The debate over Ed Sheeran's talent has been raging on for years.

"He falters along this blurry gray line where he is always straddling two states of being," wrote Vice. "At once charming and un-charming, a banger machine and anti-music, good at pop and bad at it, annoying and irresistible…" the list goes on.

Known as "The Sheeran Effect," Ed Sheeran's cheesy brand of buoyant love songs has been a moneymaker for the music industry since the ginger's inception into mainstream success in 2011. "The art of the former couch surfer's appeal when he emerged in 2010 was that he had little in common with the deity-like singers who had been occupying the charts before his arrival," wrote The Guardian. Sheeran's appeal was in his unappealing tendencies. "He growls with the fervour of a 26-year-old man desperate to be sincerely identified as an infant."

Celebs Who Want Absolutely Nothing To Do With Ed Sheeran www.youtube.com

Sheeran's global domination is no accident, and it definitely doesn't have anything to do with talent—though he'd love it if you thought it did. In an interview with Chris Evans, Sheeran was asked whether the disparity between "Shape of You" and "Castle on the Hill," the singer's first new singles in over 3 years, was coordinated on purpose to appeal to two different types of mainstream listeners. "It definitely came into the equation," Sheeran said. "Everyone said [Castle on the Hill] was a Radio 2 single and we need something for Radio 1. So your theory is correct."

In The Beautiful Ones, Prince's newly released memoir, which he was working on vehemently before his death in 2016, the late and great artist all but confirmed Sheeran to be one of a few tried-and-true weapons of the music industry: totally accessible pop, all gimmicks, no substance. "We need to tell them that they keep trying to ram Katy Perry and Ed Sheeran down our throats," he wrote. "And we don't like it no matter how many times they play it."

In fact, Sheeran is so universally despised that everyone from Mashable and Pitchfork to The Guardian and Slate have dedicated entire articles to unearthing the reason for the universal disdain directed at him despite his on-paper success. Every publication is eerily similar in its execution as they discuss everything from his "offensive inoffensiveness," his "tofu music," his "staunch refusal to 'glo up'" to his neediness and inability to communicate with his romantic partners. Sheeran's career would (hopefully) sink without the help of Big Brother, but as mounting accusations of plagiarism threaten to derail Sheeran's "nice boy" image, it seems like he's finally about to be revealed as what he truly is: an industry plant manufactured to cater to the lowest common denominator. Prince can rest easy knowing that authenticity will always triumph in the end.

CULTURE

Nazi-Chic: The Aesthetics of Fascism

Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.

Villains always have the best outfits.

From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.

Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com

But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.

Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.

Oh, right.

Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.

Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com

Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.

As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.

History of Nazi Chic

For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.

The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.

Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it

Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.

The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com

Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.

Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.

Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com

Nazi Chic in Asia

Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.

A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.

In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.

OF COURSE. i.imgur.com

That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.

In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.

Implications

So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?

The answer is not so black and white.

On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.

But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.

Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.

MUSIC

Why Music Hates Trump: Prince's "Purple Rain" and Pop's War with the President

Using "Purple Rain" is a particularly low blow. Did anyone really expect anything different from Trump?

Donald Trump used Prince's music at a campaign rally, and Prince's estate is not happy about it.

Over a year ago, Trump promised Prince's estate that he would not use any of the late artist's music for his campaign events. But yesterday, "Purple Rain" boomed across the crowds as Trump took to the stage in Minneapolis. In response, Prince's estate posted a photo of a letter that confirmed the President's vow to refrain from using the songs.

Prince fans are as outraged as his estate. As the song played in Minneapolis, protests broke out in the theatre across the street from the rally, which is where the song's original music video was filmed. Now Twitter and the Internet are ablaze with anger, though as usual, the President will likely face no consequences for his blatant disregard of the law and all moral decency.

Prince died in April 2016, months before Trump was elected, but one would imagine that the singer—who openly discussed AIDS, criticized the machismo of the space race, supported Black Lives Matter, and relentlessly fought corporate interests in the music industry—wouldn't approve of 45, to say the least.

Using "Purple Rain" is a particularly low blow. The Trump team's decision to play the song is arguably as insensitive as the time the president played Pharrell Williams' "Happy" mere hours after a gunman killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

"Purple Rain" is Prince's number one hit, inextricable from his legacy and persona. It's a song about forgiveness and love and the expansive force that truly great music can be. One needs only to watch the first moments of the song's music video to comprehend the force of the song's meaning; you can see it written all over Prince's face.

Prince - Purple Rain (Official Video) www.youtube.com

On the other hand, Trump—as an entity, a symbol, and a politician—is fundamentally hollow, a cheap mutation of garish American greed and corruption. He never fails to dig his claws deeper into all that seems to mean something in this world, and he never expresses an ounce of remorse or empathy.

Using "Purple Rain" in a campaign rally is far from the worst thing Trump has done—encouraging white supremacy and xenophobia, imprisoning innocent children, and denying climate change are contenders for that prize—but it does symbolize something powerful. It also reveals exactly why Trump and music exist in polar opposition to each other. Music is about truth, connection, artistry, and empathy, all of which Trump lacks the ability to understand.

What makes Trump so incompatible with music? Perhaps it's that Trump as an entity is essentially atonal and dissonant. There's no harmony to his way of operating, no beat or rhythm or reason to the spaces he and his administration and supporters occupy. There's no emotional consistency and no resonance to his existence. He stands in opposition to everything that music is and all that musicians tend to stand for (unless you're Kid Rock or Kanye West, tragically). It can't be a coincidence that in The Art of the Deal, he wrote that in second grade, "I punched my music teacher because I didn't think he knew anything about music and I almost got expelled."

Is anyone surprised that this man doesn't respect Prince's legacy enough to refrain from using his work against his will? Has Trump ever granted anyone that decency?

In general, musicians want nothing to do with the president. Who could forget the struggle he underwent to garner support for his inauguration, and everything that's happened since? Just this week, in her Vogue cover story, Rihanna attacked Trump in a discussion about gun violence in America. She said, "Put an Arab man with that same weapon in that same Walmart and there is no way that Trump would sit there and address it publicly as a mental health problem. The most mentally ill human being in America right now seems to be the president."

So many other musicians have asked Trump not to use their music that it would be impossible to list them all here. Adele, Elton John, R.E.M., Pharell Williams, Axl Rose, The Rolling Stones, and many more have told him to keep his paws off their work, and hundreds of others have denounced him in their music and personal statements.

Even if Trump did possess an atom of musicality or knew how to listen to a sound other than the grating industrial noise that certainly fills his own brain, "Purple Rain" would be a strange song choice to use for a campaign rally. When describing the song, Prince said that "'Purple Rain' pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god guide you through the purple rain." In another song, "1999," he associated a purple sky with a kind of final apocalyptic revelation, singing, "Could have sworn it was Judgment Day, the sky was all purple."

It sometimes does seem that Trump is a steward of some kind of apocalypse, indicative of some sort of breaking point. It's likely that his rise represents a rupture in American democracy as we know it, marking a final ending to what we knew and the beginning of something else. This could be a very positive thing, if the anger he's churned up carves out space for new visions of justice and equity in the form of the downfall of corrupt corporate interests, or it could mark our further descent into the end times. Either way, none of this makes Trump's use of "Purple Rain" any less troubling. All we can hope for is that Trump and all he stands for faces Judgment Day sooner rather than later.