Ashanti Tests Positive for COVID-19 Ahead of “Verzuz” with Keyshia Cole

By Terrance Turner

Dec. 12, 2020

Photo courtesy of Variety.

Singer Ashanti has tested positive for COVID-19. This forced her to bow out of a planned “Verzuz” with singer Keyshia Cole. Ashanti made the announcement tonight via Instagram, writing: “Hey y’all I can’t believe I’m saying this but I tested positive for COVID-19. I’m ok and not in any pain. I’m actually down to do the Verzuz from my house… we’re trying to figure it all out!!!”

 But Verzuz wasn’t down for that, writing: “Unfortunately, we have to postpone tonight’s @Ashanti vs @KeyshiaCole #VERZUZ. Ashanti tested positive for COVID-19 beforehand, and we cannot put anyone at risk in the process. First time this has struck us so close to showtime. We apologize to our incredible audience! Get well soon, Ashanti. Wear a mask, stay inside, and take COVID-19 seriously. It’s truly affecting our community.”

For the uninitiated: “Verzuz” is a music event in which two artists alternate playing versions of their greatest hits. Fans typically determine which singer “won” the battle via comments on social media. Past participants include singers Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight, Monica and Brandy, and Jill Scott and Erykah Badu. Rappers Jeezy and Gucci Mane also took part (albeit in tense and controversial fashion).

Ashanti scored a string of hits in the early 2000s, including several number one singles. In fact, the singer broke records by having three top ten songs (“Foolish,” “What’s Luv?” and “Always on Time”) on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the same week. She is the first female artist ever to do so.

In 2001, Ashanti was featured on rapper Ja Rule’s “Always on Time” and rapper Fat Joe’s single “What’s Luv?”. In February 2002, “Always on Time” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Ashanti’s first number one single. “What’s Luv?” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard chart in April. Just two weeks later, Ashanti’s single “Foolish” (which she co-wrote) hit No. 1 on the Hot 100. With that feat, Ashanti became the first female artist to occupy the top two spots on the Billboard singles chart.

That same week (April 19, 2002), Ashanti’s self-titled debut album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard albums chart. It sold over 503,000 copies in its first week of release. The album set a Soundscan record for the biggest opening week sales for a new female artist, according to Empire Online. Ashanti eventually sold six million copies worldwide, according to Jet magazine. It won Ashanti a Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Album.

The Verzuz battle has been rescheduled to Jan. 9, 2021.

Beyoncé Leads Grammy Nominations With Nine Nods

By Terrance Turner

Nov. 24, 2020

The nominations for the 2021 Grammy Awards were announced today, and Beyoncé leads the pack with nine nominations. Her song “Black Parade” has been nominated for four Grammys, including the prestigious prizes of Record of the Year and Song of the Year. The record is also nominated for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance. Those four nods make it the most nominated song at the Grammys this year. Also nominated for Record of the Year: “Savage”, her collaboration with rapper and fellow Houstonian Megan Thee Stallion. The record is also up for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance.

Beyoncé, who has won 24 Grammys, is now the most nominated female artist of all time. She has 79 nominations, according to USA Today. Significantly, her nominations this year come for music that reflects the growing awareness of Black culture, Black people, and specifically Black women.

“Black Parade” is a celebration of Blackness and Black people. “We got rhythm, we got pride/We birth kings; we birth tribes,” Beyoncé sings. “I can’t forget my history is herstory. We black, baby. That’s the reason why they always mad.”

The song’s lyrics address African culture, reparations, the COVID-19 pandemic, and police brutality (the latter two issues disproportionately impact Black people). “Ankh charm on gold chains, with my Oshun energy,” she sings, “or the Dashiki print”. (According to an analysis in Elle, ‘Ankh’ is a symbol deriving from Ancient Egypt, and ‘Oshun’ is the Nigerian Yoruba goddess of femininity, love, sensuality and fertility.) According to the website for Black-owned clothing line D’Iyanu, the dashiki originated in West Africa as a work shirt for African men; it dates back as far as the 12th-13th century. It came into fashion in the United States during the 1960s as a symbol of Afrocentrism and Black pride.

“Black Parade” was released on the historic Black holiday of Juneteenth, which originated in Beyoncé’s home state of Texas. The holiday celebrates the emancipation of slaves in 1865, as the Civil War was ending. The song arrives just hours after Beyoncé unveiled a new “Black Parade” initiative for black-owned businesses. The initiative, posted on beyonce.com/black-parade-route, features a dizzying array of Black-owned designers.

The categories encompass art and design, fashion and lifestyle, bars and restaurants. One featured restaurant, soul food café This Is It, is located in Beyonce’s hometown, in Houston’s Third Ward. The Lemond Kitchen, which caters gourmet Southern cuisine, is also based in Houston. (Its Heights location, on 612 Archer St, now offers home delivery and pickup!)

Happy Juneteenth,” Beyoncé wrote on her website. “Being Black is your activism.
Black excellence is a form of protest. Black joy is your right.” Also noted: “Black Parade” benefits her foundation BeyGOOD’s Black Business Impact Fund, administered by the National Urban League, to support Black-owned small businesses in need.

“Savage,” while more light-hearted, also has major import. A collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion, Bey’s verses perfectly match Meg’s cocky, tough-talking style. “Queen Bey, [don’t] want no smoke with me/Gone turn this motherf—er up 800 degrees,” Bey says. “My whole team eat, chef’s kiss, she’s a treat/ Ooh, she so bougie, bougie, bon appétit”.

Speaking of food, Beyoncé and Megan donated the proceeds from this song to Houston nonprofit Bread of Life. Rudy and Juanita Rasmus founded Bread of Life in December 1992, serving hot meals to homeless men and women inside St. John’s United Methodist Church. According to its website, Bread of Life began serving one hot meal weekly but eventually ended up serving 500 meals per day to the homeless in the sanctuary at St. John’s.

Located at 2019 Crawford St, the charity aims to end homelessness and improve quality of life for the needy. The project works with HIV/AIDS prevention, providing solutions to food insufficiency, housing the homeless, and disaster relief. More recently, Bread of Life also teamed up with Beyonce and her mother Tina Knowles Lawson to provide housing for 40,000 flood victims in Houston.

Black is King, directed by Beyoncé, is nominated for Best Music Film. The film, which premiered on Disney+ in July, tells the story of a young African prince, exiled from his homeland, who reclaims his throne. “‘Black Is King’ means Black is regal and rich in history in purpose and in lineage,” Beyonce told GMA. “”And my hope for this film is that it shifts the global perception of the word ‘Black,’ which has always meant inspiration and love and strength and beauty to me.”

Beyonce wears a crown braid in the video for “Brown Skin Girl”. Photo from efogator.com; featured image courtesy of Vulture.

That intention comes through loud and clear in the video for “Brown Skin Girl”, which is nominated for a Grammy for Best Music Video. The song is a celebration of dark-skinned women; the video is a touching tribute, featuring Beyoncé’s daughter Blue Ivy Carter, fellow bandmate Kelly Rowland, actress Lupita N’yongo, and British model Naomi Campbell. In the video, Beyoncé is shown wearing a variety of African-themed hairstyles. In the photo at left, Beyoncé wears a crown braid. The style was inspired by the eastern Congo’s Mangbetu people, according to Beyoncé’s hairstylist Neal Farinah. He wrote on Instagram that the style was created to accentuate elongation of the skull, which “represented royalty and was a status symbol”.

The importance — and beauty — of Black hair and Black skin loom large in both the video and the song. “I love everything about you from your nappy curls/To every single curve/Your body natural,” Beyoncé sings in “Brown Skin Girl”. She adds: “Same skin that was broken be the same skin takin’ over.”

“You’re beautiful,” Beyoncé sings. “Your skin is not only dark; it shines, and it tells your story.”

Ariana Grande Releases New Album “Positions” (UPDATED)

By Terrance Turner

Oct. 29, 2020

(Updated Dec. 20, 2020; Jan. 14, 2021)

Ariana Grande is engaged!

The singer uploaded photos on Instagram today that showed a diamond ring on her (heavily tattooed) hand. The photo gallery also features Grande’s boyfriend (now fiancé), real estate agent Dalton Gomez. Grande’s fans went into a tizzy on Twitter:

In a (somewhat) surprising late-night move in October, Grande released a new album, “Positions”. According to RapUp, the 14-track project includes the title track, plus appearances from rappers Ty Dolla $ign (“Safety Net”) and Doja Cat on “Motive.” Grande also reunites with her “Love Me Harder” collaborator, singer ‘The Weeknd’, on “Off the Table.” That track features Grande questioning whether to explore a new relationship after a major loss.

The lyrics are almost certainly a reference to her late ex, rapper Mac Miller. He died suddenly from an accidental overdose in 2018, at 26. Grande ended her rapid-fire engagement to actor Pete Davidson within weeks of Miller’s tragic death. Now, she wonders if finding love again is “off the table”. “Will I ever love the same way again? Will I ever love somebody like the way I did you? Never thought you’d be so damn hard to replace,” she muses. “Might not be quite yet healed or ready/shouldn’t be going too steady,” she sings.

But she’s definitely ready to spend some time in bed. “Can you stay up all night?/F–k me ’till the daylight,” she sings on the suggestively titled “34+35”. “I know all of your favorite spots/We can take it from the top,” she sings. “You’re such a dream come true/Make a b—h wanna hit snooze.”

UPDATE: On Jan. 14, 2021, Grande upped the ante with an ultra-raunchy remix, featuring rappers Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion. “Can we stay up all night, f–k a jet lag/You bring your fine ass and overnight bag,” Doja Cat raps on her verse. “Rock you like a baby/But you know I’m ’bout to keep you up,” Megan Thee Stallion raps. “Bad, bad b—h/All the boys wanna spank me/Left him on read, girlfriend need to thank me/Make his toes point, ballerina, no tutu/Baby, I’m the best/I don’t know what the rest do.”

Later in the album, Grande takes things even further on “Nasty”: “Promise I’mma give it to you like you never had it / I do it so good it’s gonna be hard to break the habit / You’re like a whole constellation / Swimming like you’re on vacation.”

On the title track, Grande sings about a heavenly love that has her playing different roles at once. “Heaven sent you to me/I’m just hoping I don’t repeat history,” she sings. “Boy, I’m tryna meet your mama on a Sunday/Then make a lotta love on a Monday.” On the chorus, Grande demonstrates the title’s metaphor a little more directly: “Switching the positions for you/Cooking in the kitchen and I’m in the bedroom/I’m in the Olympics way; I’m jumpin’ through hoops/And my love infinite, nothing I wouldn’t do/That I won’t do/Switchin’ for you.” The lyrics likely reference Grande’s current beau, Dalton Gomez.

The new album is available for streaming on Tidal, Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Tidal, and YouTube Music, among other platforms. (Positions, her sixth studio album, debuted at Number One on the Rolling Stone Top 200 Albums chart.)  You can stream the album at https://arianagrande.lnk.to/positions. You can listen to the album’s title track (and see Grande as Madame President, with an all-female White House staff) below.

Cardi B Files for Divorce from Offset, Then Reconciles With Him

By Terrance Turner

Sept. 16, 2020 (updated Nov. 24)

Rapper Cardi B has filed for divorce.

Cardi (born Belcalis Almanzar) filed papers today in Fulton County Court to dissolve her three-year marriage to Offset (born Kiari Kembrell Cephus), per People magazine. People reported that the filing came after yet another incident of infidelity by Offset. USA Today adds that Cardi is seeking full custody of the couple’s two-hear old daughter Kulture. She is also asking Offset to pay both legal fees and child support.

A court date is set for Nov. 4. According to People, Cardi’s divorce filing says the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and that “there are no prospects of a reconciliation”. The pair have reconciled before — just last year, in fact — but this latest break appears permanent. The sudden breakup caps a dramatic roller-coaster ride of a relationship.

Things started with a bang: Cardi and Offset’s first date was at the Super Bowl (in Houston!) on Feb. 6, 2017. At that game, the Patriots ended up defeating the Atlanta Falcons in rather memorable fashion (Offset is from Atlanta). Offset later said that making the Super Bowl their first date was a “power move”.

It appears to have worked. The two enjoyed a whirlwind six-month romance before secretly marrying on Sept. 20, 2017. It was far from a traditional ceremony: the wedding took place in a bedroom. Cardi later revealed: “I said I do, with no dress, no makeup, and no ring!”

She got the ring. A month later, on Oct. 27, Offset got down on one knee and proposed during a Power 99 concert in Philadelphia. (with an engagement ring that cost $500,000, according to Elite Daily.) Cardi happily accepted. “I can’t wait to spend FOREVAAA with you,” Cardi wrote on social media. “I loveee you so much […] Thank you for seeing the potential in me,” she wrote on Instagram.

But by December, it became clear that trouble was already brewing. That month, Offset became embroiled in a cheating scandal. Newsweek reported that “video surfaced online of him engaging in a sex act with another woman.” The publication added that although the record date of the video was unclear, “it was reportedly recorded while Cardi and Offset were technically together.” Cardi referenced the fracas onstage at a show, fittingly quoting Beyoncé’s “Lemonade”. Cardi told the crowd: “I let him know though. You try this s–t again, you gon’ lose your wife.” Nevertheless, they remained together.

In April 2018, Cardi confirmed that she was pregnant. It wasn’t until June, however, that the public learned she and Offset were already married. By that point, Cardi was almost ready to deliver; she gave birth to daughter Kulture on July 10, 2018. Nine days later, she tweeted that Kulture was melting her heart:

But by August, more trouble had begun. That month, Cardi was involved in an altercation at Angels Strip Club in Flushing, New York on August 29. She reportedly ordered an attack on two bartenders there, believing one of them had an affair with Offset. A police spokesman told CNN that Cardi B was “throwing chairs, bottles and hookahs [smoking pipes] in the club at 3 a.m.” In October, Cardi turned herself in to the authorities. She was arrested, fingerprinted, and charged with two counts of reckless endangerment and one count of assault, per People. No verdict has been issued yet as of press time.

In December 2018, Cardi shocked fans with a video announcement. “I’ve been trying to work things out with my baby father for a hot minute now, and we’re really good friends — and, you know, we’re really good business partners, [and] we got a lot of love for each other, but…things just haven’t been working out between us for a long time,” she said in an Instagram video. “It’s nobody fault — and I guess we just grew out of love — but we’re not together anymore. I don’t know; it might take time to get a divorce, [but] I’m always gonna have a lot of love for him, because he is my daughter’s father,” she said.

Offset begged Cardi to take him back. In December, he apologized (via Instagram, of course): “I want to apologize to you Cardi. I embarrassed you. I made you go crazy, doing things I ain’t have no business,” he said. “I was partaking in activity that I shouldn’t have been partaking in, and I apologize […] For breaking your heart, for breaking our promise, for breaking God’s promise and being a selfish, messed-up husband.”

He even showed up during her set at the Rolling Loud music festival that month. Offset crashed his wife’s performance onstage, bringing her an elaborate flower arrangement and signs that said “TAKE ME BACK CARDI”. Cardi shook her head no and confronted him off-mic before having the display removed. She told Harper’s Bazaar that Offset asked her to see a marriage counselor; she refused. “I didn’t want to go to marriage counseling. He suggested it, but it’s like, ‘I don’t want to go.’ There’s no counselor or nothing that could make me change my mind.”

By the beginning of the year, however, things had begun to improve. In early 2019, Cardi told an Entertainment Tonight reporter, “We’re working it out…taking it slow.” On Feb. 10, Offset accompanied Cardi on the red carpet at the Grammys. In fact, Cardi even brought him onstage with her after her surprise win for Best Rap Album. (She is the first solo female rapper to win that award, per Elle.) Shocked and emotional, Cardi thanked both her husband and daughter during her acceptance speech.

Cardi later opened up to Vogue about her decision to stay. “Everybody has issues,” Cardi said. “I believe in forgiveness. I prayed on it. Me and my husband, we prayed on it. We had priests come to us. And we just came to an understanding like: Bro, it’s really us against the world. He has my back for everything, I have his back for everything, so when you cheat, you’re betraying the person that has your back the most,” she continued. “Why would you do that? We have come to a clear understanding. For me, monogamy is the only way. I’ll beat your ass if you cheat on me.”

In the September issue of Elle — evidently conducted before the divorce filing — Cardi said:  “I do know that my relationship has a lot of drama and everything. But there’s a lot of love there’s a lot of passion, there’s a lot of trust, there’s a big friendship. It’s always us against the world.” She also revealed that she will address the relationship on her upcoming sophomore album.

UPDATE (Nov. 24): The divorce is off.

In an Instagram Live last month, Cardi addressed reports that the two were back together. “It’s hard not to talk to your best friend,” Cardi said. “It’s really hard not to talk to your best friend. And it’s really hard to have no d–k,” she told viewers.

Just days earlier, Cardi was photographed kissing Offset at her birthday celebration in Las Vegas. On Nov. 2, Offset’s attorney confirmed the reconciliation in a statement to Billboard. “I can confirm that the divorce filed by Cardi B has been dismissed. My firm and I have always been an advocate for helping fathers protect what’s most important to them — their families and their children,” said Atlanta attorney Onyema Anene Farrey, of Anene Farrey & Associates, LLC. “That was no different here. We remain in Offset’s corner and in support of him and his future. He thanks his fans for their continued love and support.”

In Bombshell Interview, Mariah Carey Reveals Inspiration Behind Two Classic Songs

Baseball player Derek Jeter with singer Mariah Carey at rapper Puff Daddy's birthday gala at Cipriani Rest, in New York in 1998. (Credit Image: © John Barrett/Globe Photos)

By Terrance Turner

Sept. 3, 2020

“It wasn’t raining yet
But it was definitely a little misty on a warm November night
And my heart was pounding
My inner voice resounding
Begging me to turn away
But I just had to see your face
To feel alive…

My apprehension blew away/I only wanted you…
To taste my sadness as you kissed me in the dark.
Every time I feel the need
I envision you caressing me
And go back in time
To relive the splendor of you and I
On the rooftop that rainy night.”

“The Roof” (1997), feat. Mobb Deep

With this vivid, evocative prose, singer Mariah Carey recalls a memorable night on the roof, in the rain. She wrote the lyrics to “The Roof” — a dreamy, romantic love song with a hard hip-hop edge — for her 1997 album Butterfly. The album represented a liberation of sorts for Carey; it was released the same year she split from Tommy Mottola, former CEO of Sony Music. (Sony is the parent company of Columbia Records, to which Mariah was signed until 1998.)

In a jaw-dropping interview with Vulture this week, Carey reveals that she wrote the song about Yankees baseball legend Derek Jeter.

According to Vulture, Jeter and Carey “met at a dinner party and started text-flirting, secretly, while she was at the end of her marriage to Mottola”. Jeter and Carey shared “a clandestine kiss” on the roof of his apartment building, writes Vulture reporter Allison P. Davis. “There was Moet. She wore a buttery leather Chanel skirt. She remembers her boots and the rain and her hair curling in stunning detail.”

“Of course I do!” Carey told Davis. “I could never forget that moment.” Carey went on to say that “it was a great moment, and it happened in a divine way because it helped me get past living there, in Sing Sing, under those rules and regulations.”

Carey is referring to the $20 million compound that she shared with Mottola. She called it “Sing Sing” — a reference to the famous maximum-security prison in upstate New York. “It was fully staffed with armed guards, security cameras were installed in most rooms, and Tommy was in control,” she writes in her memoir.

Mariah and Mottola married in 1993, when he was 43 and she was 23. But the marriage soon went south; Carey reportedly felt trapped in it. “He’s controlling,” a friend of Carey’s told People around the time of the breakup. That matches what Carey herself has said over the years. “It was very controlled,” Carey told Cosmopolitan in 2019. “There was no freedom for me as a human being. It was almost like being a prisoner.”

Carey and Mottola at the CFDA Awards in 1995. Photo from MariahJournal.com

She elaborates further in excerpts quoted in her book, The Meaning of Mariah Carey: “Every move I made, everywhere I went, I was monitored—minute by minute, day after day, year after year,” she writes. “I was living my dream, but couldn’t leave my house.”

The situation epitomized Mottola’s control over Carey, which soon became evident to those in the media. A 1996 profile of Mottola in Vanity Fair by writer Robert Sam Anson says: “Mariah’s career was soaring, and Tommy was guiding it every step of the way. He approved her material, oversaw her arrangements, checked her promotion, and, to no one’s surprise, made sure her attorney was Allen Grubman, who, in addition to handling a goodly chunk of Sony’s legal chores, now represented a third of its talent roster and the bulk of its key executives. ‘Allen Grubman is my best friend in the world,’ Tommy says in response to questions about conflicts. ‘End of subject. Over and out’.”

“Mariah, friends say, is a very young 26-year-old. They also portray her as increasingly antsy about her husband’s wardening (‘Always being up my ass,’ a former staff member quotes Mariah as saying), which includes the employment of two bodyguards, whose duties extend to accompanying her to the bathroom door, and the placing on Sony’s payroll of a constant shepherdess, the wife of Epic Pres. Dave Glew.”

Anson continues: “For all of Tommy’s precautions, though, there have been slips: a Concorde flight during which Mariah poured out her problems to Diana Ross; an unwelcome friendship with an old high school boyfriend (‘Tear his eyes out,’ an aide recalls Tommy saying after he saw his wife being ogled, but Tommy says, ‘No, I never said anything like that’) and the most public incident, a noisy quarrel in a Beverly Hills hotel lobby after [the 1996] Grammy Awards.” (Carey had been nominated for a handful of awards, but went home without a single trophy.)

The Vulture profile mentions security cameras in the compound that watched her every move. In the book, she details that surveillance. The Daily Beast notes that Carey describes having to sneak downstairs “for a snack, or to sit at the table and write down some lyrics. But every time, right as I would start to settle into the calm of the quiet dark and begin to find my breath—Beep! Beep! The intercom would go off. I’d jump up, and the words ‘Whatcha doin’?’ would crackle through the speaker.”

Davis also notes that, when they started discussing Mottola during a Zoom call, Carey began to cry. Those tears were a long time coming. In 2008, Carey told Parade magazine: “On my new album [E = MC2], the song “Side Effects” says, ‘Kept my tears inside, ’cause I knew if I started I’d keep crying for the rest of my life.’ It’s really true. At that point in my life, I didn’t cry because I had to be so emotionally cut off to deal with it.”

Sure enough, the lyrics reveal a fraught emotional state that continues to haunt Carey: “Wakin’ up scared some nights still thinkin’ ’bout them violent times/Still a little protective of the people that I let inside/Still a little defensive, thinkin’ folk be tryna run my life/Still a little depressed inside, but I fake a smile/And deal with the side effects.”

Mottola issued a diplomatic statement as Carey’s book neared publication. In it, he wished his ex-wife and her family “the very best”. In his 2013 memoir, Mottola apologized for “any discomfort or pain” he had caused Carey: “If it seemed like I was controlling, I apologize. Was I obsessive? Yes. But that was also part of the reason for her success.” Carey, too, acknowledged to Parade: “I do believe that I learned a lot from him and that he really did believe in my talent and I am very grateful for that.”

By 1996, however, it was clear that the marriage was crumbling. “In the beginning,” Carey writes, “I was walking on eggshells. Then it became a bed of nails, and then a minefield. I never knew when or what would make him blow, and the anxiety was relentless.”

She details a chilling moment towards the end of the marriage: “Tommy walked over and picked up the butter knife from the place setting in front of me. He pressed the flat side of it against my right cheek. Every muscle in my face clenched. My entire body locked in place; my lungs stiffened. Tommy held the knife there. His boys watched and didn’t say a word. After what seemed like forever, he slowly dragged the thin, cool strip of metal down my burning face.” 

Into this nightmarish situation stepped Derek Jeter.

The two met at the aforementioned dinner party, and sparks began to fly — inspiring one of Carey’s most memorable singles. “It was a little misty on a warm November night”, she writes on “The Roof”. The accompanying album, Butterfly, was released in Sept. 1997. That would place her clandestine meeting with Jeter ostensibly at Nov. 1996 — just after his star-making rookie season with the Yankees.

Jeter spent his entire 20-year career with the New York Yankees. He is the Yankees’ all-time leader in hits, singles, stolen bases, and games played, according to New Jersey newspaper The Record. He won five World Series championships with the Yankees, including one during his rookie season in Oct. 1996 and three consecutive championships from 1998-2000. (The Yankees won again in 2009.)

When he wasn’t playing shortstop and hitting home runs, Jeter was quietly seeing Carey. In December 1997, he showed up on the set of a video that Mariah was shooting — a clue that a romance was already brewing. And “The Roof” wasn’t the only Mariah Carey song inspired by Derek Jeter. In the Vulture profile, Carey revealed that she also wrote “My All” with Jeter in mind. The lyrics outline intense but conflicting feelings:  “I am thinking of you / In my sleepless solitude tonight / If it’s wrong to love you / Then my heart just won’t let me be right / ‘Cause I’ve drowned in you / And I won’t pull through / Without you by my side.”

The song was written after a trip the two took to Puerto Rico — which may explain the Spanish guitar and Latin percussion. In an interview with Fred Bronson, Carey explained: “I had gone to Puerto Rico and was influenced by Latin music at that moment. When I came back, the melody was in my head. It was at a melancholy point in my life and the song reflects the yearning that was going on inside of me.” Released in April 1998, “My All” became Mariah’s 13th #1 single.

By then, the romance was public — and in full swing. According to ESPN, Mariah joined Jeter in Florida for his team’s spring training in March 1998. The Yankees began the season 1-4. Tongues began wagging in the sports world, and some blamed Mariah for Jeter’s hitting slump. But the Yankees won 25 of their next 28 games, according to Yankees Magazine. Jeter would eventually earn his first All-Star honor and his second World Series ring. By June, however, he and Carey had fizzled out. Constant media attention was cited as a reason for the breakup.

Still, Carey spoke warmly of Jeter for years afterward. “I think he’s a great guy,” she told Larry King in 2002. “And I really, really love his family. They taught me something special,” she said. “I never saw an interracial family that had stuck together and stuck it out that way. I learned a nice lesson from them.”

Like Mariah Carey, Derek Jeter is biracial. Both grew up encountering racism. Jeter has spoken about being pulled over while driving down the street and being accused of stealing things from stores. Carey’s mother Patricia was disowned by her family for marrying Mariah’s father, Alfred Roy Carey. Carey writes in her book about being invited to a friend’s house in the Hamptons only to be called the N-word. (Comedian Sandra Bernhard reopened those wounds after Butterfly‘s single “Honey” was released, saying during her standup that Carey ‘was acting real ‘niggerish’ up there at the Royalton Hotel suite with Puff Daddy and all the greasy, chain-wearing Black men.’)

Carey speaks explicitly about growing up biracial in the Vulture interview and in her new book, The Meaning of Mariah Carey. The memoir, published by Andy Cohen Books, was released Sept. 29. In the meantime, enjoy one of the songs inspired by Jeter — with a remix featuring rap group Mobb Deep. “The Roof” is embedded below.

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Beyoncé Releases New Single “Black Parade” (UPDATED)

Image

By Terrance Turner

June 19, 2020 (updated Nov. 24)

Beyonce has released new music.

THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

Beyoncé surprised fans with a late-night release of her new single “Black Parade”. The song (a Tidal exclusive) is a celebration of Blackness and Black people. “We got rhythm, we got pride/We birth kings; we birth tribes,” Beyoncé sings. “I can’t forget my history is herstory. We black, baby. That’s the reason why they always mad.”

The song’s lyrics address African culture, reparations, the COVID-19 pandemic, and police brutality (the latter two issues disproportionately impact Black people). “Ankh charm on gold chains, with my Oshun energy,” she sings, “or the Dashiki print”. (According to an analysis in Elle, ‘Ankh’ is a symbol deriving from Ancient Egypt, and ‘Oshun’ is the Nigerian Yoruba goddess of femininity, love, sensuality and fertility.) According to the website for Black-owned clothing line D’Iyanu, the dashiki originated in West Africa and dates back as far as the 12th-13th century. It came into fashion in the United States during the 1960s as a symbol of Afrocentrism and Black pride.

“Need another march, lemme call Tamika (Woo). Need peace and reparation for my people,” Beyoncé continues. “Tamika” is likely a reference to Tamika Mallory, a Black female activist who helped organize the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. (She also served as co-president of the 2019 Women’s March, according to the New York Times.) Reparations for slavery have been a long-held but never-fulfilled request from many Black activists. The idea gained national traction this year amid mentions by Democratic candidates Elizabeth Warren and Tom Steyer, who explained his position in a Yahoo! News interview in January.

“Black Parade” was released on the historic Black holiday of Juneteenth, which originated in Beyoncé’s home state of Texas. The holiday celebrates the emancipation of slaves in 1865, as the Civil War was ending. The song arrives just hours after Beyoncé unveiled a new “Black Parade” initiative for black-owned businesses.

Happy Juneteenth,” Beyonce writes in a message on her website. “Being Black is your activism.
Black excellence is a form of protest. Black joy is your right.” The message then informs the viewer that “Black Parade” benefits her foundation BeyGOOD’s Black Business Impact Fund, administered by the National Urban League, to support Black-owned small businesses in need. The next thing we see is a dizzying, dazzling directory of Black-owned businesses.

The categories encompass art and design, fashion and lifestyle, bars and restaurants. One featured restaurant, soul food café This Is It, is located in Beyonce’s hometown, in Houston’s Third Ward. The Lemond Kitchen, which caters gourmet Southern cuisine, is also based in Houston. (Its Heights location, on 612 Archer St, now offers home delivery and pickup!)

The products include everything from candles to cayenne to colored glass; the businesses have a wide stylistic range. The Lit Bar, in Brooklyn, is an independent bookstore/wine bar; another Brooklyn business listed is Dorsey’s Art Gallery (est. 1970). In L.A., Little Kingston’s serves authentic Jamaican cuisine; in Maryland, the Spice Suite offers balsamic vinegar, garlic olive oil, white pear, pure maple syrup, Jamaican jerk rub, and other delicacies.

In Minneapolis, Metro Behavioral Health offers group/individual therapy, crisis intervention, and psychiatric support. Areas of clinical expertise include anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, and substance abuse, among other issues. Two of the doctors are bilingual, speaking in both English and Somali; one of them, Dr. Ahmed Karie, has worked with children from Laos, Somalia, Liberia, Eretria, Oromo, Ethiopia, Kenya. Another is fluent in both English and Vietnamese.

All of these businesses have their names and cover photos displayed in the directory. The “Black Parade” directory accompanies the single. The song is Beyonce’s first song since her appearance on the remix of “Savage”, with Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion. The song hit #1 on the Billboard charts last month, and Beyonce and Megan are donating the proceeds from this song to Houston nonprofit Bread of Life. Located at 2019 Crawford St, the charity aims to end homelessness and improve the quality of life for the needy. Rudy and Juanita Rasmus founded Bread of Life in December 1992, with the serving of hot meals to homeless men and women inside St. John’s United Methodist Church.

According to its website, Bread of Life began serving one hot meal weekly that eventually led to serving 500 meals per day to the homeless in the sanctuary at St. John’s. Years later, the Bread of Life works with HIV/AIDS prevention, providing solutions to food insufficiency, housing the homeless, and disaster relief.

UPDATE: “Black Parade” has been nominated for four Grammy Awards, including the prestigious prizes of Record of the Year and Song of the Year. The record is also nominated for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance. Those four nominations make it the most nominated song at the Grammys, and Beyoncé leads all the artists with nine nominations.

Beyonce Joins Megan Thee Stallion for “Savage” Remix (UPDATED)

Photo courtesy of Instagram.

By Terrance Turner

April 30, 2020 (Updated Nov. 24)

Today, social media is buzzing about Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion’s remix to her song “Savage”. She is joined by singer, rapper, icon, and fellow Houstonian Beyoncé. According to genius.com, the two met at a New Year’s Eve party in December. They are among nine writers on the track — Beyoncé’s husband Jay-Z has a writing credit.

Beyonce opens the song with layered harmonies: “My whole team eat, chef’s kiss, she’s a treat/ Ooh, she so bougie, bougie, bon appétit,” she sings. Megan contributes an entirely new verse to the song, which epitomizes her raunchy, confident style. “I’m a savage (Yeah), attitude nasty (Yeah)/Talk big s–t, but my bank account matchin’/Hood, but I’m classy, rich, but I’m ratchet/Haters kept my name in they mouth, now they gaggin’.”

Queen Bey hops on the track next to deliver some lascivious bars of her own. She name-checks TikTok (a Chinese-based video app), OnlyFans ( a subscription site featuring homemade adult videos) and DemonTime (a stripper performance series on IG Live). She shouts out her Texas roots, her mother Tina Knowles Lawson, and her clothing line Ivy Park in a blistering second verse:

IVY PARK on my frame (Frame), gang, gang, gang, GANG!
If you don’t jump to put jeans on, baby, you don’t feel my pain
Please don’t get me hyped (I’m hyped), write my name in ice
Can’t argue with these lazy b–ches, I just raised my price
I’m a boss, I’m a leader, I pull up in my two-seater
And my mama was a savage, n—a, I got this s–t from Tina

From “Savage (Remix),” Beyonce and Megan Thee Stallion

Twitter exploded with chatter about Beyonce’s rapping, propelling her to #1 on Twitter’s trending topics earlier this afternoon. (She’s still trending, by the way.)

https://twitter.com/Beyfan891/status/1255590518869852166

The song has provided some welcome excitement to those stuck inside the house due to COVID-19. Best of all, Beyonce and Megan are donating the proceeds from this song to Houston nonprofit Bread of Life. Located at 2019 Crawford St, the charity aims to end homelessness and improve the quality of life for the needy. Rudy and Juanita Rasmus founded Bread of Life in December 1992, with the serving of hot meals to homeless men and women inside St. John’s United Methodist Church.

According to its website, Bread of Life began serving one hot meal weekly that eventually led to serving 500 meals per day to the homeless in the sanctuary at St. John’s. Years later, the Bread of Life has “changed the landscape of Downtown Houston and provides an array of services to families in peril and homeless individuals.” The project works with HIV/AIDS prevention, providing solutions to food insufficiency, housing the homeless, and disaster relief. More recently, Bread of Life also teamed up with Beyonce and Lawson to provide housing for 40,000 flood victims in Houston.

The song is now available on Tidal.

UPDATE (Nov. 24): “Savage” has been nominated for Record of the Year at the 2021 Grammy Awards. The song is also nominated for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance. Megan Thee Stallion is nominated for Best New Artist, and Beyoncé leads all artists with nine nominations. Megan’s album “Good News” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts, selling 100,500 units this week.

With “Never Worn White”, Katy Perry Reveals Life-Changing News

By Terrance Turner

Katy Perry just released a new single — and revealed some big news.

In case it wasn’t obvious what “Never Worn White” is about, the lyrics make it clear: “You asked the question/I said yes, but I’m scared/’Cause I’ve never worn white/But I wanna get it right/Yeah, I really wanna try…with you,” Perry sings. “I’ve never worn white/But I’m standing here tonight/’Cause I really wanna say…I do.” (That may have to wait. Perry’s wedding to actor Orlando Bloom, set to take place in Japan this summer, have been delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.)

Perry wrote the piano ballad with Johan Carlsson, John Ryan, and Jacob Kasher Hindlin, according to Variety. The song alone is worth noting: Perry delivers one of her strongest, most emotive vocals, and the lyrics perfectly convey her conflicting feelings about marriage. But the aforementioned “big reveal” is within the music video. It shows Perry covered (strategically) by a massive bouquet of flowers and wearing a (beautiful) off-white gown. But at the end of the video, Perry uncovers a major surprise.

Katy Perry in her video “Never Worn White”. (YouTube)

Perry is expecting her first child with actor Orlando Bloom. Perry says she’s due in the summer.

She chose to reveal the news via video. “You know, this song is not the lead single off of my next record. But honestly, I was getting way too fat to hide it, so I was like, ‘Well, I think this song would be a great reveal! Let’s start there,” she told SiriusXM radio host Mike Piff. “And that’s how I communicate things. I communicate through music.”

As “Lion King” Premieres, Beyonce’s “Spirit” Soars

Featured
Photo courtesy of Tom & Lorenzo.

By Terrance Turner

July 17, 2019

Last night, ABC aired its prime-time special on “The Lion King”, the live-action retelling of the classic 1994 animated film. The special featured intriguing details about the making of the original film and its adaptation to the stage. ABC also included interviews with the voices behind the current version: Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Alfre Woodard, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, among others. But the most memorable voice was that of the film’s Nala: Beyonce Knowles-Carter.

The special premiered the official music video for “Spirit”, the first single off the Lion King: The Gift, an album of original music inspired by the film. (Spin magazine writer Tosten Burns points out that this album is separate from the actual Lion King soundtrack, which came out last week.) In an exclusive interview that aired during the special, Beyonce called the album “a love letter to Africa”.

“Spirit” begins with two men chanting “Long live the king” in Swahili. Beyonce gently delivers the song’s opening verse, which escalates to a stirring chorus. Her sultry voice is joined by a choir, and the song begins to build. By the second chorus, she and the choir are at full-throttle, backed by a driving beat and synchronized handclaps.

“Your destiny is coming close,” she sings. “Stand up and fight.” Suddenly, the swelling arrangement drops to a whisper in the bridge — hushed vocals and soft piano. “So go into that far off land, and be one with the great ‘I AM’. A boy becomes a man,” Beyonce sings, in a gorgeous falsetto that rises higher and higher. By the three-minute mark, she’s in the stratosphere, displaying her incredible range.

That stunning moment leads to a rousing, gospelly finale. Beyoncé belts out the final choruses in impassioned, melismatic fashion, powerfully combining with the choir. Their voices swell as the song continues, rising even higher for a dramatic key change. Beyoncé returns to a gentle, delicate head voice for the song’s final bars.

“Spirit” was written by Ilya Salmanzadeh, Timothy Lee McKenzie, and Beyonce. Salmanzadeh is a Swedish-Persian producer and songwriter; McKenzie is a Grammy-nominated British songwriter who performs as “Labrinth”. The two sent a rough demo to Beyonce, who loved it. “She started helping us write the rest of the record,” McKenzie told ABC News. He described the moment as “incredible.”

McKenzie said Beyoncé is meticulous in her work: “She’s a perfectionist and she’s a Virgo, like my wife. Virgos are serious perfectionists.” He added: “She cared about everything that was in the record. She cared about what piano we were going to use. Is there enough bass? Not many artists care that much.” But despite her perfectionism, Beyoncé wasn’t demanding, he said.

“A lot of artists in her position, they can be divas and they can be hard to deal with. Her energy and the messages she sent to us in terms of saying thank you for contributing to ‘The Lion King’ — she sent really beautiful messages. I was really kind of surprised to see that someone in her position still has that humility.” 

The song itself is noteworthy, but the music video, which premiered last night, only amplifies its quality. Beyoncé explained the video in an interview for the ABC special. “The concept of the video is to show how God is the painter, and natural beauty — and nature — needs no art direction,” she said. “It’s the beauty of nature, the beauty of melanin, the beauty of tradition.”

“Spirit” was filmed at Havasu Falls, a waterfall within Arizona’s Grand Canyon. The Arizona Republic reported that on July 8, a location manager called the head of Arizona’s film office, asking for permission to film at Havasu. The man he called was Matthew Earl Jones, director of Arizona Film and Digital Media. (Jones is the nephew of actor James Earl Jones, who voiced Mufasa in both “Lion King” films.) Mr. Jones put the manager in touch with the Havasupai Tribal Council, who quickly granted the request. The shoot took place just two days later, with Beyoncé flying in by helicopter.

The request’s approval came as a surprise to Jones, given that permits are hard to come by. But the Council was glad to oblige Beyoncé. A Council spokeswoman said that given Bey’s support of water rights worldwide, “we were particularly pleased to be able to accommodate her request.” The video offers spectacular views of the waterfalls and accompanying scenery.

Beyoncé is shown seated, wearing a voluminous, ruffled dress of lilac and red. Early on, there’s an appearance by her daughter Blue Ivy Carter, who walks up (in lavender ruffles) to take her mother’s hand. The Havasu Falls appear about a minute in; draped in dramatic royal blue, Beyoncé begins the chorus in front of the waterfall. Throughout the four-minute video, scenes from the film are interspersed with shots of Queen Bey. Clad in colorful, flowing costumes, Beyoncé performs the song with an array of dancers in various desert locales.

In less than 24 hours, “Spirit” has amassed 5.3 million views on YouTube. It is currently #1 in YouTube’s “Trending” section. Beyonce’s album will debut the same day as the film. “The Lion King” hits theaters on Friday, July 19. Watch the “Spirit” video below.