Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top Music of 2010


1. Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid: Suites II & III
This is a concept album that simply blew us away. The second half of her stage name rhymes with the surname of painter Claude Monet. Monae is equally talented when it comes to creating art. The opening track is not an attempt at superficially fusing classical music with contemporary. The full out overture preps us for what the album is- a full out event. Monae effortlessly blends genres in this exciting story of cyborgs and futuristic chases. The follow up to her Metropolis:Suite I (The Chase) EP, this album manages to evoke sounds of Stephen Sondheim, Michael Jackson, Prince, Sarah Vaughn, André 3000 and many others without sounding uneven. The way that each thematic idea is woven throughout makes the album almost sound like an operetta. It is clear that Monae, once a student at New York's American Music and Dramatic Academy, knows how to tell a story. And no story has been more riveting. The album is nominated for a Grammy award for Best Contemporary R&B Album. It deserves much more than that.

Key Tracks: Faster; Tightrope; Cold War; Oh Maker

Janelle Monáe
Faster
Live on Later with Jools Holland



2. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Kanye West
3. The Ladykiller Cee-Lo Green
4. Teenage Dream Katy Perry
5. The Sea Corinne Bailey Rae
6. The Incredible Machine Sugarland
7. Doo-Wops & Hooligans Bruno Mars
8. Still Standing Monica
9. Sir Luscious Left Foot...The Son of Chico Dusty Big Boi
10. Record Collection Mark Ronson & The Business Intl.

Corinne Bailey Rae's soulful Closer is an instant classic. Chart topper or not, the smooth tune is emotionally vulnerable along with amazing vocals. In good company with soul veterans Badu and Sade on this list, Corinne is well on her way to etching her place alongside them.

1. Closer Corinne Bailey Rae The Sea
2. Window Seat Erykah Badu New Amerykah Part II: Return of the Ankh
3. Love the Way You Lie Eminem ft. Rihanna Recovery
4. Just the Way You Are Bruno Mars Doo-Wops & Hooligans
5. Love All Over Me Monica Still Standing
6. You Lost Me Christina Aguilera Bionic
7. Soldier of Love Sade Soldier of Love
8. Runaway Kanye West ft. Pusha T My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
9. Stuck Like Glue Sugarland The Incredible Machine
10. Somebody to Love Mark Ronson & The Business Intl. ft. Boy George Record Collection


I immediately fell in love with the funky obscene tune by Cee-Lo Green known as F*ck You (Forget You). The song is so upbeat and fun that you forget that it is a diss record.The message is pretty much the same as Outkast's Roses and John Legend's Used to Love You: I hope you die, you gold-digging b *tch. :)

1. Fuck You Cee-Lo Green The Ladykiller
2. Monster Kanye West ft. Jay-Z Rick Ross Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
3. Tightrope Janelle Monae ft. Big Boi The Arch Android
4. Nothin On You B.O.B. ft. Bruno Mars The Adventures of Bobby Ray
5. Teenage Dream Katy Perry Teenage Dream
6. What's My Name Rihanna ft. Drake LOUD
7. OMG Usher ft. Will.I.Am Raymond vs. Raymond
8. Roman's Revenge Nicki Minaj ft. Eminem Pink Friday
9. Stuck Like Glue Sugarland The Incredible Machine
10. Holding You Down (Goin in Circles) Jazmine Sullivan Love Me Back

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Ten Most Captivating Figures of 2010

The year was full of newsworthy figures. Oil spills, miner debacles, and politic shakeups were rampant. A new pop star rose to fame. Gay issues took center stage with legislature changes, tragedies among teens, and religious scandals. The fashion industry saw shifts and suffered losses. And the major media figures such as Oprah, Larry King, and Jay Leno were in the news. It was an interesting year and many people crossed my mind as being the most captivating. Here is who made the cut.

1. NICKI MINAJ

One woman has single handedly revived female rap. Well, she had help from her trademark alter egos. Love her or hate her, [I'm somewhere closer to the latter] you can't escape her. It seems like every top 40 hit this year was followed by the phrase "featuring Nicki Minaj". The quick rise to fame wasn't so quick. As with last year's topper of this list, Lady Gaga, much underground preparation went into making Minaj a pop culture phenomenon. Many people claim that she is too pop, but Nicki has every intention of laughing all the way to the bank. Shattering Billboard records, causing envy from her predecessors, covering countless magazines, and outshining many of hip-hop's male heavyweights were no easy feats. But what do you expect? She's "a muthaf--kin monster!!!"

2. THE TEA PARTY MOVEMENT

Barack Obama admittedly received a shellacking in this year's midterm election. Republicans took control of the House and made serious gains in the Senate. Republican zeal is at an all time high and much of it is fueled by those who refer to themselves as the Tea Party. The party isn't an official political party but has so far supported mostly Republican candidates. That's not to say that Republicans were immune to the sting of the party, named after the famed protest known as the Boston Tea Party. The group is very anti-Washington and many times pushes toward being racist and intolerant. They are for less spending, reduced taxes, tighter immigration regulation, etc. Over 80% of the members of this movement identify as Republicans and many see it not as a new party emerging, but as a rebranding of Republican values.

3. BISHOP EDDIE LONG

The black church was rocked by allegations that one of its most prominent leaders had been accused of using his power to extort sexual relations from various young men. The claims are even more shocking due to Long's avid crusades against homosexuality in the past. Even if Long doesn't receive any punishment for the alleged acts, the situation should have forced the black church to come to terms with its taboo treatment of sexuality. Only time will tell if those conversations will ever occur.

4. GAY TEENS

The sudden rise in attention to gay suicides due to bullying took hold of our attention this year. The Trevor Project and the It Gets Better campaigns tried to shed light on these tragedies along with help from many celebrities. Bullying has been a problem among youth for a long time. However, among gay youth, suicides seemed to have spiked. No one should be made to feel hopeless. Studies show that people come out at younger ages and hopefully we make great strides to make our kids feel safe and comfortable. That's going to take more than a few people wearing purple for a day.

5. OPRAH WINFREY

All that needs to be uttered is one letter: "O". The media giant announced this year that she would be leaving her talk show after 25 years of being a fixture in our homes to pursue new dreams of her own network. The Academy Award nominated actress, producer, talk show host, humanitarian, and magazine editor had to find ways to top herself for her final season. A tearful and intimate interview with Barbara Walters is perhaps the defining moment for Oprah's year. Behind the power and prestige resides a woman who is human. And that's why she has captivated us for so long.

6. ANTOINE DODSON

Hide your kids. Hide your wife. Nobody was quoted more than Dodson this year. It all spawned from one crazy television interview following a home invasion in which his sister was the victim. That resulted in auto-tuned remixes, youtube videos, marching band renditions, countless merchandise and a large cult following for the overnight sensation. It also sparked a serious conversation about the media's portrayal of African-Americans. Dodson's 15 minutes of fame may be up, be we won't forget his red bandana and his antics. "They raping everybody over here!" Enough said.

7. CONAN O'BRIEN

Conan O'Brien's feud with NBC played out in front of the cameras. Long removed from his humble beginnings as an SNL writer, O'Brien was handed the reigns of The Tonight Show. Taking the place of Jay Leno, O'Brien seemed to be on top of the world. Leno was offered a primetime spot ahead of The Tonight Show. Then a snag was hit. Leno's ratings suffered and at the start of this year, producers wanted to move him back to late night. They proposed pushing The Tonight Show back and giving Jay Leno a late night time slot right before it. However, O'Brien was not having it. A nasty war of words ensued and most fans took the side of O'Brien. Many saw Leno as a greedy fading star. After being bought out of his contract, O'Brien maintained that he didn't feel harmed.
"It's crucial to me that anyone seeing this, if they take anything away from this, it's I'm fine. I'm doing great," said O'Brien. "I hope people still find me comedically absurd and ridiculous. And I don't regret anything."

8. WILLOW AND JADEN SMITH

Will Smith is one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood and a pioneer in rap music. Jada Pinkett-Smith, his wife, is a star in her own right having landed many prominent roles in film and now starring in the television medical drama Hawthorne. However, it is their kids that have garnered the attention in 2010. After previously acting alongside his father in the 2006 critically acclaimed film The Pursuit of Happyness, Jaden's starring role in the remake of Karate Kid was a hit and his acting career seems to be budding. Willow made her own name for herself with the smash hit Whip My Hair. People of all creeds and ages couldn't deny that the catchy song was pop magic. The two kids seem to be following in their parents' footsteps, continuing the dynasty.

9. ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

The fashion world was shocked and saddened after the suicide of famed British designer Alexander McQueen. The rebellious 40 year old avant garde designer had recently lost his mother. Those around McQueen noticed a grim change in him surrounding his mother's death and he was quoted as saying:
"From heaven to hell and back again, life is a funny thing. beauty can come from the most strangest of places even the most disgusting places."
The designer had recently become good friends with Lady Gaga and styled her on many occasions. It was a sad, sad scene as his death came just days before the start of London Fashion Week and weeks before he was due to unveil his new collection at Paris Fashion Week.

10. THE CAST OF MODEL CITY

The BET network known as Centric set out to show the world of African-American male fashion models. The diverse cast centered around Red Model Management based in New York and followed the lives of the models including super model Wendell Lissimore. Red Model Management is known for its models of color. The show chronicled the behind the scene ego clashes, issues of race and sexuality, and the flashy sides of the industry. The fashion industry is notoriously prejudiced in terms of color. With shows like these, the tide seems to be changing. Outside of the show, Sessely Lopez was named model of the year, David Agbodji nabbed the Calvin Klein for the second time in a row, and the faces of Naomi, Chanel, and Arlenis were everywhere. Maybe the places for a young person of color are growing.

Check the links below for the list from the two previous years:


For Colored Girls: K. Michelle's New Mixtape


Jive Records R&B singer K. Michelle has just released a gift for her fans in the form of a mixtape called For Colored Girls. The following to her first mixtape What's the 901 acts as a precursor to her forthcoming album Pain Medicine. The last image posted here shows a letter to her her fans. There is a link below to a site that contains more information about the Memphis native as well as links to her mixtape.


New Video: Chris Brown & Chipmunk "Champion"

British rap star Chipmunk & R&B singer Chris Brown
Champion
[Director: Colin Tilley]

Oprah for Parade Magazine

Media maven Oprah Winfrey opens up about her new network, some of her fears, and more in the latest issue of Parade magazine.
Here are some snippets.

On retirement:
“I was questioning, ‘Why don’t I build a boat and sail around the world? Why don’t I learn French and find a nice little house in Provence?’ I could see myself bicycling with my baguettes and the whole thing. But I talked it over with my friends, and they all said, ‘You’re not going to be happy doing nothing‘”.

On what she perceives as failure:
“What will be a failure is if nobody comes and watches this network. What others will perceive as failure is if some shows don’t succeed. I’m concerned about the bigger overall picture: my belief that people are basically good and want to see the good in them reflected through their experiences and the shows that they watch. This is a gamble I’m taking. I believe that the banal state of television, the kind of insipid space that we’re in–that you can have as many channels as we have and not find anything that really interests you–means that to a great extent we’ve lost our way.”

On President Obama:
“I think that no one understands until you’ve been in that seat the enormous pressure to please and satisfy everybody. And I think instead of being grateful for where we are and what he has done, we’ve forgotten that we were on the brink of a depression when he took over this office. And as everybody celebrates the holiday season and sits around with their families, regardless of your circumstance, we could’ve had breadlines. How soon we forget that.”

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Top Ten Music Videos of 2010

What a year in videos. Khia and former 3LW member Kiely Willams gave us things to laugh about and Rihanna gave us things to dance about. Gaga gave monstrous showings and Kanye West went artsy. Last year, I crowned Anthony Mandler as the king of video directing. This year, Melina Matsoukas worked the most magic. Here are my favorites from the year.

1. Erykah Badu
Window Seat
Director: Coodie & Chike


How did Erykah Badu get the top spot? Her video was void of special effects or choreography. However, the clip was effective and true to the Badu aesthetic. The controversial video featured audio from the JFK assassination and was filmed in Dallas, the city in which the 1963 shooting occurred. The result: Badu was fined by the city of Dallas for public nudity. Her response was thought provoking and called attention to the blatant sexuality of many other videos that get a pass. The words at the end of Badu's video sum up the message of the video. Go against the grain, and you will be shot down. Literally.

2. Kanye West
Power
Director: Marco Brambilla


The lead single for West's new album was everything that the album title describes- a beautiful, dark, and twisted fantasy. The video, inspired by classical art, was a moving work of art. It drew inspiration from mythology and symbols of power and hedonism in ancient civilizations. The video caught flack for being so short, but the images are captivating.

3. Ciara
Gimme Dat
Director: Melina Matsoukas


Stellar album sales or not, Ciara is a dancing machine and capable of putting on a great show in her videos. Who else could pull off Chucks redesigned as stripped heels? The energy of this clip is fantastic and puts Ciara above most girls in the industry when it comes to choreography. No one since Janet has moved like this.

4. Rihanna
Rude Boy
Director: Melina Matsoukas


Whether it was intentional or not, Rude Boy served as a segue way into the return of color to Rihanna's life, paving the way for LOUD. Paying homage to her dancehall roots, the video for her slinky #1 single displayed the song's essence. It is a perfect mix of pop and dutty wine. Referencing everything from 80s hip hop and Grace Jones to artwork of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, the clip still wasn't too overpowering and had perfect balance.

5. Janelle Monae featuring Big Boi
Tightrope
Director: Wendy Morgan


Janelle's feet do a number on our hearts. Her music speaks for itself, but the video for Tightrope showed Monae at her best. Telling an interesting story with the help of quirky choreography and Monae's signature black and white ensembles, the clip came off as fun and fresh. Gotta love those saddle Oxford shoes.

6. Lady Gaga featuring Beyoncé
Telephone
Director: Jonas Åkerlund


Telephone was an event for awaiting fans. The premiere was delayed which caused an uproar among fans. However, the finished product was well worth the wait. Paying tribute to Quentin Tarantino and even using the vehicle from his Kill Bill franchise, the video was colorful and campy. Complete with bad acting, the Beyoncé assisted mini-movie spawned many parodies and imitators. Gaga knows how to create a following.

7. Usher featuring Will.I.Am
OMG
Director: Anthony Mandler


Usher got his groove back. Though I didn't love the song, the accompanying video showed Usher dancing again. And dancing well. Playing with shadow dancing and female backup dancers giving me a Robert Palmer (Simply Irresistible) feeling, I love the clip. The contrasting color palette's of black and white give a night clean look as well.

8. Beyoncé
Why Don't You Love Me
Director: Melina Matsoukas


Beyoncé is not known for splendid music videos. Aside from Single Ladies, her last album didn't generate many video hits. That is why I was surprised that a track that didn't even get single treatment ended up being her best video from the I Am...Sasha Fierce era. Giving nods to retro pinup girls such as Bettie Page, Beyoncé gave a delicious performance as yet another alter ego: B.B. Homemaker. She makes herself so damn easy to love...

9. Bruno Mars
Just the Way You Are
Director: Ethan Lader


Inspired by the work of Erika Iris Simmons, this Bruno Mars video really captures the spirit of the song. The cassette tape animation was great. Playful and romantic, Mars accompanies this great track with a nicely played out clip.

10. Florence + the Machine
Drumming Song
Director: Dawn Shadforth


British indie rock act Florence + the Machine, led by the fiery red haired Florence Welsh, have made quite a splash this year. This video was beautifully shot and styled. The 24 year old front woman puts on a great live show as well. It's no wonder she grabbed a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.

Check out the lists from the previous two years:


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repealed

President Obama's lame duck season is proving to be surprisingly successful. Obama signed the landmark bill repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The DADT policy previously prevented gay men and women from serving openly in the military. Liberals and LGBT organizations have complained that Obama wasn't acting swiftly enough to fulfill his campaign promise to repeal the controversial law.

Here are some of Obama's thoughts about the big moment:

"No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder in order to serve the country that they love," Obama said.
"I say to all Americans, gay or straight, who want nothing more than to defend this country in uniform, your country needs you, your country wants you, and we will be honored to welcome you into the ranks of the finest military the world has ever known," Obama said.

Over 13,000 soldiers have been ejected from the military over the years after admitting to homosexual practices. Proponents of the law argue that the new legislation will create distractions during battle. As if the gay service men/women will start waving rainbow flags and hitting on everyone. Being a soldier is a job. Plenty of people go to work without advertising their orientation. That is possible. However, it is wrong to force someone to hide it. With that being said, it will be interesting to see how Mr. Bigot from Flint, Michigan will react to serving alongside a gay soldier. The future lies in how the new law is implemented. As of right now, those plans are fuzzy.

A longtime champion for gay rights, Lady Gaga also showed her happiness with the new law. Above is a picture taken from Twitter.
Here is what she had to say:
"Can’t hold back the tears+pride. We did it!i Our voice was heard today the Senate REPEALED DADT. A triumph for equality after 17 YEARS. Today I am so proud to be American. I wish I was home so I could throw a Parade. We are on the way…to full equality."

Maestro O'Neal?

Basketball star Shaquille O'Neal conducted the Boston Pops Orchestra at Symphony Hall in Boston, Massachusetts on Monday.


“[Celtics PR director Heather Walker] asked me if I wanted to conduct the orchestra,” he told ESPN. “I was like, ‘Seriously, like a real orchestra?’” He added that he “[had] a new respect for conductors: I went through a rehearsal today, and my arms are shot right now.

Umm...no comment.

Monday, December 13, 2010

International Business: Mark Ronson for DEdiCate

DJ & Producer Mark Ronson
for DEdiCate Magazine
Photography: Marcus Mam
Styling: Nicholas Galletti

For DEdiCate magazine's newest cover, musician Mark Ronson was chosen.
The Grammy award winning UK native is not a household name but his music is incredible. Co-founder of Allido Records, Ronson performs with his band under the name of Mark Ronson & The Business Intl.
Below is a performance of his great collaboration with the iconic Boy George.

Mark Ronson & The Business Intl.
featuring Boy George
Somebody to Love Me
Live on Later...With Jools Holland

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Right to Remain Silent

Model Brandon Wilson
as Charlie Chaplin
Editorial: He...
Photography: Stefan Giftthaler
Stylist: Luca Termine

Brian Wilson's take on Chaplin is amazing in this editorial portraying the legendary silent film star. I'm all about iconic figures in the past and I love how they captured the blend of sophistication and comic sensibility that personified Chaplin.