Rihanna's Fenty lingerie event featured a song that sampled a sacred Islamic verse. I understand why people are upset. I'm upset, too.
In Islamic culture, anything to do with the prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H. is held sacred.
His image, his habits, and his words must all be regarded with great reverence. And reverence is not what Rihanna's Fenty lingerie show was about–not even a little bit.
But while I understand why many people are upset and offended by the show's sloppy disregard of cultural beliefs, I have to take a step back and look at the whole picture. To me, this is less an example of a corporate entity exploiting an under-represented culture and more like a disastrous case of telephone.
Let's start with the song in question. "Doom" is a 2016 dance/electronic song by British music producer Coucou Chloe. The entire song's hook, chorus, and verses are built around a cropped and sped-up sample of a Hadith (narrated by Mishary bin Rashid Alafasy). For my non-Muslim readers, a Hadith refers to reports of statements or actions of prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H., or of his implied approval or criticism of something said or done in his presence. If this sounds vague and open-ended, that's because it is.
If you really dig into it, there are actually different levels of authenticity to Hadiths; some are regarded with mild skepticism and some are as sacred as the Quran itself. The specific Hadith that's sampled in "Doom" references a conversation between Mohammad P.B.U.H. and his followers, wherein he describes a period of time before the Day of Judgment called Haradge, or, "The Killing." He goes on to describe this Haradge as a period of chaos (or "doom") when you aren't killing your enemies, but killing yourselves: friend killing friend, neighbor killing neighbor, brother killing brother. Frankly, I'm surprised Blumhouse Productions hasn't optioned the rights to this Islamic nightmare yet.
A new letter from the Artist Rights Alliance demands that politicians receive permission for the political use of music.
Update 8/4/2020: Canadian-American singer-songwriter Neil Young has filed a copyright infringement suit against Donald Trump's presidential campaign for the use of his songs "Rockin' in the Free World" and "Devil's Sidewalk" without a license. The Trump campaign reportedly played the songs at the June 20th rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where it's suspected that the late entrepreneur and Republican political figure Herman Cain contracted COVID-19.
The suit states that Young "cannot allow his music to be used as a 'theme song' for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate." The lawsuit will serve as a test case for license exclusions in the case of political events.
Imagine pouring your hard work, your talent, and your heartfelt emotions into a work of art for all of humanity to enjoy, only to have it co-opted by a symbol of hatred and division.
For a stunning number of musicians who vehemently oppose Donald Trump's presidency, that is exactly what has happened in recent years. Despite repeated statements that they don't want their music played at his political rallies, Donald Trump's re-election campaign has continued to use music from artists like Adele, Rihanna, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Pharrell Williams, Axl Rose, and honestly too many others to mention.
People have been marching in the streets for weeks; now an act wants to codify some of their demands, and it has high-profile support.
Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Migos, Meek Mill, Future, the Jonas Brothers: These are just a few of the artists who have signed a new open letter that essentially states: "Bad cops must be held accountable."
The Justice in Policing Act (tentatively called the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act) is a plan intended to hold law enforcement accountable for their behavior. It includes motions to establish federal oversight of police, a restriction of qualified immunity protections—which prevent officers from facing legal consequences for deaths that occurred while they were on the job.