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Earlier this month, Page Six reported that Beyoncé and Jay Z’s long-rumored duets album will arrive in earbuds around the world “very soon.” The news was met with mixed emotions: It seems some fans were less than thrilled about the idea of an album-length session of post-Lemonade couples counseling.

But why are we assuming that’s what this album will be? For all we know, it’s a bunch of up-tempo party tracks. Given that it’s been 10 years since Beyoncé’s fantastic B’Day, I’d be all for that. Failing that, I’m happy to entertain an album on which Jay Z explains in detail why Becky with the good hair ain’t worth a court-mandated visitation schedule for him and Blue Ivy. I don’t know what’s on this album, and neither do you. But I’m open to finding out, considering the pair’s well-established musical chemistry. Besides, any member of the Beyhive should know by now that there is no such thing as too much Beyoncé in the world.

The real reason I love the idea of a Jay Z and Beyoncé joint project, though, is that it could help usher in a new era for the duets album — a format that has tragically fallen by the wayside in our culture. Yes, duets still exist. No one dares disrespect the magic Ja Rule and Ashanti once made, or what Ciara and Ludacris did further down the country. However, none of those duos created a stand-alone project. Two of the aforementioned are hosting awards shows instead of performing at them.

More recently, we’ve enjoyed duets from Nick Jonas and TinasheAriana Grande and The Weeknd, and Justin Bieber and Halsey. But none of them have given us anything close to the magic Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell produced in the 1960s. In 2013, Maxwell announced plans to go there with Alicia Keys, telling Billboard, “We’re definitely working on an EP that’s sort of Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell.” Three years later, we haven’t heard a peep from either about the project.

So, yes, I would love to hear a duets album from Beyoncé and her husband. While we’re at it, isn’t it about time that Drake and Rihanna quit playing and offered us their own duets album?

Apologies in advance to all those who bow before Aubrey Graham — I’d rather pretend Views never happened.

Read the rest at MTV News.

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“Thots & Thoughts” is a column in which musings on dating, sex, race, religion, and politics all come together—from a bird’s-eye view.

In terms of artistic license, Drake has every right to continue making music about emotional immaturity. He has every right to a whiny outlook on his failed relationships (fictional and otherwise). Likewise, his most ardent fans have every right to keep quoting his songs on social media and pretending that Aubrey Graham is more emotionally intelligent than he actually is. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could all grow up a little?

I am not a Drake hater. Of course, I do question how a Canadian developed a Houston accent as an adult. I also question how said Canadian became West Indian on his latest album. But petty concerns like that haven’t convinced me that he isn’t good at what he does. (I have the receipts of monetary support to prove it.) Still, time has made me wonder how anyone that close to 30 can continue thinking the way he does.

How many more songs can this man make about how he had a “good girl,” went off to do his own thing (and fuck other people freely), and found himself steaming like a hot toddy because that “good girl” lost interest? Even worse, this motherfucker has the audacity to feel a way about someone getting over him. What kind of middle school man-child tripping-over-his-hormones shit is he on? Excuse me, still on.

Gather ‘round, beloveds. I have many examples: 

“All of my ‘let’s just be friends’ are friends I don’t have anymore/Guess that’s why they say you need family for”

Listen, when you do not meet people under platonic circumstances, do not expect them to want to be your platonic friend. I have told many a man to get the hell away from me talking about “let’s just be friends.” Bitch, I got friends. Move around.

“I tried with you/There’s more to life than sleeping in and getting high with you/I had to let go of us to show myself what I could do”

Okay, great. So when they move on, don’t get all pissy about it, newly beardless wonder (more wonderful with a beard, though, tbh).

“Why do I settle for women that force me to pick up the pieces?/Why do I want an independent woman to feel like she needs me?”

Because you’re emotionally manipulative.

“I gave your nickname to someone else.”

You’re also a mean-spirited child at times.

“Chasing women a distraction/They want to be on TV next to me/You cannot be here next to me/Don’t you see Riri here next to me?”

God, shut up.

“I’m way too good to you… You take my love for granted/I just don’t understand it.”

Yo, this man routinely raps about screwing over women, virtually driving them away. Wait, I have another example.

“You hit me like, ‘I know you’re there with someone else’/That pussy knows me better than I know myself”

See that?

Get the hell on somewhere yapping about being too good for anyone. Okay, you are handsome, famous, and rich. There are a bunch of folks like that on Unsung and old episodes of Behind the Music, though. Don’t get too cocky.

And we cannot forget “Hotline Bling,” which is great as a song to bop to in the club, in the car, at the gym, on a sidewalk, or wherever else it’s playing. But as a statement, the song is a prime example that 2016 is the year of our Lemonade.

Read the rest at Complex.

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This is another piece that ended up orphaned. Look, I got paid so we Gucci, but I still felt it should live somewhere. The song is garbage, by the way. Jennifer Lopez could’ve easily just re-released the original version of “Good Hit” instead.

When I read on various sites and across social media that Jennifer Lopez’s new single, “Ain’t Your Mama,” was a “women’s empowerment” or “feminist anthem,” I chuckled like a cartoon villain in the earlier moments of the movie. Like, I don’t know much about algebra, but I know a single produced by a man being sued for sexual assault and battery doesn’t add up to either of those things. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for the online clapback to come.

Since then, Meghan Trainor, one of the song’s co-writers, has spoken in defense of J.Lo, telling Digital Spy of the criticism:

“[It was] not fair on her, not at all. I texted her the song and she had no idea — she thought I did it alone by myself at my house, which a lot of people think because I do do that. I sent it to her and said, ‘Do you like the song?’ and she said, ‘I love the song, my kid loves the song — he’s made me play it five times already so I know it’s a hit — when can I cut it?’, so I said immediately, ‘Whenever you want!’”

I have a hard time believing this, but I’ll refrain from hitting Scooby Doo and The Mystery Machine on the hip to further investigate. Even if Lopez had no initial idea that Dr. Luke played a hand in the song’s formation, there’s quite the process that happens between the recording of a song and its distribution. Therefore, somewhere along the way, it should have dawned on the artist in question who all had a hand in its creation. So let’s be clear that Jennifer Lopez and her label made a choice to release the single anyway.

As a fan of Jennifer Lopez’s music, it’s a choice I wish she hadn’t made. For one, the song itself isn’t especially great. It’s definitely no “If You Had My Love,” or hell, “Good Hit.” Couple that with the controversy and one wonders if the song was worth it the noise it has created.

While individuals are certainly innocent until proven guilty, there’s a notable contrast in the many artists who have expressed support for Kesha – Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Adele, Kelly Clarkson – and the virtual crickets over on Dr. Luke’s side. “Ain’t Your Mama” feels like a slap in the face to Kesha. It’s easy to understand why many are angered by the track’s release.

Yet, there’s also something to be said about when people pick and choose to speak out.

Kesha’s lawsuit against Dr. Luke was filed in October 2014. Less than a month later, teenage singer-rapper Becky G released “Can’t Stop Dancin’,” produced by Dr. Luke – whose label she signed to after meeting him at age 14. In April 2015, Becky G released “Lovin’ So Hard,” also produced by Dr. Luke. Months later came two additional singles in “Break A Sweat” and “You Love It,” again each produced by Dr. Luke.

Where was the outcry? If we are concerned about proximity to Dr. Luke, should there not have been more noise made about a teenage girl recording with him virtually non-stop? This is not to negate the efforts of people airing their disappointments with Jennifer Lopez to release a Dr. Luke produce single in the wake of his ongoing legal fight with Kesha. My point is that there should be consistency.

Nonetheless, we do have to hold our artists accountable for their actions.

Last fall, while hosting the Soul Train Awards, Erykah Badu referred to R. Kelly as a “brother” and argued that he “has done more for Black people than anyone.” In terms of his contribution to R&B, R. Kelly has certainly changed the genre and moved it forward it ways very few can ever claim similar rights to. Still, though he might have not been convicted in his child pornography case, he has a long history of accusations of sexual assault against underaged girls — one that he continues to struggle to explain.   

Though Badu doesn’t call herself a feminist, she has described herself as a humanist, telling The Guardian, “I consider myself a spiritual being first, a human being second, a woman third, and fourth is pretty … or ugly!” Perhaps we have different ideas of humanity, but I’m not especially fond of championing a man who has married teenagers and “allegedly” urinated on minors.

The same way I expect someone like Jennifer Lopez, who was recently named the first-ever Global Advocate for Girls and Women at the UN Foundation, to not release songs produced by Dr. Luke while he’s being sued for sexual battery.

That’s why no matter whatever explanation Meghan Trainor offers, it does not excuse certain realities. Jennifer Lopez made a choice. Somewhere along the way, someone had to have known about Dr. Luke’s involvement in the song. By now, Jennifer Lopez has to have been informed of the feedback, and yet, it remains unaddressed.

Those who position themselves as pro women or pro humanity rightfully deserved to be questioned if someone feels they are not holding up to that standard. It’s not about being perfect, it’s just about holding people accountable. Fans have a right to do that, only when it comes to the likes of Dr. Luke, it’s best to do so with consistency.

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Bless her heart: It’s been mighty rough for Tamar Braxton within the last year.

Not only was she forced to leave Dancing With the Stars because of a life-threatening health crisis, but her very good album, Calling All Lovers, caught the fade from consumers. Now one of the biggest breaks in her post-Braxton Family Values career—a slot on the hit daytime talk show The Real—has come to an abrupt end. While the official announcement claims that it was a mutual decision, the first outlet to report the news notes that Braxton was fired—something Braxton’s own fiery Instagram post suggests, since it claims “backstabbing.” Braxton didn’t name names, but she did unfollow everyone on the show except for her now-former-co-host-closest-to-the-ideals-of-Jesus, Tamera Mowry-Housley.

Quoting what it describes as a “very reliable source” (Wendy Williams suggested that it was Loni Love on Monday’s edition of The Wendy Williams Show), Love B. Scott reported: “Tamar Braxton just got fired from The Real. She wasn’t reading too well with the audience and sales people didn’t find her to be a good fit with advertisers. Also, production found her too difficult to deal with.”

Of course, when one reads phrasing like “didn’t find her to be a good fit with advertisers,” certain sensitivities are triggered. One of those includes the notion that maybe, just maybe, Tamar was too loud, and her rolling neck too active, to shill, oh, I don’t know, diet products, kale chips, Cheetos or whatever else daytime TV typically advertises. My people, my people. I feel you, but not in this instance.

Let’s be clear about The Real: Everyone on this show is loud minus Tamera, so while Tamar may be the real-life version of BET’s old cartoon character Cita, Loni Love has a volume set just as high (Jesus’ alarm clock).

As a longtime fan of Tamar Braxton’s (I listen regularly to the first album she pretends never happened), I think this is a teachable moment because I can totally see why Tamar might have gotten the boot. For one, she wasn’t always the most pleasant person on the panel. Her eyes rolled as hard as my body does after my sixth tequila drink (save the judgment) and the DJ turns on Beyoncé’s “Sorry.” She tended to talk over her fellow panelists. She could be dismissive here and there of their feelings, too.

In sum, she treated her co-workers the way Towanda Braxton claims she treats her sisters. The problem, though, is that there is no Mama Braxton to come and save her from their criticism. Moreover, these are co-workers, not kinfolk. Production doesn’t have to put up with you, especially once they realize that they don’t need you to survive. So as special as Tamar Braxton is and as magnetic a personality many find her, we’re all dispensable.

Shoutout to Star Jones and Rosie Perez.

I’m not Iyanla Vanzant, but I have a few suggestions for the littlest Braxton.

Read the rest at The Root.

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This is a post that was commissioned, but ultimately did not run for reasons that appear to be above my pay grade. However, because I think Woody Allen is a smug sum’bitch, I wanted to give it some space to live on Al Gore’s Internet. Here goes.

No matter how important a creative most find Woody Allen to be, it does not cancel out the following reality: he is a cretin of the highest order. Allen’s relationship with children is concerning to say the very least, but what makes Allen’s personal life so grating is that when promoting his professional work, he has only grown more callous in the way in which he discusses it. What’s even more infuriating is how the media continues to handle him delicately – i.e. not calling him out on his s**t at all – collectively.

That begs the question: Why does Woody Allen not carry the taint his accused behavior warrants?

In the now infamous interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the famed director had this to say about the controversy surrounding him marrying the adopted daughter of his ex-wife: “I was immune, yes I was. You can see I worked right through that, undiminished. Made films all through those years and at the same rate I was making them. I’m good that way. I am very disciplined and very monomaniacal and compartmentalized.”

Then there was the question of how his wife, Soon-Yi Previn, has changed him. Allen’s answer was more about him as a white savior than anything related to her:

“Oh, well, one of the great experiences of my life has been my wife. She had a very, very difficult upbringing in Korea: She was an orphan on the streets, living out of trash cans and starving as a 6-year-old. And she was picked up and put in an orphanage. And so I’ve been able to really make her life better.”

Besides not answering the question, there’s also the tidbit that Allen’s former wife and Previn’s adopted mother, Mia Farrow, probably has more to do with that anyway. Of course, Allen has a 2o-year history of making repulsive statements about his relationship with Previn. Again, how does this man managed to continue to be nearly canonized in Hollywood?

Allen’s son, journalist Ronan Farrow, has now asked the question, too.

In a guest column for THR entitled “My Father, Woody Allen, and the Danger of Questions Unasked,” Farrow discusses how the media – self-included –  handle powerful men accused of sexual abuse. Ronan writes about the challenges his sister, Dylan Farrow, who accused Allen of sexually molesting her as a child, had in trying to share her story with the public by way of a post on New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s blog. Ronan also notes the the same publication that limited her expression let Allen have not only more words, but actual space within the printed newspaper.

Even this week, this same paper is reporting that Allen is asked about everything at the Cannes Film Festival besides the accusations.

Accusations Ronan lends credence to as he writes:

“I believe my sister. This was always true as a brother who trusted her, and, even at 5 years old, was troubled by our father’s strange behavior around her: climbing into her bed in the middle of the night, forcing her to suck his thumb — behavior that had prompted him to enter into therapy focused on his inappropriate conduct with children prior to the allegations.”

But while Ronan credits newer media outlets like Buzzfeed and Gawker for challenging the likes of Woody Allen and Bill Cosby for their alleged sexual abuse of women and girls, he highlights that younger acts like Miley Cyrus choose to work with Woody Allen. Ronan notes that it hurts his sister, but it also hurts the generation Miley Cyrus claims to want to represent.

It is not okay for someone like Cyrus to bring awareness to the plight of homeless LGBT youth and advocate for gender and sexual fluidity and then in turn work with the man who married his ex-wife’s adopted kid and has been accused by his daughter of molestation. Similarly, as much as I adore Jennifer Lopez, we cannot allow her to call a song produced by Dr. Luke, who is still dealing with accusations of rape by his artist, Kesha, to be hailed as a “women’s empowerment” anthem.

If you want to compromise yourself for professional gain, so be it — just don’t try to act as though you give that great a damn about the suffering of others.

We have to be better than the people who came before us. We have to not allow the likes of Woody Allen and Bill Cosby or any powerful man in entertainment accused of abuse to continue enjoying free passes in the media. Although comedian Hannibal Buress continues to downplay his joke about Cosby that helped ignite a much needed revisiting of sexual assault allegations leveled against Cosby, it was necessary. It was important. It was more of what we all should be doing.

I try to do my own part. In the space I’ve been allotted here, I’ve repeatedly criticized the media for how it has tackled the relationship of Kylie Jenner and Tyga and how Jenner was sexualized in the press despite being a teenage girl. The same goes for criticizing R. Kelly.

There is no effort too big or small. We merely have to speak up. That is, if we are about lifting up those that have been abused and taking down those accused of violating them. Otherwise, to quote my beloved Evelyn Lozada, “You ain’t about this life.”

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I’ve made it clear that I understood booking Madonna for a Prince tribute at this year’s Billboard Music Awards was BS in theory. So, now after actually watching the tribute last night, believe me when I tell you that I am reveling in all my truth the day after. God bless Madonna because I am a fan, but that tribute was not it. It was not even a lil’ bit of it.

The first problem with the tribute was song selection. I understand that Madonna really, really likes to sing, and to her credit, has worked hard over the years to maintain the voice that she has. Unfortunately, that voice remains incapable of delivering the emotion attached to the Prince songs she opted to cover. I wish she had hit her girl, Ursula The Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid on the hip and asked for a solid in order to secure a better voice for the occasion. Or, you know, Madonna could have just danced through a bunch of Prince’s uptempo tracks while others – including, I don’t know, some of the folks Prince worked with extensively over the years – would be left to handle the heavy weight.

Let’s talk about the set list, shall we? Madonna should have been covering “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Kiss,” or hell, even “Raspberry Beret.” Not, by any stretch, the two she opted for: “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “Purple Rain.” Speaking of the former, why exactly was Madonna singing the Sinead O’Connor version of “Nothing Compares 2 U?” If you’re going to sing a Prince song, sing the Prince song the way Prince actually sang it.

Beloved, WYD?

And what was with that cheap added instrumentation behind the track? Prince, the legendary and extremely gifted musician, would not have been pleased with such dollar-store sounding trickery. I know the always touring Madge knows better.

Speaking of well-meaning intentions going the way of Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, why was Madonna dressed more like Liberace than the Purple One? Let’s reflect more on this: Madonna, queen of the visual, dressed like Michael Douglas’ body double in Behind the Candelabra for a Prince tribute.

Beloved, WYD?

Read the rest at EBONY.

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In theory, I can understand why Madonna was asked to pay tribute to Prince at this year’s Billboard Music Awards, airing Sunday.

When it comes to stars of a certain era—specifically the mid-1980s—there was a trinity: Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson. No stars could command their level of fame. No other acts at the time were matching their successes. No one could match their musical, visual and cultural contributions at the time. They all embody a period in music that the industry will never experience again.

MTV understood this, which is why Madonna introduced Michael Jackson’s tribute in 2009. They are giants, and now only one stands. And despite what some of your cousins on social media have suggested, Madonna and Prince were quite cordial with each other. After all, they did collaborate on the track “Love Song” on Madonna’s Like a Prayer album, but it wasn’t very good, so let’s forget it happened by the end of this sentence. Yes, they’ve sniped at each other over the years, but that’s shady queens for you. Just last fall, Madonna and her entire tour entourage went to Paisley Park to see Prince perform.

But even if Madonna paying tribute to Prince is understandable, many find it wrong, and it’s not hard to see why.

Aside from the hosts of this year’s show, Ludacris and Ciara—who are cementing themselves as more-colored Pitbull and Paula Abdul, respectively—this year’s show reads as mighty white. The only black performer is Rihanna, who, not so coincidentally, is the only black girl who has managed to secure any crossover radio airplay in recent years. All that does is remind me of how much the industry marginalizes black women in music, which pisses me off. Then this show has the nerve not to even promote RIHANNA in the commercials. Who are the folks in charge of advertising? Round them up, and Smithers, release the hounds.

And, in the one segment for a legendary black artist, you ask Madonna to pay tribute to him?

In an interview with the Associated Press, Billboard Awards Executive Producer Mark Bracco said: “Listen, I think everybody is entitled to their opinion and everyone can have their own opinion, but I will say that we are honored and could not be more excited for Madonna to be on the show and to pay tribute to someone that was her friend and her peer and her colleague. I think it’s going to be fantastic.”

Look, I love Madge. I still listen to Bedtime Stories, Erotica and Hard Candy regularly. If you live in Harlem, you’ve likely heard my rendition of “Take a Bow.”

Still, what is she supposed to do? Before anyone tries to drag Madonna for her singing, let’s remember that Vanity was no songbird. I can get jiggy with her covering Prince’s raunchier tunes, but knowing Madonna, she is likely going to re-create Prince’s buttless pants at the 1991 Video Music Awards while singing “Gett Off.” Speaking of stunts, when it comes to Madonna, it will likely be all about Madonna.

Regardless of what she sings, though, it won’t eclipse the reality that in order to properly pay tribute to Prince, you have to keep the spirit of him and his music in mind. Prince was said to have been adamant about having black women involved in previous tributes to his musical legacy. A few years ago, when BET honored him, Janelle Monáe, Esperanza Spalding, Alicia Keys and Patti LaBelle were all included. When he performed at the Grammys in 2004 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of “Purple Rain,” he performed with Beyoncé.

Read more at The Root.

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In 2016, the year of our Lemonade, I have a simple, albeit pointed, question for those purchasing tickets to see Ms. Lauryn Hill in concert: the hell do you expect?

In her now infamous response to online critiques about her perpetual lateness, Ms. Hill took to Facebook to write: “I don’t show up late to shows because I don’t care. And I have nothing but Love and respect for my fans. The challenge is aligning my energy with the time, taking something that isn’t easily classified or contained, and trying to make it available for others.”

This is one of the most comically eloquent ways of trying to spiritualize trifling behavior that I’ve ever read. Kudos to Ms. Hill on that. Nevertheless, to be respectful to is honor the time the people who keep you fed, housed, and in line with the IRS, who spent their money on you. Couple that with a contract and a commitment to a show, that ought to be more than enough to align one’s energy with time.

In any event, a debate ensued underneath the post whether or not Ms. Hill is in the wrong. You can count me in on the side that says she’s more wrong than Azealia Banks most days on Twitter. That said, while I do believe artists have a responsibility to show up on time, when it comes to the case of Ms. Hill, by now, hasn’t everyone picked up a pattern?

Here is what you get when buy a ticket for a Lauryn Hill concert: the potential that she may not appear on stage until the crack of midnight, if at all. If she does decide to actually perform, not only might you experience a shortened set due to her lateness, you will also be subjected to schizophrenic versions of the songs that prompted you to buy tickets to see Ms. Hill almost 20 years after the release of her debut album to begin with.

Or, you may get a surprisingly gorgeous cover of a Sade classic. Who knows? The only certain thing with her is uncertainty about what you will be subjecting yourself to. When it comes to attending a Lauryn Hill concert, you are essentially playing a scratch-off lotto ticket with the hopes of being entertained.

By now, you know, however, the Grammy award winning singer, rapper, and CPT time personifier is not the only act ruffling the feathers of fans.

I love Janet Jackson like I love fried chicken, butts, and my student loan lenders not calling or emailing me; however, mama irked the absolute hell out of me deciding in the middle of a world tour that she wanted to plan a family at the age of 49. Oh, I hear you: “STOP BEING INSENSITIVE.” You know what’s insensitive? Starting a world tour, then stopping it and pushing back the dates only to then decide to delay it again.

Janet Jackson announced this tour in May 2015. It stopped not long after. The show was set to return in 2016 and may not get under way again until 2017. Well, if she keeps her word. We have no reason to conclude she will. Janet Jackson was fortunate enough to refund fans. To her credit, so has Ms. Hill.

Read more at EBONY.

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#LEMONADE The Visual Album Is available now on iTunes, Amazon and TIDAL.

A photo posted by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on


Michael Arceneaux: hooks is entitled to her opinion; I’m entitled to mine

As great a fan of Beyoncé as I am, I know no one is above criticism. Still, I find it equally fascinating and frustrating that bell hooks – the same person who once wrote so gleefully about Lil’ Kim and now champions the likes of Emma Watson – can in turn be so contemptuous about Beyoncé, and in separates cases, artists like Nicki Minaj.

hooks’ continuous condemnation of femininity is a petty critique gussied up with academic pretension. The idea that being ultra feminine is anti-intellectual is more damaging and reductive a sentiment than anything shown in Lemonade.

It’s also mighty rich for a woman who labeled Beyoncé a “terrorist” to now complain about female violence. By the way, when you’re as controlled an act as Beyoncé is, there’s something to be said about her allowing herself to publicly show that level of anger.

And someone who sells books and gives speeches at premier universities should also know that just because something is designed to make money doesn’t inherently mean it is corrupt or compromised. Then there is the reality that how we hurt and how we heal vary. This was her way and art is not intended to discuss such matters in absolutes. I imagine the same goes for Beyoncé’s ideas of feminism, the celebration of women, and femininity in general. bell hooks is free to continue feeling otherwise, but I’m glad the rest of us are not bound to.

You can read the entire roundtable over at Feministing.

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