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There’s Bad Blood: What Taylor’s ownership battle is telling us

Artistic rights have been a long-standing issue in the industry. It is shady enough to manipulatively take the rights of an artist’s records. Yet, to exploit their hard work is plainly immoral. However, this move is not new in an industry like this. 

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Taylor Swift during the MTV Awards 2019 | Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris from Getty Images

From Kanye West to Katy Perry, Taylor Swift is once again stuck in feud. I’m going to let you finish, but this one does not involve an ex-boyfriend or a fellow artist. This is a battle that it involves her career as an artist and a whole lot more.  

The internet is in outrage after 29-year-old pop singer Taylor Swift released a statement regarding her battle against music mogul Scooter Braun and former label CEO Scott Borchetta. If you’re only waking up to this news, let me give you some knowledge about what’s happening.

Last November 2018, Taylor announced her departure from long-time music label Big Machine Records. She then went to sign with another music label. Recently this year, her former label has been acquired by Scooter Braun. Yes, it’s the same Scooter Braun who manages other pop artists like Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber. What seems to be another business move has turned the tides for her. For a hefty price of $300 million, Scooter has acquired not only the recording label but also the rights to her music catalogue. So, what does this mean exactly? 

Taylor, who is scheduled to receive the Artist of the Decade award at the American Music Awards, wishes to perform a medley of her hits for the past decade. However, she states that Scooter and Scott are preventing her to use her prior releases in her performance and in an upcoming Netflix documentary about her life. They claim that this would technically be re-recording her old music—something she is not allowed to do until next year. 

 

Big Machine Records has since then denied the accusations. In a statement to CNN, the label defended that, “Taylor Swift can 100% perform all her catalog, past and present, on the AMAs. Big Machine has no issue with her performance going out on the live broadcast, because it recognizes it doesn’t have the right to block her”. 

As much as we’d like to excuse ourselves from this narrative, we are consumers that only get to see and hear the end products. For every song we stream and every concert we attend, we contribute to the profit of companies and their artists. This controversy is bringing visibility and spreading awareness on what goes down behind every song that goes out in the market and how artists are treated. 

Artistic rights have been a long-standing issue in the industry. It is shady enough to manipulatively take the rights of an artist’s records. Yet, to exploit their hard work is plainly immoral. However, this move is not new in an industry like this. 

In Karl Marx’s theory of alienated labor, factory labor under capitalism separates the workers from the products they create. These products would then be sent off to different places for others to make money out of it. In this case, the record an artist produces are those of which that are distributed to music platforms. As they are consumed, record labels gain profit from them. Under the rules of capitalism, the artists are detached from the products they make. The only way out, according to Marx, is for the workers to revolt and fight the system which is what Taylor is doing in social media.  

The music industry can be very toxic because of executives that bend the rules in their favor. For years, many artists have fallen victim to this abuse of power and it’s sad to think that their life’s work and creativity are held hostage by an ink deal and a few pages of paper.

Unfortunately, these aren’t the only issues coming into light. Artists who have gone through the same fate as Taylor, like JoJo, TLC, and Kesha, showed that there is a need for women to go beyond their limits in order to get what they deserve. Surprisingly enough, silencing women doesn’t only happen in the music industry. 

Gender-based discrimination caused Indian filmmaker Alankrita Shrivastava’s film “Lipstick Under My Burkha” to be initially censored for being “lady-oriented”. The filmmaker admitted that she had to “fight to get the right equipment and decent studio time slots” in creating her first feature film.

Icelandic artist Borghildur Indriðadóttir witnessed her Facebook friends and photos deleted after she shared a promo of her exhibition entitled, DEMONCRAZY, that featured photos of topless women standing in front of portraits of older men in public buildings. She defended that her exhibition was purposely made for people to question why numerous paintings of men that used to rule in power are seen in public buildings. 

Rather than being an environment that fosters creativity, magnates have turned the artistic industry into a strategic gameplay between them and their artists. With the power they hold, it’s as though they are puppet masters who benefit from the public by shamelessly controlling their marionettes. 

If a situation like this is happening to a mainstream artist like Taylor, what goes on behind closed doors for those who are just starting out? This on-going war between Taylor and her former label executives is creating a big step not only for artists with established careers but also for those who are waiting to sign their future record deal.

This is a fight for the budding artists who spend sleepless nights to release their first single without even knowing that it won’t be theirs in the future. Artists deserve ownership and credit for what they create. It’s high time for executives to serve them that justice. 

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Which UST street are you?

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Artwork by Tricia Jardin

Another year, another Buzzfeed-esque quiz that is based on purely subjective notions. This quiz can somehow garner questionable results as they can be entirely different from how one sees oneself, but still feel free to take a (good) three-minute break and validate which UST street completely molds your Thomasian existence. Enjoy! 

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‘Awit’ and the normalization of transphobia

With music as a tool for liberation, we must not let the likes of “Awit” to limit our minds, let alone poison our culture with prejudice.

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Screenshot from the album cover of the now deleted song "Awit" on Spotify.

Erich Gabriel Bongon, also known as Young Vito posted a video of himself on Twitter singing a preview of “Awit” last Dec. 5, 2019, a song he that composed with sexist undertones and transphobic lyrics. Netizens were quick to call out the rapper when the preview is posted, prompting him to delete the video and issue an “apology.”

What happened afterwards? Was he cancelled? Was he given career opportunities after the incident? Did he change his ways and most importantly, did he educate himself on gender rights?

Young Vito is known to have signed a recording contract with Viva Records. With the record label having full knowledge of the incident, Young Vito and Viva Records have enabled themselves to go further: to release the same song with the same infamous lyrics, capitalizing off its notoriety on social media.

Awitis just one of the many Filipino songs propagating harmful ideas that does not only target the transgender community, but also encourages the normalization of transphobia and a culture of hate in the country.

Young Vito’s “Awitis a trans woman, with the singer implying that the woman deceives men, that there is something wrong with them. 

The song’s album art depicts a trans women using a urinal, as if implying that they should use the male’s comfort room; a controversial choice due to the ongoing debate on trans peoples’ comfort room access.

After receiving flak, the rapper posted an apology on Twitter, at the same time refusing to delete his video and liking tweets saying that people are “too sensitive.” He deleted the video afterwards.

A few days later, the rapper signed a five-year contract with Viva Records. After that, the song is released on multiple streaming platforms last Jan. 17, 2020 under Viva Records, with Emmanuel “NEXXFRIDAY” Salen producing and providing the beat for the track.

Photo grabbed from Young Vito’s Instagram account @youngvitoph

“Despite the controversy surrounding the song, Awithas been turned into a full-blown bop…,” the caption of the now-deleted lyric video in Viva Records’ Youtube channel reads. 

The song is then deleted on Spotify one day after its release.

Awitis just one of the many Filipino songs with transphobic lyrics. Songs like Abra’s “Gayuma” and Kamikazee’s “Chiksilog” portray trans women as someone who deceive men with their looks, while also spreading the notion that trans women are still men even if they have already identify themselves as women. 

One may think that the lyrics of these songs are harmless but for the transgender community, it makes their lives more difficult than it is.

In a country where the trans community are ostracized, where even some members of the LGBTQ+ community preach transphobia, where the likes of Hermie Monterde are still discriminated in the workplace, where personalities such as BB Gandanghari and Jake Zyrus are mocked online, where women like Gretchen Diez are shunned and arrested for entering the comfort room, where people like Jennifer Laude and Jessa Remiendo are murdered for being transgender – these songs spread dangerous ideas to the public. 

These songs normalizes harmful prejudices embedded in our culture. It hinders the LGBTQ+ community, especially the trans community’s fight for equal rights. It makes the idea of targeted discrimination and hate crime acceptable, painting a harmful image on people’s minds that it is normal to mock transgenders with the help of a song.

Music has been used to break the status quo, teach important lessons, and in some cases, aid in bringing down tyrants. With music as a tool for liberation, we must not let the likes of “Awit” to limit our minds, let alone poison our culture with prejudice. 

If we want true progress, we must lose the chains of backwardness binding us, and we can start by taking small steps—starting with picking good songs to listen to.

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Kadenang Ginto is more complex than ever

The show may seem ordinary in the spectrum of teleseryes, but with the bouts of recognition and attention it harbors, shows like Kadenang Ginto may have the tendency to succumb to society’s patriarchal roots—a premise that has been the show’s subdued message from the very beginning.

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Photo from ABS-CBN News

Media and entertainment industries, especially in the Philippines, have undoubtedly created a number of teleseryes that got viewers hooked. Iconic lines from television shows made their way through social media, thus birthing an irreversible decade of video parodies, i.e. “Cassie, hindi ka muna papasok sa iskul” which came from the ABS-CBN afternoon prime show, Kadenang Ginto (directed by Jerry Lopez Sineneng and Avel Sunpongco). This particular boomerang created by the show serves as a primary example of the proliferation of teleseryes into the in-betweens of people’s mundane realities. 

Usually, Filipino TV formulas have just been restricted to cookie-cutter stories such as rich girl-poor girl rivalries, wife versus mistress conflicts, and other types of predictable stories with a recurring plotline—dramatically mirroring the struggles of which people could sympathize and in some cases, empathize with. 

Now, with the recent narratives of most materials, it is fitting to raise the question: do teleseryes, such as the case in point, subconsciously imply a patriarchal and capitalist society which can water down women’s roles as simply pawns of the men-splayed environment?

Dissecting the Initial Premise of the Show

The whole idea of the show displays a tangled story between Daniela Mondragon (played by Dimples Romana) and Romina Andrada (played by Beauty Gonzales). Romina, a glorified Secretary, marries the business tycoon and father of Daniela, Robert Mondragon (played by Albert Martinez).

Caused by jealousy, Daniela strived to emerge relevant by physically and emotionally belittling Romina to death, hoping that she could at least gain more relevance in the old Mondragon’s life. It gets more complicated when Daniela marries Romina’s past lover, Carlos (played by Adrian Alandy), who still has unresolved feelings for the latter.

While Daniela’s past actions remain important both in their family business and in the lives of the men involved, it seems questionable that all her intentions were for the sake of these men.

While it is also applauding that Daniela and Romina are their own persons who are fully responsible to stir changes necessary to keep the show going, one may question the end of not just the character’s intentions, but as well as the writers’ inclination to probe and provide a substantial arc for these characters.

It raises the question, especially during a period when a new character was introduced in the persona of Richard Yap, a rich businessman, who somehow became a catalyst on how the character of Romina can get back on track. 

Are the women in Philippine teleserye doomed to always be swept off their feet by some men to garner the easiest way out?

The show may seem ordinary in the spectrum of teleseryes presented by the network, but with the bouts of recognition and attention it harbors, shows like Kadenang Ginto may have the tendency to succumb to society’s patriarchal roots—a premise that has been the show’s subdued message from the very beginning.

Now (with the plot lines tangled and recurring), the characters and their progressions can be attested to hopeful major changes (thankfully), as lead female characters are taking matters on their hands especially with Romina Andrada-Mondragon gaining more control over her circumstances, a (seemingly progressive) march of silent revolution, veering away from the initial premises of the show – yet still bound to its original plot line.  

Trudging the Conventional

While the network’s teleseryes’ cookie-cutter and cardboard characterizations of women are proven formulas, fresh perspectives are always a welcome venture with the exploration of complex female characters. 

Writers and show producers must become more socially-reverberant that they not only choose to showcase shows that pay the rent. In the Philippines, it is slowly building its pace with independent films being at the forefront.

Unfortunately, most mainstream media consumers are still inclined with choosing the proven formulas so mass media practitioners also stick to what generates more audiences. What the consumers can do now is to try to become more adamant to good and progressive changes – utilize the everlasting “get out of your comfort zone” notion. 

Media, as compared to what it tries to cater to before, has certainly come a long way with the sprouts of powerful women characters here and there. Unfortunately, Philippine mainstream media and its consumers sat way comfortably in the reassurance of these boxed and usual beliefs.

It may possibly take a while for these teleseryes to do the same with their high intentions to generate money, even if the essential purpose of art to heighten and challenge the empathic tendencies of the people can definitely suffer.

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