BOOGIE NIGHTS: DIANA ROSS AT STUDIO 54 | I LOVE THE 70s
Diana Ross shaking it on the dance floor at Studio 54 night club in Manhattan, NYC circa 1974
Look at this picture of Diana Ross having the best time.
Download brown queer DJ, choreographer, and hairstylist [X]P's FMC mix to help keep you dancing through the week. Capitalism might try to delineate the uses of our bodies to arbitrary time boundaries—to dance on the weekend/sit at desks during the week—but our bodies know better! Moving our feet, heads, shoulders as we're on the train, in the car, as we move through the world in all of our ways, helps keep us alive.
Really interested in how [X]P has interpreted femcee here—his abbreviation “FMC” reflects this creativity. Traditional rappers meet up with artists who enunciate with energy, joy, power, and sometimes something a little nasty (in all of nasty’s wonderful connotations).
Le Tigre makes me feel strange feelings these days (their participation in transphobic MichFest sitting in my heart along with treasures like “Les and Ray,” such a role model anthem) but I think the mix is complicated, too, not made of entirely easy, upbeat dance hits. It asks for a little mental energy, but it gives a lot back.
The FMC mix is listed and can be DLed on Soundcloud via the link below:
You Know You Like It (Dj Snake Remix) x Aluna George
Doo Wop (Deebs Bootleg) x Lauryn Hill
Bed Breaker x Kid Sister
Esta Noche x Azealia Banks
Dagga x Roxxanne
Baile Esta Cumbia (Boyfriends & DJ Chop-E Texas Tag Team Twerk Remix) x Selena
Lose My Breath x Destiny’s Child
Tell Em (Diplo Remix) x Sleigh Bells
You Ain’t Gotta Like Me x Sasha Go Hard
Pour It Higher ([X]P mashup) x Rihanna vs Angel Haze
Die Hard x Bebe O’Hare
Bad Bitches ft. Ester Dean x Cassie
I’m Legit (feat. Ciara) x Nicki Minaj
Earthquake (feat. Dominique Young Unique) x Diplo
Bow Down (I Been On) x Beyonce
Decepticon x Le Tigre
Get Ur Freak On x Missy Elliott
To The Girls Feat. Le1ff x Angel Haze
yeah, i might’ve read a recap of your post that included the “well, she’s an equal opportunity hater of excess” read. but i don’t think it’s the same. putting “ballgowns” and “trashing hotel rooms” in the same line doesn’t really signify a singular culture the way that the lines about hip hop do. ballgowns are for who, every celebrity? mostly actresses i guess? trashing hotel rooms could be traced to punk and rock, sure (and also hip hop). but trashing hotel rooms doesn’t marry as cohesively with ballgowns as the bulk of the lyrics which snipe at hip hop (black) culture.
so maaaybe there’s one line in the whole song that might suggest she has grievances that are more general. even so, those critiques seems way less demeaning. the hip hop lines are about alcohol, drugs, and owning things. the “white culture” lines are about dressing up and partying, doing things. even when she sort of jabs at white celebrity excess, those celebrities still get some agency.
most of all, the way that black male signifiers are used really strikes me as hurtful. how many times have white women been positioned against the black male savage? there’s a history there that i find hard to ignore.
There are some really thoughtful pieces circulating today on Lily Allen’s new “satirical” twerk video, “Hard Out Here [for a Bitch].” I want to engage with those for a moment because what’s happening in the video is tricky and harmful in that “you can’t prove it” kind of way that racist things so often are, and that’s worth addressing. I also want to dig into a specific kind of sloppy consciousness raising that white women performers, especially, have been ignoring for baffling amounts of time (Madonna’s use of black bodies to establish her sexuality as transgressive, the Spice Girls shouting “girl power” while calling the woman of color in the group “Scary,” Miley’s twerking, Gwen Stefani’s bindis, our list of “transgressive” transgressors grows).
Jamilah King at Colorlines and Mia McKenzie at Black Girl Dangerous both have astute posts on the use of black women’s bodies in Lily Allen’s self-proclaimed “lighthearted satirical video that deals with objectification of women within modern pop culture,” which, somehow, “has nothing to do with race, at all.”
[Video above: Lily Allen, “Hard Out Here [for a Bitch]”]
As McKenzie points out, talking about the objectification of women while also claiming to not talk about race doesn’t quite sit right because “my feminism includes black women.” This sloppy glass ceiling anthem (which, aside from lyrics, is not very good as a song) fails to be satirical because it reinforces the status quo in both the video and then Allen’s follow-up. By ignoring race, Allen failed to deliver her purported consciousness-raising message. She doesn’t understand that race and gender and objectification must be discussed together, can’t be separated. Or worse, she doesn’t care that her message, as is, can only be meant for white ears.
Using black women’s bodies to condemn the way the generic “bitch” is expected to perform seems to miss a greater point we might have learned from intersectional and Afrocentric feminists—that exploitation is especially pernicious, complicated, and harmful when we consider not only gender, but also race, class, sexuality, disability, size, age… Lily Allen’s video and defensive blog post miss this crucial point—and that’s easy when you are a white woman who believes twerking and the tropes of music video culture have “nothing to do with race at all.”
By asking her back-up dancers to perform Rihanna’s signature pussy pat as “satire,” Lily Allen is also condemning the behavior of one of the world’s most influential black performers. Are we meant to believe that Rihanna doesn’t understand the meaning of her own performance? Lily Allen needs to step in and prevent this exploitation, explain oppression to a black woman? Rihanna isn’t actively thoughtful and purposeful when she does this move on every leg of her worldwide tour? (Let’s be real, Rihanna’s done some questionable cultural appropriation and had probably never heard of BDS when she played in Israel (Palestine) last month. But consciousness of performing gender and sexuality have never been in question to me.)
In addition to the use of black women’s bodies in Lily Allen’s video, I want to pause on a line from the song:
"I won’t be bragging bout my cars or talking bout my chains."
This seemingly anti-consumerist sentiment manages to enrage me. It irritates me in the same way that Lorde’s lyrics fill me with incredible anger and feelings of isolation at odds with her “we’ll never be royals” everyperson lyrics.
[Video above: Lorde, “Royals”]
"But every song’s like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin in the bathroom"
"We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams."
Both of these songs work on a “I’m not” “I won’t” “I don’t” structure. The singers create themselves against something they find unpleasant, immoral, and they seek to create community based on a shared distaste for this other. Lily Allen formulates lyrics that negate in order to separate herself from an exploitative, sexist entertainment industry. Lorde does so in order to identify her class identity, her lack of money, her ability to have fun without living a “luxe” lifestyle. I’m against exploitation and oppression, but I’m also dissatisfied with these songs.
My problem with this consciousness raising commentary is that they’re winking at their audience, and the people they’re winking at are inherently other white people. In order to explore their identities as women and middle class subjects, respectively, Allen and Lorde identify and position themselves against elements of rap/hip-hop culture that they paint as extravagant, materialistic, and therefore negative. Instead of criticizing racism as one of the many systems that keep us oppressed, they grab on to patriarchy or classism alone (Veronica Bayetti Flores got plenty of pushback when she wrote about this phenomenon). And maybe a narrow focus could be ok, under the right circumstances—but they brought race into it.
"Chains" and "gold teeth" have become ubiquitous in music video culture—that is, in hip hop culture, which dominates the music industry at least, if not a good deal of our so-called American culture. And sure, it is tempting to criticize a culture that seems dominant, that seems pervasive. The catch is that this culture is dominant at the same time that the artists who created and are associated with this culture experience their own kind of oppression—racism. And while I am probably a misandrist much of the time nowadays, I want to be careful not to give license to bash all men as if they are the same—I believe that these chains and gold teeth are specifically referring to black men, that these songs are tied to a sloppy form of misandry that forgets that black men experience a particular kind of racism, one that is tied to their gender as well as their race.
This is not to say we can’t critique hip hop (or parts of it), but rather to say that Lily Allen and Lorde’s critiques are shallow and lack nuance. They forget that while Kanye is one of the most famous musicians in the world, the man lacks power. When Kanye says “Rap is the new rock and roll…We the rock stars, and I’m the biggest of them all,” we might imagine Lily Allen criticizing Kanye’s use of background dancers, his extravagance. We hear Lorde criticizing his materialism, his love of Cristal. Allen and Lorde will make sure to put Kanye back in his place because his choices, his ideas of success, are unpalatable to their sensibilities, to their white feminist/class consciousness.
"And we’ll never be royals (royals)
It don’t run in our blood
That kind of luxe just ain’t for us”
Lorde sings about not having royal blood, about luxe not being “for us.” She implies that she lacks access to the lineage that would bring a luxurious (hip hop) lifestyle. What she forgets is that wealth is not inherently attached to the music video ideals she finds out of reach. Hip hop culture is itself aspirational, a fantasy that has been created and recreated both by artists and by listeners who conceptualize their personal version of this fantasy. The “us” in “that kind of luxe just ain’t for us,” is made up of Lorde and her friends in their “torn-up town,” but we might extend that inclusive “us” to the rappers she criticizes, who are notorious (big pun intended (both times)) for coming from torn-up neighborhoods.
In her attempt to establish her credibility as a middle class subject, Lorde pushes against “tigers on a gold leash” and other symbols of wealth and success in hip hop, but we all know that tigers do not belong on gold leashes. Hip hop videos are notably over the top and that’s not because these artists lack class consiousness. They fabricate scenarios of excess and in doing so they emphasize their own creations. They show us that success and power are created ideals and they congratulate themselves for their accomplishments, for imagining things that others may never even consider. Seen over and over, of course, these images may become just more diamonds, more swag, more bling. Let’s be real, hearing “Money, money, money, money” repeated over again as lyrics can seem consumerist and troubling. But to list signifiers of hip hop culture—particularly signifiers of status—in order to quickly establish oneself in contrast feels selfish, even cruel.
Yeah, Lorde covers Kanye, yeah I read she loves Drake, and yeah she’s being played on R&B stations. At some point these details start to sound like “I’ve got a black friend” logic to me. Allen and Lorde bemoan hip hop culture and yet utilize its innovations in their own music—from rapping to emphasizing casual slang to the very anti-hip hop lyrics that form an “other” for them to establish their subjectivity against. They take the elements that suit their purposes and criticize the rest—this is cultural appropriation in all of its messy glory. I’m not trying to silence these women, but I do want to ask for more than this. I want to say I’m angry, to say I’m hurt, when artists are willing to ignore—even sacrifice—race consciousness in their attempts to address an isolated, white-focused oppression.
[Video above: Janet Jackson, “Rhythm Nation”]
Lily Allen and Lorde divide themselves into a specific kind of “us” in order to create their consciousness movements, but politically-leaning pop does not have to be so simple. Janet Jackson proposed an inclusive “we” over two decades ago with “Rhythm Nation.” Grappling with “social injustice,” she explicitly asks to “break the color lines.”
"Let’s work together
to improve our way of life”
While it is a lyrically rosy song at times (“A generation full of courage/Come forth with me”) it is also an intensely performed song, and the signature look appropriates militant nationalism for her music-based revolution. (This is where appropriation is acceptable, in my mind—when marginalized people take that which oppresses them.) Jackson moreover asks, invites, and questions (“Are we looking for a better way of life?”). Most heartening to me, she acknowledges how hard this process is, and she leans on community.
"This is the test
No struggle, no progress.”
Lorde is right to say that certain things “ain’t for [her]”—the last thing we need is another Miley twerking fiasco, more gold teeth on young white women. But I am interested in how we might move from her “we don’t care” attitude—a kind of apathy, if not dismissal—to Jackson’s urgent near-scream: “It’s time to give a damn/Let’s work together/Come on.”
Increasingly I am afraid that we are giving passes to simplistic, individualistic art. It is easier to make and to consume, just as it is easier to separate our oppressions, to pretend that their intersections do not exist. It is easy, too, to disengage. But I believe in struggle, in the worthiness of our complex lives. There is beauty in the effort.
Listen to: EX HEX by EX HEX
Mary Timony’s new band makes me want to listen to rock and rollllllllllllllll
In a blog post this week, Imogen Binnie had some really important stuff to say about the queer “community” and its treatment of trans women and about glorifying heroes who have done fucked up things without acknowledging those fucked up things (ie, how so so many people worship Kathleen Hanna but neglect to address the fact that Le Tigre played Michfest twice, thereby tacitly endorsing the WBW policy and have never apologized, Queen Kathleen included.)
Read the full piece here. Seriously, go now. This piece is part of her work with Maximum Rocknroll. You can read more of those columns on her blog and can also check out the zines she has written via her Etsy store. Additionally, she is the author of Nevada, a novel recently published by Topside Press, an independent press dedicated to publishing authentic transgender narratives.