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"How can you be so hood but you so phuckin' pop?!" - Rihanna (2012)

Pop Hot Takes

News stories and analysis musing about the on-goings of pop music. 

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A comprehensive breakdown of the musicality in Tinashe's discography

Whenever someone finds out I'm an OG Tinashe fan, I'm always hit with the inquiry of "what went wrong," alongside a simultaneous rush of championing a cult legend-to-be in music. I can't necessairly answer that question, but what I can do is discuss the artistry in her musicality, hoping this guide will finally get the public into an artist I've been stanning since before the aftermath of "2 On."

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From DeFord Bailey to Ray Charles to Solange: The Long Lineage of Black Artists Making Country Music Pop

As a genre stemming from an alchemy of blues and folk, country music has a storied history in Black art spaces. Despite this presence often being erased, cast away, or discredited, from the 1920s to 2019, Black artists have been the one’s pioneering and preserving country music, and that impact can be seen through its traverse influence over art from across genres and generations.

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Ranking Rihanna's 15 most underappreciated music gems

But what about the singles, features, and deep cuts from Rihanna’s catalogue that haven’t received the roses they deserve? The songs that have either been snubbed from the public conscious, are panned by some Navy members themselves, or don’t enter the conversation as much as others. Here’s a ranking of 15 Rihanna songs from the recording entrepreneur that require a bit more attention from music listeners.

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Charting Black Excellence | Revisiting Toni Braxton's "countless bops" because Beyoncé said so

Usually when Beyoncé does a digital drop on any social platform, it’s like no other and you feel obligated to listen. On Halloween 2017, Bey took the internet by storm by recreating a few iconic and cult-favorite looks from Lil’ Kim. This past Halloween Eve, Instagram timelines were blessed by the singer dressing as one of her other idols: Toni Braxton. According to the artist who most hail as “Queen Bey,” Braxton is “one of our talented legends (who serves) countless bops.”

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Charting Black Excellence | Rihanna & the Super Bowl's declining power

For a while, Rihanna as the headliner of one of the world’s most annually viewed television performances seemed like a no brainer, especially considering the magnitude of her career in the past 13-14 years. Rihanna would have had one of the most unpredictable set lists based on the infinite number of global-spanning hits in her discography. However, her rumored decision to refuse performing at the 2019 Super Bowl Halftime Show is one of her greatest power moves to date.

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Charting Black Excellence | Why Migos’ AMAs win in a pop category makes sense

As awards season continues, the music industry is simultaneously recalculating what is considered “pop music.” It's a debate that’s persisted in recent years, extending beyond decades, since the conception of charts and radio programming. Migos’ victory on Tuesday, Oct. 9 at the American Music Awards highlighted just how far these conversations are going in award shows' nomination committees.

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How Rihanna's ‘Love On The Brain’ Became the Most Subtly Influential Pop Single of the Past Year

Analogous to one of Anti’s motifs of mixing the old with the new, “Love on the Brain” is practically a sonic paradox. It offers a timeless sensibility, as a traditionally pop-friendly ballad with contemporary cadences — its soft doo-wop sway and gently supportive backing vocals juxtapose nicely with Rihanna’s stunted, almost trap-like vocal approach and frank lyrical expletives. The song’s edgy R&B backbone suits urban radio listeners, while the retro factor and Rihanna’s star brand completes pop and adult contemporary needs.

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Charting Black Excellence | Cardi B's three No. 1's & her genuine love for female hip-hop

Exactly a year ago (Sept. 24), Cardi B's debut lead single "Bodak Yellow" reached No. 1 on the Hot 100. It had been 19 years since a woman earned that accomplishment by herself, without guests, standing on her own grounds. Now, Cardi B has three No. 1 singles thanks to Maroon 5's "Girls Like You." Through earning these accomplishments, here's how she paid homage to the women in rap that preceeded her reign.

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Charting Black Excellence | The significance of Normani and Khalid's "Love Lies" hitting No.1 on pop radio

Normani and Khalid’s presence in the top region reveals that pop radio, which considers itself the "Mainstream Top 40," has a ways to go when it comes to being fully representative. On the week of September 18, 2018, "Love Lies" became the first song on the pop radio charts with solely black artists to go No. 1 since Flo Rida in 2016. The first in the series of "Charting Black Excellence".

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Album Reviews

Revisiting throwbacks and analyzing current releases. 

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Katy Perry's 'Witness' Fails as 'Purposeful Pop,' But Succeeds as Future Pop

When Katy Perry described her yet-to-be-titled Witness as “purposeful pop” on the 2017 Grammys red carpet -- followed by a politicized live debut of its first single, “Chained To The Rhythm” -- she may have shot herself in the foot somewhat. Following the description, listeners expected her upcoming  set to be a politically charged record resisting the Trump administration: After all, Perry’s referring to herself as an “advocate” and “activist” -- who very publicly sang and stumped for Hillary Clinton...

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Nelly Furtado's 'The Ride' May Be the Most Slept-On Release of 2017: Critic's Take

Over the weekend at a karaoke bar in the southside of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a couple got up to sing Nelly Furtado and Timbaland's "Promiscuous." After they finished their sentimental moment, I turned to a friend and asked, "Did you know she just released an album at the end of last month?" "Wait... What? No way! What has Nelly Furtado been doing?" It wasn't the first time I received that type of reaction. In fact, it's been universal for the past few weeks since the pop star released her sixth studio album, The Ride.

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