Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Anne-Marie takes us back to 2002: Well, sort of.

Anne-Marie's latest single 2002 has got me interested. After all, 2002 was a great year for me, and it had a lot of great music.

There's just a problem: the 2002 described in the song may well not be 2002 at all. It's like the time machine malfunctioned, and brought us to another time. You see, the song included lyrics of songs supposedly popular in 2002, but from my memory none of them were actually from 2002.

Anyway, nostalgia is not a real time machine, and memory is often inaccurate. So maybe we should forgive her for that.

Now, I think I wrote this song in 2003, but since memory is often inaccurate, could it have been in 2002 instead?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Is there Cultural Appropriation everywhere, from Utah to Eurovision? I don't think so.

Israel's Netta has won Eurovision with her great song Toy. But this victory was not without controversy: as you see, she dressed in an Asian-styled costume, and her stage was decorated with Asian items. This has predictably caused some people to cry 'cultural appropriation'.

This also brings to mind a recent unrelated story from Utah, USA, where a girl who wore a Chinese-style prom dress provoked a national discussion. In both cases, none of the Asians I know were offended: most were simply bewildered.

You see, the reason why cultural appropriation is considered bad is because comedians in the US and UK used to do blackface, where they would paint their faces black and act in ways that were demeaning to black people and black culture. I can understand why black people are very offended by anything similar to blackface. But wearing an Asian dress? That's completely different. There's simply no parallel here. In fact, Asians living in Asia are arguably the most pro-cultural fusion people in the world. Every Asian I know has no problem with people of other races adopting aspects of their culture, provided that they do it respectfully. In fact, my Asian relatives quite enjoyed Netta's performance.

From my perspective, it really wasn't 'cultural appropriation'. It was just, well, special

Monday, May 14, 2018

Contrary to Popular Belief, Babe Proves that the Old Taylor Swift is Alive and Well

"The old Taylor can't come to the phone right now. Why? Cause she's dead!" So proclaims the lyrics to What You Made Me Do, Taylor Swift's first single off her Reputation album released last year. At that time, even the most die-hard fan of country Taylor had come to accept the reality: the old Taylor simply wasn't coming back. If she said it herself, on her own record no less, it had to be true.

But recently, there is evidence that the old Taylor is, in fact, alive and well, just hidden somewhere. What is this evidence I am talking about? A song called Babe, a collaboration between Taylor and country band Sugarland. Not only does Taylor sing on a country record, she still sounds just like the old Taylor from the Fearless era.

Taylor, I know that you still want to make country music. Don't let the pop fashion of the day stop you from doing so. After all, you may just need a new vision:

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Avicii was yet another Tragedy of the Music Industry

When news broke of the death of Swedish DJ Avicii at just 28, many of us were surprised, and of course, sad. Avicii was a musical genius: even somebody like myself, who is generally not into EDM or club music, can agree with this. His 2011 hit, Levels, was his best, in my opinion.

Avicii was ultimately a victim of the music industry. All he wanted was to make music, and share it with his fans. The industry provides a route for musicians to take their craft to the next level, but being a multi-billion dollar industry, it also makes a lot of tough demands of the musicians under its wings. It is scarily common for young musicians to suffer from health problems not normally seen in young adults.

One day perhaps, no musician will need the music industry. But for now, the industry remains a double-edge sword, attractive to many aspiring musicians, even in the face of tragedies.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

A Decade Later, Love Story by Taylor Swift has become a Classic of an era

It is coming up to a decade since the original release of Taylor Swift's iconic single Love Story. The first single on her second album Fearless, Love Story was released in 2008, and had entered the top 5 in the US and Canada by October that year. In early 2009, Love Story was released to similar success in other markets like Australia, the UK and other European countries, and also enjoyed a second top 5 run in North America. Many people around the world first learned about Taylor Swift through Love Story. In fact, many mistakenly believed that it was her debut single, since her first album was not very well known in many countries.

Love songs have always been Taylor Swift's main offering, and I argue that Taylor has been instrumental in the revival of romantic love songs at the last turn of decade. I mean, pop ballads were big in the 1980s and 1990s, but much of the 2000s were about hip-hop and hip-hop influenced RnB. In a way, Taylor brought romance back to the charts, even if it was not as grand as what the likes of Celine Dion, Shania Twain and Mariah Carey used to offer in the 1990s.

In the spirit of celebrating romance, let me leave you with this, well, sort of romantic love song:

Friday, May 4, 2018

American Idol is not Discriminatory, just because it doesn't have Affirmative Action

Last week on American Idol, the elimination of contestants Ada Vox and Michelle Sussett caused predictable outrage. Accusations of homophobia (in the case of Vox, a drag queen) and racism (in the case of Sussett) came flying through social media platforms. For long time fans of Idol, there is indeed nothing new here. I mean, top 7 week in Season 3 (2004), which saw the elimination of Jennifer Hudson (who still went on to have a great career by the way), provoked even greater controversy. Somehow, people always want to find evidence of American Idol (or should that be America itself?) being discriminatory.

It is true that American Idol doesn't have affirmative action. Therefore, it doesn't particularly protect minorities from being eliminated through voting. But neither does this mean that Idol is discriminatory. Quite the opposite, in fact. Idol has had many non-white winners (Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Jordin Sparks, Candice Glover), and has also been the launching pad for gay musicians like Clay Aiken and Adam Lambert. In fact, Aiken himself took to Huffington Post to say that he believed Ada Vox was eliminated simply because she was not the best singer, not because she was a drag queen. Plus, the fact that Ada Vox entered the top 10 already represents a better result than the first-ever Idol drag queen anywhere in the world, Courtney Act, who was on Australian Idol 2003 (and who later became one of the world's most famous drag queens). I'm sure Ada will have a similarly successful career.

So, calm down and enjoy idol. After all, even though Idol is often about singing old songs, it is definitely 'not that kind of retro':

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Delicate is one of the Better Tracks off the latest album from Taylor Swift, but the Reputation Problem is still there

To be honest, I haven't quite enjoyed most of the tracks from Taylor Swift's Reputation album. Maybe it's a case of high expectations: Taylor used to be so cool, and her music used to be so good, a decade ago during the Fearless era. Truth to be told, once you've made an album as great as Fearless, it's difficult to come up with something better, so every following album could be in some sense a disappointment (even though Speak Now was a close second). Overall, I think that Reputation is mostly an average work. But Delicate still sounds quite special, in my opinion, even if it's still not as great as country Taylor could have been.

But there's still that problem: Taylor's obsession with her Reputation. I get that it's the title of the album, and these days artists like to insert the title of their album everywhere. But being obsessed with one's reputation is not healthy! Taylor appears very self-conscious that her reputation 'has never been worse'. I've got a suggestion for her: perhaps she should go back to being Fearless Taylor. Her reputation was quite good back then, right? (Not to mention her music was way better, or that she was actually, well, cool, and somebody people looked up to.)

Finally, let me say that I still think that Taylor is special, despite her current lacklustre form. So let me dedicate this song of mine to her:

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Are Hillary Clinton, Taylor Swift and Lena Dunham White Feminists?

In recent years, more and more self-identified feminists have condemned some fellow feminists as 'white feminists'. The precise definition of the term, however, is unclear. Does it mean feminists who happen to be white? If that's the case, then most of those doing the accusing fall into this category too. Therefore, this cannot be the real meaning of the term. Alternatively, does it refer to feminsts who are white and racist? Or at least white and don't care about non-white women?

Let's first look at who the term is actually being applied to. Hillary Clinton, Taylor Swift and Lena Dunham would have to be three of the most common names I have heard in association with 'white feminist' in the past two years or so. First of all, there is no evidence at all that any of these three are racist in any way, quite the opposite in fact. Therefore, 'white feminist' can't be just referring to racist feminists. As for a broader definition of feminists who are white and don't care for women of colour, I don't get that vibe from any of these three either. Finally, are these three any different from other feminists in their feminism? Do these three share some particular characteristic that 'good feminists' don't share? I don't see any.

So there you have it. The 'white feminist' label is meaningless.

What's the opposite of 'white feminist' then? The standard answer is, 'intersectional feminism'. Intersectional feminism is supposed to be the 'good feminism', the kind that cares about the intersectional disadvantages that ethnic minority women and queer women suffer. So how do the aforementioned three supposedly 'white feminists' measure up here? First of all, all three appear to be very queer friendly. Hillary Clinton may have come later than Barack Obama to the marriage equality table, but at least she got there earlier than many other progressive feminists, including even former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Taylor Swift even made sure there was trans representation at one of her concerts; how many other musicians have actually done the same? As for caring about ethnic minorities, these supposedly 'white feminists' aren't deficient either. In fact, Lena Dunham in particular really, really cares about being sensitive to ethnic minorities, and I have even cringed at hearing some of what she had to say about cultural appropriation in food. If Lena Dunham isn't left-wing enough in this area, I don't know who is.

But then, intersectional feminism, as it is often practiced, is effectively GLIF (gatekeeper limited intersectional feminism), where self-appointed gatekeepers decide what's in and what's out, and perhaps just as importantly, who's in and who's out. I don't exactly know how the gatekeepers decide who is a good intersectional feminist or not, but it may have to do with their own political views or personal likes and dislikes. For example, Hillary Clinton has arguably become the most prominent representation of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, and some socialists strongly dislike her. Taylor Swift is very, very rich, and again some socialists may not like that. Alternatively, her relationship history has made her unpopular with some women. As for Lena Dunham? Some people just strongly dislike her, for whatever reason.

In conclusion, if Hillary Clinton, Taylor Swift and Lena Dunham are 'white feminists', then the label effectively means 'feminists that some other feminists don't like', and is therefore effectively meaningless. We should all probably stop using it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Storm in a teacup: the Mystery of Who Bit Beyonce

This is how a storm in a teacup started. In a recent interview in GQ magazine, Tiffany Hadish revealed that she saw a unnamed female celebrity walk right up to Beyonce and bit her on the face, at a party she had attended. The female celebrity was probably on drugs. It is not even clear which event Hadish was talking about, but some speculate it to be a Jay-Z concert from late last year. Anyway, somehow people got interested, and media outlets have been asking celebrities and their representatives about the incident, of which most responded that they knew nothing about it.

Several celebrities, including Lena Dunham, even took to twitter to post their denial of being that unnamed celebrity or having any knowledge of that incident.

Which sounds like the perfect storm in a teacup. I mean, Hollywood has never been about serious stuff, but in a time when the world is facing multiple crises and there are lots of debates to be had on various issues, this is what you want to waste your time on? I mean, come on!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Taylor Swift can't seem to Shut Up about her Reputation in Endgame. It's really unhealthy!

Taylor Swift's evolution is getting weirder and weirder. Once upon a time, she only cared about making good music, she didn't seem to care about her reputation at all. I mean, this was the good old days of You Belong With Me. In those days, she actually had a reputation of being a good musician. Nowadays, I really don't know how I feel about Taylor's reputation. Not that I would naturally care, but apparently she really wants us to care! In her recent single Endgame, there really was a lot about her 'reputation'.

I get that her album and her tour are titled 'Reputation', and she probably thinks repeating the reputation theme over and over makes business sense. But I can't agree here. I mean, a good musician should care about their music, not their reputation. A focus on reputation cheapens the music. Moreover, confident, secure people don't tend to care about the judgement of others. Yet here is Taylor Swift, telling her millions of fans that she really, really cares about her reputation. What kind of message is that to send to our young people? I am really disappointed, Taylor. You really have gotten too involved in this game of celebrity.

Some may say that Taylor's reputation talk is just an ironic response to those who have been trying to damage her reputation over the years, citing her relationship history. But I can't agree here. If Taylor wanted to tell the world she couldn't care less, she could have done so more directly. Like this: