The cover of the 2013 TIME magazine 100 Most Influential People in the World edition was revealed earlier today and was soon followed by the full list of industry power players has been unveiled. Yet, aside from the puzzling ranking, what really caught people’s attention were the accompanying descriptions written by famous figures about their peers.
Naturally, I just had to share my opinion regarding five key comments that were particularly interesting. Really, this wouldn’t be The Lava Lizard if I simply posted the TIME 100 list without leaving any room for discussion. Check out all the action below:
5. Jay-Z by Michael Bloomberg
Jay Z embodies so much of what makes New York New York. A kid from a tough neighborhood who grows up in public housing, overcomes lots of bad influences on the street, never lets go of his dream, makes it to the top — and then keeps going, pursuing new outlets for his creativity and ambition.
When no one would sign him to a record contract, he created his own label and built a music empire — before going on to design clothing lines, open sports bars and, most recently, represent professional athletes. He’s an artist-entrepreneur who stands at the center of culture and commerce in 21st century America, and his influence stretches across races, religions and regions.
He’s never forgotten his roots — “Empire State of Mind” was a love song to our city — and as a co-owner of the NBA Nets, he helped bring a major league sports team back to Brooklyn, not far from his old neighborhood. In nearly everything he’s tried, he’s found success. (He even put a ring on Beyonce.) And in doing so, he’s proved that the American Dream is alive and well.
Verdict: Although his recent musical offerings have been generally mediocre at best, there is no denying that Jay-Z is a very clever businessman. In fact, he is so shrewd that he somehow managed to marry Beyonce. After all, as Bloomberg stated so eloquently, she is just another of his assets, right? Perhaps Bloomberg should reword that comment before Mrs. Carter unleashes the fury of her hive of flies.
4. Miguel by Douglas Wolk
Recently, when singer-songwriter-producer Miguel performed on Saturday Night Live, Mariah Carey sent an ebullient tweet: “slam dunk. R&B is alive!” That statement is not as simple as it might sound. The survival of the black pop tradition isn’t just a matter of preserving its history — although Miguel does that too: the soul seducer’s Grammy-winning hit single “Adorn” ingeniously evokes Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” and “Let’s Get It On.”
What has nourished that tradition over the past 70 years, though — what has kept it not just alive but thriving — is what makes Miguel’s recent music so special: constant innovation, formal daring, unexpected sources of inspiration, and emotional directness. His audacious, hazy album Kaleidoscope Dream aims for the psychedelic as much as the erotic. (The hook that goes “Do you like drugs?” isn’t just a question; it’s a come-on.)
He often gets compared to ’80s-era Prince, which is another way of saying that he’s tricky to pin down. “I want to change the sound of what’s expected from R&B songs,” Miguel announced when Kaleidoscope Dream came out last year. So far, he is succeeding.
Verdict: Wolk’s assessment of Miguel’s impact has quite accurate. Whether the singer really deserved a slot on the TIME 100 is debatable but his longterm contributions to R&B will be greatly appreciated in the future. Indeed, The-Dream’s Love vs. Money LP wasn’t a major seller when it first debuted but it has since spawned several imitations. Drake and The Weeknd, I’m looking at you.
3. Justin Timberlake by Stevie Wonder
We met back when Justin was with ’N Sync and I played harmonica on one of their songs. I found out that his grandfather was a Baptist minister, and that’s reflected in some of the things he does musically — he obviously comes from the church, but he’s also absorbed a lot of different kinds of music: Gospel, Rock, Hip-Hop.
His star power comes from the fact that he sounds like he’s having fun when he makes music, and he can read a song—meaning as a singer or songwriter you can feel the emotion. You think, I can relate to that or I believe in that, and then the listener can feel it too. When Justin reads a song like “Cry Me a River” or “Suit & Tie”, you become part of that emotion.
I think it’s a great thing when you do the most you can with the time you have in life. Justin has accomplished a lot at a young age, taking advantage of all the possibilities, and yet he’s found time to give of himself too — he gets and gives back. He has a spirit. He does God’s work through using the most of his talent.
Verdict: It’s ironic that Wonder highlighted that Timberlake “absorbed” Hip-Hop music because as regular readers of The Lava Lizard, you know that I have challenged the way that Timberlake and the younger Justin Bieber have exploited Urban culture simply to sell records. If you still doubt that stance then be sure to check out the picture above of Timberlake before he purchased his suit and tie.
2. Christina Aguilera by Celine Dion
The first time I heard Christina Aguilera sing, I was totally blown away. I love the way she sings. Her tone is beautiful, and her voice has got so much power, yet so much sensitivity — and technically, I think, she’s flawless.
I remember she broke onto the scene at the turn of the millennium, just about the time my husband and I were going to take a hiatus to have our first child, so I got to watch a lot of her TV appearances, especially on the award shows. I remember thinking, This girl’s got it all and then some! Unbelievable voice, great dancer and so very beautiful.
At that time, I didn’t realize how versatile she was, but over the years she has proved that she can sing anything and make it sound incredible: pop, soul, R&B and even country. Without a doubt, she’s one of the most talented artists the world has ever seen and heard, and I think she’s going to continue to amaze us for many, many years to come.
Verdict: Dion is one of the best vocalists of our time yet she would have been a horrible judge on American Idol. On which planet does Aguilera’s screeching, growling, sloppy phrasing, terrible breath control and lack of resonance equate to a technically “flawless” singer? Let’s just assume that Dion never saw performances like the one of “Fighter” below:
1. Beyonce by Baz Luhrmann
When all the work is done, she can step onto a stage and draw every single person in the audience into an intimate experience. No one has that voice, no one moves the way she moves, no one can hold an audience the way she does. And she keeps growing and evolving in the ways that she expresses herself as a singer, as a performer and now as a mother.
She and Jay Z are the royal couple of culture, and she is the queen bee. She’s gone beyond being a popular singer, even beyond being a pop-cultural icon. When Beyoncé does an album, when Beyoncé sings a song, when Beyoncé does anything, it’s an event, and it’s broadly influential. Right now, she is the heir-apparent diva of the USA — the reigning national voice.
Verdict: In case you didn’t know, Luhrmann is the director of The Great Gatsby. Beyonce contributed a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” to that film’s soundtrack, which was coincidentally executively produced by Jay-Z. See where I’m going with this? Take a moment to connect the giant political dots.
I had no idea that Beyonce was the “reigning national voice” of the USA. All this time I thought that she was just a Pop singer with declining record sales, no recent top 10 hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and although she is certainly a skilled vocalist, she is easily outclassed by Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Jill Scott and several other singers.
It appears that Luhrmann was spewing some of that media fodder that I discussed on Trini Trent TV. Watch that episode below: