Amber Mark for @irkmagazine | By @juliacomita | Hair @nikoweddle | make up @raisaflowers
Celebrities, Culture, Music

How Amber Mark’s cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” Did and Didn’t Surprise Me

It’s just too good.

I’m shocked that:

Heart-Shaped Box is a cover song from Nirvana.

This rock classic that apparently true rock heads would know is totally lost on me, but when I first heard it (just now) it felt like a home of sorts, musically. I had already embodied Smells Like Teen Spirit and heard countless reinterpretations. So this was nice to still be discovering something new from a band that has for years inspired me performance-wise.

I’m also delightfully surprised that

Amber Mark produced it.

In fact, she produces ALL her music.

That factoid totally blew me away. She’s only in her early 20’s and has produced two critically acclaimed albums. Yes, I said PRODUCED. She is a producer and engineer – proof that you CAN be good at more than one thing. “I enjoy working alone because I can be most creative,” she says, so that means there’s not one fucking with her vibe. Her sound and message come through so STRONG in her lyrics. She’s mysterious yet grounded, assertive yet vulnerable, and even apprehensive in the songs I love by her, like “Put You On,” “Love Me Right,” newer singles, the I wanna fuck you rat now level sexy trap-inspired R&B song “Generous,” and of course, although the lyrics aren’t her own, “Heart-Shaped Box.”

 

Here’s what I’m NOT surprised about:

Amber’s reinterpretation of the song is so DOPE!

I mean, it sounds nothing like the original but it still stays true to the sentiment of the original. And I’ve gotten used to the way she does her melodies, they are very pop-like, melodic, bouncy, catchy, and memorable. But this? This was something that was turned on its head. It will have you nodding your head with a stank face on. That BOUNCE though!

 

Amber’s turning world’s pain into a project.

I’m  not surprised that she’s doing what artists do sometimes, and taking this opportunity of the downtime of quarantine to create. COVERED-19, her self isolation playlist, will have a new upload every 2 weeks of covers. (So far it only has 2 songs, “Heart-Shaped Box,” and “Waiting,” so I won’t post it here because it’s not robust enough yet – but follow Amber’s COVID – 19 inspired playlist on Spotify.)

An ode to creating in solitude, I guess 2 heads are not better than one in this case.

Love you guys, and feel no pressure. Just work, live, and love at your own pace, but enjoy this shit. She also did a video for the song. Very much on the brand (including the twerk. I don’t see how you can have a homemade video without twerk at this point – I wouldn’t). Very much enjoyable, but still just a tease for the full track. 

 

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SemiSolid is a playlist of new and emerging artists in music. Clockwise: Brandy Haze, Serena Isioma, Toye, Marcus Charles, and Nnamdi (center)
Art, Celebrities, Culture, Music, Playlists

S E M I ⧭ S O L I D (oobleck) – 5 New Artists you should listen to right now to cope with COVID

S E M I ⧭ S O L I D (oobleck) is a playlist made solely of new artists and their best and most current work. They’re still proving themselves in this media circus we call the music business, but you I’ve confidently added them to my playlist. You can, too. 

SemiSolid is a playlist of new and emerging artists in music. Clockwise: Brandy Haze, Serena Isioma, Toye, Marcus Charles, and Nnamdi (center)

SemiSolid is a playlist of new and emerging artists in music. Clockwise: Brandy Haze, Serena Isioma, Toye, Marcus Charles, and Nnamdi (center)

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Art, Celebrities, Culture, Important People, Life, Music, New York City, Personal Liberation, Politics/World Issues, Sex

Once I Was A Stripper: Songs by Drake and Roberta Flack, One Conclusion on ‘that Life’

It’s all the same. Drake’s song “305 To My City” and Roberta Flack’s 1969 classic “Trade Winds.” These two songs are talking about the same tragic dynamics of America.

What inspired this post was, yesterday, a man who I’d been seeing told me that he had taken his 21-year-old cousin to a strip club.

What I’m thinking about all of this is:

Here you are, a man who I’m thinking about taking more seriously. Intelligent, emotionally supportive. Has a passion, but I don’t know if you’re following it. You take your cousin to this club and you call me from there, we talk about our relationship briefly while you take a cigarette break. I’m touched that you called but disgusted at the fact that you’re there. This is beyond some immature insane old paradigm idea that I own you and I’m upset at you looking at naked women. No, from a real grown up, feminist, spiritual, economic perspective, I am disappointed in your choice.

Strippers can make a lot of money, as Drake talks about in the song “305 To My City,” but when you live in a society where it seems that the fields that women make the most money without a higher education degree are places where their bodies are only seen as sexual objects, you can’t argue that that is the best we can do as far as economic empowerment for women. Interview a stripper. Is she happy and fulfilled? Does she feel she is looked at as a whole person at her job? Now interview 100 of them. What are the odds now? I know most regular jobs sap the human soul. I’m pointing out that being seen as only a sexual object is a unique kind of soul-sapping. I won’t get into why, because I don’t know. I just feel it.

“305 To My City” is a song about a woman who is a stripper and has stacked enough money from her earnings to put a down payment on a Jaguar. Her parents don’t approve of her lifestyle but she is “shining on them hoes” (meaning doing way better than her peers, competitors, and friends) and appears to be in control of her life. It’s my own projections, assumptions, and judgments, but I am skeptical of the true happiness of any woman who feels she must exchange sexual gratification for money in that type of environment. I don’t think there are many who aren’t deeply hurting and ashamed inside. When I did it, I know I wasn’t happy.

But everyone isn’t me.

I knew that I could not live that kind of lifestyle no matter how broke I was. I had a loving supportive home where my other talents, besides being sexy, were encouraged. We can assume the woman had at least two parents in her life who care about her, because they think what she is doing is only a phase, and it must be damaging to her, and they want her to stop. Drake totally gets it. Him, coming from the bottom, celebrates the pinnacle of his success in lavish strip clubs, throwing money at women who, even if they love what they do, probably wouldn’t want to do it in that type of environment. I believe the sexual energy in these places is terribly misdirected.

I remember reading Jenna Jameson’s How to be a Porn Star when I was in high school.

She talked about how even if you work in a high-end club there are several physical, mental and emotional pitfalls that come with working in a club. (Tip: wear knee pads.)

She talked about how even if you work in a high-end club there are several physical, mental and emotional pitfalls that come with working in a club. (Tip: wear knee pads.)

And while I’m not referring to oral sex in that last sentence, I should be. Several women who are strippers end up becoming prostitutes. Stripping can often be a gateway job into other sex work.

This reminds me of the line from Roberta Flack’s Trade Winds…

“Young girls who’ll soon become

(walkers of the avenue)

streetwalkers in the night.”

The line, or one close to it in the song, made me break down in tears on a bus at JFK one night.

I was on my way to another job that I hated. And I thought if I must feel this much misery going to a job that I hate, yet people often respect (I was a flight attendant for the military), what more must a woman feel where she goes to a job where she is degraded by most of society? Better yet, where she degrades herself? I’m not saying self-degradation doesn’t happen in many other jobs. One might argue that almost any job can be done with at least a sliver of dignity. I have argued another side to this argument many times. You know, the “sex-worker-as-empowered-woman” side. It doesn’t fly when I remember my own experience. When you take that first step into the underground you are often desperate. Maybe not only for money. Maybe for something else, like love.

That is how these two songs are related in my mind. Drake’s bass heavy, club-ready song doesn’t glorify the profession of sex industry worker but acknowledges that it is a means to an end; the woman has made some good financial choices that have allowed her to do what many Americans can’t, which is put a down payment on a luxury car. It neglects to say anything of the degradation she may have endured while she continues to work at the club, day in, and day out. It could be worse. At least he is proud of her. From this superstar she is getting the approval of her achievements that she certainly isn’t getting from the father in her life right now.

The somber mood of Flack’s Trade Winds, with the chorus sounding like sad angels of a community crying out for its children, before they reach their sordid fate, paints just how grim the picture of coming from poor beginnings can be. It ticks off the very real ills of society that make becoming a stripper a first, or last, choice for so many women, particularly, Black women. After all, trade winds are a natural phenomenon. Ships use them to trade goods, and bodies. I’ve written about sex trafficking and it is tragic that because of factors that are out of their hands, so many women will end up being seen as goods, traded for sexual gratification by people, to people, who fail to see the innocence of their victims, and refuse to acknowledge the innocent parts of themselves.

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Art, Celebrities, Culture, Important People, Life, Music, New York City, Personal Liberation, Sprituality

What Does it Mean To Be An Artist?: 30 Musings, 30 Days, Day 17

Lady Gaga talks in this YouTube Video (love this clean looking series talking to women about love, life, art) and she says she told herself when she was coked up and strung out…”You’re not an artist.” I guess being a true artist denotes discipline.

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Art, Celebrities, Culture, Film, Life, Music, Nature, New York City, Nonprofit, Personal Liberation, Reality Shows, Sprituality, Technology, Travel

What Does it Mean To Be An Artist?: 30 Musings, 30 Days, Day 16

I was talking to a good friend of mine, Tamara Leacock (great fashion designer and artist/goddess/comrade) about drug problems and art. Got me thinking…Can someone or should someone be free to promote their drug experience as positive for the sake of their art?

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Art, Friendship, Life, Music, New York City, Personal Liberation, Politics/World Issues, Race Relations, Relationships, Sex, Sprituality, Technology, Travel

What Does it Mean to Be An Artist?: 30 Musings, 30 Days, Day 12

[on slowly discovering my abilities and talents]…It wasn’t until later that I realized that I could talk on and on for hours…and not get tired. Me, who had never traveled out of the United States and hadn’t had that many unique experiences, had never even had sex…but I had phone buddies who would tell me of conspiracies against the black man and in fact every american…and I would tell them about me….All about me…I didn’t understand it then…Snapshot_20120813_32

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Art, Culture, Life, Music, Nature, New York City, Nonprofit, Personal Liberation, Sex, Sprituality, Technology, Travel

What Does it Mean to Be An Artist?: 30 Musings, 30 Days, Day 10

pimpI myself am still struggling to understand what art does to me when I view it, hear it, see it, read it. It’s easier to understand what music as an art form does. It literally moves my body, or drives me to tears. Visual art…different. I get stuck in analyzation. I’m pretty sure that’s not what the artist intended…

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Art, Celebrities, Important People, Life, Music, New York City, Nonprofit, Personal Liberation, Sprituality

What Does it Mean to Be An Artist?: 30 Musings, 30 Days, Day 4

Singing at an event.

Singing at an event.

I can’t really call myself a multi-disciplinary artist because I’m not all that disciplined. I just like to do a bunch of different things.

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Art, Celebrities, Culture, Dating, Friendship, Important People, Life, Music, Nature, Nonprofit, Personal Liberation, Sex, Sprituality, Technology, Travel

What Does it Mean to Be An Artist?: 30 Musings, 30 Days, Day 1

what is it
What does it mean?
What does it mean to be an artist?
One thing that I know it means to be an artist is to make choices. Cut the fat. What do I want to say? Who do I want to say it to? Where is this coming from, and where is it going…what is…it?
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