Category Archives: Music
Doublespeak, constant surveillance, alternative facts, the pursuit and maintenance of power at all cost… Of course, I’m talking about George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. These books are just flying off of the shelves.
Animal Farm is one of my favorite books. It’s a tale about animals who revolt against the farmer who is oppressing them (forcing them into labor, killing them, etc) and what happens after they win. Driving off the humans is one thing, creating new rules to run the farm is another. In truth, it’s a story about the Russian Revolution (Lenin, Trotsky and the gang) but the allegory does not depend on your knowledge of Russian history to work.
If you are in an Orwellian frame of mind, here are some other media suggestions:
David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs and The 1980 Floor Show
At one time, David Bowie wanted to create a musical based on 1984 but the Orwell estate wasn’t interested. Those songs were incorporated into Diamond Dogs, an album that cast a very dark image of the future.
While the musical itself didn’t happen, you can get an idea of what Bowie was going for in The 1980 Floor Show (recorded over 3 days in October 1973):
Can you imagine what would happen if Monty Python got their hands on Orwell’s 1984 and made a movie? You don’t have to imagine–it kinda happened. In 1985, Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame directed Brazil – a film that’s a spiritual cousin of 1984. See, a worker – a cog in the wheel of a totalitarian government tries to correct a mistake and all hell breaks loose:
*An alternative title for this post: They’ll Split Your Pretty Cranium And Fill It Full Of Air
Listening to Hip Hop’s History of Reproductive Justice, the 2nd episode of the Get It Right podcast, brought back to mind a song that meant a great deal to me in the early 90s: None Of Your Business by Salt-N-Pepa.
Picture it: It’s 93/94, I’m in college and thinking a whole lot about my sexual orientation. What do you do when your realize that your attractions and desires run counter to all of the religious/political/social programming you’ve received? So, I was learning a foreign language (statistics), trying to get up the courage date girls and deal with internal conflict (who am I/who I’m expected to be).
Salt-N-Pepa’s None Of Your Business helped with one of those problems. If there ever was an anthem dismissing hypocrites who get off on regulating the sexuality/sensuality of others–this is it. This song was everything to me. Starting off from the intro: What’s the matter with your life / Why you gotta mess with mine / Don’t keep sweatin what I do / Cuz I’m gonna be just fine.
Now, of course the scenarios mentioned in the song are hetero — women being judged on their dealings with men. When I saw the video and my mind exploded: “oh my God, there are gay people in this. They are talking about me too!”
Check out the cluster of folks dancing/writhing and shouting “None Of Your Business!”
I felt so affirmed. This song wasn’t the only thing that helped me figure out that it was okay to be myself but it felt really good to have media/entertainment from black artists reflecting that too.
(See also: The Woman to Woman episode of Living Single.)
*Get It Right is a podcast that analyzes pop culture through the lenses of justice, and particularly reproductive justice.
- James Baldwin: 1979 Speech
- Angela Davis: How Does Change Happen?
- Nikky Finney: 2012 National Book Festival
- Achieving our Country: James Baldwin and American Morality
- -“Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety.”
- Walter Mosley: Twelve Steps Toward Political Revelation
- A Public Dialogue Between bell hooks and Cornel West
The Feeling/The Listening:
Cleaned out the car–and look at what I found!
This is a tape that I bought from a dj at “da club” in the 90’s. I labeled it Baltimore because it reminds me of home–specifically, my college years. It was my first taste of freedom–I no longer had a curfew! I had just started dating and trying to figure out how to court girls was confusing, but fun. And where do you find girls who like other girls-a place like Club Bunns.
I’d go out with friends, sit at the bar and try to sound like an adult when I order a non-alcoholic fruit punch. Got to be careful not to stand too close to your girl friends, so a potentially interested person won’t think the two of you are girlfriends. Is she looking at me? Do I look back? Who is that sitting next to her?
But then, that good music would hit and the beat reverberated through everyone and everything. Suddenly, I was just happy to be with my friends and in a whole crowd of folks who were like me.
The Baltimore Tape (contents):
Ten City – Fantasy
Loni Clark – U
Janet Jackson – Because Of Love
CeCe Peniston – Searchin
Juliet Roberts – Caught In The Middle
En Vogue – What Is Love
Whitney Houston – Queen Of The Night
Hidden Agendy ft. Kim Payton – Story of My Life
Taylor Dane – Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Baby
Grace Jones – Sex Drive
Meli’sa Morgan – Still In Love
Sound Waves – Give It Up Girl
or, you can hear them all below
The marketing was fierce. For several days, everywhere I turned…there seemed to be a pull towards the “buy” button.*
1st Wave: The Fans
I woke up Friday morning, ready to see my timelines full of people trying to recover from Scandal. Low and behold, many of those who had been slayed by Mama Pope, Papa Pope, and little Olivia Pope had been revived, given life anew by an unexpected but highly anticipated release!
That’s when the legend started: no promotion, no marketing, no nothing – she just reached through the Internet and touched her fans. It sounded like the artist had just put up a blog post somewhere that a fan found and then the news spread by word of mouth. Imagine my surprise when I went to the iTunes store and there was only 1 artist featured on the front page.
Suddenly, the spell was broken. I bet no matter where you were in the world, if you went to the iTunes store the same artist was featured prominently. That kind of looks like promotion to me–a really, really big promotion…
2nd Wave: The Media
The news media was just so late – scrambling to understand what was going on and five steps behind the fans. If you didn’t have iTunes or have a lot of fans in your timeline, they made sure to fill you in.
3rd Wave: The Feminists/Cultural Critiques
The album hadn’t seen a good 48 hours before the blog posts analyzing the product itself and the quality of the artist’s feminism appeared. To my knowledge, I haven’t heard one note of this album–but I know all about Jay-Z’s issues with anime, themes of empowerment vs faux empowerment that upholds the patriarchy, etc.
I thought, “Maybe I should buy the album so I can hear for myself.” How can I judge the quality of the “conversation” or debate if I haven’t experience the music for myself.**
Look at that marketing genius–even the detractors still drive you to the “buy” button.
I realized that I had spent more time in the last few days thinking about the artist than I had in the last year.
Well played, Queen B.
*I prefer buying the 2 or 3 songs that I like instead of downloading whole albums – no need to clutter up my hard drive with songs I’m not going to listen to.
**Then, it hit me. By having conversations and discussion about feminism etc via social media outlets, do we actually feed the capitalist patriarchal machine by drawing eyeballs to the ads and commercials in the sidebar? Or is the intellectual depth of our conversation enough to offset the capitalist, patriarchal footprint–and that ad for the Whirlpool Freestanding Range? <–This is the point when I backed away from the Internet and read a book. One can over-think things.