We can’t stop

After “losing” her Hannah Montana-ish charm, Miley Cyrus has put on a whole new public image. She had her hair lopped and chopped and has been acting provocatively and sexually. Maybe she has been acting out because she wanted to break away from her Disney image. Would you want the world keep reminding you of your fourteen-year-old self when you are in your twenties? The song “We Can’t Stop”, along with its music video, is the latest pinnacle of maturity for Miley Cyrus. I personally do not identify with the lyrics and the craziness pictured in the video. There are unappropriated ideas and images that could cause controversy, especially given Miley Cyrus’s special status with teenagers.

The lyrics of the song are catchy and deliver a sense of hedonism. The main idea of the song is that “Life is a party and we can do whatever we want to. We can’t and won’t stop. We don’t care what others say about us.” Young, wild and frivolous, with supercilious attitude, Miley sings the song with the care-free attitude. Partying all day and caring about nothing else is the message the lyrics send me. There are several drug references in the song. “Dancing with Molly” implicates ecstasy and “Everyone in line in the bathroom. Trying to get a line in the bathroom” obliquely refers to cocaine. I don’t see much depth in this song. Yes, the song is one of the biggest hits of last summer and has a worldwide influence. But the question is: is the influence it has on people good or not?

The music video is what shocks me more. The video features the hard partying of Miley and a bunch of her friends. Some of the clips in the video seem to go too far. There is a scene depicting a girl gingerly cuts off their fingers about the knuckles, which begins oozing pink goo. And another clip I find that are kind of out of line pictures her crazy friends go wild with smoke bombs going off in their pants. A guy eating bread filled with cash, skull made of french-fries, all of which are a part of this crazy music video.  In addition, there are a lot of twerking and sticking tongue appearing in the video. This kind of video is a little hard for audience like me who is relatively conservative to appreciate.

I can’t expect wholesome entertainment out of Miley Cyrus but at least there can be less sex and drugs in her work. Something upbeat and positive is needed. Sometimes the meaning of lyrics can depend on the content of the music video. If some of the clips of this video were replaced with normal, mild party activities, the song could be less provocative and could be accepted by a larger audience. I bet the parents would not be pleased if they caught their kids mesmerized by the music video of the new Miley Cyrus style.

I appreciate the courage of Miley Cyrus to change herself and I admired what she has achieved so far. ‘We Can’t Stop” is a good pop song, but the meaning that the lyrics and the video convey is not that good and it needs some improvements.


Improvement Through Blog Posting

Why are we writing blogs? Probably because we have ideas and thought to express and blog is the idea platform to speak out. We post things on twitter, Facebook to express ourselves, but all of them are just some fragmented thoughts while the blog allows us to jotting down the ideas that pop up in your head and organize them in the post. We’ve been writing blogs for some time now and the blog writing experience is of great benefit to me in several aspects.

I’ve made great progress in English writing. Have rarely written in English, I consider the blog posting as a challenge. I had a hard time in finding the appropriate words to encapsulate my ideas in the first few blog postings. I would dwell on one word or one sentence for ten minutes and it would take my five or six hours to finish one blog while others could probably get it done in an hour or so. Nothing is difficult if you put your heart into it. Though there are still typos and grammatical problems, writing blogs are not as painful to me as it was then. Words come to me most of the time. To write you must write. The more you practice, the more it becomes second nature and the faster you can do it. Practice, eventually, makes perfect and I, still have a long way to go.

I start to learn and think. To write a blog, one need to have more than a rough understanding of the topic. I’ve never been a passionate writer because I always run out of things to say and I know the true problem lies in my lack of independent thinking and self-study ability. Music and gender, for someone who has no culture background, is a topic that hard to comprehend, let alone discuss and analyze it with your own interpretation. Another thing is that the audience of the blog can be anybody. To make someone who doesn’t know anything about the topic actually understand it takes efforts. I have to do some research on my own in order to write. Writing blogs is an effective way to stimulate you to think. Only through constantly brainstorming can you put forward unique and in-depth insights and blog things that have some thoughts behind them.

I improve my thinking through the blog postings. After browsing the blogs I’ve written throughout the semester, I realize that these blog postings record my learning process. Blogs reflect not only the result, but also the process of my thinking. Starting from scratch, I gain a better understanding of the topic after every new blog post. I develop my own interpretation and ideas of music and gender through blogs and I do see some improvement on the ideas the blogs convey.

You are thinking when you are writing. You improve every time you write. Keeping practicing, you’ll find you’ll grow insights in every little thing. The more blogs I write, the more satisfied I feel. It is the satisfaction of expressing my thoughts. Writing blogs has been good for me and I will definitely stick to it .


My Dead Week Playlist

Dead week is waving at us with his hideous and malevolent smile. It is commonly seem that college students have the propensity to procrastinate until the last possible week and then pull desperate all-nighters to study for the exams. And I am no exception. I need some kind of stimulant and music can be a great helper to me when I am cramming for the finals. My dead week playlist is a pretty eclectic mix that incorporates metal, classical, rock, jazz,etc.

Classical music take up a big portion of playlist. I am easily distracted when I am reading and writing, so songs with lyrics are not an option for me. I can’t remember how many times I ended up humming the lyrics and that song just played over and over in my mind, which speak of the impossibility of effective study for the day. Classical music perfectly compensates for this shortcoming. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Tempest Sonata, 5th, 7th, 9th Symphony, Bach’s French Suites, The Well-tempered Clavier, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and Chopin’s Etudes, Preludes, Nocturne, all of which serve the purpose of  making me concentrate. The beautiful melody fills the air with a sense of tranquility and calms my mind and soul. The reading assignment become less boring with piano pieces and the melodies help me get in the flow of writing.

Heavy metal music is something I listen to when I am dealing with geometric or algebra problems. I’ve never thought of listening to heavy metal while studying until one of my friends suggested me to do so and it actually worked. The incomprehensible snarling and screaming block everything else out, making my head clearer and thoughts more organized. Paranoid, Hell and Heaven, Sweet Leaf by Black Sabbath, Prowler, The Number of Beasts by Iron Maiden, Holy War, Peace Sells by Megadeth and Angel of Death, Raining Blood by Slayer are part of my heavy metal collections that on my loop playlist. The loudness and inexplicability are the two traits that make heavy metal a great assistant of my study. I can’t and don’t need to understand the lyrics so I can stay focus on the problems I’m working on. Heavy metal would give you a greater peace of mind and make you more concentrated as long as you get used to the volume.

Everything else besides classical and metal fall into the same category and have the same purpose—setting me free from misery. These songs are the ones I listen to during study breaks. And my playlist for relaxation has a great variety. From Jazz, rock, indie to pop, from Norah Jones, Dio, Joni Mitchel to Pink Floyd, I enjoy the songs that connect to me. Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John, A Case of You, Comfortably Numb, Rainbow In The Dark, and the list could go on and on. Some of them are soft, some are upbeat and some are exhilarating. Only when I listen to these songs do I actually savor the music. The lyrics, the vocal, the meaning behind the song, I am absorbed in music and fully enjoy the guilt-free leisure time. The songs soothe my mind and revitalize my body so I can be better prepared for the next round of hard work.

Dead week is not that terrifying with music. My dead week playlist would make my study for the finals much more efficient and less dull. The long week is soon coming. Good luck to myself.


Feminism In Pop Music

The female image portrayed in the vast majority of pop music is somewhat concerning. A mere appendix to the man, woman is always dominated. But if there was one consistent theme over the years in music, it was feminism. Feminism is an inevitably controversial topic with mixed reviews. Defended or detracted, as a thinking pattern that has penetrated into diverse aspects of music industry, feminism has exerted a significant impact on artists and their music making. Advocating for gender equality, feminism continues to grow and is reflected in various aspects in pop music.

Female artists are now able to have a place in the pop music arena. The last year had seen Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” become a household name and the man vibe dominate the radio, female artists has gained the upper hand in the battle of 2014. Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” and the girl-on-girl collaborations such as Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj’s “Bang Bang and Ariana and Iggy’s “Problem” has ruled the pop music channels. I hear them being played on radio every day for the last couple of months and the girls on my floor humming the songs while doing makeup in the morning. A number of biggest hits that occupy the top charts are performed by female singers and it seems that feminism is having the moment in the world of pop culture.

Celebrity feminists are standing their ground and making efforts. Beyoncé is noted for her feminism, wielding her power to bring the problem of gender equality to public attention. Beyoncé amazed the world at MTV Video Music Awards. Standing in the dark in front of a glowing “feminist” sign, she looked so confident, noble, stunning, and breathtaking. “There it was, the most powerful, and certainly the most highly polished pop-culture message of my lifetime: that attention to gender inequity is alive, revived” Proudly claiming herself as a feminist, Beyoncé is inspiring and respectable.

Women empowerment has become the essence and central theme of some popular music. “Can’t hold us down” by Christina Aguilera is a feminism song that I sympathized with. The song questions the gender-related double standard . “It’s a common double standard of society/The guy gets all the glory the more he can score/While the girl can do the same and yet you call her a whore/I don’t understand why it’s okay/The guy can get away with it & the girl gets named.” Recognized as a feminism anthem, the song encourages all the girls to stand up for themselves, showing no weakness to men who don not respect their worth. Girls need to fight for themselves and make themselves heard. Emphasizing the girl power and female status in gender display, the song appeals to society for gender equality.

Not everyone wants to be called as feminist. It is a fairly sensitive word but it does have its meaning. Fighting for the interests for all the female in the male-dominated society, feminists are the ones should be looked up to. Pop music need feminism and there is an enhanced awareness of feminism in the pop music culture, which is something that’s exciting and heartening to witness.


Hip-hop – Misogyny And Hyper-masculinity

Misogyny and hyper-masculinity are the trending themes in the hip-pop culture. In the music videos, women are sexually submissive to men and are expected to be scantily clad to gain the pleasure of man. The overwhelming amount of the offensive, insulting lyrics towards women is penetrating across the mainstream hip-pop music. The gender stereotype in hip-hop is rooted and is now being transplanted to a deeper soil.

When asked whether or not hip-hop targets kids more than movies, because the artists are seen as living the lifestyle that is rap about in an interview, 50 Cent, who is considered one of the top rappers, responded “No.  No.  The kids know the difference between entertainment and reality.  If not, something’s the matter with that kid.”  He goes on to explain “if that’s the case, then anything can influence anyone.  Are they sticking to a script that our society portrays?”  What 50 cent said seems ridiculous to me. The popularity and ubiquity of hip-hop music empower this genre to have impact on society and shape the perceptions of its views, let alone the kids. Consciously or unconsciously, some people are negatively affected by the sexual and violent depictions in the music and form misconceptions. But why does these stereotypical gender depictions continue to spring up in the mainstream hip-hop music while the artists themselves are aware of what they perform is against the social norm?  Why can’t they instead make music that convey positive meanings?

The gender stereotype in mainstream hip-hop music is influenced by the masculinity present in hip-hop music in the past. The hip-pop music is male-dominated, and black male artists are the pillars of this immensely popular genre.  Having gone through the racial discrimination and the life of the helpless, black male hip-hop artists felt the need to assert themselves and project a tough and invulnerable image. And music is the best platform for them to display the image of masculinity. The exaggerated masculinity present in the hip-pop music nowadays inherits and develops from the past demonstration of strong male image. Sexual dominance, roughness, violence, hitting the bottle, using drugs, all of which are considered virile by the definition of the hip-hop culture. Women are just sexy props around men. In other words, the subjugation of women bring out the masculinity of man. “The more women you are able to ‘dominate’ the higher your status is as a man and the more ‘masculine’ you are perceived as being.”  That explains the scene repetitively occurring in the hottest hop-hop music videos, where a little number of men are surround by a group of sexually attractive women.

The business value the hyper-masculinity in hip-hop delivers is the one thing that cannot be ignored. “For years, rap has been taken hostage by an injurious ideology with little resistance from its practitioners. We’re beyond finger-pointing. All parties are complicit — the artists, the distribution companies, record labels, us.” It is not surprised to see a highly sexualized, profane and controversial hip-pop song get millions of hits on YouTube. Commercial exploitation is used to draw the attention of the crowd. The profit motive steers hip-pop to what it is now. The misogyny and hyper-masculinity in mainstream hip-pop music are the tools used to achieve popularity since “the songs that touch on the “softer” sides of male-female dynamics aren’t played on the radios and clubs, thus making these songs the least profitable of the bunch.”

Changes are needed for hip-hop music. Women need to be vested with more diverse gender roles. Roles that have character and dignity. Gender equality is the social norm and what the hip-hop music supposed to publicize. Misogyny and hyper-masculinity, for whatever reasons, are unacceptable to dominate to hip-pop culture.


Types Of Gender Roles Women Play In Music

Most Chinese pop music, in my eyes, is just some variation of the same theme- romance. The romantic and relatively ordinary kind of love draws you in and filled your heart with warmth. But there is no clear-cut reflection of the gender role. I’ve never thought about the relation between gender and music until now, racking my brain trying to collecting my thoughts about it.

The stereotypical type role that women assume in music is to dance and suggest sex interests towards men, showing their femininity to serve as prop to masculinity. Women, after all, are subjected to men in conventional senses. Sex appeal becomes routine, in other words, practically a requirement in almost every popular music video, especially in hip hop, rap and some rock music. I recently came across Motley Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls”. The scene of women dancing for men takes up almost the entire time of…

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My Understanding Of Heavy Metal Music

Heavy metal is a complete stranger to me. Honestly, loudness is all I can say about it. The last few weeks gives me a general idea about heavy metal. Growling with the passion and yet torn roar, lashing flashing passionately in the melodies, this unique music style blew my mind. The social acceptance, live performance and the meaning of song are the things about heavy metal that I am getting some sense of.
Heavy metal is a controversial music genre. While it is not accepted and appreciated by the majority, heavy metal still earns a devout following. People either love it to death or distaste it. On the one hand, metal intoxicates people. There is an impulsion bursting out of you, enabling you to try new things and be a trill seeker. Dissatisfaction towards life or the contempt of the real-world, all the negative emotions would vanish into thin air. The screaming and powerful voice would serve as a perfect catalyst for you to blow off steam and therefore revive your spirits. Some heavy metal fans love it simply because the pleasure of catharsis. On the other hand, some people feel repulsion for heavy metal at first glance. From the gloomy album cover to the black leather jackets, long hair and head banging of the band member, everything is creepy and eccentric, not to mention the endless screaming that might cause a headache. Actually, that’s my first impression of heavy metal too. It is extremely annoying and I just did not see point of this type of music.
Heavy metal is known for its crazy live performance. The high volume, of course, is the one thing you have to get used to about heavy metal. Your eardrums are constantly tested by the amplified sonic power of live heavy metal performance. To generate shocking power, heavy metal music seeks perfection. Intense bass-and drum, highly skilled and shredding guitars, stunning riffs, hysterical singing, all of which form the unparalleled music genre and everything adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Another main characteristic is incomprehensible lyrics. I can barely grasp the meaning of the song through the snarling of the lead singer. But I do notice that there is repetition in the song to emphasize the key words the performer want to express. Unrelentingly dark, obsessively depression, crushingly loud, heavy metal is a unique form of music that loved by passionate people.
Heavy metal is more than growing and screaming. Metal songs have meanings that the musicians try to convey, some of which are related to politics, war and religion. I listened to several songs by Black Sabbath lately to gain a better understanding of heavy metal. The mysterious typical occult song “Iron Man” begins with a slow and distorted robot sound” I am the Iron Man”. Imitating the ponderous footsteps of Iron Man, the heavy drums draw the attention of listeners. The song expresses fear, loneliness, disappointment and confusion about future. Iron Man is similar to the god that once created and protected the world. However, in most people’s eyes, God is more like a meaningless “idol”. People are aware of his existence, but they don’t care. Symbolized by the Iron Man in lead boots, God seeks revenge, coming after people with anger. The song tells us that we must show reverence to god or any other mighty power among the universe. “War Pigs” also has its own aspect of meaning. The intense air defense warning accompanying with compelling riff, the song is ear-refreshing. And the anti-war notion is what the song is all about.
I can only understand the superficial level of heavy metal music for now. Everything is still a little obscure to me but I’ll try to figure out. For me, heavy metal is a new area worth digging into. I have this feeling that people who truly love heavy metal are the people with stories, with attitude, like heavy music itself, always has meanings beneath that dark, crazy mask.