music

Beyoncé is Not Jesus by Diamond Coleman

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It's rare in this day and age to meet someone who isn't obsessed with Beyoncé, or, at the very least, doesn't appreciate her talent. When you go on your Facebook and Twitter feeds, she's there in lyrical and GIF forms. When you turn on the radio, one of her songs is playing, and you inevitably begin bobbing your head and rapping or singing along. When she broke the internet (sorry, Kim K. Jk---I'm not) with the release of her new joint "7/11" a few weeks ago, my Twitter timeline was immediately bombarded with hyperbolic tweets. Because of this song, supposedly several proverbial wigs were "snatched" from the heads of non-believers and "peasants," while members of "The Beyhive" (the name given to the Beyoncé fandom) were seemingly incapable of turning off caps lock as they vividly described the apparent religious experience they were undergoing in real time. I don't think I've ever seen the limit of 140 typographical characters reached in such ways before. Nonetheless, I wasn't at all taken aback by this kind of reaction; in fact, I was expecting it. I mean, after all, it's Beyoncé, a woman whose significance has, through the eyes of several people around the world, surpassed that of Jesus. Yeah, THAT Jesus. I'd like to think of myself as a spiritual person rather than a religious one; the latter implies that I'm devoted to a specific religion and practice it regularly, which isn't the case. If anything, I'm agnostic. Agnostically spiritual? Spiritually agnostic? Clearly I'm a work in progress, but basically what I'm getting at is that even though I'm not devoted to a religion that believes Jesus to be the son or prophet of God, I find it offensive that some equate a human being---yes, contrary to what some of y'all believe, when Beyoncé gets paper cuts, she bleeds red blood just like us, not gold---to Jesus Christ. I mean, homegirl is even called "Beysus." Since when was it ever justifiable to make a mockery of religions that are the very core of many people's lives? Have we become so diluted as a society that we now turn to celebrities for guidance?

Yes, it's true that Beyoncé has saved the lives of many, both actually and figuratively; trust me, I know very well the healing power of music. And I give her some props for having the innate ability to have such a profound effect on hundreds of thousands of people that she hasn't even met. But her fascinating influence on others isn't enough to warrant a comparison to a religious figure whose influence is far greater than hers. Exalting her to a divine level is not only ridiculous, but it's also demeaning to us everyday folks. If people continue to react as if they've just witnessed the resurrection of Jesus when she does, well, anything, it will only give more power to the impression that she transcends humanity. She doesn't. No one does. She knows this, so why don't we?

I am not a Beyoncé hater. Actually, I was a huge Destiny's Child fan growing up and when she went solo, I bought Dangerously In Love as soon as it dropped. I also bought B'Day and when her surprise self-titled album was released last year, I even succumbed to the hype and purchased it and the videos. But my opinion of her has definitely changed over the past 17 years (OMG, has it really been that long?!). No longer is she the woman who can sing and dance her ass off while still maintaining a humble disposition. Now, I don't think she's necessarily pompous, but I get the sense that she and her very famous husband are elitist. Is she a great performer? Absolutely. Can she sing? Uh, obviously. Is she pretty? Of course. She also makes catchy-ass music every now and then. But these attributes don't make her a deity; they just mean that she's really talented and possesses star power, whatever the hell that is.

Here's some truth for us all: Beyoncé wasn't thinking about us yesterday, she wasn't thinking about us during any part of today, and she sure as hell won't be thinking about us tomorrow. Not only is she one of the busiest people in the entire world, but she also has a major business to uphold, which means she has no time to even think about her Beyhivers, let alone grieve with them or hold their hand when they're going through a crisis. So why put so much faith into her? There's nothing wrong with being a hardcore fan; hell, I'm guilty of obsessing over some famous people. But now that I'm older and am fully aware that they, just like me, are human and are not infallible, I've chilled out with treating them like they're saints. They make a lot of money and sure, some days I imagine myself being in their shoes. But all that glitters isn't gold, kids.

Let's do better. Let's stop saying Beyoncé is Jesus, because she isn't, and she will never be.

Justin Timberlake's 'The 20/20 Experience' Album Review by Diamond Coleman

Stepping out of the sonic shadows that he's been hiding in for nearly seven years, Justin Timberlake has finally released his third studio album, 'The 20/20 Experience.' Teaming up for a second time with mega-producer Timbaland, the singer's latest effort is sure to help him reattain his title as the pop prince of our generation.

The first track on the album, "Pusher Love Girl," sets the laid-back tone for the rest of the record and makes listeners hopeful for what's to come. Flaunting its 60s R&B influence, "Pusher" proves that Timberlake can hold his own vocally when branching out to an era of music that is considered to be the apotheosis of soul. The song boasts an eight minute duration and transforms itself during the second half, traits that mimic the majority of the songs from JT's previous album FutureSex/LoveSounds. Like the former, 20/20's songs are lengthy, but they all seem to keep your interest due to their metamorphoses.

Justin left his die-hard fans desperately wanting more after FutureSex and put his music on hold to pursue sub-par movie roles (Social Network doesn't count) while becoming an honorary SNL cast member in the process. With every passing year and hilarious Digital Short collabo with Andy Samberg, the number one question on everyone's minds was, "When is Justin going to drop another album?" Undoubtedly, there is always going to be extreme pressure put on an artist when making his or her next album, and oftentimes the new material falls short of the public's expectations. A classic example of this is Michael Jackson'sThriller, which still holds the record for most albums sold worldwide of all time (65 million to be exact). Although the definitive King of Pop released several classic works afterwards, Thriller.

This pressure may be why Justin and Timbaland stuck with many of the same musical styles and themes ofFutureSex, which is considered to be one of the best pop albums of the past decade. While 20/20 is a great album, it could have been considerably more creative and adventurous; most of it sounds like a continuation of FutureSex rather than a reinvention of the singer's (and producer's) talents and musical abilities. When listening to "Mirrors," one might hear remnants of "What Goes Around...", while the bonus track "Body Count" brings one back to the funky guitar strumming of "Like I Love You," a song that was released 11 years ago. Yes, going back to one's roots can be rewarding, but evolution is what gives music its lure.  Everyone knows that Timberlake and Timbaland are more than capable of creating music that transcends any genre---ahem, FutureSex/LoveSounds?---so it's a bit disappointing that more than half a decade later, the duo seems to be stuck in 2006.

Nonetheless, Timberlake still delivers outstanding melodies and falsettos and does a little artistic exploration on 20/20. This is most apparent in "Blue Ocean Floor," a song that takes you on an emotionally-charged, seven-minute visual journey that you wish would never end (thank goodness for the replay button). It has somewhat of an indie feel, which can be attributed to the distorted sounds of a piano and electric guitar. The splashing of waves and cackling of birds can easily transport one to the beach, while the lyrics and JT's voice take you straight into the very depths of the ocean. This vivid imagery is uncharacteristic of Timberlake and solidifies both him and Timbaland as geniuses in their own right.

Other stand-out tracks include "Strawberry Bubblegum," an ultra mellow and smooth joint whose progression will bring out the cool cat that lives in all of us, and "Spaceship Coupe," which follows the same theme of the former but has a tad more sex appeal.

The 20/20 Experience is a must listen even for non-JT supporters, simply for its overall nonconforming sound. Generally speaking, mainstream R&B nowadays is becoming sonically homogenous. But Timberlake, although sticking to a lot of his old style, brings something refreshingly new and exciting to the scene with this album, and before we know it, it'll catapult him back onto the throne.

What Does "Acting Black" Even Mean? by Diamond Coleman

While watching a recent episode of TMZ (don't judge me), I heard Harvey Levin and his crew say something rather ridiculous about the Biebs: that he's "trying to be black" due to his recent behavior and the fact that he has black rappers as friends. I guess smoking weed, talking about sippin' on that sizzurp, drinking Grey Goose and wearing baggy pants (which is a major fashion faux pas, btw) is all us black folks do nowadays, huh? What about our MLKs, Beyoncés, Baracks and Olivia Popes?

Justin Bieber has black friends; big whoop. I have white friends but that doesn't mean I'm trying to be white. It irritates me beyond belief when people say someone is acting black or white just because they talk, behave, or dress a certain way, or have friends of another race. When these false accusations are thrown around so carelessly, stereotypes are further solidified and have an even larger safe haven in which to grow and intensify. But before we delve any deeper into this subject, let's disassemble the actual definition of the word "stereotype" via Merriam-Webster online:

"something conforming to a fixed or general pattern; especially : a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment"

The phrases that stand out most to me in this definition are "oversimplified opinion," "prejudiced attitude," and "uncritical judgment." In other words, to stereotype an entire group of people is to have a prejudice perception of that group that is solely based on generalizations or opinions. So when Harvey Levin said that Justin Bieber is "acting black," I assumed that he was going off of how black people are generally portrayed in media. But as everyone knows (or should know, at least), black people don't just act one way; there's a wider scope of the black experience than what is displayed on TV or heard in some of today's music. I'm not going to lie to you all: I've been guilty of this same ignorance before. And like many of you, I've also been the victim of such ignorance.
I've lost count of how many times I've been told that I "act white" because I sometimes decide to pronounce my -ers and -ings and occasionally exclaim "Oh my god!" in an obnoxious, high-pitched voice. What these people are basically saying is that speaking proper English is unique to only white people and that no one else shouts out God's name in vein. Meanwhile, black people speak in slang and never (or just choose not to) form grammatically-correct sentences.
 
To say one is acting like a certain race is to make a poor generalization of that race based on the behavior of a select few. The same goes for nationalities. For example, it's been said that many people from other countries view Americans as self-indulgent, spoiled and oblivious to the world around them. Of course, not all non-Americans feel this way and not all Americans fit this description. This perception, however, most likely derives from how the supposed "American lifestyle" (I use this term lightly, as not all Americans undergo the same experience) is generally portrayed in media. Thus, it is a generalization. I'm also just going to assume that none of you think that someone can "act American." See where I'm going with this?

It's impossible to act black, white or any other race. There are black people who don't smoke and that wear clothes that fit, just like there are unintelligent Asian people and white people who are poor. Now while I can see where Harvey Levin was attempting to go with this whole Bieber thing, he could've worded his opinions a lot differently. He should've just said that Bieber was acting like a douche, which is a much more accurate adjective in many people's eyes.