Lil Yachty and Amazon Charts: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about arts and entertainment

David Goldman / AP

What Lil Yachty’s Optimism Means
Carrie Battan | The New Yorker
“Yachty’s music is not incidental to his image, but it is only one aspect of his brand. His songs have always been an entry to his meticulously crafted persona, not the other way around. At 19, he is a torchbearer for a class of rappers—and that’s a loose designation—for whom a career represents a tangle of musical innovation and character-crafting strategies.”

The Achievement of Chinua Achebe
Kwame Anthony Appiah | The New York Review of Books
“[Achebe] found a way to represent for a global Anglophone audience the diction of his Igbo homeland, allowing readers of English elsewhere to experience a particular relationship to language and the world in a way that made it seem quite natural—transparent, one might almost say. Achebe enables us to hear the voices of Igboland in a new use of our own language. A measure of his achievement is that Achebe found an African voice in English that is so natural its artifice eludes us.”

How Music and Politics Meet in the Border Community of Texas
Matthew Ismael Ruiz | Pitchfork
“In the Rio Grande Valley, notions of heritage and pride often involve an undercurrent of assimilation that permeates everyday life. For a lot of families, achieving the American Dream means shedding much of the culture they left behind and adopting their new home’s language and ethos of white supremacy.”

What Does Amazon Charts Mean for the Book Industry?
David Barnett | The Guardian
“One advantage Amazon has is that it subdivides literary categories almost to an atomic level, which has both pros and cons. On the one hand, it gives a leg up to authors working in a genre that might not have its own New York Times bestseller category, and who might never trouble the upper reaches of the general fiction sales charts.”

Lolita Fashion
An Nguyen and Jane Mai | The Paris Review
“What is considered beautiful or cute in Lolita fashion is separate from mainstream tastes and trends. It’s about dressing for your own enjoyment, not dressing for others. In other words, it is a self-centered undertaking, an activity of adornment that is not connected to socially productive presentations of self that achieve a goal such as dressing to get a job, dressing to get a boyfriend, dressing to go to school, dressing to fit in, et cetera. Well, I suppose the goal here is to feel happy and beautiful on your own terms.”

What Is Katy Perry Doing?
Ira Madison III | Vulture
“If anything, Perry is most believable when she’s being petty. There’s real heartbreak in ‘Part of Me,’ for sure, but the reason breakup anthems work is because you’re reminding your ex how much better your life is without them. And if the song wasn’t enough to convince [Russell] Brand, she made it the name of her documentary and put his callousness on display for millions to watch.”

Everything You Need to Know About Baywatch in Four Episodes
Andrew Gruttadaro | The Ringer
Baywatch was pure escapist garbage — mostly because of the soap-opera plots and off-the-wall action sequences, but also because it showcased a lifestyle that viewers didn’t have access to. The L.A. in Baywatch was a sun-soaked paradise, and the show basically acted as video production for California’s tourism board. (Not dissimilar to how Master of None serves as wish fulfillment today for those who dream of dining in hip Williamsburg restaurants.)”