Michelle Obama proves Stevie Wonder really is her favorite

_MG_7088At the memorial for Dallas police officers held at the Meyerson on Dallas Police Chief David Brown recited a Stevie Wonder song to hundreds of his police officers who were in the audience.

President Barack Obama, who followed Brown, quipped, “I’m glad I met Michelle first, because she loves Stevie Wonder.”

When Michelle Obama appeared on The Late Late Show’s carpool karaoke, she proved the president was right when she and James Cordon began with Stevie Wonder’s “Signed Sealed Delivered.”

“I know every Stevie song on the planet,” Obama tells Cordon.

Here’s the video that also features the Obama cover of “Single Ladies” and Missy Elliott joining to sing “This Is For My Girls.”

—  David Taffet

Why Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ matters

LemonadeEveryone has their own theory about Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Is it about her marriage to Jay Z? Her father’s infidelity? America’s pervasive racism and its wrenching consequence: the slaughtering of innocent blacks? Is it about Orlando now?

Could be. Though the complexities are rich and thought-provoking, Lemonade simply represents resilience. Inspired by Bey’s grandmother-in-law, it’s about soldiering on despite setbacks, be it the calamity of a troubled relationship, the ever-present black struggle, or the grief of 49 lives lost in a gay nightclub. It is, thusly, our album to lean on, music for unearthing an inner fortitude when fortitude seems futile. Beyoncé is, yet again, a beacon of empowerment, and Lemonade is next-level liberation.

“Freedom,” for instance, marches in like a victorious rally cry. During the song, Queen Bey channels the rawness of Merry Clayton’s vocal shred, when the singer memorably sang “rape, murder; just a shot away” in 1969 on the Rolling Stone’s “Gimme Shelter;” on “Freedom,” Bey is carrying on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks; she is the voice of all those oppressed, past, present and future. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of despair and persecution, a “bulletproof” Beyoncé proclaims, “I break chains all by myself.” In that moment, she sounds reborn, which she is.

Lemonade sees Beyoncé on the frontlines of change. This is her Like a Prayer, her Velvet Rope. Risks abound, from the Jack White-produced goth rock of her patriarchal takedown “Don’t Hurt Yourself” to the New Orleans-tinged “Daddy Lessons,” a guitar-plucked, percussion-slapped soul ditty that’s a testament to Beyoncé as a bona fide artist: Her talent is basically boundless.

Vocally, too, Beyoncé doesn’t play it safe. “Don’t Hurt Yourself” smears Auto-Tune all over her velvety voice; she drops to a hypnotically low octave on “6 Inch;” she fashions a reggae inflection on “Hold Up.” The production is bold, and Bey’s presence throughout is seismic. She is queen; Lemonade is her throne.

It also happens to be her best album to date (do it; bow down), advancing the inventiveness of her last avant-garde release, 2013’s self-titled Beyoncé. This one further catapults the former Destiny’s Child song slayer beyond bling and bug-a-boos to new, socially-conscious heights. Pop stars, this is your benchmark now. Basically, not only should you surprise-drop your work and create an astonishing visual component, as she has, you must also be the Zeitgeist. You mustn’t just buck the trends, you must set them. You must make an album that plays like an album — remember cohesive narratives? — rather than a stew of singles. You must show that you can be successful without radio support.

Bey’s sixth studio album is a staggering achievement on those merits alone. But it doesn’t stop there. It goes deeper. Potent social subtext concerning the Black Lives Matter movement and Southern repression mark the 11-chapter narrative, which also serve as tinted-windows into Bey’s own personal life. By now we’ve all heard of Becky, the mistress with “the good hair,” whomever she is; on “Formation,” the singer leads a feminist rebellion, dropping that Red Lobster zinger while simultaneously leading humanity down the road to unification. Reconciliation comes in the form of “Sandcastles,” the piano ballad that bridges the album’s split narrative – angry, icy/hopeful, warm — as it unfolds into “All Night,” which champions the power of love… all love. (The video appropriately features gay and lesbian couples who are, you guessed it, crazy in love.)

When I interviewed Beyoncé in 2011, the future of her artistic intentions and inspirations were apparent even though she was discussing the sonic bend of that year’s release, 4: “I really focused on making people feel good and feel love and know that there is love out there and goodness exists,” she thoughtfully conveyed, as if she were in the early stages of planning Lemonade. “I wanted to make a body of work that took risks — to be brave and be myself, and not focus on being cool.”

The cycle is complete. Bey is now the artist she sought to be then, full-fledged, chains undone. Love, too, is still the answer, it seems. Hate and tears and terrorists, be damned. On “All Night,” she assures, “Nothing real can be threatened.” In that moment, as the narrative of Lemonade culminates with the healing power of hope, she’s not only a singer, not just a pop star either — Beyoncé is a life force doing her part to keep the love alive.

— Chris Azzopardi

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2016.

—  Dallasvoice

Cocktail Friday: Mrs. Carter’s One-Two Punch

Mrs Carter PunchBy now, we’ve all seen/heard/reacted to Lemonade, Beyonce’s “visual album” that basically stands as a big “you cheatin’ bastard!” anthem about a woman (who, I wonder?) calling out her husband (are you listening, Jay-Z?) for an hour of moody, thoughtful, maybe even ground-breaking music. So, we thought it would be appropriate to show our solidarity with a lemonade cocktail this week which we are calling, natch, Mrs. Carter’s One-Two Punch. And we made enough so you can share it with friends in solidarity.

4 cups apple cider

1.25 cups lemonade (1 cup lemon juice and 1/4 cup honey syrup)

1 bottle white Puerto Rican rum

1 cup fresh berries

Lemon wheels

Making it: Combine cider, lemonade and rum in a punch bowl and stir. When ready to serve, add in ice and fruit and chill for at least 15 minutes. Garnish individual punch glasses with lemon wheels, berries and mint. Put on Beyonce and chill.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Queen Bey coming to North Texas May 9

BeyIf you were watching the Super Bowl last night — or at least its halftime show — you saw Beyonce overpower Chris Martin during her “special guest appearance” walk-on, singing a brand-new single. And the second the segment ended, the commercial we were treated to? A teaser for Bey’s new Formation Tour.

Well, it was in the works for a while, because it already has a North Texas date. Beyonce will perform it at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on May 9. Tickets go on sale Feb. 16 at 10 a.m. at LiveNation.com. Be there!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

LISTEN: The first cut from Madonna’s new album, ‘Living for Love’

Madonna Rebel Heart

Madonna Rebel Heart

Madonna’s newest studio album, Rebel Heart, won’t be out until the spring, but you don’t have to wait that long to sample some of the songs. Taking a cue from Beyonce, Madge offered her fans an early, unannounced Christmas present over the weekend, releasing six tracks off the album for early download, including a free video (well, there’s no video, just audio) of her single “Living for Love,” which was supposed to officially launch on Valentine’s Day. But you can listen to it now! Right here! Why? Because last week, someone began leaking versions of the songs, spoiling the surprise. Rather than fight it, the Material Girl jumped onboard to get ahead of the cheats. (Maybe Sony could learn something…?) RCA’s loss is our gain! Enjoy!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Beyonce … meet Boyonce

Got the 7/11 for yaLast Christmas, Queen Bey surprised all her fans with the release of a surprise album, which contained the hit “7/11.” Well, just in time for the holidays this year, some enterprising gay folks (I mean, they gotta be gay, right?) put together this video set to the song. It’s hilarious, fun and sexy — and a perfect distraction on Cyber Monday while waiting for your online shopping cart to load. Enjoy!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Disclosure: The gay interview


Guy and Howard Lawrence, the brothers who make up the duo Disclosure.

English dance prodigy duo Disclosure isn’t simply aware that club music is steeped in queer culture; they’re inspired by it. The Grammy-nominated duo, brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence, is still lighting up the charts with songs off their debut, Settle (recently released as a deluxe edition), which, according to its creators, leans heavily on the unique gay roots found in house music.

Makes sense, then, that they’re getting their groove on with Madonna. If chummy Instagram photos with the legend are any indication, presumably they’ll be working with the icon on her next album. Word broke after our Chris Azzopardi spoke with Guy for this gay press exclusive (Howard couldn’t be reached for our scheduled interview, so like a good brother, Guy stepped in for him last-minute). Though he didn’t acknowledge Madonna at the time, the 23-year-old did reveal what other pop icon he’s drunk in love with: Beyoncé. And more news since the interview? Disclosure will bring a DJ set to Dallas this December as headliners of the EDM festival Lights All Night.

Dallas Voice: How much has the gay community influenced your sound?  Guy Lawrence: Honestly, the history of the music that we take influence from, like house and garage, obviously originated in gay clubs like The Warehouse in Chicago and Paradise Garage [in New York City]. I don’t go to gay clubs now, but I feel like gay clubs just seem to be very forward-thinking, in terms of music anyway, and they’re always pushing boundaries. If you look back at the last 25 years or so, they’re playing the most original, creative stuff.

The gay community is often recognized as having its finger on the pulse. You hear people say we know when something is gonna be big before it actually is. From what I’ve seen, I would agree. I don’t only look to the gay community for where I’m gonna go next, but generally, London is such a step ahead of most places in the world musically, especially with dance music. Wherever we travel, producers and DJs are always looking at London and the UK to see what’s coming up next. That’s really why I love living here. We just have such a great buzzing young producer community going on over here — it’s such a good vibe.

You say you don’t go to gay clubs much now, but it sounds like you have. Was that for research purposes?  I used to go to Brighton a lot. It’s on the south coast of England, a five-minute drive from where I used to live. It was cool — there’s a big gay community in Brighton. I can’t really remember which were gay clubs or not, but it didn’t really matter — there was always great DJs playing at them. I used to drive down there and there was definitely some research involved. When I was really into dubstep and grime and that kind of thing, I’d go down and slowly but surely everyone started playing house music and garage music. It was just a really good place to go out, especially when I was just turning 18 and wanting to learn about dance music, where it came from and the history. It was the perfect place for that.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: The latest Beyoncé video

SingleladiesIt’s disturbing how well this synchs up (even though, as well all know, Lovey is definitely not a single lady).

One question: Since there are only seven castaways, and three are onstage and three are in the audience and one is introducing the act …. who pulled the curtain open?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Super Bowl, meet gay bar

SashaFierceLast night I went to the Dallas Eagle to watch the Super Bowl.

Or so I thought. I figured, hey: Leathermen … Levi’s … there was even a chili cook-off and rugby players there that night. Should be a good place to see the game.

Well, it was also Trash Disco Night. And guess what won out?

During the final minutes of the first half — when Ravens QB Joe Flacco threw to Jacoby Jones for a 56-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-10 (Jones beat Chris Culliver of the 49ers — the asshat who insulted gays in sports last week) — I cheered … and was the only one.

It was OK, I predicted — when halftime starts, the gays will pay attention. And they did. Sort of.

The space in front of the TVs was never more crowded with watchers than during Beyonce’s appearance, and when the rest of Destiny’s Child showed up, there were squeals, even though management kept the sound turned down while “Brick House” played on the dance floor. (At least we had closed captions.) One of the funniest things? The gay guys who sat aghast at Beyonce’s gyrating in a revealing costume. “Don’t kids watch this?” one said to me. “This seems a little risque for them.” “It’s a little risque for me,” I said.

I went home around the time of the blackout and actually flipped between the Super Bowl and Downton Abbey for a while … mostly staying on Downton Abbey. Hey, I love me men in tight pants, but the Dowager Countess calls …

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Does Frank Ocean’s coming out mean more for hip-hop or for the LGBT community?

July has already been a momentous month for the LGBT community. Anderson Cooper didn’t so much come out as officially confirm that he identified as gay early in the week. Then, for some July 4 fireworks, Odd Future member Frank Ocean candidly talked about his past relationship with a man in a telling Tumblr post. A lengthy letter that was heartfelt and poetic (while never using the “g” or the “b” words) left no doubt that Ocean has come out of the closet as a member of the community — and as a bona fide hip-hop star.

There has been speculation on Ocean’s sexuality recently on blog buzz reviews about his upcoming album Channel Orange. MTV reported that he had openly used “him” in many of his songs which had been picked up on by those reviews. Ocean’s clearly in a more comfortable space, but could it be lost on the LGBT community?

—  Rich Lopez