I Don’t Get It. I Thought Lady Gaga’s “Perfect Illusion” Was Great

by C. Shardae Jobson

I’m listening to “Perfect Illusion” for the second time. Again, I responded excitedly to the beginning bass and guitar riffs that captured anticipation, as if in the middle of a sandstorm, and vibrated like a tribute to 1980s rock. It is super polished in its production than its predecessors. The rock sound is not gritty, but still loud. By the chorus, Lady Gaga‘s newest single exhibited her theatrically roaring “It wasn’t love, it wasn’t love. It was a perfect illusion.” 

Her last album, 2013’s Artpop, was lower in sales and pop culture recognition (a minor hit occurred with the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills assisted “G.U.Y.”). However, she forged onward, and musically retreated to the refined plateau of jukebox tunes with her warmly received duet album, Cheek to Cheek, with the legend, Tony Bennett. When not singing paeans to the days of 1940s Manhattan jazz bars, she went completely left and gothic, as she starred in the over-the-top television anthology American Horror Story: Hotel (and unexpectedly won a Golden Globe for her role).

Her critical acclaim also went up. At this year’s Super Bowl, she heartily sang the National Anthem. In 2015, covered John Lennon‘s “Imagine” at the European Games Opening Ceremony. And at the Academy Awards that February, delivered a beautiful medley of songs from The Sound of Music for its 50th anniversary. These showcases led former detractors and non-fans of Gaga to admit that the often grandiose entertainer indeed obtained genuine musical talent.

Meat dress be damned.

Since it appeared that Gaga’s look and musical tendencies had swum away from the candy land of cartoonish get-ups and songs primed for the LGBT dancefloor, it was up in the air what the sound of her next album would be. Now, with the release of “Perfect Illusion”, her version of garage (pop) rock and a single cover that features her up in the air, fist pump in tow, mid-song, wearing heavy, Doc Martens-esque lace-up boots, a rock aesthetic is clear. Pop music, Gaga is. But rock?

I liked “Perfect Illusion” instantly. It goes against Gaga’s resume of flamboyant seduction. I don’t think it’s a perfectly crafted song, but its freshness and ragged nature stand out. I was surprised to see online from comments to reviews that most were baffled by the single. “They” had insinuated that it was flat, unfinished, and essentially not “Gaga” enough. What did I miss? I accept that it has a demo feel. Granted, a shiny, expensive demo feel. Evidently, I had checked off the unpopular opinion box.

Rich Juzwiak of Jezebel unleashed a scathing cut calling it a “wall of shrill sounds.” And the opening that I found foretelling of a tale about to shared, was to him a distorted wail that opens the song and pierces the eardrums with a metronome’s precision, a hair-metal guitar riff that gets buried under the screeching, and Gaga’s own voice. Her deflating hook is practically D.O.A., and Gaga’s theatrical delivery doesn’t seem particularly interested in conveying anything aside bravado.” Juzwiak and I gathered the same combative vibes and similarly described the song. Yet both left with disparate experiences.

Pitchfork, the at times frustratingly verbose, even if greatly educational, music website, lazily used a Slack message conversation between editors as a way to review and denounce Gaga’s song. (Hilarious considering they’ve given full-blown articles to albums and songs that were awful).

Twitter had concluded that the track held similarities to Madonna’s 1986 True Blue song “Papa Don’t Preach.”

I’ve heard that song too many times. I think I would’ve picked up the twinning on site. I had to read the comment section of a magazine on Facebook to better comprehend the relation. Obstensibly, when Gaga sings “It was a perfect illusion” it is on the same wave as Madonna’s “I’m keeping my baby”  in “Papa Don’t Preach.” Eh. I do hear it (now that I’m aware). That, and the thundering strings at the start of “Papa Don’t Preach.” But that was an effort.

Can we focus more on how amazing Gaga’s voice sounds on her new song? Her range should be center stage here, even if you don’t like the song too much. It is the same attribute that allowed her above-mentioned performances in 2015 and this past past winter to soar.


Lady Gaga’s ferocity recounted the passionate vocals of women in rock like Tina Turner, and more specifically regarding the track, Pat Benatar. What I’m about to say might be music blasphemy to some, but “Perfect Illusion” is the distant cousin to Benatar’s 1983 hit “Love is a Battlefield.” They don’t sound alike, but the intent of the lyrics are there.

“We are young. Heartache to heartache we stand. No promises or demands. Love is a battlefield.” –“Love is a Battlefield”, Pat Benatar

Both songs are a white flag to no longer playing the fool and being docile. For Gaga, her admission is disbelief shaded by pomposity, with statements like “Mistaken for love.” The timing of the single’s release is equally telling because, in real life, Gaga broke off her engagement with actor Taylor Kinney earlier this summer. Did the sad change of events inspire the lyrics?

From Benatar, the track described a young woman’s brave decision to walk the line of the outside cruel world without the comfort of home or a safety net. The facade of the picket fence gone. Empowerment mission on, albeit shaky. This also appears as a motif in “Perfect Illusion” because as strong as Gaga’s vocals are, it sounds like she may about to break down and cry. But she’s still singing her pain out.


The hate towards Gaga’s new song was too easy. Of course, the critics want to make fun of Gaga’s attempt to rock out as if her new song was supposed to be a carbon copy of “Just Dance” instead. Give the song a chance on your own. And be sure to blast it that second and third time around you listen to it. Trust me, you’ll grow to like it.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16:  Alicia Keys attends the NBCUNIVERSAL 2016 Upfront presentation at Radio City Music Hall on May 16, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Walter McBride/Getty Images)

Alicia Keys’ No Makeup Movement: What It Means For The Rest Of Us

by C. Shardae Jobson

In the category or hashtags for Beauty & Style in social media, we remain clicks away from the vortex of Instagram-inspired makeup selfies. (In) there you’ll observe heavy foundation, eyebrows penciled-in like curved Legos, and overlined lips. But per contra to these trends, piano talent Alicia Keys has publicly chosen to absolutely forgo wearing makeup. AKA participate in the #nomakeup movement/challenge.

Keys is certainly not the first celeb or modern day woman to face the world without a stitch or extremely light makeup. Aerie, the undergarment line of American Eagle Outfitters, prints unairbrushed photos of their models. One of GLAMOUR magazine’s covers this summer had Mila Kunis pose in denim on denim and bare-faced. And unremittingly cool Tilda Swinton almost always has nothing on but a little bit of white powder to matte her alabaster skin and lip balm on the red carpet event. (On occasion, a cranberry lip). Keys, however, has a considerably higher star wattage than the examples. Her saying “I’m good” (for now) to eyeliner, mascara, and foundation, all while performing at the BET Awards, presenting at the VMAs and as a new judge on The Voice this year, is a major sign of how we should start viewing beauty in America.

I love makeup. I’m not exactly sure when this love for it occurred. But the climb has been a steady one towards the ladder of undisputed glam. By age 27, it was routine to whip out the works of makeup applicators and products when getting dressed. Present day, I now also tolerate color correcting. This is laughable because no such thing took place when I was 22. I sometimes try to recall how I wore my makeup in my early twenties, but it is a blur. Did I really just leave the house with some face powder, few “coats” of mascara and lip gloss? Me, who gushes at the swatch of shimmery lavender eyeshadow with just the right amount of a navy undertone, encapsulated the get-up and glow look of brands like Glossier? The most dramatic switch-up I did was a heavy flush of blush, evocative of 1970s fashion. According to a good friend of mine, she promised that it actually looked great despite its gaudy connotation. Even then, I likely didn’t know how to brush on blush . At 22, that’s charming.

Primarily based on the last twelve months, I know I’ve become more dependent and affected by makeup. A natural look for me is truthfully not natural at all. I still have a layer of foundation with additional stippling of concealer and darkening of the eyebrows. I’ve tried to fulfill the BB cream look of tinted, light foundation. I just wasn’t satisfied with what I saw in the mirror. It would best and a start to admit that at the crux of my dissatisfaction is likely insecurity.

The endless possibilities makeup offers us is wonderful because freedom is great and with makeup can be colorful and artistic. On the other hand, I am bothered that I feel I don’t look as good without a sheet of foundation. I own so much makeup. A mixed combination of collector addiction and the incessant end for products that will give me the image I crave. It’s a damn shame I’m unsatisfied. When did I become defenseless against my own God-given face? My blood, sweat, and tears should be all the war paint I need. In plain English, is sucks when the freedom and power of makeup deviate from fabulous to an albatross.

Look here
You got the look (you got the look)
You must’a took (you must’a took)
A whole hour just to make up your face, baby
Closin’ time, ugly lights, everybody’s inspected (Everybody’s inspected)
But you are a natural beauty unaffected (Unaffected)
Did I say an hour?
My face is red, I stand corrected (I stand corrected)

“U Got The Look”, Prince featuring Sheena Easton

Alicia Keys first introduced her #nomakeup decision in an essay published by Lenny Letter in May. Lovingly written, as if for an old friend receiving an update on what’s new, she magnified moments of assimilation and experimentation in the name of trying to belong and self-discovery.

Before I started my new album, I wrote a list of all the things that I was sick of. And one was how much women are brainwashed into feeling like we have to be skinny, or sexy, or desirable, or perfect. One of the many things I was tired of was the constant judgment of women. The constant stereotyping through every medium that makes us feel like being a normal size is not normal, and heaven forbid if you’re plus-size. Or the constant message that being sexy means being naked.

I needed these songs because I was really feeling those insecurities.

I was finally uncovering just how much I censored myself, and it scared me. Who was I anyway? Did I even know HOW to be brutally honest anymore? Who I wanted to be?

At the beginning of her career, Keys extended her creativity towards her style. She re-popularized braids and cornrows. At the 2002 Grammys, where she won her five (of later fifteen) for her debut Songs In A Minor, she copiously decorated her eyelids with what looked like silver shimmery mini appliques. From The Diary of Alicia Keys onward, Keys mainly stuck to earthy, neutral tones for eye makeup and her tomboy chic evolved into Ann Taylor sensibilities by way of dirty sexy YSL and Gucci. But when she included in her “Time To Uncover” essay, that at one point in her career: “I started, more than ever, to become a chameleon. Never fully being who I was, but constantly changing so all the “they’s” would accept me.”  I remembered how some commented that she had put her sexuality and sex appeal more on display with the 2009 album The Element of Freedom.

Keys shared that she hopes #nomakeup becomes “a revolution.” Thankfully, she was also made it clear that while this decision was made for her own personal journey and she doesn’t knock anyone else down for wanting to continue wearing makeup. The bigger banner here is what India.Arie originally stated in 2001: “I am not my hair. I am not this skin.”

It can be trying to regard quixotic notions of “I am what I am” when we’re all consistently being reminded that our choice of dress and hairstyles are an extension of ourselves. So how are we not our hair or makeup when this is how we want the world to see us? Because we are allowed to change our opinions, just like a shirt or eyeliner shade. We are not our hair, makeup, or clothes because those aren’t the only aspects that represents us. What makes us or you you isn’t just topical. I trust that that is the point of Keys’ #nomakeup crusade.

Her choice has inspired me to lay it on less (Shall we try this again, BB cream?) but also be unashamed of reacting school girl happy towards a lipstick color that’s the perfect boysenberry hue. It is nice to be seen as beautiful or pretty. It is more rewarding to be appreciated as an original or for simply being you. Are we still full of pure imagination to think this is possible in our digitized age?


Why The Term “Multiracial” Triggers In The Black Community

by C. Shardae Jobson

After reading the casting call for Kanye West’s season 4 Yeezy collection, set to premiere during New York Fashion Week this month, a pursed smile developed when I came across the word, or term, “multiracial.” And it was only because of the type of request it was embedded in: “MULTIRACIAL GIRLS ONLY.” Ooh boy, here we go.

Multiracial girls only. Why am I surprised? This is Kanye West. One minute he’s reminding us that he’s not too far detached from a Black woman’s beauty and strength by personally choosing Teyana Taylor as the lead for his video “Fade.” As well as giving cameos to her fiancé, NBA champ Iman Shumpert and their daughter Iman Tayla, a shout-out to Black Love. The next, he retracts to being a disturbing snapshot of the type of Black man in America who doesn’t want to see or include Black or dark skinned women. But is that really the case here? West has featured diverse casting and Black women in past fashion shows. Just this past spring, perpetual supermodel Naomi Campbell effortlessly commanded in her brand of Black Girl Magic at West’s Spring Yeezy 3 show. Also present at that showcase, were fellow (Black) models of high prestige, Veronica Webb, Alek Wek, and Liya Kebede.


My whirl in agitation lasted a minute after I realized I knew what was up here. He likely wanted models that resembled his daughter North West. Nothing wrong with that. Except that Kanye’s vision of multiracial could be potentially limited and narrow-minded. We often identify multiracial looks with light to tannish skin and curls of a softer texture like North’s, or celebs like Jesse Williams with his hazel-ish eyes. But not all multiracial people look like that. There are people who are pale, dark, with kinky curls and are multiracial. Will these types of individuals be represented in season 4 Yeezy too?

Based on the comments section of the Instagram pages of Baller Alert and The Shade Room, it is interesting how only Black people/people of color and Black women, in particular, were bothered and defensive by the usage of “multiracial.” Most comments were filled with the “What the fuck are you implying” dose of jam.

It is a thin ass block of ice Black men and Black entertainment walk on when we throw around active words such as “only” and “preferably” regarding race or looks. In our microcosm, a word like “multiracial” always seems to (in)directly signal lighter, more “exotic” (hate that word) aka better than, in context. Also, multicultural and multiracial are not the same thing. For example, I am Black, and American by birth, with the additional cultures and heritages of Costa Rica by my mother and the Democratic Republic of Congo by my father. I am multicultural but not exactly multiracial. (Even if the family tree extends itself to Egypt (father) and Jamaica (mother). But something tells me that Kanye and co. plan to use multiracial and multicultural interchangeably, while somehow still holding a tunnel vision of who gets to represent the “multiracial” look.

In the Latino community and Portuguese-based Brazil, similar arguments have been exercised. The sad issue of light vs. dark, or the complexities of White vs. Black.

Such as, American-born Latinos that identify more specifically as Afro-Latinos (Latinos with direct lineage to Africa or are honestly darker in skin tone) have combated against the racist practices of ostracizing or belittling darker toned Latinos (let’s recall how the brown/darker toned Latinos always played the maid in telenovelas). And stateside, tirelessly re-educate the masses that Latino isn’t a race but an expansive culture. There are over 20+ Spanish speaking countries in the world, and there are not only Latinos as swarthy as night, but Chinese Latinos and ones that look as American Pie as iconic ’90s model Christy Turlington (who is El Salvadorean on her mother’s side). Clearly, we are not always what we seem, racially or culturally. And an espresso complexion Brazilian is no less Brazilian than chosen one Gisele Bundchen.

Considering West treats his fashion shows as live action installation art projects, we’ll just have to wait and see what his new age portrayal of “multiracial” will be. It really could be a tribute to North which would be kinda cute. But West’s vision of multiracial may be painfully inaccurate or incomplete.