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If there is a heaven, I would not be surprised if Whitney Houston asked God to step outside its gates for a second to unleash her fury properly. I know Allan Raible meant well when invoking the late legendary vocalist in his glowing review of Adele’s new album, 25, but I so wish he hadn’t done so. Comparisons – no matter how cringe-worthy they can be at times – are employed to contextualize. That said, context is key, and in the case of comparing Adele to Whitney Houston, essential.

Writing for ABC News, Raible claimed: “It is Adele’s flawless execution that makes these winners. She is, after all, the closest successor we have to Whitney Houston, who could definitely sell a crowd-pleasing ballad while keeping things from getting too cheesy. Adele seems to have a similar universal appeal.”

I’m actually impressed by the varying levels of wrong crammed into just three sentences.

Adele is an extremely talented singer, but Whitney Houston is a once in a lifetime vocalist. There will never be another Whitney Houston. Whitney Houston, notably at her prime, was such a premiere talent that Whitney Houston herself struggled towards the end of her life living up to such a high standard of singing. Houston could literally do any type of singing and do so flawlessly.

And as much a fan as I am of Houston, some of her material was very much cheesy (some of the pop fluff from the mid 1980s, certainly “Whatchulookinat”). She was not the singer-songwriter like Adele, but her voice was so powerful that it could make any song crafted better than what it actually was.

Of course, Raible was not necessarily arguing Adele’s voice rivals Houston’s, but he did speak of it enough to put in the same conversation. It’s just not the case. Anyone who likes Adele should never put that kind of a burden on her.

As far as Adele being a Houston-like figure in terms of appeal, only someone white would think to say this.

What bugged me about Rolling Stone comparing Justin Timberlake to Michael Jackson in 2003 and what grates me about Raible’s claim now is that there are certain factors at hand that makes it much easier for the likes of Justin Timberlake and Adele to have widespread appeal than Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston – no matter how successful the latter were in their respective careers.

Adele will never have to know what it’s like to be marketed as a mainstream balladeer and face resentment from those who look like her – something Houston initially struggled with in the late 1980s. Houston made it easier for the likes of Beyoncé and Rihanna. If anything, I liken Adele to someone more like Celine Dion, and while I don’t want to strip her accomplishments away, Adele also benefits from our current climate of music. That is to say, one that offers a dearth of singers who can actually sing.

Read the rest at VH1.

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For many former white boy band members, the keys to transitioning to full-fledged adult star include muscles, showing off more skin, and more often than not, a flirtation with R&B. Last year, Nick Jonas did all of these things, only he added a notable twist: A full-on courtship—and embracement—of a gay fan base.

In September 2014, Jonas spoke to Logo’s NewNowNext about this move with an admission of previous effort. First, Jonas explained, “I grew up doing theatre here in New York, surrounded by [the gay community] and loving it at a young age.” Then he added that when it came to his past life as a member of The Jonas Brothers, “When my brothers and I started touring and had some success, naturally [gay men] became a pretty big part of our following. I don’t know that we ever did enough to really own that.”

The solution: “I really want to make an effort to embrace the community with open arms.”

So he did. This included a spread in Flaunt magazine’s “Grind Issue” that served as a tribute to Mark Whalberg’s infamous 1992 Calvin Klein underwear campaign. Jonas was photographed in a homoerotic way—touching his crotch, revealing his very well sculpted abs and grabbing his own bare ass (taunting us). I imagine women enjoyed it, too, but if felt like a nod to the gay gaze. Additionally, Jonas has started frequenting New York City gay clubs—dancing to his new singles, lifting up his shirt to tease the boys (or gworls, depending on the gay you’re talking to), looking quite awkward, but making an effort to engage.

He’s also opted to play gay characters: First in Kingdom, and more recently, on Scream Queens. Although some were touched by his efforts—or at least titillated enough to embrace whatever Jonas served—others were less than impressed.

Enter Adam Lambert, who tweeted this time last year: “Anyone find it interesting how straight male Pop stars r pandering to gay audiences lately!? Should we be flattered? Progress or strategy? No shade. I just wanna hear about music! Not be teased on weather someone MIGHT be bi curious or gay or straight. Who cares?! Lol”

Jonas responded to this, telling PrideSource that “everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” but ultimately, “I think it’s unfortunate that some people have to find a negative in every situation.”

Later Jonas echoed this sentiment, and the manner of it bugged me.Speaking with Daily Star Online at the Radio One Teen Awards, Nick teased fans about the upcoming season of Kingdom – notably whether his scenes will get steamier. “Well I’m gay in Kingdom, if you keep watching the series you’ll see more of that,” Jonas said.

However, when asked if he had ever sexually experimented with another man, Jonas answered, “I can’t say if I have or haven’t, but if you watch the show you’ll see more of that.” Actually, you can say if you have or have not—especially if you’ve been essentially putting the tip in with your gay fans.

Jonas was once again asked about “gay baiting” and said, “In every situation when there’s an opportunity to be negative some people find the need to be.”

I loathe that he dismissed legitimate criticism under the very vapid pretense of “positive” or “negative.” Not every critique is trying to call you the worst person who ever lived on this Earth. This is a silly deflection tactic.

I am appreciative that a straight American pop star isn’t running away from the gay fans who helped make him a star. Even so, Jonas’ methodology is a little heavy handed. Granted, I appreciate the sight of his body, but there’s something irritating about Nick Jonas’ refusal to answer whether or not he’s ever actually experimented sexually with another man, given his consistent courting of gay fans.

Read the rest at Fusion.

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Usher is the most successful male R&B artist of the past 20 years – actually, one of the most successful artists period – yet he often feels left out of the conversation when it comes to our generation’s premiere stars.

Much of the narrative about his success now focuses majorly on the juggernaut that was 2004’s Confessions, which sold more than a million records its first week. However, the entertainer had already cemented himself as crossover smash with 2001’s 8701. In fact, I recall being frustrated that Rolling Stone crowned Justin Timberlake “The New King of Pop” in 2003. Clearly that honor should have gone to U. But even with accolades –including Billboard naming him the Top 100 Artist of the 2000s– we’ve been undervaluing Usher for years now.

Some of this is his own fault. It’s no secret that it’s harder for R&B artists now that it’s been in year’s past (unless you’re white), but unlike Beyoncé, Usher tried to keep up with the times. He grabbed a glow stick and joined the EDM kids, resulting in songs like “Oh My God” and “Scream.” Usher also began to collaborate with Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias, which is not wrong in theory but is in its subsequent end result. All of those overly pop-dance singles were cynical attempts to maintain Usher as a radio mainstay.

They were successful in that sense, but they also began to strip Usher of what made him so successful. He stopped being the consistent great album maker. He began to rely more on clichés with only glimmers of forward-leaning R&B such as “Climax.” He essentially didn’t own that he is Usher, thus above that sort of music making. Even if I loathed R&B’s brief but no less painful flirtation with EDM, I understood why many felt compelled to do so. I will never understand why Usher felt such pressure.

Even so, considering his catalog and the millions upon millions it sold and hit after hit it produced, you would think he’d have more capital to quickly recapture past glory.

Especially when you consider he’s beginning to make such good music again. This would include the delightful ode to oral pleasure in “Good Kisser.” I’m not sure I will ever forgive the masses for not making that song a bigger deal.

Now, I understand the division over “She Came To Give It To You” featuring Nicki Minaj. I enjoy it, but it does feel like a retread of that Robin Thicke song I dare not name. Usher got even better with the Mike WiLL Made it produced “Believer” and “Clueless,” which was distributed by way of a Honey Nut Cheerios box.

Read the rest at VH1.

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While watching Charlie Sheen this morning on TODAY, all I could do is think about Magic Johnson.

When Johnson revealed that he was HIV positive, and thus, would immediately be retiring from the NBA at the advice of his doctors, Johnson said during the press conference, “Life is going to go on for me, and I’m going to be a happy man. When your back is against the wall, you have to come out swinging. I’m going to go on, going to be there, going to have fun.”

Johnson would make a brief return to basketball, and in 2011, revealed that he regretted that decision to leave basketball. Still, Johnson stayed true to the commitment he made in that 1991 presser. Life indeed went on for him as Johnson blossomed into hugely successful entrepreneur, advocate, and philanthropist. (Full disclosure: I am a recipient of his foundation’s Taylor Michaels Scholarship Program.)

And yet, more than two decades after Johnson and many other faces and names helped changed the way we look at HIV, the stigmas continue. I’m not comfortable with the reality that some sentiments I heard at the age of 6 remain in my 31st year of life. I’m equally bothered by the circumstances that led to Sheen’s disclosure.

Sheen did not come out willingly; he was pushed into it by way of being gossiped about in tabloids and being blackmailed by the people he allowed into his life.

Look no further than the National Enquirer whose cover story leads with “World Exclusive! Charlie Sheen Is HIV Positive — Inside His Shocking Diagnosis.” The story begins with “Decades of debauchery have finally caught up to Charlie Sheen.” Then there is TMZ, who reported details about Sheen leading into his announcement this morning.

 Sheen revealed that he has known for four years that he was HIV positive. He also noted that he’s been millions of dollars in keeping his status a secret. As a result of this interview, Sheen said, “I released myself from this prison today.”But what kept in his personal cell for so long is remains clear. The “tiger Blood” jokes have already started. As have the comments about him associating with prostitutes – which further vilifies sex workers, who need greater access to prevention efforts than they do further condemnation and criminalization. Even in the Sheen interview, Matt Lauer asked him about the various laws across the country aimed at those with HIV/AIDS. The problem with that line of inquiry is that many of those laws are archaic about based on perceptions about the disease formed in the 1980s.

If Sheen had already claimed that he has revealed his status to each of his sexual partners, why press him about laws that need revision in the wake of medical developments in treating the virus?

Thankfully, there were teachable moments by way of Sheen’s doctor, but too much of the conversation felt stagnant.

Make no mistake: I do not pity Charlie Sheen. It is hard to ever feel that empathetic towards a man with a history of violence against women. Nonetheless, he deserves better than what brought him to this interview. To gossip about his health is deplorable. To extort money from him in this manner is despicable. To continue to damn him and other people living with HIV points to lingering shaming tactics that ought to face certain death.

Read the rest at VH1.

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I refuse to relinquish my dedication to the text message.

In recent months, I’ve come across relatives, friends and men I have dated who seem to have issues with texting – or more pointedly, returning a message I sent. “I don’t like to text,” they tell me, or, “You write too much.” Heaven forbid I don’t stop at “WYD. HRU.” For those who actually enjoy typing words out in full, this would be, “What are you doing?” and “How are you?”. Both of these abbreviations are disgusting, for the record.

If you’re kin I barely speak to outside of holidays or old classmates who I sometimes forget are still alive (listen, adulthood is stressful), by all means ping me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or whatever other social media service I am ignoring but likely signed up for. I like that social media brings many people who otherwise would never connect together.

But I increasingly loathe that it gives people a false sense of intimacy. As in, just because you see whatever I choose to share on social media doesn’t mean you know me. Likewise, you responding to something I put on the internet is not anything close to hitting me back on words said directly to you – it’s ignoring me. No one wants to feel ignored and the fact that I now can visibly see what you are doing on social media in real time as you ignore me is infuriating.

So if you’re a close friend or, even more importantly, a person I am dating, I will not bend on this. Respond to my text. I repeat: respond to my text.

I don’t understand why this task is difficult for people. After all, you’re on your phone either way. The way you can scroll through every social media app you’ve downloaded is the same way you can look to “messages” on your phone, read said messages and you know, respond to them. Why is this a challenge? Spoiler: it’s not.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

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I wish I lived in this mythical world in which being a gay Black male was a one-way ticket to immeasurable success.

Ever since Frank Ocean publishing a letter revealing he was once in love with someone of the same sex played a pivotal role in his success, I’ve seen many argue that it was nothing more than a marketing ploy to boost his career. And if they don’t argue it was a marketing ploy, at the very least the admission is categorized as one that gives Ocean some sort of advantage over his contemporaries. This would include your average social media simpleton and some of Ocean’s recording artists peers, including Miguel and, more recently, Wale.

Indeed, during an appearance on Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, co-host Angela Yee asked Wale whether a gay artist can be successful in hip-hop.

Wale said in response: “If a dude was gay, man, he’d get a Grammy,” Wale said. “They’re gonna make fun of them. They’re gonna throw their Twitter jokes… but in the next three years, there’s probably gonna be a dude who’s not even gay that’s just like ‘Man, this is my last resort’… But nah, I would sign a gay rapper if he was dope. ‘Go ahead man, go do that thing. Go do them Versace fashion shows.’ ”

The Versace quip is interesting, given that although hip-hop remains heavily hypermasculine (as do most things in our culture), it’s always been overtly masculine rappers shouting out the gayest of fashion designers. In any event, Wale went on to cite Frank Ocean, declaring that he was “pushed to the moon” before later adding, “He got the Grammy joint, everything… People look at it like you a hero, you a pioneer.”

He has since tried to “clarify” by way of repeating himself in different phrasing.

Wale’s revisionist history does negate the reality that, although Frank Ocean’s celebrity may have magnified following his admission, his Nostalgia, Ultra mixtape was a critically-acclaimed smash that was on many a music critic’s year-end list—cementing him as a rising star the likes of Beyoncé, Jay Z, and others immediately wanted to work with. As long as Frank Ocean stuck to the themes that wowed people, he was going to become a star no matter what.

Likewise, many tend to forget that Ocean’s letter came not long after a writer who heard his debut album, Channel Orange, early and proceeded to interject rumors about the singer-songwriter’s sexuality onto the Internet.

What grates me most, though, is Wale’s sentiment about what it’s like to be gay in America right now: “People are probably going to go bad on me for saying this, but it’s an advantage to be gay in this country right now. That’s just the fact of the matter.”

Many share this sentiment, and I invite them all to report directly to the seventh circle of hell in a winter coat.

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You will get no argument from me about the plight of the contemporary R&B artist. A number one R&B album on the Billboard 200 here and there does not rule out how much the deck is stacked against them in this climate—particularly if you are a black woman (yes, even Beyoncé). Even so, I believe in aiming your grievances in the appropriate direction, which is why I’m already cringing at what lies ahead in Adele season. People are frustrated that black singers very rarely get to enjoy massive success doing distinctly black music as they did decades prior.

However, Adele is not the best example of how a white face can sell more with a black sound.

Adele is not like Iggy Azalea, or Macklemore, or any other white person borrowing from black cultural traditions. I’m perplexed that people even consider what Adele does to be soul or anything reminiscent of black music. In 2012, Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt accused Adele fans of being racist. Speaking with LA Weekly, Merritt explained, “She really has a lovely voice, but I only get suspicious when people get excited about British people who sound like American black people.”

Merritt went on to add, “Basically she sounds like Anita Baker. And people are not, you know, wild and crazy about Anita Baker.”

No the fuck Adele doesn’t.

As a child who reportedly (by my older sister) would cry in the car as a toddler when an Anita Baker song ended on the radio (then got home and cried again until it was played on a record player), I take great offense to this. I invite Stephen Merritt and others who share this sentiment to listen to Anita Baker’s One Night Only live album (now on Spotify). If anything, this is an example of racism in that white people get extra credit for simply showing up. It’s a similar problem I had with GQ christening Sam Smith “the new face of soul.” I imagine Jon B and Remy Shand are still somewhere pissed about that.

Ain’t no soul there, bih.

Adele has a lovely voice, but it does not possess the grit, fluidity, and genuine soulful tone of a singer like Anita Baker. Frankly, outside of “Rolling in the Deep,” which I suppose has a little kick to it—enough to get Aretha Franklin and many a black auntie to stomp their feet in salute—Adele is not at all soulful sonically or vocally.

Nevertheless, the “Adele sounds black” narrative has returned forcefully but is no less fraudulent a stance.

Read the rest at Complex.

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When I awoke on September 1, best known as the morning after the launch of Janet Jackson’s Unbreakable world tour, I immediately checked social media for footage of the Vancouver.

I wanted to know whether Janet would play it safe with her dancing, as she has in recent years. As in, some moves here and there (obviously), but a lot of speed walking in between—like your mom on the treadmill. The iconic dancer has always managed to put on a good show, but longtime fans noticed during the last tour (or as I did at the 2010 Essence Festival) that she wasn’t doing as much of the original choreography as she used to. The fear of a knee injury will do that to you. Ask Britney Spears.

However, Janet danced as hard as she did in her prime. If you lived in my building, you would have heard me shout “Do that s–t!” several times around 6:30 a.m. Many of my fellow Janet fanatics were just as excited, though some were distracted by her attire.

 As you can see, the top gives janet. era tour while the bottom offers a tease of Aladdin’s house party. Overall, Janet doesn’t seem keen on offering the overtly sexual version of herself that we had become used to seeing since 1993.

Indeed, reviewing the first tour stop for the New York Times, Jon Pareles used phrases like “a newly demure Janet Jackson” while noting that she was “dressed in white and covered.” Then came the other observation that’s since been shared by many others: “And she avoided one big subset of her songwriting: her salacious, sometimes kinky whispers.”

It has since sparked speculation as to why that is. Is it her husband? Has she changed her religions? Does she just not want to become a victim of ageism and be mocked like Madonna?

If you find yourself asking any of these questions, do yourself a favor: let it go.

Read the rest at VH1.

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There have been many articles penned about Tinder, most recently the Vanity Fair profile entitled “Tinder and the Dawn of the “Dating Apocalypse.” It is as hyperbolic as it is clueless. Casual sex is not new, only easier thanks to technology. The same goes for ordering food. You don’t see panic over that, so why be pressed about this? If you don’t need or want Tinder to be the Seamless for sex, then don’t use it as such. If you’d rather meet people the old fashioned way, don’t use it at all.

For those of us who actually appreciate the dating app, it can be a great way to meet people without a lot of effort. However, it could be a whole lot sweeter for the hook-up crew and those who are swiping for true love—if people used it better. Let me explain.

Picture it: Me, on my iPhone 6 that I drop way too much, scrolling through Tinder looking for, uh, love or something. As I swipe left through a sea of bugawoofs, weirdos, and White guys old enough to have voted for Ronald Reagan, I spot a bae. In my head, I instantly think, “Jesus, let us match. No, I haven’t been to church in a while, but I listen to Mary Mary’s ‘Walking” like er’day. Help me out!”

And he swiped me too! And it’s ON.

Except not much happens afterwards. Why? Because the handsome, but nonetheless useless somebody turns into a less friendly version of Casper the Ghost.

Riddle me this, my virtual boo-seeking-brethren: Why match someone – which signifies some level of interest even if nominal – only to pretend your fingers broke, your phone died, or you suddenly develop a serious case of illiteracy? I am used to having to approach people because I allegedly look “unapproachable” (code for “resting bitch face” and/or they scared and need to go to church) so I already know to make the first move. However, that doesn’t excuse not saying anything at all – even after I take the lead with a greeting.

I mean, if I wanted to be ignored, I’d take this unfriendly face of mine and go to a gay bar and get drunk – and then wait for people to speak to me and share their trifling intentions. (Insert the 100 emoji here. Two or three, if you’re feeling generous.)

If you are someone who engages in the practice of swiping in silence, I want you to know that you’re a horrible person. Not entirely as bad as Donald Trump, but very much on par with the other folks running for the Republican presidential nomination. Yes, I am being judgmental, but I am totally comfortable with that. You deserve this good contempt.

I have more complaints about Tinder.

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I realized I wasn’t that young anymore when my oldest niece innocently asked me, “Is Aaliyah that singer who died in a plane crash?” Immediately after I answered, I went into pop quiz mode. “Do you know who Brandy is, beautiful?” Frighteningly, she had absolutely no clue–until she released a single featuring Chris Brown.

More recently, I’ve gone on dates with men born in 1990 – you can drop your judgment off right here, thanks – and openly cried out to God over their lack of knowledge about one of the greatest women to ever body roll on this Earth, Janet Damita Jo Jackson. Some of these very men have referred to me as “old.”

This can’t be life.

As youthful as I feel, I was born in 1984 and I’m getting frequent reminders that I am entering a new stage of life. Many of the albums I grew up listening to have either hit their 20th anniversary mark or they’re right on the cusp of doing so. This includes janet, CrazySexyCool, My Life, Brown Sugar, and soon, Faith and Hardcore. The same way I looked at my mama about her Chi-Lites and Whispers, referring to the group members as “pop-pops” is what’s happening to me now when I bring up UGK in certain groups. Karma is a hateful heifer.

While many folks my age crack jokes about “aunties,” as one of my friends recently reminded me, we are now the aunties. Do you know who is now doing the Tom Joyner Cruise? Trina! Yes, “da baddest bitch” is out here on the cruise shop that the super grown folks are known for attending performing “Single Again.” One of my friends is so amped about one day joining the cruise. In his mind, he thought 40 would be the perfect age, but auntie life came calling a bit sooner.

I’ll also admit that if not for the youth in my life, I’d have no idea what in the hell so many of the folks on the Twitter talk about. Like, what is a fleek? And one question I’m constantly asking: Who in the hell is this rapper that sounds like English is his fourth language?

I am only 31-years-old and while I can still drop down and get my eagle on, my pop, lock, and drop ain’t what it used to be. There’s also yoga, but that’s not the core issue. I’m just getting older and in the HOV lane to a new stage in life. An era where linen pants will sooner than later overfly my closet. Where all white parties will fill my calendar. A place where, Crown Royal and Wild Turkey will be my drinks of choice – just like so many of my uncles. Hell, I’m already halfway there if you include Crown Apple. In my defense, that is delicious and best served with ice in a mason jar.

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