On the “WTF? Hrm.” tip: Verónica Bayetti Flores at Feministing.com writes that the song “Royals” by Lorde is “racist” because of the type of wealth it opposes and protests against – the type that shows up most conspicuously in rap and Hip-Hop music and videos.

Ms. Flores goes on to say,

“While I love a good critique of wealth accumulation and inequity, this song is not one; in fact, it is deeply racist. Because we all know who she’s thinking when we’re talking gold teeth, Cristal and Maybachs. So why shit on black folks? Why shit on rappers? Why aren’t we critiquing wealth by taking hits at golf or polo or Central Park East? Why not take to task the bankers and old-money folks who actually have a hand in perpetuating and increasing wealth inequality”

There’s a certain myopia here that may be more troubling and more problematic than the Lorde song. The person who seems to be most caught on this “stereotypical portrayal of black artists” appears to be Ms. Flores herself.

Nowhere does she seem to even consider that these lyrics are also a critique of artists like Justin Bieber, Mylie Cyrus, Ke$ha, Far East Movement, and others who appropriate the rap and Hip-Hop “scene” in their lyrics (many written by producers like Pharrell, Timbaland, etc.) and videos. I’d also hazard that it’s a critique not only of the music/lyrics in question, but of her teenaged peers’ fascination with these artists and their outrageously unrealistic portrayals of wealth and fame. And finally, perhaps there’s also just a plain old honest criticism of pop radio and the hooks and tropes recycled again and again by the same handful of producers (Will.I.Am, Pharrell, and friends) who have milked their talent for each and every ounce it is worth. When “EVERY song is like…” a collection of impossible to attain irresponsible over-the-top hotel trashing insanity, being middle class and not that into “being told to throw my hands up in the air” (from her other song “Team”) is a legitimate statement to make, and it’s a call-out, throw-down move to make the statement several times on one record – very much in keeping with the same kind of call-outs often heard on Hip-Hop joints.

How many songs by not only Flo Rida, BEP, Ne-Yo, Beyonce, and Taio Cruz but also by Ke$ha, Mylie Cyrus, Katy Perry, Daft Punk, Nellie Furtado, and Cypress Hill call out for their listeners to “throw your hands up”? It’s legitimate to react against this music, and it’s legitimate to do so in musical form. Plenty of rock music (especially punk and metal) critiques the very things Ms. Flores mentions – bankers, polo, golf, and that sort of thing – but those songs are young voices critiquing adulthood and upper-middle-class notions of “success,” contrasted sharply against the supposed sincerity and authenticity of youth and rebellion. They’re also lyrics from the 70s and 80s, mostly. Today’s youth have a different set of examples to rail against when critiquing irresponsible attitudes toward wealth, and pop music is full of those attitudes, no matter who is singing the songs – but one type of music sung by people of many backgrounds glorifies it in particular.

Finally – who does Ms. Flores think these “Royals” might be? It’s just as legitimate to say that the song is about the TV-magazine-newspaper hype surrounding William and Kate and baby George of England (New Zealand being part of the Commonwealth and all) but at the same time deftly comparing the literal royals with the “kings and queens” of pop radio.

For another take on the issue, check out this article by Consequence of Sound.


On May 5, 2012, in Music, by mugen

When I started high school in 1986, “Fight for Your Right” was sweeping across radio and MTV and License to Ill was becoming popular—and I couldn’t figure out if it was supposed to be a joke (like maybe Weird Al) or if it was just something I wasn’t supposed to understand as a suburban kid who liked Starship, Cyndi Lauper, Prince, and Heart. Later, my good friend Marko turned me on to Paul’s Boutique, and I realized that the joke wasn’t a joke anymore.
When Check Your Head came out during my early college years, I finally started to get that these guys really meant business, and revisiting Paul’s Boutique revealed the absolute musicality of their genius.

So it’s sad to say goodbye to Adam Yauch, aka MCA of the Beastie Boys. Thank you, sir, for your contribution to music, to culture, to politics, to awareness, to us. You will be missed.

CNN coverage

Rock Hall of Fame


Tagged with:

“I Fink U Freeky” – Die Antwoord

On March 18, 2012, in Music, by mugen

Interesting overview of the connection between photographer (and director of the video) Ballen and the band.

image from Die Antwoord "Tension" trailer

"Ninja" masked in "Tension" trailer

And more interesting, the copyright infringement case brought against Die Antwoord by Jane Alexander regarding use of images from her art. Nice discussion from a South African about the exploitation of South African art by South African artists.

More on the same subject by the same author, but in a more complete (and scathingly anti-Die Antwoord) form here: “Butchered” by Linda Stupart, from Mahala.

detail of Jane Alexander's "Butcher Boys" sculpture

one of Jane Alexander's "Butcher Boys"

Another “discussion of the discussion” raised by the whole affair.

An Art Times of South Africa article in which Ninja claims to be friendly with Alexander and expresses surprise at the controversy.

Interesting implications for art, parody, satire, copyright, and post-modern sampling culture.

Regarding the song? It’s freaky. I like it a lot.

Tagged with: