Festival Albertine, Anthropocene, Vine, ‘Back to Black’ at 10: Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the Internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. This week, we recommend a piece revisiting Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black on its 10th anniversary, a talk with Ta-Nehisi Coates about this year’s Festival Albertine, an alarming (if unsurprising) article about the depletion of the world’s wildlife, and more.

This year’s Festival Albertine, which takes place annually at the New York French Embassy’s Albertine Bookstore/reading room, and self-describes this year as a series of talks that “will explore the changing nature of identity and how the arts interrogate our national, social, and cultural labels today in France and the US,” is to be curated by Ta-Nehisi Coates. In advance of the Festival’s launch, the New York Times spoke with the author/journalist (who just returned to the U.S. after having lived briefly in France) about how he modeled the theme of the festival around a passage in James Baldwin’s No Name in the Street:

NYT: [Baldwin] draws a comparison between himself and Algerians he met in Paris, who “spoke French and had been, in a sense, produced by France” and yet “were not at home in Paris, no more at home than I.” How did you build the festival up from that idea? Coates: I got a lot of help, but thematically it was me. Given the influence of Baldwin on my work, given this being the year of Donald Trump, coming off the first black president, and Baldwin having a renaissance, I wanted to reach back and use him as a framing device. This is an arts festival, so then we went through all the different art forms and figured out how they would fit in…With the exception of two panels I’m moderating, I chose things I’m not an expert on. I just asked myself, what would I like to know?

Given how disproportionately little attention is being paid to the environment/climate change during this election, it feels necessary to constantly be reminding ourselves that the entire world is in crisis here in the dawn of the anthropocene (and to keep that very much in mind as far as who we elect, and what we attempt to demand from them). So here, via the Guardian, is a description of a frightening, comprehensive new study, that should serve as a pressing reminder of just how pressing our environmental concerns should be:

The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends. The analysis, the most comprehensive to date, indicates that animal populations plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012, with losses on track to reach 67% by 2020. Researchers from WWF and the Zoological Society of London compiled the report from scientific data and found that the destruction of wild habitats, hunting and pollution were to blame.

This week saw the declaration of the death of Vine. The Verge has a detailed piece both on the unexpected success of the app and the infrastructural reasons it ultimately met its end. Casey Newton writes:

Working a continent apart from their parent company, Vine’s small, New York-based team struggled to grow its user base or find ways to make money. While Vine once boasted a commanding lead over other social video apps, it failed to keep pace as competitors added features — something that ultimately drove its biggest stars away. The app generated more beloved memes and cultural moments than most apps with twice as many users — but Twitter’s mounting core business problems this year all but ensured it would eventually be sold off or shuttered.

The Fader published an article about the cultural import of Vine, focusing in particular on how it was used as a platform by black teens, whose Vines would end up influencing American culture on a large scale — and how, due to the free-for-all of social media platforms, those teens didn’t get compensated for, say, words they created that were quickly appropriated by major corporations. The piece focuses in part on Kayla Newman, who coined the term “on fleek” in a Vine. The article, by Doreen St. Félix, traces the term’s popularization from that original Vine, then asks:

What things come to those who innovate? And who can be called an innovator? When we talk about technology, the designation of “digital innovator” is usually reserved for the engineers who create platforms or the entrepreneurs who instruct them to. Rarely do we see that language applied to the users populating those platforms, though they are tech’s bread and butter. A cursory glance at the user-generated content rising to the top of the internet heap reveals how much of it is produced by black teens, members of a burgeoning Generation Z who experiment with the iPhone gaze.

Vulture has published a mega-list of 50 songs they’ve determined to be the best “modern” — which they’re defining for the purposes of the list as since 2010 — emulations of the ’80s:

There are countless tracks since 2010 (the time frame we’re using as our definition of “modern”) that borrow from the ’80s, and a great deal of them should be embarrassed by neither their sound nor its provenance. Here are the ones we consider to be the 50 best, lovingly presented with respect and awe for that amazing, strange, and often groundbreaking era.

This week marked the 10th anniversary of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black, and, writing for The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhaber pays homage to Winehouse’s songwriting. He also discusses the album’s refreshingly brutal honestly, and its lack of digestible inspiration:

Winehouse had a gift for clear but subtly complicated melodies, the kind that stick in the ear but also convey the cyclical love and shame she sang about, and she and her producers thought carefully about how to refurbish old musical tropes to fit her themes. The sickeningly beautiful “Wake Up Alone” is instructive in its use of the well-worn doo-wop template of guitar arpeggios and piano pulsing. Her voice flutters and dips as she describes her daytime distractions, but then she begins a descent as night falls; the arrangement drops out as she lands on the song’s title—she really is waking up alone.