[NYT Pop Music Critic] CARAMANICA I’ll tell you a few of the hip-hop references that peek through. When Hamilton says, “I’m only 19, but my mind is old,” in “My Shot,” (a line echoed by his son Philip later), that’s Prodigy of Mobb Deep, on “Shook Ones Part II.” There’s a bit of the hip-hop classic “The Message” in “What’d I Miss.” And “Say No to This,” when Hamilton’s eye begins wandering, starts with a quote from LL Cool J’s “I Need Love.”

The section of “Right Hand Man” in which George Washington is courting Hamilton to come work by his side reminded me of “Coming of Age,” from Jay Z’s debut album, “Reasonable Doubt.” It’s a back-and-forth between him and a hungry protégé, Memphis Bleek. Jay is looking for an eager student, and I can imagine Bleek coming back at him with Hamilton’s refrain: “I am not throwing away my shot.”

And Biggie, Biggie, Biggie. For a certain stripe of hip-hop fan, Biggie is the ne plus ultra. I’ve got all of “Ready to Die” and “Life After Death” committed to memory, and I suspect Miranda does, too. “10 Duel Commandments” is, natch, a remake of “10 Crack Commandments,” with its same blend of horror and pathos. And the “if you don’t know, now you know” Jefferson drops in “Schuyler Defeated” is straight out of “Juicy.”

But most strikingly, when Hamilton confronts his own mortality, in “It’s Quiet Uptown,” I couldn’t help but think about Biggie’s “Suicidal Thoughts,” still one of the most chilling hip-hop songs of all time. The characters have different paths, but both have ended up exhausted, frayed, desperate.

To me, Miranda is a storyteller first and a rapper maybe fifth, or maybe a storyteller in an age when rapping is the most effective megaphone.

[NYT Chief Classical Music Critic] TOMMASINI That’s an interesting way to frame Miranda’s approach. This suggests another connection to the musical theater tradition. Sondheim, who has been an important mentor to Miranda, has written countless songs that advance the story and reveal something about a character, even if this embeds the song in the context of the larger work and means it may have no real independent life. His critics point to this as a shortcoming; his admirers see it as a hallmark of his greatness. The songs in “Hamilton” are also embedded into Miranda’s larger score. Not many would make “sense” performed on their own. To me, this represents creative daring. But I have to adjust, in rap, to going along with what in musical theater are called “false rhymes.” You know, like these from the opening song: “The ten-dollar founding father without a father/Got a lot farther by working a lot harder.”

CARAMANICA That reminds me of another Miranda trick: rhyming the same word — say, “sir” — when really the rhyme is in the preceding syllable. That’s classic Cam’ron.

TOMMASINI Miranda embraces these components of hip-hop and turns them into something fresh and powerful in the spirit of musical theater. His words have punch and elegance. And he sets them to music in ways that make the words come through — another instinct right out of musical theater.

“By now it’s clear: She’s on a par with Taylor Swift when it comes to vengeance, and she’ll do it louder and with more brutality. (Ms. Swift’s bite is sweeter, but lasts longer.) On “You Love Me” Ms. Clarkson lays her anger at her emotional abuser’s feet, then kicks it at him: “You said I’m not good enough, I’m not good enough/But what you really mean is you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough/You can’t deliver, so you turn it around.”… Ms. Clarkson is turning into the Mary J. Blige of pop: so good at being wounded that no one wants to let her heal.” 
- Jon Caramanica for the NYT

Wounded women have a bit of a paradoxical place in history, particularly in art. They are worshipped for their pain, made into icons of grace and pity— but only some. Most of the women who are well known for their pain got there either because men exploited them. Very few are remembered as something other than a beautifully pale lover, an Ophelia type who died too soon but thankfully, inspired the artist to capitalize on them, and in fact, very few are remembered at all, especially women who are marginalized for their race, class, sexuality, or other factors that make them unsuitable to be muses in society’s file cabinet. To be fair, this is true of all women, but wounded women make particularly tragic stories— just as long as they’re not telling their own. 

I don’t think that there is anything wrong with being hurt, or with being loud about it. Not enough women have been allowed the choice at all, so I congratulate those, like Kelly Clarkson and, as Caramanica notes, Taylor Swift, who relish their pain, who broadcast it and profit off of it. If someone gave me money to scream in public about sucky people, I would absolutely do it, but then, I don’t have a voice like theirs. But the same song gets boring after a while, or so everyone whines when a women writes a song about her experiences. If they actually listened to the songs, perhaps they would feel differently. Because “You Love Me” isn’t like the rest. It isn’t about a breakdown or a woman scorned. It isn’t an end-of-the-world song. It plays with the people who expect that from women, and from Kelly.

You didn’t let me down.
You didn’t tear me apart.
You just opened my eyes,
While breaking my heart.
You didn’t do it for me;
I’m not as dumb as you think.
You just made me cry,
While claiming that you love me.

Sorry if you were expecting her to make you the center of her world so that you could mess with her; Kelly’s been there, done that, and she’s not taking it anymore. She knows what love is, and she knows what she’s worth, so Stronger is permeated with this amazingly bold sense of pride. You can almost hear her laughing all the way to the bank; it is an entire album about how dumb men are for treating her poorly and expecting her to go along with it. 

Your love feels different.
It’s like a blow to the head with your compliments.
Your love hurts deeper.
It’s like a brick in the sea and I’m drowning with it.

It’s downright sarcastic. Self-deprecating, but mostly thrown back in the face of the ones who hurt her. “Your love feels different.” Your love is wrong, and it is false, and I am worth better. Shame on me for buying into it, but that’s done. I can put down the brick and rise to the surface; I know what you are. And frankly, I don’t have time for that anymore— I may still be wounded, but I’ve got battle scars, too.

Learning to move elegantly through the world is one of the great pleasures of manhood. No longer do you have to stomp and clomp and speak with your jaw first. At a certain point, the body knows what it is, knows how it is received — and those around respond accordingly. Manhood is grace and certainty. Confidence. Ease.

Jon Caramanica on dressing like a grownup (sort of) in The New York Times.


“The only thing sadder than an empty closet is a full one. The empty one symbolizes lack, but also potential: It is a space of one’s own, to be filled as circumstance, taste and resources allow. Look at it the right way, and an empty closet means hope, a platform for the life you may lead.

A full closet, though, can feel like a complete sentence. You can switch to those thin hangers, or the ones that support multiple garments, but even within the confines of a rack, clutter is still clutter. What that means is that one’s accumulative tendencies have left no more oxygen.”

-Jon Caramanica in The New York Times


First, some facts about the beginning of worldwide phenomenon, Taylor Swift:

2008 - Release of Debut Album

She spent much of 2006 promoting Taylor Swift in a radio tour and later commented, “Radio tours for most artists last six weeks. Mine lasted six months.”[28] She made many television appearances, including on the Grand Ole Opry,[63]Good Morning America,[64] and TRL.[65] Swift, a self-described “kid of the internet”, used Myspace to build a fanbase.[66] This was, at the time, “revolutionary in country music”. Swift and Alan Jackson were jointly named the Nashville Songwriters Association’s Songwriter/Artist of the Year in 2007, with Swift becoming the youngest person ever to be honored with the title.[85] She also won the Country Music Association’s Horizon Award for Best New Artist,[86] the Academy of Country Music Awards’s Top New Female Vocalist award[87] and the American Music Awards’s Favorite Country Female Artist honor.[88] She was also nominated for a 2008 Grammy Award in the category of Best New Artist, but lost to Amy Winehouse.

She began her career by building her own fanbase through a not previously explored medium, and went everywhere she could to promote. Also, she was honored with many awards, including a GRAMMY for her songwriting ability.

2008-2009 - Fearless Release (before VMA’s on Sep. 13, 2009)

Caramanica of The New York Times described Swift as “one of pop’s finest songwriters, country’s foremost pragmatist and more in touch with her inner life than most adults”.[92] Josh Love of The Village Voice felt she displayed “preternatural wisdom and inclusiveness”, “masterfully avoiding the typical diarist’s pitfalls of trite banality and pseudo-profound bullshit”.[93]Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone described her as “a songwriting savant with an intuitive gift for verse-chorus-bridge architecture” whose “squirmingly intimate and true” songs seemed to be “literally ripped from a suburban girl’s diary”.[91] Music critic Robert Christgau characterized Swift as “an uncommonly-to-impossibly strong and gifted teenage girl”.[94] Swift, who now owned her own management company led by Robert Allen,[95][96] promoted Fearless heavily upon its release. An episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show was dedicated to the album launch and Swift appeared on many other talk shows.[67][97] She communicated with fans using social media platforms such as Twitter and personal video blogs and co-hosted the pre-show for the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards.[67]

The lead single from the album, “Love Story”, was released in September 2008 and became the second-best-selling country single of all time,[98] peaking at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[99] Four more singles were released throughout 2008 and 2009: “White Horse”, “You Belong with Me”, “Fifteen” and “Fearless”. “You Belong with Me” was the album’s highest-charting single, peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100.[100] The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 Album Chart with sales of 592,304, and has since sold over 8.6 million copies worldwide.[101] It was the top-selling album of 2009 and brought Swift much crossover success.[102]

Swift also recorded a number of side-projects. She released a cover of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” through Rhapsody in 2009,[112] and contributed backing vocals to Mayer’s “Half of My Heart”, a single featured on his fourth album, Battle Studies.[113] She co-wrote and recorded “Best Days of Your Life” with Kellie Pickler[114]and co-wrote two songs for the Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack—"You’ll Always Find Your Way Back Home“ and ”Crazier“—with Martin Johnson and Robert Ellis Orrall, respectively.[115] Swift also provided vocals for Boys Like Girls’s ”Two Is Better Than One“, written by Martin Johnson.[116] She contributed two songs—including ”Today Was a Fairytale“—to the Valentine’s Day soundtrack,[117] and recorded a cover of Better Than Ezra’s "Breathless” for the Hope for Haiti Now album.[118]

Swift became the first country music artist to win an MTV Video Music Award when “You Belong with Me” was named Best Female Video in 2009.

This is when she became a phenomenon, without Kanye’s help. Kanye interrupted her in an AWARD SHE WON. She didn’t need Kanye’s help. She reached her status through hard work, and integrity. 

Finally, why would she owe him sex? If she had stolen this from a man, he would’ve asked for money. But because she is a woman, he DESERVES sexual compensation for his charity. Because he is a man. And because a woman, according to Kanye, owes him sexual favor because that is the only worthy thing she could give him. Not only is Kanye being unfair and dishonest about his role in Taylor’s success, he also shows his misogyny and sexism, and women need to realize that this talk is what escalates into marital rape, other forms of rape, and harm towards women. Because there are men that believe that we are only meant to be used as sexual objects, and our purpose is serve men. And that mentality is despicable. Please, think twice before supporting Kanye. Because he doesn’t support women’s rights.

Leaving One Direction bought Zayn the freedom he wanted, but not the audience. His new material is doing about how you would expect on the pop charts —€” phenomenally … But as The New York Times’ Jon Caramanica points out, R&B charts, and hip-hop radio, where he wants to be, are ignoring him.

stevenk84  asked:

Have you come by any interviews with Cam'ron or Gucci Mane that include any discussion on lyrics or songwriting? Maybe they don't discuss them? Is part of the allure the juxtaposition of ignorant human to brilliant wordplay? Of course it is but...

I do think their wordplay is brilliant but juxtaposition has nothing to do with nothing. Brilliance is perfectly alluring in of itself and their ignorant content is simply an unfortunate byproduct of an ignorant society. Beyond that I don’t have much of an answer for you. There was an old Caramanica profile where Gucci briefly mentioned his goals of ”using different words, talking about deeper things” which I guess gives a sliver of insight into his whole approach. I also remember reading an early Nicki interview where she detailed her process working with Gooch and how he would push her to write and record as quickly as possible but I can’t seem to find it. I can’t think of any relevant Cam’ron interviews right now but maybe someone else can recommend something?

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