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Hold ’em! Beyoncé makes history as she tops Billboard's country-music chart

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Hold ’em! Beyoncé makes history as she tops Billboard's country-music chart

Beyoncé’s country music looks like it’s gonna stick around, ’round, ’round, ’round, ’round.

The “Break My Soul” singer empirically put to rest the debate about her inclusion in the genre when she made chart history Tuesday. Her twangy new singles “Texas Hold ’Em” and “16 Carriages” debuted on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, with the line dance challenge-inspiring “Texas Hold ’Em” holding up the No. 1 position and “16 Carriages” riding into the No. 9 spot of the Feb. 24 chart, which is based on streaming, airplay and sales.

Beyoncé joins Taylor Swift as the only solo women to clinch that achievement with no accompanying artists, Billboard said, and Bey makes history as the first woman to top both Billboard’s Hot Country Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts.

The superstar, who released the new songs after her Verizon commercial aired during Super Bowl LVIII earlier this month, joins Morgan Wallen,
Justin Bieber, Billy Ray Cyrus and Ray Charles as the only acts to have led both the Hot Country Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts, Billboard said.

Her pair of songs also charted on the publication’s all-genre Billboard Hot 100, with “Texas Hold ’Em” climbing to the No. 2 spot and “16 Carriages” parking at No. 38.

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While “Renaissance’s” first act stood on the shoulders of disco and club music giants — vogue-ing its way into the EDM genre in 2022 — the Destiny’s Child alum is similarly bringing her Houston country-music roots to “Act II,” the second album in her expected genre-jumping trilogy that debuts March 29.

Although she might be among the most recognized names, Bey is by no means the only Black artist making waves in country music. Hootie & the Blowfish alum Darius Rucker, Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Breland, Willie Jones, Jimmie Allen, Reyna Roberts, Blanco Brown, Tanner Adell and Brittney Spencer are just a few of the contemporary artists who have left their mark on the predominantly white genre that has long had a fraught history with racism.

Bey appeared to experience that firsthand back in 2016 when her “Lemonade” track “Daddy Lessons” — which highlighted her Southern roots with lyrics about her father, references to the Bible and the 2nd Amendment — was rejected by the Recording Academy’s country music committee for a Grammy Award nomination. Shortly thereafter, Bey proved that “Daddy Lessons” was unabashedly a country song by performing it at the 2016 Country Music Assn. Awards alongside the Chicks, and later released a version of the song featuring the country trio.

Even the late greats Olivia Newton-John and Tina Turner got pushback when they crossed over in the 1970s, as did rapper Lil Nas X when he released “Old Town Road” in 2019.

The Cécred founder similarly faced some resistance when she hard-launched onto the country-music scene this month, with the likes of actor and country musician John Schneider explicitly criticizing her country move (as well as the crossing over of other pop artists) and the Tennessean newspaper asking if the Nashville establishment would embrace her. Meanwhile, a country-music radio station in Oklahoma said it wasn’t even aware of Beyoncé’s latest pivot, initially denying requests to play her music on the station because it “just didn’t know about her foray in this genre.”

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But “Texas Hold ’Em” is now officially being promoted to country radio and other formats, Columbia Nashville said in an email to stations on Feb. 14, Billboard said.

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Movie Reviews

‘Abigail’ is a Delightfully Gory Addition to Vampire Movies – Review

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‘Abigail’ is a Delightfully Gory Addition to Vampire Movies – Review

Becky checked out Abigail to see how it stacks up to other vampire movies.

I need to start off with a bit of blunt honesty: I initially thought it was a mistake for the trailers to give away that Abigail is a vampire. It would’ve been an immensely satisfying twist had the audience gone in completely blind to the truth of what Abigail really is.

That being said, having seen the film, I can now admit that it wasn’t a mistake at all. In fact everything given away in the trailer only serves to whet the appetite, so to speak, for what’s to come in the rest of the film.

Abigail, an extremely loose re-interpretation of Dracula’s Daughter (1936), follows a group of kidnappers as they snatch a wealthy mogul’s daughter, the titular Abigail, to hold her for ransom. It seems like a simple job: hold the girl until her father coughs up the ransom, everyone gets paid, everyone is happy. There’s just one little detail the kidnappers don’t know: Abigail is actually a vampire, and she’s very hungry.

The story does take a bit of time to properly get going, with a major chunk of time passing before anything remotely supernatural happens. However, once the creepy vampire activities start happening, the story kicks into a whole new gear. The basic set up is frightening, as these criminals find themselves locked in a house with a vampire and no exits. The thing is, the story also comes across as funny at times, in a weird and twisted sort of way.

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For instance, there’s a scene revealed in one of the trailers where the group debates how they’re going to take the vampire down and they list off the different kinds of vampires known in fiction (citing Anne Rice, True Blood, and Twilight among other things). It makes sense that this is how most people would have any information about vampires, yet the way it’s presented you can’t help but laugh a little when it comes up.

The cast is one detail that makes Abigail a very good film. Alisha Weir almost completely steals the show with her performance as Abigail and proves she has a bright future in movies. Kathryn Newton also rocks as Sammy the hacker. This is the second horror film I’ve seen her in this year and she is rapidly becoming one of my favorite actresses. However, all praise needs to be given to Melissa Barrera’s performance as Joey. She absolutely killed it throughout the film and it’s mesmerizing to watch her interactions with Abigail shift throughout the story.

One thing that needs to be noted is that Abigail is a very gory film. It’s not constant, but when it does happen, it’s a lot. The filmmakers definitely played these moments up for maximum effect and it works.

Something that worked unexpectedly well is the theme of ballet that is woven throughout the film. That is one detail I wasn’t sure would work, but if anything it serves to make Abigail even more terrifying. To be followed throughout the mansion by a vampiric ballerina is quite unsettling and definitely makes Abigail one of the more memorable additions to the lore of vampiric cinema.

In conclusion, Abigail is equal parts scary, gory, and believe it or not, fun. It likely won’t win any awards, but I truly feel that most people who go in to see it will leave feeling satisfied. Abigail is the very definition of a good ‘popcorn movie’ and one I wouldn’t mind seeing again.

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David Mamet slams Hollywood's 'garbage' DEI initiatives. 'It’s fascist totalitarianism'

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David Mamet slams Hollywood's 'garbage' DEI initiatives. 'It’s fascist totalitarianism'

David Mamet is not done lambasting the liberal establishment in Hollywood.

“DEI is garbage,” said the Pulitzer Prize-winning author to a packed house at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. It’s fascist totalitarianism.”

The playwright and director did not shy away from his trademark expletives or controversy as he spoke about his tell-all memoir, “Everywhere an Oink Oink,” with Times deputy entertainment editor Matt Brennan at USC’s Newman Recital Hall.

His book, published in the fall, details his last 40 years in the moviemaking business and falling out of grace as his politics shifted him from a progressive “red diaper baby” of two communist Jewish parents raised on the South Side of Chicago to a present-day Trump-loving conservative.

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For more than a decade, Mamet’s political and social statements have made as many headlines as his film and theater work. His latest gripe is with the new diversity rules that the Academy of Motion Pictures instituted for Oscar-eligible films to help advance the representation of LGBTQ+, women, ethnic minorities and disabled people.

The idea that “I can’t give you a stupid f— statue unless you have 7% of this, 8% of that … it’s intrusive,” Mamet said.

Although Mamet acknowledged that discrimination barred groups from participating in Hollywood for years, he thinks the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. In his book, Mamet describes the leaders of these diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives as “diversity capos and “diversity commissars.”

“The [film industry] has little business improving everybody’s racial understanding as does the fire department,” Mamet said to a few loud laughs in the crowd. He argued that his colleagues are better off selling popcorn than trying to improve representation for women, queer talent and other marginalized groups.

Mamet did not mince his words. He used the outdated term “transsexuals” when talking about transgender people and railed against gender-neutral bathrooms. “It politicizes the human excretory function,” he said to even louder guffaws in the crowd.

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He proudly claimed his defense of free speech in an amicus brief he wrote to the Supreme Court this year in NetChoice LLC vs. Paxton. “We see great attacks on freedom of speech in this country,” Mamet said.

Film executives and writers were not safe from Mamet’s critiques either. He blamed film studios for the “hegemony” that’s smothered the voices of independent filmmakers. “There’s no room for individual initiative,” Mamet said. He added that the film industry is experiencing the “growth, maturity, decay and death” that “happens to everything that’s organic.”

Back in 2007, Mamet was a vocal opponent of the writers’ strike and complained last year when writers reached an impasse with studios as they bargained for pay raises and protections against the use of artificial intelligence.

“There’ll be less work,” Mamet conceded. “But the scripts will be better.”

Does Mamet think of his children as nepo babies who’ve benefited from his illustrious career? Not at all, he said. He feels gratified that they’ve learned from being on set with him.

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“They earned it by merit,” he said of daughter Zosia Mamet, who starred in “Girls.” They haven’t benefited from any type of privilege, he said, and he thinks that DEI initiatives are taking away hard-earned opportunities. “Nobody ever gave my kids a job because of who they were related to.”

Mamet said he’s been pushed out of Hollywood less by his politics than by his age. Young directors want to work with friends of their own generation.

“Nobody’s going to pay me a lot of money anymore,” Mamet said. “Nobody’s going to let me have a lot of fun.”

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Short Film Review: Wooden Toilet (2023) by Zuni Rinpoche

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Short Film Review: Wooden Toilet (2023) by Zuni Rinpoche

“You separated from us”

Winner of Best LGBTQ Short Film’ at the International Kolkata Short Film Festival this year, “Wooden Toilet” had an extensive festival run before premiering in its country of production, Bhutan.

The 11-minutes short begins with a rather impressive sequence, of a procession of people dressed in white through the mountains, with an exception of one woman who is eventually revealed to be the one whose husband’s funeral the group of people were attending. The sudden laughter of a man breaks the ritualistic approach, and we find out that there is something unusual about this man, who is later on trying to explain it to the aforementioned woman. The back story of another man, where he is trying to reveal something to his father but is instead met with anger and scorn, highlights, to a point at least, what the issue with the two men is. One of the final scenes makes it rather clear, while the last scene connects the short with its title.

The first thing one would notice about “Wooden Toilet” is its impressive visuals. Starting with the initial procession, the close ups that emit a sense of horror, the hanging ropes and the red bedroom are all truly memorable, with Zuni Rinpoche implementing symbolism in order to make his comments. The symbolisms, however, are somewhat difficult to understand what they are about, although the comment about the racism and lack of understanding queer people have to face is made quite clear.

The non-linear approach, which also includes much surrealism, apart from the aforementioned symbolism, adds much to the narrative, particularly through the implementation of the aforementioned scenes. One could say, that on a number of levels, the film could be described as experimental, although there is also a basis in terms of story, that does not allow it to go fully towards that direction.

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All in all, “Wooden Toilet” is an intriguing short by Zuni Rinpoche, who would definitely benefit from a longer duration, that would allow the director to unfold his story and his symbolisms in more eloquent fashion. Still, the film deserves a watch for its visuals and the overall approach to the queer concept.

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