Emo Rap and Big Little Lies: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Ryan Emberley / Invision / AP

To Be Young, Angsty, and Black: On Rap’s Emo Moment
Briana Younger | Pitchfork
“Over time, rap’s tough-guy representation has slowed its dominance. Jay Z’s tender but restrained ‘Song Cry,’ from 2002, softened slightly into the loneliness of Kanye’s ‘Heartless’ in 2008, which turned completely inward three years later with the pity party that is Drake’s ‘Marvin’s Room.’ Gradually, this spectrum of vulnerability has allowed in more nuanced issues like mental health.”

What Chewing Gum and Jane the Virgin Reveal About Virginity
Nichole Perkins | BuzzFeed
“Shows like Jane the Virgin and Chewing Gum help women of color with more traditional views about sex feel connected to the larger movement that insists on amplifying the sexual progress of white women. That’s because Jane and Tracey allow women of color to see themselves and the various ways one can learn about desire while remaining true to one’s moral beliefs.”

Big Little Lies Was a Commentary on Gender Bias
Jen Chaney | Vulture
Big Little Lies was a little series about very big things: domestic abuse, the nature versus nurture aspect of violence, the psychological damage caused by rape, the burdens and blessings of motherhood, and the way women can be each other’s worst enemies and greatest boosters. But perhaps more than anything else, this show was about the natural human instinct to pass judgment on others, especially when those others are female. Every element of the series, from the behavior of its birthday-party-sabotaging principals to its basic narrative structure, spoke to the pervasiveness of gender bias.”

Father John Misty vs. The Mysteries of Life
Lindsay Zoladz | The Ringer
“A canny, demographic-straddling self-creation, in 2017 Misty is now the merry prankster of the all-too-self-serious indie rock world and a roguish confessor from inside the pop songwriting factory. His sense of humor is unsparingly sharp and meta: He has used every opportunity on Pure Comedy’s press tour to make the kinds of banalities we take for granted about musicians on press tours seem incredibly strange.”

The Return of the Great Japanese Video Game
Joshua Rivera | GQ
“Persona 5 is wholly unique. It’s full of life and verve and full-on anime weirdness. It's also made up of a bunch of disparate parts that don't seem like they work together on paper, but absolutely sing in action. Persona 5 takes the monster collecting and turn-based fights of a game like Pokémon, a Buffy-style plot about Japanese high school teens taking on a secret supernatural evil, awkward teen romance, the coolest damn jazz-lounge score you've ever heard, and an art style that makes you feel cooler just looking at it—and creates a pure confection of a game.”

In Praise of Not Reading
Sheila Liming | The Point
“An argument in favor of reading ought to strike readers of this essay as scandalously uncontroversial, but my sense is that it actually doesn’t, or won’t. My sense is that we who proclaim our inclusion within the contemporary literary marketplace—we readers, writers, students, teachers, and dispensers of text—actually read less, and less well, than we might let on.”

The Capsizing of Damien Hirst
Will Harrison | The Baffler
“Perhaps there was a time when intentionally blurring art with business seemed heady or original, but that age is certainly hard to imagine now. Hirst and [Jeff] Koons have benefited from a general emphasis on simplistic this-leads-to-that chronologies, garnering acclaim for merely repackaging the products of Warhol’s factory in shinier, costlier wrapping.  It is this stubborn insistence on being current—of the ‘Now’—that reveals how unexpectedly out of date these artists have become.”

Dave Chappelle, Ricky Gervais, and Comedy’s ‘Ironic Bigotry’ Problem
Brian Logan | The Guardian
“I think it’s the comedian’s job, to an extent, to probe fault lines, social protocols, and areas of discomfort. I’ll forgive their missteps (an occupational hazard) if they land blows on deserving targets too. But that’s not really what’s happening on Chappelle’s specials: These aren’t missteps, this is a concentrated campaign. A philosophy, even—Chappelle seems to think that the struggle for sexual and gender equality is in competition with antiracism.”

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Powerful Personal Style
Haley Mlotek | The New Yorker
“O’Keeffe once said that her penchant for black was not a preference but a practicality: If she started picking out colors for dresses, she would have no time for painting. She could be coy in that way, especially about the trappings of traditional feminine identity—denying that her flower paintings bore any resemblance to female genitalia, bristling at others’ attempts to label her a feminist.”

How Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” Became a Climate Change Anthem
Katie Kilkenny | The Pacific Standard
“The ‘hot’ in ‘Hot in Herre’ was indeed intended as a double entendre, referring to both the literal temperature and the not-so-literal sexual energy in a club. While Nelly’s performances have always underscored the less literal interpretation, he’s had fun with climate imagery too. On tour the same year Nellyville was released, for instance, Nelly performed the song with a cartoon thermometer showing the temperature rising into the five digits.”