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Music

Lizzo Sparks Ableism Debate Over Her New Song ‘Grrrls’

Singer songwriter Lizzo created waves this week over her new song, “Grrrls,” set to appear in her new album, “Special.” Only, it wasn’t the kind of response she was hoping for. Instead, intense backlash came her way due to the song containing what many have claimed is an ableist slur.

In the original lyrics, the word in question comes in the opening line of the song: “Hold my bag, b***h (girls). Hold my bag. Do you see this s**t? I’ma spaz.” Short for “spastic,” spaz’s usage in Lizzo’s song was meant to signify losing physical or emotional control. In that context, the word seems harmless.

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However, many have called it offense due to spaz being associated with people who suffer from cerebral palsy and spastic paralysis, which cause muscle stiffness and loss of movement. In the past, spaz has also been used as a derogatory term, meant to label someone uncool or weird. According to Dictionary.com, spaz is defined as “an awkward or clumsy person.”

After the backlash, Lizzo updated her lyrics to “Do you see this s**t? Hold me back.” Additionally, she posted an apology on her social media accounts, explaining that her harm was never intended, and that she can relate to derogatory statements.

“As a fat black woman in America, I’ve had many hurtful words used against me so I understand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case, unintentionally),” she said. “This is the result of me listening and taking action.”

Lizzo ended her apology by saying that “as an influential artist I’m dedicated to being part of the change I’ve been waiting to see in the world.” The singer’s statement was generally well-received by her audience for being understanding and supporting.

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Some have been quick to call the responses as part of “cancel culture,” the idea of holding people accountable or punishing them in some way for wrongdoings. While some pushes in the vein of cancel culture are noble, others have gotten swept up in the political discourse of the nation, ultimately being ridiculed due to sensitivity.

However, as NBC News entertainment writer Charlotte Colombo explained, the push wasn’t simply meant to “cancel” Lizzo. Instead, those hurt by the slang saw it as an opportunity to show why the word can have such a profound effect on listeners who struggle with disabilities every day.

“Calling out the use of this word in the song is important because if the word is used in a song by a widely popular artist, there’s a chance that it can become normalized again.”

The idea of race has also been discussed in the debate that’s soon sprung up, with some claiming that black singers are more likely to be called out for using derogatory lyrics in their songs more than mixed and white singers are. In 2021, country singer Morgan Waller saw his following and chart placements increase following a video of him saying the n-word surfaced.

One such Twitter user used that idea in an argument, accusing rapper Cardi B of the same actions as Lizzo, but getting away with it. The Grammy Award winner didn’t hold back in her response, stating that if she was Lizzo, she would have told people to “SMD.”

Despite Death Threats, Jerusalem Proceeds With Pride Parade

Despite death threats against the organizer and lawmakers planning to attend, thousands of participants marched in Jerusalem’s annual pride parade, showing their determination and expression even in the face of danger.

This year’s march, which marked the 20th anniversary, attracted over several thousand and finished without a major incident. Police also arrested three individuals suspected of making threats about the event.

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Police presence was heavy, with some on rooftops and a helicopter soaring above. All in all, there were about 2,400 officers present. Police identified and monitored around 180 people who were considered suspicious, with 20 of them likely to try and attack. The parade has been the center of previous attacks such as in 2016, when an Israeli man stabbed a 16-year-old to death while injuring several others.

Addressing the crowds at the end of the parade, Speaker of the Knesset Mickey Levy said that he was “shocked to the depths of my soul” over the threats made, and that he came to “stand against this evil specter.”

“You are entitled to love who you want, you are entitled to marry who you love, you are entitled to raise a family like anyone else. These are not privileges, these are basic rights for every citizen in the country.”

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev also gave some encouraging words to attendees, stating that the event was “a victory of light over darkness, a victory of sanity over extremism.” Barlev expressed disappointment that police had to watch over the event, instead of “protecting citizens from crime and terror.”

“We will not allow the Pride Parade to take place in Jerusalem, the holy city. Shira Banki’s fate awaits you,” was the message of the threat sent to liberal Labor party politician Gilad Kariv, a longtime LGBTQ supporter, and organizer Emuna Klein Barnoy.

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“This post surprised me this morning and is definitely very disturbing. On the other hand, it is an important reminder of the importance of the march in Jerusalem,” Barnoy said before the march, still emphasizing others to come. “I believe that the real answer to this kind of incitement and threats is that everyone who supports freedom, equality and pluralism in the State of Israel will come to march with us tomorrow.”

“Our power as one large and powerful unit will make it clear in the clearest way that the LGBTQ-phobic cries that grate our ears belong to a marginal and extreme minority.”

The parade faced opposition elsewhere with Lehava, a far-right anti-LGBTQ group, holding a counter protest not far from the center of events. While Middle East countries have shown inequality towards LGBTQ communities — with it even being a crime and punishable of up to 14 years — Israeli has become a friendly destination for them.

Netflix

Netflix Delivers New Culture Guidelines Giving Employees Ultimatum 

Netflix employees and viewers have been sharing their extreme dissatisfaction with the platform’s decision to upload content that can be seen as harmful or hateful to certain marginalized audiences. 

The company has now responded to all the backlash by updating their culture guidelines which laid out new rules on “artistic expression.” However, the biggest part of the guidelines that has people talking is the section where the company gives their employees an ultimatum in which they stated that if an employee is uncomfortable with the content being created, regardless of reason, they should quit. 

In the updated guidelines, the company states that “not everyone will like—or agree with—everything on our service. In order to entertain different tastes and points of view, some TV shows or movies can be provocative.”

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“While every title is different, we approach them based on the same set of principles: we support the artistic expression of the creators we choose to work with; we program for a diversity of audiences and tastes; and we let viewers decide what’s appropriate for them, versus having Netflix censor specific artists or voices.”

This means that employees at Netflix don’t always have the choice of which movie or TV show they will work on, regardless of if it goes against their personal beliefs and/or values. 

“If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.”

A Netflix spokesperson recently told the Wall Street Journal that the company has spent the past 19 month discussing cultural issues internally within Netflix employees, and the new language in the guidelines allows prospective employees to make a “better-informed decision about whether Netflix is the right company to work for.”

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This also led Netflix and users to ask the question: what about current employees who don’t have the financial means to just quit because they don’t agree with the company’s perspective on certain projects. 

The conversation surrounding Netflix’s ethics became more mainstream when The Closer was uploaded to the platform, a Netflix original comedy special starring Dave Chappelle in which he continuously mocked transgender people. 

Netflix employees complained on social media about the decision to give Chappelle the platform to spread harmful statements regarding the LGBT+ community. The fact that Netflix also reportedly paid Chappelle over $20 million for the special had many audience members frustrated and confused on the company’s values. 

GLAAD, a major LGBT+ advocacy group, and the National Black Justice Coalition both took to social media to call out Netflix and demand they remove the special from the platform. 

Since the controversy around Chappelle’s special, three employees were suspended and one was fired due to talks of a company walk-out. Business wise, however, between their cloudy values and consistent pricing increases, Netflix is currently down 67.79%, and has lost over 200,000 subscribers within the first quarter of 2022 alone. 

Pacman

Ms. Pacman Makes Its Way Into The World Video Game Hall Of Fame

After becoming a female icon in the video game industry, Ms. Pacman has finally earned her way into the World Video Game Hall of Fame, the Strong National Museum of Play announced Thursday. Joining Ms. Pacman in the 2022 inductions are Dance Dance Revolution, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Sid Meier’s Civilization.

When it comes to potential inductees, the World Video Game Hall of Fame considers video games of all kinds — handhelds, arcade, consoles, mobile, and computer — that have had a large popularity over an extended period of time and and “exerted influence on the video game industry” or pop culture in general.

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Debuting in 1982, Ms. Pacman was the successor to 1980’s Pacman. While essentially the same game, Ms. Pacman saw upgrades in several areas. Instead of one maze, there were now four. Fruit bounced around the map, while the ghosts’ programming was more efficient, with their patterns having more randomness to keep the players on their toes. And of course, there was the main character herself.

Around that time, arcades had portrayed genders in contrasting ways that would put females in the backseat to the action. “Arcade flyers had generally depicted males as active players and females as passive admirers of the action,” the museum stated.

“By offering the first female video game character, Ms. Pac-Man represented a turn in the cultural conversation about women’s place in the arcade as well as in society at large.”

The museum noted Ms. Pacman’s name was also significant, as it’s the female equivalent to “Mr.,” which wouldn’t be the case if it were Miss or Mrs. It gave her a strong sense of independence. The industry-changing designs would help the game to soar, selling 125,000 arcade cabinets within its first five years while earning $1.2 billion in that time.

Of course, the other inductees contributed to the history of video games as well. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was a defining piece in the action adventure genre. The first 3D rendition of the Zelda series, Ocarina of Time was praised for its story and ability to switch through different eras of time, gameplay, graphics, and controls (which included a lock-on targeting system).

The Nintendo N64 product would see a record number of preorders, with 500,000 before the release. After it hit the shelves in 1998, Ocarina of Time sold more than a million copies in less than a week, and 7.6 million copies worldwide since then.

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Since its inception in 1998, Dance Dance Revolution — or DDR — has become a staple of family and party games. Having to dance to the beat of popular songs, players would be treated to an entertaining workout that challenged your rhythm and movement.

Thanks to it’s easy-to-pick-up style of play and diverse selection of tunes, more than 100 versions and spin-offs of Dance Dance Revolution have been produced on various consoles. It paved the way for similar music video game series like Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

Of course, the museum noted DDR also has additional purposes beyond just being a video game. Thanks to its promotion of strength and dexterity, it’s often used for aerobic exercise. Meanwhile, high schoolers have incorporated it into fitness workout programs.

Among the finalists for this year’s induction were Assassin’s Creed, NBA Jam, Resident Evil, Candy Crush Saga, PaRappa the Rapper, and Words with Friends.

Disney Refusing To Cut LGBTQ Scene In Doctor Strange 2 For Saudi Arabia

An official from Saudi Arabia has said that while the nation is not planning on banning Doctor Strange 2 for its inclusion of a 12-second scene referring to a lesbian character, they’re still trying to get Marvel to cut the scene.

Author’s Guild To Launch Banned Books Club To Spotlight Censored Works

The Author’s Guild, in partnership with the book club app Fable, has announced the launching of its year-long, virtual monthly “Banned Books Club” that will shine light on works — both fiction and nonfiction — that have been recently banned from school classrooms or libraries in the U.S.

“We created the Authors Guild Banned Books Club in response to the alarming number of states and school boards which have recently banned a wide number of books and other resources from school curriculums or libraries,” Author’s Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger said.

“Our goal is to give both students and adults the opportunity to read and learn more about the books being banned in their districts and elsewhere and provide the rare opportunity to engage on the platform with the authors of those works.”

The first selection for the club is the young adult novel “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan. Levithan, an award-winning author whose works often focus on sexual orientation, shared similar sentiments to the Guild, saying that “the growing epidemic of book banning and legislation that undermines the freedom to read across the United States is something we all must stand up against, both on behalf of the freedom to read itself and for all the young readers who need to see their stories being told.”

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Levithan will lead the club’s discussion on the book, which centers around two teenagers who decide to participate in a 32-hour kissing marathon to set a world record. Levithan also serves as an editor of a Scholastic imprint that encourages new voices and authors.

As the Guild’s statement notes, since January 2021, 15 states have enacted laws restricting books that possess concepts relating to theories, race, racism, sexual orientation, identity, and social injustice. 27 states have proposed similar bills to these in an ongoing culture war that has broken out.

Additionally, an analysis of the 1,148 books that are currently banned in one or more schools found that 74% feature people of color, or those who identify as an LGBTQ+ member. 22% dealt with race topics or racism.

Much of the attention around these actions have been centered on Florida, where state governor Ron DeSantis has recently banned 54 math textbooks due to their references to Critical Race Theory and other topics that don’t comply with their standards. DeSantis has also led the way for the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which will prohibit sexual identity and orientation discussions in certain grades.

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Among the most challenged books last year — which were tracked by the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) — that could appear on the Banned Book Club down the line include “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson, “The Bluest Eyes” by Toni Morrison, “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Perez, and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison.

The Guild was founded in 1912, and currently holds the distinguish of being the oldest and largest community of writers in the world, with a total of around 10,000 members. The Guild also recently developed a “Stop Book Bans” toolkit.

Taylor Hawkins, Foo Fighters Drummer, Found Dead At 50 

The Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins was found dead in his hotel room on Friday afternoon, just hours before the band was set to perform at Colombia’s Estéreo Picnic festival as part of its South American tour. Preliminary toxicology reports show that Hawkins had at least 10 substances in his body when he died. 

Colombia’s attorney general’s office said that “an analysis of Hawkins’ urine found traces of marijuana, opioids, tricyclic antidepressants, and benzodiazepines. The office stated that Hawkins died after experiencing cardiac arrest caused by an overdose. Forensic medical experts were shocked by how swollen the musician’s heart had become. 

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Hawkin’s sudden death has devastated fans and concertgoers who have been following the Foo Fighters since their beginning. Festival Goers who were waiting for the Foo Fighters to perform had the news broken to them by Black Pumas singer Eric Burton, who asked the tearful crowd to have a moment of silence. 

Fans then gathered outside of the hotel where Hawkins passed to light candles, leave flowers, and sing some of the band’s songs in his honor. Many other well-known musicians took to social media to express their devastation over the sudden passing. 

 Queen guitarist Brian May wrote on Instagram: “No. It cannot be, I’m heartbroken. Taylor, you were family to us. Our friend, our brother, our beloved child. Bless you. We will miss you so bad.”

“So incredibly sad to hear of the passing of Taylor Hawkins. My thoughts are with his family and the band at this time,” tweeted Mick Jagger.

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Ozzy Osbourne called Hawkins “a truly a great person and an amazing musician. My heart, my love and my condolences go out to his wife, his children, his family, his band and his fans. See you on the other side.”

In a statement, the Foo Fighters said they were devastated “by the tragic and untimely loss of our beloved Taylor Hawkins. His musical spirit and infectious laughter will live with us forever. Our hearts go out to his wife, children, and family, and we ask that their privacy be treated with the utmost respect in this unimaginably difficult time.”

Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters lead singer, spoke very highly about the loving relationship he had with Hawkins: “Upon first meeting, our bond was immediate, and we grew closer with every day, every song, every note that we played together. I am not afraid to say that our chance meeting was a kind of love at first sight … Together, we have become an unstoppable duo, onstage and off, in pursuit of any and all adventure we can find.”

Singer-songwriter Miley Cyrus broke down on stage during her Lollapalooza set and she took a moment to honor Hawkins memory: “We lost a legend in rock music, and I just want to send my most peaceful wishes to the Foo Fighters family and the Hawkins family.”

Antarctic Explorer Ernest Shackleton’s Ship, Endurance, Discovered After 107 Years

On Wednesday, the team of maritime archaeologists and technicians that comprise the Endurance22 Expedition announced the finding of the Endurance, a 144-foot wooden ship lost in 1915 during an Antarctic expedition led by British explorer Ernest Henry Shackleton.

Shackleton began the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition in 1914, leading 27 men through the South Pole across the Weddell Sea in what would be the first crossing of Antarctica. Unfortunately, the Endurance suffered the cruel fate of becoming trapped in the ice, forcing those on board to attempt to wait out the stoppage.

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After spending 10 months living on the Endurance, the crew were forced to abandoned ship in January 1915 due to pressure from the ice slowly crushing it. The vessel would finally sink into the ocean towards the end of that year while Shackleton and his crew — none of which perished through the ordeal — would eventually be rescued in 1916 after surviving on Elephant Island.

Now, the Endurance is seeing the light of the day once again. It was found at a depth of 3,008 metres (or nearly 10,000 feet) in the Weddell Sea, which the team notes is four miles South of its position originally recorded by the Endurance’s captain, Frank Worsley. The discovery comes a few weeks after Endurance22 began the search in late February.

According to the search expedition’s Director of Exploration Mensun Bound, the Endurance is in fantastic shape despite its long disappearance and the conditions endured, while he called the finding a “milestone in polar history.”

“This is by far the finest wooden shipwreck I have ever seen. It is upright, well proud of the seabed, intact, and in a brilliant state of preservation.  You can even see ‘Endurance’ arced across the stern, directly below the taffrail.”

Speaking to NBC News, British historian Dan Snow surmised that the Endurance’s stellar appearance and preservation is thanks to the temperatures in the Weddell Sea, which can range around 0° to -0.8° Celsius (32° to 33° Fahrenheit). Because of this, there were “no wood-eating microbes and microorganisms” that could further damage the ship.

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“Shackleton, we like to think, would have been proud of us,” Bound expressed in a blog post while also sharing his hope that the discovery will engage with younger generations and inspire them with with the “pioneering spirit, courage and fortitude of those who sailed Endurance to Antarctica.”

The ship’s status is a satisfying reward for Endurance22’s efforts, as Dr. John Shears — the expedition’s leader — stated that it was the “world’s most challenging shipwreck search.” The team used state-of-the-art technology which included the SAAB Sabertooth underwater vehicles, which combines attributes of remote operating vehicles (ROV) and autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).

Russian Arts And Cultural Events Canceled Worldwide 

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted worldwide responses from the cultural, sporting, and arts fields. An increasing number of performances and cultural events put on by Russians are being canceled worldwide in response to the invasion. 

One of the biggest announcements came from the European broadcasting Union (EBU) who said that Russia would no longer be able to participate in this year’s Eurovision song contest. 

EBU, the producers of Eurovision, said the “event promoted international exchange and understanding, Russia’s inclusion could bring the annual competition into disrepute in light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine.”

Initially, state broadcasters from countries like Iceland, Finland, Norway, and the Netherlands all called for Russia to be banned from the contest, a move that was also endorsed by the UK’s culture secretary Nadine Dorries. 

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The Royal Opera House (ROH) has also canceled a planned residency by Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet, which is known as one of the oldest and most prestigious ballet companies in the world. 

The ROH released a statement regarding their cancellation: “A summer season of the Bolshoi Ballet at the Royal Opera House had been in the final stages of planning. Unfortunately, under the current circumstances, the season cannot now go ahead.” The group was initially expected to put on 21 performances from July to August. 

Performances from the Russian State Ballet of Siberia have been canceled by both the Wolverhampton Grand Theater and the Royal and Derngate in Northampton. 

In terms of concerts, the Munich Philharmonic has separated itself from its chief conductor, Valery Gergiev, due to his ties to Putin. Munich’s mayor, Dieter Reiter, gave Gergiev an ultimatum that stated if he condemned Putin’s actions he would be able to maintain his position in the Philharmonic, he refused. 

“With immediate effect, there will be no further concerts by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra under his [Gergiev] direction,” Reiter said. Gergiev was also dropped by his management and had several upcoming concerts canceled due to his ties to Putin.

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The Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale will not be taking place as planned after Russian artists and curators themselves chose to pull out. Alexandra Sukhareva and Kirill Savchenkov, as well as curator Raimundas Malašauskas, released a statement in which they explained how they would no longer be participating. 

“There is no place for art when civilians are dying under the fire of missiles, when citizens of Ukraine are hiding in shelters, when Russian protesters are getting silenced,” Savchenkov and Sukhareva said in a joint statement. 

Warner Bros, Disney, and Sony have halted the release of all new films in Russian cinemas, which means major upcoming releases such as The Batman, Turning Red, and Morbius, will not be released as scheduled. 

“In light of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, WarnerMedia is pausing the release of its feature film The Batman in Russia,” a spokesperson said.

Disney said: “Given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis, we are pausing the theatrical release of films in Russia.”

The Ukranian Film Academy has also called for an international boycott of Russian cinema, including a ban on all Russian films at international festivals:

“At a time when world powers are imposing economic and political sanctions on the Russian Federation, the country continues to be active in the cultural field”. Any action, however, has yet to be taken.

CDs Receive Wave Of Support From Music Lovers As Sales Decline

Many major retailers have ceased selling CD’s as a physical format for albums. Tesco recently became one of the larger retailers to announce they would be clearing the shelves of all CDs, sparking a major wave of support online from music lovers who appreciate the versatility that compact discs offer.

In 2007, the CD market was at its peak, with more than 2 billion physical copies of albums being sold globally. The digital music streaming platform, Spotify, was then launched in 2008, revolutionizing the way we consume music. CD sales began to immediately decline with the launch of the platform.

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Last year, however, CD sales saw an unexpected rise in sales thanks to Adele’s ‘30’, ABBA’s ‘Voyage’, and Ed Sheerans ‘=’.

Rob Sheffield also published a love letter to CDs in Rolling Stone last month: “Compact discs were never about romance – they were about function. They just worked. They were less glamorous than vinyl, less cool, less tactile, less sexy, less magical. They didn’t have the aura that we fans crave.

“You didn’t necessarily get sentimental over your CDs, the way you fetishized your scratchy old vinyl, hearing your life story etched into the nicks and crackles …. But CDs work. They just do. You pop in the disc, press play, music booms out. They delivered the grooves so efficiently, they became the most popular format ever.”

“Things like CD box sets, bootlegs, mixes from friends old and new, young bands whose albums I buy from the merch table at live shows and lamented the ephemeral nature of streaming culture.

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A recent article in Wired magazine also praised the “CD format, and its ridiculous affordability. Streaming was for the masses, vinyl was for hipsters, said the author, but his experiment in CD listening had brought unexpected joys.”

Some music fans just prefer the tangible aspect of having their favorite artists work in a compact physical form. Adele’s album was able to help aid CD sales after she gave an interview where she discussed how albums “tell a story, and those stories should be listened to as we intended,” meaning in order of the tracklist.

“We may be seeing the end of CDs as a mass-market product, but we could also be seeing the beginning of the repositioning of the CD as a more fetishistic item,” Bassett said.

“It’s unlikely to match the vinyl revival of recent years. There is not the same romance, the magic of dropping a needle on to vinyl. The plastic cases cracked easily. I remember listening to Nirvana’s Nevermind on the school bus and every time that the bus went over a bump, your CD would skip,” he added.

Sean Jackson of Reckless Records in Soho said “some customers insisted that the quality of analogue sound was superior to digital. But unless you’re really concentrating, you probably wouldn’t notice the difference. There’s a market for everything – vinyl, CDs, cassette tapes. Formats go in and out of fashion, but music doesn’t.”