Respect vs. Appropriation

One thing I’ve always appreciated about David is his “soul” potential. His ability to feel a song and make sure the rest of us feel and understand a song (Exhibit A – above video).

This week, while the new semester started and I had little time to post on my blog while preparing my classes, I still took the time to read different commentary about the disturbing spectacle at MTV’s VMA show.

The issue of race and cultural appropriation was once again raised in terms of which artists were celebrated (and which ones made fools of themselves – Exhibit B – Miley Cyrus).  What does it mean for Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” to be the big hit this summer while he is also engaged in a legal battle with Marvin Gaye’s family over the similarities between his song and Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up?”  What does it mean that Justin Timberlake (already viewed by some to be an R&B culture thief) received the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award? Does that excuse the way he left Michael Jackson’s sister Janet alone in taking the brunt of the criticism of their performance at the Super Bowl in 2004?

And let’s not even get into the way Miley Cyrus reduced her black female backup dancers to “teddy bear toys,” literal props on which she could assert a dangerous sexuality that was far removed from her squeaky clean white Disney Hannah Montanna image.

What, essentially, does it mean that black music, dance, culture, bodies, etc. don’t have any real agency and currency until somebody white takes it over and makes it popular to the mainstream?  What does it mean that white performers, who want to get away from a squeaky-clean image, must associate with blackness to earn “cool” and “street” cred?

Is our culture so racially ingrained that these narratives have to be the primary ones, from Elvis Presley to present-day pop stars?

And, can David Archuleta break the mold?

I hope he can.  Because when David sings Stevie Wonder, I don’t see or hear “cultural appropriation.”  I see and hear respect – respect for the culture, the art form, and the original artists.

I hear respect when David routinely gives props to the black female vocalists who influenced his own style, as he did in his memoir Chords of Strength – from Natalie Cole to Tamyra Gray – and from those blue-eyed soul singers  like Eva Cassidy.  I hear respect from a guy who doesn’t think he’s too macho to give a shout out to the women who taught him a thing or two about vocal stylization.

It’s that respect that is so very much missing in the music industry today and which perhaps propelled David to take a break and remember what respect and the purpose of music is all about – even if he does so in the context of his own faith upbringing and practices.

The VMA show revealed to the world how the music industry doesn’t respect cultures or persons, let alone the music which sprang forth from certain persons and cultures.

Real music and artistic influence springs from respect.  Without that, we have no culture. Just meaningless signifiers that ultimately signify nothing but disrespect and artlessness.

Let us hope David will continue to grow from the roots of musical respect – which he has often graced us with each time he opened his mouth to sing.


Posted on August 31, 2013, in music. Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. HG, this is seriously one of my favorite performances. So real and soulful. The people there at Duffy’s were genuinely moved by his singing. David can sing pretty much any genre, but THIS is what I would like to hear more of.

  2. Could not agree with you more about the VMA’s hg. What a joke that show is with the exception of JT and Bruno Mars performances. Love Bruno. I do think that JT is very talented but can be rather arrogant at times but then again many of the music artists that get the fame and the money can be full of themselves. I mean I would have loved to have seen N Sync perform for more than 90 seconds but the focus had to be on JT. lol. I mentioned this in the previous post but happy to hear the news that Harry Connick Jr. will be a judge on AI this year. I am part of the older female viewers demo that watches AI and loves Harry. lol.

  3. Another WOWZA of a post Hg, thank you.
    Humm the VMAs….didn’t watch, but of course did read all the buzz and viewed videos…Miley and Robin…train wreck performance, but of course, liked JT, what can I say, I’m a fan.
    Absolutely agree about David having ultimate respect for all artists and that comes through especially when he covers songs.
    I sure hope that David has had the time he needed to know what direction he wants to go with his music and of course, hoping that it’s the direction I want him to go, lol.
    We all know how well he can cover songs, that’s a no brainer, but in order for the whole world to take notice of David’s genius, he needs to have his sound that everyone wants to hear, very simple, but yet extremely complex, lol.
    Btw, love, love that video…hey let me look up the words on my phone and then just kill everyone with a fantastic soulful performance, hahahaha, genius!!!

  4. Hi CQ. I agree with you. I want David needs to sing his own songs, and I hope they showcase his soulful , jazzy vibe.

  5. have lost all respect for jt after he condoned millys act,don,t care if its the vma or not

  6. cq never was a fan did have respeck before ,.you don,t have to be a fan to respect people

    • so true. I am a fan and I’ll continue being of fan of his music/acting/dancing in spite that I don’t agree with everything he says and does. I’m a diehard fan of someone else that I don’t respect everything he is doing right now, although I respect his right to do it.

  7. I really did not like JT’s remark either about Miley’s performance. I am not or ever have been a fan of Justin T. I do however think he has a fairly good voice. I wonder after Miley’s cheap sex fiasco if it will hurt her record sales? Probably not.

  8. cq i don,t realy think respect is the right wordeing for what you dislike about david mission

  9. This post sums up what I was thinking but didn’t know how to put into words. I like some of JT’s older music and I enjoyed his vma performance, however, I must admit I only recognized a few of his songs. To me, a lot of his fame is due to his relationship with Britney Spears. How did he become the president of pop? Hasn’t she sold at least 3 times more albums and singles than him?

    Re. Thicke, he’s like Nicky Minaj to me — I don’t really know who his is and don’t have and desire to find out. I think he’s a tool for suing Marvin Gaye’s family.

    Re. Idol, I think HConnick will make a great judge. I’m baffled as to why Idol is bringing JLo back.

    And then there’s David … respectful, soulful David. Boy to I miss him. This little clip of him singing about Kayla and Jenna also showcases his soulful side. In his own words he “makes life beautiful so stay the way you are”.

    • Oh my heck, love this thanks Desertrat!

    • why doesn’t he do more things like this?
      like for instance when he sang Happy Birthday.. the ending was divine.
      also pretty sure us fans let him know how much we love the soulful side of him.

      does he feel like it is showboating?

      • That’s why I feel that sometimes he pulls back, like somehow letting go is showboating or maybe it’s wrong or sinful. To me that soulful letting go is what fans crave from him. I just hope that he will be able to understand that is a big part of relating the song to his audience and will let go and be freer to express soulfulness.

  10. Real music and artistic influence springs from respect.

    THIS. I don’t understand why we have artists who take from other artists without acknowledging them. There is no shame in learning from others. But I guess if you’re straight ripping off without adding your own spin and then trying to pass the whole thing off as your idea to begin with…there lies the shame. And I, too, admire David’s candor in discussing his musical influences. It does seem like you don’t often hear male artists acknowledge females vocalists when discussing style. For David, it’s not a matter of giving the answer that will make him seem the coolest or give him the most street cred though. That seems pretty rare.

  11. On a different topic, the Bench pic that Kari tweeted on Thursday finally got posted to David’s Facebook page last night…and tonight it has over 40 thousand likes!

    That’s pretty impressive considering the highest number of likes ANY picture has ever gotten on his FB page before this was 24k and that was a pretty big number for him at the time. There are a few pics in the 10-20k likes range and then the rest are mostly 5k or less. (I am too fascinated by numbers lol). I’m not sure if this just means people really liked the pic or maybe since there hadn’t been a post in almost a month they were missing him or what. Whatever it is, more likes can’t be a bad thing. 🙂

  12. It’s raining and thundering here in my area so to kill time, I’m quietly reading D’s Star Search days website. During their 2004 trip to Honduras, per Jeff, D was “sitting on a float getting ready to sing ¨”La vida es un carnaval” by Celia Cruz.” I wonder if #mic recorded it.

    • Thanks desertrat for that link, interesting read. Sometimes I forget how long David has been singing professionally or somewhat professionally, way before AI. I wonder how many fans are from earlier than AI or even fans that discovered him on youtube. Talk about a roller coaster ride for a fans that has been around sense Star Search or even before.

  13. Happy Labor Day to all from the U.S. Next Labor Day David will be back. In six to seven months D will finally be done with his mission. What will he do? I’m hoping he will get back to his music career pronto!

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