The Emergence of the UK ‘Imperfect’ Soul

In British television, particularly reality television or talent contests, there is a repeated trope that black female contestants fall into. The ‘soulful’ black woman, she can power through ballads, her style is gospel, her vocal abilities surpass those she is competing with. Often, she is subject to genre experimentation, we see her recite self-written rapper verses, just to pander to the British public’s understanding of what is ‘urban’. The contestant is boxed into the trope of ‘Sassy Black Woman’ through what the media understands as black characteristics; urban wear, rap music and dance, she is also held to the ‘Magic Black Girl’ perfection, consistently having to meet high performance standard, where one can draw comparisons to existing R’n’B singers. If this standard is not met, she faces the cognitive dissonance of the British public. We are told her downfall is her inability to relate to the public, but really, the issue is that the contestant was unable consistently meet the tropes of black women heavily engrained into British culture. British ‘reality television’ platforms continuously fail contestants through attempting to frame their art forms to one that can be digestible through an entertainment lens, with minority contestants, this lens is understood as a “white entertainment” lens where the additional struggle of being understood by the white majority audience arises.


Contemporary soul, rap and R&B is seeing the development of a counter culture that perfectly responds to this trope, the nuances of black existence are translated into a musical soundscape to form a sonic understanding of this identity. Moreover, we see the rejection of the polished soul singer, as indie artists could embrace the imperfections of the raspy “Halsey” voice, contemporary R’n’B artists are embracing the gentler, softer notes that counter traditional vocal powerhouses.

Fusions of gospel, classic soul and electronic music appear in artists such as Nao, Ray Blk, Sampha and Kelsey Lu, to ears that haven’t experienced the cultural mishmash that is growing up city immigrant communities around the UK, it acts as a way of understanding such beings as products of these cultural interactions. A clear example of this idea is Ray Blk’s “Baby Girlz”, the song is a UK rap piece with a sung chorus. Blk’s identity as a South Londoner is clearly demonstrated, her accent is a clear marker of her London upbringing and the old-school hip hop samples imply a black musical presence in her lifetime. Jorja Smith’s debut single “Blue Lights” uses a similar indicator, the song is an entirely sung pieces yet uses a sample from Dizzee Rascal’s 2007 single “Sirens”, clearly indicating her English identity.

Similarly, to how Solange used her expression of experiences exclusive to the African American community as catharsis, we are seeing UK artists break through the stereotypical representations of blackness in British media and express their exclusive Black British experiences.

 

 

 

Thoughts on The “New” Kanye

As a long term fan of Kanye West,when questions regarding his music are asked this tweet springs to mind:

However the market in question is Kanye’s discography and various business ventures. He has over-saturated his own market of content and now fails to amuse his fan base hence barrage of fans calling for “Old Kanye”. This is acknowledged and played on in the song “I Love Kanye”. The Fourth Wall of the Yeezus persona is broken, to push an agenda of self depreciation to the listener.

Kanye acknowledges his transformation but unfortunately incorrectly. Kanye has never not been a controversial self-aggrandizing figure. He has never been an technical rapper but worked to prove himself as a creative, unique rapper and producer. “Chop up beats” Kanye rapped “They say he bougie, he big-headed/Would you please stop talking about how my dick head is” on Last Call. The same Kanye,voiced his dissatisfaction with Bush’s mishandling of Hurricane Katrina and stormed onto stage during the MTV Europe Music Awards.”Pink Polo” Kanye rapped “After each and every show a couple dykes in the van
It’s easy/The hood love to listen to Jeezy and Weezy/And, oh yeah, Yeezy” Misogyny,public controversy and misconduct are a vital part of the Kanye package,what gains the public approval of his fan base and has the defense of the “Kanye persona”. It isn’t when West sings, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/ Why? I made that bitch famous” on “Famous” that deters followers of Kanye,it is simply put, the deprivation of creative content,the intended agenda is now unclear.

The “old Kanye” may be a short hand way of expressing the longing of creative direction that leads to a legible album narrative.The drive to transform aesthetically and semantically to engage and appeal to those that follow Kanye. The Kanye that used interviews as an outlet to explain said changes.This idea is displayed simply by looking at the variation between Graduation, an album described as a “rock-tinged, electronic-influenced soundscape” and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a culmination of sampling and collaborations. The proclamation that 808s & Heartbreak is “Pop Art”. Followers are now given a less precise and perfected version of this, influences are now imitations in Kanye’s music, samples are hardly reconstructed merely toyed with to provide content.

Alexis Petridis fantastically outlines this feeling in her review of The Life of Pablo in which she states “it’s the sound of a man over-reaching himself. Perhaps it’s a document of a mind coming increasingly unglued”. Kanye’s creative direction is skewed,hard to follow and increasingly underwhelming.

Hunter Beck however provides an interesting explanation to the “New Kanye” he declares that from 2009 onward,Kanye plays a fictional character . Demonstrated by his increased public outbursts and the use of “Cinderella” by Roald Dahl in “Dark Fantasy” the opening song of his 2010 album. This explanation sees Kanye’s persona as a performance that critics the nature of today’s media. We concentrate on vice and sensation because it sells, Kanye’s outlandish statements such as his declaration to run for president have graced the pages of various publications. The notable difference in content is a way of reiterating this idea of an inattentive pop culture,When he wrote and recorded lyrics for Yeezus as freestyles in just two hours and made this known to the public, We still eagerly consumed his content skimming for provocative lyrics.

The flaw with this idea is that as a culture we’ve become increasingly critical;interested in feminism,racial politics and representation. Kanye’s  appeal of controversy and erratic behavior  is now questionable.

 

Petra Collins and White Femininity

A good portion of Petra Collins’ artwork is a coined as a revolutionary but exclusively presents thin able-bodied white females. An inner conflict is struck every-time I see her work as it presents Girlhood accurately but only the girlhood I experience secondhand through hearing my white friends speak to me about their struggles,rather than the black girlhood I face on a day to day basis.Collins plays upon the recent adoption of feminism in social media outlets such as Tumblr,Twitter and Instragram through her exclusionary artwork,this particularly irks me as Social media is used as a representation of the population in sectors such as advertising and marketing,repeated coverage of her artwork among the specific group she targets allows those in power of these companies to believe that it is acceptable to focus on a specific in-group and continue to dismiss the out-group as a passive audience.

Collins representations of feminism lack intersectionality as a result of focusing objectively on white women.This is seemingly perturbing considering the audience she addresses,impressionable young girls who are eager to take on feminism,therefore seek an introduction to feminist ideals via the internet.The importance of lack of female representation is highlighted through its emphasis in her work but misrepresentation of people beyond white and cisgender is overlooked,one who views her work is not guided to such an issue.This can be argued as a refusal to acknowledge and manipulate the privilege she experiences as a result of her race and status,investment in those beyond what is assumed to be the majority does not lead to success;Why should Collins,a member of the white majority have to target beyond this?

Her choice of body hair and female genitalia in her artwork bring to light this issue. White women are still granted femininity if they have bodily hair,hence why advertising of female shaving products include them on a large scale,as it is what we are conditioned to believe is feminine. A women of colour is not the standard of femininity therefore it is not revolutionary for them to have body hair.It is grotesque,epithets and insults such as “gorilla” are thrown at them,little is done to address this issue,Collins adds to the majority who refuse to acknowledge this issue and presents the same idea of a thin,white body as feminine.In what way is this revolutionary? If it does not advocate an accurate depiction of modern feminism or motivate the oppressed.

Additionally,the recurrent Vagina motif  as a symbol of female excludes trans*-women as they do not fit into the spectrum of her presented femininity.

Collins work however is a step forward in feminism,it can lead the demographic she exclusively appeals to research into a more effective internationalist feminism through her pastel-pink,lowered contrast images. Or it can lead them to stay stagnant in their aesthetically pleasing idealized activism which elicits a sense of saviour-ship within young girls as they feel like they’re “contributing” to today’s issues through their colorful self-expressive Tumblr blogs.

Perhaps she intends to address the acceptance of woman’s bodily hair for the time being.It is possible that the visual message she is conveying is temporary until she establishes a rigid fan base,that she feels secure enough to address a controversial issue that is less accessible.She did recently photograph a prominent LGBT activist,Juliana Huxtable,in Dazed. Perhaps my exposure to her work is limited.

Her work successfully conveys what she wishes to achieve as a visual artist it.My analysis has led me to conclude her visual message is “glittery tampons,white privilege and appearing abstract”.

Kim Kardashian’s Paper Mag Photo

Kim Kardashian has recently sported the cover of PaperMag’s Winter issue mimicking the work of Jean Paul Goude. Specifically his “Carolina Beaumont” or “Champagne Incident”.This magazine cover exposes the racist undertones of the artist’s work and the covert racism of the modern printed press.

Upon searching Jean Paul Goude,in most cases where the photographic subject is black.The viewer is exposed to an image of a hypersexulized black body.The subject is usually nude which exposing their gentialia,it can be argued that the nudity is used as an art expression but when displaying his portfolio of work it,the scale of nude black bodies is significantly larger to that of nude white bodies,specifically nude white bodies or nude white MALE bodies which upholds the sexualisation of marginalised groups.As a result of this Goude’s work cannot be regarded as an appreciation of black bodies or female bodies,as it is made apparent that he simply intends to expose a conventional predominately white audience to an area of unfamiliarity.His presentation of black bodies is simply akin to that of human zoos used within slavery in which black bodies were an exhibition of “human curiosities” as a result of their bodies that deviated from European standard.

In the case of Kim Kardashian’s reannactment of the “Champagne Incident” piece,the hypersexulisatioj of the black body is made evident.We are able to see the idealisation and protection of white feminity as a result of the contrast. Kim Kardashian,a sex symbol,commonly praised for her body as it sets an unachievable beauty standard for white females and oppresses black females in the sense that it suggests that their features are not desirable unless on a white,feminine body.This is a healthy assumption as Kim Kardashian has been openly praised for possessing the same physical traits that are associated with black women’s bodies.In Goude’s shot the viewers attention is immediately draw to the skin tone of the subject; it contrasts highly to the blue background used.The champagne glass is placed on the Black females bottom,drawing the viewers eye exclusively to her bare body,the views eyes are drawn away from the subjects facial features,decharacterising her.The views eyes are further drawn to her backside through the trail of champagne leading into the glass convenally placed on her butt. The primary focuses of the image are her butt and her skin tone. The smile on the models face ellicts a sense of comfort as assumed when viewing a smile.She is comfortable to be nude,She is amused by the “Champagne Incident”

PaperMag’s choice to use Kim Kardashian to remodel this image reveals how the intentions of this photo are inherently sexual. The black model is not used as a symbol of appreciation but rather as a way to present black females as overtly sexual and animalistic. Kim Kardashian is known for sex,her career inherently depends on her sex appeal.the intention of reannactment is comparison or appreciation.A young nude black model is compared to Kim Kardashian,who’s media focus is on her outer appearance as a sex symbol.This is clear evidence that the intention of the photo is to present the subject as sexual as it is an image that should be replicated by a sex symbol.

The campaign is also titled “Blow Up The Internet” The cover is to be interpreted as controversial and to get everyone talking about it. I have voluntarily contributed,I believe this should be used as an opportunity to expose the images of racism that are overlooked in everyday press.This cover will most likely be adopted by femisit critic,who will critiscie the demuhunisayiin of Kim Kardashian but will not expose Goude’s work.

also; note how kim kardashian is fully clothed whereas the black model is completely naked and fully exposed,if it was a remake of the image why isn’t Kim’s body more visible? You could argue it’s for a different audience but if so: why isn’t she wearing a less revealing article of clothing? I smell covert racism.

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