Music

A Night at the Opera

Anne Branigin

When I saw that Turandot, the opera in which “Nessun Dorma” is featured, was playing at the Metropolitan Opera House, I knew I had found the perfect entry point into an art form that always felt a bit beyond my reach. I haven’t done a whole lot of fine-artsy things in New York City, and had resolved that I should do better with my time than sit in my apartment and scroll through Netflix. New York City is one of the places in the world where great opera is so accessible.

Racial Dynamics and Latin Music in the U.S.

Angelo Franco

Much like American Hip-Hop, reggaeton was first an “underground” genre that came from urban, predominantly black, working-class communities. In the Puerto Rican context, reggaeton’s emergence in the 1990s is tied to public housing developments that were part of anti-crime initiatives in the island. Dubbed Mano Dura contra el Crimen (Iron Fist against Crime), it was enacted in 1993 by then governor Pedro Roselló (the very same one who danced to the Macarena in his campaign rallies). 

Is Wyclef Jean Really ‘Unsung’?

Ericka Blount Danois

When the family moved to New Jersey, he started a hip-hop group, the Tranzlator Crew, in high school with Marcie Harriell (who left the group and later became a Broadway actress) and Lauryn Hill and Pras, which they later renamed the Fugees (short for “refugees”). His parents’ displeasure at his choice of music continued. Jean’s father insisted that he couldn’t serve two masters; it’s either God or the devil.

MC Lyte on Why Female Emcees Are Now MIA

Ronda Racha Penrice

Thirty years ago, “Take It Lyte” and the more popular “I Cram to Understand U” were how most hip-hop lovers were introduced to MC Lyte. By the time her album Lyte as a Rock dropped the next year, in 1988, there was no debating whether MC Lyte was a bona fide emcee. She was actually an elite one. A year later, she told no lies when she boasted, “I’m the dopest female that you’ve heard thus far,” on the classic “Cha Cha Cha” from her sophomore album, Eyes on This.

Reflecting on the Legacy of Prince

Aliya S. King

It is the shock of his sudden death from an accidental drug overdose at the age of 57 that has made the first year without the Purple One tough to handle. He left behind a messy estate and no will, and there are no clear-cut recognizable heirs. In all, it’s been a year of confusion about what his legacy will be and who will maintain it. And yet it’s also been a year of grieving and acceptance. His music reappeared, as does the music of most superstars in the wake of their deaths. 

Radiohead Didn’t Change the Music Industry, But at Least They Tried

Sandra Canosa

Few alternative rock bands from the 1990s should still honestly be described as “contemporary” artists, but at least Radiohead can be safely counted among them. Their May 2016 release and ninth studio album, A Moon Shaped Pool, once again showcased the band’s continuous refusal to become irrelevant, despite the usual statutes of popular culture regarding people over 40. The record explores new landscapes sonically, but its actual release proved, yet again, that the band knows how to take advantage of the Internet.

The Riddle of Kanye West

Dustin J. Seibert

It speaks volumes about Kanye’s pop culture imprint that he engenders more conversation these days about his behavior and the motives behind it than his actual product. Everyone, ranging from armchair therapists (read: all of social media) to people actually trained to know what they’re talking about, have conjectured that something hasn’t been kosher in Kanye’s noodle since his mother’s untimely death in 2007.

Censorship or Hate Crime?: Analyzing Rapper YG’s Controversial Song

Gloria Liao

Critics say the lines are in essence a how to manual for robbing Chinese and other Asian American homes and businesses. Protest organizers have already successfully gotten YouTube to remove the video. They have circulated a petition to ban the song from public media and have YG investigated by federal authorities. The petition has already garnered the necessary 100,000 signatures for it to go before the Obama administration. 

Did Bob Dylan Deserve the Nobel? Maybe, But He Wasn’t the First Musician

Hasan Zillur Rahim

The decision by the Swedish Academy to award Bob Dylan the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition" was lauded by many and lamented by a few. But there was universal acknowledgment that the Academy had broken new ground by awarding the Nobel “for the first time” to a singer-songwriter since the French poet and essayist Sully Prudhomme first won it in 1901.

The Singularity You Can Hear: Post-Internet Waves in Popular Music

Sandra Canosa

To say that the Internet changed the music industry would be an all too obvious understatement. From instant downloads and streaming technologies to self-made YouTube stars and the Twitterazi, there’s no aspect of the music biz today that’s been left untouched by the crawlers of the digital web. But in an age where we’re never more than a thumbswipe away from the expanse offerings of the Internet, where playing a new single on YouTube is more commonplace than listening to FM radio, it’s rare that we ever take a moment to stop and think about how the Internet has actually affected what music is, or even what it sounds like. 

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