Category: musically relative

YEEZY SEASON 1 • KANYE WEST

a post apocalyptic wardrobe showing, without a doubt. in that a symbolization of an end, as well as a beginning. kanye west, as a style icon, has spawned legions of followers across the globe. clamoring for satin bomber jackets or bidding on his limited edition sneaker collaborations with nike; all of those elements combined seem to make up the long awaited collaboration between west and adidas. the brands collaborations with designers like yohji yamamoto and stella mccartney have been amongst the most innovative, and successful as far as design aesthetic. for the brands adidas originals collections, they’ve secured and sold collaborative efforts with designer jeremy scott, while also teaming with musical artist pharrell, and roc nation’s rita ora. of all past collaborations, west is the biggest star. in speaking to the rise of urban luxury, i dove into the trenches of what athleticism and glamourizing of such would mean coming into the near future. no doubt, my own predictions are now coming to fruition right before our very eyes; but that’s not to say we didn’t see this coming. while the creative work as a designer for kanye west are nothing new, the unlikely partnership between him and adidas is where the real surprise lies. in speaking to the defiance and marketability of bigger brands to push presence, west’s collection collaboration has little to no adidas branding. an  odd, but understandable move for the brand, who enticed west with creative freedom for the collection. proudly, west thanks the athletic super brand for their belief in his creativity as a long hauled publicity campaign has ensued in the social media stratosphere. a powerhouse front row secured such a feat as, alexander wang, rihanna, cassie ventura- girlfriend of p. diddy whom she sat next to; was seated by jay-z, beyoncé alongside kim kardashian-west, north west and editor-in-chief of american vogue, anna wintour. with a front row of power players, the press coverage has been in full swing. fashion kids in the forums are quickly spewing criticism of the collection citing stolen concepts from brands like helmut lang, and rick owens. and while the influence references thrown about are visible in the collection; the recycled inspiration is nothing new to the world of fashion as we commonly see archived works by the house of balenciaga and givenchy being used by different labels, each season. if you strip away all the bullshit a clear voice was indicated here. a movement in his own right, from album to street style, to the works of his design collaborations, kanye west is among the most visible on the scene for his bravery. misunderstood at moments, and underrated for his abilities, the collection presents the beginning of his creative endeavors with the brand, as his first pair of shoes with the brand, called the “yeezy boost”, the first of many releases is already unavailable for reservation.

 

styled by kanye west, images shot by jackie nickerson
click image to view collection gallery

STYLE VS. SOUND: NICKI MINAJ

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she is the animated female rap bitch who got a million off a mixtape. today, onika maraj is rap’s undisputed queen, following the reign of rap icon, kimberly jones. the sexual revolution of the 90’s female rap scene had female rappers spitting hardcore lyrics that often times were too gutsy for the mainstream radio airwaves. as the need to compete with such sexually explicit lyrics grew to a head, female rap seemingly fizzled into thin air. one by one, female rappers disappeared. the male rap scene thrived without interruption, while lyrical content in hip-hop as a whole began to deprecate. the mixtape circuit, more infamously known to industry heads and those on the come up, found a new home with the explosion of the internet. no music was safe, following the phenomena of napster in the late 90’s which only further dominated into the 2000’s. these incidences became further obstacles in the world of, not only hip-hop, but music all around. markets plummeted, while sales stats sunk and today, these sales numbers are still at an all-time low with very few being awarded platinum plaques like days of old. it seems music was like a murder zone. it was every man for himself, over time, in a short span of five years, the music industry seemed to be in a creative drought.

few spaces for new talent became available, as the only spaces left were those occupied by icons. even they had to compete for sales numbers, having to create new ways, develop new formulas and struggle through trial and error at the face of marketing, promotion and even music video production. the rise of digital music wiped out an on-slaught of opportunities. artists coming into the game were expected to be pre-packaged, with little to no involvement of artistic development being tended to. the artists with developed audiences, who managed through independent distribution of music began to garner the bigger deals. and then came the birth of the 360 record deal. this deal changed the game further, guaranteeing greater pay offs and secured promises from big budget labels to front costs of promotion, touring, merchandise and all around marketing monsters. it’s a new day in music. formats of marketing of the past no longer apply. buzz singles, flop albums, dethroned, months go by without artists seeing a platinum certification; whereas days of old seen these certifications happening at time of release.

now the world of female rap, especially in the 90’s has grew past evolution of salt-n-pepa, roxanne shanté and MC lyte. female rap in the 90’s became high brow, designer labels were expected, make-up artists, hairstylists, wardrobe- the whole nine. every rap bitch on the scene needed to be three times as fresh as their male counterparts, and needed to spit bars five times more explicit in order to be taken seriously. you were almost required to come into the game with a male rap icon co-sign in order to stay afloat. kim co-signed by B.I.G. while being a member of junior mafia, foxy co-signed by acts like jay-z while also being a member of ‘the firm’ with nas and AZ. there were other acts of the time, like mia X, who was brought up under the no limit crew with master P or even rah digga who was a part of busta rhymes’ flipmode squad. the most notable act of the times, though too multi-dimensional to only be considered a rapper, was missy elliott. but to her credit, she was already developed as a massively successful songwriter/producer. rap showed it’s female face in little glimmers. but there was no real face of the art form that was in your face and proclaimed the title as the top rapptress, as to be expected by the true femcee of hip-hop. contribution from all of these females acts seemed to polish the runway, and prep the course. there was a format that proved successful for rappers, and errors that were seen in the female format.

insert onika maraj, a pretty faced trini from the borough of southside jamaica queens. she burst onto the scene first on the mixtape circuit. quickly earning a following and reputation for her first grimy new york flow, her rap persona quickly evolved over a series of three mixtapes. the first, “playtime is over” was released in 2007. rapidly followed up by, “sucka free” the following year. nicki developed a slick flow that was relentless, first, on classic hip-hop beats. her third and final mixtape sealed her fate as a rap star rising; “beam me up scotty” seen minaj take on conceptual dress and was her first public showing of more costume wardrobing. clad in metallic, minaj appeared on the mixtape cover dressed as wonder woman. minaj rapidly developed an image very early on, sporting pink extensions and expressive facial expressions.

following her mixtape domination, her fans, the barbz began to gather. i remember when i first started coming to new york, i would go straight to the DJ booth in manhattan and request nicki minaj; the DJ’s would look puzzled. wrong borough at the time for such requests, i guess. “beam me up” was dropped in 2009, and was ultimately the mixtape that introduced nicki to the music audience which still supports her to this day. on that mixtape, nicki got personal and also began combining singing along with her rap lyrical prowess. when i first heard “beam me up scott” i immediately began to ask who this new girl was. the flow was infectious, the lyrics were ridiculous and minaj spit shit talking about, “if you see a itty bitty piggy in the market, give that bitch a quarter and a car- tell her park it. i don’t fuck with pigs like as-salamu alaykum, i put ’em in a field; i let oscar myer bake ’em”. her rap flow quickly got attention, and that same lyrical approach as well as the costume gimmicks followed her, and fashion opened up to her.

there was a proper balance of lyrical seriousness and rap humor that culminated over the course of the last three years of minaj’s career. I’m gonna give you a musical recap so that we can cut away to the cultural shit, because as important as the music is- it’s reactant interfacing with such is where the true importance lies. to her credit, minaj has a cumulative discography of three studio albums, involvement with three compilation albums, sixty-six singles, seventy-one music videos, as mentioned the three mixtapes and twelve promo singles. following her exit from the mixtape scene, came the year of 2010. after her triple platinum feature on young money’s, ‘bedrock’. came one of the most high profile single features, by the graces of mariah carey. following that feature came twelve others that same year.

those twelve singles penetrated mainstream radio, surfacing minaj to the forefront of not only rap music, but pop music. the music industry is seemingly built on the staging of powerful singles. it’s all about positioning, and minaj’s career has seen some of the greatest positioning in the history of music. in 2011, followed eight more features. 2012, followed six more features. 2013, seen ten features- as minaj has fast become the go-to for mainstream pop relevance. a long way since her days on the mixtape circuit. with her three studio albums under her belt, minaj made a platinum debut while those sales have slowed since then. providing, that even the most popular female rapper has to stay on her game to compete and stay on top. minaj’s entry into music has widened the gateways for hip-hop in a way that raises the bar for what is expected of such artists. minaj made history at the top of december, trailing the release of her third studio album, “the pinkprint” earning her 58th career hot 100 hit. nicki is the only female rapper to do so, in the 56 year chart history.  on youtube alone, minaj’s views are currently set to 2,550,739,568- and will likely grow by the minute.

amidst charting greatness, headline favoritism and even unstoppable visibility, minaj represents the furthering of females in rap music. most important to hip-hop is that of the music. equalling importance in the music is the message. often times arrogant, in your face and unapologetic, the visage of rap music is often what distracts consumers who do not support the art form. the magic is in the lyrics, and the birthing of a voice. what nicki has done for females was re-defined their voice. in borrowing elements utilized by pop marketing, nicki has surpassed all other females in the music industry because, as a female in the rap game, she absolutely stands alone. without forgetting all the females that have come before her, nicki encapsulates the fierce flow of salt-n-pepa or roxanne shante, while also representing the mass commercial cross marketability of queen latifah. she took notes from the lil kim formula, but paid very close attention to the errors of that formula, understanding when to show restraint to penetrate the pop market. there is a gutter, ride for my dude till i die type of attitude that reminds us of foxy, while her wild style seemingly takes notes from the missy elliott formula. with her latest release, “the pinkprint” available now, there is a return to rap lyricism, in a serious, relatable way. this new album is for all who feel, have loved and love.

whether she was talking shit or being disrespectful to mariah on idol, or that she’s stolen a few moves from lil kim with her image, no one can dispute the lyrics. and therein lies the true heart of rap music, at the core of hip-hop. minaj has represented an awareness of bigger business, which has all aided her in this new era of what music is. there is a need for balance, for relativity and reliability to create emotional connections with fans, which nicki has done marvelously. with her entrance into films, her unabashed approach to personality, she represents a true comfort in the spotlight. utilizing her love of acting, minaj understands how to shift from role to role, wearing a number of hats in business, music and performance. long from now, the influence of nicki minaj will be seen in the predecessors that follow in her foot steps. she has reclaimed the pathway for women in music, in a way that has not been done before. the cultural impact she has made and continues to make will survive her forever. her contribution as stated will not be ignored.

 

support female rap by purchasing “the pinkprint” now available on itunes
this is an installment of the sound vs. style music feature series
click here to view past artists featured

SOUND VS. STYLE: MARIAH CAREY

MC

when mariah carey burst onto the scene in 1990, her hit “vision of love” broke the mainstream format of what music sounded like at radio of that time. this groundbreaking instance would become a regularity in her career. in the first three years of her career, a blockbuster set of four albums were released, including the best selling christmas album of all time, “merry christmas”. through the early years, mariah dominated the adult contemporary and pop billboard charts. throughout her career, mariah’s musical journey has touched genres of soft rock, gospel, jazz, hip-hop and R&B. quite literally the most influential vocalist of the 1990’s, mariah’s resume is as extensive as should be an artist of her caliber. set to take home the icon world music award, carey has sold over 200 million records worldwide. the artist known as mariah carey is still at present day an untouchable name in vocal, lyrical and production that cannot be touched. to her credit, carey is the best selling female artist of all time and moving into the 2000’s continued this reign with the need to transform. blending genres of urban sound into the pop musical mainstream, mariah’s influence goes far beyond what can be awarded through grammy’s or what can chart billboard.

“butterfly” the album, was particularly important for mariah’s musical journey and personal growth. it became the first time she was able to have a true footing in her image, and you felt it. a genius songwriter, mariah has co-written her entire catalog, produced or co-produced much of that catalog as well. she had long established an identity in the composition and lyrical components of her career, which created a strong foundation for her career to sustain upon. most artists in today’s industry have a strong image component but a weakened musical identity. for carey, this inverse is likely a large factor as to why she has been able to soar as a top billing female entertainer from the golden age of the music industry. the ethereal, melismatic arranging of vocals with a colorful word play something like a fairy tale have become mariah’s trademarks since the very beginning. emotions, music box, daydream, butterfly, rainbow, charmbracelet- all album titles from her catalog, and all synonymous with her artistic persona.

but beyond just pretty words, and whistle register vocal arrangements, mariah is an icon of culture. her 1995 hit, “fantasy”, became the first single by a female artist to debut at #1 on the billboard charts, and only the second single ever to do so following the lead of michael jackson’s “you are not alone”. spending eight weeks at #1 and a total of 23 weeks in the top 40 on billboard, “fantasy” was a best selling single in 1995, moving 1.5 million units and becoming certified double platinum by the recording industry association of america. it was during this era that mariah began to transition away from her adult pop contemporary home in music, and ventured more into the genre that would soon become the hybrid of hip-hop/R&B. working to produce a remix for ‘fantasy’, carey enlisted sean “puffy” combs. the result of this pairing came a greater merging of rap and R&B, when it was decided that wu-tang clan’s ol’ dirty bastard would become a feature on the hit. the lyrics, “me and mariah, go back like babies with pacifiers” became emblematic of the hard vs soft image that mariah would become much more enchanted by for the remainder of the years she would spend as an artist representing R&B. soaring higher and higher with each record release, the album which fantasy was produced for “daydream” became an international best seller, moving 25 million units worldwide. also from that album, “one sweet day” became, and still is to this day- the longest running number one single of all time. the song spent 16 consecutive weeks at number one. these feats during this leg of mariah’s career in the year 1995-1996 sealed her position on the music scene as one of the most untouchable female singer/songwriter/producers in the history of music. a title she still holds today.

much of mariah’s early career was guided by the hand of her then husband, sony music boss, tommy mottola. as her voice flourished on the airwaves, and her album stats began to stack, things got rocky in the marriage. resulting was a divorce, which resulted in the musical works that revealed her freedom, an album we know as “butterfly”. released in 1997, the album welded together the elements of mariah the woman, and mariah the artist. influences of hip-hop thumped into carey’s poetic lyricism- moving five million units while in the process. revealed and represented were a fleeting type of beauty that resounded in the sensibility of freedom and escape, the very taste of fantasy with a daydream like sequence- heroic in a way. the album felt genuine. while other albums held up against billboard chartings and platinum certifications, you seen a real identity with the butterfly LP. this would become the formula for mariah’s albums to follow. there was the classical, R&B feel of both ‘music box’ and ‘daydream’. but rather than poising thoughts of freedom, ‘butterfly’ accentuated and realized such daydreams in music boxes. the particularly interesting element of ‘butterfly’ was the bold references and depths in which hip-hop were seen.

as mariah has developed as an artist she has seemingly graduated into the R&B roots in which she was always destined. beyond the commercially acceptable, chart-topping, diamond album certified confines of industry, mariah is now where she needs to be. and that position is as a representative of the musical genre most affectionately known to music fans as rhythm and blues. criminally underrated, though heavily decorated with accolades in comparison to her other contemporaries and peers- there is no greater female artist than that of ms. mariah carey. with an arsenal of an album catalog, a wardrobe to rival a queen and talent that has secured the future of her children’s children, this style vs. sound feature could forever, due to the simple fact that mariah is the most influential female figure of the 1990’s and 2000’s. while this cultural influence often is not seen in accolades at the grammy’s- culture speaks for and represents itself. the trajectory of her career can never be surpassed, nor can it be made equivalent. a cultural diva of unmeasured talents, mariah is still a relevant force in music and cannot be dethroned simply because, no other female artist has lent their talent or taken risks to merge genre’s and bring art forms together in the ways she has- as an artist. her latest studio release is evidence that her taste level, instincts and understanding of music remains untouched.

a sound for all who have enjoyed any of her music for the past 20+ years is found in the new album. for the critics who have felt that she has deviated from her adult contemporary roots, mariah has created: “cry.”, “camouflage”, and “heavenly”. for those who have shifted into her fan base through her contemporary hip-hop inspired production elements, all other records on the album just about quench that thirst. which is actually one of my favorite album cuts, produced by hit-boy, “thirsty” – which was submitted to urban radio as a single. the album includes the worldwide success “#beautiful” which features R&B superstar, miguel. but the album is different than other albums by mariah. it’s more sophisticated, and well rounded. they say history repeats itself, and here we see another moment of glory for carey, similar to the way that we seen freedom flourish with “butterfly”. all in all, this post is long over due and my dedication to mariah as a fan can never be met properly with words or expressions. nor can it even begin to be expressed in just one feature, but many, and made evident in more emotional transactions that surpass words. i could praise the album to high heaven, but it’s up to you to listen and hear what i hear.

this is an installment of the sound vs. style music feature series
click here to view past artists featured

KIM KARDASHIAN & KANYE WEST FOR VOGUE

there are no reasons left to hate. only reasons to love. what american vogue did was represent interracial coupling in the utmost of glamour. shot by annie lebovitz, the world’s most famous couple, kimberly kardashian and her fianceé, kanye west grace the april issue of the premiere fashion publication of all the world, vogue. the cover goes beyond what can be said of celebrity, or beyond what public relations offices could have ever built. there is a gap that has been bridged, a void that has now been filled. what happened when kim and kanye decided to get together was a merge; a blending of media culture. him from chicago, raised by a photojournalist and an english professor. her from los angeles, being raised by an armenian-american attorney businessman and stewardess. both have had upbringings that have shaped their view of the world, and have remarkably impacted the ways that they have built their own separate empires in music, film, fashion and commercial media. kanye’s fruitful career as a producer evolved into an even more fruitful career as one of rap’s most regarded performance artists, moving beyond the confines of urban media, and into the glossy competitive world of high fashion luxury. kim’s career as an american television personality has lent her image to a string of successful brands, and has assisted in further expanding the family business built on the kardashian name, along with her two sisters kourtney and khloé, all managed by their mother.

kanye’s career began to take an upshift while, he too was managed by his mother. kim learned the ropes of the entertainment industry, working for her dad at his entertainment firm, where she learned to hone in on her entrepreneurial instincts. kanye became quickly linked to rappers like jay-z, lending his production genius to various projects. as he developed as a solo artist, the visual component of his work rapidly developed through collaborations with world renowned artists and luxury designers. kim began gaining traction with her television career, which documents the life she leads with her two other sisters, brother and two step sisters. as their private boutique business developed, along with their regular television exposure, the world of celebrity embraced them. the public quickly became fascinated with both kim and kanye separately.

the two were associated for many years as friends before they joined in union in 2012. the two share a common struggle of the glaring spotlight, and the tragedy of losing a parent. both kim and kanye’s romantic struggles have separately and very publicly played out for the world’s stage. scrutinized for everything from styling choices, lyrics, romantic choices, or even the name of their child- one thing still remains, these two are making history. for my top 20 covers of 2013, kim kardashian was the only female to rank in my listing twice. the two appear in what is the first ever cover in vogue history for an interracial couple. a major feat and major first of intense value, the cover also beautifully represents what it means to be an american. that diversity, the blending of culture and that heightened sense of beauty. this will no doubt be the number one cover of the year, in my book. and i don’t give a fuck about what you think about kim kardashian, because she has become an emblem for women of color in business. kanye west actively pushes the artists boundaries in the music industry and no two could have been a better fit. a better fit for a vogue cover, a better fit for the world of celebrity and a better fit as a representation of what love can be in or out of the spotlight. to put it simple, this is progress for individuals of color.


 

congratulations to both kim kardashian and kanye west
special thanks to vogue and conde nast

SOUND VS. STYLE: BEYONCÉ

“stripped of gimmicks, teasers and marketing campaigns, this project is truly about art before hype.” said columbia records at the stroke of midnight on friday the 13th of december, 2013. i received a text message which prompted me to hit the home button on my iphone, click the blue music note icon, where beyoncé was seen on every landing page banner in the upper kiosk of itunes. the words “exclusive visual album” stared me in the face. i went to grab my computer to download the album simultaneously into my music library to watch the 17 videos that were included in the album sequence. i was stunned, sending text messages, checking my instagram, making phone calls and re-tweeting columbia records- essentially, i was a marketing promoter for beyoncé in that moment. a facebook status, a tweet, an instagram post, make sure to ‘like’ the video preview that beyoncé posted. every and anything to get the word out- i was doing it. what beyoncé did is unprecedented. she dropped an album at the back end of the year, on a friday, with no promotional push, no interviews, no hints or rumors. and i recall speaking about no hype, just straight to execution.

beyoncé herself cites inspiration for the album as a personal vision. she speaks to the idea of investing in a full body of work, as oppose to just a single. her dialogue about the album creates an emotional attachment to when music was an ‘immersive’ experience. as an artist, beyoncé killed all industry expectations, breaking every rule in the book- releasing music that was direct to fans, and headlines are speculating that she will have moved a million units, come wednesday when billboard numbers from the following week are tallied. sources have also speculated that record executives did not support beyoncé’s urban direction, which is why it took so long for the album to see it’s release. despite the labels reservations, beyoncé allegedly took advice from her husband, shawn carter, rapper jay-z, which resulted in the power move of a surprise release.

a superstar poised beyond the potential we’ve seen with other millenial acts like michael jackson, janet jackson, madonna, britney spears, whitney houston and mariah carey- beyoncé has solidifed her place as an artist of influence. inspired thoroughly, and that inspiration showing it’s face in her latest project, ms. knowles-carter has raised the bar to unseen heights. moving a reported 80,000 albums in a span of just three hours, and a reported 430,000 albums in a span of twenty-four. the album is currently stalled at #1 in over 100 countries around the world, expecting to be received as the best opening week numbers of the year, not even having the advantage of selling a full seven days to amount to those astonishing statistics. what beyoncé did was mark a return to music, where artists hold the power of the content that they produce. an unforgettable journey of style, poise & excellent planning, the albums 17 videos rival some of the greatest visual works of all time, welcoming a slew of directorial, styling and creative talent.

while i’ll make no attempts at promoting one song or video more than the other, you’ll have to purchase the album to establish a free thought for yourself as far as what the album means for you. in production, lyrically, visually, emotionally- this is a new beyoncé. a beyoncé that has become more aware. aware in the sense of motherhood, relationships and art. presented here, to us as the audience, is a pure vision that was delivered in pure form. without a doubt the best album of the year, the method in which this body of work was delivered completely erases everything. every artists work is now put into question by beyoncé, a female who truly has learned the ways of the industry. to understand those ways, and then move past that understanding to break that shit down, completely. the deconstruction of industry politics, publicity rules and promotional fanfare were all an inside job at the hand of beyoncé, who holds a tenure of  16 years in the commercial industry of music. a true showing of genius that both re-establishes the foundation of art, creativity and integrity, not only of music; but of any great body of work. with her performances at the inauguration, the superbowl and her multi-million dollar pepsi endorsement deal, the year can now close properly now that us fans have a new album, complete with a stunning set of visuals. across genres, beyond aesthetics- this self titled album by beyoncé is a mark of showmanship and call to action for women. it represents breakage from the restraints that women of color suffer creatively in the music industry. and that alone is reason enough to give beyoncé every ounce of respect that she deserves as an artist of her caliber.

this is an installment of the sound vs. style music feature series
click here to view past artists featured

THE TRUTH ABOUT SOLANGE KNOWLES

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artist development is one aspect of the music industry that seems to be extinct. in the past five years, we’ve seen a greater emergence of true artists, who are in control of the image that they promote. artists in the musical market are expected to be pre-packaged, it seems. with talents on the scene like lady gaga and rihanna, two of the most downloaded musical acts in history, the formula for success has been changed all together. you need an image, grab the audience, hold the audience. the days of multi-million first day sales are long gone, hence the reason some cite the music industry as dying. a death of music? highly unlikely, but the rules of engagement are definitely changing. with dominance of the download age and the rise of the internet all together, indie is now major. no one understands this more than solange knowles.

an artist who has successfully arrived through greater creative execution and self awareness. as a mother, young woman and artist- solange is an individual well on the rise, growing stronger and stronger every year with each project. as the kid sister and break out solo star of the beyoncé knowles family- i say beyoncé knowles because the family’s entrance into music was built on her talents- solange rides the tide with true poise. while the earlier efforts of solange weren’t as alluring as some of her more recent, in my opinion, she always displayed true skill in songwriting as well as creative process. through the hands of label executives, solange was poised as a young star but it was always distinctively tied to her big sister. a breakaway needed to occur, a separation of sorts. she appeared alongside other like stars in her age range, most memorably for me on the track, “true love” which seen solange taking the hook and a bridge and borrowing lyrics from luther vandross.

now she’s come very far, and her potential realized with her album, sol-angel and the hadley street dreams. songwriting metaphor and production genius was housed on that album, which seemed to garner greater reviews than her big sister, who dropped an album the same year. like a bird taking flight, solange’s growth became very apparent on the project and audiences were listening. over time, solange has grown into industry relationships which have nurtured her creative persona in ways that greatly align her own personal development flawlessly. while beyoncé is no doubt a superstar, what is your perception of superstar power? i don’t subscribe to comparisons, unless they bring fourth elevated awareness, and in my mind the true artist of the knowles family is little sister solange. while beyoncé is without a doubt, the greatest female performer in musical history, artistry can only be founded on the basis of angst, failure and pain- much like many artists of the past, in all variations of the form.

i admire solange’s musical efforts for their relentless presence. the idea that one can fall, only to again take flight and reach higher heights is the true sense of star power and with her recent compilation release, ‘saint heron’ from her own saint records- more is definitely to come for the superstar who rides the current, slighly under the industry radar. slept on in the greatest regard, solange has teamed with puma leading a creative team to design sneakers and with her own label, will see opportunity to nurture other creatives and artists in the ways that stay true to the art of music. the truth about solange is no secret, it’s only revealing to the idea that artistry is developed through lessons, references, struggles and growth. i celebrate solange and women like her who represent individuals of color in the vein of their influential worth.

ORCHESTRATING BRITNEY SPEARS

Britney-Spears3

she sold two million albums during the most turbulent era of her career, and then had a mental breakdown. the career of britney spears and the influence that trickles from it’s every crevice is something of a PR fantasy. while it’s easy for dreams to become nightmares in the world of entertainment, one could never honestly call the work that has been done in the last five years of ms. spears’ career a comeback. she never left. she couldn’t. the public demand for her makes this nearly impossible. whether she was making starbucks runs, or getting engaged, buying a new puppy or dropping her sons off at school- someone, somewhere was photographing it, documenting and scrutinizing it. following my post that used the career and characterization of marilyn monroe as an example; i wanted to continue this thread of consciousness, with someone of today’s entertainment era. aligned with monroe herself, britney jean spears is similar in the sense that she has affected the ways in which american women are seen in the mass media market. they are used as props for the press, are built to be broken down and are photographed throughout this entire orchestration. it’s in these moments that one can call the world of entertainment a machine.

like any well oiled machine, processes are ensured through maintenance, collection of data and constant review and refurbishment. let’s dehumanize britney spears in the ways that mass media would like us to for a second. britney is the product, the industry is the machine. britney’s ‘team’ is a large group of machinists. the machinists are far spanning, ranging from management, to label executives, producers, wardrobe stylists, personal trainers, assistants, choreographers, dancers, tax accountants- every one. machinists work shifts, and there are always portions of time when the heavy machinery is off for maintenance or some form of re-working. it’s that time now for the machine that is the image of britney spears. the spears camp takes very seriously, the idea of an era. an era being an image driven segment in a music stars career, most commonly associated with a recurring image, in tandem with the release of an album tied together by a theme, or concept. for an artist like britney spears, who rose to fame as the leader of the millenial pop musical movement in the late 90’s; image is of the utmost importance. the lead single gives way to the music video, which gives way to the image and direction of the album. then follows the album, which gives way to the world tour, which results in major promotion, a thoughtfully planned press tour and possible release of concert DVD’s, posters, t-shirts and other merchandise that helps to commemorate the era of the time being. we’re in the trenches of britney’s 8th studio album recording process, while britney lurks not too far off, as reports chronicling her every move surface every few days, if not every few hours. she hired a vocal coach, she was seen leaving the studio, speculation of a las vegas residency announcement, what is she drinking, how does her body look? did she change her hair color, what producers is she working with? the allure of celebrity is all too far spanning, and britney is this untouchable figure who continues to build and gain attention, whether or not britney tries. there in lies true iconicism.

there’s something innocent, but not that innocent about it all. the down south, doll faced girl who just wanted to sing and dance, becomes an inescapable tabloid and media frenzied icon. it took 8 albums to get this far, and about 1 1/2 albums for her to become a household named. thanks to video music award performances, provocative rolling stone covers, countless #1 spots on MTV’s total request live- these elements were the glue that solidified the influence of britney spears through the years. she’s inspired dancers, spawned a range of copy cat female pop star singing females- but there was never anyone who could compete with, nor top, the star power of britney. britney is the shit that little girls all over the country dream of becoming. in interviews following her breakdown, and in the intended comeback, it’s been communicated that britney wants some form of normalcy. is that possible as a celebrity with an influence of such magnitude? is that the toss up between having regard from the public as a mega talent, but no normalcy to recharge? one things for sure, a new era for ms. britney spears is about to begin as a time ticker counts down the days on her official website. murmurs of producers who’ve created tracks for the new album are heard everyday, for fans who breathe heavy for ms. spears and it’s no secret that new music is wanted by the public. whether acknowledged or not, britney sets the musical trends and is, often times, ahead of the pack. while her career in entertainment may be a very well oiled machine, britney is the brains behind it’s magic.

despite the fact that people think otherwise, britney understands the power of control. when to surrender to the art form and when to reel it in from an industry stand point. through the years, britney has increasingly proven her knack for knowing the musical market. theres no arguing that britney has increasingly become more controlled by her environment following her breakdown. but as we’ve seen in past musical era’s, britney will succeed whether she wants to or not. that turbulent time during her career was known as her ‘blackout’ era. this era seen her being intentionally difficult to work with, which resulted in no promotion for the musical project. it was as if she was throwing tools into the machine that was controlling her career. always the most controversial of the pop stars in the early 2000’s, britney was always the rebel. through this era, lack of focus could not stop public demand, and her album went on to become praised by fans as her best work, earning double platinum status as an internationally acclaimed pop album. the music eerily represented the darkness of britney’s life at the time, and thus provided the most interesting period of her creative career. as the music industry later progressed following the release of the album, the sound in which spears chose for the album, spurred countless duplications in the musical market. as britney spiraled out of control personally, others seemed to follow her musical lead. it’s been said that the blackout era is similar to the what lies ahead, as the next chapter in britney’s career. with influences of trap music seeping through some of her recent features, one is hoping that a juggernaut of image is being plotted in the same vein that the music is being produced.

with executive production by will.i.am on this new project, britney has been holed up with choreographers and coaches, strengthening her voice and body for this next era. on set as you read this, filming what will be the lead single for the project, a projected date of september 17th is marked on fan’s calendars all across the globe. the preparation is said to also develop into a las vegas residency that has been talked about since january of this year. now, as we enter the third quarter of the year, it seems as though britney is eyeing a fourth quarter release of new material from album 8, even further eyeing 2014 as the year of world domination. while the vegas residency talks have been underway for quite some time, britney is already reported as one of the youngest performers to secure a residency in las vegas history. while some question britney’s ability to deliver, one must admit- you do want her to win. post breakdown, there was a public admiration that seemed to spike, surrounding talk of her return to pop domination. fans take a liking to your work as a musical artist when an emotional tie is created, through image and sound. so is the case of britney spears. you grew up hearing her on the radio and kind of rolling your eyes, by the second music video for the second single off that first album, you found yourself singing along.

now, as you look at her career, and her personal triumphs, you question your ability to function within that lifestyle. you look at your own life, where were you at a certain age, you align it to what she’s done, or hasn’t done and suddenly, you’re able to identify in a way that makes you listen to the music, or watch the performances a little bit differently. you think about your job, how you hate your boss, how you love certain aspects- then think- am i doing what i want to do? it’s those types of ties that are being made to britney spears, by fans, year after year, from one era to the next. the idea of rags to riches is an obsession for consumers in the musical market. the level of execution that britney delivered in the early years of her career have resulted in a cemented presence on the pop scene. while age is looked at differently in the game of music, icons like madonna have proven that you can still maintain success as an international dance and sound machine past 50 years old. while britney has dabbled in trap music influences in the past months, one can assume that she already has her feelers right on the money for where her music is headed, since she’s always been ahead of the pack. her social media presence has been mysteriously blacked out in anticipation of this new era. as the orchestration of her image begins to swell, the same goes for our level of excitement. her team is sneakily crafting what could be the real return of the britney we know and love. the britney that we expect to see, as the defending leader of american pop music. it’s the idea that you want someone who has worked hard to win, to do so, because they deserve it. it’s that american idea, that you keep pushing forward, prevailing through the struggle. you may find it odd, but just as characterization had stripped marilyn monroe of her intellect, it’s as though britney spears has been stripped of true credibility as an artist, which simply isn’t fair. unarguable is the level of influence britney has had on the market. her leading example sets the standard for what other females will be expected to do in the eyes of label executives. the machine has been running, except, this isn’t a piece of equipment, it’s a human being. and more importantly a star. something’s in the midst of being crafted, and on the 17th of this month, we’ll be right here waiting for it.