I write about culture from a pro-Black perspective

Crossover Is Complete: New Billboard Charts Complete A 30+ Year Process

According to Billboard:

Billboard unveils new methodology today for the long-standing Hot Country Songs, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Latin Songs charts. Each receive a major consumer-influenced face-lift, as digital download sales (tracked by Nielsen SoundScan) and streaming data (tracked by Nielsen BDS from such services as Spotify, Muve, Slacker, Rhapsody, Rdio and Xbox Music, among others) will now be factored into the 50-position rankings, along with existing radio airplay data monitored by Nielsen BDS. The makeovers will enable these charts to match the methodology applied to Billboard’s signature all-genre songs ranking, the Billboard Hot 100. (emphasis mine)

I placed emphasis on that last sentence for a reason.

That is: the genre charts are now solely about reflecting how each genre is selling (or being listened to) everywhere, rather than reflecting (albeit imperfectly) the different music listening habits of different demographics. It will now be a mistake to look at the R&B chart or the Country chart and make assumptions about what black people or people in Nashville like the most. People should be aware of that.

That loss is significant, but it’s not as tragic as it sounds because this is a process that’s been occurring for more than 30 years. People have always listened across genres, at least to some degree. But in the 30 or so years since Michael Jackson basically destroyed the radio format and made crossover the only way to measure success and media consolidated so that there are no longer any independent (black and other) radio stations that cater to their communities rather than push a national playlist, the non-Hot 100 Billboard charts have increasingly measured something that exists less and less each year.

Even the fact that people are upset about the fact that Rihanna isn’t “R&B” is an example of just how little the chart reflects what it used to reflect – and how little people know what the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart has been for its entire existence: a measure of what is popular in black neighborhoods and hangouts. Without independent black radio (as well as black folks’ total allegiance to crossover), it hasn’t really been that for a while so it makes sense that Billboard would go ahead and make it (along with the other genre lists) a straight “ranking of how many people in America listen to songs of this type” chart.

Posted on October 16th, 2012 - Filed under Music
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I Still Wanna Ride for Brandy

Brandy Norwood.

There is no other young black artist who still engenders as much goodwill despite not having a hit song in nearly a decade as she does. People really want her to succeed again.

And it looks like Brandy wants to get it right this time too.

Of course, all the black music blogs are focusing on that “I really feel like this is my last chance” remark because it naturally leads one to question whether or not that goodwill everyone has for her might run out if the new album disappoints. I get that, though I think it’s not really the right question.

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Posted on August 4th, 2011 - Filed under Music
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Here We Go Again

Can’t front like the man isn’t gorgeous. Photo Credit: Norma Jean Roy for Details Magazine.

Can’t front like the man isn’t gorgeous.
Photo Credit: Norma Jean Roy for Details Magazine.

Joe Jonas never seemed like a poseur, so why are his handlers modeling his inevitable solo stardom off of the King of 21st Century Poseurdom, Justin Timberlake?

But will Joe Jonas be believable as a real rock star? Can the fans ever forget that they loved him in fourth grade?

“I look at Joe’s scenario as kind of like when Justin Timberlake broke out of ‘N Sync,” says Rob Knox, a producer working on Joe’s solo project who previously teamed up with Rihanna and Jamie Foxx. “Justin was 21 when he came out as a solo artist. Joe is coming to producers who know how to create that edgier pop feeling. We’re not doing any boy-band songs.”

What they are doing, Joe says, is an eclectic mixture of “electro indie pop rock.” “It’s Joe’s album, it’s not just something put together for him,” says Danja, another veteran producer on the project, whose past work includes Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds. “He’s collaborating with the writing. He’s very different from what you’d expect. All I can say is he’s an adult man. He has a rock-star edge about him.”

The entire Details piece reads exactly the way all the articles about Justin Timberlake before he released Justified read – Joe really likes girls! Joe drinks! Joe is kinda sorta embarrassed by the Jonas Brothers! Joe is a rock star trapped in teen idol purgatory!

Blah blah blah snooze.

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Posted on March 18th, 2011 - Filed under Music
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Kanye West – “All of the Lights”




It's still probably the best song on the album, even with 'Ye's terrible rhymes. Ugh, this guy just BUGS me. He's so transparent and insincere.

Posted on February 21st, 2011 - Filed under Music
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Ciara’s Career: Stomping on the Line Between Male and Female

I think that we are supposed to just marvel at Ciara’s dancing in this video.

But the truth is, acrobatic though it may be, there is nothing here to really shout about. She’s a better dancer than Beyonce by a longshot, but Bey has a greater sense of how movement can accentuate or punctuate a song. So even if she’s not doing quite as much, it usually adds an interesting visual dimension to the song.

Here Ciara is moving and her dancers are moving, but we don’t know why. We don’t care. It doesn’t move us.

But more importantly – Ciara is simply not all that interesting when she’s not dancing (pun intended) right on that line between male and female performer. Her claim to fame was being the pretty girl who danced “like a man.” And for a time she seemed unconcerned with how people responded to that fact.

Take “Oh”:

Ciara dancing on the hood of that car should go down as one of the great iconic images in pop music history. But what is most interesting is how throughout the video she jumps back and forth between “feminine” and “masculine” movements, so much so that the difference between them is rendered completely meaningless.

Or take “Promise” in which she shows an admirable level of comfort displaying this duality, donning baggy sweats to play (essentially) her own love interest.

…and then makes that duality memorably explicit in “Like A Boy”:

It’s not an accident that these three songs were her most critically lauded. The charms of each are quite apparent even if you take away the great videos.

But it seems now that Ciara is so shook by the omnipotence of Rihanna and Beyonce, that she’s completely lost her identity in a series of uninteresting hypersexualized and offensive images designed, presumably, to make her into a conventional sex symbol.

There is probably an audience for videos where Ciara puts in a good 4-minute workout, but I don’t know that it will extend her career much longer.

Posted on October 18th, 2010 - Filed under Music,Sexuality
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