Editor: For this month’s Color Bloq Roundtable, we decided to have a text conversation to show how different forms of communication give us different results when it comes to discussions. I let the folks know that their responses would be anonymous, if only because stans and haters ruin any discussion on music. The following is a transcript of the conversation that happened over 5 days last week. Also, I’m giving them fake names because I can. And so, here we go...
CHIEF: Friends. Question. Y’all wanna do something anonymously? I need your brains.
FRANNIE: I conduct most of my “business” without first or last names. Sup?
CHIEF: Okay, Hookers At The Point, but we’re going less x-rated.
CHIEF: I want to do a roundtable piece for EFNIKS on women in music for July’s AUDIO edition.
FRANNIE: I’m glad to help.
SIMBA: Hiiiiiiii! I’m game. I don’t know how helpful I will be since Mariah hasn’t released a new album since 1902 but I’ll help!
CHIEF: LMAO. Okay. Alright. Let me sort my thoughts…
CHIEF: First question for the both of you: identify race/ethnicity, gender, preferred pronouns, sexuality
FRANNIE: Latino, male, he/his/him/himself, gay
SIMBA: Mixed gaysian / male / he / mixed gaysian
CHIEF: Is it a stereotype that gay men prefer women artists and performers? Or is it just that we allow ourselves to appreciate any gender and so it comes across this way?
FRANNIE: I wouldn’t call it a stereotype, per se. But I can understand how it is that we are drawn to that energy. If you find you aren’t “measuring up” to men and how they are portrayed in pop culture, you’ll find what you can resonate with and lookup to which might likely be the opposite i.e. women.
FRANNIE: Plus the dresses. The dresses!
SIMBA: I prefer women pop artists to men. My opinion is that they seem much more open, liberated and taboo when they’re in their element. Emotionally, sexually. It probably stems from some child-like deep rooted desire to express myself freely… or like, to do drag or something.
SIMBA: Also, what Frannie said.
CHIEF: Okay, so. 2017 has been very male dominated in music. Personally, I havent thought much of the music so far this year, Im not a big fan. So where are the women? Do you feel as connected to the music this year or nah?
SIMBA: She just (allegedly) gave birth to twins! Give her a minute!
FRANNIE: There have been releases here and there that have been able to entertain me, but I have found myself revisiting my ladies from the past more and more.
CHIEF: So what youre saying is, there’s Beyonce and then…? Is there room for anyone else as a woman artist in music? Pop? Some other genre?
FRANNIE: Yes, tons. As an avid Beyonce fan I actually barely listen to her music.
SIMBA: I think the music industry has opened up quite a bit and is no longer super exclusive. With outlets like YouTube, SoundCloud, etc...literally anyone can release music. Whether or not it will be successful commercially is tbd. In my opinion, since it is so open now, I think the level of talent has decreased. The age of the superstar might be over.
FRANNIE: My album is dropping next week.
SIMBA: Which is a problem.
FRANNIE: For Beyonce.
SIMBA: You’re right. That was rude. You can be Ashanti’s opening act.
FRANNIE: Who’s Ashanti?
SIMBA: Who can ever be sure…
CHIEF: Im actually on the floor laughing rn.
CHIEF: So, there are other avenues for music. Does this apply more or less to women of color? What about lesbian, trans, and queer artists and performers?
FRANNIE: I think it provides an outlet/opportunity for anyone who feels marginalized or they aren’t afforded the same opportunities; all end goals aren’t the same. If you are an artist that is out there looking to create and put your art out there for others to experience, you now have that resource available at a low cost that can be taken at your own pace.
SIMBA: Yeah I think it also makes it easier to reach your target audience. Especially for those whose audiences may be more specific.
CHIEF: That makes me think: Are we ready for an out and proud LGBTQ diva superstar or will hetero artists continue to gay bait (lesbian bait?) and use suggestive same-sex behavior as a prop?
CHIEF: Could a broader audience handle more than one?
SIMBA: Melissa Ethridge? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
SIMBA: I guess it would depend on what you think a superstar is. For me, a superstar is like, someone who is kinda untouchable, inaccessible, like the tooth fairy. Everyone is so damn thirsty now. And you can literally be famous for being thirsty and attention seeking without the musical talent to back it up.
FRANNIE: I second that, too.
FRANNIE: I think we are ready. But I also think that as long as same-sex imagery is still considered salacious or raunchy or taboo, it will still be used as a prop for attention. With as much as we might be assimilating into mainstream culture, what we do behind closed doors is still seen as rebellious.
SIMBA: So yeah… I think it’s far away. There have been some well-known lesbian musicians in the past but that’s when it was about music. Now it might be a requirement to flaunt and oversexualize to even get noticed for an LGBTQ artist.
SIMBA: I think it’s still niche. Especially for women of color.
CHIEF: Is that true just for women? Im thinking of Frank Ocean or Sam Smith as counterfactuals, examples of LGBTQ artists who dont use sex as a crutch. Is there a gendered expectation for women to be sex-filled, whereas men are now allowed to be care-free, sensitive, melancholy?
SIMBA: I totally think so.
SIMBA: I also totally would want to see Frank Ocean nekkid and Sam Smith do a bodyroll backbend deathdrop.
SIMBA: But also, Justin Bieber has that white girl lesbian haircut and he’s been real sensitive nowadays
SIMBA: I think women in general are oversexualized in the music industry. I know part of it is liberation but I also wonder how much of it is out of necessity in order to be commercially successful.
FRANNIE: A fair amount.
SIMBA: But could a queer/trans/lesbian woman of color give as much sex as say...Rihanna...and experience similar commercial success..?
SIMBA: I don’t know…
SIMBA: It might appear threatening.
FRANNIE: My deep deep inner optimist wants to think so.
SIMBA: Say “deep deep” again…
SIMBA: I don’t know. Even Sam Smith and Frank Ocean avoid pronouns for the most part
FRANNIE: Yeah. Whoever this super lesbian is would no doubt have to follow suit.
FRANNIE: C’mon, Queen Latifah.
SIMBA: There were like 645 Pussycat Dolls...one of them had to be a lesbian...that’s just like...science.
FRANNIE: I always thought it was Carmit.
FRANNIE: Michelle Williams would make a great lesbian icon. Lord knows she could use the story.
SIMBA: Bloop! I can’t.
CHIEF: I’m 2 Jack & Cokes in and I’ve got laughing tears right now.
FRANNIE: I’m stoned and watching a movie about superpigs!
SIMBA: I’m sober and just ate frozen chicken strips. We are all in our element.
CHIEF: Just all blissful and in the moment, very at peace.
CHIEF: Okay so we can’t have a discussion like this without asking the question:
CHIEF: Who is your preferred woman artist? Could be of now, could be of all time.
FRANNIE: So tough.
FRANNIE: For now: Tinashe, Syd, SZA, Emily King.
FRANNIE: All time: Beyonce, Sade, Anita Baker, Toni Braxton, Chris Cole.
CHIEF: Who’s that last one
SIMBA: Only the most womanist woman of all time
FRANNIE: All time also: Aaliyah
SIMBA: My all time is Mariah Carey, the only modern singer / songwriter who has penned an American standard.
SIMBA: She’s also the reason my weight fluctuates so frequently.
SIMBA: We’re on the same cycle.
FRANNIE: ALL TIME TRINAAAAAAA
FRANNIE: (don’t include Trina for me)
CHIEF: Walk me through this. These are kinda different choices, and that’s fine because most people have eclectic music tastes. In the last 20-30 years, walk me through the changes in what people looked for in their faves and maybe how the industry shaped that, or responded to it.
SIMBA: I think 20-30 years ago there was more of an idolization of those with musical skill and now it’s more about musical spectacle. Think about it like sports. People used to admire superstars like Michael Jackson, Whitney, etc the same way they admired Michael Jordan. They had a skill that seemed other-worldly. They could do something not many people could do. And they were celebrated for it. Nowadays, you have a bunch of musicians that lack that skill set and are celebrated for being a spectacle.
FRANNIE: I’d agree with Simba here.
SIMBA: That’s what I’m SAYING! Back then, they didn’t have Instagram and Snapchat and Grindr advertisements...those artists had to actually work on their craft. Like for real work. Before auto tune.
CHIEF: Who are the younger folks from today going to listen to in 20 years? Who will they look back on as all-time greats?
FRANNIE: Scary thought.
FRANNIE: If you want like, of color…
FRANNIE: Jennifer Hudson? Ugh.
FRANNIE: I’m glad I’m not actually tasked with that and actually have greats.
SIMBA: Oh gawd. I have no idea. I would say Beyonce still. The last in the age of the superstar.
FRANNIE: Oh yeah, I feel like she doesn’t count because I like her. Lol
FRANNIE: C’mon BARBARA!
FRANNIE: Swap Nicki for Celine.
SIMBA: Amen sistafren
FRANNIE: We haven’t even touched on groups yet.
FRANNIE: We should discuss this photo. I’m trying to watch their BET performance now.
SIMBA: There is some gnarly photoshop going on in that pic
FRANNIE: Bordering on character defamation.
FRANNIE: Phaedra must be responsible.
CHIEF: Defaming who, the viewer?
FRANNIE: I was offended.
CHIEF: Let’s talk groups, though. Can any era compete with the ‘90s?
FRANNIE: Absolutely not.
FRANNIE: I guess that wraps that up.
FRANNIE: PCD did kind of set a formula for girl groups going forward.
FRANNIE: White, Black, Latina, something from an island.
FRANNIE: Those are requisites now.
CHIEF: That sounds like tokenism.
FRANNIE: And the kids are eating it up.
SIMBA: Or maybe it’s capitalism at its finest...tryna get a little bit of everybody
CHIEF: Do the kids think this makes them not racist or problematic? There’s a whole school of thought on how Millennials think they’re “woke” and not problematic when it comes to race.
FRANNIE: I wanna make a funny quote from a “woke” white gay about their faves but I can’t name anyone in Fifth Harmony.
SIMBA: Omg me neither...I heard one of them left, so I watched their new video and was like… Nope, they’re all still there!
FRANNIE: The Latina never got high fives!
FRANNIE: Thanks, BuzzFeed.
SIMBA: Can I get more clarity around the woke question?
SIMBA: I didn’t quite understand it. I only speak drag race.
CHIEF: “I’m not racist, I voted Obama, and I like all races.” Then they proceed to only date white guys and call Black guys chocolate. So, are these 7-continent girl groups just a way for kids to affirm their “not racist” (but still kinda racist) attitudes?
SIMBA: Ooooh she goin deep gurl
CHIEF: Hahaha! You can also look at it differently: is “woke” now a cynical marketing tool to kids who grew up on Captain Planet and Power Rangers and those international teams?
FRANNIE: I think it is.
FRANNIE: Leiomy is Nike ads now, its all marketing.
SIMBA: Ooooh I dunno. I think maybe people started to feel excited about seeing more people pop up on the scene that started to look a little more like them but I don’t think they necessarily changed who they decided to date.
FRANNIE: Yeah, it’s clear one doesn’t inform the other.
SIMBA: Is it marketing? Or is it acceptance? Or is it both?
FRANNIE: Im having a hard time explaining this one. Not trying to be cute but I need to sip my tea first.
FRANNIE: Marketing plays a part. Acceptance plays a part (be it sincere or contrived).
CHIEF: Speaking of, I know this is a discussion on women in music from the gay perspective, but can we take a moment to reflect on Jay-Z’s lyrics in his new track “Smile”? Openly talking about being raised by a lesbian single mother and fully celebrating the “love is love” doctrine--acceptance, at the highest level of hip-hop.
FRANNIE: I have yet to hear or read into it. Will do!
SIMBA: I had no idea! Bey didn’t even mention it the last time we chatted.
CHIEF: The album’s only on Tidal for at least a week, so you’ll have to find commentary on social media.
SIMBA: TIDAL!? Ugh.
FRANNIE: Yeah, that’s gonna be a no from me, dawg.
FRANNIE: I didn’t even get one for Lemonade.
CHIEF: Put together a super-group for me. Not like “wow all on one stage!” but genuine honey for the ears.
FRANNIE: Let me marinate on that one.
FRANNIE: Missy will be in it, for sure.
CHIEF: If youre basically recreating the Ladies Night Remix I wont be mad but you will get docked for lacking originality.
FRANNIE: Legit I hate that song.
FRANNIE: It’s up there with This Is How We Do It.
CHIEF: Just tell me you hate Return of the Mack and end our friendship now, bih
FRANNIE: I love Return of the Mack.
CHIEF: Same. Good save.
FRANNIE: Okay, Missy, Erykah Badu… does it have to be all ladies of color?
CHIEF: It should be ladies of color. If Taylor Swift can have a whole ass career not deviating from the mean/median/mode of the day, we should try to make sure WoC get their proper supergroup due.
FRANNIE: Oh yeah, also love Kehlani.
SIMBA: My girl group: Indie.Arie for her lows. Brandy for the mids. And Shanice for the highs. STAHHHHP it NOW
FRANNIE: Mid rate R&B chicks from the late ‘90s - mid ‘00s. Teairra Mari, Nicole Scherzinger, Nelly Furtado, Dawn Richard, etc. It would be the best drag show ever.
CHIEF: I can barely handle you two.
CHIEF: Okay, any final words for the folks?
FRANNIE: I’m set.
SIMBA: Would you eat at a restaurant where the chef can’t cook? Stop supporting musicians who can’t music! Byeeeeeeeee
FRANNIE: Except for Cassie. She can stay.
SIMBA: *eye roll*
CHIEF: LMAO. Thanks for the time. Blocking you both now.