Monday, December 20, 2010

Crazy About Committed

My name is The Media Elitist and I am addicted to watching clips of Committed(from NBC's The Sing Off) perform. *Crowd says, “Hi Media Elitist!”* Are you confused yet? Have no idea what I'm talking about? Okay, let me back up a bit. On NBC's series The Sing Off, a capella groups compete against one another for a cash prize and recording contract. The groups come from all around the world and have diverse musical styles. An undeniable talent is the tie that binds all competitors.

On the December 6th Season 2 premiere of The Sing Off, viewers were introduced to the 10 teams competing for their chance in the spotlight. Among them included a high school team, a jazzy group of teachers,and a legendary musical group from Yale University. For me, the breakout team was a group called Committed from Huntsville, Alabama. At first glance, they didn't seem super interesting—a 6 member group that got their start in church singing gospel music and selected their name because they're committed to God and one another. Um, yawn. With an introduction like that, I wasn't confident that these guys would be particularly entertaining. Then they stepped on stage to sing Maroon 5's This Love and all doubt was erased from my mind.

Now, I don't know much about music so I won't use a lot of technical terms. To put things simply and honestly, the men of Committed can sang! No, not sing. Sing isn't powerful enough to describe the magic this group can create with their voices. During their debut performance, Committed dazzled the audience with a vibrant show of vocal genius.  Throughout the show they've proven that together, they blend and harmonize so smoothly that you're left in awe. As solo performers, each member can truly hold their own and has their specific contributions to the overall sound. Seeing how they shared the soloist responsibility from week to week was always a treat.  It is important to note that being an a capella group doesn't just mean that they sing without music. It also means that they create their own instruments using their voices. Seeing them recreate string instruments for Apologize one week and then switch styles and duplicate the synthesized instruments that drives Usher's music conveys how challenging it is to sing and maintain the instrumentation.

I love Committed because I think they are immensely talented. They've proven that they can go from soulful R&B to boy band pop with ease. Committed maintains their unique style through each performance and I think it's important that they continue that trend. It was their faith in God and dedication to one another that got them on the show in the first place. Hopefully, it will also take them to the very end of the competition. The finale of The Sing Off airs tonight at 8/7c on NBC. I know I'll be glued to my sofa watching every moment—won't you join me?

Talk to me readers: Have you ever watched The Sing Off? If so, what do you think of the competition? If not, what music oriented reality shows do you enjoy? Never heard of Committed? Check them out:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Top 10 Sexiest R&B Videos (Keri Hilson--Take Notes)

By now I’m sure that everyone has seen Keri Hilson’s video for her new single The Way You Love Me, heard about all the drama surrounding it, it or both. In case you’ve somehow managed to avoid this issue all together (perhaps you were out of the country? Or maybe living in a cave?), here is my summary of the song and video:

Song: In short, Keri is telling her man exactly how she wants him to lay in down in the bedroom while applauding her own sexual prowess.
Sample Lyrics: “Love me, love me—it’s the way you love me…touch me, touch me—it’s the way you touch me…f*ck me, f*ck me—it’s the way you f*ck me” & “ So good I make ya think my bed is my work place…you can’t overwork me, baby don’t hurt me”
Video Plot: Keri and her all girl gang are setting her man up for something that is never really explained. Faith Evans, Jojo, and Dawn (of Making the Band/Diddy Dirty Money fame) make cameo appearances. More importantly than the “plot” is the “dancing.” I use the term dancing loosely as it really just boils down to Hilson gyrating about wildly wearing what amounts to a bra and panties. There is a lot of pelvic rolling, p-poppin’(not on a handstand though), and one confusing part where she licks a vault door.

In hindsight, I wondered just why Keri was able to cause such uproar. Personally, I disliked it for 2 main reasons. 1) It was just poorly executed. Cringe-worthy acting? Got that. Uninspired lyrics? Check. Cliché video elements? Yup. Less than stellar singing? Of course. I just feel that if you’re going to do the very most in life, at least do it well. 2) I found the lyrics unnecessarily crude. Say what you will, but I don’t find it sexy or empowering to repeatedly yell about getting f*cked. Personal feelings aside, I think it is safe to say that Keri Hilson didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel with her latest release.
There is a long standing tradition of women in R&B/hip-hop taking their sexuality in their own hands and expressing their wants and desires through music. But for whatever reason, they didn’t insult my sensibilities the way Keri did. Contemplating what made their songs/videos more intriguing or cutting edge, I decided to compile a list of women who did the sex/sexy thing in their music and did a much better job than Miss Keri Baby.
10) “Rock the Boat” Aaliyah: 
Why It’s Better Than Keri’s: First of all, it’s Aaliyah—she’s in a league of her own. Secondly, I’m sure we all knew what she meant when she sang about “rock the boat” and “change positions” but her angelic purring added an air of subtlety that music today lacks. Thirdly, she always had the hottest dance routines in her videos and everyone wanted to learn them. I’m sure people out there still remember the Rock the Boat routine and it’s 9 years later. I doubt The Way You Love Me will be relevant 9 months later. 

9) “Video Phone” Beyonce

Why It’s Better Than Keri’s: Beyonce rarely broaches sex topics in her music, so for her to openly sing about getting videotaped during her sexual escapades was mildly shocking. This sassier side worked in her favor and translated over to the video where we got gum smacking, gun wielding Beyonce. The video had tons of fun visuals including men with cameras for heads, shoutouts to pinup girls of the 50’s, and a dance-off between her and Lady Gaga. Anything that has Beyonce and Lady Gaga going toe to toe has to be made of win, right? 

8) “My Love is Like…Woa” Mya:

Why It’s Better Than Keri’s: I won’t lie—this song and video are one of my personal faves. I love the confident nature of the lyrics—there is just something empowering about declaring your love, kiss, touch, ass, and body to be “like woa.” Mya’s various costume changes prove that you can be just as sexy in shorts and sneakers and you can be wearing a dress and heels. Keying in on Mya’s strong dance background also makes this video great—the tap number stands out as a highlight. 

7) “Comeback” Kelly Rowland:
Why It’s Better Than Keri’s: In perhaps the sexiest track we’ve heard from Kelly, she’s telling the guys that her “comeback” has a lifetime warranty guaranteeing that they’ll never leave. She wins with that line alone because it sounds a heck of a lot better than Keri’s declaration of having the kind of p*ssy that will keep guys out the streets. The video is beautiful to watch—the way it was filmed gives a glamorous feel and Kelly looks especially gorgeous thanks to fabulous styling. 

6) “Good Good”

Why It’s Better Than Keri’s: Oh Ashanti. She’s not particularly impressive at singing or dancing but she always manages to release a catchy song. Good Good is just that. It’s one of those songs that you find yourself humming to yourself after a few listens. It’s also another song that exudes confidence that a woman is well equipped to keep her man at home. The video is campy with super bright coloring, over-the-top styling, and some of the lyrics splashed across the screen. And let’s not forget Ashanti doing household chores in tight clothes and high heels. Somehow this all works together and is entertaining(and perhaps a guilty pleasure for some).

5) “Dip it Low” Christina Milian:
Why It’s Better Than Keri’s: It’s late at night/He’s coming home/Meet him at the door with nothing on/Take him by the hand, let him know it’s on. Christina Milian certainly gets points for being direct. Like Good God, Dip It Low is catchy and the Asian inspiration in the music makes it a bit unique. In the video, she gives viewers a lot at certain points, but manages to pull back before it goes too far. She suggestively shows off in a bra and panties, but still wears a silky robe over it. She dances around in what appears to be a black leather bathing suit and rolls around in black oil—yet somehow it doesn’t seem too scandalous.

4) “Milkshake” Kelis:
Why It's Better Than Keri's: I love that of all the things Kelis could use as a metaphor to describe what makes women special, she chose a milkshake. She takes the milkshake theme literally in her video (which is set in a diner), as she sips on one in a seductive manner with various milkshakes overflowing in the background. That visual could take the video in a completely different direction(if you catch my drift) but you have Nas as a cook, sexy waitresses prancing about, and Kelis’ flirtatious dancing to focus on instead. 

3) “Rude Boy” Rihanna:
Why It's Better Than Keri's: With Rude Boy, Rihanna flips the traditional script and questions whether the guy can meet her needs and is granting him permission to be with her. Love it! The video is a technicolor dream with Rihanna gyrating all over the place, seducing all the guys, and riding animals typically found on an African safari. Rihanna looks fabulous throughout the video and the red, yellow, and green skirt she wears is to die for.
2) “Oops (Oh My)” Tweet:
Why It's Better Than Keri's: This song ranks high on the list because it is wildly believed that she is singing about female masturbation. It’s not a topic you hear often in R&B so it certainly earned a ‘wow’ factor when it was released. With lyrics like, Oops there goes my skirt droppin’ to my feet/Ooh some kinda touch caressing my legs, the video could be very racy. Instead, a more simple approach was taken—Tweet and her background dancers melting down an ice castle with their steamy dancing. This song and video are great examples of music having sensuality without being trashy. 

1) “Ride” Ciara

Why It's Better Than Keri's: Okay. I know this selection may raise some eyebrows. Before we all lashed out at Keri, this video garnered a lot of discussion and the reviews were mixed. Personally, I didn’t like it at first. I felt she left nothing to imagination and I really couldn’t see beyond that. Now I’ve had time to consider it and here is why I think Ciara actually scores with this song: She’s boastful, but in a brutally honest way. How many of us would blatantly say that our mate likes the way we sex them? Seriously—would you make this declaration? Additionally, the video is largely danced based and we all know that dancing is her strong suite. Would her dance routine fit in at strip club? Probably so, but so many women admired the routine and even more wanted to learn it. Forceful and in-your-face sexuality can be uncomfortable at times but being comfortable in your skin is more important than that. With Ride, Ciara took the topic of sex and her sexuality and put it on the table—in an upfront and unapologetic manner.

So now I'd love for my readers to weigh in on the topic. What are your thoughts about Keri's song/ video? Did you find it sexy--yes or no? Why do you have that stance?

Do you think I have a pretty good representation on this list? What songs would you add or take away from it?

Should it matter how explicit artists get in their music? Are concepts of "going too far" only applied to women in music?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Music Monday: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West (Album Review)

I love Kanye West.  There is something about his (usually) unapologetic narcissistic demeanor that I find fascinating.  You get the impression that he completely believes that he's the best thing to ever happen to the rap game.  And, in many ways, this is true.  Whether its delivering stinging one liners in his rhymes or producing infectious beats, few can match West's artistic flair.

            With his latest release, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West once again showcases his expansive musical creativity.  Lyrically, it is equal parts vulnerable and boastful.  On tracks like Blame Game West laments the end of a relationship stating, “Anything but us is who we are/ Disguising ourselves as secret lovers/ we've become public enemies/we walk away like strangers in the street/gone for eternity.” On other songs he taps into a completely different side of himself to deliver cocky anthems that lash out against his critics.  Power is a giant middle finger set to music as he celebrates his talents and rails against those who have opposed him ( Saturday Night Live is targeted).  With the single Runaway West finds a balance between the two—acknowledging his imperfections while remaining the boastful rapper people love to hate. By now, toasting to the “douchebags, a**holes, and scumbags” has become to rallying cry of the defiant and misunderstood.

            Musically, Twisted Fantasy is breathtaking and gorgeous.  From a production standpoint, West outdid himself selecting music that heightens the quality of his songs.  The opening notes of Lost in the World are beautifully somber while Monster has an intensity that matches the lyrical content perfectly.  A crooner from the Motown era could easily sing over the retro sounds of Devil In a New Dress.  Simply put, Twisted Fantasy is musical art. Even without words, each song can take listeners on a journey.
            Even if you're not a Kanye West fan, I would recommend giving My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a listen.  Mr. West offers a non-conventional album that is an interesting departure from the norm of hip-hop.  In a time where music can sound nauseatingly similar, it's nice to have artists who approach their music with a, “whatever I wanna do, gosh it's cool now” type attitude.

Image from:

Music Monday-- Fresh by tabi Bonney (Album Review)

If you haven't heard of tabi Bonney yet, don't worry—you will soon enough.  This Togo, West African born, Washington, DC reared MC is using his world citizen point of view to create unique and spectacular music.  Bonney first gained notoriety on the DC scene with such singles as “The Pocket,” a fun track that incorporates some DC specific slang.  Widening his scope beyond the District, tabi Bonney is increasingly becoming a household name throughout the world thanks to a strong internet presence ( he does a remarkable job of responding to his Twitter followers), consistent video play on television (MTV keeps his videos in regular rotation), and an impressive tour schedule (he announced on Twitter that he's heading to China soon).

            Bonney's album Fresh was released on the 22nd and it expounds upon the foundation he laid in earlier projects.  The music is feel good and seems perfect for long drives in the car.  The words paint vivid pictures—one minute you're with Bonney as he hustles to make money and the imagining the woman that makes him feel like he can reach brand new heights.

            Here are the top 5 songs from Fresh that you must check out.  Listen to the album and let me know your faves!

#5 Sunlight: This song is about building a future for oneself and striving for the best.  Bonus? It has an extremely beautiful beat.  It feels like it can transport you to another place.

#4 Fever: This song features R&B star Raheem DeVaughn and! It showcases Bonney in a flirtatious manner trying to “get” girl. With this smoldering track there is no doubt that he's successful.

#3 Nuthin' But A Hero: Captivating beat aside, this track motivates listeners to follow in the footsteps of tabi Bonney and follow their dreams. “Cuz I'm always on the grind every day, every night/ I'm tryna figure out how to make it/if you gotta dream better make sure you chase it/cuz I live mine/I don't work a 9 to 5 I just rhyme”

#2 Galaxy: This futuristic tune finds tabi Bonney meeting a woman who makes him feel like he can fly to the stars. Listeners will be able to relate to this ode to the prototype.

#1 Make a Killing: There are many reasons why this song gets the #1 spot on my list.  Firstly, the beat immediately grabs you by the ear and demands your attention.  Secondly, the song has an arrogant air that makes it a bit more interesting. Lines like, “And you don't need to like me—I don't need no more new friends” jump out immediately.  Thirdly, the track is so easy to relate to. I mean who isn't trying to make a killing and gain prosperity?

Check out Fresh by tabi Bonney available on iTunes, Downtown Locker Room, FYE, and other fine music retailers!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hip-Hop: Taking Over the World

    Last night I had the extreme honor of being in the presence of hip-hop legends: Kurtis Blow, his son Kurtis Blow, Jr., and Common as they joined forces to celebrate the release of a new book that examines the poetic background of hip-hop lyrics.  The Anthology of Rap was authored by co-editors Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois who led discussions with the rappers about their start in hip-hop, sources of inspiration, and their vision for the future of the genre.
                For me, the most refreshing element of the evening was hearing the methodical ways in which these men approached their careers in rap.  Yes, they all rap because the passion for it courses through their very beings.  But it is bigger than that.  It is bigger than just writing down every thought that comes to mind.  It is bigger than simply grabbing a microphone.  It is about a certain level of scholarship needed to be well rounded rapper and performer.   For Kurtis Blow, studying speech communication in college helped him organize his rhymes.  He was able arrange his raps into categories similar to the categories of speeches—political, extemporaneous, etc.  In doing so, he was able to produce a debut album that he considers very well-rounded in subject matter.  Literary greats such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston provided Common with the drive necessary to write his own songs as well as an overall appreciation for the written word.   Growing up with a father who was increasing his stardom in the world of hip-hop, Kurtis Blow, Jr. learned firsthand the techniques needed to become a powerful performer.  Rapping from the diaphragm and knowing the proper way to hold a microphone may seem simple, but they can make or break a performance.
                As the evening came to a close, the overwhelming consensus was this: Hip-hop is a lot like a human.  It is constantly growing and evolving into something different every day.  It may not be perfect but it has the power to take over the world.  With men such as Kurtis Blow Sr. & Jr, Common, Adam Bradley, and Andrew DuBois at the helm increasing awareness and advocating hip-hop education, there is no doubt that hip-hop can continue reaching new heights every day.  
                Left with a renewed sense of appreciation for hip-hop, it would have been completely acceptable for the evening to end at the conclusion of the panel discussion. Fortunately for everyone in attendance, this was not the case.  We were told to stick around if we wanted to experience something special.  Kurtis Blow and Kurtis Blow, Jr. took to the stage for a mini concert! With an energy level expected from a pack of teenagers, they took us on a musical journey through some of the classics from hip-hops early years.  From Rapper’s Delight to The Breaks and everything in between, we were transported from The Lincoln Theater in Washington, DC to a block party in New York City! Everyone was dancing around and rapping along.  At one point Kurtis (yes, after last night I feel confident that we’re on a first name basis now) even started break dancing!  It was all a reminder that by acknowledging the past and working tirelessly in the present, there are no limitations to the future of hip-hop. 
Hip-Hop…taking over the world—one artist at a time.   

Friday, November 12, 2010

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When Their Daily Lives Were Too Damn Depressing to Live

**Warning!!* This post contains mild movie spoilers!

      Today was the day I decided to grit my teeth and willingly see a Tyler Perry film.  Okay, maybe willing isn't completely accurate but I really wanted to enjoy For Colored Girls because, while I have my issues with Perry as a filmmaker, I knew that the source material was beautiful.  I am, of course, referring to the choreopoem by Ntozake Shange.  Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf is a beloved piece of literature that generations of women have enjoyed since its release in 1975.  With such a rich history surrounding this project, there was no way it could lose, right? Wrong.  So very wrong.
            Halfway through the film I was struck with a feeling of annoyance. The whole thing was so...dramatic!  So dramatic, in fact, that I mentally renamed the film For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When Their Daily Lives Were Too Damn Depressing to Live. Seriously, just take a look at some of the main plots: one woman finds out that the sexuality of her husband is questionable, rape threatens to break the spirit of another woman, yet another woman is in a relationship with a man who is abusive to their children, an inability to bear children brings sadness to one woman whenever she's around unwanted children, another woman struggles with a shiftless spouse, and a conflict of sexuality and religion test the familial bonds of three women.

            With all of that going on there was a lot of tension, arguments, and tears....oh goodness...the tears.  I believe every actress perfected the art of the single tear at some point in the film. But with this over abundance of raw emotion, I could not help but wonder: what happened to the joy?  If For Colored Girls is to serve as a celebration of womanhood, what are we really celebrating? To let the film tell it, black womanhood is wrought with drama and tumultuous experiences. The films lacks the light and balance that the book provides.

            Now, to be fair, the movie wasn't a complete failure.  The actresses did their best to breathe additional life into Shange's words and delivered inspired performances. Kimberly Elise can convey sorrow and devastation like none other and Phylicia Rashad's portrayal of a wise, “see all” landlord grounded the production.  Anika Noni Rose, who I'm used to seeing in light roles, has 2 pivotal scenes  that truly reached into my chest, grabbed my heart, and broke it into pieces. These women drop viewers right into their world and force you to walk with them, wonder what will happen next, and cheer them on to sunnier days. 

            It's just a shame that the movie as a whole doesn't take viewers to that sunnier day. 

To Be Forward or Not To Be Forward: That Is the Question

Recently, a friend of mine met a guy that she really likes.  I listened intently as she went on and on about why this guy is the most amazing person ever, nodded in a supportive manner, and “mmhm’d” at the appropriate moments.  Honestly, I thought I had done my friend duty and done so quite well (if I do say so myself).   My friend, however, had more in mind. “What should I do next? Do I call him or wait for him to contact me?” she asked anxiously.
                Let me stop here and say that I do not consider myself to be a relationship expert.  In fact, I think I’m the farthest thing from it.  I navigate my way through relationships like a blind person navigates through a crowded room—extremely cautiously.  Despite this I sort of felt like saying, “Girl I don’t even know” wasn’t exactly an acceptable response. Instead, I tried the diplomatic approach. “Well girl, do what makes you feel comfortable. Call if you’d like or just let him make the first move.”
                Now I’m aware that tired advice like that makes me look lame.  Honestly, I felt like it was my best bet.  What works for me might not benefit her, and vice versa.  But the situation did cause me to wonder: When it comes to matters of the heart, is there a “right” approach? I decided that additional perspectives would be necessary to me figuring out this issue.  So I reached out to some of my other friends for their opinions.  The advice fell into two general categories: “Take matters into your own hands” v. “Relax and let him approach you”
                The “take matters into you own hands” ladies felt like life is too short to tiptoe around things you want.  If you never step out on faith, you may miss out on something amazing. Hmm, sounds great but for a shy girl such as myself it may prove to be impossible.  Next up are my “relax and let him approach you” ladies who can be separated into two categories.  Some of them simply say, “A woman should never go chasing some man” with a dismissive tone to their voice and a swivel in their neck.  The other half lean on a Bible verse that basically puts men in the position to seek and women to be sought out.  Well now that all sounds like rules tied into gender roles and I tend to balk against anything I'm “supposed” to do by virtue of being a woman. Plus, I'm too impatient to just sit back waiting for things to happen.
                So what do you do when you're too shy to be bold, yet too stubborn to be demure? I don't know! That's why I gave such crappy advice—duh. Keep up! So I present this issue to all of you because clearly with my friend and I it's the blind leading the blind.  And that sounds pretty dangerous to me. So help a sista out—what strategies do you use when trying to pique the interest of that special someone? Are you sassy and bold or demure and lowkey? Do you switch up approaches from time to time? For my fellas, is this even an issue for you?  Everyone tell me your thoughts!