NEWS ROUNDUP: Gender Equalizers, Night Mayors, & More
By Jasmine Williams
An App for Gender Equality:
On Thursday, in honor of International Women’s Day, Spotify and Smirnoff partnered together to launch the Smirnoff Equalizer, a tool that reveals the gender breakdown of the artists you are listening to. The streaming platform created that app after collecting data that revealed that 100% of their most streamed tracks in 2017 were performed by men. The equalizer analyzes each listener’s history to produce percentages of male to female artists. It then provides a slider tool so that listeners can discover artists of different genders, including non-binary. You may be surprised by your streaming habits! It turns out that the feminist writer of this news breakdown has been listening to 88% of tracks by male performers versus 13% females. The shame!
It’s a new era for New York City nightlife! Last year the archaic Cabarat Law was repealed and the city has named its first ever Night Mayor. Despite the vampiric title, Ariel Palitz will spend a lot of daylight hours smoothing over the relationships between rigid community councils and venues who often have trouble applying for liquor licenses and getting permits. Palitz is a seasoned promoter and was owner of the club Sutra for ten years. In theory, she will be making it easier for DIY event spaces to operate throughout the five boroughs. Fingers crossed!
Anderson .Paak’s new single, “Til It’s Over,” gets the Spike Jonze treatment for an Apple Music video starring FKA Twigs as a working stiff who escapes reality through dance.
On Wednesday, In response to recent criticism of his live shows, Vince Staples launched a GoFundMe page so that he can leave the music biz, he states, “You can decide to donate to the cause of $2 million, which will allow me to shut the fuck up forever and you will never hear from me again…If not, you can choose to let me do what I want to do, when I want to do it…” The next day it emerged that the crowd fundraiser was actually a stunt in promotion for new track, “Get the Fuck Off My Dick.”
It’s been eight years since Sade released Soldier of Love, but on Tuesday the sultry singer’s return to music was revealed in a very 2018 way – via Twitter! Movie director Ava DuVernay announced that the British-Nigerian musician and her eponymous band wrote a song for her upcoming movie, A Wrinkle In Time. The track, “Flower of the Universe,” will be included on the official soundtrack, along with songs from DJ Khaled, Demi Lovato, Sia and Kehlani. Composer Ramin Djawadi will write the original score for the film.
Although Sade’s fans are always pining for her return, the singer gives good reason to back up the long breaks that she takes between albums. She previously explained to The Guardian’s Adrienne Gibbs, “If I were forever in the music machine or on the road, doing TV and in that sort of commercial world, I don’t believe I would be able to step back and write the songs that I did.”
View the trailer for A Wrinkle In Time below. The film comes out in the United States on March 9th.
The 2018 BRIT Awards
On Wednesday, The BRIT Awards schooled The Grammys when it came to gender representation, diversity, and political relevance. Dua Lipa took home the award for best British breakthrough act and female solo artist and Lorde won the trophy for international female solo artist while Kendrick Lamar won in the male counterpart to the category. Gorillaz took the title for Best British Group; during their acceptance speech, Damon Albarn took a stand against Brexit. Stormzy came out on top, winning the award for best male solo artist as well as album of the year for Gang Signs & Prayer. The Grime MC closed out the show with an intense performance (rain literally fell on his head the whole time) of “Blinded By Your Grace.” For the BRITs, he added a freestyle verse criticizing Prime Minister Theresa May for her handling of the Grenfell Tower Fire, a massive fire that consumed a public housing project last June leaving seventy-one people dead. Stormzy rapped:
“Yo, Theresa May, where’s that money for Grenfell? What, you thought we just forgot about Grenfell? You criminals, and you got the cheek to call us savages. You should do some jail time, you should pay some damages, we should burn your house down and see if you can manage this.”
American performers, take note.
New Claims of Harassment Against Charlie Walk Surface
A Rolling Stone investigation into the misbehavior of former Republic Records head Charlie Walk has uncovered new accusations. This adds to claims made earlier this year by record executive Tristan Coopersmith and three anonymous women, which resulted in his removal from Fox’s music competition show The Four, where he was a judge, as well as his dismissal from the label, whose roster includes The Weeknd, Ariana Grande, Lorde, Florence + the Machine, Phantogram, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Black Sabbath, and James Blake among others.
In an update to last week’s stories, artist Lina Iris Viktor is going to court with SZA and Kendrick Lamar over imagery used in their “All The Stars” video; she is suing for copyright violation. Quincy Jones has issued a public apology for calling the Beatles “the worst musicians in the world” as well as some other controversial comments he made earlier this month.
Producer Boyd Jarvis, a house music pioneer, passed away this week at the age of 59 following a battle with cancer. His legendary career included projects with Madonna, Prince, and Herbie Hancock. Black Moth Super Rainbow return with their first new material in four years. “Mr No One” will appear on their upcoming album, Panic Blooms, out May 4th; the band comes to Music Hall of Williamsburg on June 2nd. Twin Shadow debuted two tracks this week. His next album is due April 27th. Janelle Monáe also did a dual release – on Thursday she premiered the videos for new tracks “Django Jane” and “Make Me Feel.” Car Seat Headrest gave us the unexpected this week with a cover of Smash Mouth’s “Fallen Horses.” Drake’s newest video is going to make it a lot harder to diss the Canadian rapper; in his new clip for “God’s Plan” he does good deeds in Miami to the tune of almost one million dollars. Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor also debuted a new video this week. “Beautiful Thing” is the title track off of his upcoming LP, out April 1. Bon Iver manager Kyle Frenette is aiming for political office, hoping to unseat Republican Sean Duffy in a bid to win a House seat representing Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District. The lineup for FORM Arcosanti is out and will bring Beach House, serpentwithfeet, Blood Orange, Chance The Rapper, Courtney Barnett, Daniel Caesar, Fleet Foxes and many more to the Arizona desert from May 11th to 13th. Last but certainly not least, Young Thug would now liked to be called “SEX.”
Something smooth is afoot. Suddenly, as if surfacing on the pop charts for the first time, Sade is played, sung, and mentioned in nearly every room I enter. “The Sweetest Taboo” slinks across my favorite coffee shop. “No Ordinary Love” sashays through my kitchen. “Smooth Operator” blares from restaurant speakers…or comes as close to blaring as a song like “Smooth Operator” can.
Have I missed something here? I feel like I’m unhip to some universal punch line – as if the town around me has burst into a choreographed dance routine and I’m the only one who finds it strange. Was there a neglected memo? Has a viral Snapchat eluded me? There must be a reason that only a few months ago, a friend on Facebook posted this ambivalent comment:
This acted as a double Sade nod, as her name was praised both by my friend and the good people at East River Tattoo. Several months later, this surfaced:
These posts were not isolated incidents of Sade-dom. It seemed that overnight everyone was digging these soft, jazz-rock fusion tunes unanimously. Everywhere I went: it was Sade all day. All the livelong Sade.
Not long after the Facebook posts above appeared, my eldest roommate J began playing The Best Of Sade on repeat while cooking, cleaning, rolling joints, and smoking joints. He had installed a groovy lighting scheme that synced with his iPhone a few months back for “ambiance.” As Sade whispered the words to “Jezebel” he would sink the lights to a sensual blue, recline on the couch, and blow a beam of smoke across the living room. I was almost annoyed when a mysterious, hat-wearing saxophonist didn’t appear from behind one of our large floppy houseplants.
I still didn’t connect the dots between these separate instances of Sadephilia – until my other roommate started playing her.
H, my youngest roomie, is hardly ever home. She has a demanding job and a fruitful social life, and rarely plays music through the subpar speakers in our kitchen…the kitchen being the hub of our household mingling. A few weeks ago, H was making a salad. In need of a soundtrack, she hooked up her phone to our shitty kitchen speakers, and out poured Sade’s sultry “Is It A Crime.”
“That’s it,” I thought. I asked H if she had heard J playing Sade not too long ago, or noticed the singer’s sudden ubiquity this year. H could offer no explanation, and I remained puzzled. I grew suspicious of this sudden trend; as I do with all things that I feel, well, left out of. Was Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious at work? Had Sade just collaborated on a fashion line with Kenzo? Did she have a fragrance now (perhaps…Eau de Sade)? Though I’d never discovered why every “hip” Brooklyn bar was playing New Order from 2008-2012, or why every restaurant was playing T. Rex in that same time period, I would damn well find out why everyone was swaying to Sade in 2017.
First, I turned to Spotify – to the record cover I recognized the most; that blue-filtered photograph where Sade is poised au natural, smirking into our souls under twig-thin eyebrows. The Best of Sade.
It was early in the morning, and I pressed play, my mug of un-sipped coffee in hand. About to take the day’s first tipple of holy caffeine, “Your Love Is King” blasted into my ear buds at top volume, its wailing, metallic, sax riff nearly causing my coffee cup to vault across the room. So far, it was the least smooth start to the day I could imagine.
I didn’t know how to feel immediately. This was music, in which the saxophone could be described as passionate, and I hated that…but I didn’t hate what I was hearing. Sade makes the kind of music I’m supposed to dislike, on paper at least. It is oppressively pleasant – the most jarring component being that damn saxophone squawking in and out of measures. Yet on a closer listen, a song like “Hang On To Your Love” stands out as a bouncy pop number, and I find myself anticipating its hooky chorus throughout. Sade’s vocal proficiency has never been questioned, but I realize – perhaps decades after everyone else in the world – the subtle chops of her band as well. But suddenly recognizing the quality in her music doesn’t explain the Sade renaissance. I had to know more.
“Why is everyone into Sade all of a sudden?” I ask J, the roommate fond of fancy lighting fixtures.
“Is everyone?” he asks.
“Yes. Everyone. What happened? Is it the twentieth anniversary of her death or something?”
“Didn’t she get shot? And there was a movie? J Lo?”
Now that I knew Sade was not in fact gunned down by a rabid fan, I flocked to Google for answers.
“Why is everyone obsessed with Sade in 2017?” yielded no solutions on the search engine, but it turned out that this very question was asked a few years prior.
In 2011, The Guardian printed another story entitled, “Behind the Music: The Secrets of Sade’s Success.” The paper interviewed Sade’s first producer Robin Millar, who said of the singer, “I’ve always thought there are certain voices that make people feel better: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. And when I first heard Sade I really felt she had it … She also had an amazing effect on people in the studio, both men and women – her charisma and how she looked.”
That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t tell me anything. Feel-goodery couldn’t be the only explanation for Sade’s unofficial comeback. “Feel-good” does not = hip, and right now, Sade is hip as fuck.
But why now? She hasn’t dropped an album since 2010’s Soldier Of Love, and she certainly doesn’t crop up for interviews or public appearances on the regular. For this reason Sade is often compared to reclusive pop queen Kate Bush.
In 2010, Vulture published a story about Sade’s influence on rappers, citing remarks by likes of Missy Elliott, Rakim, and even Kanye West. Apparently the smooth crooner made big waves in the hip hop scene. Souls of Mischief’s Tajai claimed that, “When I was young, her record was one of the few my mom would play that I would enjoy, too. As a kid, I’d want her to turn off her music so I could hear LL Cool J or someone like that, but Sade and Luther Vandross were two records I dug, too. Sade transcends the age gap.”
Could it be Sade’s mere timelessness that resurrected this smooth jazz siren? I had to admit that no one’s current interest seemed to be a side effect of irony…was millennials’ attention to Sade as sincere as her music? After all, Sade was the woman who sang words of pristine devotion, like “I want to cook you a soup that warms your soul”– how could she possibly inspire sarcasm?
And then, in one final Google search, I found my answer. At the top of the page read:
So this is what it’s all about, eh? The wildly popular skating brand is retailing the screen print tee for well over $100 as part of their 2017 Spring/Summer line. Emblazoned on the front is a vintage black and white photo of the singer, with a gold, “handwritten” message proclaiming:
Your Love Is King
Mystery solved? I hope not entirely.
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