The Cultural Power of Anitta in Bolsonaro’s Brazil

Anitta is turning her back on Brazil — and for a good reason. One of the most successful Brazilian singers of the 21st century, she alone gathered over 370,000 people in just one carnival block in Rio early last year. But now she wants millions more, and from all over the world. In late April, Anitta released her most expensive video for her new song, “Girl From Rio.” She had...

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The Afterlife of Michael Jackson

Dear Michael Jackson, This is the first letter I’ve written to a dead person, though you’re still alive in a sense, aren’t you? There were always two Michael Jacksons: one, the flesh-and-blood mortal who succumbed 12 years ago; the other, a product of countless people’s imaginations, a creation freed of the constraints of time and space who will live forever. I’m writing to let you know that, since the death...

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Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, 50 Years On

What is it about some great artists that makes them want to be someone else? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the father of Sherlock Holmes, aspired to be a historical novelist like Leo Tolstoy or Fyodor Dostoyevsky, neglecting that he created some of the finest detective fiction of all time. François Truffaut was in awe of Alfred Hitchcock, even though many thought his own films as complex, mysterious and beguiling as...

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Why Fame Can Be a Nightmare

Self-annihilation is a constituent part of many celebrity careers. While some actors or singers slide smoothly from one success to another, hardly pausing for the occasional misadventure, others are ruined, occasionally by others but much more usually by their own devices. Frankie Lymon’s Tragedy The archetype is not in today’s celebrity culture, nor anywhere near it actually. Frankie Lymon was an astounding talent from Harlem who, in 1956, surged into...

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NFTs and the Cynicism of Contemporary Art

Many will remember 2020 as the year of COVID-19, an invisible pestilence that is still haunting the world a full year after its outbreak in the form of a global pandemic. Though it is still rather early, 2021 may one day be remembered as the year of an unexpected financial epidemic, the craze for NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. For the uninitiated, NFTs are titles of ownership of works of human...

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The Rapper Breaking Down Borders With Dreams

British rapper and spoken-word artist Potent Whisper is known for his socially conscious rhyming guides that have broken down the world's problems into three-to-five-minute explainers. Over the last few years, his projects have included a lauded book, “The Rhyming Guide to Grenfell Britain,” which was given a mention in the chambers of the UK Parliament. His take on the refugee crisis has taken a different spin, however, through a fictional...

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Juliette Greco: Snatching Dignity From the Jaws of the Absurd

Did you have to be a thinker, a philosopher, to help epitomize and pioneer an existentialist ethic in 1950s Paris? Or could you live the ethic of absurd aloneness in a mad and bad world but still maintain dignity and humanism in the face of despair? And still create something defiant, though fragile, in a world that seemed sometimes without mercy? More than anyone else, without writing a single book...

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