The Ultimate American Idol


One of the most underrated skills for a couple to possess is the ability to find TV shows you both enjoy watching. If you’re good at this, you’ll likely end up saving somewhere between 13 and 39 minutes a week that would have been devoted to passive-aggressive arguments about who wants to watch what. This extra time adds up, and could be used for anything from extra sleep to prolonged pre-brunch fellatio.

If you’re not good at this—or, if you’re pretending to compromise under the “It’s cool, whatever you want to watch, babe” bitch-ass guise—you’ll eventually end up having arguments where things like “If I watch one more episode of House of Fab, I’m going to House of Stab myself to death” are said. And, when things like this are said, animosity builds, anger simmers, and mailmen get f*cked.

Fortunately, my queen earth woman wiz lady girl and I haven’t had this problem. Yes, I have to watch at least 20 hours of NBA games a week and yes, she has to watch whatever the hell she watches when I’m not there, but we’ve managed to settle on a few shows we mutually enjoy.

Suits (It’s been a while since I’ve been this surprised by how much I enjoy a show. Maybe I just had really low expectations. And, maybe I just love Gina Torres)

Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (After watching approximately 250 different episodes, we’ve figured out exactly how much Guy likes the food he’s sampling. If he says “That has some flavor” he hates it. One grunt means “Ok, this is cool.” Two grunts and a hard stare at the food in his hand means he likes it. And, the orgasm face followed by a “I don’t know whether to kiss you or kick your ass” face made at the cook means he loves it, and he’s still high)

Love and Hip-Hop New York (We’re both big fans of Yandy, and we both wonder if the size of Erica’s boobs are directly correlated to her level of crazy, and we both call Mandeeceeeeees a different name every time we say it. “Mandarin Feces” is my current favorite)

Black Ink (Why do I suspect we’re the only two people in the country who watch this show?)

(surprisingly) American Idol

(Yes, that American Idol. I know you didn’t know it still comes on, but trust me, it does. Really!)

This is the first time in maybe eight years or so that I’ve even glanced at an episode of the show, and you can thank Nicki Minaj for this. I think she’s legitimately insane. She sounds like an autotune version of Fran Drescher. She dresses like an ant trapped inside of bag of Skittles that’s trapped inside of a Walrus’s ass. She’s built exactly like the world’s tiniest pear. And, to say that her music tends to suck is disrespectful to the art of sucking. Still, I’ve been a fan of hers since her ole English intro on MBDTF, and I continue to watch to see if it’ll be the week she mistakes Keith Urban for a giant, vanilla Twizzler and eats him.

Anyway, while watching a couple weeks ago, I thought of a question posed in one of Bill Simmons’s mailbags.

(Paraphrasing) “If you took every current performing artist, made them unknowns, and put them on American Idol while in their absolute primes, who would win?”

If I recall, Simmons’s answer was a 21 year old Whitney Houston. I agreed. She had it all—the talent, the charisma, the look, the smile—and both the judges and the audience would have fallen into love with her. But, since Whitney is no longer with us, she no longer qualifies.

So, considering all the living artists, I think an 18 or 19 year old Mariah Carey would be a tough out, as would the current Adele, a 16 or 17 year old Christina Aguilera, and a pre-breakdown Lauryn Hill. (I can’t think of any current male performers that would make the cut.)

But, if I had to place a bet, I think they’d all have a whale of a time beating a 21 year old Jill Scott. Between her pipes and her smile—and the fact that Randy Jackson would totally propose to her—I just don’t see anyone topping Jilly from Philly in that type of competition.

Anyway, you heard my choice. I’m curious. If we somehow played a game of ultimate American Idol, who do you think would win and why?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Feeling Bad For Bobby, and More Thoughts About Whitney Houston’s Funeral

1. There’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to the way I react when hearing about a person dying. None whatsoever. It’s completely unpredictable, completely arbitrary, and completely dependent on… whatever the hell it’s dependent on. I have absolutely no clue, and I’ve stopped trying to figure it out. There have been times when a one paragraph long news story about some random area murder induced tears and haunted me for weeks, and other times when family members have passed and the only time I got worked up was when I forced myself to get worked up because I felt bad that I hadn’t.

This “reaction unpredictability” extends to celebrities as well. I felt nothing when Michael Jackson — a person who I was a huge fan of — died, but the deaths of Amy Winehouse — a person I was “eh” about — and Patrice O’Neal still resonate with me. I still can’t listen to “Rehab” or watch “Elephant in The Room” without getting chills.

Knowing how unpredictable I can be about this should make me immune to surprise. I mean, If I’m capable of any reaction, there shouldn’t be a reaction that surprises me. Despite this, I was (and still am) surprised at how affected I was by the news of Whitney Houston’s death (When first clicking the TMZ link to the news of her death, I literally stared at my monitor with my mouth agape for two minutes and could see my heart beating through my shirt) and how interested I was in the goings-on (and the public’s feelings about the goings-on) of her funeral.

Although I wasn’t able to catch the first hour and a half or so (I started watching when Stevie Wonder was singing), I sat there captivated like I was watching the 4th quarter of game seven of the NBA finals. And, as if this captivation wasn’t enough, I logged on to Twitter and Facebook to basically give myself a sensory overload.

I don’t know what any of this means, or why I even felt the need to share it. I don’t know. I do know that it’s been (over) a week and I’m still surprised that I still don’t feel any different.

2. There have been myriad different accounts of the events that led to Bobby Brown leaving (or getting kicked out of) Whitney’s funeral, so I won’t go into any of them. I will say, though, that I feel worse for him than for anyone else who was in Whitney’s life. Losing your ex-wife (a woman I’m sure he still loved and may have still been in love with) is bad enough, but being the popular scapegoat for the decades-long spiral leading to her early death has to be a bitch of a burden to carry. History will not look kindly on him. Regardless of what he does for the rest of his life, his primary legacy will be that he, to put it bluntly, killed Whitney Houston.

Now, whether this legacy is actually fair is another question. We assume that Bobby was the bad influence, but while Whitney was America’s Sweetheart, she wasn’t exactly an angel herself. Also, as influential as Clive Davis was reported to be in her life, who’s to say that he didn’t have a hand in her downfall?

Obviously, this is all speculation. None of us know exactly what led to Whitney’s substance abuse problems. And, since none of us know, perhaps we should place a collective moratorium on “Blame Bobby.”

3. I happened to be at my parent’s house when the funeral was being aired. When R.Kelly came to the podium, all three of us said “Wait. Is that R.Kelly???” at the exact same time. No bullsh*t.

And (in my best Forrest Gump voice), “That’s all I’m going to say about that.”

4. I know many people had an issue with some of the “So, America, make sure you’re recording so you can see how these exotic-ass Negros celebrate the dead” -ey comments from some of the non-black members of the news media covering the event. In particular, Piers Morgan sounded like he was covering at an event at Jurassic Park.

I didn’t have a problem with this, though. I mean, aside from random Nike commercials and Tyler Perry movies (which white people don’t watch anyway), this probably was the first time many of them had seen a homegoing at a black baptist church, and I think most of the non-white reporters found the proper mix of reverence, respect, and curiosity.

Also, aside from the celebrities involved, Whitney’s ceremony wasn’t all that atypical. Seriously, if you substituted “random white co-worker who seems out of place but makes up for it with a poignant speech” for “Kevin Costner,” “aunt who does her thing on the organ even though she tends to forget words to certain songs” for “Stevie Wonder,” and “neighborhood family who no one wants to fight because there’s like 25737848 of those motherf*ckers and you know if you fight one, you’ll have to fight them all” for “The Winans,” this funeral was probably exactly like any other baptist funeral any one reading this has ever been to.

5. I’m not sure if the fact that I simultaneously “experienced” the funeral with over a thousand others on Twitter — all with their own running commentary about the event — was a good or a bad thing. Actually, I’m pretty certain it’s neither. It’s not disrespectful or distant or progressive or indicative of anything, either. It just is. That’s just the way we deal with things today. While other generations had their own forms of collective consumption, we just do it in real time.

6. So, ever since a certain post I wrote a few weeks ago, I’ve been more willing to let certain people take a look at articles I write before I submit them, just in case they pick up on something that I may have missed. Don’t fret. You’re not going to get a neutered Champ or anything. This is something I’ve always done. Just do it a little more often now.

Anyway, last Friday, I let one of these friends see an article I wrote for Ebony about Chris Brown. That article contained a somewhat off-color joke about Tyler Perry. Her response:

“I dont usually discourage Tyler Perry jabs, but this m**therf**er just flew Whitney Houston’s body to her family in his private jet. HE ALWAYS DOES THIS SH*T. Like, whenever I want to take a shot at him, he adopts some orphan or saves a kitten or some sh*t and makes me feel bad afterwards. Anyway, you should probably leave that out.”

I (reluctantly) listened.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”) 

***Oh, check out the Chris Brown piece I just referenced — “The (Biggest) Problem with Chris Brown isn’t Chris Brown” — if you get a chance. (#teambreezy, beware)***

Also, don’t forget about the VSB/Urban Cusp discussion on Black Identity & Culture in Mass Media panel coming up on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 from 6-8PM at the Washington Post Buildling. It’s going to be a dope conversation, I promise. Plus you can hang with Panama Jackson and throw things at people. It’s free and food will be provided. Not like half chickens or nothing, but finger foods and whatnot. See you there. Peep the flyer below.

And I Will Always Love Whitney.

August 9, 1963 - February 11, 2012. Gone too soon.

Whitney Houston is gone.

I don’t even know how else to start this off. The news that Whitney Houston died at the young age of 48 (!!!!!!) caught me so off guard that when the first person called to tell me, I responded so non-chalantly that I caught myself by surprise. I was just like, “that’s sad.”

It wasn’t because it didn’t matter. It’s because it just didn’t seem real at all. Not Whitney. Micheal? Yeah. We were all saddened and moved but it wasn’t a total surprise to anybody. Whitney was also on some sort of that stuff – and quite famously – and yet it just didn’t seem like she’d pass…so soon (again…48!!!!). We still don’t know what happened but no illegal drugs were found in the room and there were no signs of foul play. It was just…her time.

(Early reports suggest that she may have drowned. That is tragic beyond belief if its true. EDIT: 10AM – Turns out she didn’t drown, but a lethal mix of prescription drugs and alcohol might have killed her long before she had time to drown. There wasn’t enough water in her lungs to suggest she drowned.)

And that’s hard to deal with. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I have no power of when my time on this planet will end. It’s bigger than I am. But the death of larger than life people like Whitney Houston still seems surreal and doesn’t make sense to me. I always felt like she had another comeback in her. Her voice, while not what it used to be, was still leagues better than 98 percent of the population.

That voice. My God. There have been a few people who I’ve felt were given a truly God given gift and Whitney was one of them. Her voice was so strong, so pure, and so beautiful that her heyday was nearly 25 years ago and we are STILL attached to those very songs. Just like Michael. While nobody will ever touch what Michael Jackson did, Whitney was as pretty high up on the short of list of individuals who held that type of superstardom purely for their talents.

I’m a grown ass man and I still sing along to “I’m Every Woman”. And who HASN’T screwed up “Greatest Love of All” at karaoke or in their car. And think, that song is immortal ANYWAY because of Coming To America. And yes, “How Will I Know” if he really loves me. I don’t know…So many songs. So many great moments. And no, my name is not Susan, which could be why people never watch what they say. I really think I could write an entire post based on her songs.

I think, much like Michael, the true test of what Whitney Houston meant to America, and particularly Black America is how much of our experiences she’s tied to. If you grew up in the 80s then Whitney was absolutely apart of your life. I remember the long ass road trips with my Black man from Alabama ass father blasting the I’m Your Baby Tonight album. My father used to ask my mother to put Whitney Houston (and later Mariah Carey) under the Christmas tree for him every year. Every. Year. My daddy wasn’t sh*t.

And don’t even get me started on the Waiting To Exhale soundtrack. I still bump that (real talk). There’s an odd connection we all feel in the Black community (and maybe white artists do too) to our artists, especially the larger than life ones. Maybe it’s because music is the one escape most of us have in a life filled with so much struggle. Artists like Whitney blew the lid off what we could achieve and what was expected and even though she sang pop music, she sang it in a way that wasn’t selling out. You can’t fake a voice like that and there’s no way to sell out with an instrument like that.

Whitney Houston was family. Hell, she still is family. She’s so much family that many of us are ACTUALLY really concerned about Bobbi Kristina…and Bobby Brown. And I’m not even sure Whitney liked him anymore. But this is what happens when family passes. And there’s a certain sadness that will persist for a while. She was an icon. She was a legend. And its hard to believe that she’s gone. But she’s one of those that will live forever. She has no choice. She made too much of an impact while she was here. There are very few artists today who aren’t influenced by her.

Plus, she has one of the most iconic “big leagues” of all time in her remake of “I Will Always Love You”. It’s a perfect rendition. With a perfect voice.

And yes, the Whitney tribute was short. And yes, we all wanted more. Did Whitney get shortchanged? Possibly.

But that’s second to the fact that the voice is gone.

I’m all over the place here, so I’ll just end this here:

Whitney, I wish to you joy, and happiness…but above all this, I wish you love.

We love you. And miss you. RIP.


Who’s Got the Voice??!?!?.

black choirI haven’t done a music post for real, for real in a second.  But what the hell, it’s Friday, I’m sexxy, and we don’t have anything else to do.

On Monday night, one of my girl’s friends was over at my house doing her hair and since we’re young and Black…

…Beyonce came up.  I’ve come to accept that there are two schools of thought when it comes to Beyonce.

1)  She cannot sing at all, she just dances hard, and has the personality of a head of lettuce.

2)  She is a great singer and dances her booty off, and has the personality of a head of lettuce.

Of course, my girls’ friend was in the Beyonce can’t sing camp and it launched a discussion about who actually can sing.  I won’t run down her entire list but she threw Mario in there (she said that Trey Songz cannot sing which I found odd since Trey Songz absolutely can sing and is also a better singer than Mario).

Anyway, I figured what better place to see people’s true colors than here at VSB where objectivity rules the day and biases don’t run rampant.


So today, I, Panama Dontavious Jackson, will illuminate your lives with a list of 10 folks whose voices need to be recognized.  Since I am music (and Malcolm X) this is my charge in life.  Follow me!!

1) Donny Hathaway

I swear, this is one of the few grown ass men who’s ever brought a tear to my eyes, with the other being my father after an asswhippin’. Donny had one of the most beautiful voices EVER. So clear, so beautiful. So fresh and so clean clean. In fact, Donny’s voice was so good, he didn’t feel like he deserved it anymore and jumped out of a window of a hotel in New York City in January of 1979.

2) Marvin Gaye

What can be said about Marvin Gaye except that a lot you negroes out there are here because of him. His voice was so sultry and silky that he could create an album that should have been entitled “F*ck You Anna” (real title: Here My Dear) and it still came out sounding like a gift from God. Marvin Gaye was dat nigga. That’s the only thing I can say about him.

3) Sam Cooke

“I was booooooooooooooooorn by the river…”

From “Cupid” to “Cha Cha Cha” Sam’s voice was just raw and uncut. He made the most kiddy songs sound like something you’d get you some “action” too. However, the song that still brings a slight tear to my eye is “A Change Gonna Come”. Good gracious that is a serious song. The man sang like he knew he was going to die.

Guess what?? He got shot in a hotel in Los Angeles messing with the wrong woman at the wrong time.

Guess he was somewhat of a psychic, huh???

4) David Ruffin (of The Temptations)

Neither drugs, nor hoes, nor crack cocaine, could keep David Ruffin from sharing with the world his gift of harmonious melody. However, those things did keep him from making tour dates and turned him into an a-hole. Or at least according to Otis, even though we KNOW wasn’t nobody coming to see Otis.

5) Teddy Pendergrass

From “Love TKO” to “Close The Door” to “Wake Up Everybody”, Teddy has one of the most distinct voices in music. The harsh grit mixed with the smooth lova man vibe brought many a woman to her knees. Sad too, because that’s how he ended up in a wheelchair. Word to the wise, if you must get head in your whip fellas…watch the road, mmkay???

6) Amel Larrieux

This woman’s voice gives me the chills. No really, if you listen to the song “Freedom” on the Panther soundtrack, she has like two lines and then scats towards the end; whoooooooooooooooowee I just get the heeby jeeby’s listening to her. Her voice is so beautiful and effortless I’m almost convinced she’s really an angel sent here to touch lives.

7) Lauryn Hill

Allow me to commit blasphemy for a second. I don’t think The Mis-education of Lauryn Hill is that great. Is it a good album…yes. But I’m not just goo goo for it. However, I cannot deny how beautiful her voice is. Lauryn pre-2002 was essentially the epitome of woman. Gorgeous, beautiful, lovely voice, smart, sarcastic, etc. And now she’s just nuts.

8) Luther Vandross

Ya know what…he doesn’t even need an explanation. Luther can best be summed up using a title of one of his songs…

“So Amazing”.

9) Beyonce

I don’t care what you say. The girl can just flat out sing. If you disagree, you are a hater and should light yourself on fire…in the desert.

10) Whitney Houston

Because before crack she was crack.

Now that list was in no particular order, but those are 10 folks who I think can/could pretty much outsing anybody.  But this begs the question, as far as singers go (and ones that most folks would recognize), but let’s settle it…

…who has the best voice of all time??  And who would make your top 10 singers list?

VSB, Panama would like to know.


On Dem Thangs: 4 Crackheads That Don’t Get Enough Credit.

crackWe all know that crack kills.

And that it kills your brain cells.

The thing is, some of the biggest contributors to pop culture and society have been crackheads.  Now of course, the term “contributors to society” can be interpreted many different ways, but interpretation, beauty, and thickness are all in the eye of the beholder.

Opinions are like that too.  For instance, that new Jay-Z?  Garbage.  But some other person may hear some splendorous musical arrangement instead.

But back to the point: crackheads.

The other day on my trip out of town for vacation, my girlfriend and I had a conversation about people who don’t get enough credit.  I started with Teddy Riley as somebody who’s managed to invent and re-invent himself over and over again over the past 2 decades and has produced some of the biggest albums (Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel, Michael Jackson Dangerous, Guy’s albums, etc.) and spearheaded the New Jack Swing movement in hip-hop/r&b.  But not only did Teddy Riley do great work, he also mentored and inspired some other greats – created a certain family tree, if you will.  And one particular part of that family tree lead me to 4 crackheads that don’t get enough credit.  Follow me. Continue reading