A Confession:

Hi, my name is Keir Bristol, and I love pop music. 

I can’t hold it back anymore. I love pop music. I love Rihanna and I love Christina Aguilera. I love Britney Spears and regularly pray at the altar of Beyonce Knowles. I love music that makes me want to dance and belt out notes I know I can’t hit. I have playlists dedicated to pre-parties; putting on makeup with my friends, deciding what shoes go best with my outfit, and blasting up-tempo anthems to get pumped for the night ahead. Pop music keeps me running at the gym and it brightens up my ride to the job that I hate. And if that isn’t love, what is?

I have a Last.fm account, and while I love the concept of Last.fm, it did make me paranoid about people judging my music taste. Was I listening to enough indie bands? Why did the scrobbling feature crash when I was listening to old school hip-hop the other day? What if I had too many scrobbles of Lady Gaga and not enough of Madonna- would people accuse me of being a poser? I know I’m not the only one who has this problem, and I also know I’m not the only one to overcome it. 

My friend Lindsey recently said that listening to music has become infinitely more fun since she stopped caring about what people considered ‘good’ or ‘real’ music. In theory, I knew she was right, but in practice? I was still partially worried, and mostly exhausted. I was tired of feeling like I should delete certain songs to take down the listens of a certain artist for the sake of my ‘music cred.’ Tired of going to YouTube to listen to Ke$ha because if I scrobbled her a couple more times she would be above the Pixies in my listens, and that was just UNACCEPTABLE. For me, music makes everything more fun, and worrying about what random people on the internet thought of my music taste was decidedly not fun.

So I’m letting go. I refuse to worry about it anymore. I’m going to listen to what I want, when I want. I’m not going to worry about people saying things like, “oh, I hate everything on the radio- I listen strictly to unsigned indie bands.” And don’t get me wrong- if that’s what you like, by all means listen to it! But grant me the same courtesy. There are days where I want to listen to Kanye West and days where I want to listen to La Roux and days where I want to listen to the Amelie soundtrack, and that’s all fine. I really don’t care that you listened to Animal Collective before Merriweather Post Pavillion came out, and now that “My Girls” became a hit they are too mainstream for you. Quite frankly, that’s some pretentious B.S. and I feel really sorry for you.

Now I’m going to put on some 2NE1 and have a dance party in my bedroom. If you’re into it, come dance with me. If not, go contemplate why you think you’re better than me because you happen to like Neutral Milk Hotel.

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Rihanna – Talk That Talk

By Keir Bristol

Rihanna - Talk That Talk

Rihanna - Talk That Talk

This post is part review, part love letter. If you don’t like the album though, you should totally keep reading. It may not convince you to like it, but at least to appreciate it for what it is.

One of the reasons why I love this album so much is because I can identify with it. As a 22-year-old girl figuring out what she likes and who she is, playing the field and trying to find someone who will understand her, be her partner, and… um, please her when necessary, this is a go-to album. It’s not an album where I’m forced to try to understand how someone else lives, without knowing first hand how it feels (Drake, I’m looking at you). But more than that, Rihanna is able to say what I’m thinking but may not have the courage to say.

If White women are the N****rs of the world, what are Black women?

If White women are the N****rs of the world, what are Black women?

Some of you may be familiar with the fiasco that went down at Slutwalk NYC where a white woman arrived with a sign that read: “Woman is the Nigger of the World,” and a woman of color had to ask her to take it down. To make matters worse, Slutwalk NYC did not exactly deal with the issue in the most graceful, apologetic way. This was aggravated by the fact that many people of color were already skeptical about Slutwalk because of the way people of color are labelled growing up. To be clear, many women of color (as well as people of other genders) are considered sluts, not because of how often they have sex, how many sexual partners they have, or how they dress- but because of the color of their skin. Historically speaking, women of color have been used as sex slaves for men in power, not to mention that women of color are more likely to be raped and are often considered hypersexual because of their body types. When these concerns were brought up while Slutwalk was still a newborn movement, they were not properly addressed. And then someone decided that since John Lennon gave them the go ahead, this sign was acceptable.

I digress. The reason why this is relevant, is because Rihanna could easily be called a slut or a whore for this album, if not for her often provocative dress and her skin color. The same way women of color are slut-shamed for these things, in addition to committing the crime of not being White. But listen to the album, and then ask yourself: does she care?

She doesn’t. She’s empowered, not belittled. And that’s why the album is great. 

Video still from "We Found Love"

Video still from "We Found Love"

The first single, “We Found Love,” featuring Calvin Harris, only fueled the singer’s claim that the Loud era was continuing. The song and video was allegedly a psychedelic look into her abusive relationship with Chris Brown, which ended shortly after he battered her after an awards show. The video features Rihanna and Dudley O’Shaughnessy in a passionate relationship, where the good is just as strong and influential as the bad, and leaving is the hardest of all. The lyrics of the song only reflect those feelings Rihanna croons desperately, “As your shadow crosses mine / what it takes to come alive / it’s just the way I’m feeling / I can’t deny / but I’ve got to let it go.” Watch the video here.

The second single, “You Da One,” is a bit of a return to Rihanna’s Carribbean roots. With an annoyingly-catchy sing-along chorus, she concludes, “My love is your love / your love is mine.” The next single is a mystery, because the album is chock-full of potential (eventual?) hits. A popular contender is “Cockiness (Love It),” in which Rihanna uses racy wordplay in her sexy Bajan accent. “Suck my cockiness, lick my puss-uasion,” she sings, before she chants, “I love it / I love it / I love it when you eat it.” She went there. On the subject of eating, my favourite off of the album would be “Birthday Cake,” produced by the-Dream, except that it’s cut off at 1:18. What a pity!

Talk That Talk Extended Version Cover

Talk That Talk Extended Version Cover

The only feature on the album is Rihanna’s mentor, Jay-Z on the title track “Talk That Talk,” but don’t worry: she didn’t need any more that that. This album is about her, and you won’t forget it. “Where Have You Been,” is a hyperactive dance track with a touch of dubstep, while the mellower “Drunk On Love,” samples “Intro” off of the Xx’s debut self-titled record. “Drunk on Love,” actually sums up what seems to be Rihanna’s view on love- intoxicating, powerful, stupifying, and a universal desire. 

The extended version of Talk That Talk includes “Do Ya Thang”, “Fool In Love”, and “Red Lipstick.” The latter was recorded over Chase and Status’ “Saxon,” but has a totally different feeling than the song Nicki Minaj had written for her for her fourth studio album, Rated R. Rihanna trades her superstar braggadocio for a sexual anthem that fits so well into the rest of the album. In fact, this is definitely her most consistent album to date.

Rihanna’s sexuality and empowerment are evident in this album, and it’s simply inspiring. With every song, you see another part of her and another part of yourself. Talk That Talk is an album that what have you caught between saying, “Did she really just say that?” and “I know how that feels!”

CMs June Single Playlist

June 2011 has seen new music from acts from Radiohead to The-Dream. Here are some highlight singles from this month you should know about.

Rihanna – Man Down

Rihanna on her "Loud" tour, photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com

Rihanna on her "Loud" tour, photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com

By Keir Bristol

The premiere of Rihanna’s “Man Down” video left audiences divided, much like the “S&M” video. The stunning songstress finds herself in Jamaica, shooting a man who earlier had sexually assaulted her after a night of dancing. Rihanna’s Bajan drawl laments over her decision to kill a man, even though he has hurt her. The concern of some is that the video normalizes violence as a way of dealing with a situation such as rape.

Rihanna has defended her music video both on her Twitter account, as well as a on a call in to 106&Park, noting on the latter that “Rape is, unfortunately, happening all over the world and in our own homes, and we continue to cover it up and pretend it doesn’t happen…that only continues to empower the abusers.”

How is it that audiences are appalled at Rihanna’s getting revenge on her abuser, when sex, violence and rape has been a fairly normal component of music for so long? I am not saying that violence is the answer to this situation, of course. Neither is Rihanna, if you listen to the song. She feels horrible for what she has done. But it is concerning that people are not concerned about the rape, but they are concerned about how she reacted to it. Especially since if she had cut out the shooting of her rapist at the beginning of the video, there’s a good chance no one would have said anything.

This is not the first time there was controversy over Rihanna’s songs or music videos. There was also a controversy over her duet with Eminem, “Love The Way You Lie” romanticizing domestic violence, and as aforementioned, her “S&M” video showing her participating in BDSM sexual acts. The concern for the S&M video was that Rihanna was not acting as a good influence for her young, female fans. Rihanna addresses this on her Twitter account as well, saying, “I’m a 23 year old rock star with no kids! What’s up with everyone wanting me to be a parent?” A good point, since we don’t see people bringing this point up with male musicians at all.

Regardless, many Rihanna fans praised the video, saying that “Man Down” brought to light a common issue that many women face. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network a woman in the United States is raped every two minutes, 60 percent of these cases are never reported, and 15 out of 16 rapists walk free. 

Kanye West’s Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Reality

By Keir Bristol

Kanye West’s fifth studio album was released last Monday- on the same day as Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday. At this point I don’t know who sold more, but I do know that West has to be raking in the chips right now. I’m not a big fan of ‘Ye in terms of how he is depicted in the media (or on his personal Twitter account) but I cannot deny that he is a musical genius, and not only in the terms of rap and hip-hop.

My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy

My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy

Enter My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy. It’s a dark album that seems to be based more on West’s reality rather than Fantasy. You can tell that West’s production has truly developed since The College Dropout. The beats are more intricate- West uses piano and Bon Iver samples to spice up his signature auto-tune and sarcastic one-liners such as “No more drugs for me / p***y and religion is all I need.” It’s totally different from his other albums, but still clearly Kanye’s style- he’s a varied human being.

But all of the production doesn’t take away from the fact that in a shallow way, West seems to bare his soul on this album. It’s a “take me or leave me” vibe, in which he’s very open about his flaws, especially when it comes to his relationships with women. The second single, “Runaway,” is a perfect example- West seems to be afraid of commitment and yet is afraid of losing his current girl, because it doesn’t take a whole day to recognize sunshine. But just as quickly as he admits his flaws, he dismisses them in the same rush. And don’t expect any less misogyny on this album, either.

To take a break from the bleak reality of West’s love life, the star-studded record features from Bon Iver, Pusha T of Clipse, Nicki Minaj (who steals the show on “Monster”), Jay-Z, John Legend, Kid Cudi, Rick Ross, Raekwon, Prince Cy Hi, Swizz Beatz, Dwele and the RZA. West keeps good company.

West is also taking his artistic talents to other elements of his work as well. The alternative covers for the album, all done by George Condo, can be found here. Condo says that they are, “an attempt to bring depictions of religious figures to the modern world.” The official cover was rejected by some stores who were apparently offended due to sexual explicity…

Alternative Cover Art for "My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy"

Alternative Cover Art for "My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy"

“Runaway” has a 35-minute film, which also serves as the music video [watch “Runaway” here], not to mention the “moving painting” that West had put together for the lead single, “Power.”

"Moving Picture" made for "Power" by Kanye West

"Moving Picture" made for "Power" by Kanye West

Other stand-out tracks include “Who Will Survive In America,” which extensively samples Gil Scott-Heron’s “Comment No. 1”, the rap-ballad “Blame Game” featuring John Legend, and the next single, “All of the Lights,” a song about exposing everything – even the ugly stuff – in life.

My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy secures any doubt that anyone may have had that West wasn’t original and that he couldn’t take some bits of everything and make them into coherent popular music. Even if you don’t buy the album, you need to at least listen to it.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Rihanna – Loud | College Magazine Blog

By Keir Bristol

This November is a great month for releases. Nicki Minaj’s extremely anticipated “Pink Friday” releases next Monday, as well as Robyn’s “Body Talk.” And last week on November 12 Rihanna released her fifth studio album, Loud via Def Jam.

via Rihanna – Loud | College Magazine Blog.

MTV VMA’s 2010 | College Magazine Blog

’m not a big fan of award shows, but this year’s MTV Video Music Awards’s were… interesting, to say the least. Here were the highlights, in no particular order.

Read more: MTV VMA’s 2010 | College Magazine Blog.