1. On Kesha, shadow-y men, and Tinashe:


    Kesha’s lawsuit against Dr. Luke has been foreshadowed by past events, but it’s nonetheless heartbreaking. I’m support Kesha 100%; it seems remarkable we don’t automatically draw connections between pop stars suffering “mental breakdowns” and the potential abusive men in their lives that are heralded as the creative masterminds behind their work. I hope Kesha escapes this contract; her musical career seems like a minor point in the grand scheme of issues here, but Dr. Luke has been largely credited as the architect of her sound and if she makes a change in artistic direction, it will be met with an enormous amount of industry bullshit about agency and authenticity.

    This has become a recurring theme in pop music: the shadowy male producers who are the so-called brilliant masterminds behind these public young women. Kesha had Dr. Luke. Lady Gaga had RedOne. Ariana Grande had Harmony Samuels. I can’t remember the last time we talked about an up-and-coming female pop star without talking extensively about her core production team, and that often makes sense when looking down the credits. This is what the industry does. It pairs young women off with the real geniuses and puts them to work.

    This makes the Tinashe album that came out last week pretty incredible. There’s no shadowy male producer behind Aquarius, and any attempt to try to define that album as such is bullshit. Aquarius sounds like an extension of Tinashe’s mixtapes which she recorded and produced in her home studio. Even with this so-called assembled team of superstar hitmakers, all the tracks on Aquarius are unmistakably Tinashe. The Stargate songs sound like Tinashe. The Mike WiLL song sounds like Tinashe. The Detail song sounds like Tinashe. Even the guitar solo on “Bet” is Tinashe, whose idea it was because she thinks they are “cool.” The only song that actually sounds like its producer is “2 On,” but even that sounds like unmistakably like Tinashe with the flirting and the winking and the charming that only the girl next door could bring to a DJ Mustard beat.

    My favorite thing written about the new Tinashe album was by Meaghan, who points out, “Aquarius is an anomaly in an age of major label standardization: a debut done unmistakably on Tinashe’s own terms.” This is the only correct framing. Any attempt to credit it to a team of dudes is a massive disservice, but I’m not surprised: old school music criticism is not particularly interested in the artistic vision and genius of black women. Just ask Beyoncé.

    still boggles me that women can *hire men for a specific purpose* and all of their agency in the public eye immediately slips to the man working *under* them


  2. Anonymous said: do you have any advice for a young person who wants to make writing her day job?


    Make writing your day job. Write at your best for as long as you can from morning until later, when it’s time to make a little more money. Waitress, bartend, strip, copy-edit, copywrite, anything you can do later in the day without using much of your brain, that’s what you should probably do for work. As for writing, do it for love over money, but always ask for money anyway; do it for experience before exposure, and not too much exposure at once. Write things that get you paid well and make your writing better and understand that both don’t tend to happen simultaneously. ((I still & will always write for free or like a dollar because I want the experience of doing something weird or challenging or remotely unconventional, or because I want to support a friend’s project, or because I want someone I admire or adore to edit it. I also edit things for friends gratis. I’m also doing this for free. Everything I do for The New Inquiry is entirely uncompensated. And, of course, Adult costs me money, and doesn’t make us anything yet.

    In sum: I do enough free labour to kill a drone. I do it partly because I have to (for myself), partly because I want to (for myself and for others), partly because I can. My ability to not have a regular job with a salary is contingent on my commanding high rates from bigger/richer magazines, doing commercial work or copywriting or consulting or whatever, occasionally taking an hour to write a rich kid’s college application, and using a credit card to fill in the gaps; also, on Jesse having a regular job with a salary and benefits, without which I couldn’t take the pills that keep me this stupidly productive.))

    A life sustained by only the kind of writing you actually, really want to do is a life within reach of >one per cent of all good writers in America. Don’t make a living your dream. Don’t be too precious; be stubborn and sensitive, but also, have a few skins. At first, say yes to everything. Say yes before you start saying no. Take risks, try it all on—voices, styles, structures—before ruling it out. Style is a set of rules, better bent/invented than inherited, better established over time. Don’t copy what is already acclaimed. If you’re stuck, read a diary, not an essay. Read all the time as widely as possible; read everything except gossip; read everything except advice to writers (I mean it—if you’ve already stopped reading this, I’m with you).

    Try to not think about how your writing makes you look. Try also to not look around. There are whole city blocks of well-bred, workmanlike, totally fine writers who’ve never written anything bad and who have, in consequence, chosen to be of very little, mattering mostly to people exactly like themselves, settling for widespread forgettability along with the guarantee of never being embarrassed. Be embarrassed. Be more afraid of doing wrong than being incorrect. Or, be more afraid of causing harm to others than of hurting your own reputation. Do not write about others until you know how to write about yourself, where to probe a limit, and when to stop.

    Say no when you’ve practiced, and when you realize that if you don’t act like you’re too good for the unideal, you never will be (is all advice just memoir in the second person).

    Read more than you write. Go outside just to listen to people. 

    Believe that one email from a teenage girl in Nebraska about something you’ve written is more important than two thousand dollars and a dozen tweets from New York City writers under 30. You can’t (I can’t) live on emails from teenage girls alone, but you can (I do) live for them.

    At the same time, you have to survive, and since survival is at odds with really living, you will sometimes feel like you spend all your time commuting between the two. I don’t know what to say about that. Seek out secret successes, I guess.

    Don’t care what I think.

    Keep going. x



  3. things to ask oneself before making the clever-seeming but asinine remark “This pop song took *X* people to write?!?!”


    Or: “How to Tell Whether This Writer Who Purports To Know All About the Corrupt Ways of the Pop Machine, Man, Actually Knows Nothing”

    1. Does the song have A SAMPLE? Everyone credited on the sample is usually credited again on the new song. It would be ethically questionable if they were not. For example, Ariana Grande’s “Break Your Heart Right Back" has ten credited writers. This is because it samples "Mo Money Mo Problems," which itself sampled "I’m Coming Out"; you get Biggie, Puffy, Ma$e and Stevie J from the former, and Chic’s Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers for the latter. The rest of the credits are Pop & Oak, who are a production duo, Kirby Dockery, who probably wrote the topline, and Childish Gambino — a thoroughly normal breakdown of duties for a pop song. This is the most common mistake I see — 90% of the time, when someone complains about how many writers are on a song, it’s because something was sampled — and it makes me want to punch things every time I read it.

    2. Does this song have A RAPPER? Ghostwriting allegations aside, they get a credit. Multiple rappers, obviously, get multiple credits. If you can’t recognize or at least wiki rappers’ legal names in the credits, such as the aforementioned Donald Glover (or, uh, Christopher Wallace), you probably shouldn’t be talking about them.

    3. Does the song, as is increasingly common in pop around the world, have SEVERAL STYLISTICALLY DISTINCT SECTIONS? They were likely written by different people. Funny how that works. Personally I’m not a huge fan of songs like this, but the question “why were there so many writers?” sort of answers itself.

    4. Do I have a reasonable idea of WHO DID WHAT? Generally, on a pop song, one or more people handle the lyrics/melody (the “topline”) and one or more people handle the track itself. There are some variations on the formula, but it’s more or less like this. The music industry being an industry, people tend to specialize. For example, Dr. Luke and Bonnie McKee often work together. Dr. Luke usually is not a lyricist (he thinks it’s “not fun”). McKee usually is a lyricist. What this means in practice is that if you’re complaining that a set of lyrics “took three people to write,” and two of the three people are Stargate (also not usually lyricists), you are blaming the wrong people. 

    More to be added, possibly.


  4. blockygraphics:

    AUTUMN.GIF, retrieved via Walnut Creek’s GIFs Galore CD via cd.textfiles.com. Artist credit appreciated; a signature appears in the bottom right corner.

    (via katherinestasaph)


  5. blankslate:

    rocks suffer time
    and become something else.

    when i spoke to you
    on the first day
    it was like water showing itself.

    and then you see me
    as a pixel in the street.

    i dreamed of the blue diamond
    at the top of cul-de-sac again
    rising to the height of the mountain
    we climbed one afternoon
    just because it existed.

    i double click your name.

    the rhythm of being alive
    in the time of dying
    makes waves against the voice
    in your head that says

    "sorrow was god’s first choice
    when naming you”.

    it’s still all wrong- i call myself
    woman and it doesn’t matter.

    i listen to the music of my laptop fan
    and it only reminds me
    that the end is always coming.

    i shut the window on it.
    i run my hands down the mirror.
    you close your eyes and picture
    the ocean’s fingers gluing sand together.


  6. lounge2014:

    Grouper - Clearing

    And maybe you were right 
    when you said I’d never been in love.
    How can I explain why it’s safer just to be alone?

    & what has been done can never be undone

    (Source: infinitycat, via wulyfclan)


  7. hey


  8. weaknesses include: pop songs that sound like they were discovered inside antique 19th century music boxes 


  9. fujoshifeminism:



    Read them all here, I felt like this should be remembered somewhere because it’s really good.

    (via missmerboy)


  10. brian-vu:

    Lost in Smoke

    (Source: brian-vu)