Current thing: pink plus green.
(I try to tell everyone in my office that On Wednesdays We Wear Pink, but most weeks it’s only me. One Man Regina George Man.)

Current thing: pink plus green.

(I try to tell everyone in my office that On Wednesdays We Wear Pink, but most weeks it’s only me. One Man Regina George Man.)


Her mouth opened in a strangled sob, Tacy’s teeth blare bright red.

"You come at the king," Beth says, "you best not miss."
Megan Abbott, Dare Me (2012)

notquiteaspopular:

Cher - “Believe” (#806, 1998, 7 weeks). Under discussion here: http://freakytrigger.co.uk/popular/2014/07/cher-believe/

This is very worth your time. A couple things to highlight in particular: the first is something (many, though not all) music critics think is entirely straightforward and yet seems to elude a great amount of regular folks:

“Believe” is not the first number one record to use it. I don’t know what is, either. The point about Autotune (and its ilk) is that when you hear it used like “Believe” uses it, you’re meant to hear it. Ordinarily, it should be invisible to the average ear. “Believe” is the sound of technology being abused, pushed to places it wasn’t designed to go. The standard debate around pitch correction – are singers deceiving the public by disguising their mistakes? – is completely irrelevant to “Believe”. It’s like criticising the bullet time sequences in The Matrix on the grounds that the actors didn’t do their own stunts.

The other is something I think critics sometimes forget:

Let’s go back to 1998 though, and remember what “Believe” sounded like at the time. Not a revolution. For a start, I’d guess most people imagined the pitch-bending effects were Cher using a vocoder, and vocoders were a known quantity. Vocal distortion wasn’t exactly uncommon in 90s dance music, either — The Tamperer’s “Feel It” has plenty of slowing down and snapping back. At the same time, the way Cher was using vocal tricks — suddenly dropping them in to mutate words – was startling and effective.

"Believe" has become so fixed in its status as what Tom calls Patient Zero that we sometimes forget no one at the time knew T-Pain and "Piece of Me" and 808s and Heartbreak would follow.


You guys, this book is so great.

You guys, this book is so great.


City nerd housekeeping note.

Trying to talk about American cities can be a bit frustrating because America does this weird thing where its primary use of the word city is to indicate a governmental area rather than a socio-cultural urban space. By this reckoning, you end up with factoids like America only has 9 cities with populations over one million people and China has more than 160. This is how you end up with folks saying that Phoenix and San Antonio are among the 10 biggest cities in America, and behemoths like Atlanta and Miami are way down in the 40s — which is only interesting if you want to talk about administrative challenges at the local government level or maybe make comparisons between the history of annexation and incorporation by city governments in the west as compared to the east. But mostly it just means trying to talk about a Los Angeles in which Santa Monica doesn’t exist or a Detroit where Hamtramck doesn’t exist, and that’s just silly.

So I tend to avoid defining US cities by city population. But what to use instead?

The US also talks about the city using the far more intuitive frame of the metro area. But even this doesn’t entirely solve the problem; because there are a few definitions of metro area around, and not all properly encapsulate the city as entity. Just like I’d like a definition of Sydney that includes Parramatta (by which the city has a pop of approx 4.5 milion, I think it’s most sensible to use a measure, that, say, considers Seattle and Bellevue and Tacoma to be part of the same space, or Washington and Arlington and Falls Church to be of a piece but Baltimore to be a discrete place.

Primary Statistical Area seems too broad to me; good perhaps for discussing economic interdependence but too far-reaching to properly describe lived experience. I think a statistical measure that treats Trenton and Brooklyn as part of the same metropolitan entity is flawed for most purposes. Combined Statstical Area is likewise too expansive; Atlanta and Athens are not part of the same city in the way, say, Boston and Cambridge are. This is why I think the most useful definition is the Office of Management and Budget’s Metropolitan Statistical Area. It’s not perfect; I do wonder if the Inland Empire is distinct from Los Angeles and San Jose distinct from San Francisco–Oakland to the extent Chicago and Milwaukee are distinct from one another — if so, Riverside–San Bernardino is America’s fourteenth biggest “city” — but its definitions usually feel right and its population figures are logical for comparative purposes. Sydney and Boston being similar in size works. Sydney being four times bigger than Dallas does not.

In other news, Serbia is now on Streetview. Exciting!


I have been too busy for the Jukebox this week…

…but had I not been:

  • I really like Becky G’s “Shower”; the hook seems to take that wretched adwave-indie American Authors sound and give it an emotional specificity that somehow frees it from blandness.
  • Echosmith’s “Cool Kids” is dope; sry Brad. MGMT gone Radio Disney and it feels so good.
  • I feel OK about Doprah’s “Stranger People,” but that video needs to get the fuck out of here, smarmy little shits.
  • Victoria Duffield’s “More Than Friends” is really great; #TeamJamieson on this one.
  • Maddie & Tae’s “Girl in a Country Song,” works better if you hear it as an everywoman’s expression of discomfort at bro-country (“Can I put on some real clothes now?”) rather than an Important Corrective Statement. It is both those things, but the latter is too often more pronounced than the former. If I’d blurbed it, I would have started off saying something along the lines of “Turns out it was Luke Bryan who made honky-tonk angels…”; I guess in country music you even have to couch your critique of retrograde gender roles in nostalgic terms.

There was a debate going on about what was the song of the summer.

Angel said it was the big crossover reggaeton hit with Daddy Yankee; I didn’t know the name was “Oye Mi Canto,” but we could all sing the refrain:

Boricua, Morena, Dominicano, Colombiano,
Boricua, Morena, Cubano, Mexicano
Oye Mi Canto


Bonnie snorted. “Y’all are crazy,” she said. “It’s Fat Joe!”

We all replied, “Lean Back,” and dropped one shoulder back in smooth unison.

Kenyatta said, “Well, I don’t like her, but that song by Christina Milian — ‘Pop, Pop, Pop That Thang’? That song is blowing up.”

[…]

Pom-Pom spoke up. “I don’t know where you think y’all are at, but there’s just one song this summer. And that’s ‘Locked Up.’ Look around you! End of discussion.”

We had to admit, she was dead on. All summer long, anywhere there was a radio playing, you could hear the almost eerie, plaintive voice of Akon, a Senegalese rapper, singing about prison.

Can’t wait to get out and move forward with my life,
Got a family that loves me and wants me to do right,
But instead I’m here locked up.


Even if the song had not been a huge hit on the outs, it had to be the guiding anthem in a place like the Camp; you heard women who weren’t even hip-hop fans humming it tunelessly under their breath as they folded laundry: “‘I’m locked up, they won’t let me out, nooooo, they won’t let me out. I’m locked up.’”
Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison (2010)

Britney Jean Spears is 20 months older than I am, and as a result, the Britney Narrative has never seemed right to me; since her 1998 debut, I’ve seen Spears’s career in blurred double: the Britney I saw overlaid with the Britney the media, her handler’s, the industry, perhaps the artist herself wanted to present. Twenty months is a small enough gap that for a singer whose being seemed designed to denote youth was someone I best understood as old.
In the Britney Narrative, Spears was introduced to America at sixteen as adolescent and wholesome, appearing in her first video pigtailed and in school uniform. She was underage yet newly sexual — she told interviewers that she planned to save her virginity for marriage, yet her songs vibrated with uncontainable and teenage lust — and this is the frisson the adult men who produced for her and wrote about her picked up on. Spears was a little girl who didn’t know she wasn’t little anymore; Rolling Stone shot her in her bedroom with plush animals and lingerie.
This narrative, notably, is one defined by people who didn’t particularly have much interest in Spears musically; it wasn’t for fans, it was for the public, for people who engaged with Spears as celebrity and cultural object, not as musical performer. I don’t mean to omit Britney’s agency from consideration, but for someone who so quickly became a pop-cultural icon, her intentions in regards to her self-presentation became subservient to those of the pop culture industry tasked with defining her.
As Britney grew older, she became less untouchable and her sexuality became less illicit. She was eighteen when, in “Oops!… I Did It Again,” she confided “I’m not that innocent,” and less than a month shy of twenty when she mused “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” complaining of being “Overprotected.” (The album from which those songs come, Britney, also featured her most overt expressions of sexual desire to date, in the form of “I’m a Slave 4 U” and “Boys,” both of which seemed much more concerned with presenting Spears as sexual actor than sexual object than her previous singles.) Next thing, Spears, at 21, now probably entirely a woman, was kissing Madonna at the VMAs and singing about masturbation.
There are so many flaws with this narrative, but the extent to which Spears contributed to it, through the changing themes of her lyrics, videos, and publicity work, speaks to its power. And, growing up with Britney, it always seemed transparently wrong to me.
Those twenty months Britney has on me seem enormous in high school: we were close enough in age that I could consider her a peer, but I was sufficiently her junior that the youth the media insisted defined her was invisible to me. Rather, I thought, Britney was inescapably old: she was like the big girls a few grades ahead of me. (Her older sister status meant I never saw her an object of attraction either; I was interested in girls my own age.) “…Baby One More Time” wasn’t an expression of untouchable nascent sexuality and I couldn’t see any of the porny subtext the older men deciding whom Britney should be saw. It didn’t make sense to consider Britney as pre-sexual, because the girls I saw at school obviously weren’t, and they, like me, were younger than Britney. They weren’t naïve coquettes; they were wholly formed people with the same desires and maturity I thought myself to have. When Britney sang that she wasn’t a girl, but not yet a woman, it seemed preposterous, because I had just turned eighteen, and could drink and vote and fight wars, and I had no interest in pretending to people I wasn’t an adult. I assumed Britney didn’t either.
There’s a Margaret Atwood line about how “little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life sized,” and it should probably also apply to not-so-little girls. Britney always looked life-sized to me.
As many women since Britney have discovered in varying ways — Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff, Vanessa Hudgens, etc., etc. — our culture has trouble allowing girls to become women in the public eye. They are supposed to retain a childlike asexuality long after they’ve stopped being children, and yet they are supposed to claim womanhood at the precise time onlookers are not made uncomfortable by their sexuality: usually long after they have become actually women. When Britney went through this process, we were growing up just closely enough that I could see how truly bizarre the pantomime was.

Britney Jean Spears is 20 months older than I am, and as a result, the Britney Narrative has never seemed right to me; since her 1998 debut, I’ve seen Spears’s career in blurred double: the Britney I saw overlaid with the Britney the media, her handler’s, the industry, perhaps the artist herself wanted to present. Twenty months is a small enough gap that for a singer whose being seemed designed to denote youth was someone I best understood as old.

In the Britney Narrative, Spears was introduced to America at sixteen as adolescent and wholesome, appearing in her first video pigtailed and in school uniform. She was underage yet newly sexual — she told interviewers that she planned to save her virginity for marriage, yet her songs vibrated with uncontainable and teenage lust — and this is the frisson the adult men who produced for her and wrote about her picked up on. Spears was a little girl who didn’t know she wasn’t little anymore; Rolling Stone shot her in her bedroom with plush animals and lingerie.

This narrative, notably, is one defined by people who didn’t particularly have much interest in Spears musically; it wasn’t for fans, it was for the public, for people who engaged with Spears as celebrity and cultural object, not as musical performer. I don’t mean to omit Britney’s agency from consideration, but for someone who so quickly became a pop-cultural icon, her intentions in regards to her self-presentation became subservient to those of the pop culture industry tasked with defining her.

As Britney grew older, she became less untouchable and her sexuality became less illicit. She was eighteen when, in “Oops!… I Did It Again,” she confided “I’m not that innocent,” and less than a month shy of twenty when she mused “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” complaining of being “Overprotected.” (The album from which those songs come, Britney, also featured her most overt expressions of sexual desire to date, in the form of “I’m a Slave 4 U” and “Boys,” both of which seemed much more concerned with presenting Spears as sexual actor than sexual object than her previous singles.) Next thing, Spears, at 21, now probably entirely a woman, was kissing Madonna at the VMAs and singing about masturbation.

There are so many flaws with this narrative, but the extent to which Spears contributed to it, through the changing themes of her lyrics, videos, and publicity work, speaks to its power. And, growing up with Britney, it always seemed transparently wrong to me.

Those twenty months Britney has on me seem enormous in high school: we were close enough in age that I could consider her a peer, but I was sufficiently her junior that the youth the media insisted defined her was invisible to me. Rather, I thought, Britney was inescapably old: she was like the big girls a few grades ahead of me. (Her older sister status meant I never saw her an object of attraction either; I was interested in girls my own age.) “…Baby One More Time” wasn’t an expression of untouchable nascent sexuality and I couldn’t see any of the porny subtext the older men deciding whom Britney should be saw. It didn’t make sense to consider Britney as pre-sexual, because the girls I saw at school obviously weren’t, and they, like me, were younger than Britney. They weren’t naïve coquettes; they were wholly formed people with the same desires and maturity I thought myself to have. When Britney sang that she wasn’t a girl, but not yet a woman, it seemed preposterous, because I had just turned eighteen, and could drink and vote and fight wars, and I had no interest in pretending to people I wasn’t an adult. I assumed Britney didn’t either.

There’s a Margaret Atwood line about how “little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life sized,” and it should probably also apply to not-so-little girls. Britney always looked life-sized to me.

As many women since Britney have discovered in varying ways — Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff, Vanessa Hudgens, etc., etc. — our culture has trouble allowing girls to become women in the public eye. They are supposed to retain a childlike asexuality long after they’ve stopped being children, and yet they are supposed to claim womanhood at the precise time onlookers are not made uncomfortable by their sexuality: usually long after they have become actually women. When Britney went through this process, we were growing up just closely enough that I could see how truly bizarre the pantomime was.


Young Reid ft. King Kun & Lil Jaey, “Live Life Like Fuck That,” Welcome to Reidsville, 2013

Young Reid is a rapper from backwoods North Carolina who last year made the important discovery that if you make a hard-headed gravel-voiced rap song with a chorus that consists of shouting “LIVE LIFE LIKE FUCK THAT” it turns out great. This deserved to have blown up and have become a hashtag.


This won me a couple of fans, notably my new neighbor Delicious, who shouted with surprise, “P-I Piper! You got some nice titties! You got those TV titties!! They stand up on they own all perky and everything! Damn!”

“Um, thanks, Delicious.”

Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison (2010)

Doesn’t “Delicious” seem like the lame fictionalized version of the real nickname “Tastey” rather than the other way round? TV version of Delicious got the much better end of this stick.



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