Monday, August 31, 2009

Black British man attacked in Germany by neo-Nazi thugs

The Europa Passage shopping centre in Hamburg. A black British man has been beaten up in the city
A black British man is recovering after being attacked in front of his wife and child by neo-Nazi thugs in Germany. The incident took place on Saturday the 24th of August.

The 46-year-old unidentified man, believed to be from London, was in a baker’s shop in the port city of Hamburg on Saturday when thugs from the National Democratic Party approached him with leaflets calling for a ban on immigration.

'Here, take one of these with you back where you belong,' they said to him as he stood with his wife and four-year-old son.

They say the man ripped the pamphlet up and the men then pushed the Briton against a glass window. One man punched him while another sprayed pepper spray in his eyes.

Three suspects were apprehended later and prosecutors are now investigating them on suspicion of causing bodily harm.

The British man , who has not been named, was treated in a hospital and released.

An eyewitness said: 'The wife was screaming for them to leave her husband alone but they just heaped more racial abuse on her as her little boy screamed ‘leave my daddy alone!’ It was vicious and unprovoked.' Read the full article here

In the German newspaper Sueddeutsche this was written about the attack:
"The 46-year-old victim lived, according to the police in Hamburg, but has British citizenship. The man was standing with his wife and his little son at a bakery stand, where at that moment tree men in age of 23, 33, 43 were handing out flyers of the NDP.

When the Britton tore up the paper, it first came to a quiet conversation. Then however, the trio, according to police pushed him against the glass window of the bakery stand.

One of the suspects repeatedly struck him with his fist on his chest, another repeatedly sprayed pepper spray into his eyes.

After the attack, the men fled. But shortly after the attack the police arrested the men in the vicinity of the crime scene. After the police took their id, there were set free. A special German crime investigation department will determine bodily harm."

It's very strange that the attackers, according to the German newspaper, were set free after the attack. But also strange is the fact that German Neo-Nazis can flyer in a private mall without being kicked out. Is this 2009 or 1935?

For more information also see the post on the German blog: Black in NRW blog

On the blog is a video of Mo Asumang, an Afro-German moderator and author, who for her the documentary Roots Germania interviewed an NDP front man. She made an appointment for the interview, but she didn’t say she was black.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Marriage License

MOBO Awards 2009 - Launch and Nominees (UK)

Photo: Kanya King at the launch party
The anual MOBO Awards 2009 will be held in Glasgow (Scotland) this year on wednesday 30th September 2009. The launch party was held on the 26th August in London.

The Music of Black Origin (MOBO) Awards, established in 1995 by Irish/Ghanaian Kanya King MBE and Andy Ruffell are held annually in the United Kingdom to recognise artists of any race or nationality performing black music.

This year 2009 is a success for UK black talent. Years ago founder Kanya King complained of the lack of recognition for black artist in UK. And not so long ago it was R&B singer Estelle who made comments about Duffy and Adele and music industry racism. But things have changed.

On her blog founder Kanya King writes:" 2009 has been a phenomenal year for UK music, and it’s so good to see UK talent being recognized in the charts. We’ve worked long and hard to get to this point where all these talented UK Artists are finally getting the mainstream success they so deserve. We only have to take a look at the chart positions of Tinchy, Chipmunk, Alexandra Burke, N Dubz this year to see how far MOBO music has come. This is what we’ve been striving for and I’m really happy that UK music is being so widely acknowledged and indeed, celebrated. You just have to look at the calibre of the Best UK Act category to see how strong the UK scene is at the moment! And check out Beverley’s reaction on our video clip when she hears that she’s been nominated - what a beautiful moment. And I’ve just been told it’s her 10th MOBO Nomination! Wow." Read her full story here


Alesha Dixon
Beverly Knight
Dizzee Rascal
DJ Ironik
Mr. Hudson
Tinchy Stryder

Alexandra Burke
Jade Ewen
Laura Izibor
Master Shortie

Beverly Knight
Keri Hilson

Dizzee Rascal
Kanye West

See full list on nominations here

Friday, August 28, 2009

Notting Hill Carnival 2009 (London)

Notting Hill Carnival always takes place during the last weekend in August, on the Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday so this year it will be on Sunday 30 August and Monday 31 August 2009.

The Notting Hill Carnival has been held on the August bank holiday since 1966, bringing the streets of west London alive with the sounds, costumes and smells of the Caribbean.

It started life as a local festival organised by the West Indian community in the area but has expanded into a full-blown Caribbean carnival attracting thousands of visitors from around the world.

The fun unofficially kicks off on Saturday with the steel band competition — the Steel Pan Panorama — in Hyde Park. But the official action takes place on Sunday and Monday. Proceedings will kick off at the new time of 9am to make sure that the floats get round the three-mile route from Great Western Road to Westbourne Grove and Ladbroke Grove in good time and that the parade is off the road by nightfall. Events end at 9pm on both days and sound systems at 7pm.

Sunday is traditionally children's day, with the emphasis on family and the parade reserved for young people under 21. The hardcore fun — with up to 40 static sound systems competing for attention as well as the adult's parade — takes place on Monday with partying continuing late into the night. Read the full story here

Notting Hill Carnival official website

To see videos made before, during and after the carnival visit the site nottinghillcarnival at winkball here

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More black people are collecting art (Netherlands)

Photo and copyright: My first Art collection
My First Art Collection, next edition : a course for prospective art collectors in the Netherlands. So this is not about the Rembrandts and Vermeers.

Do black people collect art? The answer is: Yes they do. And the number of black people who are collecting art is growing.

Two years ago Ricardo Burgzorg started the training program My First Art Collection, where prospective art collectors could get acquainted with the ins and outs of the art world. Burgzorg bridges the gap between collectors and museums, but also guides beginning art collectors in the art world. My first Art Collection focuses on young native and new Dutch people.

This season the programs in Amsterdam and Rotterdam have ended successfully. Due to the success, and the enthusiasm from all sides, the next course (2009 - 2010) will also start in The Hague. A year later, Arnhem and Groningen will follow. For more information go the website (Dutch)

On the site My first Art Collection there is an interesting video of art collecter and writer Judith Greer. In the video she visits the Frieze Art Fair in London (15-18 October 2009)

Judith Greer on Owning Art

“People come to collecting in different ways; I began nearly 20 years ago. My friends were artists, I started by buying early works. My relationship with art and artist is extremely important. But equally important are those with dealers, curators and other collectors. I read about art, I see endless exhibitions and still I'm learning.”

Judith Greer is co-author of Owning Art: The Contemporary Art Collector's Handbook, and chair of Artangel

My first piece of art was an big old photograph of a Carribean street in 1930. Now I am looking for a Gordon Parks orginal.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Michael Jackson alive!?

New evidence! Michael Jackson is alive. See the video! According to the Sun crazed fans believe MICHAEL JACKSON faked his own death to escape the pressures of fame, they believe their hero is still alive. Read the story here

Thousands have been logging onto websites to join conspiracy theories that the star is simply preparing for the ultimate comeback.

To be honest, I don't believe he is alive. But if he is still alive, I wont talk to him ever again!

Nneka. Music from the Heart and Soul.

Nnekea is a wonderful AfroGerman singer songwriter. I think she would prefer me to describe her as a Nigerian artist residing in Germany, though. But this is how I perceived her and how I interpreted her music when I first heard her fantastic album a few months ago.

When I first discovered her through a friend I was surprised about her total commitment to the African cause in her music. As a child of a German mother and a Nigerian father I had interpreted her to be like most AfroGermans, i.e. having a German upbringing.

Not Nneka. She was born and raised in Nigeria. And not just that, she grew up in Warri, in the Delta region of Nigeria. A place in Nigeria where the terrible consequences of the oil industry for the local population is undeniable. She has seen all this with her own eyes as a child and teenager and now expresses it through her art.

Nneka came to Germany as a 19 year old and settled in the city of Hamburg. Although she stated in an Arte interview that she does speak German, she prefers to do her interviews in English. A language she feels more comfortable with.

Last year Nneka released a n album on which you will find a list of wonderful tracks ranging from genres like hip hop, reggae, soul, afrobeat and more. Her great voice brings you deep lyrics about globalization, love, Africa, poverty, identity, … it all feels very much authentic.

This summer she could be seen on many festivals throughout Europe. I saw her live at the Nice jazz Festival in the south of France. She was the first act of that day. Just her, a drummer, a bas, a guitar and a synth.

She brought us a perfect and heavily emotional set with not only songs from her album but also new tracks. She caught the audience right through their soul with music most of them never had heard before. The intensity and honesty she brought in her songs was so beautiful it made me think of the video’s I had seen from Bob Marley concerts; Nneka is very real and makes music that literally comes from the heart and the soul.

I advice everyone who loves good soul music to check out what she does. Several videos and interviews can be seen on YouTube. And here your can read an article from the Daily Telegraph in 2006.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

America Ferrera dresses as a hotdog

A slight delay.

James and I have been talking and we both feel that updating once a week with the recommendations and reviews might be a bit much for both of our busy schedules. As you can see, Week 2 was a little behind, but we made it somehow. We are discussing how to make this work and looking at alternate posting days and times. We also think it might be cool to post random music happenings when we want to; to keep things fresh and such. We will back with your regular scheduled programming shortly.

Monday, August 24, 2009

James Reviews Two Brits

To whom it may concern, I'm sorry about taking so long to post this week's review. Just one week in, and I've already broken many of the cardinal rules, but I hadn't anticipated being this busy when the rules were formed. I've been in the process of moving to a new college, and I've had about twenty seconds of free time over the last week. Well, I'm back now. I must admit, I was quite concerned coming into this week because Madonna really did a job on me last week. On the other hand, since last week was so bad, there's only one direction that this week's artists could go. And they did.

Like most people, my only experience with Amy Winehouse coming into this week was all the horror stories I've heard about her abusing drugs, having relationship problems, and generally ruining her life. There can be no doubt that she's not right mentally, and much like Elvis, she should serve as a warning beacon for anyone who desires fame and fortune. A lot of people might laugh at her and her troubles, but they would be better served to have pity and compassion for a person who made a bet with the Devil and lost.

Where Amy Winehouse is about tragedy and sickness, Adele is quite the opposite. A teenage sensation a la Taylor Swift, Adele's music is lovestruck and simple -- both in its lyrics and music. She's an up-and-comer with the world in front of her and amazing potential. But let us not forget how easy it is for a good person to fall.

--The Two Brits Top 10--

1: Just Friends (Back to Black)
I had pretty high hopes for this song when it started with that kind of blue-jazzy feel. The mellow touch created by the jazz organ and guitars really seems fitting for the lyrical content (which is, by the way, about two thousand orders of magnitude better than Madonna). To my chagrin, however, Amy fails to develop this into a discernible melody, and instead pretty much gets rid of the feel altogether by adding something that sounds like a brass instrument. Not my favorite, but not unlistenable.

2: Daydreamer (19)
Simple music is not a bad thing if it's done right, and I would say Daydreamer is not an example of how to do it. While I understand that the monotony of the song actually has artistic purpose, to me it's pretty darn boring. In a lot of ways, I think the lyrics are intelligent and relatable, but it's hard to even pay attention to them. I would like to see some more musical creativity and depth.

3: Tears Dry on Their Own (Back to Black)
Amy Winehouse is not at her best when her songs rely heavily on her singing ability, of which there is little. She is clearly able to create some pretty melodies, but she does not play that card in either of these first two songs. Ostensibly, her vocal failures can be attributed to her drug problem, but I'm not sure that's the case, although I'm sure it doesn't help.

4: First Love (19)
Once again, I have no complaints about Adele's lyrics, which are noteworthy and admirable. Musically, though, I just have to think that Adele is nothing to write home about. The music's simple, yes, and if that were its only purpose it would achieve it extremely well. I said earlier that simple music is not necessarily a bad thing, but it bears noting that simple music isn't necessarily a good thing either. If there's less going on in a song, the scale of individual errors increases dramatically, so you have to make what you have count. I don't think this song does that satisfactorily.

5: Wake Up Alone (Back to Black)
I like this song in a lot of ways. It comes a lot closer to accomplishing that upbeat-yet-sad bluesy feel that I felt got overlooked in "Just Friends." The chord progressions are pleasant and surprising at first -- my only complaint being that after being repeated ad-infinitum, they lose their charm. Still, the feel remains and blends well with the lyrical and thematic content. Now I find it necessary to bring out one of my biggest beefs with Amy Winehouse to date: her singing. I touched on this earlier. I'm not buying that her singing deficiencies come from a drug problem. Her singing deficiencies come from her trying to be something that she is not: a black singer. Every syllable is pronounced and enunciated exactly the way you would expect from Beyonce. I keep getting uncomfortable images in my head of K-Fed, which I believe to be the proper analogy in so many ways.

6: Crazy for You (19)
Pretty much, ditto everything I just said about Amy Winehouse. This is my number one problem with Adele, more than musical depth, more than anything. She tries to sound like a black woman. This is important for two reasons: 1) She doesn't do it as well as an actual black woman, and 2) it's impossible to gauge whether or not she'd be a good singer without this masquerade. As it stands, her singing feels forced and out of place compared to the actual music she's singing with. It doesn't fit her simple music style at all.

7: You Know I'm No Good (Back to Black)
Overall, I find this to be a somewhat catchy tune, and I like the craziness that it brings out in Amy. The lyrics make no sense at all; they're like the psychotic ramblings of an asylum patient. Intriguing.

8: Hometown Glory (19)
The first 15 seconds of instrumental piano almost made me jump out of my seat. Earlier I was complaining about a lack of musical depth, and for a second there I thought she had finally broken out from the sea through the icy and frozen shelf. But as I continued to listen, I found that sense of joy gradually fading. There is no development whatsoever of the musical portion. I almost feel that Adele really just doesn't give a damn; like she's not even trying. There's a part where the music is literally begging to resolve in a different contrasting direction, and she blanketly refuses to grant its wish.

9: Back to Black (Back to Black)
Why this song is not higher on the list, I truly do not know. This is by FAR, my favorite of this week's 10-for-10. The music is stunning and chilling, and although it's repetitive, it does indeed develop the way you would hope. The way the chorus brings in the strings to complement with the higher frequency ranges is simply fantastic, and exactly what the music is asking to have done. The lyrics, while not on par with, say, Eminem, do enough to get the job done. Even Amy's crazy singing style seems to fit.This is one of those songs I could put on repeat and listen to for a while.

10: Chasing Pavements (19)
I have to say, I had the highest hopes for this song, what with it winning all those Grammys and all. Disappointing. Everything I've already talked about comes together to form a big cluster of music that seems like it should be good but somehow isn't.

That's all for this week, folks. Stay tuned!

Laura Izibor: Black in Ireland

Laura Izibor that new star from Ireland. In an interview with the Guardian Laura Izibor also talked about her family history.

“I quote the line to Laura Izibor, the 21-year-old Irish/Nigerian singer-songwriter sitting on the sofa next to me. "Ireland's really changing now," she says. "The Irish themselves aren't completely aware of what change is going on, because they are in it. It was horrible for my father 20 years ago - that's a lot of the reason why he had to move away to London. He couldn't get a job. He used to cycle everywhere and people would stop in their tracks and go, 'I just saw a black fella, he was riding a bike.'" (Izibor's father came to Dublin from Nigeria to look for work; he and her Irish mother separated when she was eight.) Today, however, Izibor is happy to call herself Irish, and the Irish are just as happy to claim her as their own."

The present black Irish population is predominantly of recent immigrant origin, arriving from the mid-1990s onwards from West African countries such as Nigeria.( Source: Wikipedia)

Isabor’s personal story reminded me of an interview with Mel B of the Spice Girls. In an interview she said, that she remembered sitting in the bus on the lap of her English mother. Her father, who is black, sat next to them. But when racist groups boarded the bus, her mother quickly sat her on the lap of her father.

Somehow these stories characterise the UK in the past. But the UK, just as Ireland, have changed. Although more change is always welcome.

But! She recently performed overseas in the US. The Washington Post wrote about her:

“Irish-born singer-of-the-moment Laura Izibor has drawn comparisons to another vocalist who also experienced a meteoric rise a couple of years back: Corinne Bailey Rae. Everyone seems to lump them together simply because they both have adorable accents, curly mops of hair, debut albums that vacillate between exuberance and depression, and singles screaming for inclusion in an hour-long drama.”

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Week 2: Donell Reviews Brad Paisley

While fulfilling my duties here at the 10 for 10 Music Expansion Project some things have been brought to the forefront of my mind. I have always considered myself a music buff and fan. I like a LOT of music. That isn’t the problem though. I don’t mind liking a large range of things; but when it becomes a problem is when I can’t figure out why I like something. Then it makes me wonder what don’t I like? When I try to think of what I don’t like, it’s actually kind of hard for me. If I dislike something I don’t necessarily hate it or need to rip it apart (James), I just don’t like it. So then I thought, well maybe I need to be more passionate about it. Maybe there is too much grey area and there needs to be more black and white. Love and hate. What music can’t I stand? What music makes my blood curdle when I listen to it and makes vomit rise in my throat. Well, that’s easy. Flo Rida.

But luckily, Flo Rida is not a part of the 10 for 10 Music Expansion Project. And I hope he never graces these pages anytime in the near future. But I had this thought while listening to Brad Paisley this week. Most of the music I did not like. And it’s not that I wanted to throw my computer out of the window when it was playing, it just didn’t speak to me. It didn't hit me. I didn’t like it but I didn’t hate it either. What I am trying to figure out is this – the music I like, how does it speak to me? Why does that music grab me while Brad Paisley does not?
I think what it comes down to is that Brad Paisley, generally, is too country for me. I like country-pop but this doesn’t have much pop in it. On the other hand, the thing I like about country music is that the songs tell stories. That is the advantage that country music has on pop music. I am much more of a pop head than a country head, but being an actor and being in the theater I love a song with a good story behind it. There isn’t much storytelling in pop music and country has mastered that skill (which makes me wonder why there aren’t more country musicals…). So yeah, just an observation. Now on to the list:

"Mud on the Tires" Mud on the Tires (2004)
Nope, this song was far too country for me. But I will say, the harmonies on the chorus are GOREGEOUS. I can also appreciate the tongue-in-cheek aspect of the title. But other than that, not for me.

"All I Wanted Was a Car" 5th Gear (2007)
There is no denying this man is a BEAST on the guitar. So, yeah, good for him. Great. Nothing really stood out to me in the song except – the last minute and ten seconds of this song are pretty cool. When he overlaps his 2 vocal phrases it’s beautifully matched.

"Celebrity" Mud on the Tires (2003)
This song is very smart and it made me smile. As someone who regularly reads online blogs and tabloids, I love the pop culture references and the digs at the “famous” lifestyle. The tune is very catchy and the music has a feel good vibe to it. I think I have heard this song before and would probably listen to it again. I would have liked this to be higher on the list. Shame on you, James.

"Whiskey Lullaby" Mud on the Tires (2004)
Loved it. This song is beautiful. If it were up to me, this would have been my #1 song on the list. The lyrics are beautiful and different than anything I was expecting to hear. I picture a rainy night and the screen door swinging back and forth and hitting the house. The comparison of alcohol to a gun blew my mind (no pun intended). I loved the simplicity of the lullaby. The chorus is stunning and haunting. Also, Alison Krauss’s voice is so pretty to listen to. I could listen to this song all day long. It’ll probably be the only song I revisit from this list. Well, this and…

"Letter to Me" 5th Gear (2007)
Loved it. I was a big fan of “WL” and this song. These were my 2 favorite songs on the list. It has such a great concept and story. This song brought a smile to my face because I can totally remember feeling this way about love a few years ago (minus the girls, of course), family, and the other themes in the song. Especially the lyric about not being able to see past Friday night. Very clever. The chorus is great (I enjoy singing the top harmony along with Brad) and I love Paisley’s delivery on the song. When the music cuts back before the last chorus it’s truly beautiful. I love when songs do that – cut out all the other stuff and let’s get simple for a second. That’s how you’ll win me over.

"Kentucky Jelly" Play (2008)
Nope, not my cup of tea. But let me say – I listened to the songs the first time through without reading what you said about them. I wanted to listen without being influenced by your opinion of the music. When I first listened to “KJ” I didn’t get it – that was before I read that this was from his instrumental album. I was waiting for lyrics the whole time that never came. It’s like looking for a gay at a cage fight. Bruno anyone? Anyway. That being said, the second two listens were whatever. I’d rather Brad sing to me. I will say, maybe if this was a visual clip I might feel different. I love a man that can play an instrument.

"Waitin' On a Woman" 5th Gear (2008)
I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it. I enjoyed the story of the 2 men sitting together and talking but nothing grabbed me. Not much else to say about that.

"The Best Thing That I Had Goin'" Mud on the Tires (2003)
I liked it before the music kicked in. That first verse had me but then the song was lost upon my ears with all the instruments. There’s something about that COUNTRY sound that makes my face suddenly frown up and my nose shrivel up on my face. I don’t know what it is. Too much knee slapping and washboard strumming, maybe.

"Spaghetti Western Swing" Mud on the Tires (2003)
Annoying is right. Um, no thank you. Next.

"When We All Get to Heaven" 5th Gear (2007)
Okay, let me clear something up. I don’t want to give off the impression that I hate spiritual music or can’t stand the mention of Jesus in a song. That’s not what I meant at all. I happen to enjoy plenty of gospel music and spiritual tunes. I just feel that at times it’s forced and THAT is what bothers me about a lot of country music that I hear. I don’t like being hit over the head with the message. Or maybe the music just needs to be more interesting. Whatever it is, it can be annoying and THAT’S why I don’t really care for it. This one was far too “coombayah” for me. The image of people standing in a circle holding hands and swaying back and forth made me dizzy.

So basically what we learned this week is this: while I only LOVED 2 of the songs on the list and don’t plan on listening to any of the other songs, I didn’t completely despise the other 8. They will just simply fade into the back of my memory. I guess that is how James and I differ. Or who knows, maybe they’re the kind of songs that will creep up on me and with time I’ll learn to love them. Whatever the case may be, I must be harder on my ears. And on James.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Video Premiere of Noah Sow's Rock Band NOISEAUX

Video Premiere. The German rock band NOISEAUX of singer Noah Sow has realesed the video Cessation.
Check out the video and the website


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Are Prince & Paris Jackson Black?

Beware: In this article I will use the word 'mulatto'. I know that some people are sensitive about the use of this word due to its ethymology. The reason I use it is not because I like it but because I will tackle an issue about mixed race people and want to describe things clearly. If this shocks anyone please accept my appologies before starting to read this.

In the following days after Michael Jackson’s death we have heard a lot of speculation about MJ’s fatherhood. During the ceremony we saw his children for the first time and many people were surprised to see that MJ’s children looked so white/Caucasian. Tom Vandyck, US correspondent for the progressive newspaper De Morgen (Belgium) expressed his doubts about MJ being the real biological father of these children. His doubts were based on Paris’s appearance. For him, biologically, she couldn’t be part of the Jackson family.

I was shocked as it reflected the fact that race is still perceived as a hard evidence. But my experience among mixed race people is that whether the parents look black or not, once there is some racial mixing in your background, the racial features of your children is a lottery.

According to an article in The Observer two years ago, nearly all African Americans have some white ancestors. This is the reason many African Americans do actually look like mixed race people with an African and European parent. Look at Colin Powell, Jeremiah Wright, Beyoncé Knowles, … and many more. They all identify as black and have a black identified mother and father. Therefore they are black in the US American context. But these people have white ancestors too and could have children with blond straight hair and blue eyes, certainly if they would choose a white partner.

When you are 'real mulatto', that is first generation black African & white European mixture, your children will generally look white if your partner is white, and black if your partner is black.

Below is a picture of Victoria Rowell, an actrice who has one white and one black parent. on this picture you can see her with her two kids. The white girl's father is white, the black boy's father is black.

Although we can’t really make a rule out of this. Different exceptions are just as common as the rule. My sister, who is half white half black has two daughters with a white Belgian man. The first girl looks white: bleu eyes, light brown hair. The second girl looks mulatto, but still with blue eyes. A good friend of mine who is half white half black has two children with an African man. They both look mulatto. One of my best friends has a mulatto mother and white father, he looks mulatto although his brother is blond and has blue eyes. Still, if you see them together you can see they are brothers.

When you look mulatto Africans can see you are not black and Europeans can see you are not white. Africans in East-Africa will call any white person ‘muzungu’, also someone looking like Obama will be called ‘muzungu’. It’s the same thing to them.

Europeans call light skinned blacks and mulattos also black. To most Europeans whether you are mulatto are not, you are just black. This means that a mulatto is ‘white’ or ‘black’ depending on the place where he is. Race is a relative thing.

I once asked a black street boy in Kenia whether he thought Beyoncé was white or black. He said without hesitating he thought she was white. He had a point, don’t you think so?

The only places on earth I know where people perceive the difference between black, mulatto and white is in Cuba and South Africa. Two places where many people of mixed race of all shades live. I have never been to Brazil, but there too, I heard it’s not just black and white, there is a whole world in between and people are very much aware of it.

My point is that based on the racial appearance of MJ’s children we can’t see if MJ is their real biological father or not. It’s pure guess work and it is wrong to say ‘they look white so therefore they can’t be his children’. Maybe they aren’t but that’s not for certain because of their skin colour. You can look white and still resemble you black father a lot.

Michael Jackson (before getting vitiligo) was a brown skinned black man, with the features of a mulatto. If you look at him, the ‘real black man’ (because having 2 black American parents) and the 'real mulatto' Obama; honestly they are the same type of black man, aren’t they?

Paris and Prince, if mixed race, are not the only mixed race children who look like white people. There are actually many. I will list some famous American ones.

This however doesn't prove that 'mulatto' people look white, this just proves that mixed people have all colours and shapes, and that they prove that race is just an illusion.

Jennifer Beals, actress, father black, mother white

Wentworth Miller, actor, father black, mother white

Rashida Jones, (Quincy Jones's daughter), father black, mother white

Elisabeth Atkins Bowman, author of 'White Chocolate', father white, mother black

Amanda Marshall, singer, father white, mother black

Derek Jeter, baseball player, father black, mother white

Blu Cantrell, singer, father black, mother white

Mariah Carey, singer, father black (Afro-Venezuelan), mother white

Jason Kidd, basketball player, father black, mother white

And then last but not least: a little youtube video about biracial twins, one white, the other biracial as the world expects it (although called 'black' by the journalists). As twins this is rather special, but even then, brothers and sisters one white and one 'black' will become more and more common in interracial families.

Don't listen to what these journalists say nor the doctor they quote. The father might be 'black', he is certainly not a black African. He has clearly some white ancestors somewhere in his family tree. He looks mixed race.

The girls are not white or black, they are both mixed race. One looks white and is blond, the other looks dark and brown skinned.

If you keep on looking around you will find out that this phenomenon -maybe not twins but brothers and sisters having a totally different racial make up- is not a One in A Million case.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fekete Pákó. A Black Hungarian Super Star?

Fekete Pákó is the name of a TV star and singer in Hungary. His real name is Oludayo Olapite. He comes from Nigeria and came to Hungary in 1994 on scholarship to study Law, but later dropped out. His two Hungarian CDs have sold up to 31,000 copies. Enough to earn him golden platinum and make him a big star in Hungary.

On how he actually got into showbiz, Olapite recalls it was his friend, Molnár Sándor who came up with an idea. Sándor had asked what seemed to be a crazy question: "What if a black man sings Hungarian folklore?" The rest is now history.

You could think that the existence of a Black Hungarian TV personality is a beautiful example of integration and interculturalism within Europe. According to many, it’s quite the opposite. Fekete Pákó is a rather racist act that creates an image of sex obsessed, polygamous, human eating dummies.

The Hungarian tabloids are so obsessed with him to the extent of making him the spokesperson for Africans in Hungary even though it’s apparent that Pákó does not know much about African politics, culture and social life. Yet, they prefer him to those Hungarian Africans who are competent in this field, as well as speak more fluent Hungarian.

Headlines such as "Celeb Sex: Fekete Pákó in Online Cock Measuring Contest"; "Pákó Fekete Officially crowned Dumbest Hungarian"; "Cleb Dish: Szulak Stalked by "Cannibal" Pákó" is the kind of sensational misrepresentation you could read in Hungarian tabloids.

However, strong opposition comes from his own people. Fekete Pákó is not loved by his own people. Africans and especially Nigerians in Hungary simply hate him. They alleged he is denigrating black people in Hungary with his utterances and lifestyle.

Fredrick Konor, a Ghanaian who is a member of SANKOFA Cultural group, believes Pákó can’t sing but the guy has other characters like being funny, doing unexpected things that have lured Hungarian tabloids to him. "We should stop the jealousy," he says indignantly. "Our brother came from nowhere with a fresh idea to breakthrough a sector which is highly competitive. An African singing in Hungarian language!".

It’s true, he did something no one did before and he made a living out of it. And we could think if the likes of Snoop Doggy Dogg, Dr. Dre and 50Cent are not in the same way abusing ideas about black people to make a lot of money in the show business. But then again, maybe we should not take all this too seriously. Why not appreciate the irony and self mockery in all this?

This article was written thanks to an article from The Nation (Nigeria) by Olumide Olapite. Click here to read the full article.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Two Day Caribbean Festival in Belgium: Antilliaanse Feesten

Approx. 45000 people danced the night away at the Antilliaanse Feesten in the small town of Hoogstraaten, Belgium. Not like most festivals, the Antilliaanse Feesten starts when the sun goes down and keeps on going until dawn.
Music from Latin-America and the Caribbean is getting more and more popular in Belgium (as all over northern Europe). So is this festival, which has a summer and winter edition (in-door).

In contrast to ‘World’ festivals where you have a predominant white audience coming to see African, Asian and Latin artists, the Antilliaanse Feesten has a totally mixed audience of all colours. It was surprising how many mixed couples were present. Many men wore white shirts and trousers, while the ladies wore very short skirts and high heels. Not the easiest outfit for a festival in a rural grass field, but everybody wanted to look at its utmost best. And it was beautiful to see.

The most famous act this year was Carlos Vives, a Colombian superstar well known in all parts of Latin America. This was his very first gig in the Benelux (Belgium-Netherlands-Luxemburg). On Saturday the French Creole super band Kassav, from Guadeloupe, came to make the crowd dance and party. Kassav has been on stage throughout the world for 30 years now, and are very popular in the French speaking world. This was the 5th time they came to the Antillianse Feesten and they were still bringing us great Afro-Caribbean vibes .

The crowd was super enthusiastic and going crazy, all over the place you could see people branding flags from Trinidad, Jamaica, Cuba, Martinique, Surinam, …
There were cocktail and champagne bars and delicious cigars. The food was not typical Flemish festival food, i.e. French fries and hamburgers, but Caribbean Chicken grill, cornbread, rice & beans, Surinam Chicken with peanut sauce, …

Slavery Remembrance Day 23 August 2009

The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

Since 1998, UNESCO has been reminding the international community of the importance of commemorating 23 August, International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. This date not only commemorates the historic night in 1791 when the slaves of Santo Domingo rose up to break their chains and launch the insurrection that eventually led to the Haitian revolution, it also serves to pay tribute to all those who worked collectively and individually to trigger the irreversible process of the abolition of the slave trade and slavery throughout the world. This commitment and the strategies of action used that were conducted to fight the inhumane system of slavery were to have a considerable impact on the human rights movement.

Beyond the act of commemoration, this international Day aims at eliciting reflection on a tragic past that may be distant but whose repercussions continue to fuel injustice and exclusion today. This reflection on the barbarity our society is capable of unleashing with a clear conscience is all the more necessary, salutary even, as millions of men, women and children still today suffer the horrors of new forms of slavery. This is how the remembrance of past tragedies serves to enlighten us about present-day tragedies of exploitation and dehumanization.

Message from Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO

Slavery Remembrance Day Festival in the International Slavery museum in Liverpool 21 to 23 August 2009 .

DIANE NASH HEADLINES SLAVERY REMEMBRANCE DAY FESTIVAL 21 – 23 August 2009. US Civil Rights activist Diane Nash launches a weekend of entertaining and thought-provoking events with a free memorial lecture on Friday 21 August 2009 at 1800 hrs, Liverpool Town Hall. See more information here

The bird in the picture is called Sankofa: This is a mythical bird that flies forwards while looking backwards with an egg (symbolising the future) in its mouth. Sankofa teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward.

See more mythical West-African Adinkra symbols here

See also a very interesting short documentary about Ghana's Cape Coast Castle here

Week 2: James Recommends Brad Paisley

Well, folks, I'm still trying to figure out a system for my music recommendations. Should I do it by genre, chronology, or favorites? Should the order be ascending or descending? So many questions to be answered. Ultimately, I've decided to go through my music by the order in which I first heard it. However, since I'm already on a Country binge, I figured I'd finish working through the relatively small list of Country artists I enjoy, and then go back and start from the beginning. Since Brad Paisley is my favorite Country artist, I reckon I'll recommend him first.

Before I talk about why I like Brad Paisley so much, let me talk about why I don't like most Country that much. I'll be the first to say that I simply do not understand the phenomenon of its amazing commercial success. If you're anything like me, your first (and possibly final) experience with Country music was one of intense boredom. Every song that comes on the radio is exactly the same as the one that came before it, and the one that came before it was pretty nondescript. You can pretty much count on the same chord progressions, the same vocal style, the same structural style, and the same lyrics to be present in 99% of popular Country. It's a genre where who's singing a song matters far more than what that person is singing. Every big name artist is guaranteed to top the charts despite the fact that there is rarely anything new or original about their performance. In a lot of ways, I find it infuriating that such a culture exists, but, lately, every time I'm in the car I find myself turning on the Country station. Why? Well, I think the answer comes in two parts.

First, the good songs are really good. Every once in a while, you'll find yourself audibly laughing, smiling, and getting chills for a variety of reasons that may include but are not limited to: lyrical wit and creativity; intensely personal and sympathetic subject matter, musical riffs that blow you away, and just plain excellent musicianship. Second, the spectrum doesn't extend that low. While most Country songs sound similar, none of them are that bad. Compare this to your average station that plays Top-40 hits all day long, where the percentage of songs I love is roughly the same, but where I find myself genuinely and absolutely hating every other song. Thus, listening to the Country station will be, at worst, bearable, and at best, stunning, making for a better overall experience.

Well, now. You remember all those things I said about Country music being rigid, formulaic, and kitsch? When it comes to Brad Paisley, you can disregard every one of those statements. But do keep in mind that I said good Country songs are really good. It's going to be quite a chore to pick out only 10 songs.

--The Brad Paisley Top-10

1: Mud on the Tires (Mud on the Tires)
Mud on the Tires is the song that made me originally fall in love with Brad Paisley's music years ago, and to this day I think it remains his most complete effort. Every one of the song's elements works together in perfect harmony with the others to create a true masterpiece. Musically, the verses are perfect builds for the chorus, which takes my breath away. The lyrics are good; they're not mind-blowing in and of themselves, but neither should they be. They don't distract from the overall blend of the song. Perfect is a strong word, but I think they fit, err... perfectly. Melodically, Brad Paisley is at his best when he uses large vocal swings a la the chorus. You'll find this to be a trend in what I consider his best songs.

2: All I Wanted Was a Car (5th Gear)
I did a severe double-take the first time I realized that this song was never even released as a single, since I think that on a purely instrumental level this song is probably my favorite of all Brad's work. While it lacks the lyrical and structural depth of "Mud on the Tires," I rarely find the chills creeping up and down my spine the way they do when this song comes on. In fact, it almost feels like I'm not doing it justice by putting it as a mere #2. This is a statement that will hold true for most of Brad Paisley's music: while you may hear other Country artists use some of the same instruments, you will never hear them used in the same way, which is one of the best adulations I can give.

3: Celebrity (Mud on the Tires)
Here we have our second single from the album "Mud on the Tires," and it's a duzy. Lyrically, it's simply fantastic. You won't find Eminem-style rhymes, and it doesn't need them. It's a delightfully clever, witty, -- and risky -- commentary on celebrity culture. In fact, you'll find lyrical risk a line that Brad Paisley treads quite often, not in the sense of controversy, but rather in how easy it would be for the lyrics to fall short. They stand on the edge of a knife, on a precipice, and one misstep would be all it would take for them to fall off. But yet, somehow, Brad pulls it off, and without an extremely complex rhyme scheme. I'm a lyrical stickler, and I keep trying to find fault with this song, but to no avail. Oh, and the music rocks too.

4: Whiskey Lullaby (Mud on the Tires)
I don't really have words. I'm sure I could conjure up something -- especially in regard to the lyrics -- but it would fall short and cheapen this masterpiece. Just trust me: let this song do all the talking. In fact, now I'm having second thoughts about having it this far down on the list. That just shows you how amazing 1-3 are.

5: Letter to Me (5th Gear)
Speaking of great lyrics, this is a song leans less on musical brilliance and almost entirely on the sheer integrity and honesty of its lyrics. You won't find jaw dropping melodies and harmonies, although the music does blend nicely. This song should be every young person's creed and theme-song. If you don't identify with its sentiments, you must have skipped adolescence like that kid from "Big." I won't say any more about it because I don't want to ruin the (pleasant) surprise.

6: Kentucky Jelly (Play)
Okay, you know me, I couldn't stay away from musical brilliance for too long. This song is off Brad's album "Play," which is almost entirely instrumental. While most popular musicians could be validly labeled talentless hacks (listen to the song "Celebrity"), Brad Paisley is a sterling musician in his own right. He can make that guitar sing, boy, let me tell you. But that's not enough, in and of itself. Anyone can write immensely complicated music, but making that music sound good is about the most difficult task that can be achieved (I'm looking at you, 99.999% of metal ever written). This song is melodically/harmonically awesome, and incorporates a lot of bluegrass elements. While that's pretty well true for most of Paisley's songs, this one just happens to showcase it.

7: Waitin' On a Woman (Time Well Wasted / 5th Gear / Play)
Released on three different CDs, this stands as one of Brad Paisley's biggest commercial hits. And though the lyrics are the driving force behind the song, it's not too shabby musically either. In the original version(s) Brad Paisley did all the vocals. However, on the "Play" release, Andy Griffith stepped in to record all the lines spoken by the old man. The contrast provided here, especially in reference to the lyrics, is simply fabulous. It's heart-wrenching, funny, and a little bit encouraging, all at the same time.

8: The Best Thing That I Had Goin' (Mud on the Tires)
If you couldn't tell already, "Mud on the Tires" is an incredible album, chock full of great stuff from top to bottom. This song, while a little closer to your average Country standards, is still miles (or kilometers if you're an elitist snob) and miles above it. Great music and better-than-average lyrics.

9: Spaghetti Western Swing (Mud on the Tires)
Okay, so this song actually annoys me in a lot of ways (especially after many listens). But, if you listen closely enough, you hear a tribute to Ennio Morricone's "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly," which is by far the greatest cinematic soundtrack ever envisioned. That alone merits a mention here on the Top-10. If you can get past the little skit, you might find yourself surprised at just how good the musical solos are.

10: When We All Get to Heaven (5th Gear)
One thing that I really appreciate about Brad Paisley is that he seems to stay true to his roots. Maybe it's just a massive facade put on by his producers to sell more albums, but I don't really care if it is. Hymns have been an absolutely massive part of Southern/Country culture since the get-go, and I find it so incredibly endearing that Brad will occasionally include one on his secular/mainstream albums. He's not ashamed of his heritage and beliefs, and neither am I, which is why I have no choice but to include this wonderful and timeless song in the Top-10 as we wrap things up.

Bon Appetit!

Week 2: Donell Recommends 2 Brits

Everyone’s a comedian nowadays, I guess. I thought that the Queen of Pop would bring a smile to the face and a tap to the foot of my co-writer, but I guess not. Funny timing, that little review of his, as Sunday marks Madonna’s 51st birthday. Happy birthday, Madge, I appreciate all you’ve contributed to the pop world. James has more than enough zingers in that Madonna review to make me cry, but I promise I have some tissue and more tricks up my sleeve. Madonna may not have won him over, but at least now he can’t say he’s never heard “Like a Virgin”. Mission accomplished.

Let us move across the pond, shall we? I’ve got 2 women waiting over there in the UK that I have fallen in love with over the past year and a half. One is a tabloid gracing, drug using, songbird whose hard times provide some of the darkest personal lyrics to grace my ears. The other is a 21 year old borderline drunk, poster child for the “big is beautiful” movement, who writes as if she’s had many more years under her belt than she has. Both of them have won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, respectively in 2008 and 2009. Both of their names start with A. Of course I’m speaking of Amy Winehouse and Adele.

Okay – stop stop stop. I know that for most people just hearing the two words “Amy Winehouse” makes them cringe from all the stories they’ve heard and pictures they’ve seen. I can safely say that Back to Black is one the BEST albums I have ever heard. And that’s the problem. No one knows. She is such a mess in her life (ongoing issues with her ex-husband, incomprehensible live performances where she MUST be on multiple drugs, and an array of other tabloid favorites). Actually, the only reason that I bought Back to Black was because I saw Winehouse performing on the 2008 Grammy Awards and she looks like a fidgety 3 year old performing, eyes darting from side to side. I said, “Okay, I have to hear her music, because she’s got some stuff going on in her head”. I was so happy I did. She throws back to the Motown sound of the 60s, which is interesting coming from a British Jewish girl. Back to Black focuses on love gone wrong and what it can do to you. Trust me, she would know. She's only 25, by the way.

Adele was introduced to me by a friend of mine, who just said “I think you’d like her, give her a try” and so I did. I don’t even know where to begin with this album. First of all, it’s titled 19 because that’s the year she recorded it. She wrote all the songs between the ages of 16 and 19, which is FASCINATING to me. Adele, like most teenagers sings about boyfriends and breakups. The way she does so though is the amazing part. There is such maturity to her approach and sound on 19. I guess you can attribute that to her drinking problem. She’s been sober for some time now, but she admits to drinking way too much during the recording and promotion of this album. She even canceled a US tour to hang out and drink with a boyfriend in Europe. She is now sober and working on her second album (at the age of 21, dammit) and I can’t wait to hear what she comes up with next.

So below I have picked 5 songs from Back to Black and 5 songs from 19, when in actuality I would love to recommend both of the albums fully. I did not include any songs from Winehouse’s debut album, Frank, because frankly (haha) I think Back to Black is LEAPS better. Don’t you love it when you can listen to an album from start to finish without skipping any songs? Back to Black and 19 are those albums from me. Here is a sample of both albums – songs not in order of importance. Also, do you ever have memories you associate with certain songs/albums? Back to Black makes me think of Anchorage, AK (I was there for 2 weeks with Hairspray when I bought the album and listened to it on my walk to and from the theater everyday). The same exact thing can be said for 19 just replace Anchorage, AK with Chicago, IL and Hairspray with Mamma Mia!. Enjoy.

Oh, and they both write their own music.

“Just Friends” Back to Black (2007)
My favorite song on Back to Black. That hopeless feeling of wanting to be with someone who is with someone else. Knowing that it is better to just be friends with someone but not knowing how to. When the attraction is so strong how do you fight your feelings?

“Daydreamer” 19 (2008)
My favorite song on 19. "Daydreamer" opens the album and definitely sets the tone to me of her mature thoughts and song delivery. It centers around that person that just isn't there when you need them to be. They're physically there, but not really there. What to do? The repetitive guitar strum speaks the monotony of the situation to me. I've been there before.

“Tears Dry on Their Own” Back to Black (2007)
Containing a sample of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", this song has that get happy feel of the height of Motown in the 60s. The song does not necessarily have the get happy feel to the words she sings. A love that is over and done. The only thing you can do is heal in your own time.

“First Love” 19 (2008)
Lord lord lord, this song speaks volumes to me. You always remember your first love. They will always be there in your mind and in your heart. What if you don't love them anymore? How do you end it with them? What is that conversation like? Listen. I also like the simplicity and repetitiveness of the music in the background. The music box-like sound is a great juxtaposition to the situation at hand.

“Wake Up Alone” Back to Black (2007)
Amy sure knows a lot about a lover scorned, that's for sure. When you go to bed with someone next to you and you wake up with no one there what goes through your head? How do you fill your day without thinking about that person? Do you drink, do you clean, what? Giving yourself over completely to them when with them and being hit with that empty feeling when you wake up partnerless. This is my 2nd favorite song on Back to Black, edging VERY close to becoming my favorite.

“Crazy for You” 19 (2008)
Yes! Another song called "Crazy for You". I've always wanted to do a concert or cabaret and mash up Adele's and Madonna's. But I digress (I'm sure James is dry heaving just thinking about Madonna's song). Yet again - simplicity is key to Adele's music. Not too much going on. That way you can focus on the lyrics and her voice. Hopefully this version of extreme adoration with fare better than Madge's.

“You Know I’m Not Good” Back to Black (2007)
She warned you. Watch it all unfold.

"Hometown Glory" 19 (2007)
A tribute to Adele's home and experiences growing up. I get the image of her standing at the end of a road with just one streetlight shining. What is she going to go? This song closes out the album and leaves the listener wanting more from her. This is Adele's most successful single in the UK.

“Back to Black” Back to Black (2007)
Another doomed love affair. The piano chords make my spine tingle and the background vocals make me shiver through my entire body. There is something really haunting about this song. The black and white music video, with images of a funeral is also extremely haunting and a great comparison to the end of the love.

“Chasing Pavements” 19 (2008)
While this song was nominated for Song of the Year and Record of the Year, it won Adele the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 2008. "Chasing Pavements" is the most "radio friendly" song on 19 so it's no surprise that it was a huge success. It has become her most successful song so far, but not with some fallbacks. Thanks to Urban Dictionary saying that the term "chasing pavements" had to do with homosexual relations, the song was banned from many US radio stations. Tsk tsk. They cleared it up though and we're all set.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Week 1: James Reviews Madonna


About one song into this 10-for-10, I had to clarify the rules with Donell about just how critical I am allowed to be. "Am I allowed to hate this?" is essentially the question I asked, since the purpose of this project is not to rip apart eachother's musical taste, but rather to expand our own musical libraries. Ultimately, however, we both agreed that this project is about complete musical honesty, and I will expect no less from Donell when I inevitably reccommend him some music that he despises. Brutal honesty. And after the extensive research I've done this week, I have no choice but to come clean.

Right then. What is the most bone-jarring, disturbing sound you can think of? Fingers running down a chalk board? People screaming in agony? That hideously low-budget radio commercial for Dan's Air-Conditioning & Repair? Roll all those up into a piece of tragedy paper, and light this newly-formed joint with a match made out of mental scarring and the sad, salty tears of a thousand crying sea otter pups. Now take a deep breath. In case you didn't know this already, long ago, the elders of our world coined a term for this exact scenario (the universe was more abstract back then and cuddly otters in greater demand). What was it? Are you ready for this? Madonna. This word passed down through the generations to the Ancient Pygmies, who used an abbreviated definition: "apocalypse. See also: famine, pestilence."

In an early draft of Einstein's Theory of Relativity, it was posited that Madonna Louise Ciccone was originally named Thelma Louise Ciccone, but after studying Ancient Pygmie lore, made a deal with the Devil to exploit a wormhole in the space-time continuum, travel back in time, cause herself to be named Madonna, and fulfill her destiny of destruction and ruin. In an interesting side note, the Modern Webster's Dictionary has extened its definition of "Madonna" to include the phrase "disease-ridden prostitute," an ex-post-facto prophesy of sorts.

Madonna is the complete package, much like the Tsar Bomba was the complete package; she's a great musician the same way Stalin was a great dictator and Obama is a great president. It takes a kind of ethereally sick talent and ability to be able to successfully achieve the paradoxical popular music trifecta: terrible voice, reptitive/mundane music, and the most mind-numbingly trashy lyrics to be found north, west, east, and south of the Misssissippi. To modify an expression I once heard, she may have no creative talent, but at least she can't sing.

Let's move on. The songs.

1: Like A Virgin (Like A Virgin)
Before I go any further, I need to clarify that "song" in this case is used loosely. It's more an endurance contest. I can't find out for sure (damn CIA), but I'd say it's likely that the Guantanamo Bay Torture Soundtrack consisted almost entirely of these songs. It's kind of like Russian Roulette, except with your soul at stake and six times as many bullets in play. Now, with that said, this song is completely lyrically implausible, since its base premise assumes that Madonna ever knew what it was like to be a virgin. Numerous studies have shown that she had already done the dirty with at least 70 partners by the time she was conceived.

2: Crazy For You (Vision Quest)
Crazy For You is intended to be a love ballad, which makes perfect sense, since that is the exact opposite of what the song is. It conveys perfectly the depth of emotion and intellect with which Madonna understands what it means to love someone. The entire chorus consists of 13 lines, 6 of which are (reproduced in their exact form), "I'm crazy for you." The other 7 lines are variations of "It's all brand new/you know it's true." Thank you, Madonna. Thank you so much for teaching me what love isn't.

3: Papa Don't Preach (True Blue)
As I'm reviewing Iron Man Triathlon Equivalent #3, it's suddenly occurred to me that I haven't said much about the music itself so far. I've been avoiding talking about it, much like I would avoid talking about being sat on by Rosie O'Donnell. And even though it's not fun to talk about, I feel I must address it. Only then can the healing begin. It's shallow, repetitive, obnoxious, and probably carcinogenic. In fact, the other day I was at the doctor's office for a heart tremor, and the diagnosis came back, "overexposure to Madonna."

4: Like A Prayer (Like A Prayer)
Finally, an area from which Madonna has expertise: her knees. Yes, think of all the nice, fuzzy images you have associated with prayer and answers thereof: Jesus, your loved ones, your job promotion, the fact that good music does actually exist, etc. Now spill nuclear waste all over those associations. You can thank Madonna for your extra appendages and third-degree burns. This whole song is about her and her powerful pair of lungs doing what she does best (hint: it's not singing), which she equates with the act of meta-universal connection with Deity.

5: Vogue (I'm Breathless)
For a moment, I thought the music to this song might be decent, but nope. It's literally exactly the same as every other Madonna song, which is another reason I'm not focusing too much on the musical aspect of this. Also, I take special issue with the lyrics in this song, since they mention some of the classiest, most talented people to ever grace the silver screen. I can't help but think that the mere mention of these modern angels taints their respective legacies. It would be like Mao Tse Tung listing you as a role model or Adolf Hitler saying "for James" in the dedication section of Mein Kampf. So help me, if this trashy skank had mentioned Audrey Hepburn, not only would I currently be breaking out into a piercing string of profanities, I might have had to assassinate a certain someone. I'm getting furious at the possibility that this could have even happened. Phew. Close one. It's already bad enough; how dare she mention Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and Grace Kelly, but it gets so much worse. She mentions the name of the man whose name is not to be mentioned without a thorough ceremonial washing and the blessings of at least 3 Hassidic rabbis: Gene Kelly, the man who did this:

And Madonna thinks that dancing means humping a stage. Calm down, James, calm down. Stop shaking. Anyone have a paper bag?

6: Justify My Love (The Immaculate Collection)
OHHH SPLENDID. Madonna decided to do a tribal chant. Oh well, at least she talks about incest. The biggest joke on Madonna ever is this: the one song where the music is almost slightly catchy downplays the music to the point where it's a non-factor.

7: Take A Bow (Bedtime Stories)
I can't tell you how my heartstrings pulled at me as I scrolled down the list of songs by the name of "Take A Bow." The 30 results for the Rihanna song of the same name called to me like they were starving Asian children and I was eating the only bowl of rice in the village. The themes for the two songs are the same, and the two songs are actually very similar, with the one difference being that Rihanna's version doesn't suck.

8: Frozen (Ray of Light)
Okay, I actually like the tune to this song. It's catchy. But, I can't forgive Madonna for almost mentioning Audrey Hepburn in "Vogue", so it sucks.

9: Music (Music)
Does not live up to its name.

10: Give it To Me (Hard Candy)
Get stupid, indeed.

There's one last thing I need to address: Madonna writes her own music and lyrics. That would seem honorable, right? But then you start thinking about it. She came up with all this. It's not like I can spread the blame over a bunch of different producers or songwriters. It's not like I can blame corporate America. No, there is someone out there who actually thought that all this, as a cumulative whole, was a good idea.

Now that's scary.

Week 1: Donell Reviews Rascal Flatts

Rascal Flatts – a group I had heard before but never really considered listening to that often. I am fascinated by the success of country artists. Country is such a huge genre but if you’re great, you’ll shoot to the top. Rascal Flatts has 6 studio albums (all featured on this list except Melt), 10 #1 country singles, and a Grammy Award (for one of the songs on this list). I am very glad that I have become more familiar with their music thanks to James’s recommendations.

Tid bit: all of their album covers make me laugh. There is something strange about them all to me (especially Unstoppable). There is something uncomfortable about these three men taking pictures together. They’re not a boy band. I don’t know what the solution is, but the covers make me chuckle.

Side note: when I was making the song list for this review I kept writing Me and My HAND instead of GANG. I wonder what I was thinking of.

“What Hurts the Most” Me and My Gang (2006)
Okay, so this song is the jam. When it first started I just got the vibe that I would love it. I think I like it so much because it doesn’t sound too country to me. I am a fan of country, but mostly country-pop. This song (as I’ve done my research) was Rascal Flatts’ crossover into Adult Contemporary. I am very glad that they did that because this song made me consider them a group I would listen to. My favorite parts of the song are the fast patter lyrics at end of the verse (I’m not afraid to cry/every once/in a while…); it slightly reminds me of an r&b style of singing. Also, the drums are reminiscent of that to me as well (if you look up other songs the producer, Dann Huff, has worked on you’ll better understand – “Man in the Mirror”, “All I Want for Christmas is You” “Straight Up”, etc). I also like the musical stop in the middle of the last chorus. That is always a vice I enjoy. I love the driving vibe of the song – the pushing forward. I can see why this was #1 on James’s list.

“My Wish” Me and My Gang (2006)
Not a fan. This is the thing – I teeter GREATLY on the edge when it comes to inspirational songs. Most of them I find very corny and desperate (I was actually just having this conversation with friends about “Heal the World” and “I Believe I Can Fly”). I also got a “ugh” feeling when the God’s grace lyric passed by. I know that most country has heavy spiritual (I won’t say religious) influences, but I just would rather it be in subtext than actual lyrics. This song didn’t have the hook that “WHtM” did, for me. Overall thought, I think I like the style of Me and My Gang is my favorite of their albums.

“Stand” Me and My Gang (2006)
While still on the inspirational side – maybe not inspirational, but personally encouraging – the chorus hooked me and made me like this song. The musical simplicity of the first verse made me wonder where the song was going. There was a little rumble underneath, like the calm before the storm. A little mystery is always good. You can’t “blow your load” (as some would say) from the very beginning. The bridge is KILLER and rocks my world. I love a good bridge and “Stand” definitely has that.

“Life is a Highway” Cars (2006)
My mom loves this song so I love this song too. That’s almost a completely true statement. Both parts of that sentence are true, but not the linkage– they stand alone. I remember my mom watching Rascal Flatts perform this song live on some award show (she LOVED Cars) and brought me into the room to watch it. I’m pretty sure this was the first time I ever saw who they were or saw them perform live. I am now going to take this time to talk about Gary LeVox and his STUPID voice. If you don’t know me, stupid = amazing. This man sings his FACE OFF (another great thing). His vocal range and flexibility is outstanding. He riffs and runs with the best of them. For people that think only black singers riff, they need to listen to LeVox. There were a few songs on this list that he blew me away vocally. I love the “break down” section after the musical break. Who doesn’t love hand claps?

“Here Comes Goodbye” Unstoppable (2009)
Okay I am a sucker for a power ballad. BUT I am on the edge with this one. I think what James said about the chorus was correct. The melody is unexpected and caught me off guard, which I liked. Overall though, I feel like I’ve heard this song before. After hearing “WHtM” (which many say this song is a less good version of) I don’t know if I’ll like anything as much, funny enough. “HCG” is from their most recent album and I feel like they’ll have to take more risks with their music, like they did with “WHtM” to keep me entertained.

“Where You Are” Feels Like Today (2004)
This song was too predictable for my taste. I knew where it was going and was bored by it. I can see how the memory James has associated with it makes it a song he enjoys. I, on the other hand, was not impressed.

“Bless the Broken Road” Feels Like Today (2004)
See, I like this song. I think there is something about the simplicity of it. It has a basic pattern and it does it well. Not too fast, not too slow. And I actually don’t mind the God lyric used in this song. It doesn’t bother me like it does in “MW”. I think I remember this song from when it won the Grammy award. When I played it, it sounded familiar to me and that’s all that came to my mind. This was also the Rascal Flatts CD that my ex-boyfriend owned, so maybe that’s how I heard it. Who knows? Anyway I like this song, semi-kitschy lyrics or not.

“I’m Moving On” Rascal Flatts (2000)
This is my problem with this song. Lord knows I loves me a piano. I kind of wish the whole song was just piano. The beginning tugs at my heartstrings and I wanted the piano to stay. When the other instruments started I yelled “come back piano”! I would have loved for it to be all piano and have the little mandolin part in the middle still be there, but then go back to just piano. I don’t know if that still would qualify it as country, but it would definitely make me like it more. I really would have liked that simplicity.

“Fast Cars and Freedom” Feels Like Today (2004)
I would not like my looks to be compared to fast cars and freedom, so this song does not go on the good side of the list for me. I don’t even really know what that lyric means. Enlighten me, please. This song was too much on the straight country side of the spectrum for me. I am a country-pop kind of guy, remember, and this smelt too much of straw and mud to me (just trying to make some sort of country analogy here). I did like that the song featured the other guys on vocals backing up LeVox towards the end.

“Here” Still Feel Good (2007)
Eh. The two words that come to mind when listening are “good enough”. There’s nothing exciting or different about it. Not stellar but not horrible. Listenable but I probably won’t revisit it that often. This goes in the maybe pile with “HCG” and “IMO”.