Diversity in Music is Your Responsibility, Too

 The phenomenal  Mykele Deville,  Chicago-based poet and rapper

The phenomenal Mykele Deville, Chicago-based poet and rapper

For nearly five years, I lived smack-dab in the center of the live music capital of the world. Austin gave me a lot of things - a radio gig, a passion for independent music and most importantly, an outlet to project my love for Chicago’s garage rock. As a radio DJ, I obsessed over Chicago’s local bands every week on my Monday night show. Twin Peaks, Modern Vices, The Walters, The Symposium — when I wasn’t blasting them over the airwaves, I had them on my headphones as I walked to class each day. I couldn’t wait to graduate and head to Chicago to work in music, hopefully crossing paths with the boys who’d soundtracked the bulk of my college years.

 Chicago emcee, filmmaker and photographer  Jovan 's honestly got the best flow of any hip hop artist in this city, but that's just me

Chicago emcee, filmmaker and photographer Jovan's honestly got the best flow of any hip hop artist in this city, but that's just me

Following my honeymoon phase, I began to see the cracks in the scene’s facade. Somehow, I’d overlooked the fact that the popular bands I loved were comprised entirely of white men. Surrounded by overwhelmingly talented artists of all races and genders, I wondered how these men so often outshone other stars within the scene. How could audiences overlook the luscious lyricisms of Loona Dae? The rallying antifascist fury of Mykele Deville? The melanin-infused soliloquies of Me’Chelle Renee? Slowly but surely, the giants of the scene I once loved inadvertently became the antagonists. Never mind laws “prohibiting” discrimination — too often, I watched the bands I loved for years pick supporting acts that mirrored their own compositions. Wavves took The Orwells on tour. The Orwells took Twin Peaks on tour. Twin Peaks took Modern Vices took The Walters took Summer Salt. And so it goes. 

I watched as all the five-piece white-boy garage outfits I’d have loved a year before began to bleed together and bleed together until finally, I saw nothing.

 (love y'all, but it's not about you anymore)

(love y'all, but it's not about you anymore)

As my former aural oasis blurred before me, I didn’t cry. I didn’t mourn. Rather, I realized that my home, Charm School, put me in a perfect position to take direct action.

Charm School is a DIY venue in Chicago formed from the ashes of the now-defunct Dollhouse DIY. Like Dollhouse, we prioritize booking of femme-identifying musicians and artists living at the intersections of marginalized identities — but unlike Dollhouse, we don’t assert ourselves as experts in our niche. As America’s public education system crumbles and racial tensions build faster than Trump’s wall ever could, our space has become more than just a venue, It’s a learning facility. 

Rather than just booking diverse acts, we’ve also got to be vocal about our actions. We’ve got to educate our audience on why we do what we do. But most importantly - we’ve got to take accountability for missteps we as white folks make in the process. The essence of Charm School’s existence is that we are always learning, and it’s okay to be wrong sometimes so long as we listen, learn, and better ourselves in turn.

As such, my dedication to the cause isn’t perfect. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t host Post Animal on Halloween and enjoy every second of it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still absolutely love the boy bands that drove me to Chicago in the first place. But I’d be lying if I said I’m not trying to branch out, and I’d be lying if I didn’t end this anecdote with an opportunity for you guys to do the same.

Here, I’ve compiled a short playlist of artists whose music and stories I love — some of them have performed at Charm School, but all of them tell stories worth hearing. This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a solid place to start.

Consider this your homework. Class dismissed.

I've spent the past couple of weeks renovating my portfolio website and haven't had much time to write anything in-depth. However, I do want to share this video because it's a total work of art:

Breaking the Binary: It's Advertising's Turn

The gender binary, though not as old as time, has been enforced long enough to have created a permanent furrow in society’s brow. But it’s not just tradition that enforces this — it’s advertising as well.

Advertising — as well as the research backing it — is notorious for continually enforcing and capitalizing on tired gender roles and stereotypes. During one particular college class of mine in 2014, J.J. Davis’s "Advertising Research: Theory and Practice" dug the gender binary even deeper. Davis lists and defines multiple types of questions used in advertising research — classifying gender as a “dichotomous question.” A dichotomous question, unlike its more lenient cousins, gives its survey participants only two choices in response to a question. Gender, however, is not dichotomous — but the academic side of advertising is lagging behind.

As I’ve said before, though — advertising is all about knowing the rules and breaking them anyway — which is exactly what CoverGirl is doing.

 Yes, I know he's problematic as heck but I wrote this a year ago come ON

Yes, I know he's problematic as heck but I wrote this a year ago come ON

17-year-old James Charles, heralded as “CoverGirl’s first Coverboy” (AdWeek), is an Instagram-based beauty guru boasting a whopping 272K followers as of this blog’s posting. Like CoverGirl’s models before him, Charles is an expert in cosmetic beauty — so no un-sexist logic can justify disallowing him to grace CoverGirl’s ads. While the brand’s name still implies their products are strictly for cisgender women, New York creative agency Yard’s co-founder Ruth Bernstein says that “as androgyny and gender fluidity become the norm rather than the exception in today's cultural landscape, brands are faced with the challenge of tackling gender norms both in their advertising and the products they offer.” This being said, brands can’t uproot centuries of gender norms in one modeling deal — but it’s a start.

Thinx, a brand of underwear specifically designed for menstruation, is following suit. CEO Miki Agrawal says that, their product’s goal is “to reclaim the anxiety and shame surrounding your period” and that this isn’t an issue for exclusively cisgender women. Their print ads have featured transgender men in an effort to remind the public that some men menstruate, and some women do not.

Since having gender fluidity invalidated before me from the stage of a lecture hall in 2014, the media’s made strides in queer visibility. The impacts are being made — the second step is to normalize it.

Virality in Static Art: Sick Fisher

This is Nick Fisher.

Nick Fisher, alias Sick Fisher, is a Chicago street artist and painter. His distinct art style plasters the walls of tons of music and arts hotspots in the city, such as Bric-a-Brac Records, the Observatory Gallery and Bite Cafe. In his free time, Fisher repurposes his leftover materials to create smaller pieces - which he hides around town for his fans to find.

I’d never heard of Fisher until last night. My roommate, also a local painter, told me Fisher had hidden a piece of art in the park near our house. Despite it being far past sundown, two of my housemates and I headed out to Humboldt Park in the dark to scour the park for Fisher’s artwork. After nearly two hours trolling through the park, we found Fisher’s painting buried deep within one particular thicket.

 Hey, that's me!

Hey, that's me!

Because Fisher’s art is primarily physical rather than digital, its initial reach is very limited. Typically, it’s tough transposing physical art into interactive content — but Fisher does it flawlessly! By turning his art into a scavenger hunt and advertising it on social media, dispensing clues via Facebook and Instagram, he hyped his art and grew his audience in the same breath.

Check out more of Sick Fisher's art at:
www.facebook.com/sickfisherart
www.instagram.com/sickfisher

The Gidget Gambit: Was it Worth it?

In September 1997, TWBA/Chiat/Day introduced Gidget, whom you may know better as “the Taco Bell chihuahua.”

Their 30-second TV spots opened to show Gidget making a mad dash through various parts of the city, seemingly toward a female chihuahua perceived to be his girlfriend. Toward the end, it’s revealed that Gidget isn’t actually running for the girl, but for the Taco Bell nearby.

Gidget became an instant star, and his one-liner an instant catchphrase among Americans. He plastered billboards, T-shirts, news inserts and toy shelves - if it could be manufactured, Gidget’s face was on it. Was there anything Gidget couldn’t do?

In fact, there was - despite being “'one of the best advertising icons in recent memory” according to TWBA/Chiat/Day president Tom Carroll, his presence failed to increase overall sales. Taco Bell dropped the agency and went on to pursue other advertising strategies with FCB Southern California.

However, just because Gidget’s career ended abruptly doesn’t mean his legacy didn’t endure — for better or for worse.

Shortly after Gidget’s TV stardom came to a halt, many popular female celebrities began toting chihuahuas. At the same time, chihuahuas began arriving en masse at animal shelters. They quickly became one of the most populous breeds within these shelters — second only to pit bulls. This epidemic was especially prevalent in the Los Angeles metropolis — which happens to be where both Taco Bell’s headquarters and Hollywood are located. 

The Guardian refers to the homeless chihuahua epidemic as “Paris Hilton Syndrome” — a problem so distinct that the west-coast canines were shipped in droves to shelters across the country to alleviate their overflow. Less than half of the dogs in shelters make it out alive, and a whopping third of some shelters are comprised of chihuahuas.

Solid causation is impossible to determine due to lack of bookkeeping in many animal shelters, I’ve developed a few hypotheses supported loosely by chronological data:

A) Gidget’s stardom led to rising demand of chihuahuas as pets. Seeing a market for the pups, many chihuahua puppy mills sprung up.
B) American celebrities were quietly recruited to “advertise” chihuahuas to encourage fans to adopt the rising numbers of chihuahuas in shelters. Movies such as Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Legally Blonde followed suit.
C) Owners who adopted only because their favorite stars did soon realized they could not care for chihuahuas and returned them to shelters - thus repeating the cycle.

This is important for two reasons:
A) Unlike celebrities who fade after a few years in the spotlight, chihuahuas are dependent on others to stay alive after the hype fades. TWBA/Chiat/Day probably didn’t anticipate this.
B) Ad agencies can, however, learn from this. Because it’s possible Taco Bell helped spur the chihuahua influx, it’s important to consider this when bringing specific breeds and animals into the spotlight.

Taco Bell’s sales may have suffered — but their losses pale in comparison to the mass amounts of chihuahuas euthanized since the end of their campaign.

But surely it won’t happen again. We don't really hype any particular breed the way we hyped chihuahuas over a decade ago...right?

The Next Frontier

“Originality is dead,” thus saith modern-day philosophers. All’s been said, all’s been done. All possible paintings have been painted, songs written, ideas devised - as young professionals, they tell us, there’s nothing original left to contribute.

Yet our generation, ironically, prides itself on originality. And that’s where the concept of “meta” comes in. “Meta” is defined by UrbanDictionary as “a term, especially in art, used to characterize something that is characteristically self-referential.” This definition is vague, so let’s put it into context. Glimpse Collective’s latest campaign — or anti-campaign — exemplifies exactly what “meta” means.

This campaign is a nod to the 9-5 millennial worker’s stereotypical work ethic, punctuated by procrastination and cat videos. Procatinator.com is dedicated to this exact thing. Like cat videos cut through the clutter of office monotony, this 68-piece cat splash throughout the UK subway tunnels distracted passersby from their commutes. It’s absurd. It’s seemingly nonsensical. It caught your eye, didn’t it?

But the thing is, it’s still an ad. It’s an ad about how ads are boring. This convoluted reach for your attention is the definition of meta.

Not only that, but this anti-ad is actually an advertisement for Battersea Animal Rescue. And whether it convinces you to bring home a cat or not, you noticed the cats while waiting for the train. And that’s all Glimpse wanted you to do.

“Originality is dead,” thus saith modern-day philosophers. But they’re wrong; it’s merely evolved.

Read more at: http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/all-ads-london-subway-station-have-been-replaced-pictures-cats-173457