About a month ago, I saw an interview with Harry Styles in The Guardian. In the interview, the writer was incessantly asking Styles about his sexual orientation and all the details surrounding it. They pointed out that the cover of his latest album, Fine Line, features the bisexual pride flag colors: pink, purple and blue. Styles responded by saying that he chooses colors and aesthetics based on the fact that he wants things to look a certain way, not because of their meaning or implication.
The interviewer also directly asked Styles about his sexuality, to which Styles asked why that would be a question in the interview. He went on to say that it shouldn’t matter, stating “‘It’s just: who cares?’”.
By the end, the interviewer had probably got the hint that Styles was a bit confused by his questions, so he asked if any of the questions had bothered Styles. He replied with: “‘What I would say, about the whole being-asked-about-my-sexuality thing – this is a job where you might get asked. And to complain about it, to say you hate it, and still do the job, that’s just silly. You respect that someone’s gonna ask. And you hope that they respect they might not get an answer.’”
This interview really bothered me, and I thought about it for a while after I read it. I was not only bothered by the interviewer grilling Styles about his sexuality (because he’s right- it’s nobody’s business), but also by the fact that Styles said he knew he would be asked because of his job. Why is that? In my mind, it is so intrusive to ask that question of anyone, celebrity or not. He’s right that it is nobody’s business, but it also shouldn’t matter. I believe we ought to live in a world where sexuality is not something that should be labeled or questioned, but just accepted. It is what it is, and it should only matter to each individual- not the media, nor the tabloids, nor one’s fans.
I believe Styles took this interview in stride and handled the situation quite well considering the fact that the interviewer was clearly crossing a line. For the future, I urge fellow writers as well as those in the media to stop forcing celebrities to label their sexuality. It is the business of no one except the celebrity, and it endorses a culture of outing, labelling, and confining sexuality. Allow everybody to make their own private decisions about their life and way of living, free of labels. Once we start endorsing a culture that does this, the world will be a better place for all human beings.
I have been a longtime fan of Princess Nokia, and this Halloween, I think it’s important to talk about “Brujas,” a song which reclaims witchcraft and magic from European misappropriation.
Destiny Frasqueri, better known as Princess Nokia, is an intersectional feminist and rapper from New York City. Her discography is vast and diverse, ranging from Game of Thrones inspired music (“Dragon”), to body and hair positive anthems (“Tomboy,” “Mine”), to an ode for her Puerto Rican, Yoruba, and Arawak heritage (“Brujas”). Her most recent album, 1992, is an amalgamation of her love for New York City, passion for feminism, and connection to her Afro-Indigenous identity.
In “Brujas,” Princess Nokia calls out stereotypes of witchcraft and magic—broomsticks, pointy hats, and warts can stay in Hocus Pocus—and instead, embraces her ancestry:
I’m that Black-a-Rican bruja straight out from the Yoruba
And my people come from Africa diaspora, Cuba
And you mix that Arawak, that original people
I’m that Black Native American, I vanquish all evil
I’m that Black-a-Rican bruja straight out from the Yoruba
And my ancestors Nigerian, my grandmas was brujas
And I come from an island and it’s called Puerto Rico
And it’s one of the smallest, but it got the most people.
Basically, the song is one large middle finger to European/Western narratives which designate witchcraft and magic as threatening and malicious. Fittingly, the song’s bridge literally curses out this narrative (“Don’t you fuck with my energy”) and ends with Princess Nokia’s powerful identification as an unapologetic bruja who is “supreme.”
Check out the “Brujas” music video and read the lyrics here.
To accompany the “Brujas” music video, Princess Nokia created a short film titled Maiden, Mermaid, Well. The film spans just under two minutes, but despite its brevity, it conjures (pun not intended) a powerful message of ancestral pride, specifically, that which is female and matrilineal.
The film depicts Yemoja/Yemaja, the Ocean Mother Goddess in Afro-Caribbean religions like Yoruba, wading in water with Princess Nokia and other women, all dressed in white. The film is serene and spiritual, with Princess Nokia’s soft narration overlaid to further emphasize her earlier message in “Brujas” of pride in witchcraft and rejection of European/Western stereotypes:
My blackness is not shameful.
My religion is not a sin.
I do not worship the devil.
I’ve never practiced bad magic a day in my life.
My magic is not spiteful.
I do not use it for hatred, envy, or greed.
My beliefs are sacred
But I don’t carry a broomstick,
My nose has no warts,
And I hate to break it to you baby, but
There is no pointed hat.
Check out the film below.
I think “Brujas” and Maiden, Mermaid, Well are important to listen to and watch because we need to be aware of the ways dominant cultures likes Western culture can distort spiritual practices by BIPOC, such as magic or witchcraft, into something completely different, and often, perceived as “wicked.” This Halloween, please be mindful of this and make sure to proceed with caution when dressing up––remember that this is someone’s culture, it is not a costume.
“Cut my hair so I could rock back and forth without thinking of you” might just be one of the most empowering musical lines to come our way. The phrase comes off the song “Alaska” from Maggie Rogers’s debut album, Heard It In A Past Life, which was released on January 18, 2019.
The 24-year-old singer-songwriter has been well-known in the alternative genre since the release of her first EP, Now That the Light Is Fading, in 2017. This EP captures Rogers while she is still a student at NYU, grappling to find her own voice in the sellout world of music. Songs like “Color Song” and “On + Off” show a style of music that is inspired by both folk and pop, with ethereal sounds highlighting her powerful voice.
Heard It In A Past Life moves away from this to signify a new stage in her life. Rogers deviates from her folk/indie roots to produce a record that sounds more like something from Haim or Sylvan Esso. The record seamlessly blends various themes together, such as maturity, heartbreak, and uncertainty. This allows for a personal connection between Rogers and her listeners. The result of this personal connection are songs that can only be described as being “uniquely Rogers.”
An echoing beat calls the listener to the dance floor, establishing Rogers’s distinctive sound in the first track off the album, “Give a Little.” Rogers’s raspy, yet strong, voice admits: “If I was who I was before / Then I’d be waiting at your door / But I cannot confess I am the same.” The upbeat background music, combined with Rogers’s melodic excitement about pursuing a new love, sets a tone for the album that is both nostalgic and hopeful for the future.
Rogers continues to show that she is not afraid of change in “Overnight,” a song about making peace with the fact that people change. “Overnight” is a great example of Rogers’s effortless key changes, which appear in almost all of her songs, giving her a distinctive and genuine sound. The song marks a time of transition in Rogers’s life, with her lyrics emphasizing an acceptance of the unknown.
Rogers’s music is so impressive that the listener should feel honored just to take part in it. This can be felt in “Say It,” a sultry tune about denying your romantic feelings for someone. The song manages to capture the tricky feeling of falling in love despite knowing that it may not be a good idea. A synthesizer beat with a futuristic sound, combined with Rogers’s silky voice sailing through the lyrics, gives the listener the privilege of feeling this emotion at Rogers’s level.
Maggie Rogers is a truly original artist, with both her voice and her words carrying beauty and honesty. She is no longer a young undergrad trying to find her path amidst a whirlwind of emotions. Rogers is mature and reflective now, honing a signature musical style that reveals that she has not necessarily moved past that whirlwind, but rather has come to embrace it.