What started as a punny nickname for Da'Shan, transformed into a media writing legacy and a new brand building slowly but surely. 

"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. 

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.

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.

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.”

On Post Malone being a "rapper," and why genres still matter to music

Last week, music industry source HITS Daily Double interviewed Post Malone and discussed the upcoming Grammy season. Post seems like a guaranteed frontrunner considering his massively successful run with beerbongs & bentleys on streaming, radio, and the Billboard charts. However, genres are not meant to place artists in boxes. So it’s understandable when a genre debate does reach that point, where an artist can be frustrated. However, artists should be more proud of recognizing what forms their music take in relation to hip hop (and all its subgenres), rock (and all its subgenres), R&B, or pop—just to name a few.

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. There’s also the notion of Rihanna being one of the only female pop artists of excellence from the 2000s that still hasn’t graced the Pepsi-sponsored stage. And when #R9 is released, all of her respective navy members will most likely be championing her on a worldwide tour, if she so chooses to have one. So, the last thing on her mind is catering to the NFL’s bullshit for a brief 15-minute set.

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. And somehow, the trio’s classification as pop confused some, but also addressed a reality.

Beyoncé and JAY-Z's 'On The Run II Tour' stop in Vancouver was full of lessons

For the past 11 days, I embarked on my first journey through the west coast of the U.S. Since the Carters announced their "On The Run II Tour," I had the bright idea to see them outside of my home base of New York City. Recently, I developed a new hobby of attending concerts in different cities because I was somewhat tired of the same event humdrum the Big Apple had to offer. I thought Vancouver would be the perfect location to witness the royal American music couple, while simultaneously immersing myself in foreign culture. What originally had been an excuse to finally vacation in Canada expanded into a more grand musical journey.

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.

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.

Katy Perry Is the Main Course in Eerie New 'Bon Appetit' Video With Migos: Watch

On Friday (May 12), Katy Perry released a music video for her latest single "Bon Appétit," featuring Migos. The visual was directed by Dent De Cuir, a Paris and Montreal-based filmmaker collective specializing in art direction, design and visuals arts, as well as conceptual visual language. The imagery stays in line with Perry's exploration of her sexual liberation -- an NSFW sign being displayed in the beginning moments of the video. When she first appears, the singer lies on a bed...

Halsey Laments Old Love and Keeps Her 'Eyes Closed' in Latest Single

Halsey Laments Old Love and Keeps Her 'Eyes Closed' in Latest Single "If I keep my eyes closed, he feels just like you," sings Halsey on the hook of her new single "Eyes Closed". The song is expected to appear on her upcoming sophomore LP Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, the follow up to 2015's Badlands. The singer premiered the track on Apple Music Beats Radio 1 during an (Baz Luhrman accompanied) interview with Zane Lowe, Thursday, May 4.

Charli XCX Premieres 3 Songs From New Mixtape 'Number 1 Angel': Listen

Charli XCX surprised her Angels fans Tuesday (March 7) on Twitter with the announcement of her upcoming mixtape Number 1 Angel. The project is scheduled for release Friday. Following the tweets, the "Boom Clap" pop star premiered three Number 1 Angel tracks during a special interview with BBC Radio 1's MistaJam. The first of the three was "Pull Up" featuring Danish synthopop act, MØ. Keeping in line with both artists' signature sounds, "Pull Up" mixes post-No Doubt synth-pop with reggae fusion...

On the dreamlike production and songwriting of Pharrell, as exhibited in "R.E.M."

Prior to the release of Ariana Grande’s Sweetener on August 17, one of the album’s central tracks was already at the top of online discussions. It had slowly trickled out that Beyoncé had once recorded a version of Ari's “R.E.M.,” instead titling it “Wake Up,” for her self-titled surprise opus in 2013, originally intending for the album to be doo-wop centric. Holding her own candle to Queen Bey’s, Grande also executes her version with her own magical touch. Through this, Pharrell alchemised a case of a song being good no matter whose hands it ends up in, thanks to strong producing and songwriting.
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Album Reviews

Revisiting throwbacks and analyzing current releases. 

A reminder that Demi Lovato's 'Tell Me You Love Me' is a gem amongst R&B albums that heal

The day before, July 23, had been the seven-year anniversary of losing the vocal powerhouse Amy Winehouse. Unfortunately, I prematurely imagined a similar fate for Lovato, driving my pain for the 25-year-old talent even further. Being on age with Lovato, I essentially grew with her through TV screens and iPod minis, rather unapologetic about enjoying both her pop bops and matter-of-fact opinions. But I didn't convert into a true fan—one who would end up traveling to Newark back in April to see in concert—until she released Tell Me You Love Me last year.

Revisiting how Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' era set the pop industry standard

What had also become evident from Thriller, thanks to the executive-producing genius of Quincy Jones, is how each song managed to balance on a fine line of pop choruses and lyrical structuring with R&B-fueled instrumentation and sub-genres. In an internet-breaking interview with Vulture earlier this year, Jones mused about working with Michael Jackson, making some shocking accusations about the singer’s work ethic, but also mentioning something that could explain why Thriller stood out from the rest.

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...

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.