Sound Advice 

The Flyer's music writers tell you where you can go.

Well, she’s at it again. The Commercial Appeal’s self-appointed Memphis Morality Czar Wendi Thomas checked in with another hip-hop rant. In targeting “Wait,” the controversial new single from Atlanta hip-hop duo The Ying Yang Twins, who headline Crunk Fest at the Mid-South Coliseum Saturday, July 2nd, Thomas took dead-aim at a cultural phenomenon worthy of critique and misfired badly. As usual, Thomas’ irrepressible prudery torpedoed what was an otherwise worthy argument.

The column, which ran last Sunday, asked readers to complain to radio stations about “raunchy” music and lamented that “Wait” is the most “vulgar” song on the radio right now.

Well, raunchiness and vulgarity aren’t inherently bad qualities. Shakespeare plays. Preston Sturges movies. Little Richard records. All could be said to have raunchy and vulgar qualities. Harassment, brutality, misogyny, and exploitation — all of which “Wait” might be guilty of — are the real issues.

With its minimalist beat and whispered vocal, “Wait” is a striking record, but listen close and you’ll discover a leering lyric that works its way into the refrain “beat that pussy up.”

Whether “Wait” is merely an ode to vigorous sex between consenting adults or an approving simulation of sexual harassment leading to sexual brutality is an open question and one that warrants debate. The problem with Thomas’ protest is that she seems to disapprove either way. That said, at least Thomas is willing to address the content of popular music that might be having a negative impact. Most writers and music professionals, in Memphis and elsewhere, aren’t interested in having this oh-so-necessary conversation.

Thankfully, “Wait” seems to have finally spurred a long-overdue round of soul-searching among music critics in the alt-press and blogosphere about mainstream hip-hop’s rampantly misogynistic content. Whether these discussions cross over to the hip-hop press and the music industry generally remains to be seen, but at least something good has come out of a bad record.

As for Crunk Fest, controversy over the Ying Yang Twins is likely the least of the concerns over the event, which suffered from some serious security issues a year ago. At this week’s show, the Ying Yang Twins will be joined by Memphis artists Yo Gotti, Gangsta Boo, and Nasty Nardo, along with a host of other Southern hip-hop acts.

Or for something decidedly calmer, this week also brings Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson’s minor-league baseball stadium tour to AutoZone Park. These two legends of American song play the park Friday, July 1st. — Chris Herrington

The label “pagan singer-songwriter” usually makes me cringe. I happen to be a pagan, but all that love and light and New Age-y crap that usually goes along with the music is enough to induce vomiting.

But S.J. Tucker is a different kind of pagan singer-songwriter. She’s folksier and not too heavy on the artsy-fartsy references to consciousness and spiritual awakening. Instead, she sings about real-life “sticky situations,” as she refers to them on her second full-length album, Tangles: break-ups, a friend’s attempt at suicide, finding new love, and helping a fellow musician escape a cult-like band.

Her sound is original, but if you had to pin it down and compare, I’d say it’s a little like Joni Mitchell meets Ani DiFranco (but it may just be Tucker’s stellar acoustic strumming that brings the latter to mind). Her lyrics are poetic and occasionally a bit obscure, like a good Tori Amos song sans the random orgasmic screams. I suspect that Tucker may just be a fairy trapped in a human body, but not a frilly flower fairy. More of a dark angel with ruffled wings.

And what better place for a fairy to host a CD-release party than an outdoor location called Dragonfly Meadows? Located at 715 Oberle in Frayser, the Meadows is actually a massive backyard at Tucker’s friends’ home (but the party is open to the public). The yard has a view of the downtown skyline, and since the party is scheduled for Monday, July 4th, a portion of the party will be dedicated to watching the fireworks show downtown. Joining Tucker will be Missouri-based singer-songwriter Sede, the drumming group Rhythm Realm, and several performers from the local Broken String Collective. 

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