Bitches

I don’t get “bitches”.  Whoa whoa whoa.  Wait.  Let me unpack that.

This is about music and women.  Bear with me.  I’ll get there.  You’ll see what I mean.

“On Why Jazz Isn’t Cool Anymore”

A few musicians on Facebook shared this link:

http://nicholaspayton.wordpress.com/2011/11/27/on-why-jazz-isnt-cool-anymore/

If you have time, please read a little bit of that.  It’s an oddly circuitous prose.

I kind of agree with the sentiment.  Kind of.  Jazz is now in the same category, largely, as classical music.  It seems to be in a state of preservation vs. innovation.  Whatever that means for music.  No.  Let me restate that.  It’s a nostalgia industry, which explains why a lot of photogenic Caucasian musicians with styles channeling the old jazz masters and legends are at the top of the charts.

BITCHES

Nicholas Payton is going out on a limb, kind of, to say bump all that.  I’m going to do my thing.  Like it or leave it.  His latest release is titled “Bitches”.

I listened to most of it today.  I think Nicholas Payton is brilliant.  He’s multi-talented, creative, with a sly yet raw sense of humor.  A friend once told me a quote about how one can’t truly be an artist if one is hindered by what others will think of one’s art.  I respect Payton for going his own route and acting on his vision to make the music he wants to make.  Labels be damned.

I looked online for some reviews.  They were all glowing.  But I’m not into “Bitches”.

I realized that the album is a true reflection, or vice versa, of Payton’s blog entry.  There’s a theme and a cadence and inner cadence.  A statement.  A story arc.  A conclusion.  I definitely got the sense that the same process of creation produced his blog and the songs on the album.

Musically, it has a consistent vibe but much of it is groove oriented to the exclusion of chord changes.  (I don’t mean blistering ii V I’s either.  I’ll take a two or three chord jam over a one chord jam any day.)  That’s a personal pet peeve of mine.  Most people wouldn’t notice and wouldn’t care about that.  It makes me feel like I’m sitting in a car in traffic, though.  I just want to go somewhere.  Just want to move.

GETTING ATTENTION

This whole thing is ingenious.  Step away from the jazz rut.  Making more of a R&B album with singing and grooves.  Give it a controversial name that will definitely start much conversation.  Keep your blog in the loop while you tour and promote.

It’s great marketing.  Much respect.  I mean, heck.  Along with many others I’m talking about it, right.

CONFUSION

But I’m kind of confused by the reviews.  They all state that there’s nothing misogynistic about the release.  I mean, if you listen to the whole thing as a concept it’s like watching a black romance movie that’s written from a male point of view and without any moralizing.

But the song “Bitches”, lyrically, is … you know.  Bitches ain’t s—, basically.  The hip-hop generation brand of misogyny.

It’s the resentful dude after a break up vibe.  Uh.  Sausage meat?   Really?

I mean.  Lyrically, the album is sometimes a little crass and, for lack of a better word, immature in the way that Cee Lo is crass.  You never know what’s going to come out of his mouth but he manages to make it entertaining somehow.

You know.  In truth, I guess it is like the arc of a lot of relationships.

“Bitches.”  Attention grabbing, yes.  Misogynistic.  Yeh.  Tame compared to a lot of the bullcrap out there, though.

CONTEXT

[2 days later]

I couldn’t find the right words so I was stuck on this one.  Then I saw this on Facebook and that got the wheels rolling again.  It’s a blog entry titled “Where is the love in R&B music?

Exactly!  R&B isn’t about romance anymore.  That’s not just old man ranting either.  There’s a marked change.  In the late 60’s and early 70’s many black men referred to black women as “queens”.  For all the good that did in the long run.  But there was a kind of respect of sorts.  “We made it through.  Post-civil rights struggle.  We’ve got freedom.  We’re black and we’re proud.  Of ourselves and of each other.  Now … come on over to my place and turn off the lights.”

Whereas it used to be about seduction, romance, maybe consummation, break ups, heart break, infidelity and reconciliation; it’s now about “I’m rich, bitch.  You’re a dime piece.  %$@! my %$#@!”

Followed by descriptions of from which angle the lyrical narrator is going to hit It and the approximate duration — all night.

It’s more … I don’t know.  Feral.  Nihilistic.  Selfish.  It’s a step back.  Back a few centuries for some of us.  Not so much for others.

 

The R&B blog on CNN also helped to tie in some other things I read the day that I started this entry.

Karzai orders release of rape victim

No.  That’s not a typo.  You read it correctly.  A woman was raped by her cousin’s husband and subsequently she was PUT IN JAIL because she didn’t want to marry her rapist.  You rape her, you own her??  Then later, after international outcry, they said she was in jail because she didn’t report the rape immediately.  Blood beginning to simmer.

And that led to this:

Gunmen spray Afghan woman with acid after refusing marriage

Self explanatory.  Blood … boiling.

That internet rabbit trail happened to take me to Afghanistan, but there are plenty of US news stories along similar lines over the past few years.  Woman rejects man.  Man does what?   Throws bleach on all her clothes.  Kills her and her child.  Or throws flammable liquid on woman and sets her on fire.  Kills woman, woman’s relatives, sometimes then kills himself.

Man finds himself in financial trouble.  What does he do?  Kills his entire family and then himself.

What kind of twisted, pathologically, maniacally egocentric asshole  is that fragile that he feels that another human being shouldn’t be allowed to live without him?  Where are these dudes learning this?  Who is affirming these notions, intentionally or otherwise?  Consciously or otherwise?

This isn’t Fair

So that’s what was on my mind when I was listening to “Bitches”.  I’m just not into this adversarial R&B “love” song thing.

It’s not fair to put all that societal baggage on display and then refer to Payton’s CD.  I know it.

But that whole “I love you, baby” thing followed by “Oh, I’m disillusioned.  Bitches.”

Brilliant, creative, fun or otherwise.  I’m not diggin’ it.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.  (Hi, Levar.)

I’m curious what other people think.  On a scale from 1 to 10, how much should I lighten up?

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2 comments

Add Yours
  1. bp

    I say, 1. Don’t lighten up! But I am curious how his blog reads. Is it similar to his lyrics?

    On a more simple note, anyone who titles their CD “bitches” is lucky to get a sophisticated listen.

    • garyarthuryoung

      Check it out if you get a chance.

      It’s rhythmic like a, uh, like a black preacher’s sermon. Unfolding. But with more cursing.

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