a different kind of buzz: harmony, white femininity, and multi-racial white supremacist patriarchy
[this is a little rough; i may come back and edit it if i have time this weekend. that said, i’d love any thoughts or feedback you might have.]
When I first heard Lorde’s single “Royals” on Charlotte radio, all I could think was “Wow. Just, wow. This is so fucking racist.” The fact that a white musician is racist isn’t in itself remarkable, because it happens all the time. However, the song articulates a specific kind of anti-black racism in a way that clearly illustrates the role of white femininity in multi-racial white supremacist patriarchy.
The unconventional gender/race politics are evident from the very beginning. The lyrics to the first verse reference diamond engagement rings–something that ties the colonial and capitalist exploitation of black Africans to white bourgeois heteropatriarchal gender norms. Diamonds are from Sierra Leone, as Yeezy reminds us, and they are for men to give to women as the first step in the marriage-industrial complex, which is all about reproducing white supremacy. Thus, diamonds are excellent symbols for the complex interrelationships among white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism. But the white girl who sings “Royals” doesn’t think these diamonds are her best friends; unlike Marilyn and Madge, Lorde (whose name ironically echoes Audre Lorde’s) thinks diamonds, and ALL that they represent, are not for people like her. They belong to the culture industry–she’s seen them in movies, but not “in the flesh.” This contrast between what she sees on screens and what she experiences IRL is our first indication that she sees herself as somehow outside the bourgeois mainstream. The culture industry is not her culture. “We’re not caught up in your love affair,” as she says later in the song.
But whose love affair, exactly? The chorus tells us whose culture she thinks this industry (re)produces: African-Americans. “Gold teeth, Grey Goose…Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece, jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash,” these are all icons of mainstream hip hop culture…or, more accurately, what people who don’t actually listen to mainstream hip hop THINK contemporary rappers talk about in their songs. (The fact is, some rappers have, for several years now, rejected and/or complicated bling aesthetics, mainly as a way to demonstrate their exceptional status among otherwise cliched black male MCs–think about Kanye’s skinny jeans, or, to speak directly to the “gold teeth” lyric, J. Cole’s “Crooked Smile.”)
There’s also a really interesting play on “queen Bee”–which could be a reference to either/both Lil Kim, who calls herself “Queen B,” and/or Beyonce or “queen Bey”, who also trades in the metaphorics of royalty. Lorde’s narrator says she’s not that type of “royal,” because her buzz is different. (This may not go anywhere, but here I also think of Marx’s use of bees in Capital v1 to distinguish human labor from non-human activity. Lorde’s narrator sees herself as buzzing at a different frequency than regular workers, and that’s her way of disidentifying with mainstream bourgeois capitalism?)
And when you listen to her music, the “buzz”–the vibrations, the harmonies and timbres–are actually very different than what people who don’t listen mainstream hip-hop influenced pop think this music sounds like. Instrumentally, “Royals” is very, very stripped down piece–just some snapping fingers, a basic drum machine loop, and some vocal harmonizations and bass notes in the chorus. Its folky minimalism starkly contrasts with dub/trap/EDM maximalism. (Even though it is totally consistent with similarly minimalist hip hop—just think about Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”.)
Lorde and her followers don’t crave the buzz of rattling bass, wobbly drops, or maxed-out textures. The “buzz” this song asks us to crave is vocal harmonization. The musical climaxes of the song are built by layering in more and more harmonizing female voices to the ends of lines in the chorus. If mainstream, hip-hop influenced pop has made traditional tonal harmony obsolete (rejecting it in favor of soars and drops), Lorde’s “Royals” re-centers it. (Again, I’m not saying that tonality is absent in contemporary pop–I’m arguing that from the perspective adopted in “Royals,” that appears to be the case.) In this way, “Royals” offers us white female bodies vibrating in harmony, not synths or AutoTuned vocals. Its musical pleasure is (supposedly) “in the flesh,” whereas mainstream pop is, like diamond engagement rings, an inherently screen/tech-mediated experience. (Obviously, it takes a lot of bad faith to buy “Royals” argument–it’s no less mediated or more “in the flesh” than any other song on the radio or YouTube.) So, the use of harmony and harmonization–which can and has been thought of as stereotypically “white,” especially when contrasted with stereotypically rhythm-oriented Afro-diasproic music–is a way to dis-identify with two different aspects of mainstream pop music: its blackness, on the one hand, and its tech/capital alienation, on the other. One implication here is that some kinds of black culture are vulgar and unruly because they can’t sufficiently moderate the use/effects of technology.
In the song, some precious ueber-femmy white girl singing about how “we” disidentify with mainstream hip hop culture and its blinged-out aesthetics. (Insofar as hip hop culture is stereotypically hypermasculine in a distinctly racialized way, the singer’s performance of white femininity is itself a dis-identificatory gesture.) Here, implicitly black (often masculine) hip hop culture represents mainstream bourgeois society, its norms and values. So the way to critique The Man is by situating yourself in opposition to representations of blackness. This gender and race dynamic flips more traditional scripts, in which white guys disidentify with mainstream white bourgeois culture by identifying with black subcultural aesthetics (from blues to bebop to rock to hip hop to jungle).
“Royals” shows that this disidentificatory work is now women’s work. It’s not prestigious work, like conventional male hipsterism (think of Mailer’s “White Negro” essay); it’s “second-shift” style feminized labor, like cleaning up messes always is. White women, in performing their white femininity, do the political work of multi-racial white supremacy. They devalue and reject the aspects of blackness that are still too unruly to be folded into multi-racial white supremacist patriarchy.
is this a joke
Hits the nail on the head. Lorde claims to criticise materialism but of course it’s okay for her, a white girl from Takapuna, to own nice things. God forbid hip-hop artists (mostly from working class POC backgrounds) sing to appreciate what they’ve never had growing up. No postcode envy, yo, poser.
This is hilarious. And so misguided. Please tell me it’s satire. Has to be.
You’re overthinking it. “Lorde” comes from New Zealand, which still has Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. She singing about actual royalty.
This has to be satire – real feminists and cultural theorists aren’t this stupid.
In the meantime, Queen Beas exists outside your narrow worldview – here is one : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatrix_of_the_Netherlands
Others have brought up the New Zealand thing, but, FYI, at last census less than 1% of people in the whole of New Zealand identified their ethnic group as “Middle Eastern/Latin American/African” (and yes, that is one tick box on the census form). I would find it weird for a New Zealander to write up the narrative of an American song in terms of what it says about Pākeha / Māori relations – i.e. cultural groupings that mean nothing to Americans.
I interpreted the narrative of the song as simply being that of a teenager on one side of the world distancing herself from the aspirations of a genuinely foreign pop culture from the other side of the world.
Yeah, as a NZer, that’s exactly how I read it too. This ‘white-supremacist’ reading wholly ignores the actual cultural conditions from which this song (an its teenage singer) has sprung. I heard someone in an interview yesterday saying that they felt that the US’s biggest export was image and media culture, and this seems to be a commentary more on that, and how baffling and even irrelevant it can be, from and outside perspective, rather than a sophisticated takedown of (or racist attack on) something specifically, culturally and regionally (African-)American.
Yep, also a NZer and a non-white one generally down with cultural analysis of race issues… I thought this was an interesting article, but perhaps misplaced in the context of a teenage New Zealand Pakeha girl. I too read the lyrics as being about an Antipodean, ‘edge of the universe’ outer colonies distance from the dominance of American commercialised pop-culture in general, springing from the good-ol’ Pakeha identity mythos of New Zealand egalitarianism; something that American cultural critics do not really understand, or for the most part, even realise exists. Not to mention the specific post-colonial context with regard to references to ‘Royals’… I mean, the Queen of England is still actually the Queen of New Zealand. You guys know this right?
I’ve heard that people are being specially trained to generate this kind of piffle and present it with a straight face. Seems hard to believe. Would be better satire if it was more succinct, reads like self-parody as it is.
NZ twitter is already raking you over the coals but I’d just reiterate that the structure of your argument is not really transformed by the unique context of reception in New Zealand, as from my pov the race/class dynamic of white appropriation and disidentification is exactly the same. Maori/Pacific adoption of US hip-hop culture in NZ is a distinct case, but perhaps no more or less different than the different appropriations of hip-hop within different parts of the US.
The ability of white NZ to recode its discomfort in nationalist terms of anti-Americanism perhaps relates to Spivak’s adoption of Freud’s use of foreclosure: in foreclosure “the ego rejects the incompatible idea together with the affect and behaves as if the idea had never occurred to the ego at all”. The rejected affect can then be attached to any idea, the more abstract and morally whitewashed the better. So recoding anxiety about brown people as anti-imperial anti-consumerism is a national pastime in the commercial mass media, further displacing the class identification that was in my view central to hip-hop’s emergence in NZ.
The last thing that came to mind is that I’m not sure that the disidentificatory work is only “now” women’s work. I see the patriarchal discourse of woman as culture-bearer as more of a continuity – and this is a reason the industry people “discovered” her, her role in the game pre-exists her particular expression of it. I don’t think you intended to divorce the event from that past but it just reads a little that way at the end.
Thanks again for the post, it did help me listen to what is happening in the track more carefully!
“The ability of white NZ to recode its [racial] discomfort in nationalist terms of anti-Americanism” – gold teeth, sure, but I’m puzzled as to why things like private jets, islands, high-end watches and champagne are being decoded as racially specific signifiers of hip hop aspirationalism (or an unruly racial Other), rather than hallmarks of the excessive consumption endorsed by pop culture more widely — especially given that the tendency to point out feet of clay (and cut down tall poppies) seems to be a keen part of the New Zealand mindset. These sorts of things shout Donald Trump myth-making or even “Desperate Housewives of Beverly Hills” as much as they do anything else, and even by starting off with a mention of diamond rings and movies offers the context of the illusion of classical Hollywood glamour. You can happily close-read all day, and there is no doubt something to be said about class and femininity here, but statements like this – “One implication here is that some kinds of black culture are vulgar and unruly because they can’t sufficiently moderate the use/effects of technology” – read like a pretty wilful, agenda-driven account that goes well beyond the resonances of intention, creation, distribution and consumption of popular cultural texts.
nicely put I am with you on that.
Lol this has gotta be a troll
The logic is faulty, the foundation assumptions broad and circular, the musical analysis in terms of aligning harmony firmly with white and atonality with black is a joke! Listened to any gospel lately? I could go on and on, ….and probably will. My first gut reaction was OH God FUCKUP. Rejecting all of that crap isn’t racist!
New Zealand is part of the British Commonwealth , its a MONARCHY. with a Real Queen, bombarded by tidal waves of ridiculous overblown mainstream hip hop glitz in a country that has a strong hip hop culture but no money, and the lyrics are a reaction to that – a response to foreign tabloid media spectacle, Its a rejection of both monarchic hierarchy and ridiculous/ conspicuous consumption.
You should have learnt a bit about New Zealand culture before you wrote this. Over here we don’t have an abundance of wealthy families and areas. We have virtually no mega celebrities living here. All of the riches we hear about across most mainstream music (definitely not just hip-hop) that play in our clubs and on our radios here in NZ are just really foreign to us.
Plus not all the materials Lorde talks about in her song belong to African-American hip-hop culture. I haven’t heard A$AP Rocky or Beyonce singing about “ball gowns” lately.
I think you over-analyzed this to a ridiculous degree and your writing was pretty poor. She is a 16 year old baby from Takapuna. I can guarantee you her life in New Zealand was not glamorous. While she does benefit from white privilege, belonging to a New Zealand identity can make it a lot damn harder to get worldwide recognition especially at 16. It just doesn’t happen, Lorde is the first and it wouldn’t surprise me if she was the last.
Hi – like others I was brought here by twitter. I’m lost by your reasoning, & I don’t understand how it is you are conflating the specific (a white teenage girl from Auckland not identifying with the conspicuous consumption evident in some areas of American hip hop, to the tune of some stripped back beats, all produced for no money in a corner office) with the general (racism: covert,overt, institutional & otherwise). Can you unpack that bit further, please?
Thanks from NZ
Well, I gather this caused a bit of a dust-up, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t want to go back to it, but if you do, two things I think are worth exploring more:
1. The role of naivete in pop music. I might go so far as to say her (the songwriter’s) obliviousness to the racial politics of the American-cultural-export signifiers is part of the carefully crafted image. If I couldn’t look past cringe-worthy lyrics in order to take in the attempted sentiment/mood, I couldn’t listen to, say, Joy Division.
(I mean, “Cadillacs in our dreams?” come on. Your reaction/rejection to theatrical consumerism, racialized or not, is more, remediated, consumerism? That is impressively dumb. It transforms the whole thing into a game of detecting evidence of a smirk behind that doe-eyed blank face.)
2. The manner in which this release was done by UMG. Here’s my own obliviousness: I heard about it via word of mouth in March or April, found a tiny little website that looked like some friend who was “good with computers” made it, nowhere to buy except iTunes (don’t use iTunes, so I didn’t cop the metadata), and mentally filed it under “cute indie, liable to blow up”. Almost played it on my radio show. Then months later I see the video come out and it’s on fucking VEVO. Oh. Huh. Reminds me of the Macklemore thing.
Also. I looked around for some other reactions that I remembered seeing, and this one from Reddit’s “electronicmusic” forum is really something: http://www.reddit.com/r/electronicmusic/comments/1ltiyl/16_year_old_girl_makes_me_feel_useless_lorde/cc2sgw5
I guess I should clarify the connection between #1 and #2. Conspiracy theory time! What if the whole point of this is for a US-based major to go and colonialize someone who doesn’t have a “sophisticated” understanding of US, to use your wording, multi-racial white supremacy, and then sell it back to US customers so they can feel better about their ignorance re: same?
I mean, I’m not entirely serious here, but, hey, who knows.
I feel like Lorde is more likely rejecting the exoticised ideas of blackness created by the white supremacist patriarchy than, as you put it, rejecting black culture altogether. Imagine how offensive it would be if she was partaking in the kind of naive minstrelsy that white people in Australia/NZ often perform in misguided attempts to celebrate black culture. Instead, she’s actually trying to be honest to her experience as against that of a distant and inaccessible world, only ever experienced in a secondary and mediated way.
I think your article needs to bring in your own positionality as author of the article and also that of the 16 year female songwriter. In my reading you are eager to point out critical representations of racism in Lorde’s popular music, and you are also more-than-ready to claim signifiers of black hip-hop anticolonial essentialism (bling, overconsumption, rhythmic, non-harmonic music etc) as universals. From the other side Lorde writes as a 16yr old white girl from a middle class suburb in NZ. She writes critically about overconsumption and celebrity, while acknowledging the nihilism of her own position in global consumerism/culture–and asserts that she doesnt have to buy into it. Its all too easy to critique Lorde by saying she is a privileged white middle class girl (Danielle). But she has every right to write critically about consumer culture in popular music and follow musical forms that represent her position (anti over undulgence, choral girl from high school). You can follow your chain of signifiers to the point of claiming racism, sure, but in doing so you obscure the positionality of the other. The problem with your approach is you ignore the complexity of racism in global culture and the slippery-ness of musical signifiers as they pass from one genre to another (or even within genres).
This essay clearly illustrates the bold assumptions that Americans have over ‘their’ cultural production. That the author saw something that ‘looked’ like it was born of American culture and so claimed it as such.
To say some obvious things I feel need to be said anyway, the language used (as well as being illogical in terms of reasoning) is emotionally driven. By choosing words that carry with them other meanings the author is generating power for her (white (privileged (Lorde-esque (projecting much??))) self.
The writing here attacks the ‘author’ of the song (so which is it? racism as “ingrained in the fabric and system of the American society (wiki)” or is the individual to ‘blame’??) – who happens to be 16 years old. Don’t call her a fucking racist. Not only is this kind of writing a form of hate mongering, but its just plain mean (as well as wholly ignorant). She’s a 16 year old girl who wrote her own song and if you think this kind personal autobiographical information is irrelevant in the face of systemic racism then you have no respect for the human experience regardless of ethnicity or race.
‘Royals’ is a song about making a narrative out of not being rich. I’d like to see what kind of pop song you would have written at age 15, but if this is your output at age 30+ I’m guessing it wouldn’t have been as nuanced (or as catchy!).
My pov is that this essay is socially irresponsible, and possibly counter to the reasons you study and write about what you do. Please take more care to consider cultural conditions outside of the US next time you decide to ‘decode’ popular culture for us all.
Your statement about harmony is hypocritical: it is a circular argument. Can you truly be saying that now, if a white musician uses harmony that they are being racist because they are not basing their music on rhythm?
“So, the use of harmony and harmonization–which can and has been thought of as stereotypically “white,” especially when contrasted with stereotypically rhythm-oriented Afro-diasproic music–is a way to dis-identify with two different aspects of mainstream pop music: its blackness, on the one hand, and its tech/capital alienation, on the other….The “buzz” this song asks us to crave is vocal harmonization. “
Have you listened to any black hip-hop lately and analyzed the chromatic harmony and voice-leading? Have you been immune to the vocal harmonies in hip hop? Do you think that a New Zealander could be trying, or even capable of surpassing sonic Afro-modernity with her production personnel? Have you never heard Marilyn Monroe singing “diamonds are a girl’s best friend”? Are you defending the white supremacist hierarchy of a music industry that supports commercial capitalist hip hop and does not support conscious hip hop from the same artists? Do you even think that this song IS hip hop??? It would be wonderful to hear your thoughts used to shed a light on music, race and gender, as it sad to see someone trying to divide white and black women in this way and attempting to use music to do so.
“I’m not proud of my address” and “no post code envy” is really strange given that Lorde/Ella lives in one of the richest suburbs of all New Zealand (Devonport/Bayswater). Good luck with finding a house for sale under $1 million in that area. I also don’t get her line “We count our dollars on the train to the party” because there is no train line where she lives – there are no train lines on the entire North Shore. However, there is a train line that runs from Auckland city across to the poorer areas of Auckland via some rich areas but not the rich area that she lives in. Also, Lorde/Ella goes to a decile 10 school near her house. NZ schools are ranked on their socio-economic status 1 being the bottom, 10 at the top. Lorde’s parents are multimillionaires (gained prior to her musical success).
So you’re saying a 16 yo girl from a rich white family isn’t allowed to write a song about someone who isn’t? You don’t think that David Bowie as really an astronaut named Major Tom who got lost in space right? It’s art, there’s no rules.
Actually it is utterly conceivable that Lorde would stay with a friend on the South shore of the Waitemata, spend her pocket money on takeaways, then be grubbing for coins on the train to get back into town and catch a bus or ferry back to the North Shore. There is a decent public transport system across all of Auckland and it is safe enough for kids to use on their own.
Lorde’s family may be comfortable but I don’t think she has a limo that drives her everywhere.
Very interesting stuff last post. I checked out what you were saying and you’re 100% correct. Her house in Bayswater has a government valuation of $1,575,000. In real value it is worth around $1.8 million – $2 million in the current market. Her father is Managing Director of Geotechnics and is a Director of Tonkin & Taylor. She is definitely a rich white girl.
Firstly, they’re probably mortgaged to the hilt. And secondly, that’s still not wealthy compared to the uber-wealthy Americans the song is talking about. Yeah, she comes from a relatively middle-upper class family but since when does that mean she can’t write a song talking about the diamond-studded celebrity of America? It doesn’t.
Keep on keepin’ on.
The truly transgressive act, for anyone of any background, is to write a great song.
Possibly the silliest thing in this analysis (and that’s saying something) is its equation of harmony and tonal qualities with white privilege. I’m guessing the author hasn’t heard any indigenous music from the South Pacific.
I think this blog post may have been generated using some kind of algorithm that searches first-year sociology essays online, picks out the weirdest shit people think then randomly stitches them together for academic comedy value.
‘In this way, “Royals” offers us white female bodies vibrating in harmony, not synths or AutoTuned vocals.” So, let’s get this right, Royals is wrong because the female bodies are white and because they (whoever they are) vibrate without electronic assistance. So being able to sing has become a racist act. And this drivel was written by an associate professor of philosophy.
We are doomed, I tell you, doomed.
Saw this in the comments:
“I’m puzzled as to why things like private jets, islands, high-end watches and champagne are being decoded as racially specific signifiers of hip hop aspirationalism (or an unruly racial Other), rather than hallmarks of the excessive consumption endorsed by pop culture more widely — “
I’d tend to agree. Is not the underlying assumption here that bling equivocates to blackness, but the questionable theoretical move you make is that rejecting bling necessarily means rejecting blackness? It could just as equally be read as anticapitalist. That blackness is hand-in-hand with capitalism creates a complex scenario where a black/white analysis of racism no longer stands. I think Paul Gilroy in Between Camps might be of some assistance here. While you rightly point out that bling is challenged in some mainstream hip-hop, in your analysis do these artifacts of conspicuous consumption symbolize blackness or capitalism, or both? Of course, not all blackness needs to be subsumed under capitalism: there are multiple blacknesses. As another commentator pointed out, conscious hip-hop, denied mainstream distribution, critiques the same all the time. Check Dead Prez. Likewise, Afrofuturist hip-hop, techno, electro music etc also explicitly rejects or deconstructs bling (as well as representational forms of capitalism). In many respects the lyrics to this song wouldn’t be that far off, for example, from a contemporary Chuck D or Killah Priest lyric, or Kentyah Fraser’s New Midnight Band project featuring M1 and Dead Prez.
As for the musicological associations (harmony = white, rhythm=black) I think this reinforces rather than questions musici-raciological essentialisms. Such patterns are global now anyway, so the distinction is truly near impossible to make. Is not the presumption here that this song is hip-hop to begin with, somehow, and thus somehow subverting hip-hop with harmony? Moreover, as many commentators have pointed out, hip-hop is many things and r’n’b has harmony everywhere (note gospel and jazz) as well as hip-hop choruses. Nor would I characterize the style of this song as hip-hop: there is no flow that signifies over a beat. The minimalist structure also cannot be read as essentially white. Minimalism abounds in Afrofuturist electronic forms as well as the European musical electronic tradition. There’s simply no exclusive ground given that various musical forms are thoroughly hybrid in the 21C to begin with. If anything, the pace and harmony of this song reminds me of gospel; if anything it owes its structure to classic r’n’b; but it also signifies various other Eurocentric and NZ traditions.
That said there is something to be said what you’re saying — the observations are useful — but I think what it reveals is a hybridity, a complexity, and a thoroughly ambiguous play of race, capital, and representation, given what other commentators have correctly pointed out concerning the NZ context and the export image of US pop culture capitalism that does not lend itself to the simplism of a black/white analysis. In the end this is a theoretical divide within studies of raciology and evidently my lean is toward the likes of Gilroy, Spivak, Bhabha in reading cultural artifacts.
I remember reading her comment about Spring Breakers and finding it amateur at best. I looked up her faculty page and she is almost what you would think: a priviledged white woman who writes “essays”(loose term) and “blogposts”(trivial writing she thinks passes as serious ideas and discussions) about racial issues and thinks she is representing the people she writes about. She is a racist and a rather poor one at that, because she fails to see the fact that she actually is one. Her consumerism is black culture thing has to be the most racist example of an oblivious, ignorant white person trying to speak for the black experience since Kant. I say that as an African American man and one who has read philosophy. I am glad other people are on here calling this out then the clueless members who are in here and are obviously students and friends.
I call bullshit. I can name fifty black hip hop artists that eschew populist, luxury culture way more aggressively than Lorde does. Attaching the ideals and materialist aspirations that “Royals” undermines to the hip hop world and black artists is the only racist association going on here. The problems with this article are too many to name..
This has got to be an awesome parody, right?
I mean, there’s nobody out there who really beleives that Lorde picked her stage name in an “ironic” reference to Audre Lorde as part of an intricate scheme to tip people off that one of the songs she went on to sing was secretly racist.
This is actually a really clever parody.
Definition : The opposite of Traitor
Your objection to loyalty is what, exactly ?
Lorde is of Irish/Croation descent. She has an Asian boyfriend. She’s 16, She’s a multicultural young woman from multicultural Aotearoa. The Irish were known as the Blacks of Europe. It’s a great song that has got people talking. She expresses solidarity with her friends (which could be seen as part of a Marxist collectivist tradition) rather than obsessing about being individually succesful materially or romantically which are typical themes of capitalist popular music She’s not playing a sex slave or sex object, so should be celebrated by feminists. Her playful fantasy of ruling as a queen bee has a matriarchal buzz to it and celebrates female power . She’s no subdued feminine doing the work for anyone . Having material security and a mother who is a poet may have helped her to have the confidence to express herself but the tone of her song is, to me, progressive; and not about reinforcing oppressive structures of inequality, but of rejecting them. She would hear the music as coming from overseas, and compare the stories in the songs to her own life, hence the song. I can see how her song could be read differently by some in the USA. But in the end the USA is just one corner of the world.
I do not agree with your analysis, but I was interested in the response it provoked in these comments. For some time now I have been trying to identify exactly why people disagreeing with each other can lead to such vitriolic and snarky things being posted when the posters could easily have just closed the page and forgotten about it, since this article is only one in a sea of critiques on the subject.
I have come to the conclusion that when we see something, we make a judgement of how “legitimate” it is, and many posters feel the need for legitimacy to such a degree that we forget it is a personal and subjective matter. In short, trying to establish a baseline from which we can all establish what is more and what is less legitimate often blinds us to the fact that it is a manufactured concept. I wonder if you would agree with this given your assertions of what black and white culture represent, but I hope that rather then view these many comments as “attacks” on the legitimacy of your article, people might consider how this need to be “correct” can lead to such animosity towards someone who they have never met.
I like your blog, yet i never leave without the uneasy feeling that you are perhaps too fond, and too protective of, a set of pop music multi-millionaires who take care of themselves just fine. Does poptimism lead anywhere else but power worship?
Anonymous, I have long debated as to whether she is a parody of this type of scholarship. I do not think that is the case. She is a oblivious white person who can seemingly only relate to black people through pop music. It sounds amateurish because it is. Has she honestly never heard of the term Queen Bee and thinks it is about Beyoncé? Does she really think the name is supposed to be Ironic? She is a clueless, hack academic who does not understand how to construct arguments about the issues and topics she wants to discuss. As a black man she offends me with her form of oblivious, racial arguments. She sounds like a clueless white society woman in the 1800’s who thinks she understands black culture and black people because people at tea parties think she sounds interesting.
This is satire, right? Poking fun at the ridiculous contortions and mental gymnastics that white, middle-class, po-mo, sociology majors put themselves through to demonstrate that they’re, like, totally not racist at all. It has to be… Sokal is that you?
Assuming it’s not:
I love how you equate the mainstream, bling-heavy, materialist, occasionally hip hop-laden pop of the last decade or so with ALL African Americans! As though that’s the sum total of our culture. I mean, American music IS black music, from blues, to jazz, to gospel (there’s your non-white harmony, btw) to hip hop. That you associate one of the more distasteful aspects of a small subset of a subset of a subset of black culture (ie, some recent mainstream pop hip hop) with all black people is, funnily enough, RACIST AS FUCK!
The Last Poets, fe, were critical of this “party and bullshit” capitalist mantra long before Lorde started complaining about it, btw.
Whether it’s blacks or whites propagating it, the materialism endemic in modern pop, and, yes, hip hop, culture IS bullshit. The ideals and aspirations espoused by many current hip hop artists ARE fundamentally awful. And stating as much, regardless of your skin color, ISN’T racist. Also, let’s not forget that it’s almost entirely white record executives who push this stuff in the first place.
PS: Charlamagne Tha God ripped into Yeezy for the very same reasons (excessive materialism in hip hop) just recently:
“Why do you talk so much about money nowadays, man? I used to look at you as, like, a real revolutionary. You know real revolutionaries didn’t need money to change the world?”
“You do realize that [sneakers] are not why we love you? We love you ’cause of the music, bruh.”
The truth is the truth regardless of your skin colour (or what your postmodernism prof told you)