Monday, September 28, 2009

Concert Report 1

Fuse Presents: JAY-Z from Madison Square Garden, Answer the Call

Jay-Z’s concert at Madison Square Garden was a benefit concert in remembrance of the lives lost in the tragedy of September 11, 2001. All the proceeds from the concert went to the New York Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit. The main topics at the forefront of this concert were gender and race; gender pertaining more to the performers and race with respect to the audience.

The most obvious display and performance of gender comes into play when comparing the male performers to the female performers. Jay-Z had many guest performers at the concert such as Santigold, Kanye West, Beyonce, Rihanna, Mary J. Blige, Pharrell, John Mayer, others. Comparing clothes, just about all the performers displayed their genders. The guys wore dark jeans, black or white shirts, and sometimes a jacket. The women, well Rihanna and Beyonce, performed their feminine gender wearing skin tight black leotard-type of outfits. While the men were understated, calm and cool, the ladies on the other hand showed off their curves and the sexiness that is associated with women, especially Beyonce and Rihanna. Mary J. Blige is the one to stand out as she challenged the gender norms in terms of clothing. She did not follow the norms of what feminine R&B artists usually wear in concert such as the leotards or skin tight dresses or anything that looks “feminine”. Instead she wore jeans, black leather jacket, and boots. She challenged and pushed the gender boundaries and what society is used to but she does not push too far as her clothes still show her curves, displaying that she is still a woman.

Taking the gender issue beyond the clothes, Jay-Z’s interaction with his guests on stage were a bit gender-typed. Though he did not share the stage with Beyonce, he does interact with Rihanna and Mary J. Blige. When his guests leave the stage, he gives each one a hug. When hugging the guys, he used what could be called a man-style hug where they slap or shake hands first before the “half-body” hug. When Jay-Z hugged Rihanna on the other hand, he gives her a full, immediate hug which most guys typically use for women. But interestingly, when he hugs Mary J. Blige, he did not hug like he did Rihanna, instead he hugged her like she was a guy, with the hand-slap first. It makes one wonder if he did that because she did not perform the feminine gender that night and would he have done the same thing if she had been wearing a leotard or a dress. It also makes you wonder how he would have hugged another woman, such as Alicia Keys, who does not always perform to the feminine gender but also does not challenge it by dressing in a masculine manner.

Looking into the audience at the concert, majority were African Americans, though there were some other races there such as White, Hispanic, Asian, etc. It boils down to the fact that many people can relate to Jay-Z music. With songs such as “Empire State of Mind” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulders” to “D.O.A. Death of Auto-Tune” that most people can understand and share in, it is not hard to understand why the audience has people of colors and all ages and everyone sings along. But with songs like “99 Problems” or “Hard Knock Life” in which Jay-Z addresses social issues only certain people in the audience can relate to that. For example, “99 Problems” addresses the issue of racial profiling which only minorities, mostly blacks, have experienced before and really feel the lyrics though others may just simply sing along. Jay-Z’s music appeals to people from many walks of life because his music touches on issues from the most serious to the most inconsequential.

Jay-Z is a rapper and while you can analyze some artists on their techniques, vocals, etc. That cannot be done easily with rap. But what you can talk about is body language. When Jay-Z raps he looks like he is battling. He uses hand motions and acts as though his opponent is in front of him or his audience is only a couple feet away as opposed to spanning a massive room. Jay-Z’s concert is personal from the very beginning, right through his musical selections, and up to the end where he addresses his audience personally. With all this, it might be safe to say that a Jay-Z concert is a personal experience.

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