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"what kind of person is this?"
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jordanmsargent@gmail.com


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Jul 1, 2013
@ 10:38 pm
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"I love black music"

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Of the 20 highest selling digital songs in American history, seven are by black people, with Black Eyed Peas and LMFAO getting counted twice. Exactly zero are by black women, unless you count Janelle Monáe’s contribution to “We Are Young.” Black music has been decimated as a popular art form — but we already knew this. The theory as it pertains to digital sales — which primarily power the charts, it seems — is a simple one: homes with internet connections, credit cards and the disposable income to purchase music online are most likely to be middle and upper class. Middle and upper class homes are most likely to be made up of white people.

But maybe YouTube streams — and other streams, to a lesser extent — can help be a bit of an equalizer here. Though decried by many — including myself — when they were folded into Billboard’s chart formulas, YouTube streams have already shot a few tracks by black artists up the charts that otherwise likely wouldn’t have been there: Ciara’s “Body Party” became a top 40 hit only after its video dropped; Ray J’s “I Hit it First” had a moment in the sun thanks to YouTube; J. Dash’s “Wop” hit the upper reaches of the Hot 100 a half-decade after its release thanks to Miley Cyrus twerking (I chronicled that here.)

A new avenue like this isn’t a bad thing, I suppose. But it also emphasizes the importance of virality — all three of the songs above had some sort of element to them that the artist just won’t be able to recapture again. Crossing over the old fashioned way — making a good song that reaches a wider audience on its own — is growing increasingly rare. Miguel’s “Adorn” is full-stop one of the biggest R&B radio hits of all-time, but it barely snuck inside the Hot 100’s top 20. I’d wager it’s not even the top 100 of the all-time digital sales list. 

Pharrell said something at the BET Awards on Sunday night that I thought was funny. While on stage he shouted, “I love black music.” Now, this shouldn’t have been that funny — it was the BET Awards, and Sunday night’s show was a rather fantastic celebration of black music. But he said it while performing alongside Robin Thicke, whose career as a white man singing black music has peaked in 2013. Pharrell co-wrote and produced the song they were performing (“Blurred Lines,” duh) and, well, P finds himself in a pretty unique position right now.

He had a major hand in the country’s current top two songs: “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky.” They are, respectively, explicit Marvin Gaye and Chic homages — two of the most classically black songs to hit the very top of the charts in quite a long time. Of course, at the forefront of both songs are white men. As black pop music continues to get chopped down, I guess you could make the argument that using white people as trojan horses is the best outcome of a really crappy situation. But, you know, then again.

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  4. bradluen reblogged this from katherinestasaph and added:
    Even if you throw out Taio Cruz for being British, 6 out of 20 by African-American men seems not unreasonable to me. (I...