Living in a celebrity-obsessed culture means you will be exposed to saturation coverage with around the clock updates of every move our best and brightest stars make and every breath they take. Whether or not we are interested or care about the celebrity is not the point. We are supposed to care. We are supposed to crave fresh results to process, constant communication and breathless bulletins of what our stars are up to. God isn’t dead. He just needs a better publicist and a Twitter feed.
Which brings me to my point. This is Beyonce’s World and could someone slow it down? I’d like to get off.
I can’t be the only person in North America who is sick and tired of All Things Beyonce.
When I say “I don’t like Beyonce” I’m not saying I don’t like her music. She’s a perfectly capable vocalist. When she doesn’t bleach her hair too blonde, she’s quite attractive. She’s a reasonably good dancer, she has a rockin’ body, and even though Jay-Z isn’t much to look at, I give her a lot of respect for being married to a Black man.
But can a brother get a break from the Beyonce News Network? Everything this woman does is not newsworthy. Yes, I know that’s blasphemy. Come get some if you don’t like it.
Beyonce and Jay-Z Go to Cuba. Conservatives Lose Their Minds. Sun rises the next day. World keeps turning.
Beyonce releases diss track telling her haters to “Bow Down Bitches.” You don’t say?
Beyonce sings at Obama’s inauguration and gets busted for lip synching. Surprised?
Beyonce reunites with Destiny’s Child at The Super Bowl and makes Kelly and Michelle sing one of her songs!
Beyonce named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people in the world. Because she’s a diva. And that makes her influential. So there!
Beyonce bans photographers from her tour. Because they took photographs of her that were unflattering. We only want flattering photos of Bey out there.
I’m not one of those old men who spending his 50′s dumping on entertainment that was never designed with me in mind. Justin Bieber, Scandal, Lena Dunham, Nikki Minaj, reality TV, Mad Men, Game of Thrones,
I still don’t need Beyonce all up in my face ALL the time. Even beauty can be boring as hell.
I think Bey deserves a vacation. She deserves one. She’s earned it. She should take it. She should take pity on the world and allow it to focus on acts of terrorism, wars, economic calamity, natural disasters, political machinations, and other mundane stuff for a while. Every fascinating detail of her fabulous life can go unshared and almost no one will care. Well, except Bossip, Media Take-Out, Perez Hilton and a million other Internet web sites that feed on these tidbits of trivial b.s. like a newborn calf suckling on its mama’s teat, but who gives a crap about them?
Beyonce is the 8th Wonder of the World. It will do us all good if she would go away for a week or two or 26 and allow the world to wonder about her.
- Beyoncé Gives Birth and Pisses off A Lot of People (everydayfamily.com)
- Beyoncé’s not a bad role model. Feminists should give her a break | Caperton Gillett (guardian.co.uk)
- Girl Fight: Keyshia Cole vs. Beyonce (tylatimes.com)
- TV: Other Shows: Beyonce: Life Is But A Dream (avclub.com)
When you’ve been invited to perform for the President of the United States, turned heads as the bass-playing beauty in the Academy Awards house band, toured with Prince and beat out teen dream Justin Bieber for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, you’re having a very good run in the spotlight—and it could turn your head.
From time-to-time an artist gets dubbed as the new savior of jazz. Usually this title is handed out by publications with only a cursory interest in jazz. It’s possible Spalding neither sought nor seeks the responsibility, but with success comes expectation and the expectation is that Radio Music Society, Spalding’s fourth album and her first since her Grammy upset, will be popular in a way few jazz albums have, at least since since guitarist George Benson and saxophonist Kenny G were at their commercial peaks.
The problem with Radio Music Society is it’s only okay as jazz and is tentative as pop music. Spalding is a musician, songwriter, lyricist, arranger and producer and while she does all of this adequately, she does none of it spectacularly.
Everything that has ever been wrong with Spalding is still wrong on Radio Music Society. She’s competent on bass without being exceptional. Her voice is thin and her range limited. The earnestness of her lyrics is overcome by the lumpiness in the delivery. For an album polished and created with maximum airplay in mind, Radio Music Society is noticeably missing a key component of successful pop music: a killer hook. There are multiple vocalists, a choir, a huge horn section, strings, drummers and rappers all over this sprawling record, yet Spalding’s arrangements are sparse and lacking in energy.
“I Can’t Help It,” a Stevie Wonder composition that was performed by Michael Jackson and produced by Quincy Jones for Jackson’s Off the Wall (Epic, 1979,) was then a sweet and soulful little slice of pop heaven livened by Jackson’s energy and affinity for the material. By contrast, Spalding just plows through with an indifferent interpretation that squanders a tenor saxophone solo by Joe Lovano.
Much more successful is “Black Gold,” the stand-out which is an ode to black youth remaining positive in the face of criticism and skepticism. It features an effective duet between Spalding and Algebra Blessett’s stronger vocal abilities. Despite a meandering conclusion, it’s a pretty lead-off single that will doubtlessly play well with younger listeners attuned to Spalding’s neo-soul stylings. “Cinnamon Tree” benefits from Olivia DePrato and Jody Rednage on violin and cello respectively and a soaring guitar solo from Jef Lee Johnson.
Those that bother reading liner notes will notice the familiar names of veterans such as Lovano, Terri Lyne Carrington, Billy Hart and Jack De Johnette as well as vocal contributions from Lalah Hathaway and Leni Stern and assume there will be enough serious jazz to offset the pop aspirations. They may be taken aback once they hear the clunky and heavy-handed environmental message in the lyrics Spalding penned for Wayne Shorter’s “Endangered Species.”
Radio Music Society is Spalding’s first all vocals/no instrumentals record and was conceived with maximum airplay in mind as the first track, “Radio Song,” practically declares. For those digging on Spalding’s girlish but limited range, they know exactly what to expect; but clocking in at over six minutes in length, wafer-thin vocals, knotty shifts in tone, and lacking a chorus to sing along with, “Radio Song” isn’t likely to give Adele anything to worry about when it comes to airplay supremacy.
Two years after its release, Chamber Music Society (Telarc, 2010) was still riding high as the sixth best-selling album on Billboard’s 2011 jazz chart and there is no reason to think the more overtly commercial Radio Music Society won’t perform even better. Despite the fact that it’s unfocused, messy and seems to go on longer than its nearly hour long playing time, this will easily be the biggest jazz album of 2012 (which is absolutely not the same as saying it is the best jazz album of 2012).
The deluxe edition includes a DVD with 11 videos (only “Endangered Species” doesn’t receive one). It’s a mixed bag because the songs that don’t really work on the CD, like “Vague Suspicions,” don’t work any better because there’s a visual to go along with the audio. Spalding is pretty, but she’s not a convincing actress and some of the story ideas are corny, embarrassing or both. The DVD includes bonus material including a 16-minute “making of” the videos.
Radio Music Society aims high and when it succeeds it achieves its ambitious, audacious agenda. A lot of this hinges on Spalding’s big goals, big talent and big hair. She is till a work in progress and even when her ambitions exceed her accomplishments Spalding is still one of the most interesting artists working today. It remains to be seen if she’s really “the One” or the latest in a long list of would-be jazz “saviors.”
Not that jazz necessarily needs one. All the genre needs is exposure, airplay and some respect. Jazz has had supposed saviors before. Kenny G.’s snooze saxophone and Wynton Marsalis’ straight ahead approach taking jazz back to the roots were both hailed as “gateway artists” whose success would surely draw new listeners to jazz. Has it really worked out that way? It’s possible, but it doesn’t seem like its worked out that way.
This review originally appeared at All About Jazz.com
Even though I’m not the biggest Esperanza Spalding fan in the world, I’ve got to give girlfriend some love. Nobody expected some bass-player with a big ass Afro to beat out this year’s boy toy, Justin Bieber, for the Best New Artist Grammy, but that’s exactly what she did. Whenever the underdog beats out the top dog, that’s worth noting.
Facebook and Twitter blew up with people wishing her well, posting links to her videos and just generally celebrating the sister’s upset victory. And I’ll bet percent of them have no idea who the hell Esperanza Spalding is. If you could turn those congratulations into actual sales of her albums, she’d really have something to be happy about.
What’s been funny and simultaneously embarrassing to see how many Black people are ignorant of jazz and blues, but can hum every note of the latest Justin Bieber joint.
Like Nikki Giovanni said, “Ain’t we got NO shame?” When more White folks are hip to jazz than the people who invented the genre in favor of some punk kid with a bad haircut fronted by Usher, it’s time for some mandatory remedial instruction in W.C. Handy, Jelly Roll Morton and Edward Kennedy Ellington, bitches!
I was talking to a woman who owns a really nice local jazz nightclub. She put a post on Facebook asking people if they could have any act, living or dead, play the club, who would they want to see? The answers included the likes of Prince, Sade, Michael Jackson, Bryan McKnight to play a 250 seat club. I was like, c’mon people! Gimme a break! The lady sent me a message that she has to book acts with singers or she can’t get a decent turn out. How pathetic is that? If Herbie Hancock came to town would he have to start “singing” through a vocoder or do an extended version of “Rockit” before folks would show up? That is sad, sad, sad.
I have two teenagers, one about to turn 21 and the other 17 in a matter of months, who have no interest in jazz music. It’s as mysterious and as exotic to them as the Dead Sea Scrolls. They know about Kanye and Ludacris and Beyoncé. They don’t know jack about Miles and Nat and Ella.
There was a Bieber Backlash as some asshole fans crashed Spalding’s website, trashed her Wikipedia entry with death threats “YOU SHOULD GO DIE IN A HOLE…WHO THE HECK ARE YOU ANYWHERE” one fanatic posted in all-caps and accused the jazz bassist of “stealing” the award from Bieber.
The wrath of pimply, pissed-off, prepubescent girls under the influence of Bieber Fever is a force not to be underestimated. Boo-fucking-hoo, ladies. Your idol’s got a crappy 3-D movie stinking up the theaters. Go watch that and have a good cry. That’s show biz, kids.
Ah well, maybe it’s not so important as to shrug off whether Esperanza deserves the big push (“The brightest star on the jazz horizon?” Please.) she’s getting as it is to applaud her providing what President Obama likes to call, “a teachable moment.” I’d hate to think all my jazz albums might as well be burnt up right along with me when I kick off and they toast me up in the crematorium. If Spalding’s success turns a few inquiring minds on to jazz, that’s not a bad thing.
So what if she doesn’t have a feature film or isn’t dampening the panties of 13-year old girls? Justin Bieber never got a round of applause from the President of the United States. It all evens out eventually.