Archive | December 2008

Is It A Matter Of Race? The Rise In The Popularity Of The Mixed Race Female Pop Stars

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This decade, the music industry has seen a new trend,  the rise in the popularity of the mixed race female pop stars. Beyonce , Alicia Keys, Leona Lewis, and Rihanna are all mixed race women they have exploded in popularity in pop culture. Of course, Beyonce, Keys, Rihanna, and Lewis all have talent. However, it would be ludicrous to ignore the politics of race, gender, and sexuality, and how this relates to the real picture. The music industry is all about making money, and the key to making money is reaching as many demographic markets as possible.

I am not suggesting that Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Rihanna or Leona Lewis do not deserve  their success, because they obviously worked very hard for their fame. I believe all four of these young women are very talented and definitely are doing well because of their strong work ethic. I am suggesting though that their “Eurocentric appearances”, does have something to do with their popularity. It isn’t just a stroke of luck that there is the trend of the rise in popularity of the mixed race female pop stars.

The mixed race female pop stars are unique, they are “kind of black” yet also “kind of white”, meaning they can appeal to both markets and make the record companies even more money. Why would record companies bother hiring darker skinned black female singers when it is considered tougher to market these women to mainstream audiences?

The mixed race women also of course have  the background stories around the “struggle” of being mixed race . You will read the recycled stories about how the light skinned women got it tough because they are so “pale”. It is the typical “tragic mulatto woman” story that Halle Berry has explotied for decades to boost her career. Yes, according to the music industry, “only” light skinned mixed race women struggled in this world.

The media constantly recycle these stories about the dilemmas the mixed race girls went through in their lives. It’s all gimmicks and marketing tricks. The record labels will do anything to sell records.

In the 1980s and 1990s darker skinned black women such as Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, and Mary J Blige were able to appeal beyond the R&B market due to talent,determination, and hard work ethic. Of course Houston, Jackson, and Blige are very attractive women but their success was largely due to their talent.

Clive Davis marketed Whitney Houston as an adult contemporary singer not as an R&B singer although Houston does appeal to black audiences as well. Janet Jackson is considered more of a pop artist then as an R&B singer. In the last four years Janet Jackson’s sound has changed to a more urban sound. Mary J Blige is an example of a black woman that overcame the odds of a tough life and become a legend. Blige is called the “Queen of Hip Hop Soul” and she has crossed over due to her talent.

It is obvious this decade music executives don’t seem to be that willing to spend the  money to market and develop  dark skinned black female artists.

The only   darker skinned young black women that have achieved success in North America this decade are Fantasia  and Jennifer Hudson.  However, Jennifer and Fantasia got popular due to the  television show American Idol. Where would Jennifer and Fantasia be if American Idol did not exist? It is obvious Jennifer and Fantasia have a lot of talent but they are also “darker skinned” black women they are not mixed race.

American Idol allowed unknown talents such as Fantasia and Jennifer to have a “chance” when they probably wouldn’t of broken through in the   racist music industry. Fantasia won the third season of American Idol her debut album sold 2 million copies, she was the lead in the Broadway play “The Color Purple”.

Jennifer Hudson did not win American Idol, but she won the war. Hudson’s rise in popularity is truly a stunning example of determination and hard work. Hudson beat over 780 other young women for the role of Effie White in Dreamgirls. Hudson just wanted the job she did not expect to become an acclaimed actress. Hudson was able to to win the Oscar for best supporting actress for Dreamgirls and overshadow Beyonce.

Remember Dreamgirls was supposed to the movie that made Beyonce a Hollywood movie star but she got overshadowed by Jennifer Hudson.Hudson also appeared in the successful film “Sex & The City The Movie” and “The Secret Life of Bees”. Hudson debut album has reached gold status. Would Jennifer Hudson and Fantasia make it if it wasn’t for American Idol though? Would a record company really give Jennifer Hudson and Fantasia a chance? I doubt it.

In the music industry it isn’t just about talent promotion is required, a  gimmick such as a background story is crucial to an artist’s success.

Some people will argue that Beyonce isn’t “mixed race” but Beyonce isn’t just black either. Beyonce’s mother is “creole” and her father is an African American. Beyonce looks like her mother, if Beyonce looked like her father, I doubt she would be so popular. Beyonce also has the classic Eurocentic features the light skin, the thin nose, she also wears platinum blonde weaves to have a more European appearance.

Some people will say that Beyonce has a “right” to wear blonde weaves and of course she does it is her choice. My argument is Beyonce’s “blonde weave” is an example of whiteness it is a way to appeal to both black and white markets. It is not a stroke of luck that Beyonce wears a wig to appear more European.

Leona Lewis is being marketed as the new “Mariah Carey” not just due to her talent but also due to her apperance. Lewis is mixed race she has white and black heritage. Just like Mariah, Leona Lewis also has a great voice and she is very attractive. Rihanna is mixed as well her father is biracial. Rihanna also has extremely light skin, the thin nose,  and she can appeal to the white teen market.  Rihanna’s third album “Good Girl Gone Bad” has sold over 6 million copies worldwide she now has reached the adult market as well.

Will darker skinned black women be able to “make it” in the music industry? Or will the trend continue of the  mixed race women dominating the pop charts?

Compulsory Heterosexuality, Lesbian Existence, & The Heterosexist Matrix

Lesbian feminist Adrienne Rich wrote an explosive essay in the  year 1980 “Compulsory Heterosexuality & Lesbian Existence”. In the essay,  Rich identifies social signifers in relation to the ways in which heterosexual people discriminate against lesbians.  Although I am not a lesbian, there are important elements to Rich’s powerful essay that explores the issue of heterosexism. Rich states that “Compulsory Heterosexuality” is  political and is forced on to the masses. There is indeed an assumption that our lives have to relate to heterosexual culture. We live in a heterosexist matrix where heterosexuality is the norm. An example, of compulsory heterosexuality are the assumptions around socialization, marriage, and procreation.

My older brother and wife are new parents they had their first child yesterday a baby girl.  My sister has a child her son is five years old. I do not have children nor do I want to have children and this is my choice. The reason I don’t want children isn’t because I am gay it is because I am simply not interested in having a child. My sister made a comment today that ” you probably wouldn’t be able to raise a child anyway and you are selfish.”

I snapped back “I don’t want a child nor do I feel the need to have one.” I firmly believe my sister’s attitude is a perfect example of compulsory heterosexuality the assumption that having a child will complete me as a person. Maybe in my  family’s eyes they view me as the “other” because two of their children have produced grand children for them and I have not.

I can honestly say if they feel this way that’s their problem not mine. I am just glad my sister and brother have given my parents grand kids because they always wanted grandchildren. I will admit though there is a part of me that is cognizant of the fact as a gay man some straight people view being gay as a choice. My sexual orientation is not a choice I did not choose to be gay. Should I lie and live a double life like so many gay people still do? Should I pretend to be straight just to appease my family? Of course not!

My personal happiness is more important then their views about homosexuality. However, there are millions of gays and lesbians across this planet that live  double lives until the day they die because they “fear” what their families will think if they do “come out” being gay. Some gay people appease their families by marrying someone of the opposite sex to create the illusion of heterosexuality. I weep for these  gays and lesbians because they should be able to live their own lives on their own terms not because of what their families think or believe is right.

Being gay is just a part of who I am as a person it isn’t the complete Orville. I am a multi dimensional person. I do realize though being gay and being socialized in a heterosexist matrix my life will be different then my siblings. I won’t be attending little league games, or dance recitals or parent teacher night appointments this will not be my life.

Even though, I am out to my family, there are times when I don’t really feel that my family is “really” my family and that they “really” understand me. My family seems to have this attitude that because they “know” I am “gay” that they are somehow “very progressive” when they are not. My family tolerates the fact I am gay this is not acceptance. I cannot change my family but I realize I can only make myself happy. It is just annoying dealing with these acid tinged homophobic statements.

Being gay is a part of my life where I feel I can “really” be myself.  For instance, when I visit the gay subculture in Toronto that is a part of my life that is important to me. It is important to me to be able to socialize and be around other gay and lesbian people. Although I am out I do understand being “gay” is a crucial part of my life and I won’t deny this. We live in a heterosexist culture where everything relates to heterosexuality such as the movies, magazines, billboards, advertisements, books, television, even the news.

Completed Poetry Manuscript Any Advice About Poetry Publishers?

I have received  kind  and thoughtful messages from readers that are interested in my poetry.  I am touched that people like my poetry.  I have completed a second poetry manuscript.  All I can say is I am trying really very hard to get another poetry book published. I am also thinking beyond Canada. I don’t care if the publisher is American or Australian  or British or whatever. I am looking across the globe!

I am not Margaret Atwood or Toni Morrison I don’t have the names of famous publishers on speed dial. All I can say is I have a few poetry manuscripts I have already submitted to publishers and I will look for more. Sometimes I wonder if I am doing something wrong? Why does it take editors so long to respond?

I submit poets via snail mail to literary journals and I still haven’t received any responses lately so I submit more poems.

I always make sure when I mail my work that I send self addressed stamped envelopes. The worst part about writing poetry is the waiting game some editors just don’t understand how frustrating it is for poets.

I completed a poetry manuscript and on Monday I plan to travel across  Toronto and buy the 2009 Poet’s Market. The Poet’s Market I have heard it is a good resource for poets that are serious about getting their poems published. I called a few bookstores in Toronto and I know where to find the book. I hope this book can help me. I have also read Poets & Writer’s Magazine and I have a few good leads there. I had no idea how incredibly hard it is to get another poetry book published.

Does Jelena Jankovic Deserve To Be Number One In Women’s Tennis?

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I just heard the shocking news that Jelena Jankovic won the International Tennis Federation’s player of the year award. Jankovic definitely had a solid 2008 she reached her first grand slam final at the US OPEN this year and the semifinals in Australia and the French Open. Jankovic is currently the number one female tennis player. However, Jelena Jankovic also is not a champion she hasn’t won a grand slam singles title yet.

I am confident Jelena will win a grand slam eventually she is just too talented not to. How can Jankovic be the ITF female player of the year when she did not win a grand slam in 2008? Grand slam singles titles separate the champions from the wannabe champions. Jelena is obviously a solid player but she does not deserve this award. It appears to me this is another snub against the Williams Sisters.

The WTA computer rankings value quantity over quality it is obvious Serena Williams had a superior year then Jankovic.

 However, grand slam titles are the jewels of tennis therefore I don’t believe she deserves to win the International Tennis Federation player of the year award. It is  obvious that Serena Williams should of won the ITF player of the year award. Serena won the US OPEN, she was a finalist at Wimbledon and she also won tier I titles in Charleston and Miami. Serena has a winning record over all her rivals except her older sister Venus.

Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova started out 2008 strongly but both women fizzled in the second half of the year due to injuries. Sharapova has a chronic shoulder problem she says she will be ready to defend her title at the Australian Open in January 2009. Ana Ivanovic I am not that impressed with her. I think Ivanovic was able to win the French Open this year because Justine Henin retired from women’s tennis. I still don’t understand why Henin retired she is only twenty five she is still in her prime. The media talk about Henin’s mental strength but I actually think Henin is very fragile she doesn’t take losing very well. Henin tends to be a quitter she just can’t handle pressure and she burned out.

The Williams Sisters are the only women from their generation still at the top of women’s tennis. The Belgians Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin retired, Martina Hingis quit due to controversy over drug use, Davenport is pregnant again, and Amelie Mauresmo is fading. Venus and Serena’s strategy of playing a limited schedule helped them obtain longevity. Serena and Venus also won grand slam singles titles in 2008.

Venus won Wimbledon and the WTA Championships. The Williams Sisters are the best players of their generation when they are serious. There doesn’t seem to be any new players that can crack the top of the womens’ game and no one is dominating women’s tennis right now at the top. 2009 should be interesting I still feel that Serena Williams is the best when she is motivated and serious. I expect Serena to do well in 2009 if she is injury free.

CD Review Brandy “Human”

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On December 30th  2006 Brandy Norwood’s life changed forever she was involved in a car accident on the Los Angeles highway and a woman died. The press immediately pounced on Brandy blaming her for the woman’s death but Brandy was cleared of all criminal charges. 

 Brandy became a recluse she rarely left her house for months in fear of being photographed by the media. The car accident was tragic but it was an accident. However, Brandy still has to deal with a $50 million dollar civil lawsuit.

“Human” is Brandy’s first album with  Epic Records since she was released from Atlantic records after her 2004 album “Afrodisiac” flopped on the charts.  Brandy has a solid track record she is a Grammy award winner and she has sold over 25 million records worldwide.

On Brandy’s first album release in four years “Human” she is clearly trying to reach an older audience. “Human” has a more softer sound Brandy is more emotional and fragile on this album then any of her previous records. The album has a more adult contemporary sound that is a mixture of R&B and pop. Although Brandy does not address the life altering incident of the car accident she does plead for understanding and forgiveness.

 The intro to the album is simply Brandy talking about her life in the past four years how she has grown as a woman and as a young mother. The song “warm it up” (with love) is a nice sounding up tempo song about being in love in a relationship.  The ballad “Right Here (Departed)” is such an emotional song it deals with losing someone you love and care for in life whether it is a lover, a best friend, or a family member.

The songs “True” & “Shattered Heart” are both beautiful songs they showcase Brandy’s improved vocal skills.The songs deal with moving on from  losing someone you love and rising above the feelings of despair and moving on with life.  Brandy sings from her heart on these songs.

“Human” is Brandy’s most mature album to date she is more introspective on this album.  “Human” is a departure for Brandy because she is singing about depressing subjects such as lost love, self doubt, death, and unhappiness. Some Brandy fans may be surprised at the mellow sound of the album.

The only downside to “Human” is that there are not enough up tempo songs on the album. The song “Piano Man” is a very nice uptempo song. Brandy is known for making club bangers and on this album most of the songs are ballads and mid tempo songs.

The song “Human” is  the best song on the album Brandy sings  so passionately she is so vulnerable you can hear the pain in her voice .  “Human” should of been the first single released but that’s just my opinion. I think “Human” can be a huge hit for Brandy.

I believe the general theme of “Human” is that we are all flawed individuals. We all make mistakes, we all have regrets in life but we can rise above the pain. I still believe Brandy’s second album “Never Say Never” is her best album but “Human” is a solid album.

Is The Greater Toronto Area becoming more dangerous?

Two weeks ago my brother’s car was stolen but he was lucky the police found his car. Yesterday my sister went to the mall to workout and her car was stolen. I can’t believe it! It is so shocking and surprising. My sister has insurance so everything will be okay. I am just shocked that someone would be so brazen as to steal a car during daylight in a packed parking lot at a mall.

Check Out Gabrielle Union In The New Movie Cadillac Records

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Check out Gabrielle Union in the film Cadillac Records Gabrielle has a decent sized role in the movie. A lot of people talk about Halle Berry and say she is the hottest black actresss in Hollywood but I disagree. One thing I noticed about Halle Berry she doesn’t have an ass her ass is flat. Now look at Gabrielle Union she obviously has it all the looks, the intelligence, and look at her ass just look at it. It is obvious Gabrielle is a million times more sexier then Halle. I really like Gabrielle Union she has a B.A. degree in sociology from U.C.L.A. and she also is a solid actress. I wish Gabrielle was getting bigger roles but since Hollywood is notorious for skin tone racism I am not surprised. Gabrielle Union should be a bigger star. I am still searching for her 2006 Indie Movie Neo Ned I hear it is on DVD now.

The Fate Of Canada Is In A Black Woman’s Hands

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Canadian politics is usually so boring and dry there has always been a sense that the Canadian public is apathetic to federal political issues until this week. The opposition parties are dissatisfied with the Conservative party of Canada’s attempts to  remove a  guaranteed subsidy that allows political parties money to fundraise their election campaigns. 

The Elections Act allows federal political parties to receive a taxpayer subsidy of $1.75 per year for every vote they receive in a general election; that figure has been indexed to inflation and is currently $1.95. To qualify, a party must receive at least two per cent of all votes cast in a general election, or five per cent of the votes cast in an electoral district in which it ran a candidate. The Conservatives will propose that this subsidy be eliminated.

Here are the estimated subsidies each party received in the 12 months prior to Sept. 30, 2008:

Conservatives:$10.5 million

Liberals:$8.75 million

NDP:$5.06 million

Bloc Quebecois:$3.03 million

Green party:$1.3 million

Fundraising

If the public subsidy is eliminated, political parties will have to rely on their own fundraising to pay for party expenses and election campaigns. Here is what each party raised in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30:

Conservatives: $19.7 million

Liberals:$5.6 million

NDP:$5.1 million

Green party:$1.5 million

Bloc Quebecois:$861,000

The Conservative Party of Canada would have a clear advantage if the guaranteed subsidy was removed and this is why the other political parties are furious. 

Right now on Parliament Hill there is a storm of controversy because three political parties are attempting to seize power and overthrow the conservative party of Canada. According to Canadian law the three opposition parties do have a legal right to defeat the Conservative Party of Canada since they have a minority government.

According to a recent Angus Reid poll 64% of Canadians do not support Stephane Dion  but 53%  are against the Conservative party’s economic policy.  The political cyclone is so tense that in a desperate bid to maintain power Prime Minister Stephen Harper has addressed the nation at 7pm Eastern time on television. The Liberal leader Stephane Dion will address the Canadian public after Harper on Canadian television.The Conservative Party of Canada is also airing political ads slamming the proposed coalition.

 The Liberal party lead by Stephane Dion,  the New Democratic Party lead by Jack Layton and the separatist party the Bloc Quebecois lead by Gilles Duceppe are forming a coalition.

The last time this kind of political crisis had occurred in Canada was in the year 1926. In 1926 Lord Byng of Vimy, then-governor general, decided not to call elections when Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King asked him to, giving Arthur Meighen, whose party had won more seats in the election, a chance to govern. Meighen lost a confidence vote as soon as Parliament reconvened and King won the ensuing election.

The public is divided on whether or not the new coalition should take place or not. 

 Since the Conservative party of Canada has a minority government and do not have magic number of 155 to form a majority government. The Conservative Party of Canada has only 143 seats. If the opposition parties coalition is successful this would mean they have 163 seats and could technically govern the nation. The coalition could defeat the Conservative Party of Canada.

  The three parties New Democratic Party also known as the NDP, Liberal Party, and Bloc Quebecois are forming a coalition and they can topple Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority government. It is strange that the NDP and the Liberals are forming a coalition with the separatist Bloc Quebecois since that party wants to separate from Canada.

Many Canadians in English Canada are against the Bloc Quebecois because this party wants to separate from Canada. Why should a political party that wants to separate from the rest of Canada be allowed at all?

The crisis is so bad that the Governor General Michaelle Jean quickly returned to Canada from a European tour. There is so much pressure on Ms. Jean right now. What is Ms. Jean going to do?

In the year 2004 Stephen Harper also formed a coalition with the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP in an attempt to topple the Liberal minority government when they were in power four years ago.

 The quandary is since Ms. Jean is the head of state in Canada she has to decide the fate of Canada. Ms. Jean has to make a decision whether to allow the new alliance between the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc Quebecois to form a new government. Another alternative is Ms. Jean can allow Prime Minister Stephen Harper to prorogue Parliament giving him more time. Harper is hoping the new coalition will fail. Harper wants more time until January 27th 2009 to come up with a budget.

The opposition parties want to have non confidence vote on December 8th next week because they do not have confidence that Prime Minister Harper can govern the nation properly. Prime Minister Harper of course wants to maintain power. It is so unfortunate that Ms. Jean is being put in this difficult situation. The Governor General is usually just a ceremonial role Queen Elizabeth II representative for Canada. Now Ms. Jean has a difficult decision to make. Ms. Jean can dissolve the current government and call an election.

However, there was just an election six weeks ago so this is unlikely.  Everyone in Canada is waiting to see what Ms. Jean is going to do. The political theatre in Ottawa is so emotional there were outbursts yesterday between Mr. Dion and Mr. Harper in the House of Commons. It is obvious the Conservative Party of Canada is very weak right now and it looks like Stephen Harper he may lose the confidence of his own party sooner rather than later.

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