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Last week, the World Series took us away from Empire, and specifically, Hakeem’s kidnapping. The only things I know about baseball include the following: Houston Astros; Matt Kemp; Evelyn Lozada’s partner; baseball players make crazy money; Michael, get you a baseball player. So, now that we’ve gotten sports out of the way, let’s move on to the melodrama.

Are you happy Becky got her some?

I was not anticipating seeing her leg in the air as she was screwing around on the roof with someone who turned out to be a Christian rapper, but hey, get it how you life. Since we’re talking about sex and Christians, Andre is so fine, y’all. Like the kind of fine ass Christian that could get your heathen ass at church service.

Was Jamal singing an Elton John song?

First off, are we going to begin every episode with his ass singing? I like looking at Jussie Smollett so I’m fine with either way, but just curious. In any event, last night’s song was very Elton John sounding. I’m cool with Elton John, their styles don’t mesh well. Didn’t I already suggest that Jamal hook up with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis? Why are they not listening to me when I’m absolutely right. I have another suggestion: Just have Jamal sing all of Donell Jones’ catalog. The sound fits Smollett’s voice and I’m almost certain the majority of the audience would just assume they were new songs. Donell will get a check and Jussie’s character will get it right. Y’all are welcome.

Isn’t Jamal’s sexuality being handled heavy-handedly?

This show goes out of its way to remind us that Jamal is gay, often in the silliest of ways. Whatever the case, Lucious told Jamal that he was “too narrow of a gay artist” and I was a bit stumped. A gay singer can’t fill an arena in Los Angeles if he has hits? They’re not trying to make sense here. From my understanding, Jamal has like half of a hit thus far and his debut album hasn’t come out. Why would he be trying to book the Staples Center anyway?

And if he did have a hit album and single, why would being gay be block him from booking that venue? Gay singers do face challenges – particularly Black ones – but can we try to be realistic about them? Pretty please. I mean, Jamal solving his purported gay problem by singing “la-la-la-la-la” a thousand times won’t be fixing much.

So, Hakeem has PTSD?

Actually, as a real doctor explained to me on the Twitter, technically it would be an acute stress reaction given his “duration of symptoms isn’t long enough.” I am feeling very Frasier right now. Anyhow, you would think Hakeem had been locked in a box for five months the way he was behaving last night. And when was released, the first thing he does is go have sex with Boo Boo Kitty, who was about to have her own panic attack before he rolled up on her.

Why? I don’t understand much about this show, but this is particularly perplexing to me. Empire loves to cram a lot into a single episode, but last night felt like four or five episodes in one. Hakeem was kidnapped, then Lucious and Cookie come together to save him. They do, only Hakeem is clearly not okay. He is resentful towards his dad (typical), his mother (typical), but is lashing out more than usual. He can’t focus. He’s hearing things. He’s punching glass.

He can’t perform with his new girl group, Destiny’s Bilingual Child. However, he has a connection with the lead singer, who essentially saves him as he freezes during his performance. But ta da, he’s perfectly fine again. That all happened in like 20 minutes. That is not okay, writers.

I want to know how long he was kidnapped. FYI, the length of the World Series doesn’t count.

Read the rest at VH1.

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If there’s anything more annoying than a bigot, it’s a bigot who can’t own his prejudice.

During last week’s CNBC Republican presidential primary debate, Ben Carson was asked why he would sit on the board of a gay-friendly company such as Costco, given his views on homosexuality. (He resigned from that board, as well as that of the also gay-friendly Kellogg Co., earlier this year.) These views would include asserting that homosexual activity in prison proves that being gay is a choice, categorizing gay-rights activists as “hateful people” and the “enemies of America,” and referring to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as the “flavor of the day.” Carson has also compared gay people to pedophiles and those whoengage in bestiality.

Yet in response to the debate question, Carson said, “You don’t understand my views on homosexuality. I believe our Constitution protects everybody regardless of their sexual orientation. I also believe marriage is between one man and one woman. There is no reason you can’t be perfectly fair to the gay community.”

In other words, Carson is willing to forgo his anti-gay beliefs when there’s an opportunity to make lots of money. (He reportedly earned millions while sitting on the Costco and Kellogg boards.) Oh, my God, I’m so touched by this beautiful display of moral growth. Be still, my gay-ass heart.

Meanwhile, this is the same person who called for the removal of pro-marriage-equality judges because his stated position is that it is a “finger in your eye to God” when two people of the same sex tie the knot. Now we’re to believe that he suddenly believes in “fairness” toward the gay community? Carson went on to say during the debate that “the left” has perpetuated the “myth”that opposition to same-sex marriage is equivalent to being homophobic.

At this point, I find Carson to be nothing more than the Negro Pat Robertson, and an ongoing study in how even a brain surgeon can be as dim as your average village idiot. Even so, his two-step around the obvious and pussyfooting around his real feelings toward the LGBT community remind me of so many others. Those individuals who, like Carson, want to have contemptuous views of the LGBT community but who don’t want the label of “bigot” and the consequences that come with it.

You know, even if it’s true.

A little over a week ago, former 106 & Park co-host and radio-and-TV personality Free took to Twitter to ask the loaded question, “How come when anyone ‘disagrees’ with the homosexual lifestyle they are automatically considered to be gay bashing/hate?”

There are some folks in this world who believe that there is no such thing as a stupid question. I am not one of those people. There are indeed dumb questions, and this is the Raven-Symoné of examples.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Last week, Being Mary Jane ended with a sad goodbye, but on the latest episode, we begin with a high note: Kara’s climaxing as she had a sexual eruption with her boyfriend, that man who is currently getting on my nerves on CBS’ Madam Secretary. Then her ex-husband and a potential learning disability for their son soiled the afterglow. Poor, poor Kara. That, more or less, is the theme of the latest episode. Remember, though, that this is Being Mary Jane so poor everyone else, too.

Gather ‘round, BMJ family. Time to react and wonder.

Mary Jane failed her screen test, but can she not be such an awful person about it?
I do not appreciate the way Mary Jane came for Kara’s neck for putting her child ahead of Mary Jane’s job. She is such a selfish, spiteful human being. In any event, after going home, Mary Jane was met with a letter from Lisa. Instead of reading it, Mary Jane let her part-time lover’s hotline bling for a much needed distraction. I am glad she got some, but I would love for her to also hit a therapist’s trap phone in order to learn how to be a decent human being. I am really trying to warm to Mary Jane Paul, but the character keeps lodging ice cubes at my head. Like, those really big ones they put in the drinks you order to rationale them charging you $14 for alcohol.

Thank you for showing Kara pop those pills.
People using antidepressants is not uncommon, but usage still carries certain stigmas. Kara has a hugely stressful, demanding job. She has an estranged partner who punishes her for having said job, but manages to reap the benefits of it i.e. child support and compelling her to pay the mortgage on their home. She faces huge guilt over her inability to properly balance her professional and personal lives. Of course she needs some level of assistance to make it through this stressful time until she figures it out. I don’t blame her one bit for needing the boost. Thankfully, she is shown getting said boost without any unnecessary shame attached to it.

Can Loretta Devine and her trifling ass character fall into the damn abyss?
I love Loretta Devine and while I do find her challenging Mary Jane in a way she isn’t used to interesting, this subplot is stupid. A news anchor – particularly one as sharp, shrewd, and soulless as Mary Jane often shows herself to be – should be able to find her way through this. I guess the fact that she cannot is supposed to be what reels us in, but it does not. What is the FBI tip line? I’d like to report a crime and a storyline that needs to be locked away.

That said, I do appreciate Mary Jane calling her out for the fraud that she is. Black Jesus is not a fan of this woman. Pseudo Christians like that woman who bastardized scripture to suit their self-interests irritate the living hell out of me. If hell is a Fry Daddy, Loretta Devine’s character, Eddie Long, and Creflo Dollar will be seasoned and tossed into some hot grease like catfish in due time. No shade.

Read the rest at VH1.

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There are two quotes I cling to when it comes to responding to questionable commentary from members of my community. Of course, there is Zora Neale Hurston’s notorious declaration, “All my skinfolk ain’t kinfolk.” There is also my favorite auntie—and, more than likely, yours, too—who always throws out a “This n–ga here” when stupidity greets her. No matter your preferred phrasing, both sentiments perfectly encapsulate the wave of famous black people saying absolutely stupid things about race and racism.

The most recent examples include the likes of Raven-Symoné, Anthony Mackie, Don Lemon and Stacey Dash. There is also Jill Scott, circa the initial defense of Bill Cosby. Cosby himself, around the time he was telling black boys to pull up their pants and arguing that stolen packaged-dessert treats from the corner store warrant certain death. Or even LL Cool J, if you recall the god-awful “Accidental Racist.”

There have always been some famous fools, but the Internet has made many of us all too aware of that fact—day after day, if not hour after hour. That makes it more infuriating, more painful and more depressing. There are, however, levels of grievance and whether the comments justifies the offender’s banishment to the Island of Wayward Negroes.

I’m here to help you deal with the stages of grief. Consider it self-care. Besides, we all know there will only be more. You’re welcome.

1. Don’t panic.

Yes, your favorite fame-having Negro might have said something that made your black skin flinch like it just got hit with hot pork-chop grease, but settle down. Ask yourself, is it a one-time offense? Like when Phylicia Rashad gave an interview about the then-smaller pool of women accusing Cosby of rape and dismissed them by saying, “Forget these women.”

Yes, it was bad. It was an insensitive and arguably callous retort to Cosby’s accusers, and you would expect a nice girl from Houston who matriculated at Howard to know better. But everyone makes mistakes. It doesn’t excuse the error, but with more than 50 women now accusing Cosby, I highly doubt that the artist formerly known as Mrs. Huxtable would frame her sentiments in such fashion again. So it’s OK to forgive, but never forget. Now, if she continued to talk that talk, then we would have to move on to step 2.

2. Accept the truth that’s two-stepping in front of you.

Sometimes in life we have to come to grips with the reality that a black public figure is prone to damn-fool syndrome—say, a Dash, a Raven-Symoné, a Lemon. These types will either truly believe their uninformed, poorly thought out and nuance-lacking statements or will merely just continue making contrarian statements, if for no other reason than to garner attention.

The same way you know that one of your cousins can never come to your house because that sumbitch steals is the same way you have to learn to minimize your expectations that this sect of black folks might say anything that doesn’t make you want to throw a black power Afro pick at them. And trust me, I’ve been there. It takes time, but the sooner you make peace, the better off you’ll be.

3. Figure out your limits.

As in, after discovering how Dash feels about gender and race, ask yourself, “Do I want to spend money on whatever movie she’s doing that’s heading to Redbox?” For me the answer is an emphatic “Hell no.” The same applies to watching Lemon’s CNN telecasts on purpose. At this point, you know what you’re getting with these people; thus you have to adjust accordingly.

Read the rest at The Root.

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I believe in calling things what they are.

I am a black man. I am a black writer. I’m not afraid of these labels because they accurately represent me. More importantly, no matter what I call myself, my race will always be part of the equation. I could be “Puff the Magic Dragon,” but the inconvenient truth is that people would still likely refer to me as “Puff the Magic Black Dragon.”

Being a black writer and owning that doesn’t mean I’m incapable of relating to those who aren’t like me. For those who feel differently, however, I shouldn’t carry the burden of changing their small minds. I refuse to downplay myself to win the approval of those who can’t get past how I look.

That’s exactly why I was disappointed by actress Sanaa Lathan’s comments in a recent article titled, “Why The Perfect Guy Isn’t A Black Movie.”

“I have heard people talk about this film as an urban film because we’re black. The truth is … all races love watching us if it’s a good story,” said Lathan, who stars as lobbyist Leah Vaughn in the film. “If it’s a good movie, it’s a good movie, regardless of our color. We’re brown, but we’re just making movies. We don’t have to comment on our race.”

She added, “I was reading about Straight Outta Compton, and it’s interesting how the journalists talk about it. The way that they talk about the success is very marginalized. It’s like, ‘This is a specialty film.’ No, it’s not. This is an American film about American history. Hip-hop culture is world culture now. It is universal.”

While I agree race should not dictate whether someone enjoys a movie or not, what good is it to pretend that a film with a predominately black cast is not a black movie? And why should we avoid calling something a “black movie” just to encourage non-black people to see films like Love & Basketball?  Trying to be colorblind when categorizing a movie puts the onus of combating racial prejudice on black people, rather than on those who should overcome their prejudices.

Lathan​’s The Perfect Guy co-star, Michael Ealy, also chimed in, saying, “I understand why people want to label them black movies. But … if you watch The Big Chill, I don’t think they talk about their whiteness.”

The problem with that argument? White people don’t declare their whiteness because whiteness is considered the norm. It’s the standard; everything else is an outlier.

Read the rest at ntrsctn.

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You don’t have to convince me about the power of Michael Jackson. His name is Michael Joseph Jackson. Mine is Michael Joseph Arceneaux. I was born in 1984, i.e. 25 years after the debut Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5 and two years after the release of the record-breaking, worldwide smash and hugely influential Thriller album. For many – notably 1980s babies and the pop stars they’ve seen produced – he is a template and a genre of music unto himself.

Still, there is one point that should be obvious but apparently continues to go over people’s heads: there will never be another Michael Jackson.

However, that doesn’t stop people from either comparing themselves to Michael Jackson or allowing other people to do it for them.

Nick Cannon recently took to Instagram and uploaded an image that drew the ire of anyone with some damn sense. In what he called “The Perfect Equation,” it argued that Michael Jackson and 2Pac equal Chris Brown. In the caption, Cannon argued, “A lot of times we don’t realize or acknowledge our treasures while we still have them with us. We wait until they are gone to appreciate their power.”

I have never supported Mariah Carey more than I do in this moment.

Let’s be very clear that while the sentiment “you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone (Joni Mitchell never lied)” is true, it doesn’t apply here. Michael Jackson was the biggest pop star on the planet. 2Pac was a hugely successful rapper with a burgeoning career in Hollywood. Both sold tens of millions of albums. Both were critical and commercial successes until the day they died. Both, however, faced some serious allegations leveled against them and the world reacted accordingly. Such is life.

Chris Brown is indeed talented, but even before “the incident” with Rihanna (as in, the physical assault of her), he was in no way shape or form comparable to them. He was on the verge of wider success, but even under heavy controversy and criticism, manages to be one of R&B’s greatest successes. That’s good for him, but as far as being a creative goes, Chris Brown is basically a light skinned Bobby Brown rather than the second coming of Michael Jackson.

And to be perfectly quite honest, if nothing else, Bobby Brown gave the world Don’t Be Cruel. Chris Brown doesn’t even have that, so don’t you dare keep comparing to Michael Jackson just because Chris Brown can dance. He doesn’t even dance like Michael Jackson, for the record.

People use Michael Jackson as a measuring stick of an artist’s worth. The problem with that is most folks have no real appreciation for who Michael was beyond an amazing dancer with some cool videos.

Take for instance, the other person who is now being compared to Michael Jackson: The Weeknd.

You know, I’ve come to embrace the gloomy Canadian’s music. It’s like American Horror Story meets sex and drugs. I even appreciate how candid he is about his pursuit of mainstream popularity. Nevertheless, paying homage to Michael Jackson on songs like “Can’t Feel My Face,” “In The Night,” or his remake of Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” a new Michael Jackson does not make. Don’t let the great stab at karaoke fool you.

Read the rest at VH1.

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On Sunday, many social media users briefly tripped into confusion at the sight of Amber Rose sitting next to Iyanla Vanzant on the set of the Andy Cohen-hosted late night smash Watch What Happens Live. While Rose and Vanzant were more than cordial to each other, there was a polite but visible shift in Vanzant’s face after Cohenencouraged Amber Rose to explain her recent Slut Walk to the OWN personality. Vanzant noted that she was “old school,” and thus, not a particular fan of embracing the word “slut.”

I imagine Vanzant and others like her will share a similar sentiment about the title of Amber Rose’s new book, How To Be A Bad Bitch, which is now on sale. Debate over reclaiming terms like “bitch” and slut” are reminiscent of the ongoing conversation about reclaiming “nigga”—some think you can, others don’t, and there will never be a true resolution between those positions.

People will cling to their stances, but if nothing else, you can always judge someone’s intentions. After reading How To Be A Bad Bitch, it’s clear that Amber Rose and Iyanla Vanzant have more in common than one may initially suspect. Rose, like Vanzant, wants to make people feel better about themselves, or better yet, “live their best lives,” as Oprah would say. They both employ self-help jargon to accomplish this; only their approaches differ tonally.

Vanzant is more matriarchal in her delivery—insert 100 “beloveds” here—whereas Rose is more like your cool, open-minded big sister. A trill guidance counselor, if you will. To wit, Rose’s book begins with the declaration, “I’m writing this book because I decided to do something for myself, no fucks given.” Many readers may immediately shout out “Yassssss!” in response.

Rose has always known how to make an entrance, though over time, onlookers have seen that she’s a lot softer and sweeter than her first impression suggests. That’s why for all of the provocation of the book’s title and its cover, it more or less reads like a version of The Secret for the hood. Don’t consider that a pejorative. I am from the Hiram Clarke area in Houston, Texas. I know plenty of girls like Amber Rose, and I’m happy that now there’s a woman speaking to them directly, in a way that’s accessible.

For instance: Rose reflects on past instances of adversity, but goes on to note: “But when I was down and out, I knew I’d be on my way back up soon, and I always knew I was a bad bitch.”

The same goes for instilling advice like: “If you love to read and write, even if no one else in your family or community does, embrace your truth and move toward what feels rewarding for you. The same goes with astrophysics, or interior design, or being a mom.”

It’s like taking every rap song you’ve ever heard from Trina about being da baddest bitch, and mixing it with The Oprah Winfrey Network’s programming and the inspirational word memes flooding your Instagram feed. That’s not shade. It is a winning recipe for the intended audience.

Some of the advice seems obvious, but if it’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that people like to be told what they should already know—particularly if it’s coming from a celebrity.

Read the rest at Fusion.

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If you’ve watched the video for Adele’s new single, “Hello,” you may very well need a lifeguard to save you the pool of tears you’re presently drowning in. Adele is the mother of melancholy, and given it’s been nearly five long years since the British singer-songwriter has released an album, we are right on the tip of what will surely be another long reign. To that end, you need to start preparing now. Adele, like winter, is coming, and both forces are known to make you sink into sadness. You need to prepare your heart, your mind, and for many of the people reading this, your loins. Allow me to help.

1. Buy the necessary supplies.

Once 25 drops and you give it that first, full listen, you’re likely to end up curled up in bed, boo-hooing like hell. You will think about an ex. You will be thinking about all of the shoulda, coulda, wouldas of your life. You may very well want to go slow dance with a 1987 Buick Regal in the street (please call a suicide hotline first, though). Get your tissues ready. Have your cable bill and Netflix and Hulu subscriptions all paid. Chances are you’re not going to want to leave the house, so you might as well prepare for the sulking as best as possible. Just tip your Thai food delivery driver well. He is not the one who broke your heart.

2. Have contraception on hand.

It is very much probable that you will end up sending or be sent a “Hey, stranger” text message. These messages are more often than not, annoying as hell. However, the temperatures are dropping (unless you live in California), so with cuffing season and a sad Adele album comes the increased chances of a slip up. Based on “Hello” alone, I’m already willing to give some ain’t s–t person a temporary chance. We are in peak drunk text and ugly cry seasons. Prepare yourselves accordingly, beloveds.

Read the rest at VH1.

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bill-cosby-ebony-magazine-november-coverHow important is a symbol? For those who continue to defend Bill Cosby amidst accusations of rape from over 50 women, what matters most is not the dignity of those women and them rightfully seeking retribution, but the symbolism behind Cosby’s greatest success. Sadly, they have now been emboldened in their shortsighted stance by one of the cast members ofThe Cosby Show. In an interview with HuffPost Live, Malcolm-Jamal Warner employed the “bigger picture” defense in his condemnation of Ebony magazine’s latest cover.

“[The cover is] contributing to the stereotypical image that society has of the broken black family and the shattered black family,” Warner explained to host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani. “And to take something that… for 20 [or] 30 years has been what we have held up as the black family that we all want to aspire to, in terms of the love that we don’t see when we see black families in the media—to take that image and to shatter it, it’s disappointing to a lot of us.”

Cosby may have only been Warner’s dad while in character, but he certainly passed along some delusions of grandeur. Nonetheless, it’s a point of view expressed by many, though it feels flawed for numerous reasons. Not to take away what the Huxtables meant to some people, but I never felt comfortable with the idea that in order for non-black people to see black folks beyond trite tropes, they had to see them within the constrains of an upper middle class nuclear family. The same goes for that family being the one “we all want to aspire to.”

Even if that were actually the case, in 2015, we have President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their two children, Sasha and Malia Obama. Likewise, we have Beyoncé, Jay Z, and their daughter Blue Ivy Carter. For those who need to see an image of black families depicting what is perceived to be “traditional,” and thus, a model worth aspiring to, there are other options.

Meanwhile, a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center shows that the majority of American kids under 18 are not being raised in a “traditional” family—defined as two parents in their first marriage. Only 46 percent of children now live in such a lifestyle. The rest are raised by single parents, parents who cohabitate, stepparents, and grandparents. Moreover, there are gay parents; and according to a new study by the Population Research Center at the University of Texas, same-sex parents spend significantly more time with their children than their heterosexual counterparts.

This shift reminds me of something not enough people acknowledge about black television: We’ve long had varied depictions of what a black family can look like.

Read the rest at Fusion.

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I remember joining the chorus of annoyance when I read Sam Smith’s declaration that when it comes to his role as a public figure that just so happens to be gay, “I’m not trying to be a spokesperson.”

He went on to tell Digital Spy: “It sounds awful of me, but I’m really just trying to live my life and write music about it. That’s what I do. I’m not trying to heal the world. From a young age I’ve always been like this, so it’s been normal. My family and friends have made it feel normal and I’m not going to stop that now.”

I found this sentiment frustrating, majorly because it came across as selfish and it was a continuation of what writer Rich Juzwiak referred to as his “f–ked up gay conservatism.”

Sam Smith was the gay guy who hated hooking up. The homosexual man who was so concerned being as mainstream as possible, he told The Fader, “I’ve made my music so that it could be about anything and everybody— whether it’s a guy, a female or a goat—and everybody can relate to that. I’m not in this industry to talk about my personal life unless it’s in a musical form. The same-sex lover who expressed to Rolling Stone that while it “felt great” to come out, he “had to be careful” because “I want my music to be sung by absolutely everyone.”

Smith’s reluctance to be a “spokesperson” for the gay community seemed more like a cynical ploy to court the masses by essentially being gay, but not “too gay” in a way that’s not too threatening to a public who may not be totally comfortable with gay people. In many ways, Sam Smith appeared to what to be to pop music what Ben Carson is to conservatives who don’t want to own the GOP’s racist fringe.

But even with my frustration, I concluded that he was young and that he would ultimately change his mind.

A year later, he has. Speaking with NME, Smith revisited those controversial comments. “I’m a gay man who came out when I was 10 years old, and there’s nothing in my life that I’m prouder of,” Smith explained. “What I was trying to say was that I didn’t want the album to appeal to just one community, I wanted it to appeal to all of them. I wanted anyone, gay or straight, to be able to relate to me singing about men, like I was able to relate to Stevie Wonder or John Legend singing about girls.”

Yeah, we knew that first time. The problem is he’s putting the onus on himself to shift the minds of straight people who can’t wrap their minds around a gay guy singing about another man and not feeling it’s icky or contagious. It appears that maybe he’s learned that.

Smith went on to say: “I want to be a spokesperson. I want to be a figure in the gay community, who speaks for gay men. I sell records in countries where gay men get killed and that’s a big thing for me, because maybe one person in that country will pick up my album, realise it’s by a gay artist, and it might change their opinion.”

Some have already seen headlines about this development and proceeded to roll their eyes. Yes, it’s much easier for Sam Smith to say these things now that he is a proven success. And no, this shift in sentiment does not negate some of the more frustrating comments he’s made about the behavior of other gay men.

Read the rest at VH1.

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