The Art Beat

Last Tuesday morning I announced to my Facebook friends that I would be going to see John Mayer in concert and that I was excited. Instead of my friends joining in my excitement, I got reposes like: “You know John Mayer hates black people” and “well his penis does”.

The “killjoy” has arrived.

by Bianca Clendenin

by Bianca Clendenin

These comments and others are just some of the responses I got when I first announced I bought these tickets back in September on Tumblr. All my fierce black revolutionary social justice tumblrs were like, don’t know the terrible things he has said and done?

Of course I do. Of course I’m aware of John Mayer’s problematic comments. For one, I am fan, and two I’m not oblivious to his comments. For anyone who isn’t aware of the comments I’m talking about, his comments on the his racial preference when it comes to the opposite sex.

As a young black woman, I was disgusted. Though these were jokes, there is still this gross underlining racism that is still entangled in people who have “racial preferences” when it comes to dating. Right now these comments are almost 4 years old, and anyone who was following pop culture at the time knew that John Mayer was a PR disaster. Everything out of his mouth was just terrible. His personal life was messy, and as public figure it was for the world to pick and prod. This could lead anyone to have word diarrhea. Unlike you and me, we don’t always get publicly outed and shamed for are comments. Unless your comments go viral, like Justine Sacco racist tweet that took the world by storm almost two weeks ago. Thanks to social media, it’s easier to be dragged out online and for the world to see. You may even lose your job over things you post on the social media. Just ask Justine Sacco.

Now I’m not excusing for his comments or his past behavior. As a fan I’m aware and always conflicted. When our “favs” do something problematic or we supposed to stop supporting them or do we acknowledge that these people are just as flawed as us?

No one can really answer this question. I think of this Tumblr blog called, Your Fave is Problematic. A blog that calls out celebrities and lists everything wrong they’ve ever done (or at least what they’ve had done in the public eye). Blogs like this are educational because one, people can learn that the celebrities they look up are not God and that they are flawed just like you and me. And it makes you think twice about the people you idolize.

However one my biggest problems with blogs like this, is that now that you know everything wrong “you fave” has done. Now what? Your Fave tries to answer this question(s):

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 10.36.25 AM

So according to this, I can still like John Mayer, but I can’t come up with excuses for his behavior and as real fan I need to educate other fans on his behavior. Check, plus check.

Here is list of celebrities created by Your Fave is Problematic.

My second question however is, when does it become unforgiving to like something or someone?

I think of two major celebrities that have been in the news or blogosphere lately. R.Kelly’s alleged exploits of being a sexual predator on teenager girls, was all over the news again. At first it was a bit weird that people were surprised of all the allegations he had against him. This is the same man who was married to singer Aaliyah when she was only 15. It’s interesting how casually folks still bring this tad bit of information up, but people rarely question that this was a predatory move.

The general public tends to have a short term memory when it comes to our celebrities, especially when it comes to the abuse of women. For the first time in years R. Kelly is getting mainstream success, thanks for his collaboration with pop start Lady Gaga and his buzzworthy new album ‘Black Panties’. He’s hot right now. Now we can’t deny that talent of R. Kelly, but is his alleged abuse of young black teenage girls enough to ignore because he is talented? Do we give him a pass and still support his music?

I ask the same about Ani Difranco. A popular singer songwriter whose music is seen as bible for many young queer feminists. In high school I was obsessed with her music, especially when I went through my acoustic guitar phase. Difranco and her fans are in hot water, after she announced on her Facebook page that she will be hosting her Righteous Retreat Song Camp next year at the Nottoway Plantation in Louisiana. Considered a feminist songwriting retreat, it frustrating to see another blatant example of “white feminism” excluding the intersectionally of what true feminism is about.

Yesterday, the controversy took to Facebook, as fans debated over the location of the event. Even one alleged fan defending the location. There’s even allegations of a fan creating a fake account and posing as a black woman who agrees with the supporters of the location. From what I’ve read so far, there are a lot of messy allegations, but at the root of it all are that many people are upset with the choice of the venue. It has also bought to light the contemporary history of plantations being used as hotels and whether this is racially insensitive.

Ani Difranco has yet to issue statement, but it makes me wonder what will be her excuse that she or her organizers thought it was ok to have this suppose feminist gathering at a former slave plantation?

Here is another person I liked and at one point looked up too, and here they are doing something that I definitely don’t agree with.

But as a fan, we acknowledge that the entertainers we like can and will be problematic. No one you truly like, love, or stan for will be perfect. Even Beyoncé has her slip ups. If we stopped liking every problematic thing, there would be nothing to like.

Like many people, I consider myself a big Law & Order fan. I will sit there and watch a Marathon on USA all day even if I’ve already seen the episode a million times already.

I can recite the opening dialogue perfectly.

I like to guess the plot twists early on.

And I feel like I’m one of the only people that was happy that Olivia and Elliot never got together. I cherish their platonic relationship. It meant that men and women can coexist together and love one another without jumping into bed.

I’m also one of many people who were upset to see Elliot leave.

However I’ve been happy with the new faces in the last couple of seasons. Amanda and Nick have been good editions to the show. And so has the new ADA.

Law & Order was actually really good tonight. One of the stronger episodes I’ve seen in awhile with tonight’s “October Surprise”.

It was also pretty diverse. It mostly focused on the ADA Rafael Barba (played by Raul Esparza) and his former childhood friend who is also running for NYC mayor (and in this fictional world would be the 1st Hispanic mayor). They grew up together, and both wanted to leave their low income areas to become successes. Barba becoming a lawyer and now the ADA and his friend running for Mayor.

There was a lot of spanish being spoken and a lot of brown faces. To me, this was great. To see more people of color on television is always a great thing, especially if it’s a show I love.

I know NBC Universal bought a major Spanish speaking network and are trying to diversified their Network (especially in the Latino department). 

Tonight’s episode dealt with race, class, culture, ethnically, and ‘passing’ (i.e passing for white). The storyline similar to the Anthony Weiner situation seemed like just a backdrop. But the political scandal of it all ties in all of these topics quite nicely.

So I give my applause to them. I was expecting a corny ripoff of Weiner, when in reality I got a fleshed out episode about friendship and loyalty, with race and class used as a tension filled backdrop.

With her second full length album finally released, The Electric Lady, we see Janelle Monáe continuing with her android Cindi Mayweather concept, that had helped her become a musical powerhouse. This is the 4th and 5th Suite of her concept album.

Ms. Monáe has been on my radar for years now. The first time I heard her EP The Audition and then her “official” EP Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), I was blown away by her voice.

Her whole concept is loosely based on the 1920’s film Metropolis, was different and interesting. With heavy influences from Afrofuturism and science fiction, there wasn’t a sound like this happening in mainstream R&B. She excited me, but part of me felt like she wasn’t going to crack into the Top 40 Pop scene. Three years later, Monáe’s debut album appeared. The ArchAndroid was her follow-up to her first EP. It still continued with her android concept, as the 2nd and 3rd Suites.tumblr_mst7rc3kt21sttfo1o1_500

From there her music exploded. You couldn’t get away from her. Performances at The Grammy’s. Becoming a Covergirl. Becoming a fashion ‘it’ girl because of her “uniform” of black and white tuxedos and Pompadour hairstyle. Hit songs with bands like Fun. 2007 me wouldn’t believe this would be happening, but I was sure glad for her success.

This summer can be nicknamed the “Summer of Reminiscence”. Two of the most popular songs of the summer of 2013 had hints of this retro 70s feel.

With Get Lucky by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell, even down to the minimalist music video screams a throwback to the era of disco. Then there was Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke ft. Pharrell and T.I, minus all the controversy of the song (from the anti-feminist lyrics and video to the alleged ripping off of Marvin Gaye), we can all admit the song has a certain disco-esque feel to it. Maybe Pharrell is the one to thank?

There have been countless other acts that came out with music this year with the same feel. Artists like Empire of the Sun, Justin Timberlake, and even Bruno Mar’s single Treasure, all remind me of a decade long before me.

So The Electric Lady coming out at the end of the summer seems like the perfect ending to a funky summer.

An eccentric musical landscape, The Electric Lady combines the futuristic sounds of Cindi Mayweather’s fight for survival in a apocalyptic time, while reminiscing of the Motown-esque sounds of the past.

Musically, this album pulls from many different inspirations. Also having many heavy hitters on her album also bridge together many of these themes. The Jazz of Esperanza Spalding, the funkadelica sounds of Prince, the soul of Erykah Badu, and neo-soul pop of Solange and Miguel, meshes together musical melting pot.

She also works with the band Deep Cotton again, who help produced her album.

The songs where Monáe’s voice really shines, is what makes this a great record. Don’t get me wrong, songs like “Dance Apocalyptic” or “Givin Em What They Love” make me want to get up and dance like the badass rocker I like to pretend that I am. Janelle Monáe gives 5ft girls like myself the confidence to act like we’re 6ft tall. Check out her recent performance on The David Letterman show where she rocks the funk out:

Standout Songs:

“Electric Lady” (featuring Solange)

“Givin Em What They Love” (featuring Prince)

“Dorothy Dandridge Eyes” (featuring Esperanza Spalding)

“Ghetto Woman”

“Can’t Live Without Your Love”

“It’s Code”

“PrimeTime” (featuring Miguel)

Overall, this has been one of my favorite records to come out this year. It’s nice to see an artist you’ve been following for a few years now grow into this mega star, without completely selling out creatively.
What makes her special for weird black girls all over the world, is that she is apologetically making art. She doesn’t fall along one label. She’s fun. She’s fireceless. She’s funky. She is the goddesses of weird black girl coo.

The Art Beat Presents: In the Artist’s Corner.
Every week, I will interview interesting and talented folks who are passionate about their craft and trying to make a difference via whatever vehicle they choose.
This week I’m interviewing poet, Giovanni Michael Garced. I discovered the young writer in the poet circles on Tumblr last year and fall in love with his writing, as well as his halo of hair. As an aspiring poet myself, I’m always in awe by people my age who have the wisdom of writers in their prime. Already selling his second chapbook, Sunflower Calligraphy, Garced is already on his way to become someone we will be talking about for years to come.
Tell me a little about yourself?

My name is Giovanni Michael Garced. I am a 20 year old writer/performer/idea-haver from Miami. I am a natural hair and mango enthusiast. I am nomadic and like laughing a lot.

When did you get into writing poetry? When did you get into performing?

I started writing poetry in middle schools trying to get girls to like me. Got more serious once I got hit in the face with a lot of sadness and reality. I began performing my Junior year of High School.

Who are some of your favorite writers?Gio1
-Pablo Neruda
-Andrea Gibson
-Lemony Snicket
-Buddy Wakefield
-Lupe Fiasco
-Immortal Technique
-Samantha Turner
-Ariana Brown
-Warsan Shire
-Christopher Nolan
-Shonda Rhimes
-Anis Mojgani
-Pedro Pietri
I think I gave too much. But there are many many many more I have to read and some I couldn’t think of on the spot.
What inspires you to create?
The light in me? There is God in me trying to be heard. There is a quote from Sylvia Plath : ” I write because there is a voice in me that can not be stilled”. So like I create because there is a light in me that can not be stilled…or dimmed or put out. You get what I am saying. Creating gives me purpose and that’s what I want to do with my life. Create. Also giving sound to the silences within myself and those around the globe.

Talk about your newest chapbook, how long did it take to create and how do you feel about it?

Well I’ve been trying to make this ever since I put out my first one. I knew once I dropped the first one I wanted to make a second one. So from idea to materialization it took about 9 months. It was very slow because of a lot of things I was going through. Barely writing for 7 months. Not performing for like 7 months. Personal mess that held me hostage. Things like that. I pushed through a lot of walls. Like every writer in regards to their own work, I hate it. [laughs] Well not really, I’m just very critical of my work and overly humble to the point where I’m rarely satisfied with what I put out. But the bright side to that is it keeps me hungry. I do feel good about the rawness of it. A couple of the poems are drafts. Bare in mind no poem is ever finished but those couple of poems aren’t as close to completion as the others. And I just think it’s cool that I can share seeds with people. So hopefully the next time they see it they will see a forest. I am happy that I put it out and left a piece of me on this earth that will live forever. Writing makes humans immortal.

What are you currently in love with, in regards to these topics: music, films, books (can include comic books/etc), tv shows, or anything related to art)? 

-Scandal episode “Seven Fifty Two” was the best form of media I have ever seen in my life
-I’m really in love with The idea and characters for this movie I am working on
-I’m really really in love with all the ideas swirling in my head for movies/shows/plays I want to make
-Shingeki No Kyojin( Attack On Titian)
-Breakout by N.E.R.D.
-Women of color killing it in art in general
-Pharrell’s voice on some soul stirring instrumentation
-The potential of Earl Sweatshirt
-Making beats
-Lose Yourself To Dance (feat. Pharrell) by Daft Punk
-Sleep. (sleep  is performance art)

-The third part of the Modern Marvel beat by Mos Def

Besides writing and performing, are there any other creative or non-creative outlets that take part in?
I paint sometimes. I’m half okay. I like doing hands on visual art. I used to draw a lot when I was younger. I make beats or I try. It’s fun. and stressful.
image (4)What’s one of your favorite pieces you’ve ever written?
Alzheimer’s with Samantha Turner. That piece let me know that I can die and know I served the purpose of art. To genuinely move someone, move a stranger. My words are in those people’s blood. And that energy will always exist. I realized that when a stranger ran up to us and just sobbed in our arms and wasn’t able to speak through her tears.
I know you was a mentor for young and aspiring writers/performers, tell me a little bit more about your experiences with that?
Ah, that was crazy. It was testing because I never thought mentoring is something I could do. It was especially testing because I was working alongside my own mentor. I’m going to throw one of my comparisons/metaphors that probably don’t make any sense to any one but me. He is like the ocean and the kids are fish. and I was rain. How does rain find a way to nourish/stimulate/affect the fish you get me? so that was an adventure in it’s own to find a balance. I learned a lot about myself.  I learned that there is not one kind of mentor. I learned that I’m not the mentor I was trying to be and learned that that is okay. That wasn’t something I could give. Something I learned to accept. I found my role and found the seeds in them as individuals and as a group that I needed and was able to water you know. It was a real nice feeling seeing them on stage knowing I was a part of that journey for them.
If you have to give one piece of advice to anyone trying to become a writer/performer what would it be?
Gio2That’s just what helped me and opened my mind. Reading and watching all these different people. You can’t be that one dude in the cave drawing maps of the world. Something that big will have many interpretations and those views will help your sight grow. When I opened myself to others I learned so many things and my writing grew so so so much. Light feeds off light.
Anything else you would like to add for folks to know?
Yo it’s ya boy, you already know what it is. Giovanni Michael Garced in the building.
Sunflower Calligraphy is my second chapbook. It came through the fire. It’s a big part of me that I want to share with as many people as possible. I want my art to travel everywhere I haven’t been and can’t travel to yet. It’s Important for writing and all the voices we have inside to travel. I want to spread everywhere. Creating this helps me do this. Check the links, purchase a book or watch me do things behind a microphone.
Thanks so much to Gio for being my first interview for In the Artist’s Corner. I hope to continue on with this segment with others like him in the future.
If you like what you read please check on his work below for more information:
Alzheimer’s By Giovanni Michael Garced and Samantha Turner:
The Cliche Break-up Piece: