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No one should ever strive for perfection because even if you manage to reach the tippy top of excellence and all the success that comes with it, the only direction you can go after is down. I wish Mariah Carey’s handlers—namely her ex-husband, Tommy Mottola—understood this early on given now, on the anniversary of her eponymous debut album, so many people write about the Mariah of today with contempt. And if not contempt, pity.

She is not the perfectly package Mariah of yore. The one who could hit every note with a seemingly superhuman-like level of ease. The one who stormed the charts with one of the best debut singles ever in “Vision of Love” and went on to notch three more number one singles—a feat that had not been reached since the Jackson 5. And she did all of this while dressed like the sweet girl who finds her prince charming in some boring romantic comedy. You know, one starring Tom Cruise or Patrick Swayze that amassed a fortune in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

The bulk of the songs featured on Mariah Carey, Mariah’s debut album that came out 25 years ago today, fit perfectly for the soundtracks of all these types of films.

That’s why as impressive a singer Mariah Carey proved to be at the time and for many, many years that followed, I was never a huge fan of this version of her. Sure, I enjoyed watching her sing down on Saturday Night Live and The Arsenio Hall Show. The same goes for her fantastic edition of MTV Unplugged. However, her music along with her image, were just a wee bit too bland for my liking.

She was like The Cosby Show: cute, safe, and wholesome. Meanwhile, real life is over on A Different World.

“Vision of Love” is great, and “Someday” along with a few other songs were cute, but even as a kid, I got the sense that Mariah was holding back in the early 1990s. Mariah has confirmed this theory time and time again through the years. The very second she got a taste of creative freedom, she traded in those big dresses for short skirts and took her music to edgier—well, blacker—terrain. She worked with rappers and incorporated pure R&B into her songs.

I didn’t truly become a Mariah Carey fan—fine, lamb—until The Butterfly album. That was Mariah talking about love, but also sex, heartbreak, and yes, identity only not in ways that screamed suburbia and after-school-special backdrop music. This version of Mariah appeared to have a lot more fun and be far less inclined to come across as having it all together.

That’s why I hope that in the future, Mariah frees herself from having to perform all of her No. 1 hits—particularly those on her debut album. So many of them are attached to the perfect, balladeer version of Mariah. It is true that her voice is not what it used to be—or is like “decaying manufacturing machinery” as some would describe it. She cannot perform “Vision of Love” as well as she used to. Mariah can still do a pretty good rendition of it, but consistency remains a challenge.

Even so, I don’t look at her and think, “Poor Mariah.”

Read the rest at Complex.

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There will never, ever be another Janet Jackson.

Mega stardom of her kind is increasingly hard to reach, especially if you are a black woman. There is Beyoncé, but even she can no longer claim to have the sort of radio dominance Janet once commanded—though that’s more so a testament to the diminished influence of “urban” music than Yoncé’s catalog. She’s also more an amalgamation of several pop stars of yore—Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Michael and Janet Jackson, respectively—than a singular artist. There is also Rihanna, but she’s long noted that she desires to be more of a “Black Madonna.”

Both dance (one way more energetically than the other), but neither offer the sort of choreography that made Janet Jackson the iconic pop star she is today.

I’m sure some people would now like to interject Ciara, who I’ve jokingly said in the past could’ve been some country-fried-steak version of Damita Jo. I wish Ciara the best in all her future endeavors, but she lacks vision, cohesion, and for all intents and purposes, blew whatever chance she had at becoming a behemoth in music. At this stage of her career, she’s more like a Kardashian who can dance.

Nonetheless, there is hope of an artist who can at least encompass some of Janet’s best qualities for a new generation.

If there’s anyone who might be able to muster what Janet Jackson meant to me growing up, it is the 22-year-old singer Tinashe. Whenever I say this to someone, I’m often met with one or two response: “Who?” or “That ‘2 On’​ girl?” These are fair reactions, but not necessarily credible ones.

For starters, Tinashe has made her love of Janet Jackson very clear. In an interview with The Cut, Tinashe was asked about “How Many Times,” a track that features Future and is a sample of the Janet classic “Funny How Time Flies When You’re Having Fun.” Tinasheexplained, “I listened to her all the time growing up, and she was definitely one of the people I idolized from a dance perspective, to performance, to music videos, to the music, just all around.”

If you listen to her very well done debut album, Aquarius, the previous mixtapes she released prior (which she wrote and produced on her own), you can tell The Velvet Rope is likely Tinashe’s favorite Janet album. She confirmed that last summer with theGrio, noting, “I would tell my future kids that if they wanted to know what artist represented R&B, it would be Janet. The Velvet Rope-era Janet was my favorite.”

I’ve seen complaints that perhaps Janet influences Tinashe a wee bit too much in terms of both style and vocal arrangement. Younger acts tend to draw heavily from those who inspire them, but for a woman who has been the dominant force of her own creative direction, one imagines those are more kinks needed to be worked out in her own development. If you listen to Tinashe’s excellent new EP, Amethyst, one thing should be certain: She has a distinct point of view.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Yesterday, one of my all-time favorite albums, janet., turned 20. Despite only being barely nine at the time of its release, this still makes me feel very old. I don’t appreciate that, but what can you do? In any event, I wrote about the album’s 20th anniversary, what it means to be, and more importantly, how I believe it represents a missing part in the world of pop — especially from our current Black girl pop acts.

If you haven’t seen it already, you can click here to read the piece in full over at EBONY.com.

Although I’ve once again turned into a deadbeat dad towards this here blog, I have been writing. A whole lot. Plus apartment hunting in New York, which if you don’t know, is one of the most complicated experiences ever. Oh, how I wish I were rich. Life would be so much easier.

Anyway, more work by me in recent weeks.

I’ve been writing recaps (sort of) of my favorite show, Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta for Complex.com. I’ve also done a few other lists for them, including one about my other favorite soap opera, Scandal. You can click here to thumb through some of what I’ve been doing.

There’s also my EBONY.com column, The Weekly Read. Recent targets include some former Caribbean pop star who swears Jesus endorsed her mayoral bid and Ms. Lauryn Hill. PepsiCo got it, too, and I did manage to sneak something in on Mister Cee. And political sprinkles as always elsewhere.

Yeah, click around for the cause.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m about to go cue up this YouTube clip and do the butterfly. Well, and daydream about Omar Lopez.

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Yesterday, I read that while performing at the AfroPunk festival in Brooklyn, Erykah Badu mocked Nicki Minaj’s “Beez In The Trap” and proceeded to call her a rat. While irony tastes as good as Louisiana seafood sauce (get into it), as a fan of both I want that to be proven false. In fact, I won’t even comment further. I’m just going to grab a pot, find a kettle & wait for the magic to happen.

Meanwhile, I’ve been meaning to write about Nicki Minaj lately. On how she’s grown as a performer, on how visually she continues to turn it up, and up until yesterday, how incredibly paranoid and defensive I find her at times. But thanks to Ms. Badu (allegedly), I am reminded as to why she behaves this way. It seems like nearly every performer whose popularity piqued a decade or two ago has gone out of their way to give their [scornful] opinion of her.

Hopefully Nicki learns to be less defensive over time, but nevertheless she has been on it.

I know the laptop label heads are too busy hovering over appropriated stats from Soundscan to notice, but Minaj is turning it. Purists may not like her back and forth shift between rap and pop, but I think she’s managing the task with far more skill than she did initially.

Overall, she’s getting better and better — particularly on a visual front.

The masses didn’t go for it, but I loved the “Stupid Hoe” video. Perhaps all of the subsequent videos will help her get some of the acknowledgement she deserves. Between the B.o.B. video (below) and the new one for “I Am Your Leader,” Nicki has pretty much been my favorite visual artist this year.

She is fun.

Her ass is starting to look less Betty Boop-like in favor of a more Jessica Rabbit-esque shape. Her body roll and two-step are now on beat. She’s not being drown out by her mics anymore. She has managed to work the Black bangs the Barbz love and emulate back into her regular wig cycle. She’s apparently about to join American Idol as a judge, which by the way, contrary to popular opinion, but as cynical as she was in her methods to net crossover success she is more than qualified to host this show.

I continue to be disappointed that she never got around to signing my clavicle despite consistent protest, but I forgive her. I don’t know how your weirdos can continue to deny her, but yeah, she’s winning.

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As a rule of thumb, I tend to look at pledges that a posthumous album release is rooted in the pursuit to “preserve the artist’s legacy” as utter bullshit. Chances are if an artist has a vault of unreleased music its owners are considering reworking and putting up for sale, said artist already has a pretty damn great legacy. It’s usually more about money, or in the case of Drake, ego.

Given he has her face tattooed on his back, her birthday tattooed on his side (in a double entendre of a tattoo), and published a sincere but nevertheless creepy letter to her dead spirit that addressed her by her middle name (as if his ass was the Salt to her Pepa), it’s pretty apparent that Drake just wanted to say he had a song with Aaliyah.

Fine, but let’s all say what it is. Aaliyah fans want more music. The label wants to make whatever money it can off our desire. Drake, an almost The Bodyguard like stan, wanted to do a track with the person he claims he was “truly in love” with despite never, ever knowing.

Some of you might even find that sweet in a Yolanda Saldivar’s dream realized kind of way, though it’s still kind of narcissistic.  That’s why when I first heard this song I closed my eyes and smiled thinking about how nice it was to finally hear new Aaliyah. That feeling subsided the second I heard Drake’s verse. I used to be so into this guy after he dropped So Far Gone. Somewhere along the way his revenge of the nerds tinged rap started to irk me.

People have waited a decade for new Aaliyah in some fashion, and the first time we hear just that, not only are you on the song, Aubrey, you’re going out of your way to diss Chris Brown on the song about his record sales.

I understand that Drake is essentially the outsider who managed to find his way in and that he remains a target, hence the defensive attitude. However, Drake often brings the ridicule on himself. See: Dissing Chris Brown on the first fucking new Aaliyah song we’ve heard in 10 damn years.

Dude.

Get over yourself. Even if you remove that line from the equation, as one music writer I enjoy put it on Twitter:

GIANT FUCK YOU TO DRAKE FOR THE AALIYAH TRACK SHE IS ABOUT EXPRESSING WOMEN’S EMOTIONS HE IS ABOUT MANIPULATING THEM

No lie, no lie, no lie-e-e-i-e-ie.

Not only is it annoying to hear was Drake’s ass constantly asking, “Yo, wassup?” in the background of Aaliyah’s song to remind us that he’s on it, his actual rap conveys the kind of sentiments Aaliyah probably wouldn’t co-sign on her song. Such a devout fan should know such a thing, no?

He probably does, but identity crisis’ are a bitch.

But we get it, Drake? You are helping executive produce. You, you, and yours. I don’t find Drake being at the helm of the project  to be a bad idea in theory. Not entirely sure yet to what extent the producer 40 contributed made to this song and others forthcoming, but from a label’s perspective seeking a more current rapper/producer duo to sell material makes sense.

I could even see 40 and Aaliyah’s styles meshing (as on this very song), but I don’t want an hour of “Marvin’s Room,” or as I like to call it, “I’m going to call my dad if you don’t stop snooping around my bushes music.”

Meanwhile, it’s pretty reasonable for most longtime Aaliyah fans to associate Timbaland and Missy with Aaliyah and prefer they take the reigns any posthumous release from her despite not being so heavy handed on her third album. A third album that I love to this day, but wasn’t doing well before her death, and a third album whose biggest single was still produced by Timbaland. Not to mention another fan favorite on the track was penned by Missy.

Maybe it’s not completely realistic to feel only those two should be at the helm (though I think it’s more of a natural fit and less offensive for a posthumous release), but totally understandable why it’s a popular opinion. And for the record, people who like to point out the obvious, it’s not so much that Aaliyah didn’t want to work with Timbaland on her third album so much as Timbaland had some issues with her label. He ultimately gave two tracks, and as previously noted, we see how well those went.

We mustn’t antagonize for the hell of it.

In any event, I read that they will have some involvement, so alls well that ends well. I can’t wait to hear what comes next, but I sincerely hope whatever sounds do come from a new Aaliyah album, the people behind them remember to make it about her. You get that, Aubrey?

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As if things weren’t already going to shit, now Bravo wants to ruin my life by taking away my dance partner in my head, Camille Grammer. Fine, so she wasn’t the villain producers of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills made her out to be in the first season anymore. But, come on! Did my joy have to be snatched away from me?

Couldn’t you guys have gotten more creative with a storyline? Why couldn’t y’all just met her list of demands? If not for her, for me! Yes, it’s all about me, me, me, me, me. Forget about you, you, you, you, you. I don’t know what I’m gonna do, do, do, do, do…without you, Camille.

Granted, I’m going to keep watching the show for at least the first few episodes to test the waters. Still, it won’t be the same because my Camille won’t be on the show. A pity, that is.

As the plan in my head goes, one day Camille and I are going to meet at some party, exchange pleasantries, and after a few drinks get to dancing. After which, we’ll become friends and occasional jig partners. I would think we’ll inappropriately dance to songs like Rihanna’s “S&M” and Beyoncé’s “Green Light.” Eventually, I would introduce her to Pimp C. Not in gay pet fashion, but you know, I wanted to be the homie.

I mean, she’s so fantastic. She’s pretty, sarcastic, dresses nice and can toss that hair better than the next natural blond. Yeah, I kinda sound a bit of a homosexual Lassie on that last part but whatever. Let me remove the leash before someone tightens it.

In any event, thank you, Lady Grammer. Your smirk was amazing (as were those showboating shoulders of yours) and admire that you stuck to your trademark step, step, drop and hair toss choreography 20 years and two kids later. An inspiration you are. You will be missed.

I’m sincerely hurt by this. Of course, all of that sounds batshit crazy but that’s for my future therapist to say in medical terms and a special note for me to take to CVS. Your job is the reader is to offer me comfort in my second of need. And believe me, I need comfort considering who’s left on the cast.

But for the record, someone out there understands me:

See. Yes, I realize that the Camille of the first season is a far cry from the one featured in the second. So what? It still beats a Taylor Armstrong on every single episode plus bonus footage combined. Squared.

 

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There’s a good an explanation for this lacefront, I swear. Before you dare even think it, no, it’s not mine, and please, I do not cross-dress. I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with that if you elect to make that one of your favorite pastimes. See what had happened was: I was kind of drinking a lot and doing hoodrat shit with my friends. After we gathered ’round the table to talk 2012 resolutions before a bountiful plate of some bomb ass nachos. Then while we made our way to the host, Mimi’s, bedroom to see its glorious transformation, I spotted the wig. Mimi, being the quintessential bad influence, told me, “Wanna try it on?” I was ambivalent and then she said, “Do it!” So I did.

I immediately thought of Funky Dineva and said, “My hair is layed” like Michael Jackson’s last years.” As soon as I threw that wig on I felt like I had been hit by a smooth criminal, ready to check on Annie’s little young pasty self and see if she was okay. I was named after the King of Pop, after all (my mama since claims that she named me after Saints Michael and Joseph, but my sister broke it down) so there’s nothing wrong with a delayed tribute. Well, besides dancing in the heat to “In The Closet” (for the record, Naomi snatched MJ’s thunder a whole bunch in the clip) on a public sidewalk.

Fresh says I look like Venus and Serena. I imagine if my mama saw this she’d say I looked more like a mortal sin. Or are those terms mutually exclusive? Kidding. Don’t wanna beef with Canada Dry or  Chicago’s Deepest Dish. I might as well be able to make fun of myself. The student loan corporations sure are doing it. Anyway, so feel free to point and laugh…now ’cause this shit will never happen again. Never. That is, unless someone offers me $20 million to do it. Or get me drunk enough. Then again, the economy might force me to go snatch Mimi’s wig from her place and make it do what it do.

I will never put on a bra, though. If I didn’t wear one when I actually needed it, I won’t be doing it now.

Now as I go debate whether or not I’m out of my mind for posting this, get into Funky Dineva, he who rocks that shit much, much better. My favorite clip is below the hood.

(more…)

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I imagine Drake spent much of today fighting off tears as he performed the “Are You That Somebody” choreography in his living room as a tribute to the late Aaliyah on her birthday. Aubrey has made his affinity for Aaliyah creepily clear with his constant shout outs, random open letters to the dead that seemed more appropriate for a séance versus a blog post, and now shots like these featuring the face of the singer on his surprisingly nice back. While I know it’s Drake’s body and he and Lil’ Wayne are free to do with it as they please (kidding, y’all), it’s still weird — even for reasons outside the obvious.

Okay, so you decided to put that somebody on your body. Fine, whatever, super stan. But, why is Mr. Owl from the Tootsie Roll pop commercials on the other side of your back, though? I’m assuming one of The Fabulous Freebirds atop Aaliyah is a joint homage to the NWA and the original motion picture soundtrack for Dr. Dolittle. Then again, I’m trying to make sense of someone who acts like he used to pass notes with Aaliyah in class. Silly, silly me. Let’s just focus on the positive: Drake’s got great arms, too. Makes me wanna go do a push up. Any minute now, folks.

Alright, enough of that. Explain those tattoos to me post haste. I need answers.

P.S. Don’t worry about the “Eric Kane” title. That was for Drakey. If he saw it, I’m sure he’d dig it.

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I stumbled along this picture yesterday and I think my reactions to it perfectly encapsulate my thoughts of 2011.

“What in the fuck is this?”

“How in the hell did this happen?”

“Is this some sort of sick joke?”

“No, really: Am I being punked?”

“Get this shit the fuck out of my face, B.”

Need I say more? But, you know, I’ve enjoyed a lot of the writing I’ve done here and elsewhere this year so let’s accentuate the positive and allow that to be the focus of this entry. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t update as much this year as I have in the past. Such is life when your student loans skyrocket and subsequently your hustle. Up until a setback at the end of the summer, I was writing 30-40 blogs a week for work (at other outlets), 1-2 essays a week as a columnist, and other various assignments. Plus, I was working on other things related to some long-term goals.

Busy.

That said, while the quantity of posts on the site subsided a bit I’d like to think the quality was still on point. So here are my favorite posts from The Cynical Ones this year. If you didn’t read them before, gon’ head and do so now. And if you know of someone who has the unfortunate character flaw that is never having read me, email this post to them. Or Tweet. Facebook it. Yell the address to them over the phone. Wait. No one talks on the phone anymore. Instagram, text, or whatever it is you 1% folk do to spread the word nowadays.

Alright, here goes:

So I Finally Met The Queen

No matter how up and down this year has been, I will always remember 2011 as the year I met my lord and gyrator, Beyoncé, and instantly became a better man because of it. Sometimes when I’m really down, I just think about her acknowledging that I’m alive and proceed to close my eyes and hug myself like Ray Charles as a pick me up. Yes, it works. No, I’m not ashamed.

Analog Thoughts For A Digital Girl

If you turn on radio and don’t here Rihanna at least a dozen times, you either live for country music or live in the year 1995. But unfortunately, some people still downplay her success because she hasn’t managed to boast of having a number one album. You know, despite albums going the way of TalkBoys.

The Inmate Wives of Baltimore

If you can bear through a Baltimore accent, this post is for yew.

Not The Marrying Kind

As happy as I am for this country inching closer and closer to marriage equality, I personally, am not that keen on the idea of being legally bound to someone. Yes, even if Trey Songz is proposing in my ear while we’re in bed. Oh, childhood.

Will You Marry Me, Rob Kardashian?

Then again, if I did get married I think it would be in my best interest to marry a Kardashian. Please get into my grand idea for having the writing career I’m destined for, only in this instance I opt for the cheap route of netting it. I dare you to tell me my idea isn’t plausible.

Good Luck With That, Cadillac Kimberly

A YouTube comedian whose popularity is largely centered on bashing reality stars decides to play the role of matron of morality on the Twitter. Hilarity does not ensue.

Well, It’s Official

My private student loan payments soared to mortgage level payments this year, and I, trying to curtail my anxiety over it, wrote about longing for the day when I’m successful enough to pay off my debt in one big swoop – and piss on the desk of Citibank’s CEO. It was all in good fun, but according to one commenter on my site, the post made me a creative person who lacks integrity. Fuck him then and now.

Simpletons & Stilettos

I kick this post off with:

I swear, if you made me a sandwich comprised of tuna fish left outside for three days topped with rabbit toe nails smashed in between two muddied pieces of bread I would still have the urge to vomit less than I do after watching this video.

Just go.

Fall Through A Trap Door Already

Why do people – especially women – get into Tyrese, especially when he likes insulting you so?

Uh, I Thought We Discuss This Already

My mother has heard me say, “I like dudes, ma’am,” but she still believes Jesus is on the mainline ready to place me on a cruise ship setting sail to some woman’s cervix.

Niggas Is Gay

Word to Fat Joe.

Elsewhere

Look, y’all! I made it onto national TV! Let us pray that it happens again and again in the future, and when it does, it’s geared more towards my own projects and passions. Also, let us bow our heads and ask the almighty that I come to realize that while it’s okay to adore Mary J. Blige, one doesn’t have to blink like her on TV. In my defense, I was a live TV virgin.

Alright, I’m spent. Go forth and read and spread around like HPV. Then go get a check up: I read about fellatio causing oral cancer and I’m afraid now. Scary, right? Be careful. See: I helped.

Edit: I can’t believe I left off what I wrote about Amy Winehouse.

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Fat Joe’s synopsis of homosexuality in our culture is as concise as it is astute: “Niggas is gay.” I don’t want to bother with a debate over whether or not Fat Joe should be able to use that word. I sort of consider him to be black, bilingual, and able to swim. Yes, that’s politically incorrect. Now can we go back to the part about niggas being gay? Okay then.

Some might be put off a bit on his emphasis on the word preference, but I don’t think it matters much given his overall point is that he’s not donating a damn about whether or not you’re gay because it should be irrelevant. Or as he so eloquently puts it: “Girls too… I’m a fan of ‘Yo, I’m gay. The fuck.’ Like, 2011 you gotta hide that you’re gay? Like, you know what I’m saying, like, be real, like ‘Yo I’m gay, what the fuck.’ If you gay you gay. Like that’s your preference, you know? Fuck it if the people don’t like it.”

Can we get this quote to a beat? Something as catchy as: “My niggas don’t dance, we just pull up our pants and do the rock-a-way. Now lean back, lean back, lean back.” Just with a gay twist — which includes slashing that unfortunate (to me) portion. Not everyone could get into “Born This Way.” Include me among that bunch.

Just last night I was talking to friends about people we know that are gayer than bathroom sex at a Rihanna concert who still lie to themselves that they’re going to magically fall into a vagina and not turn into Gumby. If Fat Joe the big heterosexual can get it, why can’t even some of these homos and the breeders who spook them? That includes some of you idiots who call me “faggie,” “fag” or pretend to be Biblical scholars on the comments section of my site. Yes, I read every comment here. Thank you for reading, but you can suck my dick and let the salt intake give you a stroke all the same.

Now on to more important matters: The gay mafia. Everybody knows (please say the way my play Auntie Phaedra Parks phrases it please) that I’m not the biggest fan of conspiracy theories, but Joe Who Doesn’t Care Where Your Privates Blow makes a good point about there being a lot of gay people behind the scenes yielding a lot of power. To that I say: Isn’t it about time that I be brought into the fold? Then again, it was only the other day that someone I greatly broke it down to me about the virtues of patience. I suppose my day of being included among the league of gay people outsiders complain about soiling their world with our good taste will come. Don’t feel like you can’t contribute to those efforts, though. So as I wait for a couple hundred of you to contribute to the tip jar over at gay Illuminati headquarters, feel free to email this post to your friends.

Fat Joe is showing folks the way to the truth…with their gay asses.

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