Taylor Swift Makes A Powerful Anti-Racist Statement, Urges Fans To Vote

Taylor Swift has found her political voice, and she is using it to take a hard-line stance against racial injustice.

On Tuesday (June 9), the singer took to Twitter to make a passionate statement demanding far-reaching structural change within American politics, while simultaneously voicing her support for the Black Lives Matter movement. “Racial injustice has been ingrained deeply into local and state governments, and changes MUST be made there,” she wrote, urging followers to cast their votes for candidates who are dedicated to combatting racist legislature. “In order for policies to change, we need to elect people who will fight against police brutality and racism of any kind.”

Swift went on to share a link to a Medium article written by Barack Obama titled “How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change,” in which the former United States president advocated for policy updates at the state and local levels. “We need to fight for mail-in voting for the 2020 election,” Swift added, pointing voter access obstacles that have been exacerbated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “No one should have to choose between their health and having their voice heard.”

Swift’s posts came as demonstrators around the globe continued to gather to protest systemic racism and police brutality against the Black community, and to mourn the deaths of unarmed Black citizens George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and many others. Plenty of celebrities have used their platforms to elevate the work of activists on the ground; some, including fellow pop stars Ariana Grande and Harry Styles, have joined protests themselves.

But this wasn’t the first time Miss Americana had gotten political. On May 29, as unrest in Minneapolis — home of George Floyd, whose murder at the hands of former police officer Derek Chauvin sparked international outcry — reached a boiling point with increasingly violent protests and sporadic looting, Donald Trump released a series of tweets suggesting he would dispatch the National Guard and gun down demonstrators. “Any difficulty and we will assume control,” he wrote, adding, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” His tweets were flagged by the social media platform for “glorifying violence.”

Swift took the opportunity to denounce Trump’s words. “After stoking the fires of white supremacy and racism your entire presidency, you have the nerve to feign moral superiority before threatening violence?” Swift publicly responded via Twitter, before warning, “We will vote you out in November.”

The Grammys Have Dropped ‘Urban’ From All But One Category

Last week, Republic Records — the home of Drake, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, and dozens more — announced it would no longer use the term “urban” to describe “departments, employee titles and music genres” in an effort to “not adhere to the outdated structures of the past.” The radio-format term had long been used in the music industry as a synonym for traditionally Black musical genres such as hip-hop, R&B, and more dating back to the 1970s, pioneered by DJ Frankie Crocker. The company said in a memo (per Variety), “As with a lot of our history, the original connotation of the term urban was not deemed negative.”

But over time, the term “developed into a generalization of Black people in many sectors of the music industry, including employees and music by Black artists,” the note continued. Indeed, The Guardian‘s Kehinde Andrews pointed out in 2018 that the term still “allows for gentrification of the genres,” something NPR’s Rodney Carmichael further explored a year later addressing the larger issues of the Recording Academy. “The Grammys don’t have a hip-hop problem,” he wrote, “the Grammys are the problem.”

Republic’s actions have also reportedly propelled Warner Music Group and IHeartMedia to drop their usage of the term as well. “Urban,” meanwhile, had also found its way into the Grammys‘s nomenclature, appearing in several categories, including Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album (along with several discontinued awards). But on Wednesday (June 10), the Grammys unveiled a massive slate of changes, including a few that directly address the term.

Most notably, the Recording Academy has renamed its Best Urban Contemporary Album category: It will now be known as “Best Progressive R&B Album.” The update to the award, won by Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You earlier this year, was designed “to describe the merit or characteristics of music compositions or performances themselves,” according to a statement. Likewise, Best Rap/Sung Performance — last won by DJ Khaled, John Legend, and Nipsey Hussle for “Higher” — will now be known as “Best Melodic Rap Performance.”

Additionally, the Latin Urban genre has now moved into the Latin Pop category to create two new designations: “Best Latin Pop or Urban Album” and “Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album.” The criteria for Best New Artist has also been updated, so now if a “new” artist has released 10 albums (or mixtapes), they can still be eligible. “While there will be no specified maximum number of releases, the screening committees will be charged with determining whether the artist had attained a breakthrough or prominence prior to the eligibility year,” the language reads.

The changes come following a turbulent start to 2020 for the Recording Academy. Just days before this year’s awards telecast, chief executive Deborah Dugan was placed on leave after she sent a memo detailing how “something was seriously amiss at the Academy,” including voting irregularities and conflicts of interest. Beyond the Academy’s updates to category titles, other new changes seem to address those complaints, formalizing conflict of interest protocol via disclosure forms. (You can read more about that in detail on the Grammys site here.)

They also come after Tyler, the Creator’s comments directly addressing the term “urban” following a big win at this year’s ceremony in the Best Rap Album category. “It sucks that whenever we — and I mean guys that look like me — do anything that’s genre-bending or anything, they also put it in a rap or urban category,” he said in the press room. “I don’t like that urban word. It’s just politically correct way to say the N-word to me.”

Watch Camila Cabello, Khalid, Noah Cyrus, And More Sing For The Class Of 2020

Over the weekend, YouTube threw a big livestreamed celebration to honor the graduating class of 2020 — the ones who don’t have the distinction of an in-person graduation ceremony thanks to COVID-19 and its associated risks with mass gatherings. Lizzo played flute. Beyoncé and Michelle Obama gave inspirational speeches, as did BTS. Dear Class of 2020 was, in fact, a nice event.

Early on in the program, Bono addressed the graduates with a message about the ongoing anti-racial violence protests that have backdropped the country since the police killing of George Floyd on May 25. “For many Black Americans, Lady Liberty’s torch is far from a beacon of hope. It’s often a flashlight in the face,” he said, introducing his band U2’s song “Beautiful Day.” But it wasn’t U2 that performed it.

Instead, Camila Cabello, Noah Cyrus, Khalid, Tove Lo, and others took hold of the sunny alt-rock staple and gave a subdued yet simmering take with plenty of attention given to its hopeful lyrics.

If the song’s whisper-quiet production recalls the sonics of Billie Eilish — who doesn’t sing on it — that’s because production work was helmed by her brother and collaborator, Finneas. (Bono is a fan.) Here, he lets the voices of Cyrus, Tove, Ty Dolla Sign, Leon Bridges, and more work together over the nearly silent midnight sky.

Cabello joins in with Ben Platt and the rest for the chorus, and Cynthia Erivo pops up to lend the post-chorus its own weight as well. Naturally, U2 descendant Chris Martin handles the bridge and leads the group back to the song’s belt-ready conclusion.

Watch this all-star squad deliver the song Bono called “a prayer for where we could go” in the video above.

BTS Donated $1 Million To Black Lives Matter — Then Fans Topped It

Last week, South Korean superstars BTS declared their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, releasing a statement specifying that they “stand against racial discrimination” and “condemn violence.” Now, the seven Bangtan boys — Jin, Jimin, RM, Jungkook, J-Hope, Suga, and V — are putting their money where their tweets are.

Last week, BTS and their label, Big Hit Entertainment, quietly donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter, Variety reported on Saturday (June 6). The move came as demonstrations around the globe continue, protesting systemic racism and police brutality against the Black community in the United States, particularly, in the wake of the murders of unarmed Black citizens George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and many others. While the group did not publicly comment on the donation, the contribution was confirmed by both Big Hit and Black Lives Matter.

“Black people all over the world are in pain at this moment from the trauma of centuries of oppression,” Black Lives Matter Managing Director Kailee Scales told Variety. “We are moved by the generosity of BTS and allies all over the world who stand in solidarity in the fight for Black lives.”

That same day, BTS fans — or ARMY, as they are known within the fandom — pledged to match the donation. The volunteer-based, fan-operated collective One in an ARMY, which organizes monthly charity programs, set the goal on Saturday, which was proliferated across social media via the hashtag #MatchAMillion, coined by Twitter user @Monosplaylist. The group set up a carrd through tech nonprofit ActBlue that included a list of 16 vetted organizations that help Black people and advocate against police brutality. Fans could choose split their contribution across those organizations, which included Color of Change and Black Visions Collective.

By Sunday evening, OIAA had exceeded their goal, thanks to contributions from over 35,000 donors. They shared the news via Twitter: “Just like BTS, we were able to donate 1M dollars to help fund: bailouts for those arrested for protesting police brutality, black-led advocacy orgs fighting against systemic injustice, support for the physical and mental health of the black community.”

“We added a goal tracker to our donation page and our website purely to keep ARMY updated on the total amount raised. We’ve run big projects before, but the amount of support for this project is overwhelming,” an OIAA spokesperson said in a press release, per Teen Vogue. “We truly didn’t know whether the goal would be reached. We’re so proud that ARMY have once again channeled their power for good and are making a real impact in the fight against anti-black racism.”

But combatting racism is ongoing work, so the Black Lives Matter will remain on OIAA’s website permanently. As of this publishing, the fundraiser had reached $1,216,909 from 39,036 donors. That donation page also includes the full list of organizations with information about each, while encouraging fans to “continue educating themselves on the history of anti-black racism in the United States as well as anti-black racism that occurs in your own country.”

“Black Lives Matter isn’t something that has a time limit. It’s a belief everyone needs to carry in their everyday lives,” the OIAA spokesperson added. “We stand in solidarity with black ARMY. They’re an important part of our family. And we stand with black people everywhere. Your voices deserve to be heard.”

Run The Jewels’s Evergreen Protest, Janelle Monáe’s Defining Anthems, And More Songs We Love

Janelle Monáe is a Black queer woman, and this is her palace. “Django Jane,” and Dirty Computer, the epic, unapologetically feminist “emotion picture” from which it hails, came out in 2018, but it just as well could have dropped this week. Monáe’s outrage — at the entertainment industry making racist evaluations of her worth, at Black femmes being silenced and denied platforms — seeps into every syllable. “Runnin’ outta space in my damn bandwagon / Remember when they used to say I look too mannish?” she raps. “Black girl magic, y’all can’t stand it.” If the Black woman is “the most unprotected person in America,” then Monáe is steadying her shield. —Sam Manzella

BTS Joins K-pop Fans In The Fight Against Anti-Black Racism

As demonstrations protesting police brutality against the Black community continue around the country in the wake of the murders of unarmed citizens George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade, among countless others, celebrities have leveraged their platforms to support activists on the ground; many, like Kehlani and Ariana Grande, have taken to the streets to march themselves. And on Thursday (June 4), South Korean pop sensation BTS joined the fray, issuing a rare political statement via Twitter that declared solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We stand against racial discrimination,” the began, written first in Hangul, followed by an English translation. “We condemn violence. You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together.”

The statement came as K-pop fans worldwide took to social media to drown out racist messaging proliferated through the hashtag #WhiteLivesMatter. ARMY, Blink, and other fandoms banded together to flood the feed with colorful fan art, memes, and short clips from live performances. Fans have since taken over rhetorically similar feeds, including #AllLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter, and #WhiteLifeMatter, which emerged as an opposing response to fans’ collective mobilization.

BTS’s statement also arrived amidst Festa 2020, the septet’s annual two-week celebration that toasts the group’s debut date (June 13, 2013). This year’s Festa began June 1, honoring the group’s seventh anniversary with the release of a piano rendition of “Euphoria,” the opening track to Love Yourself: Answer; a photo collection documenting the members’ year; and the release of a brand-new single.

Hours after BTS tweeted their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, they dropped the ethereal, synthy ballad “Still With You,” the first solo release from member Jungkook. Listen below.

K-pop Fans Are Flooding Racist Twitter Feeds With Fancams And Fan Art

As demonstrators in major cities around the country continue to gather to protest systemic racism and police brutality against the Black community, and to mourn the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, among countless others, an unlikely group has chimed in to offer its support: K-pop fans are collectively stanning in solidarity with protesters by fighting back against online racism and policing tactics.

By Wednesday morning (June 3),  the hashtag #WhiteLivesMatter was trending on Twitter. But instead of the racist comments one would associate with the white supremacist slogan, which was coined in 2015 in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement’s protests following the killing of Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson police officer, the feed was dominated by colorful fan art, cartoonish memes, and joyful clips of South Korean boy bands dancing in perfect harmony. The images and fancams, or short videos of live performances, were overwhelmingly shared with captions denouncing racism and calling out police brutality.

“Queen Lalisa said racists can fuck off!” one post read, featuring a drawing of Lisa, of the popular girl group Blackpink, holding up her middle finger. Another post shared similar messaging in all-caps (“F*CK RACISTS”) while declaring a bias for the industry’s titanic Bangtan boys (“Stan BTS“). This tweet, like many others flooding the platform, also included the rhetorically similar hashtag #AllLivesMatter and the pro-cop #BlueLivesMatter, two other racist feeds that K-pop stans have since inundated.

The move came in the wake of The Show Must Be Paused, a plea to the music industry by executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang to halt regular business operations on Tuesday (June 2) to reflect, bring attention to the issues at hand, and hold their colleagues accountable, which eventually became known as “Blackout Tuesday.” Many people took the opportunity to share black squares on their social media feeds and tagging #BlackLivesMatter in an effort to declare allyship; however, the action effectively flooded a feed filled with actionable items and resources from activists on the ground with dark boxes, only causing further confusion.

As Variety suggested, this inspired K-pop fans to take action, who flipped the action on its head and turned it into a tactic to intentionally flood racist spaces. Many have since incorporated the hashtag #WhiteoutWednesday.

The mobilization followed an earlier move by K-pop fans to protect protesters in Dallas, Texas. On Sunday (May 31), after a wave of demonstrations in the city over the weekend, the Dallas Police Department asked followers via Twitter to send in “video of illegal activity from the protests” through their iWatch Dallas app. K-pop fans took notice of the initial tweet, per BuzzFeed News, flooding the app with gifs and videos. The following day, the Dallas police tweeted that “due to technical difficulties iWatch Dallas app will be down temporarily.”

The Dallas Police Department’s iWatch Dallas app is now back up and running. So stans, prepare your fancams – the fight has only just begun.

The First Pride Was A Riot, And These LGBTQ+ Artists Are Honoring That

Before Pride Month became comfortably situated in the month of June each year,  before rainbow-colored floats sponsored by Mastercard breezed down Fifth Avenue, there were police raids on gay bars, and bricks hurled through windows. Contrary to what some brands would have you believe, the first Pride was not a parade; the first Pride was a riot.

The Stonewall uprising of 1969 was a series of demonstrations and violent skirmishes between young patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a club in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the New York Police Department, which frequently attacked gay bars in a time when serving LGBTQ+ was illegal. It began on June 28, 1969, and lasted six days, serving as the catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world. It is the reason we celebrate Pride in June.

In keeping with its riotous tradition, and especially as demonstrators in major cities around the country gather to protest police brutality against the Black community and to mourn the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, among countless others, many have called upon LGBTQ+ leaders to shift the narrative during Pride Month and stand in solidarity with protesters.

And on Monday (June 1), many LGBTQ+ artists and celebrities answered that call. While pop star Miley Cyrus shared an image of Marsha P. Johnson, a Black trans woman and drag performer who was central to the Gay Liberation Front, the rapper Mykki Blanco demanded that we “Don’t allow ‘Pride’ to shift the narrative. They want us to ‘celebrate Pride’ and stop protesting, stop organizing. Corporations want you to spend money and get drunk and forget about all we are fighting for.”

See more responses from LGBTQ+ thought leaders below.

Cardi B, Charli Puth, And Lil Nas X Are Vibing To Lady Gaga’s Chromatica

A grand, orchestral composition welcomes you on “Chromatica I,” the opener to Lady Gaga‘s sixth studio album, Chromatica. The song begins with a low rumbling that quickly gives way to a flurry of crying strings, scrambling to a crescendo before leveling out in a soaring, trumpeted melody. Like the theme to a sci-fi flick, it evokes the feeling of flying, of a long and sprawling journey, as the prelude to some dancehall epic. And then it drops, and with a seamless flow into “Alice,” things really get moving.

That sonic journey feels almost symbolic for the bumpy road to the album’s release itself, one that was paved by delays and leaks — as well as joyful, pop-futurist music videos and visuals sealed by a sine insignia.  The followup to 2016’s Western-tinged Joanne and the Star Is Born soundtrack, Chromatica was originally slated for release on April 10, but it was delayed to the coronavirus pandemic. And Gaga officially confirmed the tracklist on April 21 after Target accidentally leaked it on their website.

But nonetheless, as of Friday (May 29) Chromatica is finally here, and among its 16 songs are a bounty of career-defining collaborations, as in the triumphant duet “Rain on Me” brought to life with Ariana Grande and the greatly anticipated team-up with K-pop’s girl gang Blackpink on “Sour Candy,” and those that mine Gaga’s own humanity and hurt. “Please listen from the beginning to the end,” the singer wrote on Twitter. “No need to shuffle, it’s my true story.”

It’s a sentiment that rings true with many fans and collaborators alike, with the likes of Cardi B and Tony Bennett chiming in to express their congratulations and excitement over the LP. Below, check out some of the reactions from Chromatica‘s numerous celebrity ambassadors, and stream the album now.

Taylor Swift’s Friendship Dirge, Lil’ Kim’s Girls’ Night Out, And More Legendary All-Female Collabs

Eve ft. Gwen Stefani: “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” (2001)

In 2001, Gwen Stefani was still primarily known for fronting No Doubt. Though she’d sung on songs for Sublime, Prince, Moby, and others, she wasn’t yet widely known as a secret-weapon hook-delivery machine. But Eve changed that. “Let Me Blow Ya Mind,” which hit No. 2 in the United States and won the first-ever Best Rap/Sung Performance Grammy, is a minimal masterpiece. Dr. Dre co-authored the skeletal, creeping beat, the perfect platform for a swaggering Eve to start giving commands: “Yo, drop your glasses / Shake your asses.” Her endless star power was only magnified by Stefani, who returned the feature favor three years later on her own solo venture. —Patrick Hosken