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I am relatively immune to the irrationality and overly idiocies harbored by white racists. So, I was not at all surprised when some white people expressed anger at Beyoncé over the video for her latest single, “Formation.” It is a song that celebrates Black hair, big, Black noses, and invokes powerful imagery that directly challenges the racism that has spurred the unnecessary deaths of so many Black men, women, and children. It was a #PeakBlackness moment that captivated people of all races for good and bad reasons. All Beyoncé did was celebrate her community and command the respect we deserve. Of course, that would frustrate a racist who might not understand white supremacy and institutionalized racism, but is nonetheless conditioned to think anything that does not place whiteness as center is worthy of their indignation.

That is to be expected, but so is the failure of some Black men to see a Black woman revel in her autonomy.

Mere minutes after “Formation” debuted, some Black men expressed frustration under this false notion that Beyoncé is being championed for celebrating blackness in a way that the likes of Kendrick Lamar is not — particularly, Lamar’s latest album, To Pimp a Butterfly, and the track, “The Blacker The Berry.” Again, this does not surprise me either, but it stings more, because I hate to see Black men essentially repeat the mistakes of their oppressors.

Because these majorly straight Black men don’t see themselves and their point of view as center, they want to diminish its value.

First, to compare “The Blacker The Berry” to the “Formation” video is another glowing example of how in many cases, men can do the minimum and command maximum rewards — especially when they feel like a woman is getting the kudos they feel entitled to.

“The Blacker The Berry” is a celebration of a particular strain of blackness. Yes, Lamar references his dark skin, nappy hair, big nose, and big d–k and challenges white supremacy, but then he takes a pathological turn towards the end as he raps: “So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street, when gang banging make me kill a n—- blacker than me? Hypocrite!”

This is not hypocrisy. This is not Lamar’s man in the mirror moment. This is not a call to arms for the Black community. This is black pathology and a superficial statement pretending to be something substantive.

In an interview with, Billboard, when asked about recent high-profile incidents of race-motivated police brutality, Lamar said:

“I wish somebody would look in our neighborhood knowing that it’s already a situation, mentally, where it’s fucked up. What happened to [Michael Brown] should’ve never happened. Never. But when we don’t have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us? It starts from within. Don’t start with just a rally, don’t start from looting — it starts from within.”

I rarely agree with Azealia Banks, but I absolutely agreed with her when she tweeted: “HOW DARE YOU open ur face to a white publication and tell them that we don’t respect ourselves…. Speak for your fucking self.”

I also concur with: “‘When we don’t respect ourselves how can we expect them to respect us’ dumbest shit I’ve ever heard a black man say.”

All Lamar did was repeat an uninformed fable about black on black crime and conflate it with state sanctioned violence. Meanwhile, according to the US Department of Justice statistics, 84 percent of white people killed every year are killed by other whites. Moreover, in 2011 there were actually more cases of whites killing whites than blacks killing blacks. And as Kerry Codett noted at the Huffington Post, “Between 1980 to 2008, a majority (53.3 percent) of gang-related murders were committed by white people, with a majority of the homicide victims being white as well.”

The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates once noted: “People tend to kill the people they live around. Black people are among the most hyper-segregated group in the country. The fact that black killers tend to kill other black people is not refutation of American racism, but the ultimate statement of American racism.”

Regardless of how one feels about Lamar’s statement, it is absolutely nothing like “Formation.” What Beyoncé did in that video was celebrate blackness in so many of its variances.

You heard the voice of the late Messy Mya; you heard Big Freedia; you saw Black southern people of varying classes; you saw Black women of various shapes and shades, all equally confident on camera.

This is Southern Black culture. This is Texas. This is Louisiana. This is Southern Black rap. This is a celebration of Black womanhood. This is the inclusion of Black queer culture. This is country ass Blacks folks being their amazing country Black selves.

That video presents a fuller package of Blackness than what Lamar offered, which is essentially references to his nose and d–k while asking, “What about black-on-black crime?” This is a celebration of non-Black straight men that you rarely see from hip-hop artists — including those like him.

Read the rest at VH1.

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I greet the start of each Beyoncé world tour with equal parts excitement and trepidation. I’m excited for obvious reasons, but the process to get that tour date of my choosing freaks me out every single time. Every single time, y’all. When it comes to attending a Beyoncé concert, you either climax or you have a panic attack. There is no in between.

First, you have to make sure you have your funds together. There had been rumors of a stadium tour on the horizon for some time now, but Beyoncé doesn’t tend to give you much in the ways of confirmation until it’s very close to go time. At best, she’ll give you a few days notice and essentially tells you, “Run me my money, bitch.”

She does not give a damn. You either have it or you don’t. You either find a way or make one. What do I do? I run her her damn money. I don’t toy with the King when she calls on me.

Mere seconds after the Formation World Tour commercial aired during the Super Bowl, the people around me were talking about their next paycheck, their savings, their tax returns, their credit cards, or figuring out which Trump they could shake down for tour ticket money. The same sentiments were echoed online. We have to do what we have to do. Can I get a uh oh?

Financial responsibilities aside, next comes the truly difficult part of this adventure: getting the actual damn tickets.

Listen.

To the song here in my heart.

Sure enough, Beyoncé will offer multiple presales, but they each sound easier said than done. Why? Because Beyoncé fans will shut down her fan site to sign up for the BeyHive presale code. After that, we’ll likely slow the Ticketmaster site all the way down. Should you not find a presale code, you’ll hit superfans like me hoping to get the intel. If I don’t have it myself, I’ll panic.

I did this morning. If not for the help of a handsome BeyHive UK LGBT captain, I might not have known. I mean, my confirmation email from Beyoncé’s Web site came, but not until the very last minute. My blood pressure shot up so high it could have high-fived Michael Jackson in heaven.

Do you know what I went through after that this morning to get my tickets for the New York show? I sat there in front of my computer, waiting and waiting for the Ticketmaster countdown to end so I could buy my tickets. Know what happened? The site played the hell out of me and my emotions. The site and the app kept telling me, “Ain’t no tickets, bih.” Over and over again. It hurt me. Deeply and profoundly.

So, as I talked to my best friend, who was on speakerphone as we both tried our desktops and Ticketmaster apps to score good seats, we were both frantically wondering why were we being punished? Thankfully, after more than half an hour of trying and deep prayer, I managed to get excellent seats by way of the Ticketmaster app.

After sharing my good fortunate on social media, I was met with a sea of congratulations. I love that we congratulate each other when we get Beyoncé tour tickets because we all know how traumatic an experience it can be. We are in this together.

Read the rest at VH1.

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The lesson for how to live your best life is buried in an SWV album deep cut.

On the track “Give It to Me” from the R&B trio’s first album, It’s About Time, Coko sings:

“I’m a type of girl with class But, you never know what you can get ‘Till you go and ask for it I was shy, but now I finally see All you have to do is (just ask) For anything you want (It’s yours) you get right to the point (If love) is what you really need, don’t be shy Just say, ‘Boy give it to me…right now’”

This song is essentially about requesting dick without fear, but the verse can apply to any other obstacle one might face. I listen to this song regularly. The same goes for the rest of SWV’s catalog.

As the group celebrates the release of its latest album, Still, I increasingly think about how SWV don’t get their just due. The term “underrated” has been abused to death, but there are certain things about SWV that do often go unrecognized—namely how sex positive their music has been through the years.

TLC has always been praised for being socially aware and frank about sex in music, particularly in Left Eye making the promotion of condoms a central part of her look at the start of their career. Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown have long been honored (and in some cases criticized) for their embracement of sexuality in their work. Even Adina Howard has a documentary that speaks to sexual liberation.

I salute them all, and you will never get me to speak ill of “T-Shirt and Panties,” but one of the best songs about oral sex, “Downtown,” came from SWV. This doesn’t even include its multiple remixes—the Wet Remix, the Jazzy Radio Mix, the Street Radio Mix—that each best the original. No one has ever been that convincing about the consumption of vagina in song. Give these women the respect they deserve.

So much of the songs from their debut album were tied to women being in control of their sexuality i.e. “Anything,” “It’s About Time,” and “Blak Pudd’n.” Already, I’m sure some would greet this claim with noting that most of these songs were penned by their main collaborator at the time, Brian Alexander Morgan. That hasn’t stopped other women from getting credit for work that might’ve been penned by men, though. This includes the aforementioned artists in addition to groups like Salt-N-Pepa, who didn’t pen a lot of their classic songs that are strong and urgent in their sexual agency.

Nevertheless, even after Morgan stopped working with the group, two of the members—Coko and Taj—started writing their own lyrics and the tone didn’t change. If anything, they were even more aggressive in their songs going forward.

Look no further than one of my favorite songs from the group, “You’re the One,” which is now 20 years old and one of the finest contributions to a sub genre of the R&B tradition: fucking your man music.

Read the rest at Complex.

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You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation.

No one is as equal parts gracious and commanding while essentially saying “fuck you” as Beyoncé is.

She may no longer communicate the way many would her prefer her to—i.e. interviews—but she is increasingly making sure her voice gets heard. Beyoncé’s new song “Formation” takes numerous shots, each one finding a deserving target. For anyone who thinks there is a secret, evil organization in which Satan and some Scooby Doo-like villains are trying to poison the minds of the masses via secret symbols in videos for songs like “Freakum Dress,” Beyoncé just offered you a sip of shut the hell up. Sip, sip, bitches.

Likewise, for those who engaged in the anti-blackness that questioned Beyoncé’s choice in spouses and the hair texture of her daughter, she couldn’t give any less of a damn. She likes her baby’s Afro and she is perfectly fine with her husband’s Jackson 5 nostrils. Y’all can go fly directly to hell if you don’t like it, and that includes some black folks, too, who are as equally guilty as others for perpetuating the notion that black in every shape, form, and texture is not beautiful.

And then there is the gorgeous, powerful scenery throughout the video.

The biggest pop star of her generation opened her latest video with the drowning of a New Orleans police car. That is two-fold a critique of the treatment of black New Orleanians during Hurricane Katrina and the continued onslaught of state sanctioned violence aimed squarely at black women, men, and children.

The shot of that young black boy in a hoodie before a row of cops in SWAT gear with their hands up will stay with me forever. As will that cop car sinking into the water as Beyoncé lays on top of it. For any cop or cop supporter who finds themselves offended by that imagery, imagine what it is like to be black in this country and rightly fear that you could easily be lying in a pool of your own blood from some trigger-happy, hateful police officer protected by a system that devalues black life.

Meanwhile, for those who are offended when Mr. and Mrs. Jay Z/Mr. and Mrs. Beyoncé don’t speak on social and political issues, look what Houston’s finest just did here. She commented on everything. While dancing down. Over a Mike WiLL Made-It production, which by the way, did not include his tag.

Even that tidbit along with the rest of the information proves Beyoncé is powerful and will wield that power however she sees fit.

No one is as important a pop star to me as Beyoncé. Beyoncé is getting her just due for creating what is being hailed as a very pro-black song and video in “Formation,” but the truth about Beyoncé is that she’s always been very black. She’s been very consistent with offering the world a very specific strain of blackness: black, Southern, and country. This strain has not always been as welcomed as others. She makes no apologies for who she is nor should she.

Read the rest at Complex.

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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.

I like Bernie Sanders enough that I made the recent decision to donate an amount equivalent to the cost of catfish dinner to his cause. Do I think he’s going to win the nomination? I find that as likely as Amber Rose and Kim Kardashian recording a cover of “The Boy Is Mine” and winning a Grammy for Record of the Year. Yes, Sanders scored a “virtual tie” in Iowa last night and will likely win the New Hampshire primary; still, when it comes to states like South Carolina where the Black vote largely determines the victor, Sanders has his work cut out for him.

I had long advised Sanders to let Killer Mike continue to do his thing, but he should also call Charlie Wilson and Ron Isley to perform at a few rallies. It’s not the Kendrick Lamar vote he needs to win, but more so the Frankie Beverly and Maze fold. Clinton polls stronger among older voters in general, which is why she managed to edge out Sanders in Iowa, but there’s an even wider gap among older Black voters who remain largely unfamiliar with the Vermont senator. Both groups are also old enough to have seen idealistic candidates from the left lose to the war mongers on the right in a presidential year.

I made the mistake of voicing these sentiments on a recent date and it reminded me of how frustrating it can be to date in an election year.

Picture it: me drinking brown liquor and being charming when the conversation shifts to politics. I explain that while I am not especially fond of Hillary Clinton, I do feel that after the New Hampshire primary, she’s most likely to win the states and delegates necessary to become the Democratic nominee for president. I add that Clinton is more likely to accomplish her agenda given that, months ago, she unveiled a plan to capitalize on Obama’s use of executive power. To conclude, I offer that unless President Bernie Sanders tramples Capitol Hill like Godzilla, killing everyone in office so that we can start over in some politician-less paradise, chances are slimmer than a Bad Boy royalty check that homeboy gets much done as an executive.

You’d have thought I’d said, “Fuck Bernie Sanders, fuck you, and fuck you hippy-dippy assholes standing in the way of reasonable pragmatism with your strain of idealism that should be rolled into a big-ass blunt.” A heated back and forth ensued and despite all his attempts to get me to Feel The Bern more, all I could feel was myself going flaccid.

Funny enough, this is not the first time I drew a side-eye on a date instead of the more ideal circumstance—an erection—while discussing politics. There’s a debate online over whether “Bernie Bros” actually exist or not, but I’m clear in my stance. I say this with all the love and consideration in the world to Sanders’ most ardent supporters: many of y’all are annoying as fuck.

Fervor’s great, but with limitations. Have a shot of chill and don’t try to make me the Jeb! to your Donald Trump. Of course, I can’t speak to what it’s like dating a Donald Trump supporter because my melanin and same-sex attraction function as a natural repellant. I can, however, say that I now find it not worth it to flirt with anyone who genuinely thinks Donald Trump will become the next president.

In this instance, it was not so much because he agreed with Trump’s ideology. In his case, he just felt America is so inherently racist that it will vote for a reality star. You know, the Azealia Banks logic. I don’t believe Trump is completely out of the race for losing in a state that thought Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum were good options for president, but Young Hitler is not going to be anyone’s president.

Read the rest at Complex Life.

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My memories of the O.J. Simpson trial are scant. I know it interrupted Days of Our Lives. I vaguely remember the Bronco chase. I recall the sentiment that we were all watching “the trail of the century” repeatedly being drilled into everyone’s heads.

What lingers most, though, is the day the verdict was reached. I was maybe 11 or 12, in choir (puberty unjustly stole my dream of being a trap soul artist), and I remember Black kids being elated that Simpson was found not guilty while the other Whites in the room—including our choir teacher—were angry. I’ll never forget my choir director’s look of disdain at what had just happened.

Middle school was the only time I was somewhat around White children and White teachers, and our divide along racial lines had never been clearer than that moment. The majority of us Black kids practically mocked the White folks appearing distraught by what they’d just heard.

I didn’t think much of any of that until last December, when I attended a screening of the first two episodes of The People v. O.J. Simpson at the Paley Center, and a dinner with the cast, along with the prolific writer-producer-director Ryan Murphy, who helmed the FX miniseries.

Since then, I have now watched six episodes, and I can say without question that it’s one of the finest things I’ve ever watched on television. Initially, I was somewhat skeptical of Murphy, who does fantastic work with all things involving spectacle (though such a novelty has its limitations). See: select seasons of American Horror Story and numerous episodes of Scream Queens. But The People v. O.J. Simpson is phenomenal, and it’s a testament to all parties involved, particularly every single cast member.

Cuba Gooding Jr. adds a level of emotional intelligence to O.J. Simpson that I didn’t think existed. There is a strength and fragility to Sarah Paulson’s portrayal of Marcia Clark that manages to make you both resent and feel sympathetic towards her—especially now that we know more of what she dealt with at the time of the trial. John Travolta is illuminating as the comically egotistical Robert Shapiro. David Schwimmer is somewhat hilarious as Robert Kardashian; he comes across as an Armenian version of “Ross” from Friends with dated (even for that era) hair. Still, it works very well.

And Courtney B. Vance is simply riveting as Johnnie Cochran.

As good as episodes one and two are, during the entire night of the screening and dinner, the cast stressed to everyone one on one that the best is yet to come. So it is. The deeper you dive into the show, the more engaging the show becomes. You learn exactly how Johnnie Cochran managed to take control not only of the Dream Team that Shapiro essentially amassed, but how that decision ultimately spared O.J. Simpson from life in prison. (Well, at least that time anyway.)

Likewise, to learn how Cochran mastered the racial politics behind Simpson’s legal strategy recalls the current case Bill Cosby faces, i.e., his choice to hire Monique Pressley. The same goes for the prosecution and how Chris Darden came to serve alongside Marcia Clark in the trial.

The People v. O.J. Simpson has forced me to think about what O.J. Simpson means 20 years later, when I, as an adult Black male, can better process what all happened when I was only a young child.

In the Hollywood Reporter cover story about the show, Murphy’s producing partner, Brad Simpson, touched on how the recent tragedies involving Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown and many others revealed racism in the criminal justice system. “As those things happened, we started to realize, ‘Oh, we’re not going to have to be telling people why the race story is important.’ ”

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It happened. I watched an entire episode of The Real Housewives of Potomac and didn’t get the urge to sprint directly into the exposed brick in my New York fishbowl that the real estate market here somehow manages to legally call an apartment. Much of that had to do with two things: the youngest Potomac housewife, Ashley, and brown liquor. Ashley is the least snotty one of the bunch and it brings a much needed remix to the otherwise sad love song this show has become since its debut.

But before we get to Ashley, whiskey-loving wonder, let’s address the person who wears me out most.

“I’ve been a socialite since I was in diapers.”

If show producers opted to never show another scene featuring Katie, I might rise from my chair to give a standing ovation. She’s not a mean person like much of her cast mates, but she does dab all over my nerves all the same. My thing with her is two-fold. She’s very-very-very caught up in dating a white man. There is nothing wrong with a union that may produce an Obama or Mariah, but on this show, which is highly color struck and classist, there’s something so off-putting about the way she more or less acts as if it places her on some pedestal above others.

I cringed a bit when she was hanging out with Ashley and her husband and going on and on about how elated she was to have another interracial couple to hang out with. You know, if your intent is to normalize interracial dating, you should probably treat it as it is: normal now. She almost fetishizes it in a way and I want her to go find something else to forge an identity with.

It’s even more bizarre to see how caught up she is given that Andrew clearly is not interested in marrying her despite her numerous attempts at pushing him into a proposal. He flat out told her last night that had she not nagged him about it for six months, they’d probably already be engaged and subsequently married. Do I believe him? Hell no. You should not have to work that hard to get anyone to marry you.

Then there was this comment: “Andrew has a reputation for being an eligible bachelor in this area, but once this article comes out, everyone’s going to know he is only with me.”

Y’all live together. He takes care of your three children. People still think he’s an eligible bachelor. You have to beg and plead like Brandy to get him to propose to you. He still has not done so.

Katie should go listen to Mary J. Blige and Aretha Franklin’s “Don’t Waste Your Time.” That’s probably too Black for her, though, so I suggest Fiona Apple’s “The First Taste” as an alternate.

So Not Vanessa Williams and Evil Tina Knowles are trying to forgive and forget.

In what I saw as proof of Karen wanting more camera time by refusing to accept Gizelle’s attempt at an apology last week, Karen invited Gizelle for tea and desserts, only they skimmed the latter (at least on camera). The two were civil, respectful of each other’s feelings, and even matched in attire (camouflage) for the occasion. This is how you have an adult frenemy relationship, beloveds.

If you get divorced and sleep in the same bed as your former spouse, you are doing it wrong.

Robyn talks about her ex-husband, Juan, like they’re still a couple. They behave like one i.e. they sleep in the same bed and I presume have the sex, they co-parent, and they talk about potentially moving because one has a potential job offer. This is couple s**t, but they’re no longer legally married. They’re a divorced couple who probably qualify for common law marriage status. Juan is fine as hell, so I can understand the reluctance to exit a bed with him in it, but Robyn, WYD?

Some of this seems financial as she alluded to him no longer getting NBA checks, the Stock Market and real estate market flatlining during The Great Recession, etc. Still boggles my mind, though.

Read the rest at VH1.

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I wish the rollout for Rihanna’s eighth and highly anticipated studio album, ANTI, had not been so fucked up.

This includes the numerous singles that didn’t make the final product. The somewhat interesting but no less confusing “ANTI diaRY” that saw fans go through various rooms to uncover…hell, I still don’t know. I’m all for a proper build-up for new product, but the puzzle Rihanna’s people hoped fans would work to solve came several months after their collective sentiment amounted to, “Are you dropping this album or nah?”

Of course we cannot forget one of the album’s producers taking to Twitter to complain about ANTI’s delayed release stemming from Travi$ Scott’s disapproval of the final product.

All of this has only added unnecessary pressure on Rihanna to deliver an album that would seemingly make up for our impatience over the three years it has taken for a new complete body of work. And then, when ANTI finally did drop, it was by accident. Tidal apparently didn’t mean to make the album available on Wednesday. The “the oops, our bad, here it goes” approach to delivering ANTI has made everything feel so anticlimactic.

It’s a bit jarring to my nerves because I think it overshadows how interesting ANTI is. First, in its delivery. The most consistent hitmaker of our generation just gave her album away for free to a million people. Calling it a “gift to my navy,” Rihanna tweeted a link to ANTI that came with a code that made the album free for what’s reportedly a first-come, first-served basis. The whole thing is tied to her $25 million sponsorship deal with Samsung, and although Jay Z gave away a million copies of his last album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, to Samsung phone users, it is a bigger deal for Rihanna to do this because unlike Jay Z at the time, Rihanna is still at the commercial peak of her career.

Yeah, a lot of folks give away music for free but not anyone on Rihanna’s level. This is like Janet Jackson giving away The Velvet Rope or All for You. Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry are not giving away albums for free. Will they in the future? If they do by way of corporate sponsorship, they will perhaps, now that they’ve seen what Rihanna has managed to achieve (the RIAA has already certified ANTI platinum). It’s similar to Beyoncé dropping a surprise album. She didn’t invent the surprise album, but she proved she could pull off such a feat, and she made it safe for others to try.

As for the album itself, I think it’s her best yet. Already, I can feel numerous eyes rolling. Nonetheless, ANTI feels like an actual album. It does not have as many standout singles as her previous works, but with Samsung guaranteeing the album would bring in money, she rightfully seized the opportunity to make a project that deviated from what we’ve come to expect from her—uptempo, brash. I felt Rated R didn’t have as many standout songs, but “Rude Boy” was enough to carry it over to the next project.

On ANTI, Rihanna has two options to net a similar scenario: The latest single, “Work,” featuring Drake, and “Kiss It Better,” which I imagine will be played now until my very last breath after it is formally released.

And if she can find a decent radio edit for the DJ Mustard “Needed Me,” she’ll get a fair amount of airplay on “urban” radio, too. On that track, if this is what DJ Mustard meant by trying to push his sound in new directions, sign me up. I’ll also be referring to myself as a savage for the rest of my life. Thanks, Rih-Rih.

Read the rest at Complex.

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How you rank Beyoncé’s albums depends on what type of Beyoncé fan you are.

If you cannot let go of Destiny’s Child, your favorite is probably Dangerously In Love, which offers slight teases of The Writing’s On The Wall via songs like “Yes.” If you enjoy Beyoncé best in what is considered more mature presentation, you typically fancy the underappreciated 4 and the masterpiece that is her eponymous fifth album. As pretty as she sounds on the half-adult-contemporary, half-not-that album, I Am…Sasha Fierce, that’s no Beyoncé fan’s favorite, and if they say otherwise, I discourage you from believing them.

I appreciate them all, though as much as I adore what she has does recently, especially with BEYONCÉ, nothing makes my mind, body, and twerk respond the way her sophomore album, B’Day, does. Recorded in just a few short weeks after filming Dreamgirls, B’Day was a collision of high energy, hard-hitting beats, and an intensity that was previously teased in a handful of solo and group tracks here but not completely formulated until this moment.

That said, the album did have a bit of a rocky star. Its lead single, “Déjà Vu” featuring Jay Z, was Off The Wall-esque in its sound but did not match the massive success of their previous collaboration, “Crazy In Love.” Fans also launched an online petition asking her to reshoot the video. Its follow-up single, “Ring The Alarm” fared worse, but to Beyoncé’s credit, the shout-filled single showed that she was willing to take a risk.

Ultimately, it was “Irreplaceable,” which reigned atop the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 consecutive weeks, that returned Beyoncé to radio dominance. It may have taken that song for some to give B’Day a chance, but for the over 500,000 of us who got it the week of its release (which, coincidentally, was the same week of her actual birthday), the majority of us knew a great thing when we heard it.

Read the rest at Fuse.

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As we have come to learn with biopics aired on Lifetime, there tends to be no gray area. They are either absolutely awful like the film made about Aaliyah or the not totally abysmal but bad movie about Whitney Houston’s relationship with her former husband, Bobby Brown. The failure of each movie – and to be clear, this is in terms of quality, not ratings which were abundant each time – is rooted in the lack of involvement from anyone who seemed to truly know their stories (family members, friends, and cherished colleagues).

That is why I maintained a smidgen of hope for Toni Braxton’s biopic, Unbreak My Heart. Usually, I’m wary of an artist being so involved in the storytelling of their lives. As Instagram has shown us, thanks to filters, people will mostly give you the glossy side of their lives. Anything messy and counterproductive to presenting perfection is rare. In this case, though, I’d rather have a filtered look into a legendary singer’s life than a mess of storytelling that was the aforementioned films.

To that end, Unbreak My Heart was as good a biopic as it could be on a network like Lifetime.

There was solid casting and very decent acting from the cast. Debbi Morgan, who played Braxton matriarch Evelyn Braxton gave us a notably strong performance. Now, I will say the woman who played Toni Braxton, Lex Scott Davis, was absolutely stunning, but actually looked like she wanted to sing “Mercedes Boy” or “Love Makes Things Happen” more so than any of Toni Braxton’s legendary singles. Then again, I’m also down to sing some Pebbles so perhaps I’m biased in that way. Speaking of Pebbles, goodness, this woman looks like a super villain in any movie dissecting the LaFace Records era.

In any event, my only critique for Davis is, while it was smart to have her simply lip sync to Braxton’s voice as the story went on, her speaking voice seemed a little too bright and airy for Braxton’s husky tone. Likewise, when it came to do the Braxton sisters, I was a bit distracted by Traci Braxton. As a loyal Braxton Family Values watcher, actress Cortney Scott Wright spoke a little too well to be Traci. I needed to hear Traci’s very deep “Murrlyn” accent in its full glory. Traci Braxton sounds like her voice and diction were sponsored by the Old Bay seasoning drowning whatever crabs Ms. Evelyn just finished boiling. I wanted that. I needed that.

Things I did appreciate, though, were seeing a fuller picture of Ms. Evelyn essentially being Joe Jackson with a Bible instead of a belt. Moreover, Ms. Evelyn’s insistence that Toni kept her sisters in mind as she abandoned original plans to enter the music industry as a group in favor of becoming the solo superstar she was clearly destined to be. Lastly, watching Debbi Morgan reenact Ms. Evelyn threatening to cut Rev. Michael Braxton Sr.’s penis off for cheating on her for nine years of their marriage is a memory I will take with me forever. If you watch the reality show, you know Ms. Evelyn still cannot stand “Braxton.” I can’t say that I blame her now.

My only real critique of the movie is that it came across as Wikipedia cinema in some respects. Toni Braxton’s story, which many of her fans are familiar with, is very complicated and extensive. This is a woman who has dealt with the guilt and shame of leaving her family behind; become an international superstar but find herself broke as a result of an unfair music industry; file for bankruptcy not once, but twice; dealt with lupus; dealt with her son being diagnosed with autism; had a husband whom she loved but could not continue to be married to due to her being the breadwinner and him being seemingly somewhat resentful about her place in the family dynamic; to agreeing to do a reality show for her sisters in response to all the guilt.

Read the rest at VH1.

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