• Frans Schellekens/Redferns

    Little Girl Blue

    The Secret Life of Nina Simone

    Before her roaring performance at the 1976 Montreaux Jazz Festival, Nina Simone was a star dimensioned by near bankruptcy and self-imposed exile. A new documentary asks ‘What Happened, Miss Simone’?

    It was an historic moment when Nina Simone took the stage at the 1976 Montreaux Jazz Festival, marking her return to music following an extended period of near bankruptcy and self-imposed exile. It’s hard to imagine Simone’s immense presence and immeasurable talent ever falling off the map. What Happened, Miss Simone?, Liz Garbus’ new documentary about the High Priestess of Soul, uses the concert to pose—and eventually come full to answer—its titular question. Unearthing a wealth of archival footage, rare interviews, and diary excerpts, the film narrates the triumphs and tragedies of Simone’s life and career largely in the late singer’s unmistakable voice, which by her own admission, “sometimes sounds like gravel and sometimes sounds like coffee and cream.”

    The metaphor extends to her erratic temperament, which could turn on a dime from vulnerable to volatile. Highly demanding and wildly unpredictable, Simone would infamously walk out on her audience or insult them midway through a song if she felt she wasn’t getting the undivided attention she deserved—but when she had them, they were rapt under her spell.

  • Photo Illustration by Emil Lendof/The Daily Beast

    Taylor Swift Boat

    Taylor Swift: Conservative or Liberal?

    Speaker John Boehner’s office sent out 12 Taylor Swift GIFs to make a point about college tuition. And to get us to write about it. It worked.

    Where does Tay-Tay stand on the issue of tuition-free community college?

    Hard to say. But House Speaker John Boehner will use her image for political jabs regardless.

  • Singer/rapper Nicki Minaj performs onstage during the BET Awards '14 at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on June 29, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Allen Berezovsky/WireImage, Getty)


    Nicki Minaj Bares Her Own Vulnerability

    The Pinkprint holds the weight of watching a relationship crumble; where some have public meltdowns and volleys of badmouthing, Nicki Minaj has her punchlines, flows, and ‘an empire also.’

    In early November, Nicki Minaj took a bat to a Mercedes Benz that she had lent to Safaree “SB” Samuels, her simultaneous hypeman, pseudo-assistant, and boyfriend of 12 years. Earlier in the year, TMZ alleged, citing a police report, that a hotel room spat between the two left Nicki with a busted lip. She and Samuels disputed the account, but rumors of the fight coupled with images that showed Samuels had covered up at least two of his Nicki tattoos, seemed to suggest that, after a turbulent year, the two had split.

    In other words, Nicki Minaj suffered possibly the greatest heartbreak of her life during the biggest, most closely scrutinized phase of her career. But, under the hawkish eye of the media and through a heavily active social media presence, she carried on as usual. For months, I’ve wondered how. Now I know: Her unusually open third album, The Pinkprint, holds the weight of watching the relationship crumble; where some have public meltdowns and engage in volleys of badmouthing, Nicki has her punchlines, flows, and “an empire also.”

  • Painful Legacy

    James Brown’s Daughter Speaks On Abuse

    After growing up witnessing her father, James Brown, violently abuse her mother, Yamma left her abusive husband just days after her father died in 2006—and was arrested for defending herself.

    The day I knew my marriage was over was Thursday, March 7, 2007, two days before Dad was to be buried on my sister’s property in Beech Island. I know the exact date because it’s on the arrest report. The legal wrangling over the estate was in full tilt, and I had just returned from a meeting with our lawyers. Darren had an office in our guesthouse, and I joined him there for a drink. He was sitting with my nephew, my half brother Terry’s son, Forlando, and had already had his share of scotch. I could tell from his cocky stance and the drained Chivas bottle on his desk. Forlando’s visits with Darren had become frequent after Dad died. I often told my nephew not to count on getting rich off of Dad, but Darren filled his head with other ideas. Ideas about how Darren could turn Dad’s considerable wealth into so much more that everyone in the family would benefit from, if only we would turn over the reins to him. That’s all he’d talked about since Dad died. The estate. He wanted to manage it for the family. He could turn Dad’s millions into billions with the right investments. That was his expertise. Would I please get my damn family to agree?

    I poured myself a glass of red wine, sat down on the couch, and kicked off my heels. My feet hurt and I was bone tired, the kind of unpleasant tired that comes from stress.

  • The Daily Beast


    Dead or Alive, the Hits Keep Coming

    Michael Jackson may be dead, but as the much-hyped ‘Xscape’ shows, he’s still making music. He’s not alone: From beyond the grave, our top 10 list of posthumous albums.

    1. Xscape, Michael Jackson

    The saga that surrounded Michael Jackson continues in death. Sony stands accused of exploiting the late King of Pop, in view of the two parties’ difficult relationship. Escape—or rather “x-scape”—the circus engulfing the second posthumous collection of Jackson’s music and you’ll find reminders of why Jackson mattered so much to music in this eight-track collection curated by L.A Reid.  Producers Timbaland, Jerome “J-Roc” Harmon and Rodney Jerkins are all at the top of their game working with Jackson. Standout tracks include the Bad-era sounding Blue Gangsta and the irrepressibly buoyant Paul Anka-written Love Never Felt So Good. It’s not true to say that Jackson has never sounded better, but this is no mere cash cow. 

  • Ovation TV

    In Her Words

    Susan Boyle: Overcoming Asperger’s

    The bestselling singer and ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ alum writes about her battle with the disorder.

    Simple Susan, mad, odd, bizarre. Names I have been called over the last 53 years of my life. 

    Born in a small Scottish village at a time where medicine and diagnosis was in its infancy and hadn’t made the great advancements that we see today, my parents were told not to expect much from me as they were led to believe I had been brain damaged at birth. 


    Second Acts

    How She Shreds

    Singer Sandi Thom shares her story of beating the odds (twice) in the music business—and why you should never listen to the naysayers.

    The only limitations that we face in our lives are the ones we put on ourselves. That was what someone once said to me. In other words, if you believe in yourself and continue to do so with unwavering strength, eventually, you’ll make it regardless of what other people may say.

    Ever since I was a child I’ve wanted to know what was beyond the horizon. Watching my father, who was a fisherman in his younger years, sail away out into the choppy seas ignited a sense of adventure within me, and what an adventure it’s been so far. 

  • Robin Thicke performs onstage during the 2013 BET Awards. (Mark Davis/Getty Images for BET)

    The singer mocks his critics as “Blurred Lines” remains under fire.

    Since the summer dance hit “Blurred Lines” hit the airwaves, controversy has been swirling over its “sexually violent” lyrics and music video featuring dancing naked women. In response to the criticism, singer Robin Thicke, who is joined in the song by T.I. and Pharrell Williams, said that his wife, Paula Patton, approved of the video, calling it “sexy and so cool.” Originally Thicke said of the criticism, “I can’t even dignify that with a response.” But eventually his response in GQ became more nuanced: People say, ‘Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?’ I’m like, ‘Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women.”

  • via Vevo


    Hip Hop’s Misogyny Quotient

    Robin Thicke's “Blurred Lines” is topping the “Billboard” charts—and critics are branding it as “rape hop.” Cara Munn asks: why aren’t women more outraged?

    The other day, I happened across Robin Thicke’s new music video for his pop song “Blurred Lines,” which is currently at No. 1 on the Billboard chart for hip-hop music and pop music. Throughout the video, topless girls—seen dancing next to fully clothed men—sport nude underwear that matches the color of their skin, so that they appear fully naked.

    Calling out misogyny in music is nothing new. Who can forget Tipper Gore's famous early-’90s Washington Post editorial “Hate, Rape, and Rap”? “In America, a woman is raped once every six minutes. A majority of children surveyed by a Rhode Island Rape Crisis Center thought rape was acceptable,” Gore wrote in the piece. “No one is saying this happens solely because of rap or rock music, but certainly kids are influenced by the glorification of violence.”

  • A scene from Robin Thicke's music video "Blurred Lines."

    Naked Ambition

    Summer’s Rapiest Anthem

    Why some female fans are unnerved by the creepy lyrics and video for ‘Blurred Lines.’ By Tricia Romano.

    Here’s a sure-fire way to get the No. 1 record in the country: engineer a fake controversy by making an unrated version of your video featuring strutting, mostly naked supermodels. That’s the route blue-eyed crooner Robin Thicke took with his single “Blurred Lines,” which sits atop the Billboard charts this week, ending Macklemore’s long reign.

    The video, which was banned from YouTube at the end of March, continues to live on in its full naked glory on Vevo—coincidentally, a partner of YouTube—where salacious viewers can view three models, Emily Ratajkowski, Jessi M’Bengue, and Elle Evans, wearing nothing but shoes and nude-hued thongs, as they cavort and dance and flirt with Thicke, Pharrell, and T.I., who are all fully clothed. The group play with weird, nonsensical props—a needle, a lamb—and in between the screen intermittently flashes hashtags (i.e., #Thicke).

  • Ben A. Pruchnie / Getty Images Entertainment


    Spice Girls Dethroned by Little Mix?

    New group was mentored by Simon Cowell, who knew them from their ‘X-Factor’ days.

    Baby Spice, don’t cry! The ’90s girl band, the Spice Girls, has some new competition: Little Mix has debuted at No. 4 on the top 200 chart this week, the highest debut ever for a premier album for a British women’s group—even higher than the Spice Girls’ album Spice—which debuted at No. 6 in 1997. Little Mix won British X-Factor in 2011, performing a cover of Damien Rice’s “Cannonball,” and they’ve been mentored by Simon Cowell ever since. As the Spice Girls once sang, “you have to swing it, shake it, move it, make it / who do you think you are?”

  • College Polish

    Confessions of a Rap-Loving Feminist

    It’s possible to hate the patriarchy while humming ‘Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe.’

    I was at what would be one of the last college parties of the semester. The mood was relatively low, half the group was talking politics, and the nonpartisans were leaning against couches trying not to get sucked into another Benghazi conversation. I was a solitary couch-leaner trying to tune out the shouting, humming a Young Money hit from a few years back. Before I knew it, I was singing aloud, “My room is the g-spot / Call me Mr. Flintstone, I can make your bed rock.” I covered my mouth with my hand and looked around. No one had noticed; my secret was safe.

    I have an addiction to hip-hop. And while there are certainly some sophisticated artists in the genre like Talib Kweli and Lupe Fiasco who incline toward more meaningful, sophisticated lyrics, that’s not the type I listen to. I like the embarrassing, repetitive, demeaning hip-hop from artists like T.I. and Flo Rida, who make music so catchy you want to play it constantly, but so overtly sexual you don’t want anyone to know what you’re listening to. Many of these songs revolve around a drawn-out, obvious sex metaphor. R. Kelly sings, “I’m gonna take my key and stick it in the ignition.” 50 Cent chants, “I’ll take you to the candy shop, let you lick the lollipop.” I’ve become shameless; working on a Chaucer paper while my computer sings about booties shakin’, poppin’, and rollin’. My parents wince, my friends shake their heads, but like some kind of addict, the ridicule isn’t enough to make me stop.

  • Rapper Danny Brown performs onstage during the Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival in California. (Frazer Harrison/Getty)

    Blaming the Victim

    Why Are We Not Calling the Danny Brown Assault Rape?

    The gender roles may have been reversed, but the rapper’s oral-sex sneak attack shares a lot in common with classic sexual assaults, says Amanda Marcotte.

    The scene played out like so many sexual assaults do. It’s a party atmosphere. The assailant takes advantage of the victim’s lowered guard and the general air of debauchery to force sexual contact on a nonconsenting person. After the attack, the apologists run in, denying that what happened counts as sexual assault and implying that the victim secretly wanted it. The victim’s erratic reactions are dissected endlessly to distract from the obvious: that sexual contact was forced on the victim against his will.

    We’re talking, of course, about Rapper Danny Brown, who was performing at a show when a female fan got on stage and sprung oral sex on him. He reportedly backed away quickly. Despite the fact that the victim in this case is male and his alleged assailant female, the story demonstrates how cultural norms, peer pressure, sexual shame, and gender roles all intersect to make it easy for sexual assailants to operate without much consequence. Kitty Pryde, who is currently touring with Brown, wrote an excellent piece for Vice expressing frustration at how most people don’t seem to see what happened as an assault: