Tag Archives: miley cyrus

Big Freedia vows to release your wiggle and bounce

Long before Miley Cyrus and twerking — that frenzied, pelvic-thrusting move that looks like an obscene case of St. Vitus dance — became a distinguishing feature of bounce music, there was Big Freedia (pronounced Free-duh), the so-called “Queen of Bounce.” Her dancers, dubbed “The Divas,” specialize in rapid-fire twerking to music that combines the free spirit of New Orleans with hip-hop tradition. The act’s intense energy is sure to fire up the crowd when Big Freedia takes the stage at Milwaukee PrideFest on Sat., June 7.

Bounce music began when hip hop made its way south to New Orleans in the late 1980s. A sub-genre of hip hop, it’s characterized by call- and response-style vocals and repetitive up-tempo melodies set to fast beats. With the success of the New Orleans rap label Cash Money in the late 1990s, bounce music gained wider national attention.

But Hurricane Katrina in 2005 devastated neighborhoods in New Orleans that were strongholds of bounce. Big Freedia was forced to flee the city for Texas. When Caesar’s became the first club to reopen in New Orleans after Katrina, Big Freedia was invited back to perform “FEMA Fridays.”

Bounce music was back.

The free spirit days of FEMA Fridays came full circle on May 2, when Big Freedia and his fellow bounce performers closed down the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival with a dance-off between them and New York underground vogue stars at the New Orleans Wax Museum.

In recent yeas, Big Freedia has performed coast to coast, including at Bonnaroo, SXSW and on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Born Freddie Ross, Big Freedia was born and raised in New Orleans. Artists such as Patti LaBelle, Sylvester and Gladys Knight were big influences. Like so many artists before, he was raised singing in the Baptist church choir. By the time Ross was 18, he had become the choir’s director.

In 1991, Ross heard the track “Where Dey At” by MC T Tucker, considered by many to be the first recorded bounce song. For Ross, it was a life-changing moment. He became a backup dancer for Katey Red, the first “sissy bounce” performer, and his career was on its way.  

“Sissy bounce” is a queer variant of bounce music, but Big Freedia rejects being pigeonholed into the category. Although he has often performed with Sissy Nobby and his transgender mentor Katey Red, Big Freedia stressed in an interview: “I wear women’s hair and carry a purse, but I am a man.”

In his publicity bio he says, “Bounce is bounce. There’s no need to separate it out. All types of people, gay, straight, rich, poor, black, white come to my shows. People just wanna get out and shake their azzzz and have a good time!”

Big Freedia’s national career kicked into high gear in 2010 with extensive touring and an appearance on Last Call with Carson Daly. In addition to releasing his own music, he sang on recordings with RuPaul. In 2012, he appeared at Austin’s SXSW festival and in 2013 his reality TV show Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce debuted on the Fuse network. The program received a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Reality Program, defeating Project Runway. The show begins its second season in June.

In recent weeks, Big Freedia released the new single “Explode.” In his inimitable style, he implores listeners to “release your wiggle.” The idea behind the song is that he feels like he is about to “explode” after the stresses of being on the road while sustaining a relationship, he said. 

The next Big Freedia album Just Be Free is due for release June 17, to coincide with the kick-off of his reality TV show’s second season. Producer Thomas McElroy, best known for helping launch the R&B girl group En Vogue, worked on the album. 

Big Freedia’s live show takes a few minutes of adjustment for the audience. The energy is high, the music is loud, and the twerking dancers filling the stage can overload the senses. But once you free your mind and “release your wiggle,” you just might find Big Freedia taking your booty and mind to a new place of joy and expression. 

On stage

Big Freedia performs on the PrideFest Mainstage at 8:30 p.m., Sat., June 7.

Pharrell Williams’ promising 2014

Pharrell Williams’ hits “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky” defined pop music in 2013, but it seems already that this year offers even greater things to come for the eternally youthful 40-year-old. In January, he won four Grammys, including one for producer of the year. He performed his Oscar-nominated song “Happy” at the Oscars, although it lost to “Let It Go.” His studio album GIRL dropped on March 3, and he’s adding yet another fashion collaboration — this time with Adidas Originals — to his growing number of partnerships.

He graces GQ’s April cover, which contains an interview in which he predicts, “Hillary’s gonna win.”

The Interview Feed spoke to Williams about his new album, being a feminist, working with Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus, and why he doesn’t ever seem to age.

You’ve said that GIRL is a tribute to women. Is this album a reaction to the questionable lyrics of ‘Blurred Lines’?

No, GIRL is the album that I’ve always dreamt of making. The executives of Columbia gave me the opportunity to do the record I wanted to make. But I needed to address the fact that certain women got offended by the video and lyrics to that song. I’ve always wanted to make this record. I didn’t know it would be called GIRL but I’ve always wanted to make a record that wasn’t about me, to be honest. And that’s why I’m so elated that I was able to pull it off. And I was able to pull it off because of the incredible long list of enablers that I had to get it done. 

Would you say you’re a feminist? 

The funny thing is that some of the girls around me joke and call me that sometimes, but I don’t deserve the right. I think that credit is to be given not to be taken. Do I share a lot of their views? Sure. I think that the two things that I’ve dedicated myself to, in my own non-activist way, are education and equality. And as long as there’s an imbalance, then I’m fighting to redress it. There will come a time when things are much more even between men and women. 

You’ve worked with many artists on this album, like Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus. Who was the most interesting collaboration? 

They all were interesting. Everybody brought a very good and warm energy to the project because they realized it wasn’t just a bunch of songs. They realized the ultimate for me was the allegiance to the groove, and that there were some holistic properties to the record too. I wanted this record to have meaning. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my breakfast cereal and I still watch the Cartoon Network all the time. I’m still a big kid, I’m not trying to get all serious. I just wanted to add a little meaning to the songs and the collaborators got that. There are only really two duets on the album and everybody else is noted as people who helped me get the songs done. I have Daft Punk doing background, I have Miley doing background. But I don’t have features. How dare we cheapen the art by frontloading people who are in it in order to bait people? That’s not a body of work. When people were on backgrounds, I didn’t wanna exploit that. I didn’t want to exploit my contributors and collaborators like that — “If you work with me, you have to allow me to put your name in the front of the CD.” No one wants to do that. 

I guess you get thousands of requests from artists wanting to work with you. How do you select who you produce and write for? 

First of all, they’re not thousands. And secondly, you choose them based on what it is you feel that you may be able to bring to the table. There are times where people are awesome, but I don’t know what I would do. I’ve got to be able to mix it up a little bit, cause that’s what I do — shake it up a bit, find different contexts and contrasts. And if I’m not able to do that, I don’t wanna be pastiche. You don’t need me for that. That’s the thing about all those incredible artists I’ve collaborated with over the past 20 years. None of them needed me at all. 

What’s happening with the Neptunes (the production company he owns with longtime friend Chad Hugo)?

Chad and I do some things together because we love working together, but we’ve both been really crazy. He’s in Virginia, I’m in Miami so our schedules have been split. But I still consider myself a Neptune, I still consider him my partner and I’m always happy to do stuff with him. Talking about somebody not needing you, he doesn’t need me. He’s a genius. He’s so prolific. He plays every instrument and could remix his songs 10 times over in the same day. Chad is a savant to me. We’re not in the same category. He’s definitely up here. 

You don’t seem to age. You still look as young as you did when you first came out. 

Of course I’m aging. 

Do you have a secret? Because the rest of us would definitely like to know. 

Drink water? Exfoliate? I don’t know. I don’t know what else to say. But thank you. 

So many people have re-created the video for “Happy” (including the UWM Panthers). Do you watch those videos sometimes? 

Of course, I’ve seen a lot of them. And you know what? That video wouldn’t be what it is without those people. They took it to the next level. Whether they are super serious or joking around, it’s just awesome to see people emoting, being happy for those four minutes. I’m just happy to be able to be attached to something like that. It’s so much bigger than any of us. 

Miley Cyrus hits Milwaukee with crafty irreverence

For audiences who attended Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz tour last night hoping to be shocked and titillated, it must have been a long evening. On the other hand, those looking for an irreverent concert fueled by music ranging from country classics to hip hop were likely to have left Milwaukee’s BMO Harris Bradley Center with a smile.

After her ill-conceived, headline-grabbing performance at MTV’s Video Music Awards last fall, it was difficult to know what to expect from Cyrus. For those who’ve seen her televised performances, the Bangerz tour is really not that shocking.

While an abundance of sexuality was on display, from the bedroom antics of “#GETITRIGHT” to riding a gold, low-riding SUV with full crotch on display for “Love Money Party,” the performance presented a carefully designed, engaging set piece for each song. There was enough variety to keep audience members wondering throughout the evening what was coming next.

Prior to the tour, Cyrus announced that “our whole tour is literally based on animals,” and she did not disappoint in the zoologic arena, although her animals were in fact ithe imaginative designs of Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi. These ranged from dancing teddy bears to a 50-foot wolf that accompanied Cyrus’ energetic performance of “Can’t Be Tamed.”  A red-and-white plaid, two-person horse helped deliver the winking country music parody “4×4.” It’s hard to describe the orange fuzzy creature that stalked the stage for the hip-hop torch ballad “FU.”

Although the strong majority of the audience appeared to be heterosexual 20-something women, from the opening act onward it was clear that everyone was welcome at this show. Swedish pop duo Icona Pop, who last fall delivered a memorable Marc Klasfeld-directed Ball culture music video for the song “All Night,” opened the show, bringing the arena to life with the top-10 pop hit “I Love It.” Cyrus engaged in a few moments of same-gender sexuality onstage as she groped one of her female backup dancers.  A benefit of Cyrus’ anything-goes approach is an air of acceptance.

Despite the spectacle, at the heart of any Cyrus performance lies her vocal talent.  While it is clear there are recorded backing tracks included in the tour, seven years as a high-profile live performer have honed her vocal skills.

One of the most rewarding segments of the performance was the intimate acoustic session that came approximately two-thirds of the way into the show. Cyrus sang songs that ranged from Bob Dylan’s Blood On the Tracks classic “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” to a country reworking of OutKast’s “Hey Ya” and a signature performance of Dolly Parton’s classic “Jolene.”

The energy seemed to flag somewhat for the first encore of mega-hits “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball,” but the exuberance returned for a closing confetti cannon and fireworks round of “Party In the USA,” complete with dancing Liberty Bell, Statue Of Liberty and Mt. Rushmore.

Often overlooked in assessments of Cyrus’ recorded and live work is the liberal use of parody to poke fun at everything from discomfort with her subject matter to country music tradition and overused symbols of wealth in the hip-hop community. Witness the spangled leotard decorated with cannabis leaves topped off with an oversized marijuana pendant. Or the song “4×4,” with its line, “Bang on the dashboard, just chipped a nail,” and “Do My Thang’s” line, “I’m a Southern belle crazier than hell.” Both are refreshingly irreverent parodies of the drama in country music songwriting.

There was clearly nothing to do but laugh when Cyrus pulled out all the wealth-obsessed, hip-hop culture stops with a gold-plated, low-riding SUV shooting dollar bills around the stage while the singer rode the hood with her legs spread wide.

Will the Bangerz tour be dismissed as a pop culture artifact in 20 years, or will it be seen as part of the arrival of an enduring artist? Cyrus has already shown some of the hallmarks of endurance.  She’s adept at reinventing herself and bringing her core audience along for the ride. Few young artists have better connections within the pop music establishment. She worked with Pharrell Williams, the hottest pop producer of the moment, on her album — and then returned the favor on his. She was able to enlist 20-year veteran music video director Diane Martel as the tour’s creative director.

Also, Cyrus has carefully aligned herself with iconic figures Britney Spears (there was a Britney Spears mask carried on stage in opening number “SMS Bangerz”) and Madonna. And we know something about their staying power.  

Edith Windsor among 10 finalists for Time’s Person of the Year

Time magazine on Dec. 9 announced the top 10 finalists for its person of the year for 2013. The person of the year, as chosen by editors will be announced early on Dec. 11. 

Edith Windsor, with the help of her attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union, made the list. She is the widow who took her fight for marriage equality all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court this year and won, securing for same-sex couples in the United States marriage benefits at the federal level.

The victory also gave momentum to the campaign to dismantle anti-gay marriage laws across the country, including in the conservative South and Southwest.

The finalists include, in alphabetical order:

• Bashar Assad, President of Syria

• Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder

• Ted Cruz, Texas Senator

• Miley Cyrus, Singer

• Pope Francis, Leader of the Catholic Church

• Barack Obama, President of the United States

• Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran

• Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

• Edward Snowden, N.S.A. Leaker

• Edith Windsor, Gay rights activist

TIME managing editor Nancy Gibbs announced the group on the TODAY show Monday morning.

Time also has collected votes for readers’ Person of the Year.

Miley Cyrus leads in Time’s Person of the Year poll

Pop singer Miley Cyrus is in the lead in Time magazine’s annual readers’ Person of the Year survey.

Cyrus, with two days left in the popular balloting online, had 20.3 percent of the vote.

In the No. 2 spot is Egyptian defense minister Abdel Fattah El-Sisi with 18.5 percent, followed by Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan at 18.3 percent and Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi at 16.9  percent.

Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis was in fifth place at 2.7 percent, then Bashar Al-Assad, Edward Snowden, Malala Yousafzai, Pope Francis, Jimmy Fallon, Vladimir Putin and more.

The popular vote on Time.com does not decide the magazine’s Person of the Year, who is chosen by editors and will be named Dec. 11. The popular vote decides readers’ Person of the Year, which will be announced on Dec. 6.

On the Web…

Time voting: 


Urban bigot

Teen sensation Miley Cyrus is urging her 1 million Twitter followers to boycott Urban Outfitters because its CEO supports anti-gay extremist Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator who’s seeking the GOP presidential nomination. Cyrus recently tweeted: “‘If we allow gay marriage next thing u know people will be marrying gold fish’ – Rick Santorum UO contributed $13,000 to this mans campaign.”

Miley Cyrus tweets about Urban Outfitters’ anti-gay chairman

Teen sensation Miley Cyrus is urging her one million Twitter followers to boycott Urban Outfitters because its CEO supports anti-gay extremist Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator who’s seeking the GOP presidential nomination.

Cyrus recently tweeted: “If we allow gay marriage next thing u know people will be marrying gold fish” – Rick Santorum UO contributed $13,000 to this mans (sic) campaign.”

Although Urban Outfitters projects a hip, open-minded image that attracts young, educated urban consumers, the chairman of the Philadelphia-based corporation is Richard Hayne, a far-right tea bagger who contributes to extremist candidates and causes. The corporation is also the parent company of Anthropologie and Free People.

Interestingly, the corporation’s CEO is Glen Senk, an openly gay man who has been in a committed relationship for over 30 years, according to the New Yorker. But Hayne, the founder and current chairman, has become a lightning rod for his reactionary conservative views.

In December 2008, Urban Outfitters was hit with charges of discrimination after an “I Support Same-Sex Marriage” T-shirt was suddenly removed from the shelves of its California stores. A spokesperson for the company claimed the shirt was yanked because it wasn’t selling, but retail observers were skeptical, given the ideological friction between the company’s CEO and chairman.

UO has also gotten into hot water for allegedly ripping off designs from independent artists.

During the 2004 political season, UO sold a T-shirt emblazoned with the words, “Voting Is for Old People,” which critics said was a stealth attempt to support conservatives by encouraging young people not to vote. The T-shirt prompted student groups to stage protests.

A Facebook page called “I stopped shopping at Urban Outfitters, you should too,” lays out the charges against Hayne. Meanwhile, Cyrus is receiving praise from equality advocates for publicizing the issue.