Music

Summer 2014 Will Be Remembered by Pharrell’s “Happy”

Pharrell Williams "Happy"

(Photo Credit: Digital Spy)

When we look back 20 years from now, we will define Summer 2014 by Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” “Happy” is the hit track from Williams’ second album, Girl (2014), and the Despicable Me 2 (2013) soundtrack.  The song calls each individual to love being who he or she really is.  It’s becoming increasingly more lucid where we are right now in the postmodern epoch is a time when too many individuals suffer from psychic fragmentation.  Too many people have become so focused on being what others want them to be that they don’t even know who they really are any longer—it’s possible they never even gave themselves a chance to learn who they really are. With the release of “Happy,” Williams offers a valuable counter-narrative to the dominant American narrative that says who you really are isn’t good enough, and to be good enough you need to be someone you aren’t.

The challenge to the status quo “Happy” presents begins with the song’s ingenious author, Pharrell Williams.  Although we’re living in a time when people highly embrace flashy phenomena they hope will make them standout, Williams finds peace in simple elegance.  He knows how to make simple clothing, clothing that’s not flashy, refreshingly elegant.  When we see Mr. Williams, we’re witnessing a human being who has been liberated from the postmodern impulse to be someone he’s not.  “Happy” has given us an opportunity to experience the true substance that composes Pharrell.  Through his amazingly successful song, music fans are provided with a powerful alternative to the prevalent fear countless individuals have about loving who they truly are.

“Happy” has been #1 on the Billboard Top 100 and #1 on music charts in 19 countries.  Even with this song’s great success and wide popularity, it does not seem to have had any meaningful impact on changing America’s fascination with the superficial over the substantial.  One of the primary reasons for this could be how distracted we can get with hot beats that make us dance.  Unfortunately, we too often don’t want to reflect on why these beats make us want to dance in the first place. If we would engage more closely with the positive messages of “Happy,” it’s possible for us to move closer to understanding the value of diversity, and we might even start cherishing diversity.  This will require us to move past the hot beats and the dancing those beats promote and develop into a more reflective people.  Critical reflection enable us to see how Pharrell’s song can be employed as a vehicle to engender a massive wave of camaraderie and harmony among sundry people across the nation and globe who are presently divided.

For the real power of the song to be unleashed, it will take intellectuals, scholars, activists, community leaders, religious leaders, politicians, teachers, and many others to muster the courage to host nationwide forums, lectures, debates, and etc. where substantive discourse can take place about the song and how its messages can be used to instigate change in America and across the world.

Music has the ability to transform lives, to transform nations.

Even though Williams’ song may not produce the type of critical discourse across the nation and globe it merits, the song’s staying power will give us an opportunity to heed its vital messages even 20 years from now.  When we take a moment to envision a nation and world that mirrors the one offered by the music video for “Happy,” we begin to acknowledge how priceless the song is.  The song helps us to realize that our differences should unite us instead of divide us.  “Happy” seems to suggest that our differences shouldn’t cause us to lose sight of our universal longing for happiness.

History will inevitably mark Summer 2014 as a watershed moment in world history when “Happy” caused people to think seriously about the importance of simply being themselves.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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An Analysis of Fantasia’s “Without Me”

One of the most significant messages in Fantasia Barrino’s “Without Me,” a track from her latest album Side Effects of You (2013), is to never forget the important people in your life who helped you to achieve what you’ve accomplished.  In the lives of most successful people, there are individuals who were instrumental to their success.  When successful people begin to act “brand new” and fail to show gratitude to those who are largely responsible for their success, Fantasia asks a powerful rhetorical question in the song: “What would you be without me?”  While one may give himself or herself too much credit for a person’s success by saying, “I made you,” what “Without Me” communicates is you wouldn’t be the exact person you are today without me.  The song forces the listener to reflect on the people who have been significant in aiding him or her in the evolution of the person he or she is today.

In the opening verse, Fantasia sings, “You gonna make me expose you for exactly what you are, (you are).”  One can understand the frustration this verse conveys with those who have benefited from the help of someone, only to have to witness the person going around pretending like that assistance was not crucial to his or her current success.  When people begin to act like the things you did for them weren’t important, then you should, at some point, “expose” them for exactly “what” they are.  What’s ultimately responsible for a person acting “brand new” and ungrateful is reckless arrogance.  For example, you could have bought a guy the fancy house, clothes, shoes, car and etc. he has, but this same guy may start flossin’ like he bought those things and start looking down on you because you don’t have them and the lifestyle he has.  This type of person fails to pay homage to the sacrifices you made so that he or she can have those things and the lifestyle you made possible.  When you threaten to expose the person or actually expose him or her, the individual thinks you’ve done him or her wrong.

Fantasia Barrino(Photo Credit: Vibe)

Fantasia states, “And as hard as you try to hide reality, while we know the truth, so act brand new if you want to.”  A person who wants to sham like you didn’t play a tremendous part in their achievements doesn’t want you to expose him or her.  The individual prefers for you to leave the truth hidden.  The reckless arrogance that has consumed the person causes him or her to have resentment toward you because he or she knows the truth: without you he or she wouldn’t have many or most of the achievements he or she cherishes.

Although many will interpret Fantasia’s song as only applying to an intimate relationship between a male and female, this limited interpretation results in one missing its wider applicability.

Never take what people have done and do for you for granted.  Learn how to show people the gratitude they deserve.  Your unchecked ego may be leading you to try to hurt someone who is highly responsible for what you have accomplished simply because you don’t want to give him or her the proper credit that has been earned.

Be very careful about how you treat those who have been vital to your success—you never know when you’re going to need them.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

SoulTrain.com Feature on Curtis Mayfield

Curtis Mayfield

Curtis Lee Mayfield was an exemplary soul, R&B and funk singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and record producer.  Many across the globe most recognize him for writing, producing and singing on the soundtrack for Super Fly, a classic Blaxploitation film in which he appears.  The soundtrack is one of the first to generate more revenue than its corresponding film.  Mayfield’s extraordinary life and legacy earned him the Grammy Legend Award in 1994 and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.  He’s a double inductee into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inducted as a member of The Impressions in 1991 and as a solo artist in 1999.  Mayfield is also a double inductee into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Read the rest of this article at SoulTrain.com.  When you arrive at the site, “Like” it, tweet it, and share it.  Leave a comment on SoulTrain.com about the article.

Thank you for your support!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

SoulTrain.com Feature on Kierra “Kiki” Sheard

Kierra Sheard

Kierra “Kiki” Sheard, daughter of renowned gospel music artist Karen Clark-Sheard, has become an accomplished gospel music artist at only 25 years old.  It was at six years old that a public audience first had a chance to witness Kierra Sheard’s amazing vocals at Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Christ, pastored by her father Bishop J. Drew Sheard.  Her first appearance on a professional album occurred when she was 10 years old.  She was a featured vocalist on her mother’s debut solo album, Finally Karen (1997), on the song “The Will of God,” written by Bishop Richard “Mr. Clean” White. The song won a 1998 Stellar Award for Best Children’s Performance.  Kiki earned an undergraduate degree in English with a minor in Psychology from Wayne State University.

Read the rest of my article published at SoulTrain.com.

“Like” the article on SoulTrain.com and leave a comment on it at SoulTrain.com.

“Pain is Love” by Jason “Juice” Williams: A Critical Assessment

Jason "Juice" Williams

One of the most talented independent artists in America is irrefutably Jason “Juice” Williams. Juice’s exceptional talent and oeuvre have been acknowledged by Soul Train, Revolutionary Paideia, and many others. On March 9, 2013 at the Albany James H. Gray, Sr. Civic Center in Albany, Georgia at 9:00 p.m., he will be performing live with Maze featuring Frankie Beverly. The purpose of this article is to provide an assessment of the dominant messages about love and relationships Juice’s “Pain is Love,” which is a single from his album A&J Live (2002), offer.

One recurrent theme in Juice’s full body of work is the notion of love being a nuanced phenomenon that’s never devoid of conflict. Even in his second album, 100% Concentration (2005), one can see how this aforementioned treatment of love is conspicuous. In “Pain is Love,” the artist communicates that problems can emerge even when they are not intentionally created. Those inadvertently engendered problems can cause pain for one or both individuals involved in a relationship. Even if the relationship terminates, Juice exposes the enduring pain often left unresolved.

The artist asks the lady for “just one minute” of her time to articulate how he feels about her and the love they have shared. The song, therefore, advocates for frank communication to be a significant part of the healing process in a relationship impacted by emotional pain. For those involved in relationships, it’s crucial to understand that candid communication is essential to overcoming problems. This candid communication must be guided by love, of course. Too often the lines of communication are shutdown when people are hurting in a relationship. If the lines of communication continue to be shutdown, the relationship is doomed to end inevitably. It will ultimately not be about the pain that caused fissures in the relationship, but it will be more about the failure to communicate that’s the authentic reason why the relationship ceases.

“Pain is Love” informs the listener that when you have real love for someone, you don’t intentionally inflict pain on him or her. This is an important message many people in relationships need to hear and embrace. Too many people, especially men, talk about how much they love the one they’re in a relationship with, but that “love” often is not strong enough to keep them from cheating on their partner. True love keeps you from being deceitful and unfaithful.

Jason "Juice" Williams

The artist longs to be with his lost love but she’s no longer by his side.

How frequent do we think about how our foolish actions can lead to the end of our relationships?

We should think more about how the things we’re doing can result in us losing the one we love and can cause us to experience a lifetime of pain.

The artist discloses that love will turn into pain if you are negligent in your relationship. You should never forget about showing the person you love how much you love him or her. If you abandon your duties in your relationship, you may discover just how much pain is love.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison