“I haven’t smoked weed in three weeks, which is the longest I’ve ever [gone without it]. I’m not doing drugs, I’m not drinking, I’m completely clean right now!” she told the magazine. “I like to surround myself with people that make me want to get better, more evolved, open. And I was noticing, it’s not the people that are stoned. I want to be super clear and sharp, because I know exactly where I want to be.”
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“Chicken Fried” by Zac Brown Band
For years, the Grammy Awards — and the Recording Academy that doles them out — have been accused of having a cultural tin ear. Those who win trophies, critics say, often don’t reflect the vibrance and diversity of the modern music community as a whole. For next year’s ceremony, the Academy is trying a novel technical fix as a part of its efforts to redress that critique — online voting.
Until now, Grammy nominations and winners have been decided by counting returned paper ballots sent out each fall to the Academy’s 13,000 eligible voting members. Many would-be voters aren’t included in those counts, either because they didn’t submit their ballots in time or, in some cases, because they never received them — a fair possibility for touring musicians who spend much of the year with no fixed address. (The Academy doesn’t disclose voter participation rates, which it says are closely guarded by its accounting firm, Deloitte.)
In addition to bringing the nominations process into the 21st century, the Academy hopes online voting will increase turnout and lead to award outcomes that more closely mirror the will of its constituents — particularly younger members who are accustomed to doing everything via the internet.
“We hope that our nominations will better represent the entire community of music makers, especially if there’s a particular segment that we’ve been missing,” Bill Freimuth, the Recording Academy’s vice president of awards, told BuzzFeed News. “There may be certain genres within our awards categories where the demographic that tends to participate in making that particular music might be more tech savvy in general, or might have more of a mobile lifestyle than certain other genres, and we think this might appeal to those folks.”
Freimuth said Deloitte will take rigorous security precautions to ensure that bad actors aren’t able to game the online system and vote more than once, or in more categories than they are allowed. He also touted new interactive elements that will allow voters to listen to nominated songs right from the ballot screen. In the past, critics have charged that many voters may not be familiar with all of the songs nominated in a given category and simply choose the most recognizable name by default.
“We want people to be voting based on the quality of the music, not how many times they’ve streamed it or heard it on the radio,” Freimuth said.
Bigger questions of how to reform the Grammys are not likely to be answered with technology alone. During this year’s show in February, many music fans cried foul after Beyoncé lost the top prize, Album of the Year, to Adele, fueling longstanding allegations of institutional bias against newer forms of music in general, and black ones specifically. Adele herself, a lifelong Beyoncé fan, memorably joined the protests, wondering aloud in a press conference immediately following the ceremony “What the fuck does Beyoncé have to do to win Album of the Year?”
Similar complaints rang out in 2016, when Taylor Swift’s1989 beat out Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. And at this year’s awards, a handful of music’s biggest stars, including Drake, Kanye West, Frank Ocean, and Justin Bieber, were conspicuously absent.
“The youth — artists like Travis Scott, Future, Migos — they want nothing to do with the Grammy process because they feel like it’s old and outdated,” Shawn Holiday, a voting member of the Recording Academy and senior vice president of A&R at Sony/ATV music publishing and Columbia Records, told BuzzFeed News. Holiday said that he saw the move to online voting as a positive step toward engaging a younger demographic, but that he thinks the Academy “hasn’t yet scratched the surface” in its efforts to keep up with contemporary culture.
“I don’t think the Grammys are always in touch with the people who are really close to the culture and touching the music,” he said. “And I can say that because I’m in those committees and I see the people that they bring.”
Conversations on how to further modernize the awards, including long-discussed limits on membership terms that would phase out voters who no longer actively work in music, are ongoing, Freimuth said.
“If a lot of really great artists and producers and engineers and songwriters in the world are choosing not to participate, then our awards are gonna reflect that,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to make the process as seamless and as fair and have as much integrity as possible.”
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said many people already consider Ariana to be “an honorary Mancunian”.
“This seems a fitting moment to update the way we recognise those who make noteworthy contributions to the life and success of our city,” he told the BBC of the proposed new system. “We’ve all had cause to be incredibly proud of Manchester and the resilient and compassionate way in which the city, and all those associated with it, have responded to the terrible events of 22 May – with love and courage rather than hatred and fear. [Ariana Grande has] exemplified this response.”
SZA’s Ctrl is a black girl’s Tumblr come to melodic, vibrant life.
SZA, who is 26 years old and grew up in New Jersey, is speaking in a specific vernacular that will be familiar to black women who spend chunks of their time in certain corners of the internet. It is apparent right from the opening song, “Supermodel,” which begins with a recording of the singer’s mother speaking on the grand theme of the record (“That is my greatest fear. That if, if I lost control or did not have control, things would just, you know. I would be be…fatal”). It’s not that the lyrics come in the form of some impenetrable fancy language, necessarily — it is standard (African-)American English, after all — it is the attitude with which she throws out the lyrics that catches the ear, and then makes the words linger on the mind.
When she plaintively sings “Why can’t I stay alone just by myself / wish I was comfortable just with myself” on that opener, for example, you can almost taste the minimalist Tumblr theme; if you close your eyes you can picture an ironic Blingee lighting up on a loop behind your eyelids. Ctrl is covering much of the ground that fills my own dashboard up every single day, the hundreds of posts that essentially boil down to a quest for self-determination — self-determination in a world that seems hell-bent on pushing us into predesignated roles and situations. And that is expressed in pithy but heartfelt text posts about black girl magic in all its forms, mood boards and videos of hair and fashion inspiration, and the men and women we fancy and love, alongside photo sets and GIF sets of nostalgia-nourished TV shows and age-relevant quotes about life and love and self-care. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that SZA was for a good long time an active Tumblr user (I have followed her on there for years). Even now, via her million-follower Instagram, her preferred platform these days, SZA is still doing much of what her Tumblr used to do (minus the direct contact afforded by her Ask box). Last month she posted a screenshot of a Tumblr post about awkward flirting with the caption: “who dragged me like this?”
SZA’s reputation has been building for years via a couple of well-received EPs, See.SZA.Run and S, and her first studio album Z. In 2013, she signed with indie label Top Dawg Entertainment, the home of Kendrick Lamar and the rest of the Black Hippy crew — the first woman to do so. Three years later, she appeared on and co-wrote Rihanna’s opening Anti track, “Consideration.” Collaborating with the likes of Jill Scott and Chance the Rapper, she’s been making atmospheric, lush, and moody R&B that is as much throwback as it is forward-looking, and it is a combination that has made listeners consider her a safe pair of hands (3.9 million monthly listeners on Spotify is no small feat, after all) — the evidence of which lies in her label’s ease with releasing Ctrl in the same week as Katy Perry’s latest.
Music like SZA’s found its first home on Black Girl Tumblr. Or, at the very least, gained loyal followings there. Artists like SZA, H.E.R., Jennah Bell, Jhené Aiko, and so on were the much-cherished discoveries of like-minded girls and young women who were also yearning for their own reflection to come back undistorted. And so perhaps it is inevitable and fitting that listening to SZA’s Ctrl often feels like reading a series of all lowercase, punctuation-free Tumblr text posts. Those posts are often telling a version of the truth, comically bemused but with an arched eyebrow. SZA is earnest, yes, but that doesn’t mean her eyebrow isn’t raised throughout Ctrl.
You can almost hear that eyebrow creak upward on “Garden (Say It Like Dat)” in which she sings engagingly about self-doubt and anxiety: “Lie to me and say / my booty gettin’ bigger even if it ain’t” is a funny, relatable lyric. And even before she expands it into something more plainly stated, it carries undertones of a little sort of sadness. The latter half of this second-verse lyric, for example, is tongue in cheek and on the nose: “I know you’d rather be laid up with a big booty / body hella positive ‘cause she got a big booty” (her ad-lib — an incredulous “wow” — is pitch-perfect). But then the emotion pinballs quickly again with the quiet admission that comes by verse’s end: “You know I’m sensitive ‘bout havin’ no booty / havin’ no body / only you, buddy / can you / hold me when nobody’s around us?”
In many ways SZA is singing about the things we have come to expect from our indie-slash-folksy white female singer-songwriters, but what Ctrl is delivering comes as experienced and reported through a firmly black girl lens. Like another young musician who has developed an ardent following, British singer-songwriter Nao, SZA makes pop that’s sincere — almost painfully so — but she is also playful and smart and funny. Even when she is not in control (of her gravity, of her ex, of the size of her booty), she’s still “finding herself” while remaining refreshingly self-aware — she knows who she is and roughly where she wants to end up. I thought a lot about Nao’s For All We Know while listening to Ctrl and had a clear thought: Where Nao’s constructions sound something akin to black girl church, SZA sounds like the aftermath of a black girl night out (one in which you might have found yourself crying in the club). It perfectly encapsulates that keyed-up post-club, pre-sleep 3 a.m. feeling when feelings are close to the surface.
There is also a firmness in SZA’s persona on this record, best exemplified by her grandmother’s short, spirited interlude at the end “Love Galore”, addressing SZA by her given name, Solána Imani Rowe: “But see, Solána? If you don’t say something, speak up for yourself, they think you stupid. You know what I’m saying?” It’s a nod and a wink to the listener. SZA knows who’s listening, and who that message is for. Another noteworthy and matter-of-fact exemplification comes straight out the gate on “Doves in the Wind”: “Real niggas do not deserve pussy.” Which is self-explanatory.
On “The Weekend,” a soon-to-be sidepiece classic, SZA is funny: “My man is my man is your man / heard it’s her man too,” she coos dismissively before telling her paramour to make sure he’s at her place “by 10:30 / no later than / drop them drawers / give me what I want.” And on “Drew Barrymore” (a geniusly titled song, effortlessly conjuring as it does images of ’90s teen rom-coms and coded norms of suburban insecurity and acceptance), she is sharp: “I’m sorry you got karma comin’ to you.” When she sings wistfully about the titular character from 1994 film Forrest Gump (first in cinemas when she was 4), SZA’s being cute but also serious — imagine a world in which pussy was given to only deserving men! “Where’s Forrest now when you need him?” she intones almost solemnly on “Doves in the Wind.” “Talk to me.”
The dip into the ’90s oeuvre of Robert Zemeckis notwithstanding, Ctrl is very much of the now. Even with its dizzying array of producers, the entire record sounds cohesively and fluently like 2017: Peep the references to Netflix show Narcos (which also got a shoutout on Stormzy’s 2017 LP Gang Signs and Prayer) or the aforementioned “body positive” (a term whose overuse has given it an unearned negative reputation on Tumblr and beyond). On “Normal Girl,” SZA borrows liberally from Drake’s 2016 single “Controlla” (“You like it / when I be / aggressive”). Even the nostalgic TV Ctrl harks back to is curiously very current again: that period in the ’90s that young people have rediscovered and which they quote liberally from, thanks to streaming. SZA refers to comedy sketch show MadTV on “Doves in the Wind,” and on “Go Gina” she uses one of Martin Lawrence’s catchphrases from his sitcom Martin.
Ctrl is a mishmash of so many influences, which will continue to reveal themselves as it beds in with listeners. Its pop DNA is evident in its many catchy hooks and choruses (“Prom” sounds like a 2017 update of Gwen Stefani’s “Cool,” for example), and her guest stars — Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, James Fauntleroy, Isaiah Rashad — add weight but are never overwhelming. SZA has an ear for what is aurally pleasing and commercial: Upon my third listen to the record, I was struck by how happily pretty much every song would sit on the soundtrack of a teen show (won’t someone invite her to score a black girl coming-of-age movie, please?).
What sells the record best, though, is SZA’s own conviction. Like the black girls who live their multi-adjectived lives on Tumblr, she is the best chronicler of her own life. It’s an expansion of self-identity that stretches beyond Strong Black Woman (which is not entirely discarded as one facet) and travels into the territory we have always known was in us. SZA’s music is vulnerable and sweet, self-questioning and self-affirming, all at the same time, in a way that is performative, yes — but also intimate and tender. It is a snapshot of one 26-year-old’s life right now, much like all those Tumblrs are moments in amber. Ctrl feels “Dear Diary” real, which is to say it is Black Girl Tumblr writ large. Control, in all avenues, is the defining characteristic, and it is powerful. “I belong to nobody / hope it don’t bother you / you can mind your business / I belong to nobody” SZA sings on “Go Gina.”
Listening to Ctrl, you don’t doubt it.
You’re the unofficial face of the band. You love to be the center of attention in interviews, but you’re pretty low-key and don’t like to create controversy or drama. You’ll probably have a good solo career.
You’re the one who keeps the band in the news with your crazy antics and new tattoos. You’d like to be mysterious and brooding, but you’re a little too outgoing for that.
You’re shy, quiet, and adorable. People think you’re a little nerdy, and you’re okay with that. You’re very committed to keeping the band together because your friends are like family to you.
You’re known for being ~sensitive~ and ~deep~. You probably write a lot of the band’s lyrics. You’re focused on the music, not the image. You like to be known as the talent, but you don’t like to be in the spotlight. You’re ambitious, but will always stay loyal to the band.
You don’t take yourself, or anyone, too seriously. You’re here to have a good time, not please the critics. You play pranks on your bandmates and have no problem getting pranked in return. Some people think you’re not as important, but your energy is actually vital to creating a personality for the band.
The golden triangle:
“At Download 2005 there were three biker looking guys stood in a circle urinating into each others mouths, somehow all at the same time.”
“I was at this bluegrass festival, a low key kinda local festival, and things got violent over some political shit. Luckily everyone was drunk and couldn’t see their own hand in front of their face. As I dragged my drunk friends home I saw some guy mercilessly beating up a shrub and screeching absolute nonsense.”
The double explosion:
“At Reading 2016, a guy had left the door open to his portaloo and when I opened it to go in he was gripping the sides of the stall and had wedged his ass in the toilet seat, exploding from both ends. I stood in his vomit and couldn’t bring myself to wear those shoes for the rest of the weekend.”
The loose hose:
“Went to Benicàssim in 2008. One day at the campsite, as the porta-loos got emptied my the trucks, a hose came loose and a girl got absolutely covered in a horrific mixture of piss and shit.”
The litter picker:
“I worked as a litter picker at the Isle of Wight festival for a few years, and every year we were surprised at just how many shits in carrier bags or sandwich bags there were. My friend who was doing her first year went to pick up something and screamed. ‘That’s not a sausage!’ she shrieked.”
“I was standing in a queue for food with my mum at Leeds Fest. Turned around to see some guy relieving himself while windmilling his penis. It definitely put me off eating.”
“My mate decided it was a really good idea to wear an overall-type Ghostbusters costume to V Festival and try use the toilets. Ten minutes later when he re-dressed and came out he was covered from the shoulders down in other people’s shit that the costume had acquired while around his ankles.”
“Seen a girl take a shit in a noodle box at Download festival.”
The toilet break:
“I was watching Stereophonics at T in the Park one year and having the time of my life. This group of girls were dancing about in front of me and one of them declares that she has to pee and it cannot wait. She then proceeds to pull down her shorts and did her business right in front of us. I have never seen so many people back away from someone in my life. It was rank.”
The crowd surfers:
“I was about 13 or 14 at a festival to see one of my favourite bands. I was really excited to make my way to the front and being so short meant that most of the crowd surfers went straight over my head unnoticed… Until I smelt the strong stench of beer and realised a crowd surfer had vomited all over me.”
The sleeping bag:
“I climbed into my sleeping bag only to discover that someone had done the deed in it and forgot their condom.”
The afternoon drink:
“Back in 2009 I went to Exit festival in Serbia. We were sat in a bar area at 3pm in the afternoon and a random guy stands up on a step, gets his knob out and continues to perfectly aim his piss into his mouth, swallowing some and then spitting the rest side to his side. He then just casually walks away.”
The brown wedding:
“At Bloodstock a few years ago, we camped next to a group called Camp Catastrophe – can’t remember if that’s just what we called them or if that’s what they called themselves. Nice bunch of kids but a bit wild. One of them had brought along a wedding dress, which someone shat on.”
The muddy path:
“Went to Rock Fest in Canada a few years ago and the worst thing I saw there was a row of porta-potties and behind them was a dumpster. Guys were peeing there and it created a muddy path and someone ran though it and fell in the urine/mud.”
“At Phoenix Festival in ’96, the porta-loos were piled high over the toilet seats with shit. People had just been shitting on each other’s shit, not bothering to try and flush, and it must have easily been several inches over the height of the seat. Felt so sorry for whoever had to try and deal with that horror show.”
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.
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Which Fall Out Boy album is the best?
Evening Out With Your Girlfriend
Take This to Your Grave
My Heart Will Always Be the B-Side to My Tongue
Under the Cork Tree
Infinity on High
Folie a Deux
Save Rock and Roll
PAX AM Days
American Beauty/American Psycho
Choose Your Favorite K-Pop Girl Groups And We’ll Reveal What People Love Most About You
People love your positive personality! You always manage to improve the mood of any room you’re in and you never fail to see the bright side of a situation. You’re just like a ray of sunshine, everyone wishes they could be as positive as you.
You never fail to help others around you. You’re a good listener and you’re considerate of other people’s feelings. Your kindness is what makes you stand out and it is the main reason people love you so much.
People love your sense of humor. You never fail to make others laugh with your witty jokes. Whenever someone is down you manage to cheer them up with your lighthearted humor.
You’re the type of person who’s always working hard to achieve their dreams. Not only does this give you a strong image, but you also inspire others with your hard work. People admire you for your endless motivation.
Your creativity always keeps people around you entertained. You make the most boring things interesting and never fail to suggest any exciting activities to do on days off. Your creativity is reflected onto everything you do.
People love how smart you are. You never fail to give good advice. You’re not just smart at school, but in life too! You might not know everything, but you’re the fastest learner amongst your group of friends.
Exo is a band that is divided in two subgroups: Exo-K, who sings in Korean, and Exo-M who sings in Mandarin.
Via Facebook: exok