March 13, 2018

Photographs I can't understand.

I'm trying to read — well, scan — "25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going" in the NYT Magazine.

This is one of these tarted-up pages at the NYT website that made me blog (on March 9th): "I'd like a browser that can be set so nothing moves on my screen unless I click something to make it play/Can I get that anywhere? I loathe movement near something I'm trying to read...." If you want to see what I'm saying I loathe, you'll see it if you click through. The moving image behind the words at the top of that page physically nauseates me. Intellectually, I deplore the clutter, which waves in our face the NYT's desperate need for us to believe that it's a trendy website and not just an old newspaper displayed on screen.

Now, I do appreciate the play button at the entry for each of the 25 songs. You can instantly play (and pause) as you read (or instead of reading). But I am appalled at the hand-drawn squiggles around the various words and images. The Times says it's going to "tell us where music is going," but I've seen squiggles like that before, so the message to me is, we're going back to the 1980s.

But what I really want to talk about, as the post title indicates, is a photograph — this one, accompanying the first song, "Bodak Yellow," by Cardi B, next to the all-caps text, "AN UNAPOLOGETIC ANTHEM FOR WOMEN IN A YEAR OTHERWISE DEFINED BY PANDERING AND SETBACKS":

The photograph doesn't seem to be "for women" or in opposition to the "pandering and setbacks." It seems to embody the retrograde attitude toward women. That heavy makeup and that dopey, sleepy expression might be aimed at other women, but if it is, it's not in a way that fits with the idea of an "unapologetic anthem for women," which sounds like marching in the streets and denouncing oppression, not weakly melting into a selfie.

But the NYT has, for whatever reason, decided to promote Cardi B as an icon of feminism. On my own, I would not read any further. I'd just be disgusted, but since you're here, I'm going to read the entry (which is by Jamie Lauren Keiles).
Women in this world are taught to believe that every problem must have a buyable solution. Not sleeping well? Get a lavender-vanilla pillow spray. Overrun with stress? Buy a skin-care routine. The market is rife with solace for sale — a product on offer for anything that ails. 
Popular music is another one of these products. Isn't an "anthem for women" a proffered cure for a presumed woman-specific ailment?
This past year, our own systemic subjugation was no exception. With a former beauty-pageant owner in the White House, Clinton in Chappaqua and high-profile men being exposed for their crimes, feminism reached its most shoppable form....
Keiles references pussy hats and other paraphernalia that — I'll use the headline's word — pandered to women after the election. And what does the song do?
Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” ... begins with an outright provocation: “Lil [expletive], you can’t [expletive] with me if you wanted to.” 
Let's be clear. The first expletive is "bitch" and the second is "fuck." Cardi B is addressing women with contempt.
Her tone is confident in a way that feels easy. To paraphrase one commenter on YouTube: It’s a song that will make you want to fire your own boss.
Let's check NYT's characterization of the lyrics, which you can read here. I really don't have the patience to read and think about all these lyrics, but I cannot see how they are in any way an "anthem for women." They might be an anthem for a woman. The singer seems to want to brutally dominate everyone else. She brags about material goods, claims to be "the hottest in the street" and taunts other women — "Think these hoes be mad at me, their baby father run a bill... If I see you and I don't speak, that means I don't fuck with you/I'm a boss, you a worker, bitch, I make bloody moves." That sounds like one woman hating other women.

The NYT writer brings up pussy hats and "pussy" is a big word in the hating-Trump enterprise, so let me show you the occurrences of "pussy" in this song. The first is a literal reference to the singer's genitalia:
I might just feel on your babe, my pussy feel like a lake
He wanna swim with his face, I'm like, "Okay"...
The second appearance of "pussy" is the insult to another person (whom she's threatening with gun violence): "If you a pussy, you get popped, you a goofy, you a opp." The lyrics site (linked above) helpfully explains a joke: "Getting 'popped' is slang for getting shot, which Cardi B connects to the sexual image of 'pussy popping' in which a woman exposes her genitals by bending over in a provocative way." "Opp," we're told, means "opposition... members of a rival gang."

The third appearance of "pussy" is, "My pussy glitter as gold, tell that lil bitch play her role." Again, I'm seeing the complete absence of sisterhood. I can see how an individual woman might feel strong by imagining herself in the place of the singer, insulting and hating and threatening and demeaning all the other women, but that is not a strength that has anything to do with women banding together in a political movement.

I think the NYT is obtuse, perhaps deliberately, but at least I do now understand the photograph.


Kyzernick said...

A violent and misogynistic subculture divided across lines of (mostly) race and class*. Yeah, that's surely the ticket for promoting women and moving music in a positive direction. America loves importing problems, and we're only going to get more of the same without radical change.

* - by class, I don't mean raw money. Plenty of these rappers are quite rich, usually from selling drugs long enough without getting caught, and I believe Cardi B is a former stripper who had some "high-rollin" clientele and worked as a prostitute on the side before her "talent" was "discovered".

Ralph L said...

I suspect her music is marketed to young men, not women.
She was probably abused when young (hence stripper/pros), so abusing others in song makes her feel powerful and comfortable.

Fernandistein said...

I see no movement on that page. What I can't see is a reason to look at the page. And movement.

The Cracker Emcee Classic said...

If you start with the assumption that White Progs deeply and unshakably believe that Black people are untermensch, it all makes perfect sense.

holdfast said...

After years of "singers" acting and dressing like strippers, music execs finally decided to just go all-in and promote an actual stripper (or "stripper") as the new face of music.

Congrats to Cardi B.

John Tuffnell said...

Glad the Times informs that is where music is going. Reinforces that I am staying. Just me and my hoes, waiting patiently in the garage for spring.

tim in vermont said...

Emotions of mastery, everybody loves ‘em.

“Retrograde”? Maybe it’s a return to the mean?

gilbar said...

"since you're here, I'm going to read the entry "
once again the prof does the hard work and spares us!!
thanx Ann!

rhhardin said...

It sounds like a search for some way women can be serious, with men being an unattainable model.

Chris N said...

The sad thing is the subset of young people who will believe this nonsense, or don’t have much else to believe other than this nonsense.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going

Which I can sum up it three words:

Down the tubes.

( There were a couple of decent artists there. I've even seen Jason Isbell in concert. But for the most part, get off my lawn )

Sebastian said...

"I cannot see how they are in any way an "anthem for women." They might be an anthem for a woman. The singer seems to want to brutally dominate everyone else. She brags about material goods, claims to be "the hottest in the street" and taunts other women"

Bragging, taunting, wanting to be the hottest perfectly sums up the culture of the sisterhood. The actual culture, that is, not the one imagined by "feminists."

BudBrown said...

I don't know much about rap but the photo made me think of Tupac albums. pics.
Grrrllls can be gangsta too.

The Germans Have A Word For That. said...

Reading Cardi B's name, I figured she had to use a 'Cartier' reference in a song. (Carti-A, Cardi-B).

Google says Yep:

Your bitch wanna party with Cardi
Cartier Bardi in a 'Rari (21)
Diamonds all over my body (Cardi)
Shinin' all over my body (my body)
Cardi got your bitch on molly
Bitch, you ain't gang, you lame
Bentley truck lane to lane, blow out the brain (21)
I go insane, insane

Years ago there was the issue of male rappers referring to women as bitches and hos.

The enlightened explained this as part of a culture that those outside could not understand, and that any negative judgment of this was racism.

Now the female rappers see other women as bitches and hos.

And now the enlightened explain that the female artists calling other women bitches and hos are a part of a culture that those outside could not understand; I assume that any negative judgment of this is racism, too.


Except for the remaining women who are bitches and hos.

This made me think of a quote from long ago: Muhammad Ali, saying "no Vietcong ever called me nigger.” That was a different time.

But it made me wonder if Cardi B used the word, or its 'nigga' variant.

Google says Yep:

From Cardi B's song mentioned in the article, 'Bodak Yellow':

And I'm quick, cut a nigga hustle
Don't get comfortable
Look, I don't dance now

Which I don't think is one of the lyrics the NYT article highlighted.

Because Empowerment is a part of a culture that those outside could not understand; I assume that any negative judgment of this is racism, too. Or patriarchy.

Although this Female Empowerment looks a lot like Patriarchy, too.

Maybe Feminists appropriating Male Culture looks different to the bitches and hos.

The Germans have a word for this.

Fernandistein said...

Beaver County Sees Uptick In STD Numbers Among Young People

I had an uptick in my leg once, what a drag.

The Germans Have A Word For That. said...

From a different time:

Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk
I'm a woman's man: no time to talk
Music loud and women warm, I've been kicked around
Since I was born
And now it's all right, it's okay
And you may look the other way
We can try to understand
The New York Times' effect on man

That NYT Effect is still something to be understood.

Of course, the Bee Gees did a song called 'How Deep is Your Love".

I can imagine the lyrics Cardi B might put to that title.

The Germans have a word for this.

The Germans have a word for this.

Chris N said...

And speaking of belief, imagine the people with no notion of a stable family (or even who family is, exactly), people with no internalized value placed on learning, people who grow up in dangerous environments with little love, care, and attention shown, and where there’s an incredibly necessary set of defenses to deal with these environments...

And this is the praise/feedback/input/overheard conversation they get from somewhere...

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a religious revival in some quarters, and perhaps not the thoughtful kind, alongside renetrenched radicalism.

rhhardin said...

The first violinist steals the Brandenburg Concerto with cleavage.

Roy Jacobsen said...

The NYT demonstrates for us that pop music is pretty much on the same level as Hollywood: a cesspool.

tim in vermont said...

Sees Uptick In STD Numbers Among Young People

That HPV vaccine has got to become the norm, or maybe a Muslim conquest will fix this problem, because the moral regime which once worked has been swept away.

Char Char Binks said...

"The singer seems to want to brutally dominate everyone else."

She black.

YeeHaw! said...

Althouse, I think you are going down the wrong path with your analysis.

The article was basically a re-written press release. The singers and songs mentioned were mentioned because of a great deal of effort by hard-working and determined PR firms, which in turn was due to large amounts of money spent by music production companies.

Nothing else. The article reflects no sea change in music philosophy, nor does it single out these songs or artists due to merit or quality. People were paid to bring these songs to the public's attention, and that is why you are reading about them.

Paul Graham, one of the founders of Ycombinator describes the phenomenon far better than I can:

Charlie said...

"She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah".

It's been all downhill since 1964.

tim in vermont said...

She black.

Unlike Hillary, right? Or what was that song by the white girl about destroying her ex-boyfriend’s car?

What is it with all the racist comments here?

buwaya said...

It just sounds like a woman doing mens style rap, with most of the same tropes and expressed with the same hostile attitude. I am well acquainted with it as I have tutored various aficionados of the genre.

The whole rap business is a truly lumpenproletaire phenomenon, completely lacking in aspiration (within the subject of the lyrics, the artists of course do aspire to wealth), completely narcissistic, completely ignorant of anything higher, even love. Imagine a society that does not have love songs. It has always been an expression of a purely criminal ethos.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't surprised to see Jason Isbell on this list- a guy who sings SJW lyrics to country music fans:

Last year was a son of a bitch
For nearly everyone we know
But I ain't fighting with you down in a ditch
I'll meet you up here on the road

I know you're tired
And you ain't sleeping well
And likely mad as hell
But wherever you are
I hope the high road leads you home again
To a world you want to live in

Here's the rest :

It sounds like he is trying to get in the girl's pants by proclaiming how woke he is. This is first song I have ever heard on Outlaw Country that I disliked.

Clark said...

I picked up that NYT Magazine and paged through it on Sunday. I was sitting in the lobby of the Morris Inn at Notre Dame, waiting for a friend to join us for brunch. I was a decades-long, seven-day-a-week subscriber to the NYT. A few years ago I couldn't stand it any more so I dropped it except for a digital crossword subscription. As I paged through, not reading or even skimming, just reacting to the impression created by the layout of the pages Althouse is talking about, I concluded that I did the right thing cutting all non-crossword ties to the Gray Lady.

Gahrie said...

It has always been an expression of a purely criminal ethos.

Not in the early days. It wasn't until NWA showed up that rap turned to the thug life.

cf said...

 Char Char Binks said...

"The singer seems to want to brutally dominate everyone else."

She black

It is not her race. She may be using black patterns to express her style, but I name "the worst expression of a Woman's Movement Evahhh" as the imperative, the wave she is surfing.

The woman's movement as expressed today is supremacist, derivative, childish, unfocused, off-the-point and Nasty in every way. New York times encourages the New Feminist brutal, no due-process ways.

Plus, I Hated the entire graphic presentation of this collection in their magazine. All the pages had this fractured typography etc. Purposefully:
"supremacist" (don't like it? whoa you are unCool)
in every way possible


n.n said...

Male chauvinists do not represent men or male interests. Female chauvinists do not represent women or female interests. Male and female chauvinists are equal and complementary.

William said...

On the plus side, you can lead a full and pleasant life without ever having heard of Cardi B. Well, now that I've heard of her, my fall back position is that you can lead a full and pleasant life without ever once hearing a song by Cardi B......Has anyone here ever listened to her music or been tempted to listen to her music by the précis submitted here? i would actively go out of my way to avoid such music, but that's not necessary. The music exists in its own world and, without much effort, you can remain unaware of Cardi B. I'm sure this music will eventually lead to the collapse of civilization but I'm old and it will happen after my death. Fuck you bitches, I got mine.

rhhardin said...

Willie Nelson, some songs he said he was working on

"I'm so miserable without you that it's almost like you're still here"

"I dislike every bone in your body except mine"

But that's taken as humor.

YeeHaw! said...

And for everyone else here -- including me -- look how we got roped in! You may hate it, but at least you are talking about it.

That PR money was well spent!

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Shot: "25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going" - NYT, 2018

Chaser: "Guitar groups are on their way out, Mr. Epstein." - Dick Rowe, Decca Records, 1962

Sam L. said...

I don't read the NYT. I don't need another reason not to.

Robert Cook said...

"Bodak Yellow" is hypnotic to listen to, at least in part because it is so incredibly filthy and ugly in its sentiment, this ode to materialism in the raw.

It's the perfect anthem for our corporate overlords.

rcocean said...

And who says Great music is dead?

Its a golden age.

Move over Mozart, you Bitch.

Caligula said...

"Women in this world are taught to believe that every problem must have a buyable solution."

Products have been sold as "solutions" since, umm, forever? How many companies are there that use "Solution" as part of their business name? Thinking that all this selling is uniquely directed at women is absurd.

Although if one were to analyze why women are targetted by marketers, the anwer surely would be: because women (in the aggregate, at least) have plenty of money to spend. And even when it's not entirely (or at all) their own money, women often influence what's bought and who it's bought from. And this is supposed to be evidence that women are oppressed?

"I might just feel on your babe, my pussy feel like a lake
He wanna swim with his face, I'm like, "Okay"

Yes, popular entertainers are so well-positioned to complain of the President's crude speech.

BTW, sometimes the best way to read a Web page is to copy and paste its content into a text editor, thus stripping it of photos, videos, animations and everything else that's not text. Nonetheless, many overly-busy Web pages are not worth that much effort.

Shouting Thomas said...

Why in the fuck should women band together in a political movement?

For Christ’s sake, Althouse, chuck this stupid shit.

Your a sensible person until you fall into this pile of crap. You just have no fucking sense when you start on this idiot bitching.

Cut the fucking evil Marxist feminist babbling, girl. The Soviet Union is gone. Marxism failed.

Decent people don’t talk Marxism.

Shouting Thomas said...

You can see the problem with identity politics here.

Althouse is a fairly sensible person who rejects the silliness of... other people’s inane bitching... when it comes to identity politics.

When it comes to her self interest, i.e., gaydom and feminism, she’s all in.

Kevin said...

I follow contemporary music extremely closely, and that article is pure crap. You have to get all the way down to Julien Baker at #11 before you get to anything like an indication of where music that matters is going.

tcrosse said...

In the old Minstrel Show an unattractive caricature of Black People was offered up by White Men for our entertainment. Now in the 21st Century an unattractive caricature of Black People is offered up by a Black Woman for our entertainment. Progress !

rhhardin said...

'pussy popping' in which a woman exposes her genitals by bending over in a provocative way

That definitely needed a name.

walter said...

She certainly got a return on her fake tits.
Someone should illustrate the butterflies in her vagina.

Bay Area Guy said...

The NYTimes is knee deep in the pussy today. Black pussy, to boot.

Reminds me of a cultural anthropological study by stuffy Margaret Mead on foreign exotic societies.

Jupiter said...

This is how you get more NRA.

walter said...

Cardi’s dentist, Dr. Catrise Austin, has reported a significant boom in business due to just one shout-out in the song, proving Cardi B is really out here helping everyone she can make money moves, just like herself. For reference: in one of the verses of “Bodak Yellow,” Cardi raps, “Got a bag and fixed my teeth/Hope you hoes know it ain’t cheap.”

Cardi’s dentist has also done work on DJ Khaled, Common, Toni Braxton, Omarosa Manigault, and Busta Rhymes—but it was only after Cardi B rapped about her work that Dr. Austin noticed a bump in her business. And it’s a pretty significant one: Dr. Austin told TMZ her business has tripled so far, with people Googling and calling her to find out more. She also claims that Cardi’s dental work cost as much as a luxury SUV.

mtrobertslaw said...

Somewhere in the enigmatic lyrics of Cardi B lies the deep wisdom of the hood.

walter said...

"If you personally know me, you know I spread the word of God." People doubt her relationship with God because of her troubled past, but Cardi maintains that "God knows her" and has given her guidance.

Scott M said...

Imagine a society that does not have love songs

I was with you up to this point. Even within the society that embraces this type of rap (aside, of course, from the majority of their listeners, ie, suburban white teens), R&B is full of love songs. It was here long before rap and will be here long after.

Kevin Walsh said...

In the end, what was so bad about rock, so they had to get rid of it?

Jupiter said...

I'm not in favor of banning hate speech, but I would definitely like to ban hate music. Fines and imprisonment.

walter said...

Apparently God wanted her to have bigger breasts and butt injections....proving God is a dude.

Luke Lea said...

The shit in that song is appalling. That the NYT applauds it as "an anthem to women" is infinitely more appalling. It's like they are totally unconscious. Beyond decadent. Shouldn't somebody get fired?

walter said...

They were spot on about the last year being about "pandering".

walter said...

"The New York Times' effect on man"
Does that explain the falsetto?

Bay Area Guy said...

Next up, the NYT re-interprets the racial/sexual context of British rocker, Mick Jagger, and his 50-year old hit, "Brown Sugar"

Gold Coast slave ship bound for cotton fields
Sold in the market down in New Orleans
Scarred old slaver knows he's doin' all right
Hear him whip the women just around midnight

Brown Sugar, how come you taste so good
Brown Sugar, just like a young girl should

Drums beatin' cold, English blood runs hot
Lady of the house wonderin' when it's gonna stop
House boy knows that he's doin' all right
You should have heard him just around midnight

Brown Sugar, how come you taste so good
Brown Sugar, just like a young girl should
Brown Sugar, how come you dance so good
Brown Sugar, just like a black girl should