“At Last” as a True American Classic

The taste of a song often has to do with the time of its release and its context.  There are songs out there written without much taste that can be reinterpreted to have depth and value based on when it is being played.  There are also songs out there that can endure time and transition in the world only to resurface decades later with a new meaning or taste.  The song “At Last” is one of these songs.  It was originally released in 1941 and has been covered and revamped by pretty much all soul, blues and R&B artist since then.  The most notable renditions of the song, however, were by Etta James in 1961 and recently by Beyoncé Knowles at the Presidential Inauguration in 2009.  This song is an American classic that continues to be redefined by American revolution and culture.  It is a timeless hit, as every American knows most of the words to this song, beginning from its unmistakable introduction.

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Etta James released her version of “At Last” in 1961 with no real connotation other than the obvious representation of love and romance.  Although the song made it to #2 on the charts, it was #2 on the Billboard Black Singles Chart.  Upon the song’s release, segregation was still existent in the United States and the civil rights movement was in its heyday. In the spring the song was released, the Ku Klux Klan was attacking freedom riders and other civil rights activists in Alabama.  “At Last” was under scrutiny by the country’s prejudicial white population and Etta James’ dyed blonde hair did not help her cause.

“At Last” is a classic love song.  Most of the lyrics in the song are typical for romantic songs of all time periods.  “At last, my love has come along.  My lonely days are over and life is like a song.”  The lyrics are revealing someone’s feelings the moment they fall in love.  It gives the tone that as soon as this person came into the singers life, it was completely changed for the better; the typical night and day tendency that most love songs represent.  “Here we are in heaven, because you are mine at last”.  Many love songs use this metaphor of love being like heaven on Earth.  The taste of the song is not too complex in Etta James’ version.

On January 20th, 2009, Beyoncé Knowles, one of the most significant singers in the word today (who also happens to be African American), performed a rendering of “At Last” at President Barack Obama’s inaugural ball.  The performance redefined the song and recreated the impact that the song had on America.  This performance changed the words “at last” from being about finally finding love to being about success and progress in the United States.  By the end of the song, which was the President and first lady’s first dance, the audience, Beyonce, the Obamas were all in tears.

Coincidentally, Etta James released the song in 1961, which was the same year that President Obama was born.  In the fifty years of the song’s existence, as well as Obama’s life, the country endured so much change and the song reflected that.  After Beyoncé performed the song, all kinds of meanings behind “At Last” were interpreted.  “At Last” the black population is viewed as equal, “At Last” George Bush’s presidency is over, “At Last” change is happening, “At Last” youth have a say in what happens in politics.  All of these meanings transformed the song into an anthem for America’s new leaf it had turned along with the election of President Obama.

“I found a dream that I could speak to
A dream that I can call my own
I found a thrill to rest my cheek to
A thrill that I have never known”

This portion of the song speaks to a huge population of the country who left as though they were living in a dream that a black president had been elected.  The term “dream” has always been closely associated with civil rights in America, especially because of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” Speech.  The tone in which Beyoncé presented the song at the inauguration was almost like saying that the dream of Dr. King had been achieved by Obama.  “A thrill that I have never known” speaks to the fact that the country had never seen a black president and that it’s a true honor, or thrill, to see one inaugurated.

The taste of “At Last” transformed and gained depth through the years, just like America.  This song now can represent the huge strides in humanity that the United States of America has made in the past fifty years of its popularity.  It almost accentuates how short of a time period that is as well, if the music from fifty years ago is still relevant today.  By examining this song, it’s obvious how important music is to American culture and how real the soundtrack to history can be.

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The Artist Formerly Known as Thomas Gabel

Music is rarely just about making music. It can often be poked and prodded, dissected to reveal a deeper meaning laying within. Most often this can be done through the examination of a song’s lyrics. When a person writes a song it is impossible for them to do so without revealing a bit of their own life, in intentionally or not. The way people then interpret lyrics and incorporate them into their own understanding of the world can send critique of the society we live in and also serve as a form of cultural capital. An overt example of both of these can be found in the words and context behind a new song by the punk band Against Me! called “True Trans Soul Rebel”.

Last year Frank Ocean gained incredible renown for his declaration as being bisexual. This was a huge progressive leap for the hip-hop industry, where the majority of men are expected to conform to typical heterosexual stereotypes. Similarly, on May 31 Rolling Stone magazine published an interview with the singer of Against Me! who was then known as Thomas Gabel. In it, Tom made the revelation that he had long struggled with gender dysphoria and was officially going to start living as a woman. Before analyzing the song and it’s implications it is important to understand exactly how gender, sex,sexuality work in the mind. Sex is whether you are biologically male or female. Sexuality describes your feelings of sexual and romantic attraction. Finally, gender describes the sex you really feel like you identify with and should belong to. As Tom, or as she likes to be called today Laura Jane Grace described in the interview:

“The cliché is that you’re a woman trapped in a man’s body, but it’s not that simple. It’s a feeling of detachment from your body and from yourself. And it’s shitty, man. It’s really fucking shitty.”

While Laura isn’t the first individual to come out as transgender in the history of music, she is certainly the most famous. After the interview Laura began undergoing hormonal treatment and dressing as the woman she felt she was. At the next show of Against Me! they played for the first time the title song of their upcoming album, due next month, called “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”. Soon after the band digitally released single for the song “True Trans Soul Rebel”, featuring Buffalo Bill the crossdressing serial killer from the film “Silence of the Lambs” as it’s artwork. This is the first example of the song as a social commentary. Buffalo Bill, while stated to not be transgender in the book, is still characterized as wanting parts of a woman and villainized for it. This is similar to how in our society raising the issue of transgenderism is met with either discomfort or crude, dehumanizing jokes. The lyrics of the song, in a characteristically blunt fashion, go on to describe Lauren’s struggles. For example, the first verse:

All dressed up and nowhere to go,
Walking the streets all alone.
Another night you wish you could forget,
Making yourself up as you go along

This describes the total alienation Laura felt from society. Despite efforts dress and act in ways expected of her, she still find themselves overwhelmed by loneliness. Other lines insinuate self-harm as a coping mechanism and a feeling of abandonment by God. This music imbues the listener with an understanding of the pains held by transgender individuals they may not have otherwise had.

Finally, Laura has become an inspirational figure to other transgender folks. As she says herself in the above episode of “House of Style”, a show on MTV, if she had had a strong transgender role model she “would’ve felt saved”. Her very presence on this show is a sign of society’s growing acceptance of the transgender culture. This is the above-mentioned cultural capital. Laura’s story is one of overcoming both her own personal demons and the cultural norms of both American and punk culture. Her story of success is one that can spread through both the punk and transgender community. This is what music is really capable of. As a final note, below is a documentary found on the BBC website featuring Laura and a number of other trans activists discussing issues they face and their own stories. If you want to learn more about what it is to be transgender, it’s a great place to go.

http://http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03bd0fp

The Beatles

No matter what the point they were trying to make, The Beatles always got it across. Whether it be for the social advancement or social regression of their population of followers.

The Beatles always seemed to be ahead of their time, whether it be about yellow submarines or becoming the egg man, they always succeeded in instilling hope in America that there is and will be a better tomorrow. The Beatles did not shy away from approaching the so called touchy subjects of the sixties not limited to but including; the Vietnam war, the rise of black power, the wide acceptance of drug use, fear of communism, the cold war … obviously they had their eggs in more then one basket.

When observing top 10 songs from when The Beatles were popular verse the top ten songs now, a sad conclusion is reached.

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In the year 1968, the top songs consist of politically charged, opinionated, controversial lyrics while the top 10 list from 2012 shows songs about giving people your number. And of course this:

…which in a way in a social commentary itself, but one that for the sake of the current human population I do not want to analyze.

Where have all the great artists like The Beatles gone? It is not as though there are no politically charged debates occurring in current events. Maybe it stems from the ever increasing purposeful ignorance of these problems. People don’t want to hear about problems anymore, they want to listen to fake and overdramatized relationships and love stories.

But as much as I complain, I can’t deny having hundreds of these meaningless songs on my playlists. Well I guess The Beatles were right.

You say you want a revolution,
Well you know,
We all want to change the world.

 

Making your Career on Youtube- Meet Jenna Marbles

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Freedom of Youtube: Creating your own job, free of pressure by advertisers

A rise to fame on YouTube is the result of the following: humor, musical talent, a shocking news story.

Jenna Marbles, the “queen of YouTube,” is a highly influential individual, currently with ten million subscribers to her YouTube channel, and additional fans via facebook.  She is a self-declared comedian; her general crowd is teenage girls who share in her day-to-day problems.

Jenna Mourey is better known as Jenna Marbles, using her pet’s name as her given surname.  A sports psychology major got her nowhere, but after her initial postings she earned recognition on Youtube. Her first video was “How to Trick People into Thinking You’re Good-looking,” which was recorded while she got ready for work.

Ms. Mourey currently lives in Los Angeles, and continues to make videos.

She makes a substantial living through the Youtube Partner Program, which gives her a portion of advertising profits that people watch before her videos.

Other groups and stars share similar stories with Mourey, including a group called ImprovEveryWhere and musicians like AJ Raphael.

What is important: despite more “official” offers, Mourey retains her original act: recording from her bedroom on daily issues, and chooses to retain her intellectual freedom: she decides what to put in her videos, how to post them, and what she says.

This intellectual freedom is not something that would have been possible without the internet and YouTube.  On typical comedy shows on television, any show really, advertisers restrict the creativity of any producer.  Were Jenna Marbles on television, she would be pushed out, even censored for her profanity.  The beautiful thing about YouTube: she can keep making videos until the day she dies, an no one can stop her.  Why? You can’t control the internet.

Links

TheOtherAsians.com Interview of AJ Rafael

Freedom and the Digital Frontier in the World of Journalism

The digital frontier today has completely changed the world of journalism.  The subject of journalism has gone far beyond just the local newspaper being printed each morning and tossed onto driveways.  Today most people retrieve the news and hear about new news stories on the internet before the story is even written for print. 

Thanks to the help of social media journalism has enter the digital frontier with its very own sites and incorporation of media tools to only enhance the stories and coverage surrounding the news. The use of twitter allows for different news sources to post and share breaking news to millions within seconds.  Facebook has gone from sharing personal information and thoughts to people sharing and posting links to different news articles that range from serious news articles to comical news satires.  There are even sites that are designated to only news coverage such as Cover It Live, a website that allows you to use tweets and posts regarding a topic to create a news story full of interactive links.  

http://www.coveritlive.com/

In today’s day in age, the average journalist has a world of outlets to forward and translate the news to their audiences.  There is much more to learn in the world of journalism as well.  Many journalists today need to be able to learn skills that branch beyond just writing for print media.  They have to be familiar with sites such as Twitter, and CoverItLive and also understand how to strategic post and share their story for the best sharing quality.  Today, journalists spark the news and the audience shares it and passes it along different branches of social media.  It’s fair to say that the evening news isn’t the same reporting as it use to be. 

https://twitter.com/

The emergence and use of new forms of media in the world of journalism opens up a door of freedom for reporters to choose how they will report and share the news they wish.  The approach and style of incorporating different media aspects can influence how a story is released and influenced by the desired audience.  With such freedom comes a new style of competitive nature in the world of media journalism to develop a style that utilizes all that the internet has to offer and spreads the news quickly and effectively. 

A Social Commentary of Bollywood

Bollywood

“What kind of music do you listen to?”  This is one of the few questions people ask each.  Each persons taste in music is so diverse that it cannot be confined to a certain type of genre or song.  What one person finds enjoyable and relaxing, may cause annoyance to someone else in the world of music.  My taste in music has been greatly expanded thanks to my Indian background.  In America, we have Hollywood as the movie capital. But in India, Bollywood is the movie capital and they have a different approach to films and music altogether.

To understand how Bollywood music industry in films have evolved, you have to look at two different time periods: the past and the present.

If we look at this music video, we see that there is very little touching or close interaction between the man and the woman.  Traditionally, this is how the general Indian community favored the movies and music, whether it was a romance or action film.  Additionally, music was sung by the actors/actresses during the film.  So Bollywood films are basically equivalent to musicals.  But in recent years, Bollywood has been evolving (some would say for the worst) in how they make their movie and music videos.  This films and musical performances was a way to display the culture and heritage of India.

This music video is completely different from the first one. In a sense, some would say that Bollywood is becoming more Westernized.  If we analyze this video, we see many changes.  First, we see that the women’s clothes have become more “revealing.”  While showing a woman’s belly button and such is not a big deal to Americans, trust me when I say that the Indian grandmothers are making rude comments about the women who do this.  Secondly, we see a closer interaction among the men and women to promote more of a “sexy” feel to the video.  The filmmakers feel that this will keep the audience pleased and interested.  Lastly, while this song many not have much, many songs have started to incorporate the English language into the lyrics.  I feel that this makes the songs less relatable for Indians as a whole.

I think that it is necessary for the filmmakers to continue the Hindu traditions to show independence from Westernization.  What many people do not know is that Bollywood was born during the nation’s struggles against the British.  Bollywood is a symbol of freedom from foreign influence.

Runaway Love

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Runaway Love by Ludacris and Mary J. Blige is a very powerful song that tackles the subject of kids running away from their homes because of their negative environment. He tells the story of three females and the obstacles they face in their home life. He first introduces us to Lisa, a 9 year old girl and the bad relationship she has with her mother.

Mama is on drugs getting high up in the kitchen
Bringing home men at different hours of the night
Starting with some laughs — usually ending in a fight
Sneaking in her room while her mama’s knocked out
Trying to have his way and little Lisa says ‘ouch’
She tries to resist but then all he does is beat her
Tries to tell her mom but her mama don’t believe her

Drugs and alcohol are very strong and addictive. Engaging in them can cause mothers to forget about caring and nurturing for their kids. They are careless to their surroundings and don’t realize the harm they’re doing to their children. When her mother doesn’t believe her, Lisa realizes that she’s alone. She has no one. Her only escape is to runaway.

Forced to think that hell is a place called home
Nothing else to do but get her clothes and pack
She say she’s about to run away and never come back.

Ludacris mentions these lines at the end of each verse with different stories. He tries to show that the only escape that these young girls see is “Running Away” They don’t feel safe in their homes and leads them to live life with guilt. They never want to return because their home is not a safe place as its supposed to be.

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The father bails out he ain’t ready for a kid
Knowing her mama will blow it all outta proportion
Plus she lives poor so no money for abortion
Erica is stuck up in the world on her own

The picture above shows Erica, a pregnant teenager attempting to return home to have the help of her parents after her baby’s father leaves her. When she returns she realizes that her family is in a worst situation then her. Her father is committing domestic violence. She doesn’t feel safe or protected in her home, so she decides to go ahead and runaway.

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The very important subject that Ludacris touches in this song is the thoughts of young innocent individuals who think there is no escape in life but to runaway. He tries to approach this by writing a song than can help them cope and not feel alone.

Sometimes I feel like running away myself,
So do me a favor right now and close your eyes,
And picture us running away together,
when we come back everything is gonna be okay,
Open your eyes…….

He helps them to feel like they’re not alone. He tries to assimilate with them and prove to them that they can’t run away. They can do it emotionally but they will eventually have to return to their life with everything being okay. Ludacris touches a topic that is very delicate in lives of teenagers. There are probably many people, not only teenagers that go through life problems. Sometimes it can be the alcohol that affects them and their life decisions or sometimes just their anger. Many people have felt like running away before. He tries to explain that Running Away is not the only way to solve these issues.

 

The Digital Humanities and the Knowledge it can Preserve

My personal Digital Humanities Definition

Digital humanities: devoted to understanding the many ways in which digital platforms increase our connectivity to the world economically, socially , and how we can benefit. I attended an information session about the program for Media Culture Studies; it seemed to teach one how to use features of the internet,  such as blogging.  My interest ended at that point, because I have never blogged and lacked curiosity.

During the discussion in class we talked about digital literacy as being able to navigate all of the opportunities on the web, such as blogging. My definition is a little different because I tried to think about the benefits of the Digital humanities, rather than just the process

The site I found seems to define the digital humanities as an open source of scholarly communication.  My definition does not seem to cover this.  I have forgotten that one can benefit from the digital humanities intellectually as well.  My definition is tied to connectivity and social advantages of business, not education.  This online Journal has different volumes of information about the digital humanities; some selections brought me to diagrams about analyzing and writing a paper. I selected a journal, and read the following article: “An Electric Current of the Imagination: What the Digital Humanities Are and What they Might Become,” by Andrew Prescott, from the Journal called Art. Prescott discusses how the digital humanities has become an intellectual movement, which began with the digital imaging of books.  He goes on to discuss poetry and displays a picture, creating a digital representation of the Internet.  This person’s interest lies in preserving all knowledge in a few thousand petabytes (a petabyte is a quadrillion bytes of memory).  I suppose this is an avid goal of the digital humanities, to make knowledge accessible to all, online, as opposed to locked up in libraries all over the world.

 

links: 

http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/about/

What’s a party without the Cha Cha Slide?

For anyone that has been to a party with a DJ probably has danced and sung along to the Cha Cha Slide, a group dance that tells the dancers what moves to make next.  The directorial number, first recorded by DJ Casper, is one of the most popular group dance songs of the last decade.  But what makes this simple straight forward group dance mix such an addictive success?

The answer is simple, literally.  The Cha Cha Slide’s success comes with its simplicity.  The fact that every person at a party whether it be a 8-year-old girl to her 85-year-old grandfather can follow along to the lyrics of the Cha Cha Slide and dance along.  What the Cha Cha slide has done for the world of dance parties, proms, sweet sixteens and anniversary parties has changed the way our culture reacts to group dances in general and what it has done for the environment at any dance party.

Many people have heard of the international hit the Macarena, which became a hit throughout the early 90s.  Likewise, for those that have dance along to the latin group dance have also taken part in dancing to numbers like the Electric Slide, and the famous Chicken Dance.  For the Cha Cha slide a much wider audience is captured here, seeing as it appeals to dancers of all ages. 

What sets apart the appeal of group dance numbers at parties such as the Cha Cha Slide or the Cotton Eye Joe is it’s ability to bring everyone at the party to the dance floor.  Everyone has a different style of dance, like a language and tone all their own.  As for dance, there are only so many that can hold a beat, or swing their hips to the music just the right way to be considered socially acceptable.  However, the Cha Cha Slide takes the pressure of having the most interesting or even just the most acceptable dance moves for you by telling dancers what to do next.  The Cha Cha Slide takes the simplest of dance moves such as sliding to the left, the right or doing a criss cross.  Any dancer doesn’t have to think about what to do next because they know that they will be told.  

On a grander scale the playing of the Cha Cha Slide, or any group dance song for that matter has the ability to bring everyone together at a social gathering.  Instantly any current inhibitions, awkward dance moves, or age barrier at a party are removed and allow people to come together and simply have some fun.

While there are a number of different songs and genres also comes those that bring everyone together.  If anyone is to study the different styles of taste in music has to also study those songs that bring people all together.  In a party setting the ability for these songs to bring together an entire room demonstrates the importance of people feeling comfortable and as though belong.  The Cha Cha Slide has an never ending connection to the memories surrounding those birthday parties, sweet sixteens, weddings, anniversary parties and proms where people danced together to those lyrics.  Those lyrics of “how low can you go” and “cha cha real slow now” relate to a time and place as well as a general memory of dancing and having fun with those around you.

Through these memories of dancing to the Cha Cha Slide comes the establishment of tradition in American culture.  The simplicity of a song such as the Cha Cha Slide can open a spiral of memories that span throughout a person’s childhood.  The Cha Cha Slide is establishing the significance of place that a person can return just like everyone else when they make their way to the dance floor upon hearing the first few words.  The Cha Cha Slide has established a level of similarity, tradition, and has created many memories for music fans and dancers and non-dancers of all ages.

West Coast Rap as social commentary

Ever since hip-hop was created in 1970’s South Bronx, it became part of culture with the individuals that produced hip-hop music and those who consumed it. NWA was a group of 5 to 6 rappers that joined to make a hip-hop group, but they made sure to use their music to create a conscious, whether or not the listeners were ready to hear the content of the songs. One of their most famous songs that was released in 1988 is “Fuck Tha Police,” since it was written about the police department and their racial profiling that leads to unneeded arrests of African American males. Ice cube, a member of NWA, raps “You’d rather see, me in the pen/ than me and Lorenzo rolling in a Benz-o,” which was a violent critique of the police and the United States’ corrupted political system. NWA strategically wrote the song as if each rapper was preaching their side of their story to a jury, and ultimately the judge decides to give the verdict of the police officer getting arrested. The policeman that was described as corrupted, harsh, and racist throughout the song was then pleading for justice for himself when all along he was convicting the rappers unjustly because of their race. “Fuck Tha Police” was the first song to publicly express how African American males felt about the ongoing racism in the political system, which is why the song is still praised for it’s social consciousness that continues to be analyzed by generations after generations.

            Recently, hip-hop is still holding on to its origins and artists are focusing more on relevant social topics, instead of producing songs about glamorizing money, sex, and drugs. Kendrick Lamar is one of the recent artists that has been praised because of his lyrics by critiques and fellow hip-hop legends. Dr. Dre from NWA first signed Kendrick Lamar to his label, Aftermath Entertainment, after listening to one of his first mixtapes because Dr. Dre related to Kendrick Lamar’s lyrics. Kendrick Lamar’s “ADHD” on his Section.80 mixtape shows how Generation Y is the product of technology and how fast it is to get what you want to get to the next notion, which makes us have short attention spans like the symptom of having Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Kendrick Lamar raps, “Who gives a fuck? We never do listen/Unless it comes with an 808/a melody and some hoes,” which describes that individuals only listen to what their music says and particularly if they have videos with explicit content and women in skimpy outfits to catch their attention. Kendrick Lamar is writing lyrics like this to make the listener snap out of the technological trance and realize that there are serious issues that are ongoing around them.

Besides writing about the technological culture that we are living in, he also writes about what happens to individuals when they get “too much of a good thing”. In his breakout single “Swimming Pools” it seems as if he is rapping about drinking and getting heavily intoxicated with a grand amount of liquor that he metaphorically calls a “pool full of liquor”, when in reality it is about how alcoholism ran rampant in his family. Kendrick Lamar raps, “Now I done grew up Round some people living their lifes in bottles Granddaddy had the golden flask Back stroke every day in Chicago,” which people misuse alcohol as an escape from real-life problems and drag others down in their overindulgence. He also raps, “Why you babysitting only two or three shots I’mma show you how to turn it up a notch First you get a swimming pool full of liquor then you dive in it”, about the overuse and the disregard for limits that people exercise when drinking. This song is relatable to any age group, whether it is witnessing alcoholism in your family at a young age like Kendrick, picking up the bottle for the first time as a teen, or being an adult and not being able to establish your limits. The theme of overindulgence in “Swimming Pools” can be analyzed literally to alcoholism, or can be extended to explain any overindulgence in life and how having too much of anything isn’t ideal.