Taylor Swift's new video 'Shake It Off' features twerking, for you haters

Taylor Swift's new video 'Shake It Off' features twerking, for you haters

Timing '1989' and the unrest in Ferguson: You can't please everyone, you should please a few

There are people who hate hate hate hate hate Taylor Swift, and they will hate her more for this video and this song precisely because of the phrase "haters gonna hate."  It is class-A trolling, trolling the trollers. It's colorful, featuring people of color, using styles and tropes we've grown to hyperbolically love or hate, on a white background of shake-shake-shake. It's its own meme.

It also borders on dangerously upbeat and ill-timed. This month we're glued to our media, watching the ongoing hostilities in Ferguson, Mo., and bombarded with a much-needed conversation about race relations. There are costs to ignoring the scourge of racism, some of which play out in 140-characters, relatives' poorly worded Facebook posts, half-formed editorials and half-informed talking heads...

"Shake It Off" isn't about Ferguson, it just fell on the calendar where the context renders it seemingly tone-deaf.

Now, hang tight.

Swift is featured as the "lead" dancer in a series of skill-specific dances -- hip-hop, ballet, cheerleading, modern, etc. The comedy here is -- as if you didn't already know it, gosh dernit -- Swift's skill set doesn't include the coordination to hold a candle to these athletes. She merely fumbles her way through choreography, but damn if she isn't having fun: here's Swift bunny hopping in a tutu. Here's Swift adorkably faking a break dance. Here she is, crawling under a bridge of twerking asses.

There are parts of pop star shelf life that require its participants -- particularly women -- to diverge into territory that isn't "them." Pantomime romances; dress for the job they want and not the one they have; smile when they're frowning inside. Stars like Britney Spears take flack for faking dance skills when they've long gone. Christina Aguilera eats sh*t for "forsaking" her 20-something, pre-baby body. Madonna has tried and often failed for her varied stylistic appropriations.

The point is, in "Shake It Off's" video, that Swift can approximate a thing she is not, but she will never succeed in being what she isn't. Just as Miley Cyrus was not that thing, smacking the butts of black backup dancers as they turn around and praise her dance. Just as Katy Perry is not this thing (Japanese) or this thing (Egyptian) or this thing (a Marine).

Swift is trying on the visages of other pop stars all at the same time, and similarly calling it: "it" isn't working. Do the ballerinas not remind you of Kanye's "Runaway" short film and performances? How about the futuristic goggles and platinum blonde, of Lady Gaga's "The Fame?" Or the cheerleader chant of the (admittedly poor and weak and awful) bridge from Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" and her own taunting "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together?" Swift literally takes a line from Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" as she's Great Escaping the sexualized, bobbing butts of the dancers above.

So, yeah, in earnest, she's reinforcing her own precociousness, her ineptitude and yes, dammit, the joy she feels in performance. She comes into her own as a singer, leading a big band. She considers herself one of the Normies, just like the rest of us schlubs, when it comes to dancing, and specific adoptive styles. "Shake It Off" is cleansing, yet snarky, incurring haters' wrath and uncaring -- because dammit, you can't please everybody.

It just may not be what people want right at this second. Check out the elemental presentation of what is "hip-hop," with the oversized boombox and doofy color coordination, and of the bodies of the women of color during the twerk-off. Swift here isn't calling these "lesser" artforms, they're merely whittled down to a 2-D essence of Things I Can't Do And Things That I'm Not. Which doesn't add much to that race conversation above. African-American-founded art-forms (now co-own by the masses) and brown bodies (frequently co-opted by the masses) are deservedly under an analytical microscope now, and making caricature/commentary of them ought to do something earnest, or hopeful, or intellectual. In short, invulnerable, bulletproof. That's not the video she made. "Shake It Off" is a troll.

And one I happen to like, like, like, like, like. Like her video's characters, she's not gonna nail the landing, particularly in the current socio-political context. By it nature, this will be a tune impossible to avoid, just as it will be hard to avoid an analysis. Swift has made a certifiable hit that complicates and compliments her brand, her girl-next-door brand. I think it's a contagious melody, easy to listen to, fun, broad enough to apply to many but specific enough to reveal her as an artist. "Shake it off" is really credible advice and a decent message.

But was the video myopic in execution? Would the twerking or "this sick beat" or boom-box-on-a-shoulder read differently were it a black performer? Is that reading too sensitive -- or isn't it time we be more sensitive?

"Shake It Off" is the first single from Taylor Swift's newly announced album "1989," due Oct. 27. Check out the video and the album cover below.

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Macklemore and Fences get shot in in 'Arrows' video

Macklemore and Fences get shot in in 'Arrows' video

What kind of zoo animal are you?

Fences and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have released the very colorful video for the collaborative song "Arrows," featuring the popular Grammy Award-winning MC getting shot.

As I mentioned in the writeup for the new single, Seattle-based Macklemore is obviously wrestling with the aftermath of his rapid rise in fame, following the runaway hits off of his and Lewis' album "The Heist."

In the clip, he's seen making a plunge off of a high dive into a swimming pool, its surface brandishing the covers of Rolling Stone magazine which pimp his very visage. He's also presented as an animal in a roving zoo, with reporters clicking his photo and then leaving after he gets shot.

It's true, we kill the ones we love. Fame is fleeting. Be careful out there. Also, it's really rude to spy on undressed ladies in their apartment with binoculars, don't do it.

"Arrows" is off of Fences new album "Lesser Oceans," out Oct. 14.

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The Black Keys 'Weight of Love' video: Sexiest cult ever

The Black Keys 'Weight of Love' video: Sexiest cult ever

Hair braiding, jumping jacks and more sleepover camp rules

The Black Keys' new music video for "Weight of Love" features not just a cult, but the most beautiful cult in the land.

It's a all-female cult led by supermodel Lara Stone, featuring subdued activities that keeps the white-clad model cult members active without delving into the realm of actual "fun," like braiding hair, topless laundry, jumping jacks, bowing down and shucking corn. Mother Stone gets all aggro in a girl's face and is, like, thisclose to kissing her, too. It's basically a teen boy's half-formed wet dream set to an extended Nautica commercial, with Black Keys' Dan Auerbach's visage from their "Fever" video on the endcaps.

So maybe it Auerbach's dream? Hm. Theo Wenner, who directed the clip, also helmed "Fever," so maybe they're branding a new religion. Auerbach recently produced Lana Del Rey's new album, so I half expected her to be in this somber, sunlit mix.

"Weight of Love" has a nasty guitar solo and a long instrumental intro, one of the stronger tunes off of The Black Keys' latest album "Turn Blue."

Weight of Love from Theo Wenner on Vimeo.

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Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora battle James Marsden in 'Black Widow' music video

Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora battle James Marsden in 'Black Widow' music video

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'Telephone' and... eep, 'Your Love?'

Iggy Azalea played up your "Clueless" nostalgia with her "Fancy" video earlier this year, and now she's stabbing you in the gut with "Black Widow" feat. Rita Ora, channeling "Kill Bill."

Yup, she and Ora grab katanas, with James Marsden topping both of their Kill lists, as they ride cycles, wield badassery and play poker in zip-up catsuits. Close... but not enough to warrant a Tarantino lawsuit. It was co-directed by Azalea and Director X -- the latter of whom may help explain that T.I. cameo.

The dual nature of wreaking havoc after a diner encounter may ring the Beyonce and Lady Gaga "Telephone" line, but another rival may also be paying attention to that samurai swagger. Nicki Minaj wagged her own weapons in her "Your Love" (remember that one?) video in 2010. I think Nicki did it better. Though none can compare to Big Wanda.

"Black Widow" is off of Azalea's "The New Classic." She and Ora will perform the song during the MTV VMAs on Aug. 24.

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'Thick' girl anthems: On Meghan Trainor and BJ The Chicago Kid's 'perfect' songs

'Thick' girl anthems: On Meghan Trainor and BJ The Chicago Kid's 'perfect' songs

Women of all sizes deserve better than songs like 'Perfect' and 'All About That Bass'

BJ The Chicago Kid released his new song and video for "Perfect" this week, just as Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" rises more in radio ranks and singles sales.

Both of these songs are addressing body positivity, particularly for women who don't fit beauty standards found in fashion mags and, well, music videos. They both define what is "perfect" about "thicker" girls. And they are both imperfect in this pursuit.

BJ The Chicago Kid's fresh R&B jam is seemingly part of a suite, with his previous "Fly Girl Get 'Em" (which I prefer) playing part one. "I see you trying to disguise that potential," he sings in the latter. "She put her hair up in a ponytail / No make-up on her face / A wrinkled t-shirt and some jogging pants."

BJ's new ode "Perfect" turns his eyes again toward appearances, but more specifically to the body. He calls "Perfect" an "homage" to Fabolous' song "Thim Slick" feat. Jeremih, using that song's hook and beat. But you could also call "Perfect" a counter-argument to "Thim Slick"...

"Thim Slick"  (a tip of the hat to "slim thick" girls, follow?) reaches into the D-cups, ogles his girl, wolf whistles over 34-24-36 dimensions.

"That ass in the gym; squat life... 'This is all from my mama, this is not knife.'"

Oh, well as long as it's authentic. Cue to girls in spin class with lacy daisy dukes because that's how we do spin class.

"Perfect," on the other hand, has BJ's lady love gazing into the mirror, shorthand for his gaze at her. It comes complete with NSFW ass shots and bare side-boob, sending her out to the balcony to pose in unmentionables (just like Fabolous says in "Thim Slick").

BJ departs from "Thim Slick" by showing the "ugly" side of getting into cute clothes, like that jump-and-jimmy move at 1:25 that any woman who's tried on slim-fit knows by heart. Her bathroom vanity is covered with crazy bottles and makeup kits. Her shoes are are in masses on a shelf.

And yet this woman, too, is "perfect."

"She say her ass ain’t big enough / She feel her breast ain’t big enough / She think her abs ain’t flat enough"

Well, I wonder who gave her that idea.

His lady flips through a fashion magazine. Skinny Rihanna is on a cover. Skinny white women hold perfume bottles and pose. (Shhh, she has not yet discovered YouTube.)

"That body perfect, ain’t matched / No matter what they say, everything be just right."

Wait, what are 'they' saying?

"You got that blessing in disguise."

If we can just get past the patronizing effect that a girl's weight/size has anything to do with "disguises," we're left with that whole "blessing" notion. Blessing for whom, exactly? Going back to what BJ sang in his "Fly Girl," those thick bodies with no makeup are apparently "disguises," disguising "potential" and "blessings."

That hot breath you feel on the back of your neck may be a pickup artist, who puts you down first.

"Real n*ggas need love too / just because she's thicker than you doesn't mean a n*gga can't have fun with you too"

Thanks for the reminder. We nearly forgot about the guys.

"Got better head than she got body"

OK, ENOUGH. This so-called body positive song and video emphasizes the "blessing" women's bodies are for men, for the sake of pleasing the man. This video showcases a beautiful black woman without those exacting 34-24-36 dimensions, but says her perfection comes not from within, but in the eye of the beholder, who is beholden to her blowjob whether her hair's up or down with no makeup and sweatpants.

This: in a line of pop and R&B songs that pander to women's insecurities, the "I see you're pretty, even if you can't" syndrome that drips from John Legend’s "You and I," Bruno Mars' "The Way You Are" or One Direction’s "What Makes You Beautiful."

"Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top."

With newcomer Meghan Trainor singing the words, the delivery and context of "perfect" changes -- but only slightly. This adorable video for "All About That Bass" is matched with an equally memorable hook, hearkening back to 1950s and '60s girl groups and doo-wop, while also calling to mind Nicki Minaj's perfect* single "Super Bass." Lyrically, Trainor (who is GORGEOUS, btw) lays it out.

"I see the magazine, workin' that Photoshop / We know that sh*t ain't real... You know I won't be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll"

Again, the issue of The Authentic Women mixing with women/women's media prescribing unrealistic body standards unto other women.

"Cause I got that boom boom** that all the boys chase"

Which, as we've established, is very important.

"Yeah, my mama she told me don't worry about your size / She says boys*** like a little more booty to hold at night"

"My mama told me..." is a cliche that works well with this style of pop song. But, to paraphrase, "body acceptance comes from the sexual desires of men and not from within" means your mom needs to take a different tack.

"Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that / No, I'm just playing, I know you think you're fat / But I'm here to tell ya / Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top"

Do you remember the scene in "Young Adult," where Charlize Theron's character has a meltdown in the front lawn and plucks at Elizabeth Reaser's cardigan and whinnies "I love your sweater" in that high school girl voice where, back in the day, you couldn't tell she was being sincere or mocking you? Trainor frames her well-meaning "I feel your struggle" lyric against another stereotype, the music video's representative "skinny bitch" as a vapid, fun-hating, vain girl. It becomes binary, distinguishing girls with (b)ass from those with treble, right smack dab in the middle of a song that is purposefully celebrating bigger girls as superior. THIS IS WHAT THEY WANT, FOR US TO TURN AGAINST EACH OTHER.

 

"All About That Bass" says larger women's bodies are "perfect" because

1. Boys like them
2. Meghan Trainor says so

"Perfect" extolls "real-er" bodies as "perfect" because

1. Boys like them
2. BJ The Chicago Kid says so

As weight and size preoccupy many women, including young girls, I'm thrilled any song that spurs conversation has made its way up the charts. I love a loveable, smooth R&B song trying to project something "good" at its core female audience -- though it parades as one thing but doesn't hold up under scrutiny. I love a pop song from a bigger woman singing about bigger women, dancing with women of all colors and (many) sizes -- though it's flawed in its execution.

Women of all sizes deserve better.
 

* This song is not perfect but it's damn
** Boom-boom-boom-boom boom-boom-boom-boom you got that super bass
*** Not All Men, LOLOLOL

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Listen to Ariana Grande's new R&B jam with Big Sean

Listen to Ariana Grande's new R&B jam with Big Sean

HitFix
B
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Things you know you like, together

Ariana Grande's summer jam "Problem" was successful because it was an amalgam of a things we already knew we liked. She reminds us of classic Mariah Carey in her range; there's that four-part harmony that's like the Andrews sister; there's hints of New Jack Swing and the funk of the horns section from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop"; even if you don't know the verse, everyone can sing "you-hoo-HOO!"; Iggy Azalea is/was on fire at time of impact.

Grande has released a new song, "Best Mistake," ahead of her second album "My Everything," out on Aug. 25. This song may similarly ring a couple bells. There's a particular treatment to the keyboards that are reminiscent of Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball." The vocal bend and auto-tune filter is a reminder of Rihanna. Those chimes make us think our princess is in another castle.

But unlike her first big number, this is a song I have listened to many times now and keep forgetting I've heard it. Big Sean turns in a verse that gets a C+ -- hey, slightly above average without sticking out in the crowd! -- and Grande's voice is appropriately if not robotically melancholy.

So to answer the question what happens when the water dries up? You wait until Aug. 25 to get a real gulp of what Grande can really offer. This is a pretty, easy song. The next hit's in another castle.

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Elvira returns in Ryan Adams' 'Gimme Something Good' video: Watch

Elvira returns in Ryan Adams' 'Gimme Something Good' video: Watch

'70s meets '80s in this new music clip

Ryan Adams' single "Gimme Something Good" wears out its '70s roots rock influences, but the singer-songwriter fully embraces his love of the '80s in the new music video for the track.

Or, rather, he wishes to embrace Elvira in this clip. Adams has an unabashed and well-documented love of metal, even hair metal and power-rock from the 1980s, and if all the bros I remember from my youth are any indication, Elvira and her witch wiles go hand-in-hand with all things 1980s rock 'n' roll.

So what do you do when you grow up ("grow up")? You enlist the help of the Mistress of the Dark in a stoically cheeky video, complete with the home video aesthetic chirping into your mid-tempo longings.

I've always had a soft spot for Adams. I feel bad for any songwriter who's endured maligned bullsh*t after they get sober, and after they leave the fold of traditionally admired labels like Lost Highway, all of which happened around 2007 and 2008. There's shining moments in sets like "Orion" and "Ashes & Fire," since then, that expose his heavy metal past, his sense of humor, his endless production ethic.

But most of all, it's sounded like he's rebuilding his mold, working with Mike Viola on this new, forthcoming self-titled album instead of producing himself, or working with consistent former collaborators like Glyn or Ethan Johns, Jamie Candiloro, Tom Schick. Or even dipping back into the waters of switching up the Cardinals lineup. (Fun fact: Viola previously produced albums for Ryan Adams' wife, Mandy Moore.)

"Gimme Something Good" isn't bold. But it is catchy as hell, like something from "Gold" or "Easy Tiger" that highlight his deft touch at rock-pop. "My Wrecking Ball," which is also available now (stream below) will tickle anybody who has enjoyed the lo-fi, solo workings of the Bedhead bootlegs, and his finer solo moments.

This is all to say I'm hopeful. He's striking a chord with this lightly funny video of Darkness (and oh those famous breasts).

Expect a redux of it tomorrow (Aug. 13) on "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon."

"Gimme Something Good" and "My Wrecking Ball" are on "Ryan Adams," due out on Sept. 9 via Adams' Pax Am label with distro from Blue Note. Tour dates are below the videos.

Here are Ryan Adams' tour dates:

09/08/14 — Washington, DC — 9:30 Club *
10/01/14 — Santa Barbara, CA — Arlington Theater
10/03/14 - San Francisco, CA - Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
10/05/14 — Portland, OR — Arlene Schnitzer Hall
10/06/14 — Seattle, WA — Paramount Ballroom
10/07/14 — Vancouver, BC — Orpheum Theater
10/09/14 — Edmonton, AB — Francis Winspear Theater
10/10/14 — Calgary, AB — Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
10/12/14 — Winnipeg, AB — Burton Cummings Theater
10/13/14 — Minneapolis, MN — Northrop at the University of Minnesota
10/14/14 — Milwaukee, WI — Riverside Theater
10/16/14 — Chicago, IL — Chicago Theater
10/18/14 — Ames, IA — Stephens Auditorium @ Iowa State Center ***
10/19/14 — St. Louis, MO — Peabody Opera House
10/20/14 — Kansas City, MO — Uptown Theater
11/06/14 — Indianapolis, IN — Murat Theater *
11/08/14 — Columbus, OH — Palace Theater *
11/09/14 — Detroit, MI — The Fillmore *
11/11/14 — Cleveland, OH — State Theatre at PlayhouseSquare **
11/18/14 —Boston, MA — Wang Theatre *
11/19/14 — Philadelphia (Upper Darby), PA — Tower Theatre *

* On sale Friday, August 15 at 10am local time
** On sale Friday, August 15 at 11am local time
*** On sale Friday, August 22nd

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Danny Brown, all day: Rapper's video for Rustie, new song with Lucki Eck$

Danny Brown, all day: Rapper's video for Rustie, new song with Lucki Eck$

It's raining feathers

Danny Brown has new music lined up with a couple different sources this week: he's combined with throwback sounds for Rustie's sophomore set, and hit up Lucki Eck$ for a new crunchy club track.

Regarding the first one: Rustie's song "Attak" IS RIDICULOUS, in part because of the d'n'b noise that won't give up on that trap, and in part because of bespeckled Danny Brown's nasally rhymes dripping off of it like a well-worn scarf. The lyric video for the second song to arrive from Rustie's album "Green Language" -- due Aug. 25 -- is below.

If you're having trouble deciphering the Detroit MCs lyrics... well, you may continue to have problems (but in a FUN way!) trying to wrap your head around the animated words that stream across the screen. If you checked out Rustie's video for first single "Raptor," then take joy in the falling feathers again.

Then there's Lucki Eck$ who first crossed paths with Danny Brown during Red Bull's Sound Select emerging artist concert in Austin back in March. "Weightin' On" is the result of them joining back up in the studio, and features Brown on the hook and Chicigo-bred rhymer Eck$ on the verses. This banger goes up for sale via digital retailers tomorrow (Aug. 12).

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Which popular music artists still haven't had a No. 1 album in the U.S.?

Which popular music artists still haven't had a No. 1 album in the U.S.?

Tom Petty, show them the away... Aretha Franklin, David Bowie, The Roots and more

It only took him 38 years: today it was announced that Tom Petty achieved a first in his career, earning his first-ever No. 1-selling album in the U.S. with his and The Heartbreakers' "Hypnotic Eye." The Billboard 200 chart's top has always eluded the rocker, but last week "Eye" saw 131,000 copies, enough for the top.

Just a couple of weeks ago, it was "Weird Al" Yankovic scoring his first No. 1 album, "Mandatory Fun," with more than a dozen studio sets under his belt.

But who are the remaining active popular artists who have yet to witness their albums hit the top? There are some legends -- like David Bowie and Aretha Franklin -- who have shockingly spent decades falling short at No. 2. Shakira, Wilco, OneRepublic and The Roots have plenty of time too...

Which of these artists could still make it to the summit, and which ones do you think will go the way of The Clash, Marvin Gaye, The Ramones, James Brown, The Who and Blondie, in regards to artists who have never pocketed a top-charting album in the United States?

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Azealia Banks revs up in her new 'Heavy Metal and Reflective' music video

Azealia Banks revs up in her new 'Heavy Metal and Reflective' music video

Gee, I wonder if it's a metaphor

Azealia Banks arrives in the desert bound and hooded at the beginning of her "Heavy Metal and Reflective" music video. But like a lilting butterfly -- unfettered by the scorching heat and the wild band of motocross bikers -- she escapes her ties to rule the crew.

You'd think that's a metaphor or something.

The rapper became loosed from her contract with Interscope last month, leaving way for her to finally maybe perhaps release a full-length record, which never came to pass for her "Broke with Expensive Taste" LP when she was with the major.

"Heavy Metal..." is the first taste of what she's been up to since then. I like what I'm hearing.

Her low drone bounces off of steep low ends and a similarly "cheeky" clap to Big Sean's "A$$"; the violent neons and flaming reds of her riding gear in the video is echoed in the bright and mean production overall.

I was also caught unawares that there was such a thing as a thong motocross bodysuit in the world. I did, however, know that it's difficult to make anybody look cool in double-plated riding goggles.

Check out the video below: does Banks have a fighting chance now that she has no label home? Want to hear more?

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