Dead Week Playlist

Hell week is finally over, thank goodness, and now I have dead week and exam week to focus on. During dead week, I will be doing A TON of studying, and lately I have been studying with music. I’ve always studied and done homework with some kind of background noise, but I only started playing music as I work, in college. When I’m doing homework, I usually listen to upbeat, lyrical rap music and sometimes pop, but when I’m studying I like more relaxed, mellow music. My studying playlist for dead week will be a combination of relaxing and upbeat alternative, R&B and rap music

Most of my playlist will be alternative, I will definitely have Banana Pancakes by Jack Johnson and Who Says by John Mayer on there. These songs are good for studying because they aren’t very distracting. The instrumentals are very steady and the vocals are relaxing which makes the songs powerful enough to block out distracting background noise, but not so overpowering that the song becomes a distraction. Even though I like both of these songs a lot when I am studying they are sort of like white noise. A lot of the songs by John Mayer and Jack Johnson have similar sounds, so it is hard to tell when one song changes to the next. The consistency is helpful for focusing, which makes these songs great for studying.

When I need a little break from consistency I like to add in a little R&B. Although my playlist will be mostly alternative, I will also include some R&B songs like Teachme by Musiq Soul Child and Ordinary People by John Legend. Like Banana Pancakes and Who Says, these songs also have heavy instrumentals, but in the R&B songs, the vocals are noticeably stronger. The stronger vocals can be distracting if I am trying to read, so I find these songs to be best when I am taking a mental break, or when I am working on something technical. When I work on something technical like practice problems for calculus or chemistry my focus is less constant so these sort of songs are perfect.

Right before I take tests, I really need songs to pump me up, this is where rap and pop music on my playlist become useful. I am a strong believer in the power of positive thinking, so having good, energizing songs to get my mind in a positive place important. Lose Yourself by Eminem and Trophies by Drake will be on my playlist. These songs are motivating because of their beat and lyrics. The beats are very dominating and powerful, which empowers me when I listen to these and others like them. The lyrics are also motivating because they encourage seizing the moment and winning. The songs make me feel invincible, exactly what I need before taking a test.

So that’s my dead week playlist, Alternative with a bit of R&B. I guess it’s sort of a diverse mix, but everything on my playlist has its purpose. I guess I can only hope that it helps me focus and gets me pumped for my exams. Please, check out the songs that I mentioned and see if they would be good additions to your dead week playlist.

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Black Humor

With Halloween coming up so soon, it seems like a perfect time to discuss Goths. As natural simplifiers, we just love find ways to make life easier on ourselves by categorizing others, so how do we define the Goth category? I would venture to say that for most of us humorous was not a description that came to mind when we defined Goth, but why not? Who says Goths are completely serious all of the time? Don’t let the overabundance of black, heavy make-up and fancy clothing fool you, Goths do have a somewhat disturbing, and twisted sense of humor—black humor. Ironic right? Goths wear black clothing and black make up and even there humor is black, but in all seriousness, black humor is real and it shows up—in music, movies, and social media— in many different way even outside the Goth circle.

Voltaire an extreme example of using black humor in music. You may not know who Voltaire is, I didn’t until I began looking into black humor, but he is a Cuban-American musician who sings folk-like songs that have legitimate messages with a bit of humor thrown in. His music is funny in a dark, silly and disturbing way. For example consider his song Riding a Black Unicorn…. The chorus of this song is an example of black humor, “so tonight, you’re riding a black unicorn down the side of an erupting volcano and you drink, drink, drink from a chalice filled with the laughter of small children,”(Hernandez). The “black” of black humor comes from the hints at suffering and death— dark themes –in this song. If you’re riding down the side of a volcano that has erupted chances are you will die, and if your drinking from a cup with the laughter of children’s voices, the children are likely death or suffering and about to die. While to most of us—I hope—these seem like very sad, disturbing thoughts, the fact that these things will really never happen makes them funny. Balancing the disturbing with the absurd is one example of black humor, but there are many others.

Beetlejuice is an example of black humor in movies. You may not have heard of Voltaire, but I’m willing to bet you’ve seen or at least heard of the movie Beetlejuice. It is about these ghosts that try to exorcize the owners of their house. The “black” part of the black humor again comes from theme of death, but unlike Riding a Black Unicorn…, the humor comes from irony.  Usually it is humans that try to exorcize ghosts and demons from their homes and not the ghosts trying to get rid of the humans. The irony of this situation make the dark theme of death and exorcism, which are common themes in horror movies, more light-hearted. Besides being ironic the idea of ghost in general is very unrealistic which makes the movie much more of a light-hearted black comedy than a scary horror movie.

Black humor shows up arguably the most in social media. On social media, black humor is made by mocking. Goths mock themselves and gothic stereotypes. On twitter there is a feed called Goth Girl Problems that uses black humor in these ways. The blog includes posts like “Halloween is my Christmas. Every other holiday can f**k off,” “I hate this nice weather, but I love that I can wear my fishnets,” “My legs are dead today but starting weekly cemetery runs is so worth it #MausoleumMondays #gothgirlproblems,” These posts make fun of the typical gothic stereotypes like hating the light, feeling happiest on Halloween, and hanging out in cemeteries, but they also make fun of us. By pretending to conform to these stereotypes, are mocking us for being so simple-minded as to believe that these things are what make them Goth.

Goths are not all darkness and gloom, and their black humor exists everywhere and in many forms. The stereotypes you thought of at the beginning of this post are proof that even you contribute to Goth’s black humor.

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Reflections on Blogging, Gender and Music

This is my final blog…crazy right? I feel like I just started blogging but I guess I’ve been doing it for a few months now. At first I really hated blogging. I was just like What do I have to say that people actually care about? Nothing. The answer is still nothing, but that’s the beauty of blogging. You can say whatever you want and people may respond, which is great or they may not, which is also great. Either way, if you do it well, blogging is a great way to get your points across. Anyway, from blogging about gender and music over the past few months, I have actually learned a lot. Blogging has made me more aware of audience when writing, and taught me that there are gender implications in every genre and that gender, music, and race are very closely linked.

Through blogging, I have become much more aware of my audience when I am writing. In school we are drilled and trained to write for one audience member, the teacher, but in life there is hardly ever that simple. The audience could be an employer, or a client or even the general public and how you convey the same message to each audience is different. When I blog, my audience is everyone, and that is a hard audience to write for. You have to write in a way that everyone can understand. You can’t be too technical or too colloquial, you have to find a point between two, conversational. But being conversational when you write is difficult. It goes against everything you ever learned. To make it easier for myself, I literally say what I am thinking and write it down, because really nothing can be more conversational than that.

My blogs have been focused on gender and music, so not surprisingly, I have learned a lot about that. The most important thing that I have learned is that there are gender implications in every genre. Gender is somehow related to every genre. In rap and hip hop, there’s the whole controversy over female rappers, in pop we are seeing a wave of feminism, in country and heavy metal there are very few female; gender is everywhere in music and with gender comes certain expectations. We expect women to behave in certain and different ways, but the music codes for different genres don’t always align with gender expectations. This creates interesting music and some problems; it is why we have gender debates in music to begin with.

Finally, in researching for my blogs I have noticed trends. One of the biggest trends is that it is nearly impossible to have a conversation about gender and music without considering race. Just like gender and music are closely related, music and race are closely related. Many genres started as predominately one race, White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, whatever the race may be and now as the world is becoming more ethnically diverse, other races are entering the genres. This with the gender debates causes more problems. Race becomes a factor and you have consider whether one race is acting like another and whether or not this is derogatory. You have to consider that maybe one race is not emulating another, but they are just conforming to musical codes. But these codes sometimes have racial and gender. The three together create complex and multifaceted problems.

I have learned a lot since my first blog about blogging, about writing, about audience, and about the complexities of gender and music in general. Though blogging is very informal, I have actually developed many useful writing skills. Also, in learning about gender and music I have gotten better at analyzing data and finding trends. I will carry what I’ve learned on to future writing and who knows, maybe even to another blog.

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7/11

Just in case we had all forgotten about Beyoncé since the release of her controversial album, Beyoncé, she just gave us another reason to keep her on our radar. On Friday, Beyoncé released her single 7/11 earlier than expected. This alone generated lots of buzz in the “Beyhive”, but she got the attention of everyone, fans and critics alike, when she released a self-made music video for the single, only a few hours later. Many fans praised the video as being cute, personal, authentic and fun, but I completely disagree. I pretty much hated all of it, the song and video, which is a shame because I really do love Beyoncé. But everyone has their hits and misses and this was clearly a miss. The song was lacking, and the video was unprofessional and tacky.

Everyone knows that Beyoncé can sing, but if 7/11 was you’re first exposure to her, you’d never know how talented she really is. The song completely fails to showcase Beyoncé’s ability. Beyoncé is a creative, authentic songwriter whose lyrics challenge norms and open our minds. In this single she just repeats the same phrases over and over. The lyrics are random and really have no driving point or meaning. This is just another one of those catchy songs that people will sing along to on the radio. But the Beyoncé I know and love is better than this. She doesn’t need to compete with the Miley Cyruses and Iggy Azeleas to get played on the radio, because she is clearly head and shoulders above them. Beyoncé’s goal should be to impress her audience, not get air time. With this song, Beyoncé will definitely get that air time on the radio, but she’s lost sight of her goals.

The tacky video only makes the song worse. Beyoncé is half naked the entire video, wearing only underwear and a sweatshirt while she goes around her house shaking her butt and doing other random things. Unlike most, I gave Beyoncé a pass for being half-naked on her last album because it went with the themes of her songs and her songs actually had messages. Here Beyoncé is just not wearing clothes for the sake of it. The fact that she filmed the video herself makes it worse, because it wasn’t tastefully done. If the video had been professionally filmed in a tasteful way, then I could get over the fact that Beyoncé is half naked. The music video for this song seems like a video she filmed with friends one day for fun. There is nothing wrong with having fun and filming videos like this, but this is just not the kind of video that you use as the music video for a single. It is not a video that should be available to the public.

Beyoncé needs to change the musical and artistic direction that she is headed in. If she continues down this road, with meaningless songs and sexed up video she’s going to lose her true fan base. She needs to go back to an older Beyoncé and remember why her fans love her. We love her for her creativity, her talent, her social activism; we love her for so many things but not for this music video. Beyoncé could fix this single by giving it a purpose. She needs to have a reason or a cause for making this video and she needs to make it clear to her audience. In her video she just needs to put on some clothes! Beyoncé is attractive and she can let her body distract from a good song or the point of the video.

Beyoncé’s album for this single comes out on Tuesday, and I am very interested to see what it’s like. I am hoping that the rest of the album showcases Beyoncé’s talent and that this single was just a way to grab our attention. We won’t know for a couple of days, but we can hope. In the meantime, checkout the music video for 7/11 below. What do you think?

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The State of Women: Country vs. Pop Music

Last week was Country Music’s biggest event of the year, the Country Music Association Awards aired. This year’s award show got a lot of attention because of a collaboration between Country artist Miranda Lambert and Pop artists Meghan Trainor and Ariana Grande to perform to two Pop songs, “All About That Bass,” and “Bang Bang,”. This unusual combination of artists attracted a lot of media attention to the state of women in Country music vs Pop music. Because of this strong display of female success in Pop, the media seemed to form a consensus that Pop music has made more strides toward gender equality than country music. I disagree. While many pop musicians are quick to label themselves as feminists, females really aren’t any better off in the pop genre. In pop music, women tend to sexualize themselves and are held to a double standard. In Country, gender is not the issue, the problem is the nature of the genre.

Women tend to be sexualized more in Pop than in Country. Look for example at Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift. Miley started her career with Disney before becoming a solo artist. At that time, she was an innocent teen, with a younger audience and she was successful. When she grew up and left Disney, Miley struggled to find her own identity in Pop Music. She released her album Breakout in 2008 which again was fairly innocent. You’ve probably never heard of it though because it didn’t do well. Miley didn’t start doing well until she sexed it up in her most recent albums Can’t Be Tamed and Bangerz. This exemplifies how success usually works for women in Pop—most aren’t successful unless they exploit their bodies. On the other hand you have Taylor Swift. Taylor has had many, many successful albums without sexualizing herself. Sexualizing is just not common in country music, so artist become successful without it. Rather than sexualizing herself, Taylor connects with her audience through her feelings and experiences. Taylor and Miley contrast well to make this point. Both are around the same age and have faced similar pressures of growing up in the spotlight, however, they have been successful in very different ways because of the nature of their genres.

This issue of women sexualizing themselves is related to the bigger issue of double standards. Women in Pop face more double standards than women in Country. As we can see in the Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus example, women in Pop are expected to “put on a show” while women in country and male musicians are expected to perform. There is a huge difference between the performing and putting on a show. Performers have a talent that they are sharing, but someone putting on a show is just trying to entertain a crowd in whatever way possible. This expectation sets the stage for gender inequality in Pop. Additionally, there is a double standard on what is acceptable for male versus female pop artists to talk about in their songs. When Beyoncé released her album Beyoncé she got a lot of flak. Her album was even banned from Target and her music videos were removed from YouTube. Her album did have many sexual references, but it was no more inappropriate Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines, or Kanye West’s Bound 2. Thicke and West’s albums did get some scrutiny, but neither was banned from stores or YouTube even though they were very sexual songs. In Country, this double standard does not arise, because explicit sexual lyrics aren’t common in the genre, so there aren’t nearly as many double standards for women.

Pop has more successful female artists than country, but it is not because the genre is any closer to gender equality than Country. There are fewer women in Country because of the themes of country music. Country music is usually about memories of women, beer, pickup trucks, relationships, revenge, patriotism and other similar things. While women can have a lot to say about relationships and revenge, most women just don’t have much to say about beer and pickup trucks. Since it is harder for women to find a niche in Country music, there are fewer female Country musicians. In contrast, Pop music can have a wide range of topics. Its popular themes, desire, aspiration, nostalgia, pain, rebellion, jadedness, etc. are more gender-neutral, so pop music is able to attract more females. Since there are more females to choose from in the Pop genre, there will clearly be more successful females.

It is commendable that women from different genres are collaborating to make powerful performances, but this does not indicate that any one genre is closer to gender equality than another. After the CMA performance by Miranda Lambert, and pop artists Arianna Grande, and Megan Trainor, many media sources assumed that this meant that Pop was more gender equal than country, however this is not true. Unlike Country singers, female Pop artists sexualize themselves and face other double standards. The reason there aren’t more successful female Country artists is because of the themes of country music, not gender inequality.

Bibliography

Wilson, Audrey. The Dream of Country-Music Gender Equality Made Visible for One Night – Yahoo News. 6 November 2014. Electronic. 13 November 2014.

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A Global Perspective on Gender and Music

The music industry is male-dominated. There are more guys out there producing, performing, and becoming involved in music. In the United States we tend to say that this is because women are kept out of certain genres or because women are forced to sexualize themselves to make it in the music industry, but our perspective is very limited to the United States. We hardly ever think about other countries. Music transcends borders, cultures, and religions. It affects everyone and so does the gender debate. In Pakistan for example, women also face trouble working in the music industry. They face the barrier of gender inequality as well as political unrest and judgment from their families.

Unequal opportunities for women in Pakistan prevent them from working in the music industry. The Pakistani music industry is moving away from Classical Music and toward Pop, and Classic Rock. The overwhelming number of male musicians alone is a barrier for women trying to enter the field. On top of this, women are discouraged from performing music in general, and especially Classic Rock and Pop because it is seen as “manly”. If a woman gets lucky, she may be able to become a pupil of a male artist, but she will probably never take the next step and become a musician herself. The Pakistani people have very conservative ideas about female mobility and independence. Their views don’t apply to just the music industry. The gender gap shapes the way of life in Pakistan. Not shockingly, the country ranks last in the world for equal job participation. In the music industry this gender gap is due in part to unequal opportunities for women in the music industry.

Women in Pakistan also have to overcome the impact of political instabilities. Political instability causes many security problems that can prevent female musicians from performing.  Concert performers are always dealing with strikes and shut downs. Females in particular have to be concerned about performing for primarily male crowds and performing at night. Some militant groups in Pakistan, like the Taliban think that women performing concerts, especially at night is inappropriate. The Pakistani think that performing at night as a female is a huge risk. Some feel that even the police cannot be trusted and that all female performers should travel with a trusted male. The instability of the region and the lack of control of authority figures prevents female musicians from performing.

On top of the instability and unequal opportunity, female musicians in Pakistan are affected by the attitudes of their families. Many Pakistani families do not like the idea of women working in music or working period, so access to music education and performance is very limited for women. The feeling of the support of one’s family is very important to a musician. Many talented musicians never emerge on the music scene because they do not feel supported by their families. The family’s attitude toward women in music can have great impact on whether or not Pakistani females pursue musical careers.

The music industry is male dominated and this does not just affect us in the United States. It affects various other cultures and countries in unique ways. In Pakistan, unequal opportunities for women, political instability and familial support can greatly impact a woman’s success or even accessibility to the music industry. Unlike we tend to think here, the underlying issues run much deeper than exclusion and sexuality.

Bibliography

Toppa, Sabrina. Pakistan: Woman Musician Speaks Out About ‘the Gender Challenge’. 28 October 2014. Electronic. 11 November 2014.

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Is Nu Metal Heavy Metal?

Heavy Metal is like a tree with many branches, or subgenres.  Some of the popular subgenres are Black Metal, Alternative Metal and Glam Metal, while some of the less known genres are Christian Metal, Crust Metal and Stoner Metal. Within these subgenres there are even more specific (and bizarre) sub-subgenres of Heavy Metal. Heavy Metal has very strict codes used to define it, so realistically, all of the subgenres do not follow Heavy Metal code. Nu Metal breaks many of Heavy Metals codes. It features considerable female and African American influence, Pop Music structure, and urban clothing styles. These characteristics that define Nu Metal contradict traditional Heavy Metal code, so Nu Metal should not be considered Heavy Metal.

The development of Nu Metal was influenced by females and African Americans. Both of these groups are excluded from Heavy Metal according to code. Usually Heavy Metal has been performed by and attracted younger, working class white males, not females and other races. Heavy Metal has roots in Jazz but many African Americans have not made a real impact on the genre. The code practically dictates that performers be white males, so the genre continued to conform until the rise of Nu Metal in the 80s. Nu Metal adds hip hop styles to Heavy Metal and gives African Americans significant impact on the genre and attracts a more diverse crowd to metal. Nu Metal also has more gender diversity. Nu Metal bands Evanescence, Flyleaf, and Otep,  have females vocalists. Females have usually been groupies, and occasionally accepted fans if they conform to all other parts of the code, but never band members; Especially not in the arguably most important position of vocalist. Having female vocalists and African American influence separates Nu Metal from the larger Heavy Metal genre.

The structure of Nu Metal is another break from code. It follows a Pop Music structure instead of a metal structure. Really, besides the occasional guitar solo required by Heavy Metal code, there is not a specific structure to the genres’ music. The structure is made by individual artists based on the topic of their song. Heavy Metal doesn’t have its own structure, but it does not have a Pop structure either. Nu Metal draws on Pop Music structure rather than unique Heavy Metal structure. Pop Music structure has a verse-chorus style that is used in most other musical genres. It encourages fans to sing along, but Heavy Metal is not meant to be sung. Lyrics aren’t even meant to be understood. Its sounds that the words make and the emotions that these sounds evoke that matters. Nu Metal’s use of verse-chorus structure creates a large break in its Heavy Metal foundation.

Nu Metal artist and fans break Heavy Metal code with their clothing. Heavy metal dress code is very specific. Heavy Metal fans usually wear concert t-shirts, jeans and other street clothes, spandex, anything black, leather jackets, denim jackets, long hair and tattoos. Nu Metal fans and artist have a more Hip-Hop look. They wear football and basketball jerseys, cargo pants, crew cuts, baggy shirts, hoodies, track suits and sweatpants. While they wear black, it is not worn alone. White and other colors are also commonly worn by Nu Metal bands and fans. The clothing worn by Nu Metal bands separates Nu Metal and Heavy Metal even more.

Heavy Metal is usually seen as a broad genre because it has so many subgenres, but the classification of those subgenres as Heavy Metal is questionable at best. Nu Metal in particular should not be included under Heavy Metal because it breaks fundamental gender, ethnic, structural, and fashion codes.

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