- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Britney's blockbuster
"On Nov. 6, Britney Spears unleashes 'Britney,' a blockbuster-in-waiting. On paper, Spears looks like a lock. Her last disc, 'Oops I Did It Again,' broke the record for first-week sales by a female artist (1.3 million copies) and is still on Billboard's album chart after 74 weeks.
"But reaction to [the new albums] first single, 'I'm a Slave 4 U,' has been mixed: The song opened at a lackluster No. 68. 'Britney can get away with a bad song because people are so intrigued by her,' argues [Pittsburgh radio program director Ryan] Mill, whose station receives more requests for 'Slave' than for almost any other song. 'She's this generation's Madonna. People just want to know what she's up to.'"
Evan Serpick, writing on "Back in Tune," in the Oct. 26 issue of Entertainment Weekly

Making the grade
"Recently I saw an automobile advertisement in a magazine that neatly summed up the lofty expectations we have in our society: 'If life came with a report card, you'd be bringing home straight A's,' the ad cooed. 'Career: A+. Family: A+. All around your life is pretty good. After all, you pride yourself in making educated choices.' By owning a particular brand of car, the ad assured readers, 'You can add another class to your report card of life. Car: A+.'
"Unfortunately, this ad is a stunningly accurate portrayal of the state of our culture these days. Highly successful people are defined as those who achieve top grades in every aspect of their lives: in career, family, physical appearance, psyche as well as in car purchases. Along with a high-flying, top-paying career, to which we must be completely devoted, we are also expected to have high-achieving spouses, academically successful children, a rich social life, a physically fit body and a healthy psyche that we've honed with personal improvement programs.
"By aiming for complete satisfaction or success in career and work, we often end up stealing time away from the rich emotional life that can offer us true sustenance and satisfaction. The deep sense of belonging and contentment that comes from an intimate involvement with our spouses, our children, our communities doesn't come by sprinting through a crowded schedule of work and social activities. The fact is, we can't achieve A+ grades in every aspect of our lives, even though our culture keeps telling us we can. Indeed, earning an A+ at work may carry the price of a D- in family life and child rearing."
Dr.Stanley Greenspan in his new book, "The Four Thirds Solution"

The cult of Tupac
"Many people suppose that rap is a simple affair of choppy strophes of braggadocio chanted over an endlessly repeating bass line and drum track. But there is more to the music, which is why it inspires such fanatical allegiance. Its rhythms, for a start, are diabolically infectious, to a degree otherwise unknown in mainstream pop music. In much hip-hop, moreover, the preternaturally catchy rhythm
is joined to an extraordinary lyrical deftness, all the profanity and the aggression and the misogyny notwithstanding.
"Thus the romance of Tupac Shakur begins with the fact that he was working in a uniquely seductive medium.
"What has cemented Shakur's reputation, I think, is that he always existed in legend rather than in reality. He began to live the "gangsta" life celebrated in so many of his songs, and a series of arrests culminated in a spell in prison for a rape charge; and then he was murdered. His criminal offenses took on an air of heroic rebellion, especially since there is reason to believe that the rape charge was false. Tupac's recordings expressed again and again his rage against police brutality and his conviction that ghetto pathologies were an inevitable consequence of 'white supremacy.' Add to this that he was given to premonitions of his own death, and you have all the conditions for a cult. Rumors persist that he is alive somewhere."
John McWhorter, writing on "Something 2 Die 4?" in the Oct. 22 issue of the New Republic

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