I am actually a bit overwhelmed by the outpouring of tributes to David Bowie. I was listening to Blackstar on Sunday, loving it, intrigued by it, critiquing it. I listened to it with a whole different heartset yesterday. As I told my students, Bowie managed to merge the avant-garde and pop like no one else. Yes, I loved his music. But what’s most intriguing to me is how influential he was on the women whose music subsequently has captivated me. For Alice Bag, Cherie Currie, Kari Krome, etc., he was THE inspiration to rebel rebel, to turn and face the strange changes.
On Sunday, as this pale style icon kept singing to me in my car, “I’m a black star, I’m not a pop star,” I pondered the Thin White Duke’s relationship to appropriation: his obsession with black music, feminine manners, and gay culture. Is it theft, as I think many of my less tolerant students would think? Or is it, as Eric Lott coined it, love and theft? I wondered what Greg Tate would think. And thanks to this amazing, smart, loving remembrance, I now know.
Devon Maloney wrote a very brave, controversial article about why she quit her job as music editor of the LA Times after four months. She brings up issues that are central to the chauvinism of music criticism, the lard-ass-ness of legacy journalism, and the privileged passion of Millenials. I would love to hear readers’ take on Devon’s story.
When I opened my browned Paul Beatty manila file folder to prepare to interview the writer once again, I realized that it had been 25 years since I first introduced myself to him after seeing him read at the Poetry Project in the East Village. He was a great writer then, albeit of poetry rather than prose. He’s a brilliant novelist now. I caught up with Paul again to discuss the ribald satire of his latest book, The Sellout, for the Los Angeles Review of Books.
In his wide-ranging travelogue Rebel Music, Hashim D. Aidi offers a very different portrait of global Islam than the image of violent extremism that has dominated the news. I wrote this review for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion back in December, but its publication online could not be more timely.
Writer/scholar/thinker/activist Jeff Chang spoke at LMU today about racial politics of the last 50 years and the return of the culture wars, topics covered in-depth in his new book Who We Be: The Colorization of America. His analysis was gentle, thoughtful, and extraordinarily timely. Highly recommended.
The critical karaoke I performed to the Runaways’ “California Paradise” at the EMP Pop Conference in LA in 2013 has been posted online as part of a CK package from the Journal of Popular Music Studies — this is academia made fun party people! You can hear me speak it over the music or just read the text, your choice. There are some other great pieces here, such as Karen Tongson’s moving ode to Jose Esteban Munoz, Radiohead’s “Creep,” and queer utopian moments.
Muddy Waters, John Lautner, Octavia E. Butler: Three writers (including me) chose these three artists to represent Earth to space aliens, if they were to happen to land on our planet. To figure out which was my pick, check out the Zocalo Public Square website.