Are you tasked with hosting a Halloween party this year? Let us help you with the music.
Howl you doing boys and girls? What's up, my witches?
Spooky season is drawing nearer, and with Halloween falling on a Thursday this year, it means that there is only one weekend to curate a spooktacular party playlist, and one opportunity to throw a fa-boo-lous Halloween party. It is no easy task, but if you want your guests to shake their BOOty, eat, drink, and be scary all night long, Popdust has just the playlist that will give your friends pumpkin' to talk about.
Itsy Bitsy Spider by Carly Simon
Have you ever heard such an elegant and moving interpretation of this spooky nursery rhyme? In this version, I wasn't rooting for the rain to "wash the spider out"; instead, Simon's mash up of the nursery rhyme with her hit "Comin Around Again" paints a darker picture. "I know nothing stays the same, but if you're willing to play the game, it's coming around again," Simon sings. The Spider's journey is a complex one: He is tenacious in his dream of scaling the water spout and is an inspiration to us all. "Nothing stays the same," little Spider, keep climbing. One day, you may just turn your dream into a reality. It's a reminder of our mortality and serves as the perfect song to kick off the night as your guests eat hors d'oeuvres and pour their first cup of spiked punch.
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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.
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.
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.
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Swift's very public feud with Big Machine Records has ignited a conversation about artists' rights, but she's far from the first superstar to challenge her label's actions.
Taylor Swift's recent attack on her former record label—which sold the masters of her music to another producer allegedly without her knowledge—has sparked a resurgence of conversations about musicians' rights to their own music.
Despite the dramatic nature of her accusations, Swift is far from alone in losing her work to a label; that's a story that's been repeated since the dawn of the recording industry. Even some of music's most iconic superstars have lost millions in legal battles over faulty contracts that they signed as teenagers.
TLC was a boundary-breaking girl-group that paved the way for the success of Destiny's Child and the like. During the height of their success in the 1990s, they were raking in millions of dollars—but due to a terrible record deal helmed by their manager, Perri Reid, they received only 7% of their record sales, translating to about $35,000 per year for each member. In 2018, Reid sued for $40 million in defamation following a VH1 documentary that portrayed her as corrupt and dishonest, claiming that the kind of deal that TLC received was just "the type of deal that new artists get."
Because of their debts, the girls were forced into bankruptcy at the height of their fame. Fortunately, they were eventually able to re-negotiate their contract with LaFace records, but the damage was done.
Image via Ebony Magazine
2. The Beach Boys
In April 1969, the Beach Boys sued Capitol Records for $2 million. All this began when the Beach Boys requested a termination of their contract back in 1967, also requesting $200,000 in unpaid royalties. Two years later, they still hadn't received the requested royalties and so ultimately won back nearly $1.5 million in unpaid production fees—though their conflict with Capitol Records continued, and their catalog ended up back on Capitol anyway, under the control of the Wilsons' father, Murray—who later sold all the band's masters to Irving Alamo Music for $700,000 without their consent. (The catalog would eventually be worth $30 million).
Image via Coastal Living
Kesha's drawn-out battle with her music producer, Dr. Luke, ignited a series of conversations about recording contracts and the ways they often place artists between a rock and a hard place, with little room to escape under even dire circumstances.
In 2014, Kesha sued Dr. Luke, asking the judge to let her out of her contract, which would have forced her to record six more albums with the man who assaulted, drugged, and verbally abused her. The subsequent legal battle dragged on for years, and Kesha was denied almost everything she asked for, including an attempt to record an album on a different label while the lawsuits went on.
Eventually Kesha released a new album, Rainbow, produced independently but still released on Dr. Luke's label. The fact that Kesha lost her desperate, very public appeal to terminate her contract with Luke reveals the flawed, terrifyingly rigid power imbalance written in the DNA of contractual obligations between musicians and producers.
Image via Vox
4. Trent Reznor
The Nine Inch Nails frontman was shocked when he realized that his record label, Universal Studios, was selling his albums for an exorbitant price. He responded by advising fans to steal instead of dishing out their cash. In an impassioned 2007 blog post, Reznor wrote, "As the climate grows more and more desperate for record labels, their answer to their mostly self-inflicted wounds seems to be to screw the consumer over even more. The ABSURD retail pricing of 'Year Zero' in Australia. Shame on you, UMG [Universal Music Group]. 'Year Zero' is selling for $34.99 Australian dollars ($29.10 US). No wonder people steal music."
Image via Vulture
Prince received his first record deal at age 18, kickstarting what would become a career-long struggle with contracts and labels. Like Taylor Swift, he was an outspoken advocate for artists' autonomy.
Prince had a multitude of conflicts with Warner Bros. and persistently rebelled against their influence. When the label wouldn't let him release albums on his own schedule and refused to grant him ownership of his own masters, Prince changed his name to a symbol he called the "Love Symbol" (a combination of the male and female gender signs) in order to spite them. He also began performing with the name "SLAVE" written on his cheek.
Image via Iraisrael.com
"I wanted to buy my masters back from Warner Bros," he said in a 1999 interview with Paper Magazine. "They said no way. So I'm going to re-record them. All of them. Now you will have two catalogs with pretty much exactly the same music—except mine will be better—and you can either give your money to WB, the big company, or to NPG. You choose."
Eventually, Prince was able to purchase his masters through a deal with Warner Bros. that was contingent upon him releasing his own album. Later in life, Prince began advising young artists not to sign any record deals. However, in the years leading up to his death he signed a deal with Jay-Z's streaming service, Tidal, embracing streaming as an alternative form of distribution—despite having called the Internet a "Matrix" designed to benefit powerful labels at artists' expense.
Image via Vulture
6. Big Mama Thornton
Willie Mae Thornton created the original version of "Hound Dog," later covered by Elvis Presley. It eventually became one of the most litigated and contentious tracks in history, sparking widespread reflection on songwriters' autonomy, profits made from cover tracks, and racial dynamics of musical profit.
Elvis Presley wound up paying Thornton around $500 for his cover of "Hound Dog," the song that would launch him to superstardom. Back in the 1950s, it would have been nearly impossible for Big Mama Thornton to contest Elvis and secure the rights to her work—and so today, some are arguing that people like Big Mama Thornton are owed reparations for the profits they lost out on when their songs and styles were taken and profited off of by white artists.
Image via Medium
While each of these artists certainly lost out, it's important to remember that they are the ones who actually made it into the public eye, and there are so many others who didn't come close, by no fault of their own.
Though we often think of the music industry as a sequence of bright stars, triumphant stadium shows, and extravagant after-parties, its actual history is probably more like a graveyard, haunted by the millions of artists who never made it, because they unwittingly sacrificed their careers and livelihoods to corrupt executives and bad contracts.
Today, streaming has complicated the traditional artist-label dynamic, enabling some creators to circumvent label conflicts entirely—but the digitization of music brings its own share of problems. While streaming services are raking in billions, a recent study revealed that artists and labels are receiving disproportionately little amounts of money compared to the profits they bring in.
It seems that as streaming takes control of the music industry's finances, labels are getting a taste of their own medicine; and even in the virtual dimension, corruption still reigns supreme wherever big money is involved.
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