All the world’s a stage

Singers and dancers are meant to put on a show, and usually put their own twist on the performance. But how do you know if it’s real – or if the wool is being pulled over your eyes?

Actors. Singers. Dancers. They entertain and we expect to see some short of show when they take center stage. Yet today’s world is also very critical of being authentic and real. So how do artists find a balance between being the real them, and the entertaining them?

imagemembers of Silibil ‘n Brains

I recently read a Noisey article that examined how and why some music artists put on “fake” accents when performing, or even throughout their daily lives. Silibil ‘n Brains (pictured above) were somewhat accused of putting on a fake California spin on their linguistics, hiding their Scottish roots. Even rapper Iggy Azaela has battled accusations of fabricating her accent.

“Most people don’t notice they are doing it.”

It turns out that a lot of these artists say they’re not faking. In fact linguist expert David Crystal contends that most people, and artists, speak subconsciously in a manner that is natural to them. He argues that a lot of these superstars have been around the world so many times and met so many new faces, that the cultural impact of language starts to make an impact. And it’s not uncommon for an artist to draw influence from musicians who aren’t necessarily from their homeland.

The way someone speaks can be an accurate representation of who they are. It’s a reflection of upbringing and experience as well as education. So, maybe we can look at mottled-accent artists as the walking melting pots of the world.

Now, there is another side to this token. Many artists over the years have been caught in lies and deception that seemed to boost their career or morale in a dishonest way. In a scandal on America’s favorite Saturday Night Live, singer Ashlee Simpson was exposed for lip syncing when problems with her backup track went awry. SNL’s executive producer Lorne Michaels addressed the mishap and basically said the SNL crew was unaware Simpson was even going to lip sync. SNL is regarded as America’s last live entertainment show, and the actions of Ms. Simpson violated that.

As consumers, we want a show – we want entertainment that is different and excites us. But we want sincerity. We want it to be raw. There’s something about hearing an artists’ true emotions that can connect you with them and make you walk a little taller.

And yet, we feel betrayed when it’s covered with a mask. We’ve talked about two different “masks” in music, but one is very different than the other. Our world is a true melting pot, and today even individuals can embody that. It’s important to take in the cultural experiences of artists, which reflects onto the way they perform and intrigue fans. But we need to be able to distinguish between what is a characteristic of unique proportions, and what is a bold-faced lie to pick up chart numbers.

Don’t ban my jam!

A couple lone forces in the Midwest are banning EDM concerts and festivals from their community. Is it a move of proactive protection and safety, or the product of uneducated fear?

YOUR FAVORITE ARTIST IS COMING TO YOUR HOMETOWN. You’ve been waiting for months to see them in your own little world, and you couldn’t be more ecstatic. But imagine this: your city says your favorite artists is hereby banned from performing there. Forever.

edmban

Is that even possible? The great state of Illinois has answered that question for us all: YES, IT IS. The Congress theater in Chicago, as well as the town of Bloomington, Illinois, recently announced bans on all EDM (Electronic Dance Music) concerts and festivals. The Congress claims it has had too many noise complaints surrounding shows, though the local police claim to have not had such calls. And Bloomington told EDM giant Bassnectar to not come back after performing three consecutive years. Their reason? Too many arrests and hospitalizations related to drug use last year.

It’s not a surprise to most that EDM festivals carry a stigma of attendees usually being on drugs. Some festivals and music events have ended tragically, but let’s chalk it up to a lack of preparedness and knowledge by the concert-goer. Still, event-planners are looking for ways to prevent drug issues and cleanse the name of EDM.

According to the above article by NBC, the city of Chicago defines EDM as “music created by a DJ or multiple DJs primarily using specialized equipment and software instead of traditional instruments.” ……….wait, why is this being banned?

It’s basically a case of discrimination. A whole genre of music is being banned because of the way people choose to enjoy its experience. I wasn’t alive in the 70s, but I imagine Zeppelin and Hendrix concerts carried some sort of stigma, too… it just doesn’t seem fair. Today’s generation is often accused of partying too much, but if there’s anything kids have taught us, it’s this: if you tell them not to do something, they’ll do it.

 EDM_main

Fans come together to experience a “bond” at EDM shows.

The EDM scene is not all drinks and pills. The Huffington Post wrote an article this year about another type of EDM experience – the culture of the actual music and the way it brings people together. They discuss a documentary film by Dan Cutforth, “Under the Electric Sky”, which highlights the festival experiences of some very different ravers. The point of the film and its accompanying article are to convey that EDM festivals are often a place of no judgement, where music-lovers of all creeds are not plagued with the realities of life. It may be an escape, but why does that have to be bad?

“It’s not just the music. The sense of community draws people.”

To deny a consumer a particular breed of music is absurd. This is one of those instances where education and discussion are key. Banning EDM concerts from Bloomington, Illinois, will likely more persuade the young dancers of Bloomington that they need to drive elsewhere to experience something they love – and doesn’t that possibly pose a bigger threat?

The important thing here is to bring about the conversation that penalizing a group for its decisions is not right, and not a value most of us identify with. In today’s culture we need to embrace and include the things that are different, rather than shunning away. The music industry has a great opportunity to be a trend-setter for society in that regard.

I keep finding you, Ms. New Booty

Music videos are a popular form of entertainment in our day. But the content of some of these videos may cause us to question our morals and the value of women.

I was recently inspired to get off my ass and dance when I saw the video for Kiesza’s “Hideaway.” This woman and her brigade of dancers perform a perfectly choreographed, seemingly interactive dance down an entire New York street. It was one of those videos that basically inspired me to get up and dance – something I hadn’t truly worked at for a while. But I wanted so badly to embody the energy and art of this music video, it was THAT good. Why hadn’t a music video moved me this much? Why haven’t I felt so impressed by a video in a while? I realized that perhaps it’s because I – along with the rest of society – am being blinded by the booty.

 nicki-minaj1Image from Nicki Minaj’s scandalous “Anaconda” video, released August 2014.

In Nicki’s image

Rap/pop artist Nicki Minaj has been known for her wide hips and bootylicious features just as much as she’s known for her musical talents. She comes from Trinidad originally, and from a music industry standpoint, she truly climbed her way up a ladder. She released three mixtapes that got her in the public’s eye before signing with rap music monster Young Money Entertainment. I remember watching a VH1 documentary about her that showed a real nitty-gritty gal who was about her work. Yet whenever I hear about Nicki in the media or from a peer nowadays, it’s through a sexual scope. In most eyes, Nicki is an attractive and shapely woman, but, why is her work ethic not as big a topic as her rear-end?

In August of this year Nicki released a controversial video for a song she called “Anaconda”, a remix of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” Both songs are sexual in nature, so it was expected for Nicki’s visuals to contain imagery of women’s bodies – but was ALL of that really necessary? Maybe. It racked up nearly 150 million views on YouTube within one month. There’s hardly a shot where some sort of cheeks aren’t bouncing about the screen. It’s become a staple that we’re used to when seeing American rap videos – naked women with accentuated features, and usually items of monetary significance.

When did it change?

It seems today’s music consumers have become less interested in the content of the art and more inclined to know how good a celebrity can look, or particularly for female artists, how well they can work a pole.

But is that true? When you talk to a lot of music fans, they won’t deny enjoying a beautiful woman dancing on their screen, but they often agree that music has lost its substance. So why then does our culture keep perpetuating these type of shallow values and means of success? It’s not necessarily a new thing. After all, booties have been a big deal since the days of Uncle Luke and 2LiveCrew.2LiveCrewReunites

 

 

Some believe we live in a more often than not misogynist society, and that women’s place and value can be altered or determined by something as trivial as physical appearance. A study conducted by MU professors in 2012 found that the concept of sexual objectification of females occurred equally throughout the realm of music videos, regardless of the female’s race. They also point out that while men in videos do objectify women often, many female artists were objectifying themselves. So, is it a pressure from society to keep showing that you’re sexy? Or do women simply just care about being hot now?

Return to our roots

TLC’s “Creep” video, released in 1994.

Let me answer the question above: it’s both.

I don’t want to say women are giving into the power of misogyny, but videos like Nicki’s sure make it seem so. I personally have to give Minaj props for playing the other side of that coin – she doesn’t allow the public or fellow artists to make her feel ashamed for displaying a bold, brash, and out-there personality. That’s who she is as an artist, and at least she remains true to that.

But I want to see my fellow women work harder. I want to see ladies laying down choreography like Kiesza, or the women of TLC. Both videos are proof that a female artist can dress sexy while not inappropriate, and engage in something that truly requires skill and discipline. If women in the public eye continue to feed a cycle of belittling and sexual demise, it won’t stop. Too many women have become complacent with men telling them how the world should be; I want – no, need – more women to be brave in their endeavors. What you do now influences who comes after you, and especially in the music world, you never know who has their eye on you.