Janelle Monae (ft. Erykah Badu) - “Q.U.E.E.N.”
This whole video is so great, but the last minute in particular is everything I want out of art ever.
Janelle Monae (ft. Erykah Badu) - “Q.U.E.E.N.”
Being a queen used to be all about wealth, formality, and maintaining tradition. Now it appears being a queen is about empowering others to embrace their uniqueness. And by that definition Janelle Monae and Erykah Badu are perhaps out highest-ranking royalty.
So to repeat Ms. Monae’s closing question: will you be sheep, will you sleep, or will you help them spread their queenly gospel?
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (ft. Ray Dalton) - “Can’t Hold Us”
The number one song in America right now is an empowerment anthem that promotes the importance of community and giving back. It’s a song about kindness, love, and prideful humility. Performed by an outspoken feminist and humanist whose calling card is owning your own individuality. And, whether intentional or not, the chorus can be easily read as a call to shatter the glass ceiling.
Sometimes America, you get it absolutely right.
Baz Luhrmann - “Everyone’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”
With the release of The Great Gatsby today it seems like a perfect time to revisit Baz Luhrmann’s greatest contribution to the world and the best advice song for young people ever created.
Even now, almost 15 years later, rarely a day goes by that a line from this doesnt enter my thinking.
Jean Knight - “Mr. Big Stuff”
Insider tip, ladies: You’re better than anyone who treats you like they’re better than you
Ledisi - “Pieces of Me”
The thing is, we’re all collections of pieces that don’t exactly fit. Jigsaw puzzles you don’t need to try and solve. We’re never gonna look like the picture on the box, so why bother. Better to let go of getting it right and just have fun with the possibilities.
Mary Chapin Carpenter - “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her”
I don’t know how or why it took this great AV Club article to remind me about this song, one of my very favorites from when I was a kid growing up in Texas, but thank goodness it did.
Besides being generally awesome in the way most Mary Chapin Carpenter-related things are, the song, as the article points out, can be seen as the unofficial dividing line between the “Stand By Your Man” era of country music and the “Dixie Chicks/Miranda Lambert” era. But my favorite thing about the song has always been the way it doesn’t end with the easy crowd-pleasing “victory” of the protagonist leaving her man, but instead takes it one step beyond that:
The genius of the song…is that Carpenter doesn’t end in that moment of forced girl power. Her feminism extends beyond women realizing they can seize their own destinies, to the society that makes those stifling lives seem so inescapable in the first place. In the song’s bridge, the newly liberated protagonist finds herself cast into a working world where the only job she can find is a minimum-wage typing-pool position. It’s a contrast that could be bitter, but it’s met by the jubilation of the chorus, including a backing vocal that functions as a metronome (fitting, given the song’s refrain of “Everything runs right on time”). Maybe not everything is roses, but it’s better than being trapped.
Lupe Fiasco - “Hurt Me Soul”
Expanding on last week’s post about misogyny in hip-hop, Lupe Fiasco here is able to brilliantly articulate his conflicted feelings about rap’s complicated relationship to women, before delving into an even deeper examination of art and the world at large that would be good for any daughter, son, and person on earth to hear.
I find this debate fascinating
Nas - “Daughters”
“They say the coolest players and foulest heartbreakers / God gets us back he makes us have precious little girls” - Nas
You hear time and again guys preaching to other guys “how would you feel if someone treated you mother/sister/daughter that way?” And it’s unfortunate that it takes a personal connection like that for some people to learn basic human decency, but so be it. As long as they learn.
But that’s why Blue Ivy Carter could be one of the more important things to ever happen to not just hip-hop but the culture at large. Because now Jay-Z is gonna really have to wrestle with songs like “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Money Cash Hoes”. And as the most powerful figure in hip-hop, so goes Jay-Z, so goes the nation. Just as the Beastie Boys went from women in cages to “Sure Shot” and Nas went from “The Makings of a Perfect Bitch” to the lovely introspection of this song, it’s encouraging to watch the elder statesmen of rap slowly changing their music’s relationship to women. And even more encouraging to watch the culture follow their lead.
Hopefully someday soon we can actually live in a world where it doesn’t ever take having a daughter just to learn to not be a misogynist.
Bikini Kill – “Feels Blind”
Bikini Kill’s self titled debut EP was reissued recently and what’s most amazing about it is how shocking and revolutionary it still feels. At a time when punk musicians have musicals on Broadway, Bikini Kill still sounds like the sound of the world being upended. Of the status quo being aggressively challenged. Of The Man being threatened both literally and figuratively.
Everything from Pussy Riot to Wild Flag from Sarah Conner to Katniss Everdeen begins here.
If you havent read the rest of it yet, go check it out. It’s awesome.
It’s great to see how far we’ve come in a relatively short amount of time, and crazy to think how many people are still living who were raised in a world where this sort of thing existed
Best Coast - “How They Want Me To Be”
The best thing you can ever want for someone is to not want them to be the way you want them to be