All these decades later, The Beatles are still the measuring stick.
When you want to say some new musician is a big deal, do you say, “They’re bigger than the Rolling Stones?” Or, “They’re bigger than the Beach Boys.” No. You say, “They’re bigger than The Beatles!”
And when we talk about longstanding music sales records, The Beatles are often the yardstick here, too. How often do we hear about some musician breaking some obscure sales record set by the Lads from Liverpool? Pretty frequently.
But some records stand longer than others. That’s because all of them are not created equally. Which brings us to Ariana Grande.
This week, the 25-year-old singer equaled a record that’s more than twice as old as she is: having three singles chart at numbers one (“7 rings“), two (“Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored”) and three (“Thank U, Next“) on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. The last time that happened—and the only time—was a five-week stretch in March and April of 1964, including one particularly amazing week when the Fab Four managed to grab the top five slots with their hits “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me.”
One interesting footnote to this story. In the digital age, the number of online streams a song has is a part of Billboard’s charting algorithm. And Grande’s many fans know this, gaming the system to influence how the singer’s songs are charting. So I guess check back next week to see whether they manage to push a few more hits into the top echelon.
Elsewhere in the music industry, singer Ryan Adams’ career has imploded virtually overnight in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against him from multiple women, including ex-wife and actress Mandy Moore. Fox News reports that radio stations are pulling his music from circulation, and several guitar gear endorsements have gone up in smoke, too. Meanwhile, a grand jury has been convened in Chicago to consider new accusations against R. Kelly, which again allege that he engaged in sexual acts with underage girls.
The other legal drama that continues to play out practically hour by hour, it seems, involves actor Jussie Smollet. One of the stars of Fox’s drama Empire, Smollet alleged on Jan. 29 that he’d been beaten by two men who used hate-filled slurs related to his race and homosexual identity during the attack. Since then, police have questioned and released two suspects and are now investigating evidence suggesting that Smollet may have worked with the two men (whom he knew) to stage the attack. Reuters reports, “Jussie Smollett faces prison, career ruin if he lied about attack.”
In Brooklyn, a federal court of appeals has ruled that musicians’ lyrics and videos can be used as evidence in criminal proceedings. The case in question involves rapper Ronald “Ra Diggs” Herron, whose 2014 conviction was based in part on prosecutors using allegedly autobiographical lyrics in which the rapper had talked about murdering real-life people. Herron had appealed the conviction on the grounds that his “music and promotional videos related to his rap music career were erroneously admitted into evidence.” Though the court acknowledged Herron’s First Amendment right to free speech, it also noted that the Constitution doesn’t “prohibit the evidentiary use of speech to establish the elements of a crime or to prove motive or intent.”
Next up, have you ever wondered if the female voices of digital assistants Alexa (Amazon) and Siri (Apple) might be reinforcing sexist attitudes against women? Lynn Stuart Parramore thinks that may very well be happening. Writing for NBC News, she says,
Summon her with a tap or a word. Yell at her if you want. First, she was the perky female assistant in your phone. Then, a woman’s voice in a little box on the table checking the weather. … In the race to bring artificial intelligence into every corner of our lives, Big Tech is wiring the future with cultural signals that undermine the hard-won rights of women to be treated as humans and paid as equals. Female digital assistants hearken back to the bad old days when females did the work—and everyone else got the benefits. It’s time to stop them.
Others are concerned with the way the inexorable march of technology is influencing how we experience and communicate about romantic relationships. The Conversation’s Firmin Debrabander asks, “Is Love Losing its Soul in the Digital Age?” He ponders the costs of documenting every small relationship milestone on sites such as Instagram, where “weekiversary posts” have become a fad. Likewise, Fox News looks at three ways Facebook has affected romantic relationships, while Time recently offered advice on how to put boundaries on the way technology influences love and romance.
And then there’s the way our social media posts and missives about our kids might affect them when they’re old enough to realize that we’ve already said a great deal about them online, which The Atlantic’s Taylor Lorence writes about in her article “When Kids Realize Their Whole Life Is Already Online.” Similarly, Wired contributor Emily Dreyfuss says that even though teens don’t use Facebook much, they still have to deal with the consequences of everything their parents have posted about them. She writes,
These children are aware of Facebook from the youngest of ages, and as they grow up, it becomes something they have to actively negotiate with their parents. Rather than the classic 21st-century worry about what kids are doing online, Facebook use requires a sort of role reversal. … It’s often the teens asking the parents to limit what they post, or how much time they spend on the site.
Finally this week, let’s end with a story about the power of fictional movies to shape real life. Specifically, lightsabers. No, the laser swords in Star Wars haven’t yet come into existence. But lightsaber dueling with props very similar to those used in the Star Wars franchise has now become an official sport in France, recognized by the French Fencing Federation.