obvious success and maybe a little pandering is going on, but The Indigo Girls still have their amazing harmonies, their political ideologies, and a personal story to tell.  I call this one polished, but not superficial.

3.  Beth Hart

Beth Hart

I didn’t even want to sample Hart’s new album, because Douche had told me once that she attended a Beth Hart concert and the artist was sloppy.  Like, obviously impaired, and asking the audience for drugs while performing on stage.  And I’m not into supporting obvious drug-addicts.   BUT I came across a recent article about Beth Hart outlining her addiction, new sobriety, and bipolar diagnosis.  So I listened to “Better Than Home”.  And I’m glad I did!  It’s bluesy and stands out from the crowd right now.  Hart’s voice is resonant and her lyrics deep.  Also, she has this vibrato singing style that’s very technical and amazing.  It’s a different sound in a sea of similar female voices.

2.Vanessa Carlton

Vanessa Carlton

Where did she come from?!  All I remember is that “A Thousand Miles” song that was over-played to the extreme until it became hostile to listen to again.  But “Liberman” is so great.  It’s a stripped-down feel, heavy on the piano, and with good song-writing.  It’s a chill listen without being boring.  I don’t know if you could over-play this album–it’s sure been heavy on my rotation and I’ve yet to tire of it.  Think Ben Folds Five, but with a female vocalist.

  1.  Cee Lo GreenHeart Blanche

This is totally beside the point, but does anyone else think Green is a seriously closeted gay?  This album sets off my gay-dar.  It’s upbeat and dancy, but in a good way.  I may not have a lot to write about the album, but I want to convey it’s a fun, yet serious album that has good singing, true writing, and I found it very pleasing to my ears.

Cee Lo Green- gay

P.S.  Yes!  I finished this entire post, BEFORE the next year.  This is the first time in 3(?) years I can say that.  I am very pleased, and this means good omens for 2016.