Bourgeois Brief: Official Obama Portraits Unveiled, Toni Braxton Stages Comeback, & More
Your daily dose of art, news, and pop culture headlines, and a signal boost for creators of color.
Official Obama Portraits Unveiled
The official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama were unveiled Monday during a ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Barack’s portrait was painted by famed artist Kehinde Wiley while Michelle’s was helmed by Baltimore artists Amy Sherald. The official portrait is a longstanding tradition for former presidents. Get more details at CNN, and see the portraits below.
Mary J. Blige Cast in New Netflix Series
Mary J. Blige, who is currently the first person to be nominated for acting and song Oscars in the same year, has been cast in Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy. The superhero live action series was created by My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way. Blige will play a hitwoman named Cha-Cha. Find out more at Variety.
Toni Braxton Preps for Comeback
Toni Braxton is readying her first solo album in 8 years. The singer just released the new single, “Long As I Live”, and her album, Sex & Cigarettes, will hit shelves and streaming services March 23 via Def Jam. Braxton’s last album was her collaboration with Babyface, Love, Marriage & Divorce, which won the Best R&B Album Grammy in 2015. Read more about Braxton’s comeback at EW, and listen to the first single below.
All That Cast Reunites for Wild ‘n Out
Nickelodeon’s 90s era was iconic, much in part to hit shows like All That, the sketch comedy show that ruled every kid’s Saturday night. Over the weekend, SNL’s Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, Lori Beth Denberg, and Josh Server reunited for an appearance on MTV’s Wild ‘n Out. See the photos and revisit the good ol’ days at EW.
Regina Hall Joins Showtime Pilot Ball Street
Regina Hall joins Don Cheadle and Andrew Rannells for the Showtime pilot, Ball Street. The show centers around a pair of finance outsiders navigating the 1987 stock market crash. Hall plays the head of a trading firm. Get additional details at Vulture.
Food for thought
The last few years have since the rise of a music subgenre called PBR&B or post-R&B. Several artists like Rhye and Wet ushered in a low-key, downtempo era of alternative music that was equal parts of emo and romance. Vulture’s Jeff Ihaza thinks it’s time to move on, as this genre has failed us and its popularity still plays into racial segregation and stereotypes.
“Rhythm and blues,” the genre definition that prefigures the shorthand R&B, was created in 1949 by the record executive Jerry Wexler as a replacement for “race records,” a designation given to music made by black artists. It’s a relic of the music industry’s steadfast use of commercial taxonomies that organize consumers along racial lines. In 2011, the acclaimed R&B producer Ivan Barias petitioned the Grammys to create the Urban Contemporary category as a way of crediting artists who were making music influenced by R&B, but that fell outside of what the genre had become traditionally known for. “I’m trying to bridge that gap between the future and the past,” the producer Tricky Stewart told the Fader about his support for the category. Even without the music industry’s early designation of the genre as “race records,” R&B is in fact rooted in black musical traditions, which made white artists’ early forays into the genre, think of John B. or Justin Timberlake, exciting in their time. It symbolized a sort of idealized racial harmony, where a white guy could sing for a black audience and vice versa. Never mind that the white guy is more commercially viable thanks to long-standing stigmas against black artists. But even so, those overtures into black music were marked by white artists seeking approval, or a sense of authenticity, from the black progenitors of a sound.
Read the full essay and review here.
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