Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

Clef Notes: The Last Stop Edition

Every Friday, or at least until his spectacular rock star flameout, Giovanny will be dropping a week’s worth of music knowledge on you with Clef Notes, proof positive that he’s a one man music magazine.


Don Cornelius 1936-2012

R.I.P: The music world was shocked this week to learn that the creator, and former host, of Soul TrainDon Cornelius, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head early Wednesday morning. The Chicago-born, velvet-voiced, television host and producer was found dead on the floor of his Mulholland Drive home by authorities who responded to a report of a shooting at 4:00AM. Cornelius’ body was brought to Cedar-Sinai where he was officially pronounced dead.

After returning from military service in Korea, Cornelius worked a number of different jobs including insurance salesman, car salesman, and Chicago police officer. In 1966, Cornelius was the married father of two boys when he decided to quit his day job, and enrolled in a three month broadcasting course. That same year he took jobs as an announcer, news reporter, and disc jockey on Chicago radio station WVON. It was during this phase of his life that Cornelius became aware that America did not have a television show which featured Soul music, nor one that was dedicated to African-American youth culture.

In 1970, Cornelius created Soul Train for the Chicago television station WCIU, serving as its writer, producer, and host. The show quickly became a local sensation, and by '71 Cornelius moved to Los Angeles where he began broadcasting nationally, starting a 35 year run in syndication. During Soul Train's height of popularity, it was as influential an hour of television as ever aired in this country. Some of the biggest names in Soul and R&B performed on Soul Train during the '70's and '80's, with artists like James Brown, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, and Aretha Franklin making numerous legendary appearances throughout the years. Soul Train was also used as an avenue to expose white musicians, like Elton John and David Bowie, to black audiences in the states, broadening all horizons involved.

Who doesn't love a good party?

Of course, Soul Train’s impact on our country’s culture extended far beyond just the music of the times. Every week the show would feature the latest in fashion, dance, and the overall style of African-American youth, giving white America a window into a world that was foreign to many of them. Upon hearing of Mr. Cornelius’ death, numerous civil rights leaders and academics were quick to pay tribute to the man and his legacy, including Lonnie G. Bunch III (the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture), who had this to say: “For young black teenagers like myself, (Soul Train) gave us a sense of pride and a sense that the culture we loved could be shared and appreciated nationally.”

Mr. Cornelius had experienced some hard times over the last five years of his life, as financial problems, multiple run-ins with the law (including an ugly spousal abuse incident), and a bitter divorce from his second wife, Russian model Viktoria Chapman-Cornelius, all began to take their toll. In 2009, he was sentenced to three years probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges of spousal battery in a plea bargain, while in 2010 Cornelius told the judge presiding over his divorce that he was having “significant health problems,” but did not elaborate.

Those closest to Cornelius seemed to be genuinely shocked that the 75 year old could have taken his own life, although a Chicago Sun-Times piece released February 2nd suggests that he may have been bipolar, and perhaps quite depressed in the months preceding his death. Such conjecture matters very little now, because this is the point in the tale where the narrator only has nice things to say. Don Cornelius was a broadcasting giant, a cultural icon, and one of the coolest cats ever to rock an afro and a thin microphone. Let’s hope his message of love, peace, and soul lives on long past the echo of his words.

This is the exact face Minaj made when she found out her video was banned.

Other Countries Mock Us For Stuff Like This: Earlier this week BET decided that the Hype Williams-directed video for Nicki Minaj’s Stupid Hoe (which I’m assuming is one of many Lil’ Kim diss tracks appearing on the upcoming Roman’s Reloaded) was unfit to air, and banned it. Though there has been no official statement from the network explaining the banning, an unnamed rep did tell TMZ that the video was deemed too explicit for television. Having watched said video more than ten times as of the writing of this Clef Notes, I still don’t really get what BET’s problem is.

Sure, the lyrics to Stupid Hoe are pretty salacious, and could even be considered offensive to some audiences (particularly those of the female variety), but we’ve all definitely heard worse. Some of my peers have mentioned that the last twenty seconds of Stupid Hoe would have to be entirely bleeped in order to get onto airwaves and, although that’s true, it does boggle my mind that those who bring up this point don’t acknowledge that it would be pretty simple to come up with a politically correct edit. Over the first minute and twenty seconds of the video there isn’t anything that could be classified as explicit about the images, unless you are shocked by the butt of a nude mannequin (which would make you an idiot). At around the 1:20 mark, we see some shots of Minaj dressed provocatively while crawling around in a yellow cage, but none of the “choreography” involved is any racier than what was portrayed in her hit Super Bass video. When Stupid Hoe gets to the 2:43 mark there are some full on shots of Minaj’s butt - in a thong, and covered in fishnet- and although it’s unquestionably a remarkable image, it’s still no worse than those you would find in a typical modern video (does anyone remember Christina Aguilera’s Dirty?).

This is not the first time that BET has banned a video from its airwaves. Some of you may remember when the network banned Ciara’s Ride back in 2010, for also being too explicit. There is, however, a good chance it could be the last time; after all, who the fuck watches videos on television, anyway? The Stupid Hoe video actually premiered on the Vevo website, and is already a monster, drawing over 4 million views this week. Minaj also went the extra mile to defend the decision to premiere the video on the Internet via her twitter with this statement: “It's important that my art is not tampered with, or compromised prior to you viewing it for the 1st time." The impressive number of views, and the declining ratings of music television stations, only serve to reinforce the notion that networks are now meaningless when it comes to exposure, and just a sad remnant of the glorious past. Besides, Minaj is right, no one should be allowed to edit, censor, or tamper with art, especially media conglomerates.

One final point... Can Hype Williams please stop directing videos that are intended to give us all epileptic seizures? I suggest you have your cell phone nearby when you watch this clip, in case you need to call an ambulance (you didn't think I would write all this and NOT post the video, did you?).


Born To Die - Lana Del Rey

In all honesty, I wanted Born To Die to be great. It would have been a real treat to see Del Rey get the last laugh and make all of those who tried to take her down eat crow. Sadly, this is not the case. Instead, Born To Die is fifty minutes of Lana Del Rey failing to live up to any of the hype that surrounds her. Nearly every moment of this record comes off as horrendously contrived. No other song on this album even comes close to achieving the apparent lightning in a bottle-type excellence of Video Games... [Full Review]

16th Notes:

We should all hope to look that good at fifty.

The British are all beyond ecstatic, because the Spice Girls are reuniting to perform at the Queen’s upcoming Diamond Jubilee (marking the 60th year of her reign). I wonder which of the Spice Girls is Elizabeth’s favorite?... Guns N’ Roses announced some February club shows in the New York City and Chicago area this week. Don’t bother trying to buy tickets from Ticketmaster,we have all learned by now that such exercises are futile... Garbage has completed their first new album in seven years, and it's set to be released on May 15th. Butch Vig is in Garbage, and I love Butch Vig, so I will try my best to not dwell on the fact that I don’t know a single person who is excited about a new Garbage record... James Murphy recently let the world know that his next business venture will be as a coffee maven. I am so glad I don’t drink coffee, because I would not want to be one of the suck- I mean, people, who buy this... Katy Perry is reportedly busy developing a 3D movie. There are so many places I want to go with this joke, but most are rather inappropriate and low-brow, so instead I will go with this: (Raspberry)... Bjork appeared on Colbert this week and it was totally hilarious. Watch it and be prepared to laugh... Drake performed at the NHL All-Star game last weekend. I didn’t watch the game, but I have watched this clip about a dozen times... Lou Reed recently announced an upcoming Summer tour which will be dubbed from VU to LULU. That’s right kids, you will finally have the chance to hear Heroin and Junior Dad all at the same awful show... St. Vincent will appear on the Valentine’s Day episode of Gossip Girl, and I won’t be watching... Lana Del Rey is considering re-releasing her digitally distributed first album, which she produced under the Lizzie Grant moniker. I am starting to think this woman is just a glutton for punishment...

Top Twenty List:

As I was writing about Nicki Minaj’s banned video I started to do a little research into songs that have been banned through the years, and lo, a Top Twenty list was born. These songs were all banned from radio airplay and, in some cases, were not even allowed to be sold in some countries, mostly due to thinly veiled drug references, “explicit” content, or religious references.

20) Physical - Olivia Newton John
19) Smack My Bitch Up - Prodigy
18) Eve Of Destruction - Barry McGuire
17) Oasis - Amanda Palmer
16) Pictures Of Lilly - The Who
15) The Bitch Is Back - Elton John
14) Fat Bottomed Girls - Queen
13) I Want Your Sex - George Michael
12) Let’s Spend The Night Together - The Rolling Stones
11) Love Me Two Times - The Doors
10) Relax - Frankie Goes To Hollywood
9) God Save The Queen - The Sex Pistols
8) Happiness Is A Warm Gun - The Beatles
7) Louie Louie - The Kingsmen
6) Great Balls Of Fire - Jerry Lee Lewis
5) Only The Good Die Young - Billy Joel
4) Street Fighting Man - The Rolling Stones
3) My Generation - The Who
2) God Only Knows - The Beach Boys
1) A Day In The Life - The Beatles

Tracks Of The Week:

Bad Girls - M.I.A: I was quite surprised when I learned that everyone was super-psyched about the "new" M.I.A track, Bad Girls, this week. Mainly because I had already given this song a positive write-up when it was a Track Of The Week a year ago. Well, just in time for her cameo during this Sunday’s Super Bowl half-time show, Bad Girls is back! This time it’s about ninety seconds longer, and a bit more slickly produced, but it’s still essentially the same great track that appeared on the Vicki Leex mixtape last January.

Boobie Miles - Big K.R.I.T: Big Mother F’n K.R.I.T is without question one of my favorite rappers in the game today, and I have been chomping at the bit for the follow-up to the fantastic Return Of 4Eva. Well, thankfully, 4Eva N a Day drops February 20th, and not only has the mixtape’s first single, Boobie Miles, already seen the light of day, but it’s another classic (K.R.I.T. did it again!). Everything you could want from a new K.R.I.T track is present and accounted for: some smooth as hell production, his trademark Southern swag, and an engaging tale worth hearing again and again.

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1 Responses »

  1. not sure it was ever officially banned but it might as well have been....