Tag Archive for 'beyonce'

music that got me through

This morning I woke up before the kids did, in the light of a Christmas tree, thinking of my ghosts.

I’ve also been thinking about the rebel Jesus…faith is a kind of ghost in my life too. I was raised with stories of a poor family of resilient miracle makers, and the birth of a freedom fighter who rolled with the same types of folks I roll with now, speaking of compassion, practice, sacrifice, forgiveness and love.

I’m not big on organized religion in this era of institutionalized greed, but I love these stories of justice, and I think in many settings, in my family, Jesus (radical, martyr, murdered, unarmed…and uplifted after death to create change in an unjust world) is another way to speak of black life, of dignity as a path out of oppression.

I’ve been thinking about how to live my values today and every day. Sade’s lyric ‘it’s only love that gets you through’ comes to mind over and over. I’ve been feeling ‘no justice, no Christmas’ these last few months, knowing that I wanted to reconcile magic and grief, resistance and abundance.

I’ve been exploring how ‘no’ is both necessary and not the shape of my daily life or work. Or perhaps more precisely, there are many ways to say no, and one is by turning up a righteous yes. So I thought, what do I want to say yes to, to grow, to multiply?

Love, yes. Creativity, yes. Black excellence and brilliance, yes! Authentic relationships and transformation? Yes.

To that end I gave gifts that reflect my values for creativity, spirit nourishing, genius. I gave and requested gifts that increased resources to black life. I gave to the families of as many of our black martyrs as I could.

Over and over I came back to music as the gift I wanted to give, and it made me realize what an incredible year this was in black music.

That sparked this post for today.

Here is the Spotify playlist to go with this post!

This year has had many many moments when music was the only thing that got me through. I want to thank the new and old artists who were medicine, soundtrack, and light at the end of converging tunnels.

I started the year in a Beyonce universe that kept providing joy and contemplation throughout the year, with 7/11 as a gratuitous cherry on top.

When my loved ones died this year, there were a few songs I needed to listen to, to move things through. Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers to Cross was the first and central song of my grief soundtrack. I’m also grateful for the familiar voices of Sade, Whitney Houston, Donny Hathaway, Johnny Cash and Sam Cooke.

In terms of new albums, there were a few that I want to lift up and shout out as healing either in content or just by exhibiting the beauty of fully realized creative output.

Obviously D’angelo has claimed the end of the year. Black Messiah is an instant classic, and a gift that is both on time and on purpose. All I want to feel in this moment is the easy good continuous blackness that he and Questlove deliver on this album. It works as a coherent whole, and as a loop with no beginning and no end. There is no moment, no note, no moan or snare, no rhythm and no lyric on this album that I don’t love. Black excellence.

Little Dragon released an incredible album – mature, daring, gorgeous music. I forgot this and had to come back and honor them because Nabuma Rubberband was excellent and feels classic as the year ends.

FKA Twigs, on EP1 and LP1, is the other artist who gave herself to us as a sensual whole this year. On the lyrical tip she is specific, naughty and evocative. Her voice sounds both heavenly and carnal, she arouses with an incredibly light touch. She’s theatrical in performance, she’s gorgeous and strange to look at, she feels both young and very comfortable in her grown-ass-woman-hood. I could listen to her curse all day.

(I want to note here that Lykke Li’s album No One Ever Loved is incredible. Heartbreaking direct feelings – and it almost gave me whiplash in terms of the growth from her previous work. It feels like an emotional bookend to FKA Twigs work.)

Azealia Banks is the truth. She’s better than all the other rappers and she feels her feelings, she is as emotive and intelligent as she is ruthless. Her album is not perfect, but it’s exciting, her flow is fantastic and as I decipher her lyrics I am impressed with her mind and her choices. She and Kendrick Lamar , whose performance on Colbert gave me life, look back at their field from a distance.

I really enjoyed Mary J Blige’s The London Sessions. It feels experimental, produced by all these dope British artists I like including Sam Smith and Emeli Sande. I liked Sam’s album ‘In the Lonely Hour‘ as a set of well done pop songs that reference black music in every vibration, but he didn’t have the depth to hold me for more than a week of focused listening. However, paired with the life force of Mary J, there’s some really beautiful pieces. ‘Doubt’, ‘When you’re gone’, and a set of house dance tracks move this through.

Tunde Olaniran’s Yung Archetype was the most stylish stuff I heard this year, the music I put on when I needed to stomp around the house feeling fly. He’s an amazing performer and a righteous organizer and it’s a necessary combination.

As the year comes to a close, I have Nicki Minaj, Coultrain, TV on the Radio and Jesse Boykins III in the queue. (Speaking of Jesses, Jessie Ware was also the truth this year, and Jesse Williams made me believe in celebrity radicalism again.)

But the thing I am most anticipating is Toshi Reagon’s production of The Parable of the Sower. She’s collaborated with her mother to translate Octavia Butler’s work into an opera, and while I will miss these physical shows, my Christmas wish is a live recording, to spend years with this new music.

What about you beloveds…what are you balancing? And what music gave you life through this impossible year?

reviews: on the run, long division, fka twigs, and more!

so the world has been really giving us a toxic dose of black suffering and bodies under assault lately. it feels like half the black names i hear in the news belong to people who have just lost their lives to some sort of injustice. i feel it is important in this context to uplift some of the joy, creativity and beauty that black folks are up to around the globe. i picked four things that have lifted my gloom and grief of late.

1. my own life!

i just want to shout out my life right now. my friend patrisse recently told me that my black life matters, and i appreciated the specificity, the demand really to live a life that matters.

i feel like many threads are finally weaving together. i am placing as much of my facilitation work as possible in the container of emergent strategy, and i am taking on clients and mediations left and right – there are so many intimate moments and processes that need gentle hands. i find i have a different attention for it, for the scale of small deep change. it is the level at which i am currently reveling.

also, walidah and i announced this last week but AK Press picked up octavia’s brood!!

i am also on a refresher sugar cleanse, with a growing awareness that i am in a transparent and lifelong mindfulness practice around sugar that is, in both the ancestral and healing games of life, revolutionary. basically, i am (we are) immersed in a world that wants to give me (us) sugar instead of watching me (us) cry or laugh or live.

nah son.

2. fka twigs

this is the sexiest album and artist of 2014 (not counting beyonce, obviously). i started with the video two weeks, which had such a gorgeous afrofuturist effect that i giggled and clapped my hands together with joy and tried to get everyone i know who likes badass women of color and sci fi to watch it.

then i watched the video for pacify and blushed and averted my eyes in erotic overwhelm. and then watched it a few more times. her music, over two EPs and an LP, plays seamlessly, emotionally accurate, steamy, smooth, sensual and complicated.

watch, listen…i am excited to see and hear more from her.

3. long division

this book! i know i am late and he has a whole nother book out but…

kiese laymon managed to write a laugh-out-loud-and-cry-about-the-truth-of-racism narrative about a brilliant chubby black boy in the south. i couldn’t put it down. my sister autumn told me she had a book for me to read about time travel, the 80s, race, the south, spelling bees. i ran towards it.

i don’t want to say too much about it because it is the kind of wild journey that is best experienced in your own hands.

but i will say that i like you, and therefore i want you to read it.

also, i shouted him out on facebook and he totally responded and i am still lit up about the modern world of fandom.

4. on the run tour, hbo

i have no real excuse for not seeing the on the run tour in person. i had logistical challenges, yes, i was traveling and not in the same city as them at the right time. but…beyonce and jay-z together? i should have been there. i wanted to be there.

so when i learned it would be aired on hbo, i added it to my calendar. i made sure that i had the kind of internet that has hbo with it (it’s called internet plus on comcast and it’s all i have wanted forever). when i realized i would be traveling when it aired, i made sure i could get hbo at my sister’s house while i was out there taking care of the babies with my mom. i made sure the babies were asleep on time. i recorded it, while watching it, so i could watch it again. and so my sister could watch it. i then returned to detroit and watched it a few more times.

i have some thoughts.

there was one major problem with it, and it was a big one, so let’s get it out of the way. the way the concert was edited was upsetting. they changed camera angles every 3-5 seconds for most of the first two thirds of the concert. it was exhausting, it was an onslaught…an onslaught of incredible performance!, yes, but an onslaught nonetheless.

i wanted the sports experience, you know? my dad watches sports on tv and he says it is often better to watch it from home. you get to see more details. this was the opposite. i was having to fight way too hard to see bey’s outfits and perfect laughter and diverse dance moves and references. it was like standing behind the tall guy at the concert. a smile would start on her lovely face and then the camera would cut away. or worse, go slow motion. jay-z’s camera work was much more steady and i actually got to really see him emote, perform, work the crowd, be brilliant.

the rumors are that she is pregnant and that is why there was so much camera play. but i saw the dance for you video and she is delectable pregnant, so i don’t quite buy that, i think they were showing off how many cameras they had. and whew, when we got to see her move? it was magnificent.

so, that said.

there were beautiful transitions and exciting blends of their older hits into their modern shared aesthetic, skewed more hip-hop than i expected on the fashion tip. i love watching that woman perform, and i loved watching bey and jay go back and forth.

the whole concert is framed as a bonnie and clyde love affair tragedy, with the disclaimer ‘this is not real life’ popping across the screen. about halfway through the concert the songs start to move from tossing greatest hits back and forth to what played out as an intimate conversation between them, around when bey rages like a blood dragon on ‘ring the alarm’.

at this point, the camera work slowed down a bit.

‘drunk in love’ had several moments of jay looking at beyonce with gleeful disbelief, like he is having the time of his life with his favorite person. i realized watching that look on his face that i adore him. i also realized that the show has a sort of tina and ike turner revue energy in several places. i continue to want to ask them about that song, what it means to them.

there are little movie clips all along, one with her drunk and half dressed trying to reach him on the phone which ends, brilliantly, with the line, ‘nothing open at 3am but legs’. another with her riding a horse, bouncing on a saddle in what appears to be a white thong under a wedding dress. just gifts and gifts.

i must note that i feel so curious about public conversations on jealousy and infidelity and honesty and healing, the real things that happen in relationship which we don’t discuss and thus have a hard time learning around.

that they could argue, as all couples do, and then collaborate at this scale, which almost no couples do, is a testament, although i am not sure if it is to their professionalism or their mutual adoration.

either way, her magnificent hype wifeyoke on holy grail changed the song for me, now i hear it and forget whoever originally sang the hook, i just see her dropping low and it fills me with joy.

i have extensive notes on this concert, but what matters most to me is the flow that begins with the last verse of song cry, where jay speaks of giving and receiving pain in front of video of bey being wounded. that transitions to beyonce singing resentment wearing a wedding veil and white slacks, sitting on stage singing in a way that feels righteous and vindictive and fair and powerful. i was with her every step of the way. this song slays me, it feels like the heart of the matter. it isn’t about what people do, but how we honor the trust that sits at the heart of partnership.

the camera stays right on her face for most of this song, and she is worthy of the singular focus. she looks like catharsis embodied. grown and scarred and tender and fierce and truly deeply beautifully shady in the BEST way. it’s my favorite act of her play, every time i see it.

then she BRUSHES THE DIRT OFF HER SHOULDER. and LAUGHS.

so liberating. and then it cuts to footage with her saying, ‘love is an act of endless forgiveness. forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me. forgiveness is the final act of love.’ and takes us to love, saying ‘after all the pain there’s love’, and she transitions into ‘love on top’, and we realize we want to forgive everyone. because love wins.

i was fully buzzing by this point, camera work woes forgotten.

the last section of the concert is us getting to watch beyonce and jay-z love on and celebrate each other, looking into each other’s eyes, astounded by how awesome it is to be the best things ever. they face each other for ‘part 2′ and just look smitten and beautiful. they hold each other and sing ‘halo’ to blue ivy and it is the kind of black love we need to see: big and bright and loud and over the top, awesome, complex, healing, friendly, respectful, fun, glamorous, fierce and so on.

now i want them to take a year off to just love on each other, on a boat, with no paparazzi or internet. i doubt they will, but i am rooting for them, that all of this vulnerability translates into earned joy.

p.s. i have been listening to jay nonstop since the concert came out, studying and enjoying his genius in a new way, as a lovable, forgivable man. that twinkle in his eye? flawless.

pop vent: on ‘me, i am mariah…the elusive chanteuse’

I normally pop vent in private. You know – if you can’t think of something nice to say, just spill it over a nice bourbon to your best friend. But me and Mariah go back like pop infantilization, and I need to process aloud my intimate disappointment with her most recent work.

I was gonna leave it at a Facebook post until I heard R Kelly on this album. His voice is a desperate canary in any pop singer’s coal mine. I generally don’t comment on famous people’s scandals, because who can really know? Except, you know, journalism.

When I was the age at which he would have been interested in me, I was hiding under covers with a Mariah tape in my walkman singing Always Be My Baby. I’m disappointed to hear his voice here, especially in what sounds like another gross narrative of his innocence. I removed the song from my playlist, but I’m not sure I can shake his verse from my view of this work.

And it kind of clicked something together in my mind about why Mariah has been coming up short for me since Glitter. She’s desperately clinging to the past.

She was ahead of her years in both vocals and content on her first album. But this most recent album, besides it’s unfortunate title, continues the trend of implying that Mariah never got past that moment. In fact I am beginning to wonder if the lyrics and presentation and vocal choices could actually indicate that she is unavailable for any emotions that might age her.

She adapts, which I am generally fan of. But not necessarily the good stuff. Mariah keeps learning the language and vocal styling of the lowest common denominator pop of the incoming generation, and adjusting. Her voice, within that hit-oriented container, is contorted. In the effort to quickly top charts, she loses her capacity to awe.

In a vacuum this might work, but I’ve listened to Little Dragon, Meshell, & Lykke Li’s new albums this month, each one amongst their best work, Lykke Li’s work an emotional revelation. And Beyonce is still right there. All maturing before our ears. So I am getting spoiled, I expect my artists to develop, grow, age elegantly.

In terms of the music, it’s certainly not a vision of love. It sounds like it was a first production effort by her church choir director, or by her teenage heartthrob husband Nick, or maybe herself with garage band (I speak from experience as a mixed girl with garage band – that’s private MC!).

Song after song, album after album, she surrenders her once glorious upper register to an oft giggly childish nasal tone that makes me think we wouldn’t get along anymore – keep in mind she was once my range ambition at five octaves! Now her runs are overwrought in a way that implies she couldn’t hold these notes and let the emotions run.

I accepted these floral concoctions as a teen. But now we can make other choices.

She brings Nas, Fabolous and other rappers in the studio with her, and it makes me miss Ol Dirty…even Puffy. But that might be nostalgic bitterness on my part, because somewhere in her effort to be a perpetual hip-hop princess, she’s sacrificed the grand potential of her octaves. It isn’t just hitting the notes, it’s filling them out with life.

To veer close to petty – I’m not convinced she understands the word elusive. But regardless, I don’t want her to tell me how to think of her. I want her to embody herself fully. That is what makes an artist irresistible to me, that is how she first appeared on the scene. Now she deploys multisyllabic vocabulary in her familiar oddly paced way, as if she perhaps longs to be a rapper at some tectonic level.

And yet…isn’t this my Mariah of unicorns, butterflies and rainbows, earnest romance, random visits to black church, abundant runs that indicate she lives an unedited life?

Yes, she is Mariah.

There are catchy tunes on this album that I could give in to. I feel some goodness in here. ‘Make It Look Good’ is the best song I’m hearing so far. Her babies are sampled in cute ways on ‘Supernatural’. If I forget we are grown women, there are moments that shine, that earn my shimmy and my nostalgia.

But even with the cute bits and occasionally lovely and innovative runs, I can’t green light this. Her look, her words, her sound all evoke a teenaged love affair, a girl afraid to be a woman, Romeo and Juliet forever sacrificing wisdom for romance, forever sixteen. I want to see a line on her face, hear her throaty experience show up in her songs, see a grown up sexual diva emerge – isn’t the butterfly a creature of spread wings?

Clinging is not healthy, clinging to one’s youth truncates the miracles that come as the gift after suffering. Clinging leads to bad choices. Mariah wants to look and sound like a sixteen year old. And R Kelly? He is the step too far in her role play.

napowrimo poem 11: drunk in love

prompt: write about wine-and-love.

there there blurred morning
pouring too soon through
that sliver of window
and onto the mussed bed

hush please whisper

my night eyes north stars for you
now ink an early face
your mouth so soft, bruised
and pressed upon

murmurs to my neck

we knocked the stemmed glasses
from the table’s edge
you sweep up the shards
from the floor, laughing

we need no words

in the light, you are my intoxication
you the spinning room
the rose d’anjou
on my lips

now drink me again

beyonce: the conference call

so after my initial reaction to Beyonce’s album, i was still flabbergasted and needing to process. i asked on facebook if others needed that. some people said yes. at 5 am last sunday I set the call up. in half dream, i made it a public event, and it grew. the conversation was lovely, grounded in shared pleasure, featuring other writers, artists, burlesque dancers, mamas, organizers, academics, women and trans participants. not everyone spoke up but those that did were honest and nuanced. here are the notes, plus some more thoughts below.

agenda/structure:
remember how you felt first experiencing the album
opening comments
open the floor for discussion in response to the question ‘why are you loving this album?’ (1 hr)
discussion, ‘what are the questions or concerns that are raised for you on this album?’ (30 min)


opening comments from adrienne: k

i said a lot on my blog, that was my first reaction. since then i have been watching, listening, inviting others to watch.

drunk in love and flawless, which seem to be the two most controversial video songs on the album, were actually my two favorite for the first two days. those feelings felt familiar, that love, that power – and to put them in the public sphere excited me.

the totality, the scope of the project also excited me. i can’t remember the last time i listened to an album as a whole on repeat with no need to edit the playlist or skip. and the videos work as a visual offering, coherent.

today i finally made myself listen to the songs twice through without the videos to see what stood out to me. jealous, haunted and superpower took up more space in my heart when i was just listening.

the work has me feeling sexy, massive, seen. i love the arc of growth i see in her. my partner called her the last jackson, and i feel like other folks have made some jackson references in terms of the scale and scope of this project. seeing someone groomed from childhood for this fame, the lightening of the image, pop music capitalism, there are parallels. but with this i feel like she shows us what happens when the child star reaches sexual maturity. and it is thrilling to me to see that growth, that claiming of adulthood.

what are you loving about the album?

onome: i came to it through flawless on facebook, saw chimimanda’s name and that drew me in. i recognized the bow down line from earlier, and hated it. and i loved that she and her team had the humility to go back to the drawing board and turn it into this masterpiece. i have never seen anyone do that. i thought it was just a single, then saw it was 14 songs. by the time i got the 11th video i felt overwhelmed. by her…generosity. what went into creating on this scale. my critical eye was not turned off, i still saw what was problematic, but that didn’t stop me from being floored by her artistry and vision.

tarana: i am brand new, i used to use beyonce as an example of what is wrong with pop music. her being with jay-z really shifted it for me. when the album dropped my daughter and i were reeling from scandal. i woke up to watch it, and to all of the backlash. i’m a raunchy mf, i love sexiness, i love it. all of the sexy, see me stuff: partition, drunk in love, those are my favorites…seeing her with her husband like that, this is so dope. when i heard the line mike tyson, ike turner, i thought it was corny, i thought it was a cultural reference. eat the cake i have said to my friends as a shut the hell up. came off as an off color personal thing between a couple. i get why people are turned off by it. i don’t think it’s her best album, i think it’s really sexy and hot.

toni: unless an album is in the vein of a certain vibration i normally don’t listen to the whole thing at once, i choose a song and listen to it for a while, and then the album. so grown woman appealed to me, i love international music, makes me want to travel, i know where those dances are from. i also relate as a grown woman, i have spent the last ten years trying to grow up, owning my own mind, owning my own choices, my own tribe, my own family, letting the activist community i have been part of for 25 years not choose my actions. i share a birthday with beyonce, so i have understood her, respect her work ethic, her willingness to make mistakes in public. i listened to the whole album today so i could be in integrity with the conference call. i listened twice, and i like it. i don’t believe in judging that which you like within the first 20 listens, it cuts off your joy. why critique, just enjoy it. why does it have to be this analytical process? i am still in the honeymoon phase. had a lot of folks tell me what is wrong. but i like it. (chorus: yes!)

adrienne: the pleasure of listening to music you like is so powerful! i thought it was so amazing and then folks said it wasn’t powerful. and i was like, well i love it, so i can examine that. cause it works for me.

autumn: i can only be on briefly because my daughter is still awake, but i am not on the internet like that, what are people critiquing?

adrienne: her use of the term feminist, with jay-z saying eat the cake. and her sexualization. and her claiming to be powerful and independent in the realm of capitalism.

?: i see all that, but…i have been a fan, and i see this is a married couple talking about being in love. usually i think he brings down the video, but this time i was excited to see him and see their love and her sexuality and owning it.

adrienne: yes, i think beyonce answers how she feels about critiques generally on the album, ‘daddy taught me to love my haters’. and we will talk more about questions, concerns critiques in a bit. what did y’all love?

laura: as soon as i saw the album my body started having this amazing reaction to it, i feel like she brought my sexy back. i am a burlesque dancer, and i just saw this as bdsm realness, and i felt like yes. give me some time to just feel this in my body, it feels good.

autumn: the visual part, beyonce always strikes me as being so earnest that it almost bothers me. this makes me see how funny she is. i tried to be a beyvangelist and show blow to someone and they didn’t get it. how hilarious the aerobics in blacklight is, or rubbing the heads of white anarchists in flawless. some of these pop stars take themselves so seriously, its nice to see someone so on top of it that she can be funny.

tiffany: i am from detroit originally, stay in dc now. growing up me and my friends worshipped at the altar of trina yelling stuff that wasn’t part of our catholic girl lifestyle. (chorus: laughter) this was the first time i listened to a song that was like…this i can share with my young cousin and it won’t be a white woman gloria steinem feminist voice, it will be a black woman, beyonce, presenting something that fits into her world, being young, learning sexy, hearing trap music, altogether. being able to love all these parts of myself, its – i don’t know where to put this joy! i wasn’t a fan, i bow down now.

cherry: i was saying that beyonce had my second chakra woke. so many narratives that spoke to my working class femme heart. i just appreciated everything.

stepheyne: i watched the videos first without listening to the tracks. it was a visual album i wanted to take that in, i have been a fan since no no no. she said feminist, that was enough for me, girl power, it was simple. listening, it brought me back to that simple place, a feminist because i AM. and i want to sit here and twerk it a little bit, on a wall, even if it’s not for anyone. i also do burlesque, and partition, flawless, drunk in love stood out. i feel sexy, want to dance with my boo. afterwards hearing no angel. enjoying it, and proud, feel really good.

laura: no angel is very chola-ish too.

tarana: she is put out as a porcelain doll but she is connected to home, to her folks, paul wall, etc. she doesn’t have to associate with those people, but she chooses to.

adrienne: i love the wholeness! she is owning so many parts of herself. for many of us that do social justice feel we have to leave part of ourselves at the door or the club on fridays. i referenced her in my facilitation of a room of black organizers, that i wanted to bring beyonce level excellence to my work, and my whole self is necessary for the work. i feel this is multi cultural in a way, a multi-class presentation of identities, staying connected to your whole story.

k.c.: on the marketing, i am in marketing, i was impressed. usually people hype it up, do so much promotion beforehand. she didn’t do that. just dropped it and had it go directly to her fans. so i respect that. and then drunk in love, felt like i was looking through a keyhole at their love and seeing black love, it looked and felt authentic!

maryse: i heard some folks talking about burlesque, and yes, what resonated with me was feeling like yes this is what i want to grind to. but also as a former sex worker, it was so good seeing this woman who doesn’t have to show herself or her body to be successful, to make the choice to show herself in this way, powerful and liberated in her sexuality. she draws on stripper culture but in a way that is also respectful of people who actually do the work. while also at the same time being critical of all the things people have to go through to get to that place to do that work, to be desired.

nakisha: I stayed up til 2am downloading and watching all of the videos the night it dropped. I’ve never been a Beyoncé fan and was really surprised by my absolute love of this album – I’ve been listening to it on every single one of my devices and playing it on repeat at work, which is probably inappropriate. Two things stood out. One is the education Beyoncé does on this album. The multi class piece feels powerful, seeing real people at Coney Island in XO and no angel, and her with them, is powerful. and the intro to Chimamanda is great – so many people who had never heard of her are familiarizing themselves with her work. As the granddaughter of West African immigrants, I grew up with an appreciation for our literature and now seeing people listen to African scholars and open to that excites me – I love the idea of people going to the library to learn but they don’t, and Beyoncé uses her power to introduce folks to one of us. (chorus: yes)

marcia: the album was pure fantasy, i don’t have that life but thank you. a catapult, inspiration. a lot of access points in there for dreams. it was inspiring. i have been in a rut, not moved, not inspired. and i have a 17 year old daughter, so that didn’t hurt, something to share. i like seeing her as a grown up. felt like she made an album for me. as a pop star, people trying to emulate that.

adrienne: yeah it feels good to be positively inspired, not kanye pure controversy, or miley twerking badly, but feeling moved and inspired positively. and then the grownness! to see a black woman, quoting an african woman, being on top, talking about pleasure, her body, her love, her motherhood, and also saying pretty hurts, also being vulnerable on jealous. it’s grown.

marcia: yes, and there is no sad love song, it is just powerful, be mommy, sexy, matronly, financially on top of your game. i want to write her a letter! i have been concerned that people can’t just see her, and congratulate her, she shut it down. a black woman, shut it down. (chorus: yes! laughter)

mahogany: i just want to say this is great you are having this call, to get together as women and process a woman’s success and also have a safe space for talking about all this bottom bitch feminist piece pardon my french. i love that she is talking about being sexy and being married women. (chorus, yes) a lot of times sex is not explored in a safe space to be sexy. i get to show you how i love you, and i get be a freak with the person i am committed to. and yes, there are some contradictions.

??: and i love that there are no other men in the videos, just her and her man, all that sexy is with him.

adrienne: except in yonce where it is her and gorgeous women and one licks her and she gave me some of the fantasy i like with no men or monica lewinskying involved. (chorus, mmhmm)

?: i am calling from trinidad. i watched it all and have taken it all in. i have been taking in some of the dialogues and pieces on facebook, but being outside the u.s. context has given me space to see how i enjoy this album. there is something i feel being spoken through her in a spiritual and ancestral way. i haven’t seen in my lifetime a black woman’s sexuality being expressed in this way in the world stage and world platform. at this time. there is so much, it is so powerful that it is happening in an age of social media. there is a dynamic of theory from academia, and praxis coming from those who don’t operate in that space. (chorus: yes!) i feel like one of the things, from being outside the academic space, just emerging and immersing myself here, as a dual citizen, having this album speak to me from outside of that academic space, which had limited my ability to feel these things, happy about my sexuality, in my body, that maybe my sexuality and the ways i express it is mainstream. i feel that somehow there is something larger happening.

adrienne: yay trinidad! i want to just affirm, a lot of the women i have heard of loving this are saying that in the academic realm, the activist realm, even the artist realm, that what beyonce is expressing is a resistance to being told we have to fit in a certain constraint. that a powerful academic looks like this, a powerful activist like this, and artist does this. and saying no i will be all of this. when she says on rocket, i feel good in my own skin. that is such a powerful feeling. took me 35 years to get there. but it feels damn good.

tarana: also remembering this is not new, madonna, janet came out with their sex albums, the turning points. janet came out with her husband holding her breasts. and it was a sex album and folks critiqued her. it isn’t something new, she just did it well.

jazzi: akeema and i have been talking about this album non-stop since it came out. i am 24, and as i sit down to write my critique to the feminist critique, i think of young girls, listening to this. what will you get? the first thing you hear is pretty hurts. on what album do you have a black woman singing about objectification, about the pressure to be beautiful, that really captures people when you put it on? that really hit me. my favorite song is jealous, for reasons i am not even sure why, but i can play that song over and over, the visuals – it is so vulnerable, it isn’t an apology, this is where i am and who i am right now. listening to that while also being bombarded with the new r. kelly stuff..i think this album is so important for where we are as black women, for women in terms of how we are being diminished. this album has been very influential to me.

marcia: my daughter is 17, she just moved here from paris to ny and she was yelling out loud, ‘a black woman, yes a black woman did that!’ she has been going through culture shock, she felt it was so important to scream it at the top of her lungs. people are asking about the sexy piece. it isn’t beyonce’s job to teach my daughter. it is my job, this opens the conversation.

adrienne: yes also the other way. my mother is in her 50s and called me like, we be all night! having those conversations about being sexy in commitment. also, i connected with other black women on train, we were bonding about watching it nonstop, about seeing ourselves as flawless women. learning the choreography, embodying that.

sallome: as a social architect i love how she came out with this. it forces me to have conversations my mom didn’t have with me. having conversations with my man and he is looking at it in a different way. my concern is, how many articles do i need to read, or sisters do i need to quote to make sure the message you all are saying is the way the world takes it in?

marcia: in that bottom bitch piece i was like, i will be that. there is all of that in me, that too. i am really trying to move away from shaming anybody out of the love of this album. there is room for everybody. like the pantheon of deities, there is room for everybody, matriarchs, diva, if you have a vagina there is room.

marla: i am late because i just put my daughters to sleep. having a young daughter, i feel validated by the videos and songs. i just saw her in dallas in concert on monday. my partner and i were watching her, she is a grown ass woman now. she is in her power, sexually, sensual. having just seen her, then having it come out, having just seen her in person – it’s because she is fully in that power that the video and music is sitting so well. i have been with my partner for 18 years, you’ve got to have other elements of your sexuality come out or it gets boring. and i have a six year old and don’t want her to see those, how will young girls see this. marcia it is so inspiring to hear you say i got it, from the other side…that beyonce won’t teach her, i will.

marcia: you will find it amazing – your daughter takes it all in. they take it all in. she called me to tell me it came out, so we could talk.

adrienne: yes, and taking in what we see…i study somatics, study of transformation through the body, the whole – the body is so powerful and we model off of what we see. in concert, seeing her power, all the women there pulled themselves up into more dignity. the videos are making me be more sexy, move and walk and grind. i can’t wait to see my partner! its a good thing.

rachel: the power with which she commands the stage. she commands her audience, the relationship, and herself. she is constantly showing you that as a black woman you are constantly remastering how you are seen by others, how you are understood. you do that in the world, in practice. that is what made me a fan, watching her grow from a 15 year old to a grown woman. and it made me relate to my sister differently, see her as a grown up. (chorus: awww)

tk: so exciting to listen to the mamas talking. my son is visiting and we have been super into Beyonce since back in the day, beyond fans. my son has come into his sexual identity as a young queer black man, it’s interesting to see him defend and support black feminism. and my daughter, watching her understand what it takes for a woman to be on her grind. watching her mature, and come into what it means to be a complex woman, and a complex person. i grew up when we had a lot of powerful women and emcees that we don’t really see in the pop world anymore. to see her be an example and really be on her grind, to work every day to make our own way, those of us that are carving out our own work, we know how much work it takes. and to keep showing herself as a young woman that she has been doing this. to give us a glimpse into her own vulnerability. that is so powerful. the one line that concerned me was jay-z’s use of the Ike metaphor… when he’s all ‘eat the cake Anna Mae… I want to to know what y’all think… I want to talk about how to talk about this..

?: what does he mean by that line, what did y’all think?

tarana: i should say here i don’t identify as a feminist, though 90% of my friends do. just felt like a dated line, i have said and heard my friends say as a cultural reference. what was happening wasn’t funny, but has turned into something people say.

?: my daughter said she thought it was cake like a money thing.

?: or like rihanna uses cake? like eating pussy?

onome: i thought it was a poor metaphor for really rough sex. and that he could have kept that whole verse.

maryse: i think it’s like someone was saying earlier, speaking about how the sexuality in this album meant something different to their male partner than to her, sometimes our men need to take a bit longer to develop. she’s in this place where she’s so powerful, she’s more powerful than him – clearly she could have axed it. but it was a weak line, there are better ways to make that point that don’t reference domestic violence.

adrienne: one thing i have considered is the progression of jay-z in her videos, from not being able to talk about her at all on a track where she is spouting her love, but then growing to hottest chick in the game, then to this level of speaking of their passion…and i think he still needed to tell his boys he is still in charge. and she says it with him, like maybe…ok if you need that, cool. it’s her world, he just raps in it. but the beat the pussy thing, that is a whole trend i keep hearing, apparently r kelly has it all over his album that i am not going to listen to. the metaphor doesn’t appeal to me, i am wondering if there are women who really love that and get turned on by that idea. that feels like it could be a whole other conference call!

tk: i grew up around people who say that. i do talk trash with my lovers, i own it, we don’t mean it. it’s fun.. i want to have that conversation about beating up the pussy, we use those metaphors… yes let us talk about it, i would love that convo too cause it is complex. i wonder where the line is between talking that specific kind of talk to each other and then if there is a line where it is just perpetuating dv… how would you draw that line? is there one?

marcia: there is no line, it’s fluid. i am very much like that with my lover. that is the beauty. (chorus: yes!)

amb: i also keep thinking about the haunted video, the scene with the patient and the nurse? (chorus: mmhmm) just feel she is exploring and pushing out the boundaries of what is seen as sexy.

toni: this time, it is an intense time, the economy, these are hard times. it is important to stand in what you feel, to stand strong, in spite of the yellers. the yellers are hurting, as grown women it is a strength being able to feel all this. there is healing, people are judging but under that, healing is needed.

adrienne: i lost track of the time. thank you for staying, and really, i want to thank you all – i feel like i am constantly carving out the space to love things, fighting for my right to shamelessly love first, and from that space to discuss and analyze and critique. i feel like it is cool to have the immediate and thorough critique but i love loving things, i love roller skates in a video about oral sex…and then i am interested in analysing the things i love. so i hope this call gives us all more space to love.

rachel: do these more often!

chorus: yes!

chorus: goodnight

____

a few more words of love here from me, the first Beyvangelist as far as I know, as i continue reveling in this album.

i was so pleased by the people who joined this call, and also moved by the people who took care and respected boundaries to let it be a love fest space.

i love art that engages us and makes us talk and think, and i love art that demands a level of diligence to engage it. i am impressed by the rigor of conversations i am witnessing, whether i agree or not. i love that as a black woman with no degrees Beyonce offered a text that, in order to be coherently critiqued, has to be consumed whole.

i feel like for Her to have created something that has us actively talking in the public sphere about feminism, pleasure politics, body love, commitment, working motherhood, domestic violence, artist accountability, capitalism etc is itself a gift. i like the idea of talking deeply while we dance together in skin we love.

i’m excited to be able to receive another woman in her politicization, as an artist, and say welcome, let’s talk. i say this as someone who reluctantly takes on any labels at all, because i am committed to my own journey of transformation more than anyone else’s assessment of my process or politic. and because learning in public is not for the feint of heart.

and…i think women taking the space to direct and demand attention for our love and transformational processes and thinking is feminist. i am concerned with our equality in the realm of ideas, philosophies, more than our economic equality in a broken economic system (within which, keeping it real and layered, i absolutely demand my worth and credit for my work).

Beyonce made something of value for us, because it’s layered, complex, and of immensely high quality, with teams of creatives involved at every level. She worked hard for a long time to embody this project. i’d go as far as saying she a living embodiment of what Octavia Butler talked about: it’s bigger than talent, it’s habit and persistence.

there is a strategic intelligence in leaning into the truth that She is first and foremost a performer – i feel an artist who knows the power of Her visual impact and decided to immerse us in Her area of brilliance as an entry into the music. i love that She reached for a thriller level event in this moment of extreme sub-culture and cynicism.

She took a lot of risks. i love the moments when we choose to take risks and speak our truths. and that’s what I feel watching this album and the responses from women who were really moved by it.

She found Chimimanda Adichie on the internet while researching feminism, isn’t that a vulnerable thing? isn’t it great that She found a door to feminism that resonated with Her through the many bubbles and shields that surround someone cultivated for fame from childhood?

She’s stepping into her sexual realization in a culture that literally can’t see women in their sexual power without casting shade, where pretty is dangerous. She clearly feels safe with that man, and from this great distance i feel grateful for their apparent relational and sexual safety, even if I don’t understand what ike turner possibly has to do with it.

i love all the other musical references She makes. I see prince, michael, d’angelo, madonna, bilal, artists who made content that has lasted so far. i feel Her intention to extend Her reach in time.

and i love that She makes it delicious, but not easy to swallow. that feels grown woman to me.

Beyonce: album review

it’s a straight up lie to call this a review when it’s a turned-out-last-night style love note. however, ‘i’m a grown woman’ and thus ‘can do whatever i want.’

i woke up this morning to the new self-titled Beyonce album because my beloved loves me right.

within a few hours i had bought it for her too.

i worked hard all day knowing that i was going to be with Her 17 new videos this evening.

now i just finished watching Beyonce’s visual album, which She released with no press, all at once, as if we could handle that. but i’m stepping up to the challenge, i am actually letting the love i feel for Her flow through my whole self.

highlights are too plentiful to be a useful frame here. this is about an explosion of love, of Bey loving us and letting us love Her, giving us both a futuristic form of musical release AND a throwback monocultural experience, at least much closer to one than any other artist has done recently in a positive way.

i tweeted that my love for Beyonce feels sacrilegious, miraculous, infinite, inappropriate and healing. and yes of course it’s been building for some time now, but with this album She makes me feel good about being myself in these specific ways:

being exactly my shape
being a feminist
being a futurist
being a fashionista
being a partner to a peer
being unapologetically a boss at the work i’m on earth to do
being a virgo
being sure And full of doubt
being a shape shifter
being sexually brilliant
being dramatic
being international
being vulnerable
being in a state of constant growth
being a cultural change agent
being a pleasure activist who knows how to get down properly…not just still, but more than ever
being a lady, a bitch, a freak, a lover, a gift
being alive right now

there are more things, but the point i want to make here is that She manages to both be changing the game constantly while also making that Bey feeling somehow universal. i saw Her in concert last summer and it blew me away to see the gorgeous self-expression of the audience, the way we moved in Her presence. we all elevated our own best efforts to come be in Her presence.

sigh. just reveling in that memory for a second.

with this album, also, the love in Her life is such a crucial part of Her narrative – She lets us feel how She is being changed, challenged, complicated, held and grown by the passion and partnership She practices.

i think the potential results of this album are myriad: better albums from Her would-be peers, better sex, better fashion, more complex ideas of what power looks like, and what mamas look like, and wives, and divas. also more babies, slower seductions, better dancing, less policing of how we are women, more excitement about art as controversial ground to grow society, less fear.

the album is worth this love without the videos. then the videos are fantastic. the throwback videos of baby Bey are tender. the inclusion of family, friends, Her Bey world, is so right and generous.

i gifted it today to women i love because it’s the right thing to do.

i am so grateful i am capable of loving this way. thank you so much Beyonce. thank you.

i woke up like this!
i woke up like this.
flawless.

pretty wings

my friend lester wrote a recommendation of me, in some twitter format which i don’t understand, but what i did like was that he talked about merging pop culture and political analysis…that truly is an intersection i love exploring.

if you watch the tone and energy of reactions and responses, the line between political and pop realms becomes so blurred. the passion with which people speak of lou dobbs, rush limbaugh, rachel maddow, obama…line that up with the energy of folks talking about beyonce and britney and brangelina…line that up with folks talking about basketball, football, golf, any sport. it’s all entertainment, content, emotional cues to direct our lives from one reaction to the next. there’s talent of course, brilliance sometimes, natural ability. but a lot of it is cycles. even as we feel a call towards creating the world we want, not railing against these repetitive cycles, its hard to resist the meta-systems…the metaphors cross over so well.

i just listened to this song (maxwell’s “pretty wings”) as a message from impacted communities to the global economy, and it totally works. here are lyrics…

Time will bring the real end of our trial
One day they’ll be no remnants
No trace, no residual feelings within ya
One day you won’t remember me
Your face will be the reason I smile
But I will not see what I cannot have forever
I’ll always love ya, I hope you feel the same
Oh you played me dirty, your game was so bad
You toyed with my affliction
Had to fill out my prescription
Found the remedy, I had to set you free
Away from me
To see clearly the way that love can be
When you are not with me
I had to leave, I have to live
I had to lead, I had to live

Chorus
If I can’t have you, let love set you free
To fly your pretty wings around
Pretty wings, your pretty wings
Your pretty wings around

I came wrong, you were right
Transformed your love in to a lie
(and so on)

try it.

its totally liberating :)