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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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ave you ever wondered to yourself, “I wonder what the life of my proctologist’s wife is like?” Or question whether or not your gynecologist can curse like a sailor and fight like Ronda Rousey? Would you want dating advice from your dentist? Ever curious to know if the doctor who tells you to cut down on pork chops is just as anal with her girlfriends about their weight?

I’ve never wondered any of these things, but I give all the glory to those at FremantleMedia and Bravo who had the vision to ask themselves these questions. If not for them, I would not have the joy in my life that is Married to Medicine. The show, which premiered back in March 2013, chronicles the lives of women in the Atlanta medical community. Some of them are actual doctors themselves, while others are married to them.

I was not an immediate fan of the show. There are only two things I recall from the show’s inaugural season. The first was a fight between original cast member and co-creator of the series Mariah Huq and Toya Bush-Harris, who got into a brawl at some fancy event by the pool of the sole white cast member’s house. Toya talked about Mariah’s mama, so, you know, punks jump up to get beat down, or whatever. The mama in question, Lucy, jumped into the fight and proceeded to smash Toya’s head repeatedly with her purse.

It’s not that I can’t stand the sight of a physical fight on reality TV, but I did expect this show to offer more along the lines of sophisticated shade, as opposed to UFC realness. I mean, let VH1 have its thing. In any event, the only other thing I remember about the show’s first season was being annoyed as hell by Mariah and Toya’s sounding like every overzealous black gay man I’ve ever met—another cliché that I did not need more of.

Then something changed for me during the second season. They toned it down a bit, found some balance between shade and fight to the death, and—gasp—actually showed more of the women with medical jobs working. Imagine that. It’s all made for a much better show.

Along with those changes, they added the woman who has come to be my absolute favorite thing on television: Dr. Heavenly.

Dr. Heavenly reminds me of those Southern black women who chop you up like brisket, only with wit and a smile that almost makes it endearing. What makes her quips even more digestible is that her elementary-school-age daughter gives her a dose of her own medicine.

Read the rest at The Root.

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When I found out that Timbaland had signed the highly buzzed Tink to his label, Mosley Music Group, I was excited. If you heard her mixtapes, Winter’s Diary 1 and 2, or anything she released via her SoundCloud at the time, you knew the Chicago teen had something special to her. Something, that if cultivated and shared correctly, could give hip-hop a much-needed new female star.

Given his statute, Timbaland is certainly capable of helping Tink become that star. He is the man who took Aaliyah to a heightened level of creativity; Justin Timberlake into superstardom; artists like Keri Hilson, Nelly Furtado, and others to have their moments.

Later, I heard the first Timbaland-produced offering from Tink, “Around the Clock,” and thought about some of the other acts who found less success with Timbaland—namely Ms. Jade. Then I became afraid not long after. If you’re under the age of 25, you presumably haven’t the slightest clue about the Philadelphia native or her one and only major studio album, Girl Interrupted.

While promoting the 2002 album, Ms. Jade said of her music: “Most music has a message, and as an artist I wanted to throw that out there. I’m a real person, and I know what it’s like going through stuff like relationships and working hard. It’s cool to dance, but you also have to let people know that you work hard for what you’ve got.”

I couldn’t help but notice the similarities when I read Tink tell CR Fashion Book recently, “I feel like I’m the voice for my generation, especially for women. My album is a day in the life of a normal human being, and that’s why I know it’s going to connect because I’m not dancing around the truth.”

Though one could rightly argue that this sort of phrasing is standard, the two do have the commonality in trusting the same man to achieve that mission. And I am beginning to think both may be wrong in doing so. Timbaland’s musical legacy cannot be denied, nor would I try to say otherwise as a major fan. Still, sometimes two good people don’t mesh well together.

As of now, Tink has released a few songs with Timbaland and the results have been mixed at best.

Read the rest at Complex.

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I can’t remember where I was body rolling – the gym, a bar, a subway car or a random sidewalk in Harlem – but while turning up to Destiny’s Child, I had an epiphany: everything you need to know about love and relationships can be found in their catalog. Like, every facet of love, relationships, and as country folks would say, “relations.”

So, since I refuse to listen to the majority of the other bammas out here doling out advice by no other virtue than them being famous, I would like to share with you my love syllabus as prepped by all past members of Destiny’s Child—except for Farrah, because her whispers on that one song don’t count. No shade.

When you see a bae and your eyes can’t make a run for it: “Perfect Man”

 For those of us who are told we look “unapproachable,” or just people who live by the virtue “closed mouths don’t get fed,” Beyoncé so gorgeously advised in the bridge of this international bonus track from Survivor:

All you ladies listening if you ever have the chance/ To run into your definition of that perfect man/ Don’t be blinded by how fine the man is/ And miss the chance that might be your last/ Make him understand that he’s your perfect man

Heed her warning, beloveds.

Read the rest at VH1.

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It was love at first ass shot.

Sebastian, played by Ryan Phillippe, rose from the pool after failing to seduce virgin Annette, played by his now ex-wife, Reese Witherspoon, in Cruel Intentions. For the life of me, I could not understand why Annette did not immediately start singing the lyrics of Ginuwine’s “Pony” and proceed to play out the song with him.

He was butt-ass naked and it was a sight to behold. It was such a sight that I don’t remember much else about the movie. Something about obnoxious teenagers and some demure girl whose cherry they wanted turned out? Oh, and two of the girls kissed each other. Good for them.

Whatever the case, for a teenage boy in conflict with his same-sex attractions, Sebastian’s bare cheeks air-drying post-rejection is the only scene that matters.

For the record, I had to wait and see Cruel Intentions on video. I got to see some R-rated movies by way of my cool older sister (Friday, for example), but no one would take me to see movies like Cruel Intentions. It was an early lesson about the role “the haters” will play in one’s life.

It was probably for the best, though. Once I had the movie on VHS (it was a dark time in home entertainment, children born in the 1990s) and got to that scene, I paused the tape and stared at the screen for several minutes. My mouth, open. My eyes, glued to his cheeks. I went on to take the advice T-Boz from TLC shared with me in 1996 about self-pleasure.

I knew I was attracted to boys around the age of six. Will Smith is actually my first celebrity crush, but he was squeaky clean on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air so much of my thoughts were, “Oh, you look nice… in that stupid looking jacket your fictitious private school has you wearing.” An NBC sitcom in the 1990s could never offer the same sort of temptation and titillation many of Phillippe’s movies did.

After that, I tasked myself with finding other movies that included Phillippe’s nudity—notably 54, released a year prior to Cruel Intentions.

The film 54 was my first real glimpse into gay male sex. I tended to stay clear of porn online. Not because I didn’t know how to hide the evidence from a tech-savvy mom—porn just doesn’t do a whole lot for me (Tumblr porn is cool, though). No shade to the hard-working adult entertainers of the world.

It’s a shame that so many of the original scenes of the movie were cut in its original theatrical release. I saw bootleg versions of select scenes—including Phillippe kissing co-star Breckin Meyer—but even in the heavily edited version, I got the gist. I had never seen what those attractions looked like when expressed—especially not from someone I couldn’t help but fawn over. As a result, I got a whole lot closer to accepting the gay within.

Read the rest at Fusion.

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As frustrating as I find her to be, I almost feel sorry for Miley Cyrus. Almost— because after all, she has been a famous millionaire for the majority of her life. With that comes all the perks of fame and fortune: being the center of attention, having people be at your beck and call, and getting to do practically whatever you want. Though as we’ve seen time and time again, none of that proves to be enough for a child star. They always have something to prove, notably when they see their star fading as they inch closer towards adulthood. They typically do whatever it takes to earn additional shine in an effort to safely stay in the only space they’ve known.

No one needs a reminder on how desperate Cyrus has shown herself to be in convincing you that she’s no longer Hannah Montana. It’s downright embarrassing to see her make so many weed jokes or reference sex in some campy fashion, damn near begging us to call her bad ass. That said, I don’t agree with the running theory that her career is over. For starters, her last album, Bangerz, did go platinum. We needn’t forget she’s only 22, by the way.

Oh, and for all her theatrics, she’s actually talented. That’s probably what’s most grating about Miley Cyrus: she doesn’t have to do half the nonsense she engages in. It’s one thing you notice from her new free album, Miley Cyrus & her Dead Petz. And yes, it is nonsense. We’re not being prudish. Quite the contrary. It’s that those of us over a certain age – say, above 25 – have seen it all and seen it done far more salaciously and with purpose (not to mention better).

In a New York Times report about the making of Miley Cyrus & her Dead Petz, producer Mike WiLL claims of Cyrus, “Why would she drop another Bangerz? Miley is the new Madonna.” Oh hell no. Cyrus may think she’s like Madonna. There may even be people she pays to lie to her about being like Madonna. Still, making endless weed jokes or standing around butt ass naked constantly a Madonna not make.

Madonna was provocateur, but she was tackling real issues that resulted in genuine backlash. She spoke about gay rights and AIDS awareness, was an advocate for expressions of female sexuality in its rawest forms, among other issues. She drew the ire of the Catholic Church, uptight politicians, and if you remember the reactions to her SEX book, even some consumers. Cyrus is like a teenager with a fake ID, drunk at a college party living out all of the scenarios she’s only seen in crappy movies.

Madonna is also, above all, a masterful pop music maker. Sure, she’s adapted sounds and aesthetics through the years, but at her peak – and that lasted for a very long time – she always played to her strengths.

Read the rest at VH1.

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Miley Cyrus is a marvelous example of moments when white people need to know that it’s perfectly acceptable to shut up and listen when it comes to the subject of race. Or, you know, not comment at all, especially if they’re not even marginally informed about a matter with a potentially racial subtext.

In an interview with the New York Times last week, the former child star and current attention seeker decided to lend her own commentary to Nicki Minaj’s criticism of the MTV Video Music Awards for snubbing her massively popular visual for “Anaconda” this year in the Video of the Year category. When asked about it, Cyrus began with, “I saw that. I didn’t really get into it. I know there was some beef. I don’t really know.” When asked if she knew what Minaj had said, Cyrus said, “She was saying that everyone was white and blonde that got nominated, I heard? And then Taylor Swift butted in.”

When it was explained that Minaj was alluding to a double standard—Minaj having bested the sales and impact of Cyrus’ own “Wrecking Ball” video, which won in 2014—Cyrus again said, “I didn’t follow it.” If you’re keeping score, Cyrus doesn’t really know, she didn’t really get into it and she didn’t really follow it. And yet she spoke anyway.

“Not that this is jealousy, but jealousy does the opposite of what you want it to—that’s a yoga mantra,” Cyrus explained. “People forget that the choices that they make and how they treat people in life affect you in a really big way.” Repurposing the jargon she picked up from her yoga instructor, Cyrus went on to advise, “If you do things with an open heart and you come at things with love, you would be heard and I would respect your statement. But I don’t respect your statement because of the anger that came with it.”

You know, there are your feelings and then there are statistics. Statistics care not about your damn anecdotes. Just because you feel a given way about a situation doesn’t mean it’s rooted in reality. Namaste that, simpletons.

If these empty, poorly rationalized thoughts were not frustrating enough, Cyrus went on to criticize Minaj for the tone of her rightful complaints. Cyrus essentially scolded Minaj, noting, “You made it about you. Not to sound like a bitch, but that’s like, ‘Eh, I didn’t get my V.M.A.’”

Then came her “advice”: “If you want to make it about race, there’s a way you could do that. But don’t make it just about yourself. Say: ‘This is the reason why I think it’s important to be nominated. There’s girls everywhere with this body type.’”

The interviewer noted, “I think she did say that,” but Cyrus did not waver, claiming: “What I read sounded very Nicki Minaj, which, if you know Nicki Minaj, is not too kind. It’s not very polite. I think there’s a way you speak to people with openness and love. You don’t have to start this pop star against pop star war.”

Cyrus’ simplemindedness irks the ever-loving hell out of me. Irked the hell out of Minaj, too. Last night, Minaj used part of the time allotted for her Best Hip-Hop Video win to address Cyrus’ criticism. Startled but still stuck on stupid, Cyrus blamed the media and life went on. Cyrus’ life affords her the luxury of being able to navigate subcultures as easily as she does the dominant one—and to be celebrated. Minaj isn’t as lucky, yet she gets lectured by a spoiled white girl, who casually drops “mammy” in her skit with Snoop Dogg, on how to talk race “the right way.”

Read the rest at The Root.

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In the past, my dating life was a mix of Frank Ocean’s Bad Religion and the sadder Mary J Blige songs that you can somehow still dance to. And yet, things have slowly but surely gotten better – a direct result of me making important changes. As I’ve gotten older, I have been more vigilant about noticing the signs that a man might be a loser and promptly taking the exit ramp.

This includes things like never dating a man who doesn’t know how to use “your” and “you’re” correctly. I don’t want to be a snooty writer, but I also don’t want to invest in flirting with a person who didn’t pay attention in third grade. Similarly, though it may be a struggle, I will try my best to avoid checking a guy’s social media feeds before actually getting to know him. It’s like looking at a person through a filter that’s not as favorable as he thinks it is.

But the one I most adamant about sticking to – and I have encouraged everyone I know to act accordingly: I will never date another person who does not like Beyoncé.

If there is one mistake I made repeatedly in the past, it was looking past this fatal flaw. Of all the men I’ve dated, the worst have all disliked Queen Bey.

I am a gay black man from Houston, Texas. Beyoncé is my Lord and gyrator. She is the beginning, end and body roll to me. I should have known better than to ever bother with such haters.

Before I started rejecting Beyoncé haters, I first tried dating some men with the fatal flaw by avoiding the subject. More than once, one tried to pick a fight with me about Beyoncé. They knew I bow down to Queen Bey, but they tried, still, to coerce me into standing on the wrong side of history. Remember that New York Times review of her debut album entitled: “The Solo Beyoncé: She’s No Ashanti?” Who wants to end up sounding that ridiculous?

However, as an original member of the #Beyhive (its editorial director, if you will), I’ve long known that some people will fight a good thing. So I gave some men the benefit of the doubt, thinking that I could help them blossom into Beyoncé lovers – starting with the B’Day album. Because seriously, how can you not like Beyoncé? To me, if you don’t love Beyoncé, you don’t love yourself. You don’t have to be a super fan, but if you don’t like at least five Beyoncé songs, I don’t trust your judgment.

That sounds crazy to Beyoncé deniers, whom I refer to as Beythiests.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

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Earlier this month, when Kim Kardashian premiered her selfie with Hillary Clinton (featuring Kanye West in the background, doing a mesh of mean mug and amusement), my immediate reaction was, “I hope she’s not trying to sell HRC on the benefits of wearing a waist trainer.”

I was guilty (as many are) of dismissing the idea of Kardashian having any legitimate interest in political and social causes. Well, none that don’t directly involve her, anyway. But as vapid as Kim Kardashian can be, there is something skeptics like me must accept: she’s been trying to show substance lately.

A year ago, Kardashian took to her site to pen a personal post that detailed how having a mixed race daughter has shed light on the realities of racism.

Kardashian wrote:

To be honest, before I had North, I never really gave racism or discrimination a lot of thought. It is obviously a topic that Kanye is passionate about, but I guess it was easier for me to believe that it was someone else’s battle. But recently, I’ve read and personally experienced some incidents that have sickened me and made me take notice. I realize that racism and discrimination are still alive, and just as hateful and deadly as they ever have been.

This earned her a resounding “duh” across the Internet, but Kardashian did go on to note, “I feel a responsibility as a mother, a public figure, a human being, to do what I can to make sure that not only my child, but all children, don’t have to grow up in a world where they are judged by the color of their skin, or their gender, or their sexual orientation. I want my daughter growing up in a world where love for one another is the most important thing.”

Her intent was to convey that motherhood is changing her, and that her eyes were beginning to open up—she’s seeing the world beyond her bubble. It’s one thing to date and marry black men, but it’s another to actually be a mother to a black child who will experience things she will never be forced to. In many ways, Kardashian has lived up to the promise of her post.

In July, Kardashian wrote on Twitter, “#WhatHappenedToSandraBland We need answers!!!! This is NOT ok! This is all shady! They need to own up to this & tell the truth!” Arguments ensued immediately, with people wondering whether or not she truly “cared.” It’s a stupid question to pose. At this rate, it should be very clear that Kardashian is methodical and hyperaware of what it means to extend her name to something be it a product or a victim of police brutality. She cared enough to bring attention to it and the end result was arguably Bland’s story being carried on entertainment programs that might’ve otherwise ignored the story.

Read the rest at Fusion.

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