This, after all, is why so much press about musicians focuses on their back stories, heartbreaks, and tragedies: We like to imagine that the sounds they’re making are some raw, uncalculated outpouring of the soul inside. (This is also part of why we marvel at voices— the literal breath from someone’s body— in ways we could never marvel at, say, keyboard-playing.) Most commenters making bold declarations about Kreayshawn’s background have come to their conclusions based on exactly two pieces of evidence about her: a song she recorded, and a video of her performing it. But if the purpose of those two aesthetic texts is to communicate Kreayshawn’s Soul and Identity to your ears, and what’s hitting your ears seems false, then… she herself must be lying, right? Unconvincing doesn’t just mean an unconvincing artist, it means a fake one. Right?
As a way of thinking, this is surely a fallacy of the highest order. But people think this way because making pop music— more than almost any other art— sits right at the intersection between being yourself and finding something better than yourself to be. This, in the end, is what we’re looking for: Someone who can devise some fantastically compelling version of herself to act out, while still seeming as if she’s… being herself. Musicians are expected to write a great part and convincingly act the role at the same time. And even after that, we’re not really judging them on how compelling the identity they’re offering us is— we judge them based on which types of identities we personally need or aspire to at the moment. There is no identity politics quite as nuanced or complicated as people arguing about music.
“Which is to say that we all tend to subscribe to certain ways of behaving— to consider them normal and not-an-act— and look at everything else as false, cramped, and artificial. The assumption is that everyone else is going to absurd lengths to seem a certain way, whereas you and the people you understand are just being yourselves. There’s surely no better example of this habit than the word “hipster,” a pejorative people lob at anyone who’s even slightly more interested in current trends than they are. That person must be doing it on purpose, to seem cool and superior, right? Which is possibly how you look to someone slightly less interested in current trends than you are— but you’re normal, and not trying too hard at all.”—
“Maybe that’s the real point with Kreayshawn — that she symbolizes just how far hip-hop has come to dominate the mainstream. Since “Gucci Gucci” blew up, she’s already made a song with Snoop Dogg (who — despite being fond of posing in pictures with his dogs — had two cute kittens called Rick James and Teena Marie at his house, according to Kreayshawn). But she also talks enthusiastically about wanting to make a song with Ke$ha. The rap and pop worlds are one and the same for her generation. So there’s nothing really rebellious about Kreayshawn, because there’s little rebellious about rap anymore. This isn’t N.W.A. receiving letters from the F.B.I.; it isn’t even the Beastie Boys eroding the nation’s morals by spraying beer on girls in cages. Instead, it’s a white girl performing a fun song and posturing in front of a Fendi store. She’s a mall queen, but she’s rapping outside of the mall. And these days, that might be more hip-hop than some of Kreayshawn’s detractors would like to admit.”—Kreayshawn: Overnight Sensation, White Girl Tourist, New Rap Paradigm? - San Francisco Music - All Shook Down
Frere-Jones is much too smart a writer to drop any out-and-out misogyny in a piece for the New Yorker, but his implication is clear: ‘moms’ are culture-ignorant and prefer their music ‘unperturbing.’ This is funny, because just two days ago, Bon Iver released Bon Iver, Bon Iver, a critically-lauded album predicted to debut near the top of the Billboard Top 200. The main musical reference points for this album? Bruce Hornsby and Bonnie Raitt, the latter of whom the band covered on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Both artists had appeal to all ages and both genders, but if you’d asked us the definition of ‘mom music’ in 1986, Hornsby wouldn’t be a bad answer, and in 1991 we might have mentioned Raitt’s 13-times-platinum Luck of the Draw.
So undiscerning moms are a generation ahead of the curve, or else it takes twenty-odd years for the stigma of ‘mom music’ to wear off. Either way, Frere-Jones’s claim, even if it is accurate—which, considering the sheer number of physical and digital albums Adele has sold, is extremely unlikely—doesn’t in itself excuse outright dismissal. His rejection of Adele, in other words, has less to do with her music and more to do with what she connotes to him: a middlebrow sensibility, which he codes as female. We should expect better from our pop critics.
As much as I would love for Nicola to succeed in the US, I don’t know if it can happen. Granted, I think if Cheryl Cole had rereleased “Fight For This Love,” it would have gone over well, but we’re at the point where no one ever really tried to make her happen here. When the effort has been made with other British female pop singers, like the SNL appearances of Jessie J and Ellie Goulding, there seems to be little in the way of positive results. This is not to say that they are all interchangeable, because obviously appeal has something to do with it. Jessie J’s album was an enormous critical flop on both sides of the pond, thoroughly ridiculed for its soulless delivery, general annoyingness, and ultimate failure to establish a coherent personality. While Nicola wasn’t the most popular member of Girls Aloud, the American audience doesn’t have to know that, and she also knows how important it is to assert her own identity.
“Which is an interesting reaction in the context of much Internet writing that accuses Kreayshawn and company of a calculating and inauthentic appropriation of black culture — that at least one person involved would apparently feel more inauthentic if she spoke any other way. Stretch has plenty more to say on this topic across the length of the day, but the main thrust is an eloquent case that people pay too much attention to racial lines and not enough to the environments people come out of. “I think that’s where America is going — it doesn’t really matter about race anymore, it’s about class. We have a black president, and then we still have people talking about ‘acting black.’ It just shows you how far behind everyone is. Everyone’s a product of their environment.” (And the environment in hip-hop might be a little vexed on this front: “There’s never been a time in history when popular culture has just fed people a word, over and over, and then told them not to use it.”)”—Kreayshawn Is the Latest Controversial White Rapper — Vulture
Since releasing his first record in 2001 at the age of 19, Sondre Lerche has proven himself as an artist in constant search of growth, particularly with the robust pop of 2007’s Faces Down. On his latest full-length effort, he continues to deliver thoughtful, sophisticated compositions. Recorded in Brooklyn, the wide-eyed Norwegian’s newly adopted home, his sixth album represents starting fresh with this next phase of his life. Along with crossing the Atlantic, he has launched his own label, Mona Records; this album is its inaugural release. In a move typical of debuts, it’s also self-titled. On Sondre Lerche, he continues to bring his winsome singer-songwriter fare into new territories.